Category Archives: Nostalgia

Onam


(Yesterday, 9 September, Keralites celebrated Onam, the national festival of Kerala.)

It’s all about happiness. While many of the festivals segregate people on the basis of religion, Onam has no such bars, I believe. Onam was once celebrated in a
humble but jovial way by every Malayalee family. It used to be a perfect combination of the ingredients required to make an average human (of those days) happy – perfect weather, food (the extravaganza of vegetarian food), games, and other activities like singing and dancing…!

Times have changed. We prefer staying indoors hesitating to make Onam a reality.  Nowadays the ingredients mentioned above (except the first one) are accessible to us any time of the year. Onam has nothing special to offer; we find nothing thrilling in it. We are content with the virtual Onam, listening to what the celebrities say about Onam.

Thousands of miles away from the homeland we (affected by spells of nostalgia) managed to prepare a few Onam special dishes at home. Paradoxically, our relatives back there in the land of King Mahabali purchased the readymade Ona-sadhyas (meals). May be the captivating TV programmes do not let them waste their precious holiday in the kitchen. Times have changed (repeated, with a sigh)!

This Onam has touched me deeply. Early morning I got a call from my Uncle greeting us. It truly imbued me with bliss. I decided to pass on the surprise and bliss to some others other than my close relatives. The same pulses of joy were felt when I spoke to my old friend and my cousin (who I met recently after more than twenty years). They too might have spread this spirit of Onam to somebody unknown to me, I wish.

Simple gestures of affection are enough to brighten up and enliven even an ordinary day. Life is all about these little surprises and smiles – only that we store them for special occasions. Today somebody cared and bothered to express it. The latter deed made the difference. I feel buoyant and satisfied today. Let the feeling last forever – for me, for you and for them. Happy Onam – translated as pinnacle of happiness!

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Needles, Threads and Nature


I love to embroider. Whenever I was in need of a design I just sifted through the motifs I had seen in that lush green world around me during my childhood. I have never had the perseverance to sew up time-consuming projects. Tracing pictures from books often seemed quite unexciting and so I was contented with a little flower or herb design which would be very original and thereby tangible – to me. When compared to the elaborate projects my mother did (on entire five-metre sarees), my attempts are of no much significance, but just something plain, simple and at times childlike/childish. 🙂 Check them out!

The embroidery on a short top. These blue flowers were found all over the place.

I love these pink-rose-white flowers which actually grow in bunches.

The short pants made for my elder one. The inspiration - the beautiful daisies in our garden.

The following are the nameless flowers which were there in our garden and in the surroundings.

                                                                                                                   

The next three are the designs made on my onion-garlic-potato holder made using a battery-display stand (gift from a shopkeeper) and the canvas cloth of rice bag.

Wait! Once I did attempt something serious – a montage design.

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It took me more than three weeks to complete this.

Now I feel I should once again fall in love with needles and threads, before my eyes fail me more.

When the Home Sleeps


 “Don’t touch that!”

“Stop fighting!”

“Will you keep quiet for a minute?”

The parents with hyperactive kids cannot help asking such questions repeatedly. As long as the kids are awake they will be always after something – usually something that pesters or increases the work load of the mothers.

They start some kind of a game for which they scatter a whole sack of ‘what-they-call’ toys. After two minutes they lose interest in the game and switch over to a new one, with new ‘toys’, in another part of the house, orphaning the first set of toys.

It will be hardly ten minutes before you see them engaged in drawing or craft, preparing for a new collection of mess.

The games (most of them without any prescribed set of rules) always go beyond the expected levels. The game with building blocks may need a bucket of water – for an innovative game which they only know (may be they are building an underwater colony). The tent game will often end up in pulling down a whole shelf of books.

The culmination of the drawing game can be a whole wall of graffiti and the craft work can spread over to the bed spreads and sometimes even to the school books of the elder one.

Anyway, you cannot relax as long as your kids are at play because you could never predict what sort of transformation a game might undergo the next minute.

We worry and whine incessantly over these little issues. But will we be happy otherwise – if the house is shrouded in pin-drop silence and if things always stay in their place as if in a museum? No. I have that realization each time when one of the kids falls ill.

By the grace of God it happened very rarely all these years. When one kid is inactive the other too naturally withdraws. The sight of the toy-bags stowed away is traumatic. I feel the toys long for the kids’ touch – let it be loving or fatal. I long to see my little ones explore the cupboards for cookies. I ache to hear them shout and scream playfully. When they are away or silent, I feel deprived; I don’t have anything to do or anyone to shout at. This peace, this tranquillity is heart-rending.

My home sleeps.

Well, these are the moments we discover the real meaning of life and the futility of perfection. A house becomes a home only when there are kids to wake it up from sleep!

Paradise Lost


Balancing themselves on the ridge through the green carpet of the paddy fields, are two Red Riding Hoods, heading excitedly to their grandmother who lives in the little cottage completely cut off from the busy world. ‘Amminna’ is waiting to open to the little girls, the door of affection, freedom and exploration.

They would be there on a week’s parole to celebrate the most cheerful days of the year. That was some twenty five years ago! The youngest one – ten or eleven years old at that time – was me.

Amminnadukkal (amminna’s house) was a fairy land, a resort, a museum set amidst an orchard for us to marvel. A great mango tree (Why great? Wait!),  two chaampa trees as the sentries, jackfruit tree, kadaplavu, irumpapuli tree, guava, mulberry, papaya, puli, ampazham, not to mention the other galore of trees like the cotton, clove, cinnamon, jaathi, and the coconut trees strewn all over – that was the plot. Beneath each tree I used to linger a long time feeling its pulse and studying how it changed after my last visit.

Many of the trees are still ‘green’ in my memory.

My youngest uncle told me once that the mulberry bush was the rendezvous of my mother and her friends – gossiping, safely away from the evesdropping brothers.

The ampazham near the cow shed bore green olive-like sour fruits – the harvest was always bountiful, more than enough to fill the brine jars of Amminna.

During Onam the swing was made on the mango tree but once on the irumpapuli tree whose trunk was cloaked by the succulent, glassy green fruits. Those fruits were dried and pickled (I believe so).

Then the kadaplavu – the breadfruit tree – was the source of the special boiled dish with grated coconut. The most savoury papayas in the world, I would proudly say, were the ones which grew on my grandmother’s papaya tree. The jack fruit was preserved. I could still call to mind the colour and smell of the sweet, sticky delicacy with a dash of sugar over it.

It was our turn to sample the preserves, one by one.

The mango tree – really a ‘grandmother’ tree – was to the house, what a banyan tree is to a traditional Kerala temple. Even as children we could touch its low branches. The majestic tree bent lower when it abounded with the biggest and the sweetest mangoes I have ever laid my eyes on! Amminna used to support them with great love, the same way in which she tended to her calf-bearing cow. The axe laid on its trunk a few days after her death, ruthlessly cut off all the remaining tenderness associated with her. I couldn’t bear the sight of its stump! They could have spared just that one! Tears rolled down for the relishing treats it provided me once. The already dejected house now looked like a behaired Rapunzel.

Another scenic speciality – the only one intact even today – was the brook behind the house. It looked like a forest stream all overgrown with climbers and bushes. Had I been Tarzan I would have crossed the brook on those strong climbers. During the summers the brook almost dried up – the boys in the neighbourhood dug holes in the sand to eke out some water. But during the rains when the brook would be in its full swing, its rage did frighten me. We used to go and watch the boys catch fish at the check dam using traps and also the men collect the drifting trees uprooted from the highlands in the heavy downpour.

The narrow canal from the brook brought water in to the grove only when the brook was brimming. And when the grove was flooded, little fish swam everywhere in the shallow water over the grass. The house, still untouched by the waters was like Noah’s ark awaiting the waters to lash against it, any moment.

Today I jibe at my girl saying that while her grandparents’ house opens into the busy traffic of screeching vehicles, mine opened into the pristine world of Nature where we could breathe in the purest oxygen!

The nostalgic ONV song reverberates – ‘I long to be there once again….’