Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gods Own Country

Kerala, our home land. We’ve only spent 8-10% of our lives so far over here even though we’re a native of the same place. It wasn’t intentional but circumstances were such. We have no complains whatsoever because we were in close proximity of its culture and life style. Full credit goes to our parents and family who always valued their past more than what they are now. Achan always told ‘No matter what we become or where we go, we should NEVER forget our roots because it forms the foundation from where we build our life’. I have a point to make here with that statement. There are many malayalees who abhors the very mention of them being one, who takes it as a credit of not learning malayalam, who thinks every other language is superior to malayalam…..I could go on and on. But what they don’t understand is ‘we are what we are, ALWAYS!’. I wish at least one such fine person read these lines. I cannot change the world but can make a statement. :-)

Now back to the subject. My brother and I used to wait eagerly each time our vacation was about to begin. It was time to go to Kerala. The preparations would begin a month earlier and the excitement builds as it reaches the D day. Amma was very particular that both of us wear the same kind of clothes. When I say same its identical in every aspect. Usually it is very difficult for us to get up in the morning but the restlessness begins the day before we travel. For us the best mode of travel is of course by air. But mom was never in sync with us. She would stop talking the moment the plane takes off and would only budge once it touches down.:-) We loved the journey and remember the fights my brother and I had to get the window seat. Somehow we used to come to some kind of truce. All in all it’s a special moment for us and has been all our lives in Dubai, these 2 months of vacation spent in Kerala.

Journey through wonderland

The days spent in Kerala are extra special, double topping with double extra cheese. First of all there is no school, no homework, no waking up early. That in itself is a big relief. Now that we are in our wonderland there is no room for law and order, it’s our world, our playground. Our first stop is Trivandrum which is biologically where we belong though we tend to deny it :-). Amma’s motherland automatically becomes her sibling’s motherland. That’s the rule but how many of us follow them ;-). Achan, amma and we always have a debate on this topic and until this very moment we’ve never come to an agreement.

It is so different in Kerala, the very air we breath is so fresh, the sounds of birds and the reverberation of the leaves when a gentle breeze falls on them. Hmmmm truly heaven. There is a river that flows behind amma’s home. It is not hygienic but who cares, besides we were too young to think about the repercussions. We pester the elders so much that they finally give up. Our adventure goes on for at least an hour or two, jumping, somersaulting having the time of our life. Then the point to mention is the grand feast kunjamma(amma’s sister) had prepared for us. Amma is a very good cook but for some reason or the other kunjamma outruns her in typical kerala style dishes. There are 2 things that we do every vacation we make to kerala, 1 is to visit the local zoological part and the other visit Shankhumukam(beach). Saju was close to Shibu at the same time very apprehensive, owes to the fact how humble and quiet he was hehe.

Now comes the best part……..moving to Thodupuzha (achan’s place). I have to admit the degree of fun was always more here, not because we did not like Trivandrum but because achan’s family is much bigger and calls for more cousins. Oh it was like a carnival. I don’t know what you call it in English. It’s a game where all of us sit around a table with our palms facing down on the table, one would sing/count touching over each palm and where the song ends they had to face their palm up, next time it stop on the same hand, it is moved out and the person who ends up till the end wins the game. Then a unique mode of fun ‘Maadam Kettal’!!! No clue??? ;-) In pure English game to build a makeshift home, with leaves, branches, use coconut shells as vessels, clay as rice, leaves as curries. Once I remember it started raining and we took shelter in the makeshift home but it did not last too long. Another object of admiration was the cow and calf at Kamalalayam. Now we don’t get to see one in Dubai so why not spent some time with them, feeding them, touching them, loving them. Then the most adorable thing ‘DON’!!! No no it’s not Don Corleone ;-) but our german shepherd dog. I was fascinated by animals especially dogs right from my childhood. We used to play with him a lot. These are just a few of the lovely moments we cherish even now.

The bad part of all vacations is that it is over before we even realize it. 2 months goes in a flash. All of a sudden my brother and I are jolted out of the bed by mom because its time to go to school. A year of hardship until we can relive the action, the adventure, the thrill all over again.

Childhood is what anyone wants to remember. It leaves behind no footprints, except perhaps in imagination.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Short vacation

Achan, amma, Gopi kochachan and Sudha kochamma made a trip to the Far East back in the early 80’s. Saju and I were shifted to the Karamas alias Vishwan kochachan’s home. These were fun times different from home. Different because of the surroundings, school bus, bus stop, food etc.

I remember waiting in front of ‘Mustafa Mohammed Super Market’ for the school bus to arrive.
I remember the pink snack box I took to school.
I remember standing in front of Thomson Audio/Video shop watching celebrity posters.
I remember playing football with Mohammed.
I remember going to Video World with Kochachan. (Best library I’ve ever seen back then)
I remember sneaking into the living room after hours to see what kochachan was watching on TV. (We almost got caught once)
I remember making visits downstairs to Anju’s house.
I remember going for Arabic tuitions in the ground floor.
I remember munching on Frankies (Praveen’s influence ;-), it’s a chapathi role)
I remember STAR OF KARAMA restaurant. The most famous oil rich parathas. Yum yum
I remember these sweet memories forever etched in my mind.

The Great Indian Comedy Show

I guess I have to blame it on the extra laughing bone in me. My laughing style is well talked about in the family not because it is sweet :-) but the converse. People say laughter is good for health and it is even used as a therapy. Did you also know that it could bring some NOT SO GOOD moments? Why??? Read on…..

This dates back to our golden years in Dubai. Saju and I stayed back one Thursday at Praveen’s place. Prashanth was very small and not old enough to join in the fun, anyway 4 of us slept together. Vishwan kochachan and kochamma slept just in the adjacent room. It was pretty late I guess or at least they were fast asleep. It’s not an everyday affair that we are together, on that pretext we begin the SHOW. This time Praveen is the performer. It may not sound funny at all while reading it now but trust me it did back then. This is a line from a hindi movie. Praveen just narrates it in style.

'sadakku sadakku keilaa, sadakku sadakku keilaa…keilaaa’
‘mera biwi turr turr karta aur mera bacchaa purr purr kartaa’

This was enough for us to burst out laughing. I remember going breathless at times. When it was getting too loud Vishwan kochachan throws the first warning. All of us go quiet, but not for too long. The tempo slowly accelerates and reaches the peak when he throws us the second warning. This goes on for a few more warnings when he cannot take it any longer.

The Great Indian Tragedy

He storms into our bedroom with a long stick (better known as chooral) and treats all of us with its unique taste. Now things get very serious and we know it’s not that safe to go on. :-). The show was SHORT lived but WELL lived.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The early years

I would like to say this before I start my ‘so called BLOG’. Thanks to Arun who introduced me to this….what should I call it??? new concept!! vogue!! technology!!, well could say anything for that matter. This medium by which one can voice their experiences, wishes, memories into the cyber world and share the same with others in the same world. All in all I am amazed to see how we have evolved to this extent in such a short span and fortunate enough to see them happen in front of our eyes.

With that note here is my BLOG about ‘My Early Years’ Now where do I begin my story. Lets start when Biju was old enough to remember what was going around him. We were bestowed with the luxuries of modern times, unlike how it was in India at that period of time. I am talking about the 1970's. We were living in Dubai.

The oldest events that I recall dates back to when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. Just flashes of them still clear in my mind. I used to be very dependent on my elders…..and why not??? I’m just a kid for crying out loud :-). Achan(dad) was very aggressive and wanted his son to be self reliant and bold even at that early age. But how am I supposed to know all this at that time of my life when all I knew was….amma was there to provide me with food when I needed them and achan…mmm was never home until afternoon. I used to be a very shy and scared. There has been instances where my heart used to skip a beat by the sheer stare of our dad. I was very happy to be among others until I first realized the truth being in their shoes, so to speak atleast. There was this supermarket below our building and one day achan asked me to get a kilo of onion. I had no clue why??? And to make things worse I just wouldn’t go…..and what do I do instead??? Cry!!!! Now there is no escape from achan….the only way out is to get what was asked for. I vaguely remember this shopkeeper. Somehow with great emotional difficulty I budge :-). Another person that comes to my mind is GanshamDas who owned a supermarket near our home where achan used to take me to buy provisions. My mouth still bears the taste of the cashew nuts he used to give me. These are the only flashes I have from my earliest years. I remember the first day at school. St Mary’s, Dubai. I was at kindergarten and all I remember about my teacher was a dark lady with clothes not seen very often worn by people around me at home. I don’t remember much more of my days in St Mary’s. My thought ends here.

The Wonder years....begin

We moved to a new location called Satwa, a large colony where my brother and I grew up until we left Dubai for good. Now growing up comes in all shapes and sizes not in its literal sense but how we are brought up. Achan always used to tell us that we were not born with a silver spoon but a golden one. How true!!!! Years passed by and all that remains are some sweet some not so sweet memories.

The best part of our lives was that we were never far away from our family. All our dear ones were just an arm distance away and this I’d say is a BIG plus in our upbringing. What is life anyway!!!! I do not believe a person can live a solitary life, if one claims so he is a liar. Our friends and families are like sculptures that meticulously mould us to become a human being. We are happy they were very good sculptures :-).

Our school days are unforgettable and who would not want to go back to those years once again. Given a chance I have no second thoughts about it. Lets get to the wonder years of my life.

Protagonists: My brother and I

Who is my brother?
Name: Prasad alias Saju

We were poles apart physically, emotionally, mentally and all that you can think of. But yet we were brothers. There was nothing in this world we had a common agreement on. If I say white be assured he would say black and vice versa. Amma had to live with our tantrums and she did very well, guess moms come all prepared. I give up easily though I start off with exactly the opposite of what I agree in the end….yeah yeah blame it on Biju. Being the eldest in the family it was tough for me to succumb to my brother’s ways, I protest and we end up pouncing on the bed fighting and screaming. Then comes amma fed up with already a busy day in the kitchen, now she has to deal with us too. I still remember her phrase she used when all is lost “Paranjal kekkatte jendukkal” :-). Poor amma, she was always manageable ;-). We had fights for the silliest of reasons, it was like we were the worst of enemies. Saju had the upper hand with dad, he knew the right chords for the music. I was timid and used to push the master to take center stage when I needed something to be done. I was sure I was no match for him. I played safe and was in the good books, but it was not intentional, it so happened that way. I would say that is called character and each one are governed by it. We can change them but the basic characteristics stay intact.

Talking about Saju's master talent here are some excerpts. All the family members/friends used to meet on Thursdays at one home for a get together party. As far as I can remember this was a regular event, the gents would be having their rounds of alcohol and the ladies would have their favorite pass time 'Paradushanam' and not to forget us, playing and having fun with cousins.

The Edibles

I have to mention about food here otherwise I wouldn't be doing justice to myself :-). You may think WHY? Doesn’t everybody need food? For sure I agree, we have food to live but in our family's case it’s we live to cherish the food we eat or in other words 'WE LIVE TO EAT'. That was the motto. We simply enjoy the food we eat and that’s the finale of any get together parties.

MAN Hmm BOY at work

We have a plan to stay back at Praveen's home. Ooops!!! this is a new character. Well for the time being he's our cousin. He holds a very important position in our family. I'm sure his name would be mentioned several times in this journey down memory lane. Lets get back to our MASTER. I just cannot look at achan and ask upfront if he would let us sleep over at Praveen's home for the night. I've thought about it a lot of times....what was bothering or stopping me to do that?? Was it the timidness within me or just the truth that I simply did not possess the courage. I would think if I can't do it why not someone who can??? and Saju is the MAN for it. He would creep up to achan's lap and the scene is set for the best performance of a life time. Saju will make sure dad agree's. 9 out of 10 times achan will succumb to his younger sons pressure. Guess some guys have it in them. :-)