Rides and learning

I am happy about riding the two wheeler, just that I get very worried at the turns. So I wait endlessly at every right or left turn and once I find a few bikes or cars with me, I buck up the courage to take the turn. Now not all turns are manned by signals or policeman and not on all days either. So, this strange camaraderie of fellow travelers is what saves my life and rescues me from embarrassment, almost everyday.

How easily do we collaborate? The other day,I was drenched thoroughly and almost struggling to see through the helmet when this happened. I had been waiting for five minutes unable to decide whether to take the cross. A car stopped by, the driver made eye contact as if he understood my predicament, indicated that I follow him and then I crossed. I was more than relieved.

I am thinking of how strangers sometimes stop to help and move on without any expectation of reward or acknowledgement.

It is a beautiful ability to be able to do that and I am sure all of us or at least most of us have been recipients of unexpected kindness at some point or the other.

The world would be even more beautiful if we used this ‘strange camaraderie’ to spread love and positivism.

And it does not look to be impossible either!

Is the animal world trying to tell us something?

Breaching of whales at unusual places brings excitement and joy to a few onlookers in one of the videos I saw today.

Truly it must be a defining experience for the viewer.

(Don’t ask me of my travels, coz they are a-beginning. )

But seriously, I do believe that the animals, the birds, the creatures of the sea sometimes stay close and allow the humans a glimpse into their world, their magnificence with a purpose.

Perhaps those blessed beings want us to realize their magnanimity, their greatness and how we as humans are just so fortunate to share this planet with them.

You see, man need not hurry against or fight or conquer nature any more, it is there for all, the humans and the others.

These wonderful beings by being so splendid beg of man for his reckoning of their existence.

It is their world too, perhaps they mean to say.

When I read of sea creatures approaching divers, swimmers in hope for help or scratch, I am just overwhelmed at the trust they place in us, the humans.

They seem to somehow believe that we are kind, compassionate and powerful enough to be acknowledged and to reach out to in times of need.

With great power does come great responsibility.

When the stray cat or dog follows you in hope of food, he or she knows what he is doing. He knows this other bi-ped is capable of providing food and shelter and more.

This knowledge is instinctual to all animals and they naturally tend to reach out to man in the hour of need.

A broken wing, a poking needle, a fisher man’s net impeding movement, animals, birds and creatures of all kinds turn to man for help.

And we are forever surprised, nay shocked when an animal shows kindness, or exhibits the so called humane qualities. We refuse to believe in the innate goodness of nature and the compassion that is inherent in all creatures.

Years of living in conflict with nature in the earlier years of human existence has perhaps filled human mind with such thoughts about nature being a dangerous and vile force.

Today with a clear upper hand in the order of living on the planet, man can and should be kinder, warmer and more careful about the planet and his brethren, the other inhabitants of the planet.

As a species we need to teach our children to respect what we have of nature and not indiscriminately harm it.

It is in Shakunthalam by the great Kalidasa that one can read about the shrubs, the trees, the flowers and other living and non living things shedding tears or expressing sorrow as a young Shakunthala gets ready to join King Dushyanta at his palace.

Perhaps it really is so. Perhaps what surrounds us and get emotionally affected by us. Perhaps we are just unable to read their expressions.

Now who is to say that?


Menstrual Menace and the Associated stigma

Every cell in my body aches and cries out in pain. The eyes blur and make it difficult to sit up, to go to work is impossible to think even. I take the liberty to stay at home, under the blanket and brood, the one thing I do the best.

Seriously though, I cannot go back to work place claiming that I was in severe pain due to the monthly cycles,eyes would roll in mock belief, ‘look at her, can’t she handle that’ ,’ at this age, imagine’, ‘it happens to everyone,darling’, such would be the reaction, spoken or otherwise!

Menstrual cramps are not something to talk about even as an adult, yet they are painful and unbearable and girls and most women suffer them in silence.

You are told that it gets better as you grow but for some it remains painful through out.

It was at LSN convent Ottapalam that I came to know about this biological process from the text books, from the talks about catechism classes and then the hostel mates.

We would discuss what happens to the body and why and then what and much more, some times even during our study hours.Most girls were unaware and all talks were interesting and captivating, the human body was such a mystery to all of us.

Even today we refuse to discuss menstruation. In most homes, the associated pain is something to be hidden and left unspoken, despite the sanitary napkin ads creating such a flutter with girls wearing only whites and jumping and dancing about during menstruation. It is a classic case of reel and real conflict as most women look for dark shades of red to wear so that a spot goes un-spotted. The simple act of sitting down on a chair becomes a traumatic one for fear of spotting. It is a real tyrant , the cycle of menstruation, at least for most women.

Disposing of sanitary pads is another exercise which requires girls and women to behave like sleuths on an expose’ mission.

I am reading ‘ A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf and am also wondering why I never gave much attention to it before.

Ms.Woolf makes a case for the supposed sister of Shakespeare and how not being financially independent and not having a room of her own would have impeded the creative expression of a woman who may have been as creative as expressive as Shakespeare himself.

Forget creative expression, even for decent living girls do need their own space. In fact I would say women should have a separate room for themselves even after marriage for privacy, for thought and for brooding, if nothing else or maybe some writing.

How frustrating, how inconvenient it must be for most women not to have some privacy during these times in their own homes? The simple business of changing the pad or just resting a bit is impossible in households where girls have no rooms for themselves. Even today, this is the case in majority of homes in the country.

Watching ‘Gunjan Saxena’s struggle for a wash room before she gets to clock her flying hours at the Indian Air Force just brought these glaring truths back to my mind.

Lack of access to wash rooms at work places, at bus stands, at public places continues to inconvenience women who want to pursue a career or a hobby or just travel and go about.

While we wear our modernity on our sleeves and talk of owning a piece of land on the moon or mars or whatever, we balk at discussions about divorce, menstruation, sexual assault or even basic female hygiene!

The famed nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar writes about foods to reduce period pain…Got to follow this!


Just a few Karkadakam things: Thus said amma

The malayalam month of Karkadakam falls between July and August. It was famous as ‘panja karkadakam’ meaning the poor month of karkadakam. This was mainly because of the incessant rains that lashed the state of Kerala making it impossible to go to work to earn thus resulting in a lack of food in most homes. That is when it is said that the money stashed away by the ladies of the house in small closed utensils or ‘kudukka’ comes out to make the ends meet.

While famous for its poverty or lack of jobs and there fore lack of food , the month of Karkadakam had it own set of rules to be followed.

Earthen ‘kudukka’ or small closed vessel

There were en number of things to be done in the month of Karkadakam, some out of need, some as a part of rituals or traditions and most of these are not in practice today, some have indeed stayed on.

* Cheta bhagavathiye purathakkal: Households got rid of old and unused items, old footwear, the brooms, ‘muram‘ used for sifting rice etc. during karkadakam.

Bamboo Muram or Tray - Kitchen Utensils - Tredy Foods
Muram used for sifting rice

The ritual of getting rid of old items was called’ cheta bhagavathiye purathakkal‘ or getting ‘cheta bhagathy, symbolic of poverty, illness etc., out of the house.

After ritualistically cleaning the entire house the waste was collected in a ‘muram’ or ‘kalam’ or vessel and either burnt or buried off, post which those who cleaned have to take a bath in the nearby river or any other water body.

(Reminds me of the phrase to refer to those who fight a lot, ‘they are like chati and kalam’ , always hitting /fighting with each other, referring to how the utensils in the kitchen are noisy and quarrelsome!)

Chattiyum Kalavum - Photos | Facebook
chatti and kalam or earthen pots and pans

*Shri bhagavathiye akathakal or getting Shri bhagavathy into the house.In the evening when the lamp is lit, one of the members enter the house as ‘Shri bhagavathy . Shri bhagavathy is also presented with some gifts in a plate like fruits, rice, mundu, valkannadi( a type of mirror used in pooja), dasa pushpam ( the famed 10 flowers women are supposed to adorn themselves with in the month of karkadakom), betel leaves, arecanut, some coins are presented on the ‘avanapalaka'( a small wooden platform used for pooja) with two water filled ‘kindi’ on either side. (brass vessels with which water was poured, a sort of a mug)

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kindi, brass vessel in which water was poured for various purposes.

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Mundu, a unisex kerala costume, an elite cousin of the local lungi which is more popular

*Karkadaka kani or presenting a few auspicious items on a plate on avanapalaka every day: On a ‘thalam‘ or plate kept on an ‘avana palakka‘ a few things like ‘dasa pushpam’-ten flowers, ‘adakka‘-arecanut, ‘vettila’-betel leaves, ‘panam‘-coins, ‘mundu‘-garment, ‘pazham‘-fruit, ‘ari /nellu’ -rice/paddy , ‘kan mashi– kajal, ‘ aracha chandanam -sandal wood paste, a copy of devi mahathmyam, prayer for the goddess etc were to be presented to gods every day with water filled ‘kindi‘ -brass vessel to pour water,on either side.

*Dasa pushpam choodal :Women of the household are supposed to have ‘dasa pushpam‘ meaning ten flowers to wear every day of the month. Now these included ‘Karuka‘ or Cynodon dactylon whose ruling god is Bhrahma, Mukutti or Biophytum sensitivum whose ruling goddess is Bhagavathy or devi, ‘Cherula’ or Aerva lanata whose ruling god is Yama or the lord of death, ‘Vishu kranti‘ or Evolvulus alsinoides whose ruling god is Vishnu, ‘Poovam kurunnila or Vernonia cinerea whose ruling god is Bala shashi or moon, Mokshami, Muyal cheviyan or Emilia sonchifolia whose ruling god is Lord Shiva , Kanjunni or Kayyonni or Eclipta alba whose ruling god is Lord Varuna, Nilapana or Curculigo orchioides, whose ruling god is Lord Kama, Uzhinja or Cardiospermum halicacabum whose ruling god is Lord Indra , Thiruthali or Ipomoea sepiaria[5] whose ruling god is Achuthan or Krishna.

*mukutti poovu arachu nettilyil thodal : Wear a paste of mukutti poovu on the forehead, like how sandal wood paste is worn.

the ubiquitous mukutti or Bio phytum sensitivum lin, considered to be a medicinal plant

The members of the household have to consume 10 types of leafy vegetables during this time. These being :

*Pathila kazhikkal or consuming ten medicinal leaves : Leaves of ‘kumbalam‘ or ash gourd, cowpeas or ‘payaru‘, ‘thakara‘ or Sickle senna or coffee pod, chembu kizhangu or colacasia esculenta or taro, ‘chena‘ or yam, ‘mathan‘ or pumpkin, ‘kodi thoova’ ‘choriyanam‘ or climbing nettle, ‘Koovalam ‘ or Indian Bael, nelli or nellikka or gooseberry and mullan cheera or spiny amaranth are to be consumed during this month.

*Oushada seva, or ayurvedic care for the body: Karkadakam is traditionally considered most suitable for the ayurvedic procedures for body rejunevation which are now being marketed as ‘ karkadaka chikitsa’ .

*Karkadaka kanji or oushada kanji: As important as the external care in terms of applying medicated oil and neem water bath or applying various ‘kizhi‘ and ‘pothi‘ is the consumption of what is known as ‘karkadaka kanji or aushada kanji or medicinal rice porridge’.

*Karakadaka Vavu bali or paying homage to ancestors: Offerings to ancestors on the ‘new moon day’ or amavaysa of karkadakam is said to invite prosperity and blessings from them. Karkadakam is also the last month in the malayalam calendar.

*Ilam nira: After the new moon day, illam nira is celebrated marking the return of abundance to the household. The first cutting of the paddy grains is brought to the house with great fan fair , with cries of illam nira, vallam nira and pathayam nira. ‘Illam’ or the house, ‘vallam’ or the vessel and the ‘pathayam’ or the store house are wished to over flow with grains during this ritual. During illam nira offerings of the curry of ten medicinal leaves, sweet porridge of payasam of newly cut grains/rice are made to gods.

*Ramayana parayanam or the month of reading ramayana: the month of karkadakam is also celebrated as the month for reading ramayana. It is also common to visit the temples of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, located in Kottayam and Thrissur districts of Kerala as a part of ‘nalabalam darshanam’ or visiting four temples.

*Muppattu chovva or the first Tuesday of the month and muppattu velli or the first Friday of the month: The first tuesday and the first friday of the month are observed as muppattu chovva and muppattu velli respectively and are marked for the worship of the goddess Bhadrakali, the ferocious one.

*Mailanchi idal: During the month of karkadakam,women folk are encouraged to apply mehendi or mailanchi on their hands and feet.

Now looking at the attention the month receives one wonders if it is appropriate to call it ‘panna karkadakam or the poor karkadakam’!

PS:Gratitude to amma

Where the heart is- Film

We watched Natalie Portman’s ‘Where the heart is?’ with many ‘awww’s and ‘ooh’ and other such exclamations at what was one of the cutest story telling in movies that I have seen in recent times.

Novalee Nation grows right in front of your eyes from a bubbly, extremely naive pregnant teenager to becoming a young woman with a profession, a worthy man in her life and her beloved baby, Americus plus and an impressive social status as a photographer right in front of your eyes in a span of 2 hours.

The film is beyond touching and Natalie’s character wins you over with her charm, her simplicity and her ability to care for others despite the many tragedies she had to undergo.

Through out the film, as an audience I felt myself getting anxious for this beautiful yet simple girl and her lovely baby. When the handsome Forney enters Novalee’s life as a baby sitter,you know for sure that Novalee cannot have a better husband and can’t but chide and feel frustrated at Novalee’s attempts to push him away.

Novalee feels that she is some what lesser and that she doesn’t deserve Forney even when he acknowledges his love for Novalee Nation and Americus Nation over and over again.

Finally it takes the advent of her runaway boyfriend to remind Novalee of her love for Forney.

All is well when Novalee meets Forney and accepts that she too loves him.

Ashley Judd as Lexie, Novalee’s friend, does well as the woman in search of eternal love and forever failing.

Stockard Channing as sisterhusband comes to Novalee’s rescue and sort of becomes Americus’ god mother with her acts of kindness and compassion.

Sweetly engaging, the movie makes one believe in love and also think that it is not such a bad world after all.

Well, there is hope for love, we sigh together , the daughter, I and Andrew , the cat!

Don’t they say ‘love begets love’!!!

The charming duo!

A pat, A Smile and some kind words

I didn’t start off as a teacher on my own will.

In fact, I never wanted to be a teacher to begin with but once I became a teacher I gave it all that I had and in many ways teaching challenged me to push my boundaries constantly. I believe I became a better individual and a better teacher with time.

I received lots of love and respect and truck loads of self confidence…some thing I had lost as a teenager, the brunt of which I bore for long.

Well, as a child I wanted to have my columns in newspapers and to have the world wake up to read them. I was influenced by Tavleen Singh in those days, a very eminent columnist of my growing up years.

I am glad however that I did become a teacher and what happened today sort of reinforced that feeling.

A newly passed out MBA walked into my office and started talking. As me and my colleague listened, I thought to myself, ‘isn’t this the boy who had stammering but he was speaking so fluently’ and the young man as if reading my mind said, ‘yes mam, I have over come it almost to 95 percent. Thank you so much’.

I smiled at him still trying to connect the dots when he elaborated, ‘we have been doing everything you suggested, we talk to each other for almost 2 hours every day, we record our speeches and we have been observing the improvement. I just wanted to come and tell you this personally. ‘

‘My friend is continuing his practice and he said, he will do it for 2 hours every day even after he gets a job.’

‘It’s only when I meet strangers that I stammer a bit, otherwise I don’t stammer at all, ‘ he beamed happily.

I thanked the universe for this good news to pep me up on an otherwise dull day.

So all I want to say is to stay on glued into the conversation with a shy individual who is trying to overcome stammering, lend a bit of motivation and some support. The results are almost immediate and the rewards invaluable.

Anyways, when did a pat on the back and a smile become so expensive?!!!

Mithi reclaims her path

Mithi reclaimed a path as hers

and flowed fiercely

cries confounding damned her


she said

‘it’s my nature to be fierce

despite my name

there is nothing sweet in me

choked to my core

I come alive mercy to the monsoons

tell me when else have you seen me

when have you bothered about me

what happened to my longing love

what stifled my meeting him,my lover

leave my course

go travel your homes afar

nourish me and rejoice

we shall grow together

those richer reap a life of good fortune

in the land of glitz and glamor

compassion comes in columns

the penniless suffer the most

but sweet vengeance is now my name

so move or be moved!

maybe I can still be your life

if only you go, just go

coz there are lives beyond you,

ye humans!


Film time @netflix

What netflix and amazon prime has done is to bring those precious moments of fun-leisurely-companionship right into your home, so that all that you need to have a party is to pop some corns and have home cooked pasta, a drink of your choice and just sit back to see some good stories being told.

A movie buff, my daughter is particular about not letting a film go un-watched. More so, she is particular about making it an experience worth remembering.

That means almost every other day we are huddled up in front of the laptop gushing or complaining about a movie, with accompaniments which are planned and prepared in advance.

Though lazy myself, I like it when she insists on these little experiences and participates in creating them.

At the back of my mind, a nagging fear of her separation sits large and urges me to catch on to these times, like it or not, ‘carpe diem’, the young lady might set sail anytime!!!

But it is this love to attend to the aesthetics of food experiences, movie experiences that sets her apart from those of us who make mundane adjustments about the kind of life we live.

An aesthetic, given to beautifying life experiences, willing to sit out patiently till the right tone emerges, patient enough to try many times over, with great attention to details, this child is interesting!

She has to either have the best or none at all!

In the name of being busy, or old or uninteresting, many of us tend to just about exist but for whose sake, really?!!!

Is it not important to live life, king size the way you deem it fit?

Life with an aesthetic, is demanding but enduring and charming in its own way and I get to learn lessons of many kinds.

‘So, tell me what you want to eat?’, asks she, ‘come on make a choice, no you can’t just say anything! Think say it!’

‘You should know your mind mom’, she reprimands me.

So grudgingly but happily, I go on to specify the exact thing I want, and she laughs at me.

‘After all, it’s the cheese toppings that makes a dull, bland pizza base delicious right!

or that sprig of curry leaves floating in ghee that makes the sambhar mouth-watering

Toppings do matter!’

Good company

Comfort living

Great food

Me time

What’s your preferred topping to life?

PS: Fun@home

Freedom from fear

When the wind blows change

the heart grows stiff with fear

the mind cautions

the new path might yet be dangerous

the terrain daunting, unforgiving

in life’s lonely journey so far

who stood by, who gave up

knowing that the trembling heart

grows steady and sings boldly

‘bring it on

new experiences

new landscape

a few new faces

perhaps a new friend good’

in the transience of living

nothing yet is carved in stone

times tide has yet

not allowed a life to settle well

so, friend kiss your dear heart

explore a new territory

stay enamored

embrace the nomad in you

be thou the cheerleader of change.

Ps:what new tides, what new learning?

Love blooms


push the sliding door


through the narrow path


a warm hearth and heart

times are unsteady

hopes waver

faith is fragile

a flickering flame

calls out

dreams are yet daring

thoughts transcend


smiles bridge

dreams dazzle

shoulder to shoulder

souls hang out

eyes await

passion meets destiny

love blooms

Ps:dreams,smiles, hopes

Living to learn

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