Bus rides,’kili’& some thoughts

The jasmine flower garland adorning her hair looked fresh even at 7 pm, in a crowded bus from Koramangala to Banashankari. The girl bent over her bling screen  crushing  candies  busy counting her points. Not for once did she look up at the crowded roads outside, the pressing bodies straining their heads to catch fresh air-as fresh as it can be in a bus carrying 60 passengers when it is meant for 40. At every bus stop there are another 50 each trying to jostle in with the bus driver simultaneously steering the wheel, disciplining the passengers, cursing the evening rains while taking us to our different destinations.

The daily bus rides have become an essential part of my life, an enjoyable exercise even when I get tossed and thrown, battered and bruised.By the time I disembark I am a total mess, my only joy being that every body else is. But the bus ride gives me enjoyable window view and  some time to contemplate. That’s when I think about the absence of kili in the bus.

A ‘kili’ ideally means a bird in Malayalam but it is also the pseudonym for that indispensable member  of bus ride management that includes the driver and the conductor. It’s the ‘kili’ who does the crowd management, space adjustment in Kerala buses. He is the commander of the bus,whose directives are obeyed unquestioningly by the driver. So the  ‘kili’ thumps the bus, speeding it up or slowing it down, ensures the passengers are safe by dangling outside protectively, rushes to close the door and open it, rings the bell, advises, threatens and cajoles others on the road depending upon the situations and in general and sort of thrives in chaos.While the bus conductor goes about collecting money and giving away tickets, the driver veers his vehicle through the twists and turns of a typical road in Kerala, the ‘kili’ ensures that the job is well done, by keeping the bus going.But why is public transport so few and far between? Why doesn’t it cover the entire city and beyond?

The so-called IT capital of India is yet to use technology to ease the concerns of the common man. ‘Kili’ or no ‘kili’ bus rides can definitely be made better experiences for all!



& She???

her hair on the clothesline

heavy like a canopy

strands waving dancing


the dust covered walls

of the unseen neighbor’s balcony

the family asset

the village gossip

the living ghost of lost freedoms

the twisted train of destinies

the wild forest fire

the forest itself

and she???





anju mani nadam

anju mani nadam, prabhata bheri muzhakkunna radio. sooryan asthamikkanorungunnu. Rathi thande bag eduthu, porathu keti. Vikraman vetalathe kayattunna pole. ennum erakhi vachalum, vethalam tande purathu pinneyum kerum. Rathi tande office bagine kurichu oru tharam eershayode orthu. athilundallo oru sadanam. lap top atre lap top, head top ennu peru kodukkamayyirunnu. tande talakku mukalil ninnu dance cheyyunna head top! kundam, kodachakram!

ara manikkuur yathra cheythittannu aval veetil ethiyathu…. vazhi teti valla ambalathil ethiyyo, Rathi alochichu oru nimisham. alla veedu thanne. thande swantham flat …ho oru flat..rathi akatthu keri nere kalu kazhukan poyi..atoru sheelamanu, pande, amma paranju tudangiyatta.. pandokke ammayodu keruvichu kalu kazhukarrilla than..inno.. kalu kazhu kathe ummarathu arengilum irunnal avalku kali varum , kali.. athanu mole prayam.. rathi thane thane puchichu.

mani muzhakkam tudarunnu… iyalkku vattayyo.. ha arkariyam.. rathi adukkalayyil kayari chaya kooti.. oru glass maati vachu..poojarikku vendi varum.. tali polli..



As you step into college

As you step into the college,my love

I realise you are a lady in your own right

except for the bits of girlie-child-like part in you

hanging around like the fringes on your forehead.

(I am reminded of how I went to college

dreaming over a certain someone)

I hope you do better in man- grabbing as well as life- earning

those vital ingredients for happiness.

Even if you clue into someone,don’t lose your moorings altogether

for there are many other bye lanes to happiness & contentment.

Most importantly make the best of what is yours

own yourself and feel proud of who you are.

Believe firmly in the infinite possibilities of yourself

for always you have been a proud little one

sure-footed,kind and considerate

be the same.

You will meet men & women of all kinds

the smiling villains and the unsmiling ones

the gentle,the kind and the lovelorn ones

watch,make friends,enjoy the ride.

At times,lend a hand,stop to smile,pat a back,be a friend.

The dreams you hold are truly yours,trust them.

Let no man ever belittle you,your dreams, your aspirations

if they do, don’t hesitate to walk away.

I am around as long as I can, if I am not,believe me ,I am still around.

So long, go ahead,reach out, rule the world.

Just Rice & Gun powder

So you are not ready to cook a full meal. You are tired.

Besides, its a bother to cook a regular kerala meal. You have to have the curry or the kootan, then the upperi or the dry vegetables, maybe papad, apart from pickle and other assorted items.

Whenever my mom would go visiting, my father would don the apron and test his culinary skills. Not one to match  the almost ritualistic efforts of my mom in the kitchen, he always managed to enthrall his audience with some smart tricks to bring about a different yet unique taste every time.

One of the tricks he regularly used is to mix nicely sliced small onions, raw tamarind, 1 or two green chilly, salt and a spoonful of coconut oil until they whole mixture exudes an aroma of its own. This is to be laboriously mixed to  piping hot rice,  the result is just heavenly.For a variation  he would use red chilly smoked directly on the gas stove instead of the green ones. This definitely ensured that neither me nor my younger brother ever complained of mom’s absence.

Well, one more little trick up his sleeve was to serve the famous gun powder or dosa podi as we call it mixed in coconut oil with rice. Gun powder or dosa podi is that secret recipe which can be your side dish for rice,dosa, idli or anything else. While there are en number of variations of the gun powder, I will share the recipe that  I grew up having.

The Gun Powder -Recipe


urad dal- 1 cup

rice- 1/2 a cup

full red chilly-3-4

hing-1/4 tsp

black pepper corns-a handful

salt- to taste

curry leaves-a handful

sesame seeds-2 tsp


Saute urad dal till brown in a pan and keep aside. Saute rice,red chilly,hing,black pepper corns,curry leaves,sesame seeds.Powder all the ingredients in a mixie. Add salt to taste.

Your gun powder is ready. You can have it with dosa,idli,rice or chapati. You will get the typical kerala flavour if you add a tsp of coconut oil to 2 tsp of gun powder.








Of fulfilling a promise

A couple past their prime inherit an old dilapidated house, which was once home to a farmer, an ayurvedic physician, a sanskrit scholar,his beautiful wife and their worthy children.

The home inherited by my mother was in dire need of repair. My father,a retired banker counts every penny and could have just sold the house and  pocketed the change. Much to the disbelief of all his friends and relatives, the man and his wife spend days breathing life sustaining and nurturing the old home.

I am surprised at the effort that goes into all of this. The love and care that mom and dad are willing to invest into what looked like a lost case. Wouldn’t it be easier to sell it off? I wonder secretly. Many others raise the same concern and laugh at the eccentricity of the old couple.How long will you be around?. They ask indifferently. .

20 years ago when the house was set aside for his daughter, the fourth in the line,grandfather had extracted a promise from my father. He said,this house has been built with my sweat and labor. I have lifted stones, painted it and agonized over it. I want you to take care of it.

My father said,I could have sold it off but  I wanted to build something of it to return to it, its former grandeur. I expect you to use this space for the betterment of the society. I am humbled and perplexed at this suggestion. It is a huge responsibility.

Before taking this responsibility,my parents had already tided over the worst calamity of their lives, the loss of their son,the youngest, their life, their cheer and everything else.When Balu, my brother was diagnosed with mitochondrial cytopathy, which the doctor at NIMHANS told him categorically  was causing the degeneration of every organ of his body,the boy was devastated, so were his parents.

Yet through the years that he survived, my mother ensured that there was a smile on his face.My father nurtured him as if he were a small baby.His friends Babu,Mani and Koushik stood by him,visiting him every single day. Cheering him up with odd jokes and pranks,only they were capable of. Until , his death on 10th of July 2012, my brother knew for sure that he was loved and cared for.

Today as I watch the house limp back to life, awakening a new interest among the neighbors, friends and relatives, I am proud of what my parents are capable of. Of their never say die spirit.

Just the other day, my mother addressed a young audience at a government school in the locality.It was her first public address. The students loved the honesty of her words and cheered for her. The adulation is much deserved,earned by unwavering spirit,hard work and an optimism that does not allow tears to be shed at any cost.

When sometimes I am told of the smile that does not leave my face, I have to agree modestly. I cannot be otherwise, I come from a family of great strength of mind and the spirit.

I have heard my parents being taunted for not studying beyond 10th standard.How does it matter? I ask.

In the college of life they have earned their doctorate:-)