Category Archives: Environment

Frozen hand and a stolen voice

Frozen hands

stolen voice

spirit snatched away

silenced laughter

tears shy of flowing

eyes not seeing anymore

ears that close against a noise, a voice

limbo.

not till the waves wash you

not till the skies fall

earth opens in pain

no…not till then

Ps:That which surrounds us

Meenu,the meemi-ViI, Action

Radha walked up to Anitha di’s flat to check on her in the afternoon. She took Nandu with her to Anitha di’s home.

They sat quietly as Anitha complained of a mild headache. Di was surprised to know that Nandu had visited the lake alone. ‘Did you, Nandu?’, di asked him with a smile on her face.

Nandu sat quiet. When Radha returned to work, Nandu stayed back at Anitha aunty’s flat reading books. Nandu decided to share what happened at the lake with Anitha aunty.

He narrated how Meenu, the meemi introduced herself and shared the concern of the lake dwellers with him. He spoke of Meenu, the meemi’s mentor, Turtle dodamma as well.

Anitha listened on, ‘ Is the boy delusional? He looks normal enough’. Maybe it is just his over worked imagination. Maybe I have been telling him too many stories. I have to be careful with him. After all he is Radha’s lifeline, now mine too in some ways.’

Nandu asked Anitha aunty about a few things that day. ‘Why is dirty water being flushed into the lake? Are there laws about waste water treatment? Why are they flouted? Who looks into all this? Is there a way to save the lake and do something for the fish and other lake dwellers? Does the polluted waters of the lake affect the water in the nearby wells, borewells?’

Anitha observed Nandu thoughtfully, ‘he seems to have grown up all of a sudden. Did he always think so much? ‘

Anitha shared her thoughts and whatever information she had with Nandu. She decided that Nandu needed some more help, as he had exhibited a deep desire to learn more.

Together they browsed Amazon to check what kind of mobiles were available that were cheap and affordable. Anitha told Nandu that he could come to her home and use his mobile to read and understand more. ‘Thanks to internet anyone can learn anything now, you too can do it, Nandu’.

Nandu happily accepted Anitha aunty’s offer. He did not feel awkward with her anymore. The walks continued uninterrupted the next day onwards now with a new twist. Post the walk, classes for Nandu started at Anitha’s home.

Anitha aunty allowed Nandu reading time on his mobile after he had learnt his lessons. When Nandu told Radha of Anitha aunty’s offer, she was hesitant but Nandu told her how important it was for him to learn.

The classes at the school were off and if he had to become someone big, he had to learn continuously. This convinced Radha who also agreed for regular classes with Anitha di for her son. ‘It is bound to benefit him anyways.’

Like most kids, Nandu was a quick learner. The mobile to him came as a boon, with Anitha aunty’s wifi he could read and learn as much as he wanted.

He read about the Puttenahalli Lake and how it had shrunk over a period of time. He came to know of citizen efforts to save it. But the dirty water which was Meenu, the meemi’s main concern needed a different solution altogether.

Nandu’s increasing knowledge base did not go unnoticed in the colony. He found an admiring crowd around him who wanted to listen to his stories of the lake, of Meenu, the meemi, of the hibiscus, of the wars, the heroes, of Gandhi, of Salim Ali and what not. The respect he got among his peers made Nandu bold.

He was not sure if Meenu, the meemi was real or a fantasy, he was not sure if she really talked to him or not. The truth is that after that day, Ms. Shiny Scales never appeared in front of him again. ‘Was she fine?’, Nandu often thought to himself.

As months passed, the colony became active for local elections. Nandu heard that the local MLA was going to address the rally in a few weeks time.

He went to his colony and talked to his friends. He told them how the apartments let untreated sewage into the lake. He said that if they supported him they could raise the matter in front of big leaders, this would make them popular too.

One of his friends, Raju asked timidly, ‘but we don’t live near the lake, nor in the apartment , how does it matter to us?’ Nandu listened to his doubt and answered that ‘every thing mattered to everyone, sometimes we do not realize it, that’s all.’ No one disputed Nandu’s wisdom. After all he even spoke in English. No school taught this kind of English, as far as they knew, maybe he was actually very smart. They kept quiet and decided to do as he said.

His group of friends were aged between 5-12 and there were girls as well as boys in it. The oldest boys and girls in the group worked on pieces of cloth to create banners which read,’ stop pollution’, ‘ save lake’, ‘we want cleanliness’,’ they also live’, etc.

Nandu requested Anitha aunty to buy him some paint and a few brushes. He already knew what to write on the cloth. Anitha did not think much of Nandu’s request, anyways, it was her deal that if he studied well and completed his lessons, he was eligible for special gifts. He also asked her for some old saris, light colored ones, ‘What are you doing, Nandu?’, Anitha asked him but gave an old cream sari she had with her. ‘Take this’, she smiled.

Radha noticed that Nandu had become more serious and that he and friends in the colony were always busy. ‘It is good to have kids busy,’ like all other parents in the colony she too thought the same. Radha did not bother much. ‘So long as they don’t create trouble’.

The MLA, Ranganath, finally came to the colony. Stage was set and mic was readied, blaring all kinds of songs. Some kids danced to the songs. Soon chairs were readied. Shri Ranganath walked to the podium. The colony which rarely saw electricity apart from the faint street lamps and a few bulbs here and there, was lit brightly that day. The entire area was in a festive mood. With free food and free liquor, there was no dearth of light hearted banter among the men folk. The women sat huddled here and there, they were mostly quiet.

The crowd applauded the MLA for everything he said. He seemed to be very high on energy. There was a few moments break in the programme when the leader looked down at a paper and was seen discussing something with a supporter.

The distracted crowd was surprised to notice a bunch of kids wearing garlands of rags and holding banners come to the stage. The motley group was led by a boy in shorts. The television cameras and the photographers looking for TRP turned their focus on the group. Dressed shabbily but walking erect, the kids in front carried banners which read. ‘Save Puttenahalli Lake’, ‘ Save the fish’, ‘Stop dirtying the lake’, ‘Stop construction near the lake’ and so on in English and in Kannada.

The leader on the dais was surprised at funny looking kids’ boldness but he chose to play to the gallery and called the boys and girls on to the stage. He asked Nandu if he wanted to say something.

That moment changed everything for Nandu. Nandu took the mic and spoke calmly about the lake, the fish in the lake and how they were unable to breathe. He spoke about his friend, Meenu, the meemi and Turtle dodamma and how it was important to all of us to save the residents of the lake.

The confused crowd looked on but the leader on stage started to clap for Nandu and every one joined with enthusiasm. As the news was broadcast, Anitha who watched the evening news was shocked and touched by Nandu’s speech, ‘So, the Meenu, the meemi stuff was real, was it?’

When a reporter asked Nandu why he was doing all this, he replied calmly, ‘ All life on the planet are connected. Though we live in this colony as poor people, we always dream of living in a good home someday. Similarly the fish in the lake too have a right to live in the best of waters, after all it is their only home. Besides, keeping the waters clean will help all of us. It is not the fault of the fish that the waters are being dirtied. We need to help them. A man can move to another village or town, but where will the fish go, what about Turtle dodamma, they deserve to live and die with dignity.’

The reply stunned the audience to silence. ‘Such wisdom at such a small age, surprising’, said the reporter who congratulated the boy on his boldness.

More interviews of Nandu and his motley team upstaged the MLA who had no choice but to play along. As the kids became prime time news items, it became essential for the authorities to make the right noise.

Last heard, the BBMP has promised to punish the builders who flouted water treatment norms. The MLA won the election riding on popularity votes for treating the kids with respect among other things.

A few moths later, Nandu’s life returned to daily grind but learning with Anitha aunty lifted his spirits. He promised to do more for the lake and for Meenu, the meemi, her mom and Turtle dodamma’.

Did he ever meet Ms.Shiny Scales again, perhaps not.

Nandu continued his morning walks with Anitha di. After all he was a small kid, but now he had a vision about his city, he knew that this was only the beginning of a long journey…

The End.

Meenu, the Meemi -vi, The dialogue

Nandu has been visiting the lake with Anitha aunty every single day. This had become a routine affair for him. He enjoyed listening to Anitha aunty’s stories, the tit bits of wisdom she shared in her animated tone about plants or animals or sometimes just stories.

Radha, on the other hand, found that her son was learning a lot these days and felt proud of her son. Sometimes a tinge of jealousy touched her soul, ‘does her son value Anitha di more now?’ but as Nandu ran back to her after the walk and hugged her, she relaxed and smiled .

In the evenings when the mother and son walked back home after work, Nandu always told Radha about the things he learned that day. Since the school was off, his source of learning was Anitha aunty and those morning walks with her. ‘If only I too had been educated too ‘, thought Radha, ‘but my son is lucky that he has found a mentor in Anitha di. Besides, di has started teaching him to read books in English and Kannada. They say, there is someone for everyone, even someone like me,’ smiled Radha thinking to herself.

One day Anitha aunty did not turn up for the walk, Nandu waited for her for sometime and later decided to go ahead to the lake. There was something about the lake that attracted him. ‘Did the lake too have few friends like him? What about the birds, do they feel lonely too? And miss Shiny scales, what about her?’ Nandu could not help smiling at the thought seeing her again.

He walked hurriedly to the lake and ran around saying ‘sat’ to each tree. This was the game he played in his colony with his friends. He then sat down quietly, brooding. ‘Maybe I should have waited for Anitha aunty? Is she sick?’ he panicked suddenly.

He turned when he heard a loud splash of water in the lake. He noticed how a nearby canal emptied dirty waters into the lake. Some frothing appeared at the mouth of the canal. ‘It must be difficult for miss Shiny Scales,’ he thought to himself.

As if reading his thoughts, a faint hello was heard. He looked around to see if anyone was around. Perhaps hiding behind the trees but no. His attention was drawn to the circles in the water caused by Ms.Shiny Scales. He asked, ‘wait, was it you who spoke?’.

‘Looks like that’, said the voice from water. ‘In fact I too discovered just now that I can speak in your language. You are not smart enough to learn ours anyways, so Turtle dodamma must have played her magic trick on me instead of you’.

‘Btw, I am Meenu, the meemi, glad to meet you, said Ms. Shiny Scales.

‘Oh,’ said the boy blurting ‘, me too’ almost unintentionally.

‘ For many days, I have been thinking of speaking to you, I like the fact that you are a quiet but smart boy’, smiled Meenu, the meemi.

‘Thank you’, said Nandu this seemed to be a normal thing now. ‘Hmmmm…..Maybe some fish do speak actually, maybe Anitha aunty forgot to tell me’, he thought to himself. He made a mental note to tell her about this unusual incident.

‘I don’t have much time, like your Cindrella right, Turtle dodamma’s magic too has a short life time. So, if you don’t mind,I willl come straight to the point, is that fine , Nandu?’, Continued Meenu, the meemi.

‘So, you know my name as well, ‘, asked Nandu.

‘Yes and much more’, replied Meenu, the meemi suddenly all wise and sagely, as she replied in a rather grownup tone.

Time stood still as the conversation went on for about an hour.

Later, Nandu woke up as if from a trance. There was no trace of Ms. Shiny Scales or Ms. Meenu, the meemi anywhere. ‘So, was I dreaming? ‘, asked Nandu himself.

Nandu walked back a bit lost and confused. He reached the apartment where his mother worked looking tired. He hugged his mother tight and went to sleep.

Radha saw that his son had gone to the lake alone. She wanted to scold him for not waiting for Anitha di, but he was so fast asleep that she sat down next to him, on the cot in the parking area, a sort of creche for the workers’ children. She gently put a bedsheet on him and went back to her work.

‘I have to talk to him about this. But first let me check on Anitha di, what happened to her? Poor thing, she stays alone too’. She decided to meet Anitha di during her break.

Meenu,the meemi -V, turtle Dodamma

Meenu, the meemi dived deep into the waters to reach out to Turtle dodamma, who has seen many generations of humans themselves. A mystic who carried her own home on her back, Turtle dodamma had no interest in others’ affairs. But Meenu had seen her mom consult her for advices and suggestions in difficult situations. And it was time for some sage counsel now.

Turtle dodamma was a recluse who talked less and worked even lesser. It was not clear what she did the whole of five hundred years of living on the planet. Perhaps she lived long because she did nothing. Anyways, Meenu, the meemi was advised to pluck a few plants from the lake bed and collect a few tadpoles for her mom. This should cure her of the fatigue and tiredness. Meenu, the meemi did just that and soon returned to Turtle dodamma for some serious talk.

Turtle dodamma loved the vivacious Meenu, the meemi and her shiny scales. Turtle dodamma closed her eyes and talked slowly about the life beyond the lake. She described Meenu’s kith and kin who lived in rivers and danced in joy, they were called dolphins. She also talked about the fierce sharks and the gentle whales who ruled the deep waters of the oceans. ‘But not anymore.’ Meenu, the meemi was startled at the sadness in Turtle dodamma’s voice. She asked quickly ,’but why Turtle dodamma?’ ‘Because they are not free of dirt or disease either. The humans are everywhere and they leave a dirty trail behind. They, the humans have changed everything and left devastation all around’. Turtle dodamma nodded her small head sadly.

‘But’, asked Meenu, the meemi, ‘is there nothing I can do?’ Turtle dodamma laughed gently. ‘If you can be heard by them, perhaps then’.

‘Don’t they speak our language? Maybe I can learn theirs. Amma tells me anything is possible if there is a will. And I am born to do great things, Turtle dodamma’. Turtle dodamma didn’t say anything. It looked as if she had gone into a trance. After paddling around her for a few minutes, Meenu, the meemi returned to her mother.

Somethings have to change now. How long can the hegemony of humans go on? When the adversary is treacherous and vile, one has to look to connect to him.

Meenu, the meemi watched her mom becoming more sprightly and cheerful as the medicine started to work. She thanked Turtle dodamma in her heart. Tomorrow I have to meet her again. In great wars, one needs great mentors and there can’t be anyone wiser than Turtle dodamma, after all she has seen many generations of humans themselves.

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Turtle dodamma

Meenu, The Meemi-IV, The Encounter

Nandu enjoyed his morning walks with Anitha aunty. She told him about the trees,the plants and often asked him some tricky questions. ‘So, what is that?”Hibiscus’ , ‘What is it used for?’ ‘ Making oils you said last time’. Anitha sighed, ‘there’s more to Hibiscus or the shoe flower, Nandu, I really need to brush up my knowledge before I start to teach you anything.’ Nandu chuckled at this and Anitha pulled his ear playfully.

At the lake though, Anitha aunty talked less. It seemed as if she was simply observing or lostin thoughts. Nandu never minded this, he loved his own company and ran off to nearby bushes and trees. He patted a tree here, a tree there and came running to sit down by Anitha’s side.

One day while he was running near the lake, he heard a sudden splash and looked at the waters. Must be a toad or ….did someone throw a pebble, he looked around. He saw shiny scales of a fish diving deep into the waters. He felt curious and started moving closer. By the edge of the lake, he walked slowly and smiled to himself when he saw the shiny scales keeping pace with him. Must be on his morning walk, no morning swim, eh? He thought.

He sensed that the Shiny scales was actually trying to befriend him. He sat down and the fish made small circular movements in front of him, as if it was his personal entertainer. Nandu was surprised at this because he never knew that even fish would like to have friends. He has a cat at home, not his home, the neighbour’s home. How does it matter? Chinchu spent most of her time at Nandu’s home and he enjoyed playing hide and seek with her.

Anitha came strolling to Nandu and sat next to him. Together they watched the fish, she looked beautiful, Anitha thought. He or she, who knows.

Meenu, the meemi was excited at the sight of the boy. ‘Must be the human, mom always told her to be wary of, but how come he looked so cute and innocent?’

Once, while narrating her harrowing experiences with the humans, and recounting the sudden abduction of her father, mom said that if there was an animal that cut and made tasty dishes of a man, oh! then he would know the pain!

Meenu,the meemi was surprised at her mom’s rancour. She had never heard her mom talk so badly about anyone. Then, she must be true, this human must be dangerous too.

Maybe she should not come out so much. Ok, so maybe she can just take a peek at him from far. ‘Never go near him’, Meenu reminded herself, after all looks can be deceptive. Besides, the struggles of living are not just a handful of humans, the cranes, the crows, the dirt in the water, the growing weeds. Everything seemed to bent on putting an end to her life and that of her dear ones.

Meenu dived deep into the waters. ‘Mother, mother, where are you?’. She heard a faint breath beside her, ‘mom’, she exclaimed happily. But her mom did look so tired and weak. Hmm….

22-Aug-2011 Pic: Sudhir Singh
Island at Puttenahalli Lake
Pic: Sudhir Singh

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Meenu, the meemi

Meenu, the Meemi -III Nandu,the curious

Nandu’s sparkling eyes greeted all those who took the stairs up or down. He smiled brightly and wished anyone who took the trouble to meet his eyes good morning in his sing song tone. It was impossible to ignore him.

At one of the flats, Antony uncle who came to put his dust bins out for mom to collect always asked after Nandu.

‘So, how’s the little master today?’ Sometimes Antony uncle held out a toffee, sometimes a pen. Once he invited Nandu to his home. Radha had strictly told his son not to enter anyone’s home, even if they invite him. ‘We should know our place. Tomorrow if something goes missing, they will blame you. Better safe than sorry.’

Nandu was tempted to go in and check but he refused politely. After this Antony uncle only gave him books, colors and other such stationery, he never asked Nandu to visit his flat. Radha told her son, ‘he is a nice man but we have to always be polite and careful. I know you will understand me, Nandu’. Nandu nodded happily. Anything for his mom.

It was the silver haired Anita aunty who Nandu liked a lot. Once Anita aunty had given them lift to their home. She even visited them on Diwali with a packet of sweets and some money and a cricket bat for him.

‘Why, madam, there is no need’, said Radha, wary of accepting free offers. ‘It’s ok, Radha, just take this’. Anitha aunty drove off.

Radha somehow became friends with Anitha didi, who seemed to keep herself busy with one thing or the other. She too smiled a lot like Radha, maybe that’s why the friendship struck.

One day Anita was going on a walk when she met Radha and Nandu.

‘Hello, Radha, ‘Channagidhira’, she said.

‘Audhu madam. Where are you going so early?’

‘I am going for a walk to the lake here. Do you want to come with me, Nandu?’

Nandu looked at his mother for permission. Radha said ok with some reluctance. Getting too close to strangers was not her thing. But Anita di was different.

Nandu turned to Radha,’Amma, thank you’.

Anyways, where did the boy go ever, she thought. At least Anita di was kind and caring and the lake is nearby, she consoled herself.

This was to become a routine. Daily at around 7.45 am when Anita di started off to walk, she was joined by Nandu,the curious, who huffed and and puffed to keep pace with her.

Anita was always particular of her fitness besides her morning walks were her ‘absolute me time’. She always felt charged up for the day after it. When she discovered a lake near her apartment, she thought of getting herself a bicycle but there’s nothing like a walk. In the company of little Nandu, the curious she felt all the more enthusiastic and never skipped her morning walk a day.

Meenu, the meemi -II, Enter Nandu

Meanwhile, in an apartment next to the lake, little Nandu logged into work at 8 am. To his friends, who asked him where he went everyday, he said proudly, ‘I go to work with mom’.

Radha smiled indulgently at her son, he was her first love, her worst enemy and also her best friend. In the years after her husband walked off, Radha had panicked initially but soon, set out to find herself a job. She found out a recruitment agency for cleaners and immediately joined. There was no time to waste. The boy was her lifeline. His future was her dream and her responsibility. Her mom did not press her to return to the village, with farm labour being harsh and low paid, it was better that she stayed in the city.

That decided it. Nandu faintly remembered his father and his parents’ arguments. Anyways, he liked Ramu uncle, he seemed to be a kind soul, better. It was difficult for him to love those who were harsh to his mom. With her big bindi, petit figure and curly hair, his mom was a beauty, he thought. He hugged her tight and dug his nose into her waist to inhale the faint santoor soap fragrance. ‘Amma’, he said simply.

Ramu had a small grocery shop and never hesitated to lend Radha and her son, the essentials, even when they did not have money. ‘I know, it is difficult, pay me back, when you get a job’. Radha said, ‘Thank you so much’. Ramu always gave Nandu a small toffee or two with a quiet smile on his face.

When his mom went from one apartment to the next with Deepa aunty to collect garbage, Nandu tagged along. He sat on the stairs and played with his toys. The car that went, vroom, vroom and then the bike, both were gifts from some aunt in the apartment. He liked it here.

When he first came, he saw many kids and had thought that he could play with them. But it did not happen. And Nandu realised why, when he was invited for a birthday party and was made to sit on floor. There after, he never tried to talk to kids out there. His friends were in the colony and that was enough.

Radha told her son ‘We are coming to work here. Don’t do any mischief. Don’t try to talk to everyone. If you study well, you can also live like them when you grow up. ‘ ‘Audhu, amma’, Nandu said . Life had given him more wisdom than what his age allowed.

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Nandu loved playing with his blue ball

Meenu, the Meemi-I

Meenu, the meemi lives in Puttenahalli Lake with her mom.

Last month her dad was abducted from the lake waters when he was performing a stunt for Meenu and her mom.

Dad was one of the handsomest of men around. Meenu’s mom always told her of how much he ingenuous his courting was, and what all stunts and styles he pulled off, to impress her. Mom said that she would not have married him had he not been so persistent. ‘Oh! thank you, mom that’s why I am here’, chirped Meenu as mom smiled on.

But it was not easy for the couple as many of Meenu, the meemi’s siblings died out of indigestion,breathing trouble and even cancer. Mom said that Meenu, was the bravest and she was meant to carry on the family’s legacy forward and that’s why she is still alive.

Meenu smiled at her pretty mom. Beauty, she is, this woman, kuchi kuchi poo, she kissed her mom’s belly and tickled beneath her fins. Mom smiled.

These days the loud noise of a faraway rumbling does not allow her and mom to speak, this is on top of the many other threats to their lives. Mom feels weak. She does not talk much now.

Neither does she smile these days after her father’s disappearance. ‘It has never been easy for us, to survive or have a normal death. ‘ Mom murmured sadly.

Meenu’s dad was a learned man, he often told of how the humans were pushing all their dirt into the water. The lake has dwindled over years, he noted from his gene memory. It may just disappear. ‘They don’t realize that to keep their air and water clean, they need us, fools!’

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Meeu, the meemi @Puttenahalli Lake
Pelicans at Puttenahalli Lake, Yelahanka, Bird Sanctuary, pic by Kousik Nandy, 2004

https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/hc-notice-on-power-plant-near-puttenahalli-lake/article24381409.ece

Scholarly article on Fish mortality in Bangalore Lakes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBW–O01sAw

Meenu, the meemi urges all to keep a tab on the developments in the water bodies around you, especially the Puttenahalli Lake,Yelahanka.

‘Sometimes, just come and sit by the lake, don’t carry with you items to litter but just yourself and a friend maybe. Sit and listen to the waters, the fish, the birds and know that you have the power to let me live :-), Meenu added, ‘not all humans are bad, are they?’