Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A reason to smile..

I realised as I grow older, the number of times I smiled in a day, is drastically reducing. I was wondering if, the reasons to smile have become less? Or, just that I have stopped appreciating those little things, which once made me smile. 

A new dress made me smile when I was a kid, the smell of rain, an unexpected holiday, going to a movie, a window seat in a bus, so many little things that made me smile, are now slowly fading away. There are so many problems, responsibilities and worries in life now, that, these things have taken a backseat. Wow, I have officially become a boring adult!

I don't sing out loud anymore or try out different hairstyles or change my mobile wallpaper everyday. I don't keep fancy mobile ringtones anymore. I don't buy expensive stationary anymore. I don't even care if it's my birthday - duh! I am just growing old. Is this how it feels to be a grown up? This sucks. 

I was thinking about all this, while I was travelling in bus to work. I checked my reflection on the mobile screen and wondered when those lips last curved upward. But only till that particular bus stop arrived.

A little girl (maybe 4-5yrs old) was with her grandfather in that particular bus stop to send her mother off to work. Her mother got inside the bus and looked out of the window and waved at that little girl. The girl was so happy, her whole face lit up with a broad smile. She jumped up and down, and waved at her mother with so much joy. It was such a pleasing sight and I could sense that my lips slowly curved up.

This happens every single day. Now I have started looking forward to that particular bus stop every day. Just the look of that little girl's face makes me smile and my day is done. Then I thought there are still beautiful things existing in this world, but I have just stopped noticing - just like a baby's laughter goes unnoticed in a crowded bus. People just complain when a baby cries. 

I feel like I am travelling very fast in a highway road, so fast that, I cannot look anywhere, except forward towards my destination, and suddenly, a tiny butterfly flaps its beautiful wings and flies next to me and says - look at me and smile.

To that little girl who has given me a reason to smile...

Thursday, 24 October 2013

"... and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage"

My sister, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, called home few days back to tell us about her trip to a small town called Killybegs in Donegal. She was explaining about her sight-seeing experiences and then jokingly said, “Those people have preserved a tiny stone inscription that is just few hundred years old, and they were so proud about it!! We have so many buildings in our country that are thousands of years old!” We laughed about it for some time and after a pause, we realised how sad we all were.

Yes, we do have so many buildings that are thousands of years old, almost in every city, every town and every village in India. But are we really taking pride in the fact that our country has such a rich heritage? Is it just because, there is so much in abundance that we are very ignorant about it? If that is the case, aren’t we all committing a deadly sin?

There is always an argument about how westernised our “culture” is becoming. Maybe it is time, we start worrying about certain things that we are not western about - celebrating our heritage structures. It is a known fact that, our country boasts of so many historical monuments which date back to thousands of years. What about the other half, the monuments that we have forgotten to celebrate? What about the ones that is already in the process of dying? What about the ones that have already been buried beneath our feet? Well, what can we do after all! We are normal Indian citizens. We have enough issues to worry about like the petrol prices and the onion prices – where is the time to preserve all these old buildings? But yes, we do have time for protests about dress-codes, rallies against how our “culture” is getting spoiled due to western influence!

We have learnt and unlearnt so many things from the West. But I feel, one of the most important things that we have somehow not learnt or probably forgotten, over the years, is – celebrating our history!

Every time I visit an old temple, it always amazes me that I am walking on the stone that was laid by skilled craftsmen thousands of years ago. When I touch the walls and the sculptures, I imagine how sculptors would have done this back then. I always feel wonderful that I am alive to see this structure, walk around and feel the spaces that were made centuries ago. But the feeling disappears when I see scribbling like “I love you Hema”, images of heart with an arrow, signatures, cell phone numbers,etc., on that wall. I think these people should start using their bathroom walls for their emotional let out (as well)

It is very disheartening to see these beautiful old structures turning into large garbage dumping yards, a forest of thorny bushes or a doodle wall for “creative cartoonists”. These structures were once the dream of a royal king. His dream would have been to create a monument, so powerful, that will stand tall for centuries to tell his fame. It did stand alright. If only he knew what was going to happen to it, he would have probably created them in wood or mud that would have been demolished long back.

Some well preserved monuments DO exist in our country. The number is very very negligible, considering the rich history of this land, we are all proud of. Even among these well preserved monuments, some of them are in fact well preserved, just because they are religious in nature. Why does it always have to be either religious or political? For example, a very famous temple in India would also be a historically and architecturally significant building. But unfortunately, we end up highlighting only the “religious” part of the structure, and fail to appreciate the beauty of the structure and the whole vision with which it was built. Is it because I am an architect, that I feel this way? I don’t think so.

It is just not fair to these beautiful structures to come under just one tag – “religion”. It should be much more than that. People should be made to realise the significance of that building in history, made to realise why this was not done in any other part of the world before, why our land is filled with rich heritage. People should be banned from smearing oil or kumkum all over the temple walls. Temples and religious structures built by the kings were not only meant for worship. It was a stamp of their powerful establishment, a standing proof of what they were capable of, an exhibition of their skilled craftsmanship.

If not celebrate, let’s at least try not to destroy them. Let us preserve that last few traces of our rich history at least for our kids. The irony is, to those few people who travel all the way from the west to learn about our culture, we welcome them with a bold sign that says, “non- hindus not allowed inside”

I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of itWell, we don’t really mean it! Do we?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

'Dental' torture

"Some tortures are physical and some are mental,
But the one that is both is dental." [ - This is going to hurt just a little bit, Ogden Nash]

For some reason, I have always remembered these lines from an old school poem. As destiny would have it, I realised a few days back, why i had remembered these lines for all these years. Because, i can now say, "SO TRUE!"

Yes, the event of me visiting a dentist, finally occurred in my life. My wisdom tooth, decided to suddenly grow in the X-axis instead of Y-axis (very unwise i would say) and left me with unbearable pain. So my dentist examined the X-ray and decided that my wisdom tooth (my only wisdom tooth) has to be uprooted, to avoid "infections in future". That is quite a scary phrase, which makes your mind to think only in the one direction - to go ahead with the tooth extraction. "It is a very normal procedure, don't worry" He assured.

So one fine Saturday, I was ready for the drill (literally). I was scared like a kid going for his first injection. When i sat on the dental chair, the dentist told something to the assistant, and the chair started moving up. My hands were cold. There were weird looking equipment in front of me with long wires. There were sharp, shiny instruments. Are these things going inside my mouth?! I was beginning to hyper-ventilate when suddenly my dentist appeared in front of me with a mask on his face. Oh my god! Is that..YES that is an injection in his hand. What is he going to do NOW! I opened my mouth to scream, but..

"yes, little up your mouth" He said, and before i could pull myself together, the injection was in contact with my gums. It was the most horrible feeling EVER. Isn't there any easy way to do this at all? I felt like a Jew in a Nazi camp. He pulled out the injection and made me wait for 15 minutes for the local anesthetic to take effect.

After 15 minutes, I kept touching my teeth with my tongue to make sure I didn't feel anything , for at least a hundred times. My dentist also made sure, by tapping on it with some instrument which looked like a tiny hammer. I tried keeping my eyes open through the process, but couldn't. For one, the light above my head was as bright as the sun, and two, the weaponry they used looked very intimidating!

I can't quite describe the process that followed, but it never looked anything like they were working on part of a human body. They used drilling machines, for crying out loud! It was indeed like a road section (as mentioned in the poem) that was being worked on. Or even working on a clogged kitchen sink, maybe. That was the amount of force with which their hands were working. Thankfully i didn't feel a thing.

After they finally managed to pull out my tooth, they stitched it up with thread. I was drained out by then, with all the drilling and blasting and the concrete mixers , the smell of blood making me sick to my stomach. I came home happily, praising the effect of anesthetic.

Three hours later, well - AAAARRGGGGHHHHH. I couldn't eat, i couldn't speak, i couldn't even drink water or YAWN even! The pain level was beyond unbearable. Physical & mental - dental torture. Hope it is not a vicious cycle for me like Ogden Nash, but until then this is me with a swollen right cheek, saying "Please take care of your teeth"

PS: Here is the link to the famous poem by Ogden Nash

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The "infamous" civil war

Location: Camp A12
Time: 14 00 Hrs

“How much supplies do we have left for the day?”, the Deputy Leader in charge enquired with concern.
“Just enough for a hundred sir”, SoldierS47 replied. 
“And how many in the camp?”
“More than 2000 souls sir”

An eerie silence clouded the camp. The soldiers could sense the tension in their Deputy Leader’s face. Every ounce of motivation was draining away from their bodies and souls. Few days back, they would have thought this was possible, to win this battle. Since last night, things have drastically changed. They had just lost their Leader in a battle, and have hence lost their will.

“We don’t have much option, do we? Feed the women and children first. Make sure there is no stampede”, the Deputy Leader reluctantly declared.
“Yes sir”, soldier departed.

He called for an emergency meeting to all his soldiers. Every men of their race, was an armed soldier now. In fact, men in every household had become a soldier now – irrespective of them being armed or not. They all gathered around him.

“Gentlemen, we are at the end of the tunnel now. We have no choice but to fight till our last breath, and protect our people till the end. We will put up our best fight and die as warriors. When this war broke out, none of us believed, we could ever even face our mighty enemies. They are hundred times more powerful than us, in all possible ways. But, our Leader believed we could, and we believed him. We have the right to this land, as much as they do. Our ancestors have lived here for generations and they can only take this away from us over our corpses. So, let us get ready for the final battle of our lives, though the result is inevitable, giving up is something we are not used to”

As he was giving away his final inspirational speech, there was a hustle in the camp. A weary soldier was dragging himself towards them and finally fell on the ground. He was tired and thirsty and gasping for breath. He finally spoke “Sir, I have bad news. Camp A13 has been destroyed. They have ex-terminated 800 of us. Women and children included. They have used chemical weapons this time.”

The eerie silence clouded again. Soldiers hung their heads down. Few of them had tears in their eyes, thinking about their fellowmen mercilessly being killed somewhere nearby.

“Our camp might be their next target”, the Deputy Leader said in a low voice.
“ is not inevitable sir..” A feeble voice from the crowd emerged.  Everyone looked towards the direction, and it was soldierC194, who was also the head of communications.
“C194, what is not inevitable?”
“Sir, the result you mentioned sir, it is not inevitable”
“Haven’t you heard what he just said? They are using chemical weapons to ex-terminate us.”
“Sir, if you will let me, I have a plan.”

 His last few words were like a sudden shimmer of light inside the dark camp. There was pin drop silence and all eyes were on C194.
“Sir, all we have to do is, get the women and children out of this camp by midnight. And then we can carry out our operation after that. We would require soldiers to accompany our women and rest of us can be part of the operation”
“After midnight? Don’t you know our limitations? We never perform operations in the dark. We don’t have enough facilities. We cannot risk the lives of thousands of our women”
“This is the only choice we have left sir; you have to trust me on this. We have equipped soldiers who have travelled through the lengths and breadths of this land in the dark. And our enemies will never expect us to come out in the dark. This is almost a fool proof plan. If we can pull this off, victory is ours.”
“And where will they be re-located?”
“I have information from A22, about a safe place almost 45 degrees south of the camp. Nobody is aware of that place, and most unlikely for us to be spotted there. We even have access to food supplies from there sir”
“Even if they reach safe, how are going to help in this operation C194? What are you getting at?”
“Sir, we all have seen that heavy machinery that has been stalled near our base by the enemy camp.”
“ The humungous large tank that is almost thousand times bigger than ours - is that the one you are talking about?”
“Yes sir, all I know is that, that tank is of really high value to them. It is something, which they are proud of. If we all can manage to break into that tank, i am sure, by dawn, we can reach our destination and join our clan sir. Destroying the tank will be a huge diversion for them and we can help saving thousands of lives”

There were murmurings and whispers in the camp. Sighs of disbelief, worry, and fear all at once. But above all, the spirit of not giving up crept through the minds of every single man and they were up for their final operation.

“Let us do this!”  - the spirits soar high in the camp.

A battalion of 300 soldiers were selected, who were well-versed with the geography of the place, and who were part of the mapping and surveying divisions, to accompany the women and children.
The remaining 400 men, every man was a soldier now, were going to perform the mighty operation. Each one of the 400, were willing to die for their race and their land.

Location: Camp A12
Time: 21 30 Hrs

“Must you go?” She asked with tears in her eyes.
“I was the one who initiated this operation, how can I not go?” C194 held her close to his chest.
“I will stay here with you. How can I leave without knowing for sure you will be fine?”
“I will be, OK? Now, look at me”. He lifted her face and looked into her eyes. He wiped off the tears from her cheeks and kissed her. “I will see you even before this kiss dries out on your cheeks” 
She smiled. “I love you. Why can’t our lives be normal? Why do I have to sleep every night fearing that i might not wake up the next day or i might lose you forever?” She wept.

“I love you too, more than anything in this world. Don’t give up. Not just yet. I will meet you tomorrow when the sun shines on the ground, we will meet in the new place near campA22, a new life will begin, we will get married, have 10 kids, and one day when they wake up to see the sun, this land will be ours” He spoke with his eyes full of dreams and love. They kissed for a long time and finally said their good-byes.

Time: 00 00 Hrs.

The women and children were lined up and the soldiers were evenly located in the group as batches so that for every 50 people, there was a group of 10 soldiers at least. Women and children of all ages, not wanting to part their men, stood there in line, with tears in their eyes. After the final sign off from the Deputy leader, the group started moving slowly, through territories that were dark and inhabitable till now. The Deputy leader returned back to the camp. He had with him 400 men who were ready to give their lives. He couldn’t ask for more. They sat down to discuss their strategy, and gathered all the little weapon they had. They divided themselves into different batches and took charge of various portions of the “huge tank”. C194 was particular that the attack should not be concentrated, but evenly distributed into almost all parts of that tank.

Time: 03 00 Hrs.

Four different battalions started marching towards the tank, from campA12. The silhouette of the huge tank was seen in the distance. They have seen that mysterious tank many a times, but have never dared to attack or even go near it, just because of its sheer size. It was inside enemy lines, which was also one of the main reasons. But today was different. It is their final battle, for their land, their lives.

The tank was more complex than they had imagined. It had various compartments. It was also very difficult to figure the whole thing in the dark. The four battalions managed to enter the tank after an hour long process of trying to figure out the way of intruding the tank. Once they were inside, it was another tedious process to figure out their hiding places, so that they can promptly come out of it for the attack. There were many square shaped objects, which formed the main part of the tank. The main battalion, headed by C194, took charge of that. He ordered everyone to hide behind those square objects, which had gaps, just enough to accommodate them. It was a very complex design for them to understand, but they were happy that they got this far.

After two long hours, everyone was in position. Now they just have to wait. Wait for the dawn. In one hour the sun will be up, a new life will begin, or it will be the end. C194 closed his eyes for a while. He saw her smiling face.

Time: 07 30 Hrs.

Sandhip had woken up early as it was his presentation day. He opened his laptop to check his presentation for one last time. He was bewildered.

“MOMMMMMMMMMMM!! there are ants all over my keyboard”. He took his laptop and started running towards the kitchen.
“Stop screaming. Haven’t I told you not to eat your snacks next to the laptop?”
“But i have presentation .. Maaa.. these ants..i am going to kill all of them” , Sandhip was furious.
“Ok relax, just keep your laptop in the sun. Keep it in the balcony for ten minutes and all the ants will go away”
“Fine. I am telling you i am going to buy that insecticide chalk this evening and get rid of this ant menace.”

Sandhip kept grumbling all the way, and placed his laptop in the balcony.

C194 emerged out of the laptop with a smile. His operation was a success. A new life begins..

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

மாற்றம் ஒன்று தான் மாறாததா?

அம்மா, அப்பா,அத்தை, மாமா, தாத்தா என அனைவரும் இட்லி வேண்டும் என்றுவிட, எனக்கும் அண்ணனுக்கும் மட்டும் தோசை வாங்குவது என்று முடிவு செய்தேன். வீட்டின் அருகிலேயே இருக்கும் அந்த சிறிய ஹோட்டலுக்கு போகும் வழியில் எத்தனை இட்லிகள் என்று கணக்கு செய்து கொண்டிருந்தேன்.

அப்பாவுக்கும் மாமாவுக்கும் நாலு, நாலு என்று எட்டு. தாத்தா,அம்மா,அத்தைக்கு மூன்று மூன்று என்று ஒன்பது. "எதற்கும் ரெண்டு இட்லி எக்ஸ்ட்ரா வாங்கிட்டு வா " என்று அம்மா கடைசியில் எப்பொழுதும் சொல்லும் இட்லியும் சேர்த்து , மொத்தம் 19 இட்லிகள். ஒத்தை படை எண் என்றால் டிவியின் வாலியுமை கூட மாற்றும் நான், 20 இட்லிகள் வாங்கலாம் என்று முடிவு செய்தேன். 

உள்ளே நுழைந்ததும் இருந்த கூட்டத்தைக் கண்டு முகம் சுழித்தேன். பார்சல் வாங்கும் கவுன்டரில் ஒரு நீளமான வரிசை இருந்தது. அமர்ந்து சாப்பிடும் அளவு போதிய இட வசதி இல்லாததால், இங்கே அநேகமாக பார்சல் வாங்கவே வருவார்கள். இருக்கும் ஒரு 4-5 இருக்கைகளும் காலியாக இல்லை. நீண்ட வரிசையில் நின்று கொண்டே, அங்கும் இங்கும் நடமாடும் மனிதர்களை கவனிக்க தொடங்கினேன். 

எல்லோருடைய நடவடிக்கைகளிலும் ஒரு விதமான அவசரம் தெரிந்தது. ஹோட்டல் என்றாலே எல்லாரும் ஓடி கொண்டே தான் பரிமாற வேண்டும் என்பது நம் ஊரின் எழுத படாத விதி போலும்!  ஆனால் , உட்கார்ந்து உணவு உண்பவர்களும் அதே அவசரத்தோடு தான் இருந்தார்கள். இன்றைய உலகில் அவசரம் என்பது கூட ஒரு வகை வியாதி தான். 

அங்கே அமர்ந்திருந்த மீசை  காரர், மீசையில் சாம்பார் இருந்ததை கூட அறியாமல், ஹோட்டலை விட்டு அவசரமாக வெளியேறி கொண்டிருந்தார். ஆமை வேகத்தில் வரிசை நகர்ந்து கொண்டிருந்தது. எனக்கு முன்னால் நின்றவரோ, "பரோட்டா வாங்கவா இல்ல ஊத்தப்பம் வாங்கவா" என்று தன் போனில் பேசுவதாக நினைத்து உலகத்திற்கே அந்த முக்கியமான கேள்வியை கேட்கிறார்!

சலித்துக் கொண்டே திரும்பிய நான், சற்று தொலைவில் அந்த அம்மாவையும் சிறுவனையும் கண்டேன். அந்த பெண்ணின் முகத்தில் ஒரு பொலிவு,  புன்னகை, நிரந்திரமாக குடியிருப்பதை ஆச்சிரியத்துடன் பார்த்தேன். அவளும் அந்த சிறுவனும், அவள் மகனாக இருக்க வேண்டும், அப்படி என்னதான் பேசி கொள்கிறார்கள் என்று ஆர்வமாக இருந்தது. இத்தனை கூட்ட  நெரிசலிலும், அந்த காட்சி ஏனோ என் முகத்தை மலர செய்தது, ஒரு கூட்டமான பேருந்தில் , ஒரு மழலை சிரிப்பை பார்த்து, தன்னை மறந்து முகம் மலறுவது போல. 

வரிசையில் மெல்ல முன்னேறிக்கொண்டே அவர்களை பார்த்து கொண்டே இருந்தேன். அவர்களது உலகம் தனியாக இருந்தது. சுற்றி இருக்கும் இந்த மனிதர்களின் அவசரமும், எரிச்சலும் அவர்கள் முகத்தில் இல்லை. யாரோ ஒரு மனிதர் அந்த பெண்னிடம் எதையோ கேட்க வருகிறார். அவரின் முகத்தை என்னால் சரியாக பார்க்க முடியவில்லை. அந்த பெண்ணின் முகத்தில் மற்றும் ஏதாவது மாற்றம் தெரிகிறதா என்று பார்த்தேன். அந்த புன்னகை மட்டும் மறையவே இல்லை. 

வரிசையில் எனக்கு முன்னால் ஒருவர் மட்டுமே இருந்தார். அவர் இன்னும் பரோட்டவா உத்தப்பமா என்று முடிவு செய்யவில்லை போலும்.கவுன்டரில் இருந்தவர் , "சார் பரோட்டா முடிஞ்சுது சார்" என்று சொன்னதும் தான் எனக்கு உயிரே வந்தது. ஒரு வழியாக அவர் அரை மனதுடன் உத்தப்பம் வாங்க டோக்கன் வாங்கிவிட்டு சென்றார். நானும் பணத்தை கட்டிவிட்டு, டோக்கன் வாங்கிவிட்டு அந்த பெண்ணை நோக்கி சென்றேன்.

"சொல்லுப்பா ..என்ன வேணும்?"
"20 இட்லி.. 2 தோசை.."
"அவ்வளோ தானப்பா ?"
"ஆமா "

அதே புன்னகை.இட்லியை அவள் கட்ட ஆரம்பிக்கும் பொழுது , அந்த சிறுவன், சாம்பார் , சட்னியை கட்டிக் கொண்டிருந்தான். பாதி முடிந்ததும், உள்ளே சென்று, "அண்ணே ..ரெண்டு தோச ரெடியா " என்று கத்திக் கொண்டு வந்தான். இவனும் அந்த அம்மா வும் ஏதாவது பேச மாட்டார்களா என்று பார்த்து கொண்டே இருந்தேன். தங்களின் வேலைகளை பொறுமையாக, பேசாமலே செய்து கொண்டிருந்தார்கள் இருவரும். 

எல்லாம் கட்டி முடிந்த பிறகு , எனது பையில் பொறுமையாக எடுத்து வைத்தேன். இன்னும் பேசவில்லை அவர்கள் இருவரும். நான் கிளம்பும் சமயம் ஒருவர் வந்து , "சாம்பார் 20 பாக்கேட் இருக்கானு பார்த்துக்கோங்க " என்றார்.

"சார் கரெக்டா தான் சார் வெச்சிருக்கேன் " என்றான் அந்த சிறுவன் முதல் முறையாக அந்த ஆளை பார்த்து. 
"இல்ல இருக்கட்டும் சரியா தான் இருக்கும் " என்றேன்.
"அட.. எடுத்து ஒரு வாட்டி பாத்துக்கோங்க .." என்றார் அந்த ஆள். அவர் சூப்பர்வைசர் போலும். 

எடுத்து சரி பார்க்கும் பொழுது என் கை தவறி சாம்பார் பாக்கெட் கிழே விழுந்து தரை எல்லாம் சிந்தியது. எனக்கு மிகவும் சங்கடமாகி விட்டது. 
"ஐயோ .. சாரி.. " என்று பதறினேன்.
"சார்.. நீங்க சொல்லாம இருந்திருந்த ..இப்படி ஆகிருக்குமா ? " என்று அந்த சிறுவன் கோவமாக அந்த சூப்பர்வைசரை பார்த்து கேட்டான். 
"என்னடா வாய் நீளுது உனுக்கு? கஸ்டமர் முன்னாடி இப்படி தான் பேசுவியா ? அன்னைக்கு வாங்கினது பத்தல போல? "

அந்த பெண் , "சார்.. நான் பாத்துக்குறேன் சார்..நீங்க போங்க " என்று தன் கையை அந்த சிறுவனின் தோளில் வைத்தாள் . சூப்பர்வைசர் அமைதியாக நகர்ந்து போக, எனக்கோ குற்ற உணர்வால் செய்வதறியாமல் நின்றேன்.

"தெரியாம கை தவறி.. " என்று நான் ஆரம்பிக்க, 
"பரவாயில்லப்பா ..இதோ இன்னொரு பாக்கெட் கட்டி தர சொல்றேன் " என்றாள் சிரித்துக் கொண்டே. தரையை துடைத்து சுத்தம் செய்தாள் . சிறுவனின் முகத்தில் இன்னும் கோவம் தெரிந்தது. மறுபடியும் சாம்பார் பாக்கெட்டை கட்டிக் கொடுத்தான் . . 

இங்கே இருந்து உடனே சென்று விட வேண்டும் என்று தோன்றியது எனக்கு. பையில் வைத்து விட்டு, அவர்களை பார்த்து ஒரு முறை புன்னகைத்து விட்டு கிளம்பினேன். திரும்பி பார்க்காமல் , மிகவும் மெதுவாக அடி எடுத்து வைத்து சென்றேன். எனக்கு பின்னால், முதல் முறையாக , அவள் அந்த சிறுவனிடம் பேசுவதை கேட்டேன்..

"டேய் ..உள்ள அண்ணே சாப்பாடு எடுத்து வெச்சிருக்கு .. போய் சாப்பிட்டு வா.."

அது சரி. அம்மா வேற என்ன பேசுவாள்? 

Friday, 26 July 2013

"Fair" is not "Lovely"

Require bride within 20-22 yrs., 5’-2”, fair, pretty, good-looking, homely, minimum H.S./graduate. 
Require bride both EB/WB, caste no bar, fair, beautiful, minimum Madhyamik, homely/working bride
Rs. 30,000 P.M. Fair, handsome, modgulya, father rtd. principal govt. high school. Require bride, WB, homely, fair
Professionally qualified slim, beautiful, fair, match.

These are some random classifieds that i found on the internet. Somehow, we (Indians) tend to associate the term “Fair” with superlative degrees of beauty. Like “Fair&Lovely”, “Fair&Pretty”, “Fair&Beautiful”, etc. Sometimes it gets as absurd as even “Fair&Slim”. I would love to be Fair in that case, if i can easily pass for a slim chic! The worst of all the “Fair” beauty myth , the one which i have feared all my life, has already happened in India. Yes – Now guys have to be “Fair” & “Handsome”. Really?! Whatever happened to the “Tall, dark & handsome” hunks we drooled over!?

The situation is not as light as it seems. This myth, sown by our very own Brits, who managed to sow many such seeds in the very fragile Indian minds, has taken very deep roots  into our socio-cultural systems, and stands tall posing an unshakable image! This myth has grown into each and every mind of an Indian, so much, that when two people meet after a long time, “Hey how have you been all these years! You have gone dark? you look so dull, what happened?”, such conversations have become very common in every Indian household. So if a guy/girl becomes darker in complexion, means, he/she has ceased to be attractive anymore! Seems very ridiculous you might think. But wait! There is more –

“....The couple wanted a donor with ‘ very fair skin, but, since someone with such a special physical attribute was not available on Indian databases, the couple decided to look abroad for Caucasian or ‘white’ egg donors. (a case in Mumbai which happened earlier this month)

Yes. It has reached this level already! I am dreading a situation in India when “Colour” is going to appear right next to the Age,Sex,Religion,Caste columns. It is already there; just that it is invisible for now. But it is just implied, like a silent letter in a word.

In 2009, there was huge outcry about the racial abuses the Indian students faced in Australia. The Indian media was all over the place reporting how the Australians, were racist maniacs! Well, Hello? Reality check – aren’t we doing the same, back home? In seeking a fair bride, a fair groom or even a fair donor!?

Thanks to the millions of money invested in fairness creams industries, Indian girls have managed to glue themselves strongly to this “fair” myth. So there are these fairness cream commercials, which shows a girl who is dark and low in confidence, and a failure in life, then comes the fairness cream to the rescue, and what a miracle! Life becomes so beautiful , the girl clears job interview, she becomes a pilot, gets the guy she wants, wins laurels for the nation, becomes CM, PM, and what not! Aren’t we supposed to be ashamed that we are caught up in such a messy web of illusion? Are we really that dumb, to think that “fairness” of skin makes you a successful person? Truth is, we are. Why else would the market for fairness creams in India touch nearly 2000 crores? And now with more “fair & handsome” guys, I am pretty sure, this figure will just keep rising.

It is “higher” than high-time, we wake up and come out of this “fair’ myth. Honestly, i don’t see that happening in the next hundred years, atleast. But we always have believed in change. So we shall continue to do so.

“Fairness” of skin is just pigmentation. People in India are darker than people in America, is just for the scientific reason that we are located closer to the equator, and our skin cells are designed to reflect UV radiation better, hence darker. So next time, somebody “sympathises” with you for not being born “fair”, tell them you reflect much better UV radiation than them!

Look beyond the pigmentation, at the bigger picture, and yes, Fair is not lovely. I want to end this post with a Tamil poem written by the legendary poet, Subramaniya Bharathiyar.
(Mind you, he wrote this poem in early 1900s)

Vellai  nirathoru poonai-engal
Veetil valaruthu kander!
Pillaigal petrathap punai -avai
Peruk korunira magum!

Sambal niramoru kutti - karunj
Sandhu niramoru kutti!
Pambin niramoru kutti-vellaip
Palin niramoru kutti!

Yavum orethara mandro?
Intha Niramsiri dhendrum - idhu
Eatramen runcholla lamo?

- Put an end to racism, it begins at home, in your mirror! 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

My weight loss "tamasha"

So, officially even i have caved in to the pressure of having to look “slim and sexy”. I have to make a note here though, that i strived hard till my last breath! Well, the peer pressure mounted on and got the better of me.

It was my second week in the gym, and i was being introduced to “weights”. Being a first-timer at the gym (or to any physical exercise for that matter), i was very curious to try all those weird looking weight equipment.

I saw people with a very stern look on their faces (reminded me of a villain from a tamil movie), operating the leg press machines, the cross-trainers, shoulder press equipment etc (just showing off all the new names i learnt). I also saw people running fiercely on the treadmill, very fast that i was scared they might slide backwards and fly away.  It was a little intimidating in the beginning, but later, i had gotten used to it. I was very excited to start the weights session, as i felt like i was moving to the next level, feeling like a pro already!

I was given a brief introduction by my trainer about how important weights exercises are and how it strengthens our upper body and makes our muscles strong. I was feeling very pumped up. There were two other girls with me who were “senior members” of the gym, and were obviously giving me looks which meant “Oh..You poor little beginner”

I shrugged off those looks and concentrated on the dumbbells.

“So you can begin with 1KG for the start and do shoulder shrugging”, my trainer instructed.
I lifted the 1 KG dumbbell. I felt it wasn’t very heavy. My face brightened, which caught the attention of my trainer.
“If it is not too heavy, you can begin with 2KG also”, she suggested.

Should have been a little subtle with the expression, i thought. Anyway i decided to face the challenge and lifted the 2KG dumbbell. I never thought 2KG was this heavy. My face showed the exact expression and my trainer seemed very happy now. I was crying inside and started with my “shoulder shrugging” with these HEAVY 2KGs in both my hands.  I never feel this heavy when i put on extra 2kgs of body fat, but this seems very heavy, so not fair!

I looked at myself in the mirror, a lump of fat with a dead expression on the face. I hate gym, i thought to myself.

“I can actually feel my biceps stronger after doing all these weights exercises”
“Oh yes, you know the whole point of doing this is to make your body stronger”
“See, now i even feel my stamina has increased..the other day i climbed up two floors and i did not pant that much”
“I knowww! I felt the sameee”

The two girls were showing off how strong they both have become. It was getting on my nerves. I decided to take a break as my shoulders started aching. I went to the water purifier to have some water and found the inverted water can above the purifier was empty. I called for the maintenance lady who was cleaning the lockers and asked her to refill the can. While i was waiting for her, i saw how all the other girls were lifting weights, and struggling hard to keep them fit and strong. They were sweating profusely; well you had to make each rupee of the membership fee worth, right? 

As i stood there watching them, in front of me was the maintenance lady lifting a 25litre(25kgs) water can at ease, lifting with both hands, and turned it upside down over the purifier with such grace and elegance without showing any signs of strain on her face!
“There you go” she said.

I smiled at her and looked back at my 2KGs. I felt like an idiot.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

What's up, God?

"Finally the old guy is off.. man 30 years of seat rubbin' ..we should change that chair!" Deva chuckled.
"Dev! stop it ..atleast on his final day"  Riyaz punched him , still laughing along. 

They had all gathered for the 4pm tea break and were discussing about how Mr.Murthy has finally retired, probably the first time people were talking about him in years. For most of them he usually never existed in the office or was, well just a pain. 

It was a small crowd of about 10-15 young working professionals discussing about work,how bad the tea was , complaining about the weather or about how other companies offered huge pay.

"I think we should do something for Mr.Murthy, err.. like a farewell gift" , a small voice whispered from the crowd. As usual not many heads turned around . It was Adhi. Just when he was about to clear his throat and start again , a louder voice in the crowd spoke:

"Guys i think we should do something for the old chap.. why don't we give him a send off gift" Deva almost declared trying to sound as genuine as possible.

There was a momentary silence and then there were "oohs" and "aahs" and finally somebody said:
"Wow Dev, none of us really thought about that.. It is a great idea!" 
"Ya we should"
"Ya let's do it"
"Dev, man didn’t expect that coming from you.. Very nice gesture"

Deva stood there with a beaming smile on his face which seemed a little devilish only in the eyes of Adhi. He got up from the chair and walked out of the cafeteria while his co workers were busy finalising the budget and the gift they were going to buy. 

“Weren’t you the one who suggested about the gift in the first place?” 


“Why didn’t you say it out loud? Now everyone thinks it is Deva’s plan” , Riyaz walked faster from behind to catch up with Adhi.

“Forget that. Do you want to come over to my place tonight? i’ve got some movies to watch”

“You will always be the same , fine will catch you tonight”

This is Adhi for you folks. Timid, reserved, introvert, or any other words that describe “non existence” would best suit him. His parents have a strong faith that Adhi, their son will most definitely end up as a nobody in life. Probably the most pessimistic person you would ever come across in your life. Maybe, the number of “you are good for nothing” dialogues made him so. But in short, Adhi is a failure. That is what he thinks of himself and that is how he thinks the world sees him too. We cannot blame him though, for that. 

He feels it is a miracle that he somehow managed to find a decent job and a friend in Riyaz. Otherwise he would have ended his own life long back, he kept telling Riyaz. 

But one event changed his life and made him look at himself as a totally different person. NO. He did not fall in love and the girl did not change his life. This is not a Tamil movie.


Every single day, Adhi wakes up at exactly 7:10 AM and gets out of his house by 8:20AM. He has two idlis, one sambar vada and a coffee in the mess downstairs and boards his usual bus at exactly 8:45AM. His menu remains unchanged except during weekends when he feels it is ok to try something “different”, maybe Dosa!

Adhi walks ten minutes from his bus stop to his office, during which he listens to exactly two songs. On the way he always avoids the platform, for the simple fact that one part of the platform is uncovered, which scares the life out of him imagining himself falling into the underground drainage.

He reaches office at 9:30AM , his work never starts without the five minute conversation he has with Riyaz every day. He smiles at Mr.Murthy, on the way to his desk, and then switches his computer on. He never gazes away from the monitor until lunch time at 12:30PM. He finishes a quite lunch with Riyaz in the office cafeteria in about 30 minutes and goes back to work, while Riyaz joins other colleagues for sutta. After the 4pm tea break, Adhi leaves home at 7PM, reaches home by 9PM.Well, you know, traffic. He has dinner at the same mess and goes to bed by 10:30PM.

This is Adhi’s comfort zone, and he would dare not to come out of it. He doesn’t have any visitors except Riyaz ofcourse. He passes every single day the same way. He has been living away from home for almost 5 years now. Initially, as part of this monotonous routine, there was one more activity which occupied five minutes of Adhi’s time-table in the morning. Praying.

At one point of time, he realised it was becoming more like a routine and he actually did not mean what he was doing. “I don’t even have faith in me, why God” , Adhi decided. So then onwards, Adhi’s so called “faith” in probably the only thing that he had since childhood, also disappeared. Adhi thus became a non-believer, of everything, including himself.

Because of this, whenever he gets confronted with a difficult task at work, he immediately rejects it voluntarily declaring himself as “incapable”. He had missed quite a lot of opportunities at work. He can never approach a girl and talk to her, as he had to step out of his comfort zone for that. Not only at work , any issue he faces in life, he prefers running away or hiding rather than confronting it, as he found it more easier this way, as anyway people have declared him “unfit” for anything , he did not see the point in trying to prove them wrong. As simple as that.

So our Adhi has decided to spend his Friday night with Riyaz , to watch some movies.

“So what have you got?” Riyaz asked opening Adhi’s laptop.

“Want to watch Sherlock Holmes?”

“Again? Fine then we have to watch MI series after that”
They started watching Sherlock Holmes. They were mostly silent, as Adhi is not a chit-chatter.

“You think I look like Jude Law?” Riyaz broke the ice.

“What? NO!” 

“Come on. Just look at me in this angle, i have the same jaw, see” Riyaz was tilting his face in weird angles.

Adhi was laughing. “No , No and No”

“No get me a mirror , i want to see, comeon.. wait”

Adhi’s phone started ringing. It was his Dad. Adhi’s face changed from a smile to a frown immediately, as his parents hardly call him.
“I hope nothing is wrong” he said and answered his call.


“I gave you one single work Adhi. Just one small work. And you couldn’t do that? What were you thinking Adhi?!”

His Dad started screaming at the top of his voice.


Riyaz watched intently with concern, as Adhi’s face expression remained unchanged. He could almost hear Adhi’s dad screaming at the other end. After almost 7:25 minutes of eerie silence, Adhi hung up.

“I messed up. Again.” Adhi said with his head down.
“What was it this time?”
“He had called a week ago to book tickets for my sister, i had to do an online reservation of the train ticket for her”
“And.. ?”
“I entered the wrong date of journey, and she had to pay a fine”
“That’s it?! It happens to everyone.. Such a common mistake.. Why is your Dad making a big deal out of this? I could imagine his face popping out of your mobile and biting your ears!”
“You are right. It happens to everyone, but not all the time. It is a big deal when this happens to me ‘coz things like these keep happening to me all the time. I live with it.”
“Adhi..We all live with it..It’s ok”
“You won’t understand.. I’ll hit the bed”

Riyaz gave up on Adhi and started with his movie again. Adhi was lying on his bed with his eyes shut tightly, feeling the tighter he shuts his eyes, the faster he would go to sleep. But it didn't seem to be working. He just couldn’t sleep.

I can’t even book a train ticket. A school kid would do that. He kept thinking what went wrong. The more he thought about it, the more dejected he became. Everything about his life seemed wrong. After a struggle between the different voices in his head, he finally fell asleep at 6AM.

He woke up when the hot sun almost burnt his skin. It was 12PM. Riyaz had left. He got up and went down to the mess to have tea.
“No breakfast?” the mess guy asked.
Adhi didn’t bother replying to that question thinking what difference was that going to make to him anyway.

He sat on the stone below the tree and started thinking about last night. He just couldn’t get it out of his head. Am I that bad? Really?  He kept thinking about what he wanted to do in life. He couldn’t come up with an answer. Just when he was deeply engrossed in his thoughts, something hit hard on his leg. He winced with pain. He looked down and found a cricket ball.
“uncle ball please?” , a kid came running.

Adhi was biting his teeth and with full force threw the ball away, not wanting to hand over the ball to the kid. Just when he was about to take his tea glass, there was a loud cry from little further ahead. The ball had landed right on some kid’s nose.
Shit. No not now please. Adhi got up so quickly and wanted to run upstairs to his room. The kid who had come for the ball was too sharp and he started shouting
“It was this uncle!! It was this uncle!! here..come here..!!”
Adhi was cornered. A kid with a bleeding nose and his mom were staring right into his face.

“It was a mistake.. I’m really sorry” Adhi tried explaining. Looked like the mom wasn't ready to listen and this already attracted a small crowd. After almost an hour of pacifying the kid and the mom(who managed to demand 500 rupees for “medical expenses” for the kid), Adhi finally went back to his room.

He was exhausted and humiliated.  He wanted to shut himself off from everything. Run away from everything. That is what he is used to doing. Yes that is what he will do. Run away. At least for some time. He locked his house and started walking as far as he could. He kept walking even when his legs hurt really bad. He walked through mud roads, small huts and he kept walking. He was sweating and he felt really weak, it was too hot. His body was too tired to let his mind do any thinking. He would have almost walked for two hours when he decided he could no more do this.

He reached a place which looked like a no man’s land. It was deserted. There were no stray dogs or birds even. Some thorny plants and few palm trees. He felt like his head was going to split; he dragged himself to the smallest patch of shade below the tree and fell down on his face. He was not sure for how long he stayed like that. After what seemed like almost an eternity, Adhi slowly opened his eyes to find that the sun has now been covered with grey clouds. It was getting windy and darker. He just wished he could stay like this forever and not getting back to his real miserable life.

He got up on his knees at first and slowly stood on both legs. His shirt was dirty and he was a total mess. Just when he was about to leave, he heard a weird noise. At first, he couldn't hear properly as all his senses were temporarily numb. He heard the voice again. This time he was sure he wasn't hallucinating. He quickly came to his senses, and started walking towards the direction of the voice. It sounded like a woman crying out loud in pain. Adhi was terrified. He decided to turn back and run towards home. After running few meters, the voice became louder. He felt he needed to stop and at least go and have a look. What if somebody is hurt and needs help.

He gathered all his might and courage and started walking swiftly towards the direction. The voice became clearer. It was a woman who was crying out loud, it was more like pleading. What if there is an attacker? Adhi suddenly stopped. He hesitated for a moment, but still continued to walk, cautiously. There were few thorny bushes and the voice was coming from behind that. He cleared the thorny bushes and came to a clearing and Adhi saw a sight in front of his eyes which he had never before seen in his life.

In front of Adhi was a woman who was in her forties, kneeling down on the ground, her head bowed and her hands above her head. Her dress was torn and dirty like Adhi’s. He looked around quickly and found that there was nobody else in that place except him and this weird woman. What is she doing here? He took few steps closer to her. The movements made her alert and she quickly looked up to Adhi. For the first time he saw her face. She looked tired, her eyes were red , her cheeks were wet with her tears, her hair was shabby and there was a huge bindi which occupied most part of her forehead. Her expression when she looked up to Adhi was fear at first, Adhi wanted to somehow convey her that he was not going to hurt her.

But all of a sudden, the woman’s face expression changed from that of fear to a broad smile. Actually more than a smile. It was much like a delight or ecstasy. Adhi was confused. She seemed very happy now. She was crying again. Out of happiness this time.All this was happening too fast and didn’t make any sense to Adhi. He stood there staring at this woman, when she raised both her hands and joined them together and looked at Adhi with gratitude.


The strange woman in picture now is Ponamma. Let us see how she got here to this place. But before that, we need to know a little about Ponamma.

Ponamma reminds you of one of those ladies you would meet on the road side selling flowers, or in the market selling vegetables, or in your own house as a maid. Well , we have never really bothered to look beyond this description of their life style. The life style of a person who falls under the “economically weaker section”.Ponamma’s dad passed away when she was 8 years old and was brought up by her mother who managed to give her and her brother food three times a day. Her mom worked as a maid, sold vegetables and did every possible work to keep her children happy.

Ponamma never realised the absence of a father figure in her life, as her mother made sure their children met him every day. According to her, the father of their children was God, himself. Lord Siva. The children also believed blindly what their mother has told them. Ponamma, more than her brother. She always believed Siva, was her actual father, and he will take care of her like his own daughter.

Her mother passed away few months after Ponamma was married, due to illness. A year later her brother also met with an accident. As miserable her life was turning out to be, her husband also left her and married another girl. There she was, left only with the strength in her mind and body to take care of her 3 year old girl and of course, her father Siva.

She worked like her mom, tirelessly, as a maid in three houses and did basket weaving every day. She sold flowers in the evening in the Siva temple near her house. She just made enough earning to support herself and her child.

Every single day, Ponamma wakes up at 5:30 AM. She visits the temple at 6:30AM and offers whatever breakfast she has made that day, to her father, the Lord. Her day begins with this humble offering. She starts her work at 7:00AM and goes on till 12:00PM. She comes back home, makes lunch and starts weaving baskets. She makes her kid to sleep during that time. At 5:00PM, a person comes to collect whatever little weaving work she had completed for the day and gives her a wage for that. She goes to the temple to meet her father again at 5:30PM and offers him a “evening snack”. From 6:00PM – 9:00PM she sits outside the temple, selling flowers to the devotees.

Ponamma fasts three days a week, performs the ritual of being silent for 10 hours on Fridays. She does all this for her father, she says. Any problem that arises in life, her only reaction to it will be “My father will take care of it”, with a smiling face. She somehow managed to solve all her problems in life till now, with the will of her heart, but not without the support of her father, according to her.

Even when she was stranded alone in life, when her husband left her, she kept going because of the faith that her father, was there to protect her and her child and no evil can ever near them. She had big dreams about her daughter, that one day she will become a world famous leader, and say proudly in a TV interview that “This is my mother, Ponamma, who made me who i am”. She kept having those dreams, often.

Until one day, her dreams were shattered. Her daughter fell ill. She wouldn’t get up or play like she used to do. She kept lying down and looked pale and tired. Ponamma’s neighbours were terrified, they have never seen the happy kid like that. They immediately suggested her to take the kid to the hospital. But Ponamma showed no signs of worry. “My father will take care, i don’t understand why you people worry so much”

Some of them took offence for that, in fact. “it is her kid, let her do what she wants! Is it not common sense to consult a doctor? She thinks her “father” will come alive from the idol and heal her kid? Is she mad?”

Ponamma never gave up. She kept continuing her daily routine. Her daughter’s condition was however worsening day by day. Every day she noticed the changes in her daughter’s face and kept telling herself that it will be fine and her father is yet to perform his miracle. He will. He surely will. Like he has done before. Like how he has always been there for me.

Two weeks almost got over and Ponamma could almost see her kid’s bones now. Her daughter refused to eat anything. Her well-wishers tried explaining the situation and tried to bring some sense into her, but all in vain. Ponamma showed signs of worry, but still she was confident that he will come to protect them. She went to bed that night, praying to her father that it will all be fine tomorrow.

The next morning, was a Saturday. Nothing had changed. Ponamma saw her child dying in front of her own eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She needed help. Why is her father not listening? She quickly carried her child in both hands and ran to the temple. She put the child in front of the sacred Linga and started pleading.

“Where are you father? You have always been there for me.. Where are you when i need you the most? Can’t you see my child is dying.. I know you will come for us. You are just late this time. But you cannot afford to delay more. Look at her. She looks pale. Can you see?”

“Of course he can’t.. It is just a stone Ponamma” , one of the voices spoke from the small crowd which gathered to witness this scene, which they would otherwise see only in movies.

She became furious. “He is my father! He is not a stone and he has lived with us all these years!”

“See nobody believes you, but I do.. You know i do.. Please come and tell them they are wrong” Ponamma started crying. One of the old ladies walked up to her with concern and spoke to her softly “Ponamma, please don’t waste any more time. We all admire your strong faith that you have for the Lord, but faith alone doesn’t help, we have to act. Please take your child to the hospital”

“No! you are all fools.. i’m shocked at all you people that after coming here every single day..not one of you can believe that this man is alive and will come to help you” Ponamma was literally shouting.

“No. you are a fool Ponamma. This is not a man, this is God. This is in fact just an idol. It cannot come to life. It must be hard for you to accept the bitter truth but that is not the problem, please take your child to hospital immediately.”

“Shame on you people, i can prove it right now that he will come alive in front of my eyes”

“Really? Prove it”

“Father! Are you listening to this? I know you don’t have to prove your love for me in front of these idiots. But nobody is willing to accept that my faith is real. I’m battling alone father, please come and tell them on their face..Om Nama sivaya..” Ponamma kept on pleading, reciting slogans. One or two people started walking away. Few others kept looking on hoping not to miss witnessing a miracle, if something like that actually happens!

After almost an hour, Ponamma got up swiftly as if some new energy came through her body. She started running, very fast. Nobody dared to follow her. She kept running like a maniac, but she was sure where she was going. She decided to go to the loneliest place in the neighbourhood, which was free from all earthly humans and their activities. She ran for almost four kilometres; surprising how that much energy came to her all of a sudden. She found the exact place where she wanted to go. The vast barren land, devoid of humans. Nobody ever comes to this place, since she was a kid. She fell on the ground and started crying.

“I ran away from all of them. They don’t trust me or you father.. Siva.. Please come and save your child.. I know you will come for me. You did not want to come in front of those idiots who called you a stone! It is just me now.. Please come and tell me what i should do to save my child.. please..” she cried, she shouted, she was down on her knees and was pleading with her every single breath. It was getting windy and darker. Ponamma was exhausted and put her head on the ground. Not for a minute did she think that she should go back. Just then, she heard sounds of footsteps.

Ponamma feared it must be a wild animal and looked up. But , in front of her was a tall lean young man, who was looking down at her with concern.

I knew it. I know you will come for me. Ponamma was over joyed. She raised both her hands and joined them together and looked at the man with gratitude and said,

“Om nama sivaya.. Thank you father for coming back to your daughter”, and then she fell on his feet. 

Chapter - 5

Did she just call me her “father”?! What the hell is happening with my life? I can’t even book a railway ticket and now i have a 40 year old daughter?!  Adhi stood there clueless watching over Ponamma, who didn’t show any sign of movement. He knelt down beside her.

“hello?” , there was no response.
“uh.. hmm.. Ma’am? Are you ok?”

She wasn’t moving. Adhi realised she was unconscious. He had no idea what he should do. Any nearby house was atleast few kilometers away from that deserted area. He looked around furiously hoping he would find some help. But the place was absolutely lonely. Adhi had just one choice left. He had to carry her and then walk to the nearest source of help.

With the little energy left in him, he carried Ponamma on his shoulders and started walking. He walked in the direction he guessed would be the shortest route. He stopped to take breaks in between, but he kept walking. His guess was right, after walking several minutes he was able to see small lights in the distance. He started running now, he wanted to reach there as fast as possible and get this over with. Someone he felt, he had to make sure this woman was safe.

He reached a place which looked like a small slum area. There were many people on the street, it looked like a small gathering. Adhi approached a woman who was the nearest, and said 
“This woman is unconscious, need your help, please”
“Oh my god!! It is Ponamma”, the lady screamed.
“Oh.. ok.. listen i don’t know who she is but she needs..” Adhi tried talking again.
“Here she is! Ponamma is here..come fast!”, the lady was calling out to everyone.

Adhi, looked as the people who had gathered in the street, started running towards them. What is happening here? Am i going to get beaten up by this crowd? Will they even believe me that i haven’t done anything wrong?

But the crowd was more interested in Ponamma.There were two elderly women who took Ponamma from Adhi. He was so relieved. He felt as if a huge burden was off his shoulders, literally!

“Thank you, my child, we will take care of her” , one of the ladies said.

Adhi slowly turned back and started walking away. I should get away from this place as soon as possible. What a day it has been.  Adhi was just leaving, when he heard voices in the crowd behind his back.

“She should have just listened to us, now we have to take both her and the kid to the hospital”
“It is her own who will pay for all the medical expenses..and who will take of her child”
“I was telling her from morning to take her child to the hospital, she called me a fool and ran like a maniac in search of her ‘GOD’ look what happened”

Adhi stopped walking. Something wasn’t right. The woman was unconscious, but there was some other bigger problem. He was concerned about the fact that none of those people were worried about her state of health. Adhi didn’t have the heart to just leave in that situation. He turned around and went back to the crowd.

Adhi went to one of those old women who was holding Ponamma.
“What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with her child? She needs to be taken to the hospital immediately. Why is nobody doing that?”
“would you help her? because, clearly none of these people here look like they are going to” said the lady.

Adhi immediately agreed and with the help of the other two women, helped Ponamma and her child to get to a nearby hospital. On the way, the old woman kept telling how Ponamma was such a nice person and how she had managed to take care of her kid all alone. Adhi kept listening, without uttering a single word. He paid all the medical expenses,bills and hospital room rents. For the first time in his life, he was spending a considerable part of the money he had been saving all these years.

Adhi felt his job was done. He was about to leave when he turned and asked the old lady,
“can i ask you something?”
“yes, son”
“when i saw her.. i mean Ponamma.. she called me “father”.. why do you think she said that? I’m just curious”
“hahaahaa.. Ponamma lost her father at a very early age.. So she believes the almighty god Siva, is her father”
“then why did she call me that?”
“because she wanted to prove all this people that one day God will come alive and help her, and that is when she ran to that barren land to find God and she found you!”
“so, she thinks i am, uh.. GOD!?”
“hahaa..yes my son.. but don’t worry about that.. She is a very emotional person and she was very disturbed at that time.. Thanks to your she is getting medical help..She will be fine soon”
“Ok..I have to go now, this is my contact detail..If they need more help, feel free to contact me”
“God bless you my child”

After a tiring journey, Adhi finally reached home. He found Riyaz standing in front of the mess, waiting for him.
“where the hell have you been?! I’ve been trying to reach you the whole day and why do you look like THAT?!” Riyaz started yelling.
“I’ll explain.. i need to eat first” Adhi was exhausted.

Adhi narrated the entire day’s events to Riyaz over dinner and how he met Ponamma.
“hahaa..shit! this is crazy man! so what? this woman thinks you are “GOD” ?”
“Riyaz.. she was just emotional and upset over her child’s ill health.. besides i’m sure she won’t even remember what happened, tomorrow”
“But you know what? As crazy as it may sound, somehow i feel God actually sent you to do this”
“Oh shut up Riyaz.. you know i don’t believe in all that crap.. There is no God, okay? There is no destiny or fate or supernatural power.. It is all loads of bull shit that man has managed to cook up all these years”
“We’ve heard this conversation so many times and i’m really not in the mood Adhi”
“So am i, Riyaz”
“Alright then, I’ll take off.. Catch some sleep.. you look like you will drop dead anytime..See you”
“Thanks .. bye”

Adhi came up to his room, took a long shower and fell on his bed. He thought about all that happened today. He was very sleepy. There were faint images of a kid with bleeding nose, a cricket ball, his dad’s angry face, a speeding train and inside the train near the window was the old lady who helped Ponamma and then there came an image of Ponamma herself with praying hands and then it was all dark. Adhi fell asleep.

He was startled by the sound of his door bell. He checked his mobile. It was 6:30AM.
6:30 AM? On a Sunday? who would wake up so early? He got up very irritated and with half opened eyes, opened his door.

At his door step, stood Ponamma, smiling, with a lamp on one hand and a box on the other. Adhi was confused if it was the continuation of his dream. He quickly rubbed his eyes and saw clearly. No it is not a dream. It IS her. What is she doing at this time of the day? She looks perfectly normal now!

“Good morning! I’ve got you breakfast” Ponamma sounded very energetic.
“uh.. how are you now? your child?”
“how do you think we will be? you saved us with your own hands..we are perfectly normal and the doctor said i can take my kid home in two days.. now go inside..”
Ponamma almost pushed Adhi aside and entered his house. She kept her things aside and took a chair and placed it in the centre of the room, after taking a while to decide on the orientation.

“what are you doing?”
“Just what i do everyday” Ponamma smiled and made Adhi sit on the chair.
Adhi was a little bit intimidated by what Ponamma was doing, so he decided to keep silent. She lit the lamp and kept the box nearby and started chanting slogans.

Am i dreaming? Is this really happening? Who is this crazy woman? What have i gotten myself into? I’m scared to even talk to this woman. Adhi sat still and waited patiently for Ponamma to finish reciting all her prayers.

“....Om nama sivaya...” Ponamma opened her eyes and smiled at Adhi.
“Listen..if you want more money i will..”
“What?! Who told you that? who corrupted your mind? that old lady told you i needed money didn’t she? don’t you ever listen to her.. I have enough money saved for me and my child.. All i want is you to be there for now.. that is all father”
“uh.. i’m not..”
“You have the breakfast.. i will see you in the evening..” Ponamma smiled and left the house.

Evening?! She is going to come again? Oh no. She doesn’t even want money. What am i going to do now. Adhi took his mobile and called Riyaz. He didn’t pick up. He won’t get up until 10 today.

He kept pacing the length and breadth of his small room. After a while, he was hungry and opened the box Ponamma had brought. There were Idlis and neatly packed in smaller boxes were two types of chutneys. It smelt wonderful. He quickly opened the box and started eating. It tasted heavenly. After finishing breakfast, Adhi’s mind started thinking again.

 Ok, I am dealing with a very emotional woman here. She thinks I am GOD. Me! Out of all the people in this world. I don’t even believe myself, but somebody thinks I am God and I can protect them? This is crazy.Scary, actually.I think I will give her some time to get over this. And then, i will try and explain her, but how? I have to figure out a way to get out of this. 


Adhi was waiting downstairs near the mess for Riyaz.
“Heyyyy..! what’s up GOD?” Riyaz laughed.
“Very funny, Riyaz. I have to talk to you, come”
They ordered lunch and sat on the bench.
“she came to my house”
“what? that woman?!”
“yes, and she worshipped me”
Riyaz spat out the water he was drinking.
“what nonsense! you mean that woman still thinks you are God?”
“ya! what should i do Riyaz? She chants prayers and gives me offering and all that. I’m scared”
“wow.. who would have thought my useless friend would become God one day! Proud of you buddy” Riyaz chuckled.
“Riyaz..stop making fun..I’m serious..this woman really thinks I’m God and she said she’s going to come back in the evening..I can’t do it alone ..please you have to be there when she comes”
“you bet i am.. i don’t want to miss that scene”
“please don’t make fun of her when she comes, she is really emotional. Don’t even make fun of me, she might get offended..Just be there ..”
“what! now i can’t make fun of my own friend? Don’t show your “Godly” attitude on me!”
“Ok ok. What time is she coming?”

It was 5:10pm. Adhi and Riyaz were waiting for the arrival of Ponamma. Riyaz was very excited as he was going to see his friend’s “devotee”.  Exactly at 5:30pm, the door bell rang. Adhi got up anxiously and looked at Riyaz, “Please i beg you don’t make fun of anything..just stay quietly in that corner”
Riyaz just signalled in reply with his finger on his lips.

Adhi opened the door, and Ponamma stood there with a beaming smile. The morning ritual continued, this time she was saying some different prayers, Adhi observed. Ponamma didn’t even notice that Riyaz was sitting in the corner of the room. She was very busy “praying”. While leaving asusual, she pointed at the box and said, “don’t forget to have your snack. My kid is coming back home tomorrow. Thank you father for that all you have given us. Please continue to be our strength Oh Almighty! I will see you in the morning”

Adhi shut his door and looked at Riyaz.
“You were right. Ok this is beyond what i had imagined Adhi. This is serious. I was observing her face throughout the entire process hoping to notice atleast a tiny hint that she was faking it, but she seemed very genuine”
“I know she is not faking it Riyaz. I told you, I offered her money , she didn’t want it. What do you think i should do?”
“I’m confused”

Adhi and Riyaz sat down thinking and munching the hot vada’s Ponamma had brought.
“ I have to tell her at some point you know. But she will be heartbroken. She trusts me blindly”
“Hey relax! She is not your girl this tastes heavenly”
“Riyaz..i can’t play with somebody’s belief and is so wrong”
“you are like a new hope now to her Adhi.. so give her some time”
“yeah.. you are right.. I will wait give her sometime and then one fine day, i will try and make her explain.”

So, the morning and evening rituals continued for few days. Adhi spoke to his team leader and changed his shift so that he can be at home in the evening when Ponamma comes home. His entire routine was gambled. He ate whatever breakfast Ponamma brought for him , came back home early and went to bed early. His whole life seemed very new and different and also weird. He felt like he had a dual personality. A loser to the world and God at home. Adhi laughed at himself thinking about this. But how was he to himself? Adhi never thought about that part.

Ponamma blindly trusted Adhi as her God, the father figure. She told him everything, all her happy moments of the day, her worries about of life, about what her kid learnt to do that day and everything. Adhi just kept listening to whatever she said, but each time he was amused how this lady always managed to put up that smile every morning even though her life was not that comfortable as Adhi’s.

This went on for almost two weeks. Adhi was actually getting comfortable with his new routine. He really liked having an early start to his day. Somehow, he felt he was performing really well at work too. He was starting to sense some change in himself.

“I’m going to tell her tomorrow” Adhi told Riyaz during lunch.
“Really? Are you well prepared..What if she starts crying and makes a huge scene?”
“She won’t . Tomorrow is Friday. She won’t speak for ten hours. So i will just tell whatever i have to and not worry about what she has to say, ‘coz she won’t!”
“That’s rude , but brilliant!”
“Thank you thank you.. I’m going to meet her personally at home and tell her”
“Ok all the best”

So, the next day Adhi left from work early and reached Ponamma’s place. He knew that her house was right in front of the temple, but he hadn’t seen it. He enquired about the temple and reached Ponamma’s house. It was mostly as he had expected a very low, and a tiled roof house. Ponamma was sitting outside, weaving baskets. She looked at Adhi and got up immediately with excitement. He could tell that, his visit was a pleasant surprise for her. She looked like she wanted to speak a lot, but she couldn’t as it was Friday. She signalled Adhi to come inside.

Adhi had to stoop very low to enter the door which was at a very low height. He saw her kid sleeping in one corner. Her daughter looked very pretty and her face was filled with such peacefulness. It was a very small room, a kitchen and a toilet. That was all. This is where Ponamma comes from. He was quickly scanning the room, when a picture on the wall made his eyes pop out.

It was a photo of Adhi himself, smiling, hanging on the wall. The photo was decorated with flowers, sandal and incense sticks. What the hell. She worships me at home too?!  He looked at Ponamma. She just smiled.
“Sit.. I need to talk to you.” She immediately obeyed, with a curious look on her face, like a child.

“Ponamma.. I am not what you think. I am not God, or your father. See, i know all your life you have been told that God is your father and so you believe that.. But you know what i have been told all my life? that i am a loser.. that i cannot do even the smallest work properly.. Ponamma i’m just a common man. In fact, i am actually less than a common man.. I don’t even have faith in myself.. I don’t trust my own abilities.. My parents hate me.. I cannot even book a railway ticket.. And here you are, suddenly storming into my life saying i am God! please try to understand.. Personally, i do not have any kind of religious beliefs.. i do respect your faith a lot.. Please don’t get me wrong.. It is not wrong that you have such a strong faith ..but not on the wrong person.. You are a very strong woman, i admire you.. I hope you understand.. I don’t even know to ride a bike..the whole world looks at me as a loser.. So please stop all this that you are doing.. I assure you though, whenever you need any other help, i mean financially, i will always be glad to help you out.. Sorry if i had hurt your sentiments.. Please stop coming home”

Adhi said all this in one go without a pause. He got up and looked at her face once. It was blank. He couldn’t tell what was running in her mind. He didn’t want to think about that. This is it. I am not coming back here. He thought and started walking away as fast as he could. When he reached home, Riyaz was waiting for him anxiously.

“How did it go?”
“I told her on the face, not to come home.. Riyaz she has my picture on the wall with flowers!!”
“what?! well..what was her reaction when you told her?”
“She couldn’t speak.. I couldn’t tell much from her expression though.. Whatever it is, i am so relieved that i am done with this.. I feel like i have retired from a job!”
“yeah.. your “divine” work..i feel so bad..i cannot make “god” jokes anymore”
“Thank god!”
“Did you just thank yourself?” Riyaz laughed.. “Ok this was the last”
“Ok. I better go, i have to work tomorrow to finish up my pending works”
“Working on a Saturday?! I’ll take off then..see you on Monday”

Adhi fell on his bed that night, feeling very relaxed. No more prayers. No more God business. No more RESPONSIBILTIES. Ponamma is out of my life. I kind of miss her in a way, but i am happy with what i did today. From tomorrow, life is back to normal. Adhi fell asleep. He had a dreamless sleep.

He was startled by the sound of his door bell. He checked his mobile. It was 6:30AM.
6:30 AM? Ponamma?!

Adhi walked quickly and opened the door. It was her. There was no plate or lamp in her hand. But there she stood with that same smile, and looked as energetic as always. Adhi opened his mouth to say something, Ponamma interrupted him.

“I just wanted to say one thing. I am sorry for having bothered you all this while. I am very happy that you had shown so much respect for my sentiments and beliefs. Faith is what keeps me alive. It keeps me going. I feel sorry for you that all your life you have never had faith on anyone or anything. You said the whole world looks at you as a loser.. Do you see yourself the same way too? If i can believe that you are God, i am sure you can believe that you are much more than that..Thanks for everything.. Ponamma will never bother you again” She left.

Adhi stood at the door step for a long time, even after she left. Do i see myself as a loser, too? He never thought that, what he thought about himself was more important than what others thought of himself. Adhi stood there smiling, like an idiot.

Adhi started getting ready for work. He got out of his house by 8:20AM. He had two idlis, one sambar vada and a coffee in the mess downstairs and boarded his usual bus at exactly 8:45AM. Adhi walked from his bus stop to his office, and listened to exactly two songs. On the way, he avoided the road and got onto the platform and started walking briskly. He jumped over the underground drainage and landed on the other end. Adhi smiled to himself. Ponamma, thank you for coming in to my life.