Saturday, 27 March 2010

Friendship earned and retained.....

The other day I met an old acquaintance of mine and got chatting old times.

It was real fun discussing friendship and various common friends which my acquaintance had conveniently forgotten or lost touch with.

Are you still in touch with those old friends? She asked me. Yes! I said.

''Oh God!!! How do you manage to do it? Friendship is one relation which is so difficult to maintain. Especially with classmates who were with us in our school and college. It’s so long back” she said. How did you go about it? She asked me.

Well I said, "Friendship is not free; it must be earned". We have to work on all relationships and friendship is no different.

Encourage others to talk about themselves and when you talk, talk in the interest ranges of things that people treasure most. That way like minded friends come closer on common grounds.

Sometimes friends can be so overwhelming said Neha. Yeah! I said. Please do respect other people's good judgment and avoid arguments. That’s a sure way to retain good friends for sure. In fact never tell anyone they are wrong. We all will rationalize to the point of thinking we are unequivocally right.

Well some of my friends are so critical. I almost cringe, said Neha.

I know I said. Make it a point to criticize ourselves before other people have a chance to; and if you are wrong on an issue and you know it then admit it.

Always tread softly into the path of friendship, you will go farther, I said.

Neha make it a point to let you friends feel; as though they have excelled you at some time or another.

Be a good listener. Many friends want to tell us a lot. I'm a good listener Neha. This is one reason why I have managed to retain literally all my friends since childhood.

Well this all seems one sided isn’t it? That means your friends may be taking you for granted. Isn’t it??? Asked Neha.

Well I do call attention to their mistakes circuitously and I don’t broadcast. I do challenge others to do something better but I never force them. Moreover I do it with a lot of love and care.

Friends to me are very dear and their well being and comfort in my presence is of utmost importance. Probably this is one big reason why I have managed to be in touch with lots of friends.

Hope and pray all my friends remain happy, prosperous and we do remain in touch for years to come. God bless them all.

Friday, 19 March 2010

My Memories 1.......Girijakka

This is my first blog on 'Old Memories'.

More of these will follow hopefully in course of time.

Most of my summer holidays during school days were spent in my native village. I usually went to my aunts place (my mum’s sister).

It was a typical and traditional Indian village which embodied the true spirit of India, I must say, with mud brick edifices and quaint tiled roofs and landscapes punctuated with coconut palms. The sights are etched in my memories.

Then there was ‘Girijakka’ (she was my aunt’s mother in law, and also my mother’s aunt; quite complex…huh!!!!).

I did not know much about Girijakka’s past. She was in her 80's and a widow at that time dressed in typical traditional Brahmin attire which used to be a nine yards sari, covering her head at all times.

Most of my day was spent playing with my cousins and other village children romping all around the lively village.

At noon Girijakka would call me loudly, ‘Have your meal, eat this now, you don’t get this food in the lousy city.’

Girijakka was a very good cook. We still have her recipes and her numerous cooking tips. Even today her name comes up at all our festivities and family gatherings.

My abiding sense of her was that she woke up at the crack of dawn come rain or storm, had her bath and then went about her rituals, especially her chores in up keeping the exclusive and pious god’s room and its daily puja’s.

I remember the distinct sandal wood paste she applied on her forehead and her meticulous and orthodox ways of carrying out her numerous chores around the house. For me she always smelled so nice.

Although orthodox in her own ways, her thoughts were very modern. She would talk about anything under the sky. With me she would discuss about city life, the clothes I wore which were mostly trouser and shirt. As far as I remember she never chided me. In fact she would always tell me that it looked good.

The one thing she would be vocal about was my hair. She would passionately tell me not to cut my long hair ever. ‘You look feminine; with those long lustrous hairs’ were her wise words.

Another thing etched in my mind about Girijakka was her incredible ability to tell us her innumerable and adorable stories.

Late evening after play, when we all children returned home, Girijakka expected and forced us to wash our feet properly, go to the puja room, say a prayer and then sit for dinner.

After dinner, we all would sit round on the floor and play cards. As it would get late we would all frolic around Girijakka and pester her to tell us a story.

As we all lay in our beds tired after playing the whole day, Girijakka would narrate us some of the most amazing stories filled with awe and wonders.
The stories would be mostly mythological with lots of morals. Sometimes it used to be about the nitty gritti village life incidences. But the most interesting stories would be of 'all creatures’ big and small'.

The brave frog king and his four wives, the cobra queen, the rat queen, the frog queen and the lizard queen etc etc. The cobra queen was vicious, the rat queen cunning, the frog queen brave and the lizard queen docile. There were all combinations of good and bad.

Most of the time the narrative would be in Kannada (a south Indian language spoken in Karnataka) which I could understand quite well though could not speak. All the frog king’s wise words would be told to us in Kannada and later translated in to my mother tongue (Konkani). As we listened in awe dumbstruck, it was actually like watching a 3 d movie.

I almost believed this animal kingdom existed, many times I asked her did the frog king live in the well near our house to which she would say with total conviction ‘Yes! But don’t peep or go near the well or the frog king may punish you’. We all would be terrified with those words.

Girijakka’s stories were a mix of panchatantra and malgudi days. We all were so fascinated by her stories and her story telling abilities. One noteworthy observance was that Girijakka never completed her story at a stretch. It would be almost like a TV serial. It would meticulously continue the next night though we would pester her the whole day when we were at home.

‘Will the frog king punish the errant cobra queen?’ I would ask her during lunch. She would keep quite as if she had not heard me. The suspense would be palpable. We used to look forward in anticipation for the night to dawn early.

As much as we enjoyed her stories, Girijakka took extreme pleasure in telling them. When I recollect her style and narration it surprises me to see her energy kept just for us kids though she would be bone tired with the chores of the day.

Where did girijakka get these stories from? Was it a fabrication of her imagination or were they stories told to her by her own kin at her young age. It was a mystery. The stories she narrated was so vivid with detailed description that it truly amazes me today.

Those days with no TV or any other entertainments, Girijakka’s stories were a source of joy and entertainment for all young minds.

I do regret now that I should have noted down many of Girijakka’s stories. Without an elephant’s memory like Girijakka’s, I really can’t remember any of her stories. Her stories could have easily been compiled into a book, for the present generation to read.

In today’s world of nintendos, playstations, TV and video games, will there be any takers for 'Girijakka stories' I wonder though.

Friday, 12 March 2010

If Only....

Really! OMG! No! I don’t believe you, chirped Anu.

Finally you are doing something girl, come on; come on give me the details.

Well I’m auditioning for 'Music India' and will go to Mumbai next week, I said.

Wow!!!! Neha that’s breaking news let me tell Soumya, Dipti and Maya.

Hey!! It’s ok Anu, nothing great about it. 'Music India' has raised the age barrier for the participants, otherwise at my age?

Come on Neha, you are so talented and such a good singer. What’s the deal with 'Music India’?

Well! the winner gets one crore rupees plus a personal album and a foray of goodies to enter the music world.

Gosh!!! Neha that’s good to hear, finally you’re getting a life. You are such a talented singer but were tied down due to your kids and husband. Now that the boys are all grown up, do pursue your talent. Now, enough of singing in family parties and let the world know about your talent. Buck up Yaar!!!!!

I almost drowned in my tea cup hearing those words from Anu again and again. Am I so good? Does the world need to know me; hmmm sure they should… said my narcissistic mind.

Ravi, shall I sing 'cheeni kum hai cheeni kum hai', the super duper Shreya Ghosal song or should I go for an English song?

I started humming the song. Hey! All are good Neha, you sing divinely but personally, I think, the 'cheeni kum' song is the best and it suits your tone.

The entire week went fast, I practiced singing in the morning, after breakfast, while cooking, even while jogging to the surprise of some stunned and some admiring glances of fellow joggers.

All the best mom!!! Rohan and Adi my sons shouted in unison. We will watch you on TV every week; you already are a winner mom.

Yeah!!! I am!!! I thought to myself.

In Mumbai, the mad rush at the auditions almost made me change my mind. It was filled with youngsters though I did see a few of my breed. But then, I thought of Ravi, Rohan, Adi, Anu, Soumya and Maya. Their love and faith in me gave me the determination to give it a try.

Archie, Veronica and Betty..... Yeah! That’s what I felt when I saw the judges at the audition.

They walked right out of the comic books to be judges I thought. They could almost be my son’s age. Archie looked wonderful with his curly hair and winsome smile. Veronica 'ho hums, with her coiffure hair, manicured nails and a plastic smile while Betty with her large and warm eyes looked great with a chirpy smile.

Archie mumbled well done my vote is for you, Betty pitched in 'mine too’ liked your voice, you did full justice to the "Cheeni Kum song'. It was an ok audition for me Veronica cribbed not too good, not too bad.

It did not matter for me as I had made it through the auditions.

Hello Neha! Saw you last night on TV. You were damn good said Ravi.

Please try to come to Mumbai Ravi. I’m in the semi finals now. I need you to calm my nerves and do tell all your friends to send as many SMS’s as possible. Our friends Rohan and Adi have also promised me that they will do their best to get me more votes, I said.

The winner of 'Music India ' is…… I almost choked…. closed my eyes, my breath came in short spurts…….. It’s 'Neha Rao'

I could not phantom the stupendous claps of the audience and the handshakes of the judges. I nearly blanked out for a moment. It was the most treasured moment for me.

Are you sure Ravi, can you manage? I mean you will be alone.

Of course I can, who knows once you be more successful, I may leave my job and be your manager. What say? asked Ravi.

Well I’m moving into the new flat I bought in Goregoan, it’s near the film studios there. I have to cut an album with Sony soon. Karan Johar and Hirani have also signed me as their playback singer in their forthcoming film. You know what, Ravi, I am now a rival to Shreya Ghosal and I’m almost her moms’ age. Can you believe that? Of course you will be my manager.

Ravi you take care and don’t worry about me. I am going off to sleep as I have an early flight to catch.

‘Triiing Triiing’ rang the alarm clock...... Ravi, get up fast. Its 6 am dear, you need to go to office in time. Get up!!!!!!

'Cheeni kum hai cheeni kum hai’ I hummed as I got the breakfast ready while having a hearty laugh at my sudden stardom. It was worth the few moments that it lasted in my dream and what a dream it was.

I am seriously thinking of going for an audition though………

Do look out for me… and yeah don’t forget to vote…. PLEASE!!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Happy Womens Day

The first international women’s day was founded in 1911.

It was then proposed, that every year, in every country there should be a celebration on the same day chosen day, that is 8th March.

The new millennium has "witnessed a significant change and attitudinized shift" in women and in general the society itself. Many from the younger generation woman hence feel today that "all battles have been won for women".

The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equal to their counterparts. Women are still not present in business or politics as much as they should be and on a global level, women’s education, health and participation is far worse than men.

However, noteworthy acheivements are that we do have female astronauts, film directors, pilots and prime ministers.

Women finally do have choices to make in the twenty-first century. Women can work and have a family too.

To sum up, last few years, international women’s day has moved from being a reminder of negatives to finally a celebration of positives. This is quite an achievement for Woman.

For me, international women’s day is to appreciate those who have had the largest and quietest of influence in everyones life.

Three cheers to all Women.

Happy Women’s day to my mom, all my teachers, akkas, shobhas, ashas, vidyas, erickas, annas, susans and all the women of the world.

We have all come quite far indeed.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Magical moments and enchanting beauty....

The air was filled with mist and the sweet smell of wet moist grass as I closed my eyes and opened my hotel room window.

It was enchanting and magical.

Within the confines of my room, there was the enchanting fragrance of coffee.

The aroma of fresh cardamom or Black pepper and Coorg honey was everywhere in Madikeri.

The holy river Cauvery was just visible in the horizon. The air here is noticeably very cooler and this climate and hilly terrain of Coorg, as history says it, inspired the British to occupy the area for over 100 years and they called it as “The Scotland of India”.

With an austere beauty this god gifted pollution free, calm and quite land of mountains (Ghats) cordially invites you to enjoy and explore the land of hospitality.

I opened my eyes and glanced through my window towards the approaching landscape of Madikeri, patiently waiting for my relatives to pick me on a much promised trip around the Ghats and the vast plantations.

I could see a vehicle slowly approaching the hotel. It turned out to be a ‘Sumo’ jeep filled to the brim with my cousins who hurriedly got out welcoming me.

I joined them. It was noise all over within the confines of the spacious ‘Sumo’. All were singing, talking and laughing at the same time. It was fun no doubt.

After driving for awhile we spotted this dainty roadside cafe which was quite appealing to take a break and freshen up. We spread all around the café sitting around tables of two’s and four’s.

I and my cousin Shobha settled down at a corner table for two. I was waiting patiently for my cousin who had gone to freshen up.

That’s when I saw them, oblivious to me, gazing into each others eyes, when suddenly what seemed to be just innocent gaze was soon an alteration between the two. Stunned I watched.

This was definitely going to get bad, should I interfere? That’s when my cousin Shobha joined me. ‘Come on; let’s get a coffee and leave, its getting late’.

Sitting on my chair, I could get a direct view ahead of the twosome. I was not distracted by the chanter and banter of my cousins and I was focused on the two who now seemed more aggressive.

He growled, she hissed, I looked around; no one seemed interested in them or their predicament except me of course. Should I now intervene, before it was too late? What will people think of me? Is it the right thing to do? Or should I just forget about the two?

Though I was indecisive and had a gut feeling to get out, my eyes strayed toward the two in anticipation.

I could almost see his white teeth gnashing at her, and oh!!! Why was she quite hearing his abuses now, should I go there now and protect her?

Her head down she was quietly listening and this went on for the next five minutes or so. Suddenly, just out of the blue, she jerked and what followed was an out and out verbal war.

I panicked. Was dumbstruck and was literally grounded firmly in my tracks. What was the reason for this dispute and this sudden outburst? Is it some jealousy, rivalry, or just a lovers tiff?

I made up my mind to intervene and sort things out, when I was rudely disturbed. ‘Madam what would you like to have? ‘Cheese sandwiches and coffee please’ I said, having been rudely disturbed.

I looked again at the ongoing battle as I bit into my sandwiches and talking to shobha at the same time.

To my surprise, between sipping my hot coffee and conversing on a relevant topic to shobha, I noticed they were gone.

They just seemed to have disappeared in thin air. Where could they go? What happened so suddenly that they just disappeared quietly? My eyes strayed to catch a glance of the warring twosome. They were nowhere to be seen.

After getting myself refreshed and leaving the café, I looked around for them. They were no where to be seen. Was their fight resolved? I wondered.

Sitting at the window seat in the Sumo deeply engrossed in my thoughts about the twosome as we waited for the driver to come. I saw them. They were all over each other. Was I amused?

What seemed to be an open war between the two was all lovey-dovey now as they gazed into each others eyes.

‘What an anti climax’ I thought.

I gently whistled towards them. They looked at me at the same time and came towards me wagging their tails and licking each other.

‘Bow, bow’ they seemed to say in unison.

I smiled and waved carrying on with our journey towards coffee fields, which were in abundance all over the beautiful Ghats.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The Sleeveless Blouse

Murali lived with his aged parents and wife Ambika in Madanpur village 50kms off Mysore.

Murali was a farmer. After the birth of his two sons and an ever expanding family, he found it difficult to make ends meet. He had to find a way out.

So Murali finally decided to go to Mysore, where he managed to get employed as a gardener in Mr. Rao's huge mansion.

Mr. Raja Rao was an industrialist, his wife Radhika was a socialite, both of them were down to earth and very good people. Murali tended the sprawling lawns and the entire landscape around the mansion. Soon the Rao's found him indispensible and were extremely happy with their new found gardener.

The Rao's socialized a lot and most of their parties were in their own sprawling lawns. Murali was a handy and ready help at all their parties and was liked for his mannerisms and ever smiling personality by one and all.

Murali too looked forward to these parties. He looked forward to watching his Radhika madam who invariably dressed impeccably in chiffon sarees and sleeveless blouses. Her fair arms and the chiffon sarees made her look beautiful always. Murali had no bad intentions.

Watching her reminded him of his wife whom he had left behind. He would always imagine how his wife would look in these chiffon silk sarees and matching sleeveless blouses.

The fact, as Murali very well knew, was that Ambika was no match for Radhika madam. Yet with her dusky looks, lustrous hair and radiant eyes she was very attractive in a rustic way.

Every month, Murali visited Madanpur to be with his family. One such month when Diwali was fast approaching, Radhika madam asked him what gift she could give his wife and whether he had anything particular on his mind.

Murali thought for awhile and then asked for any of her old used chiffon sari for his wife.

Next day, Radhika madam gave him a nicely packed brand new blue chiffon saree patterned with red and white roses. She also packed a lot of sweets for his family.

Once at home, Murali gave the packages to his wife and said "Wear this Ambika and please put a sleeveless blouse to go with it"

"What?? Are you insane? With my in laws here and that too in this village, with this attire, I will be an outcast" she complained. The issue was thus left at that.

Years passed. Murali's parents passed away and hence he brought his wife and sons, Rajesh and Ramu to Mysore. They stayed at the outhouse near the Raos elegant mansion. It was a peaceful existence for him.

One evening, Murali once again suggested Ambika to wear the chiffon sari with a sleeveless blouse. Now that she was in the city she should have no objection to it. He even suggested her to have a good look at Radhika madam and how she dressed at one of the social parties.

Ambika although a village belle, was quite headstrong and refused to oblige. This soon became a bone of contention between them. This brought up arguments and soon Ambika and Murali had their innumerable differences cropping up all the time.

Murali's sons now grown up, were living and working in Bangalore. With so much tension at every juncture staying with her husband, Ambika went to stay with her sons. Both Murali and Ambika had their uncompromising egos and started living separately.

Murali turned 75, he was still with the Rao's who literally treated him like a family member by now. All these years, he refused to be with his sons just because Ambika was staying with them.

His elder son Ramu once called him and told him to come to Madanpur, as it was his and Ambika's 50th wedding anniversary. It was an important event for the entire family and they wanted him to be there.

Murali after much thought decided to join in and reached Madanpur at 5 in the evening. There stood an incredibly beautiful house his sons had built. He was quite surprised and happy. He was keen to meet his wife who was not to be seen anywhere. His ego did not allow him to ask for her.

The whole house was lit with innumerable lamps and decorative lights. The entire verandah was filled with marigold flowers. After freshening himself, his sons dressed him up with a traditional silk kurta and dhoti, and then made him sit in a very well decked chair.

Amidst loud chiming of bells and the loud laughter of women entered Ambika in all her elegance that Murali always desired, with a jasmine garland and a radiant smile, wearing the blue chiffon saree with a matching sleeveless blouse presented to her 40 years back.