Maanga-Oorga {Mango-Pickle}

I started a novel called Rangu – This is an independent short story starring Rangu that will hopefully be a chapter in the novel somewhere in the many chapters in my mind and hopefully will get typed or written in a a notebook.

The summer would start in its intensity in early March itself. If we were lucky, the rain-gods would shower a bit of their bounty in the end of February, a gentle calm before the intense summer-wave that would envelop us for the next four months. Once those showers in February would cool the earth; we would set out to the ‘maan-thoppu’ – the mango orchard. The zamindar’s property stretched across the length and breadth of the seven villages to the east of the River Bhadra. The mango orchard was strategically placed right at the end of the boundaries of our little village. Meena and I would go to the orchard. Shambu thatha was the caretaker at the orchard, he would break into a smile on seeing us and say “Rangu Swami, Meena yaejamani vaango’ {Come Rangu Sir and Princess Meena}.

The rains on the gentle earth, the fragrance that linguists now call ‘petrichor’ would permeate the air. There were flowering shrubs of hibiscus, jasmine and some wild forest-flowers as well. We had the permission to pick all the fruits that had fallen down in the overnight rains. I had a sack that I would stuff with the green mangoes, some would have ripened and the sweetness of the fruits as we bit into them and talked and walked back home.

Once Meena would be left at her house, I would walk down to our humble hovel.  Amma would wash all the green mangoes in luke warm water. Then I would wipe them clean in an old white veshti that belonged to Appa; a memory of which I had no proper recollection. The mangoes would be wiped dry and then Amma would hand me the ‘aruvamanai’ a slicer set in a wooden frame. You need to slice the mangoes in a specific way and ensure that the seed did not get into the way of the sliced mangoes. It takes practice and having observed Amma slicing them for so many years, I naturally set about assisting Amma in the kitchen. Studies did not work out, the fees, the situation, the need to cross the river to reach the town; were all too many troubles for a young widow and her son. By Mama’s grace we were allowed to set up a tiffin stall outside the temple and I would help Amma there and also assist in cleaning the temple premises, ringing the bell, washing the temple vessels and other such stuff that kept the fire running in our kitchen. Every day and night Amma would tell me – “Rangu, you are destined for bigger things; keep working hard, Eashwaran will show us the way!”

The mangoes would be sliced and then be placed in a huge jar of salt and chilli powder. The jar would be sealed tight with a white cloth and for five days the sun in all its intensity would bestow goodness to the jar of sliced mangoes. On the sixth morning, Amma would get a huge cast-iron cheenchatti (heavy-bottomed cauldron). The sesame oil would take its time to heat on the wood-fired oven. Amma would then add mustard, as it would crackle, then she would add freshly ground red chillies, fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asafotedia and stir the potent mixture and then would come the moment of glory when the sliced mangoes would be added. Then my next task of gently stirring the mixture with a wooden stirrer would start. The smoke would be cumbersome but the fragrance of the spices and the green mangoes would be enough to bear all the smoke and water that would seep out of my eyes. Amma would know the exact time when the mangoes would have been cooked sufficiently and she would supervise the stirring at intervals and tell me when to stop and ask me to extinguish the fire. After a while the cauldron would be removed from the oven and kept to cool, covered with the banana leaves. The steam kissing the banana leaves and then again returning to the mangoes in the cauldron would impart a distinct flavor to the pickles. They would then be packed in glass jars. As per custom, the first three bottles would go to Zamindar Ayya’s house and Amma would give the first bottle to Meena. Then the remaining bottles would be sent to the houses from which the orders would have come for Annaporani’s pickles. Amma was fondly known as Annapoorani. It was a matter of pride and common knowledge that no one had ever left hungry from our house, in even the most desperate of times.

FAST FORWARD TWENTY YEARS

Zamindar Ayya had sent us an invitation and I was happy to know that I would be able to meet Meena after all these years. The little pony-tailed girl has grown into a beautiful princess, college-educated and a doctor. A matter of great pride for all of us! The first person from our village to have become a doctor. The wedding is in Madrasapattanam, people say the city is called Chennai; but for old-timers like me it will always remain Madrasapattanam. The blue coloured-nool-pattu saree with the mango pattern was ready to be gifted with the sacred kumkumam from the Devi-Sannidhi. What else? What else could I gift her??

I looked at Amma’s portrait in the swami-room. I kept the invitation next to the portrait and spoke –“Amma, Meena’s getting married! I could almost sense her presence and all of a sudden I could smell mangoes cooking in spices! Yes, that’s it, I would give her a bottle of pickles as well. Let me see, if she remembers me!!

The wedding was conducted at a massive mandapam, there were over 4,000 guests and it was a busy affair with all the big city-people talking on their mobile phones and clicking selfies. When I reached the mandapam, the rituals were already underway and at the appointed auspicious moment the thaali was tied. Meena looked resplendent the bride all attired in the ceremonial yellow silk saree and gold jewellery. The groom was a doctor as well and the couple looked lovely together. The big city folks and the family-members handed over their gifts to the newly wedded couple. Zamindar Ayya spotted me in the crowd and beckoned me to come up on stage. I felt a bit embarrassed; the country-bumpkin with his yellow cloth bag and khadi shirt and kaavi veshti. Ayya asked Meena – “Do you remember him?” Meena stared at me befuddled. I took out the mango-pickle bottle and a rush of memories flooded through Meena’s eyes and her eyes turned moist as she said – “Rangu!!!  Maanga Oorga”

Trapped

Trapped is a brilliant exposition of how a movie can be made at a single location of sorts with just one principal human character. A review or an analysis will not do justice to the magic, the fears, the pain, hope and redemption and torture that unfolds on screen as Rajkumar Rao nails the role of the man trapped in a high-rise building in Mumbai.

At a deeper level we are all souls trapped in this sea of humanity, seeking individual identities in the vast scheme of things.

Vikramaditya Motwane continues to delight and each of his three films has been a delight to watch.

Go for the movie – 

At a time when stars and studios stuff drivel down our throats, this is a refreshing movie. Tip – Don’t eat stuff when you are watching or have an hour’s gap between your meal and watching the movie!

Koko – An Interesting Experiment in Theatre

I had the chance to view a play – ‘Koko’ at the famed Narada Gana Sabha through the Chennai Bloggers Club. We were invited to view the play and share our honest and unbiased reviews.

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The play revolves around a hen, its young one a chicken and a set of three circus friends who are represented like tramps. The show started on the dot at 7 PM – kudos to the troupe to stick to the announced time.

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The tale shows how the hen Chikki escapes from a butcher and makes friends with the three tramps. Chikki lays an egg that hatches into Koko. The first few minutes use shadow-imagery to great effect. They also project visuals of the chicken growing within the egg on the shell of the egg. At one point it felt they showed a human baby developing!

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Then starts the saga of Koko’s education. From Rooster Public School to athletics training, kung fu classes at Ko ko ro ko Kung Fu School and tuition the poor little chicken suffers a lot because of the pressure being exerted by her mother! The little one gets angry and decides to run away!

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How the three tramps drive sense into the heads of Chikki and Koko and how they save Koko from the butcher who makes a return in the climax form the crux of this lovely production.

The lighting, sound-design, songs, everything worked in favour of the talented team. Special mention of the little lady playing Koko – Miss Subhashree; she stole the thunder and got a lot of warm applause from the jam-packed theatre.

Aren’t we pressurising the little ones with a 100 activities. The moment the child is born – its engineer, doctor, lawyer, CA or cricketer or singer (Going by IPL craze and galaxy of singing shows on TV). We push all our unfulfilled dreams on our children, giving them hardly any time to enjoy their childhood. The play is a satirical yet thought-provoking examination of how a vast majority of Indian parents have failed to create a safe and conducive growing environment for their children.

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Kudos to Team MacTrics – A great job by all the stakeholders involved in this production. Definitely a play that all teachers, parents and children should see!

Images – Shot in darkness using a basic mobile phone – forgive the grainy images and the photographer.

Filling the Blanks

You sit staring at the monitor,

You have so much to write,

Then you wonder – what difference,

Is this going to make,

Other than turning into –

Yet another silly rant!

So you just type,

Inconsequential stuff-

Like this and pray that the mind,

Finds its fulcrum soon.

How am I going to fill,

The blanks that are there,

In my heart?

In my mind?

No answers, just blanks!

Joined together to form a loop,

From which I see no light!

How do I fill these blanks??

 

 

The Last Note

The blog stops its journey here, today! The masks that I don, cannot continue to go on like this. At some point, one finds something that turns into one’s purpose. The clock goes on ticking. Made some friends, made a lot of foes, this journey no longer holds meaning or value. All that’s left here are broken pieces of scribbling of one soul who tried his best to fit in. A charade that can no longer go on!

I wish you well. I shall still follow what you write and read your words when time permits. Farewell – This little place will remain here a testimony of one more soul who wanted to write, bring some difference into the world, but only made enemies!

Thanks for all the memories, bitter and sweet. Bye!

 

As the River Flows By…

Well Mahesh, what is it that you want to do?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Are you happy with what you are doing?

Some questions that I keep getting asked every once in a while. I have been in the industry for 12 years now. An IT-job or ITES-job to be precise. I was part of a batch of campus recruits, way back in 2005. We were a bunch of 18 pushed into the fascinating world of Instructional Design. Every single one of them has gone on to build a powerful and focused CV with some brilliant achievements. One of the batch mates is at the Associate VP-level now Training & Development. Others are at a similar rung high up in the corporate hierarchy. Their salaries have breached the INR 10 lakhs an annum bracket a long time back. I am nowhere close to the fancy numbers that parents of prospective brides mention on matrimonial profiles!

Here I am sitting, typing out this blog at the end of a day’s work wondering what am I doing with my life? In 27 days from now, I will turn 35. I still don’t know what my purpose or goal in life is! At a superficial level, one is to ensure that the home loan gets paid without any issue. Roughly 15 years to go at the current rate! I know I can’t help change destiny in terms of the health of family-members, time will take its own course of action.

This little space on the Internet has become a place to vent out my anger, frustration, growing disillusionment with the things that I see, the people whom I meet, what I hear, what I experience. There are so many uses of “I” in the previous sentence. When does one let go of the “I”?

What is it that I intend to do with this gift of life that I have wrested with the Grim Reaper a fair number of times? I am sure there is some purpose or reason why I managed to survive despite being given up for the dead multiple times. But what is that reason? What is the purpose of this existence?

These roles that are thrust upon by birth, the name, caste, colour, creed all arriving due to genetics and birth at a particular place and time; what purpose do they serve?? No answers, only questions! In the process of self-enquiry, I have only found myself being ridiculed and branded a half-baked nutcase. Stack after stack of books are read, ideas assimilated, but the search for the one truth, the one spiritual master who can offer the gift of enlightenment continues… One wonders is it possible to find salvation and redemption without a Guru?

The answer is definitely not 42 this time around!

Look inwards….till you find the beam of light and hold onto it!

 

Rangu – Chapter – 1 Continued

The teams were finalised for the next match and Rangu got a chance to play in Sundar Anna’s team. The sun turned from a golden disc to a pinkish orange orb as the afternoon turned to twilight and as the crickets began their monotonous humming dusk forced the young players to return to their houses. Sundar and Rangu returned together, Rangu sitting on the carrier seat of Sundar’s trusted Rallis bicycle. Rangu idolised Sundar Anna and the two of them shared a beautiful friendship. In Rangu, Sundar found a younger brother, a patient listener, who would listen to his ideas of Marxism, how the ruinous policies of the government were ensuring that the unemployment rate kept increasing. Sometimes he would break into a song, of late a new music composer had comeon the scene, he called himself Ilayaraja and he had given some good songs in the movies that had come out. The town was about 15 kms away and boasted an old theatre that drew the audience from the surrounding villages. Rangu had been to the theatre once when there was a re-run of “Thiruvalayadal” – he was mesmerised by the powerful actor who played Shiva; he was told it was someone called Shivaji Ganeshan; one of the greatest actors to grace Tamil cinema.

The two reached the agraharam, Rangu got down and went to his hut as Sundar proceeded towards his house. Rangu met his mother and handed over the earnings of the day to her. Savithri took the coins and put them in the old tin box that served as their piggy-bank; she said – “Rangu, go wash, then light the lamp, say your evening prayers, I will make uppuma.” Rangu nodded his head and went out to the shed that served as the bathroom.

Amma — “Did you eat?”. “No Rangu”. “Come Amma, we will eat together!” This was a daily ritual and mother and son would smile at each other and eat wondering about the next day!

As Rangu laid out the mat, he asked — “Amma, Sundar Anna has told that he will tutor me and I can write the PUC exam as a private student. From tomorrow, every evening 4 PM to 7 PM he has asked me come for tuition classes. Can I go Amma?” “Rangu, definitely, you can buy a new notebook and a pencil tomorrow, we will get a nice Gem Ink pen for you when we go to the town next week. Now go to sleep.”