On the Needle’s Edge

Where is the time,
To sing, to dance, to be joyful,
And spend merry moments,
And magical moments with friends?

My life is now defined,
By a single needle’s edge,
18 units of insulin in the morning,
And 12 units of the fluid at night.

Life revolves around medication.
You are forever in a state of worry,
Rushing from task to task,
Worried about delayed trains.

Your only goal in life,
Becomes reporting to work on time,
Getting work done, and returning,
To put the injection as early as possible.

No time for social engagement,
No time for friends,
No time for merriment,
No time for myself.

Just a constant state of chaos,
Going through life,
Like the aimless stream,
That dies in the woods,
Before it reaches the sea!

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The 39th Chennai Book Fair

Well this year the usual Pongal Book Fair by BAPASI did not happen at Nandanam because of the devastating December floods of 2015.

Some splinter groups set up a fair at Royapettah during Pongal – but well that was no way the real deal. The floods of 2015 caused severe damage to participating publishers – the total loss is estimated at about 25 crores, which is very tough to recover; despite insurance!

This year the fair was held at Island Grounds. The usual competitions for children in terms of painting, debates, elocution and writing went on with the usual fan-fare. The venue has a toy-train that’s quite remarkable and drew a steady crowd.

The Fair is significant as a book which I compiled and includes submissions by members of the Chennai Bloggers Club – “After the Floods” was published by Sixth Sense Publications.

Edited by KS Lakshmi, Cover and trailer by Kishor LN and a wonderful introduction by RJ Balaji.
We thank Karthikeyan PK from Sixth Sense Publications for trusting the efforts of the bloggers!

Buy the book online

http://sixthsensepublications.com/index.php/after-the-floods.html

There are lots of stalls this time around – almost 700. Lots of books, stalls from Singapore with books priced really steep 😦 organic seeds and planting, usual spiritual, cookery, self-help, fiction, comics, management, competitive exams, all the usual books. A stall on blow paint drawing techniques and one about robots and stuff for kids was quite interesting. As I had clear instructions on not to buy books I just walked like a drug-addict away from a stash of fine-cut cocaine but no chance of getting my hands to the ‘coke’!

The rains made a sudden appearance on Tuesday night and scared the living daylights with water gushing in through gaps in the pandal sheets above. It was deja-vu again as water flowed through. Thankfully the rain gods were kind enough and did not trouble too much after that.

The Fair ends tomorrow go pick your books and buy a copy of our anthology as well.

In terms of food, the spread was outstanding and real good job by the catering contractors who have brought in various vendors to the fair!

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

My timeline on Facebook is flooded with sentimental posts, pictures and quotes all celebrating motherhood. How does one define one’s relationship with one’s biological mother, or the mother who adopts us, or teachers who become mothers and guide us? It is very difficult to define this bond.

When a lady bears you in her womb, goes through hell to deliver you bearing a whole lot of pain; a part of her dies to bring you into this world. That umbilical cord that binds you to your mother is a special bond! In times gone by when adventures on the high seas and travelling by ship was the only way to discover new lands, umbilical cords were coveted among sailors as a lucky charm to keep them safe. Sailors believed that the cord would keep them safe, the cord was fashioned into a charm or amulet and worn by sailors!

There are some close people whom I know who share an angry relationship with their respective mothers, it is out of distrust and misunderstandings that snowballed into a rift boosted by the egos of the parties involved! I have had the task of setting alight the funeral pyres of distant cousins and family friends as the son/daughter in question was stuck abroad and could not make it to India in time for the last rites. I have had people breaking down to me over Skype and on the phone; cursing the very moment they chose to go abroad! I had a friend who said, “Mahesh amma oda pavizha-kallu padicha mookuthi irukkum da, adha mattum yaenakki anuppi vei da! I want it to keep reminding me that I let her down!” Incidents like these are many! There was the best friend of a time gone by who completely ended up a “penn-koandhan” toeing every line his wife said and ditched his mother in an old-age home; she died broken-hearted! The idiot just came and completed the last rites; when he lit her pyre that’s when he broke down completely! “Matchaan, thappu panitaen da, paeriya thappu panitaen, Meena pinnadi sithi ipidi vitutatenae yaen Amma va! Paava manippaey illai da yaenakku!”

It becomes a worry for me if my mother fails to answer the phone! Morning once I reach office, I call and confirm she is fine, evening once I step out of office I call her again. There have been times when she would be in a drug-induced sleep and would not answer the call, I would worry a hundred different things and keep calling every ten minutes till she would reply.

I have let go of many opportunities for her. There have been numerous wedding proposals that have come through! Without batting an eye-lid the girl’s parents would ask – “Amma va vittu thanni kuduthanam varanam thambi!” I would say – “Nadakaratha sollungo, ponnu ku vaera maapalai a paarungo saar!” Friendships that could have blossomed into something more concrete and and an actual love story; got cut short! Opportunities to go abroad have been sacrificed!

When an entire clan stood against us, asking us to give one more chance at redemption (after umpteen earlier chances), I firmly put my foot down and was in a way black-listed by a whole group of “well-meaning relatives”. We battle, every day, within and without, illnesses, medicines, food, cooking, choice of fruits to be offered to the Lord for prayers!

We battle every day with each other and others.. life goes on!

One wonders if it was all worth it??

All I want to tell you readers out there is – “Some battles are worth it and some battles are not worth it!” Don’t end up doing something that you will regret all your life. One day you will have to set your closest ones free! So cherish this moment with them!

Tomorrow may not come….

 

Heart of Darkness

She sent me a message on Facebook,
Nothing complex, nothing extraordinary,
Just a photo of her wedding invitation.
She had just typed, “please come”.
I loked back at all those memories.
It was a foolish infatuation,
A Lolitaesque craze for a child??
Or was it something deeper?
At the end of the day!
What mattered was religion!
Nativity, language, caste, community!
It is a bitter truth!
I have had to swallow it.
I wish you all the very best.

No drama, no beards, no drinking binges,
Life just goes on,
From one pay-check to another.
Somewhere a part of me died.
When she called me Bhaiyya!
Does life have to be like this!
Can an adult man and woman,
Only be lovers, husband and wife,
Or brother and sister!
Does friendship have no value?
What makes people think!
That after everything!
Calling one as brother or sister!
Solves every problem in between?

2014 – Glimpses in Verse

Running around in hospitals,
Chasing pharmacies for medicines,
Hoping things would improve.
Things are mildly better.

Of a solo visit to Tiruvanamalai,
Spending time in a shelter for animals,
Moved by the love that the workers,
Shower on the creatures.

Spending time alone,
In Ramana Ashramam,
And awe-inspired by,
The massive temple.

Visiting Thirukadaiyur,
And being blessed by elders,
A friend who is a brother now,
Thanks for the opportunity Bragadeesh.

Meeting a financial expert,
Akin to a character from a book,
Anand sir and family,
Thanks for the beautiful trips.

From Karur and Namakal,
To Kumbakonam and Thirumayichur,
Lots of wonderful memories,
To cherish all along.

Of Radha ji and the Azure Book Club,
Lots of fascinating things,
All centered around books,
Thanks for a wonderful time.

Of all the books that were read,
A book by a wonderful thinker,
Avis sir’s – ‘Fall like a Rose Petal’
Is indeed a special book!

Of losing my phone,
In the mad rush of the train.
And unexpectedly winning a prize,
A phone for a writing competition!

Of work and colleagues,
Thanks to the Lord,
For all the patience,
That my employers and colleagues have!

Of friendships lost and gained,
Of realizing that somethings are,
Just not meant to be,
One learns to put the ‘fake smile’.

Of marriages all around,
Good times and happy memories.
Lovely feasts and lengthy rituals.
The clock keeps ticking!

As 2014 draws slowly to a close,
With a week more to go,
Here is wishing all my friends,
Real and virtual, known and unknown —
A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!

Thoughts on a Typical Tam-Brahm Wedding

Mamas and mamis all smiles,

Dressed in silk sarees and veshtis,
The strangely familiar faces,
The familiarly strange faces,
The vadhiyars (priests) sitting in a huddle.

The catering contractor praying,
To all the 1000 gods in the heavens,
That this wedding too,
Should be a grand success.
The thathas and pattis (grandparents)
Struggling to sit steadily.

Some in wheelchairs looking,
Pale shadows of their former selves,
Some still sharp and sprightly,
Cracking jokes with the young ones,
Talking of kutcheris(concerts) in Cleveland.
Then arrives the magic moment.

The groom and his entourage,
Make a grand entrance,
The bride’s family,
Welcome the groom and party,
With flowers and rose-water.
Smiles all around,
And photographers get busy!

Then starts the room allotment,
Groom’s family rooms,
On the first floor,
Bride’s family on ground floor.
How many rooms have ACs?
Is there a lift?
Is the bathroom easily accessible for the elderly?

Amidst all this confusion,
The hall attendants will arrive-
‘Mama coffee aa tea aa’,
‘With sugar aa wihtout sugar aa’
By default someone will spill coffee or tea,
On the pristine white veshtis(dhotis)
Some comic banter will occur.

By then groom and family,
Will sit in front of,
The ceremonial fire,
At a distance the bride,
Will be seated with her family,
Hymns will be chanted,
The smell of incense,
Jasmine and rose flowers,
Will mix in the air.

In the kitchen annex,
Cooking will be in full swing,
Suddenly contractor will announce,
‘Tiffin ready’
As bride and groom lost in hymns,
Sit through fasting,
others will devour,
Idlies, dosas and pongal,
With kesari, gulab jamuns or halwa.
Woe betide if the vadai is dry,
Or if it is not served.
God save the contractor!

Ritual after ritual,
Costume changes after each ritual,
Managing the crowds,
In between a child will come crying,
Amma kaanam or make a scene,
Asking for ice cream at 10 AM in the morning,
As the child’s parents look sheepishly,
When all efforts fail,
One gentle smack will make the child see reason.
A Dairy Milk Bar works wonders too!

Time for lunch,
More discussion on food,
Some nasty comments,
On members of folks from both sides,
The curious guest who no one recognises,
From either family.
He happily eats and leaves!

More rituals – all done!
Then the wedding reception.
The mandatory North Indian menu,
A counter with chat, pop corn and cotton candy.
Paneer, naans, grilled vegetables,
Two ice creams, four sweets,
The meetha paan and the fruit salad.
The obligatory sight-adichufying (gentle flirting)

The Amreeka project return chamathu paiyyan,
Who would be the cynosure of all eyes,
Of all mamis and mamas,
With eligible daughters for marriage.
The poor harried software engineers,
Stuck in India waiting for ‘on-site opportunities’.
No connection to all this mess,
I am not an engineer, lawyers, doctor, auditor – gumbal.
The rare minority like me,
Who look at the unfolding drama.

In this confusion, we will be searching,
For that one lady,
Someone whose eyes can ignite a spark,
Someone with whom we can discuss,
Thalaivar and Tolstoy with equal ease,
Nolan and Mani Ratnam or Spielberg and K. Balachander,
With heightened interest.
May be we may find someone 🙂
Otherwise we just keep trying!

The wedding day – The big day,
Another set of complex rituals,
Kashi-yatra scene – as the groom,
Prepares to run to Kashi,
He is brought back to the hall,
By the bride’s father,
With the promise of his daughter’s hand,
In holy matrimony!

All culminating in that moment,
When the groom ties the sacred ‘thaali’
Around his bride’s neck.
In that moment they are pronounced man and wife.
Lots of namaskarams and blessings later.
Smiling for the camera,
Accepting gifts – mostly money and glassware and clocks.
They finally proceed to have lunch.

Registration formalities
At the local government office.
A quick visit to the groom,
And the bride’s house,
At an auspicious moment.
Another visit to the wedding hall,
To complete the ‘nalangu’ (fun games)
Rolling coconuts like cricket balls,
Breaking appalams on each others heads.
A bit of singing, a bit of gentle chatter.

Finally the long wait comes to an end,
The guests leave,
The payments are all settled,
Gifts all packed in bags,
Relatives who came from other cities,
Bid good bye and leave,
With thamboola pais and return gifts.
A final check to see nothing has been,
Forgotten in the hall – everyone leaves!

One marriage ends and serves,
As the foundation or meeting place,
For prospective brides and grooms,
All set for another marriage,
To be held in the same hall,
Or another hall with a similar set,
Of guests, rituals and all the usual suspects!

That my dear friends is how – ‘enga aathu kalayanam happens’!

‘The Puppeteers of Palem’ by Sharath Komarraju

Dear readers, Sharath Komarraju an established novelist with three novels in his kitty is all set to launch his fourth novel – ‘The Puppeteers of Palem’.

Please visit his website –  for more details. He has initiated a contest as well and is offering a preview sample for readers as well.

Do check and if you like the preview, I am sure you will if you love a dash of folk-tales, fairy-tales, suspense and the supernatural 🙂

Happy reading and check out the pre-order links below:

Pre-order a copy of The Puppeteers of Palem here

My review will be coming up soon and folks I assure you this is indeed a ‘very different’ book 🙂

Happy reading and wishing all of you my beloved readers – A Super Duper Weekend 🙂