Wednesday, November 13, 2013

At Grandpas


I loved spending time at Grandpas in Rajahmundry an awesome place with so many mangoes and the mighty river Godavari. Every vacation some part of it has to be spent there. This was as ritualistic as it can get, without any deviation, even if we (me & my brother) had a very small holiday period part of it we used to spend there.

It was a lovely place, where everything seemed like seeing through the VINTAGE / RETRO  FILTER of a camera app, everything spoke of age, building, clothes, practices, the firewood furnace for hot water, my favourite place, from which I had to be dragged, the battered wall clock, the ancient mango trees, the old earthenware, and king size beds resplendent with many creaking springs, the roof top with the weathered tiles which look like they were there from a time immemorial.

While everything at Grandpas spoke of age, the old idly lady gave them a stiff competition. She defied the aging, about whom we will talk a little later.

The courtyard filled perpetually with the carpet of yellow leaves, which would reappear the next moment after they were cleaned & disposed, making crisp creaking sound underneath the feet every time someone entered the backyard, making it difficult to sneak into it in the afternoons, when we were ordered to sleep, so that we won't go play in the sun.

It all started with the mornings, when the only need to get up is to have a proper breakfast. It meant no more reluctant waking up, switching rooms so as to stay hidden there by prolonging the sleep time by 5 more minutes.

The morning starts with a strong scent of firewood burning in the mud furnace, to heat the water for bathing. The water heated on the firewood and dry leaves has a different scent, strong & pungent yet sweet.
Fanning the flames in the mud furnace, feeding it with the dried leaves which were swept and made into a heap just beside it, while white smoke enveloped like fog in the winter.

The ever cool Grandpa becoming angry whenever we try to put something else into the fire like plastic or some old papers, while shouting out, "burn the papers and you'll never be good at your studies, Goddess Saraswathi will never forgive that".
Suddenly I declare, "I don't need hot water I'll bathe with water from the well", and the reply comes from grandma immediately, "you'll get cold and go huchi huchi".

The well! There were stories my cousins used to share about it. It has crocodiles in it! There are turtles!! Every night crocodile comes out!!! Being the adventurous child I tried to see if they were true, and I once did see a turtle.

Immediately after bathing we get yummy tiffin made by grandma. Always tiffin (the best part) because of the extra orthodox grandma, nothing from yesterday night, all leftovers, if any, were given to the maid along with the morning breakfast. There wasn't the concept of the refrigerator. Though I missed chilled water the benefits are colossal compared to the petty loss.

If the grandma is late and can't cook for the kids early enough (which happened on a regular basis), we can go out for tiffin, or buy the idlis with awesome chutney from the old lady who sold them daily. Everyone who knew her saw her only after her hair became white, silvery white, which complemented her dirty white sari. She came by in slow and cautious steps, supported by her walking staff, yelling, 'idleelandi idleelu (idlis)'. She always had a sweet and warm smile. Her picture froze in my memory ever since. We talked to her as we do with our kin & kith.

I was too small to admire her then, but in retrospect, she amazed me, working at that age, not depending on anyone, maybe even supporting a grandchild. Although her sari was dirty the idlis were amazing and the chutney. Oh, boy! What a chutney! I and my brother were ardent fans of that chutney. We used to hope grandma would be late again so we can enjoy the idlis, and thankfully she was, many a times.

My grandfather dutifully administering the awesome tasty chyawanprash, after each meal so that we (me & my brother) remain healthy, never allowing more than a spoonful, as improper dose would cause diarrhea & other sickness. Grandparents are a little more cautious about the young ones’ health. Oh, boy! What a taste it had. What he never knew was I used to use a stool & clamber on to it & dig my hand into the chyawanprash bottle & eat it, while they (he & my ever innocent elder brother) lay, snoring into the afternoon air.

Being at Grandpas is as close to as it gets to have an adult-like freedom, and who doesn't love freedom. It meant regular coffees and teas which I was categorically denied at home in favour of Bournvita. It meant watching cartoon network in the morning even without having the teeth brushed, without any trace of fear or guilt. Particularly for someone who grew up in orthodox families with both the parents working mornings were rushed, Grandpas meant heaven, life without any discipline, because getting used to these working schedules, my parents would never allow us even on holidays to lie down in bed till late afternoon or just lazily watch CN without brushing (my mom would kill me if she sees this, so please don't tell her).

And whatever we do, grandma used to fill our pockets periodically with snacks so we can eat while we do whatever we want: fried ground nuts, boiled groundnuts, salted peas, roasted peas, roasted bungalow gram, fried/ roasted cashew.

The air always carried just two moods, the extremes. In the mornings and during occasional siestas it smelled heavily of sleep and of unrestrained energy rest all times. Since there are never any half-hearted moments, no homework, no need to eat that curry you don't like: courtesy extra lenient maternal grandparents, no switching off the TV while you are in a middle of a show with a shout, "Go and complete your homework first.”

 Whatever we wanted to do we can do, it was pure fun, pestering them all day with insane requests, tidbits about embarrassing things our parents did when they were of our age, bed time stories, trying to explain Sci-fi movie story to them, only to realize it's a futile attempt, the tasty prasadam made by a great-grandmother who stayed along with my grandparents.

May be they relived through the curious eyes of little ones, agreeing to all their non-contextual and usually silly demands, and giving in to our requests even before we threw a tantrum, though we sometimes were as irritating as an itch underfoot while wearing a shoe, during a formal meeting.

To this day I remember so vividly the daily outing to the Mango market with my brother riding the pillion of the Luna (Moped) while I was perched in the bend.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Of A South Indian Coffee Lover

   Fondly called 'Filter Kaapi'.

I think, the temptation to do what we are precisely asked not to, is irresistible, around the world, since forever. Just like the way my brother put his leg in a camp fire right after he was precisely told not to. He learnt his lesson; I didn’t get a chance to learn mine. I might have done the same then, maybe if I was not perched on my dad’s shoulders being just a toddler.

Let me start here. Coffee & tea are forbidden to children in many Indian families (health-conscious families).
Once the word ‘forbidden’ pops up, curiosity piques us exactly in that direction.

It starts with a beautiful aroma of morning coffee that adults enjoy, sipping slowly, the white vapours of fuming brown liquid, clicking the tongue in appreciation, with occasional 'Ummm..!’, ‘Waah…!’, whirling the glass quickly one last time before the last sip, following the coffee etiquette; while the kids are given a big mug of the Bournvita/ Horlicks etc.  I'm not saying I don't like it, in fact, I love it, but coffee always had me in awe. The first obvious difference was the rich aroma while the amount of vapors the second. My Bournvita's vapours used to die after a minute or two, unlike the tumbler that my dad was holding, which fumed continuously till almost the end.

Every time I cast a furtive glance towards it, my mom would start on the goodness of milk & evil effects of coffee, of which I've heard all through my childhood. She goes on into the lecturing mode and believe me, you don't want those lectures at home by a high-school-teacher-mom.

There was not much time to pester her in the mornings, but evenings should be good, right? If you think yes, just wait!

My mom had two weapons of diversion.

If friends come home to take me out for the evening sports, there isn't much time for badgering her, I just quickly gulp down the Bournvita given to me, while giving her I’ll-deal-this-matter-presently look & make a move.

Or sometimes if I’m at home, there comes the shrill cry, "Ah Ice cream, cup ice, cone ice, ah mango, draksha (grape), ah milk ice," by the ice cream-wala.  She buys me the ice cream I want & the unspoken contract binds me into not pestering her for the evening. The irrevocable deal is made.
If it's an ice-sproot (Popsicle) children are given a glass that should be kept directly beneath the ice-sproot, while eating it, so that it won't drip on to floors (you don't want to hold a glass? Fine, eat it outdoors). I used to trail behind her with the ice-sproot in my mouth, a glass in a hand, with imploring looks. Sometimes out of sheer frustration gives me a coffee, after a lot of swearing though (totally worth it).

Every time some relatives or friends come home and enjoy the Coffee made by my mother saying, “Jaya, you make really good coffee,” it takes all my strength to keep myself composed and not to give greedy looks towards the cups in their hands.

There was this one time when she was so annoyed & played a prank on me. She announced, "Everyone will get coffee today." I was really happy while my dad & brother were going through the newspaper nonchalantly. She came with a tray with chinaware & gingerly set down the tray of fuming cups. I was engrossed in a write-up from a Sunday magazine that was just won – for there used to be a small scale fight to get hands on the Sunday magazine of Eenaadu, a popular Telugu daily, which included an awesome coloured magazine catering to people of all ages. I didn't spare a look towards the tray, but my hands worked their way & brought a cup to my lips, one gulp and I knew I was tricked.  Everyone was laughing, no, rolling, gloating over their well-planned prank. It was just Bournvita brought in usual coffee cups.

Later, my mother even stopped taking Coffee and Tea herself to inspire me. But, alas! I can’t.

I take it when I don't have anything to do, when I'm in some deep thought, when I want something to be extracted from the attic of my brain, when I'm reading a novel, in the gap between two classes, to celebrate, or when I'm feeling low, when I'm about to start a journey, when I'm on the journey, while watching a movie, to make a decision, when I'm angry, when I want to stay awake before an exam (though that really doesn't seem to work) etc., more like, I do many things while taking a coffee.

A South Indian Filter Coffee, though taken many times a day can never be tagged quotidian, for its a grand ritual of its own, what else can make anyone's mood change from being churlish to smug satisfaction with just one cup.

I outgrew all my childhood fears & inhibitions, but never this coffee thingy. Now I'm far from my parents, yet my mom manages to call me right when I'm just in front of a cup of coffee, I don't know how she does that. I used to fumble at first, but now quite conveniently lie that I'm taking Bournvita, though I suspect she knows the truth,  and that makes me nervous, I just hope I don't fidget that way when I'm on a date, with the special person sitting across the table, with a coffee on it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Days

I can't give a better title to my college days.
Well my days definitely didn’t start the way it generally does in the movies but definitely ended on a high note.
The fabric weaved itself around me, creating a gentle mother like environment. It’s more like the campus being the mother & the city, a somewhat formidable, aunt.
Just like different people have different tastes like some like Jeans (actually most), some like cotton, etc., I'll try to describe the fabric that gave me comfort.

The first highly noticeable difference was there was never the concept of the day, daybreak and night. There used to be some distinct boundaries to them till I entered insti. But almost as soon as I entered I understood, here, in college life, the day drifts into night and the night blends & becomes day without you being aware of it. The days become continuous; Today just flows into Tomorrow, like the functions mathematicians love.

When I just started I hated Chennai, Oh boy! Did I just hate it?
Reasons? Many.
Firstly it’s very very very hot. So initially I've never ventured outside except for movies, mall & of course beach (finally something that is cool in Chennai).

Well things have obviously changed in the course of time. I've found my wolf pack, and with the wolf pack any crazy/ stupid destination seems worthy enough and before I realized it became my home in a very subtle way without my knowledge. The longing for this home used to be quite apparent when I'm anywhere else other than Chennai.

Lazily going to Tarams to get a ginger tea or the mirchi bhajji by Andhra Mess, hitting Ascendas the moment we got chance, the ultra-awesome veggie dishes by Sangeetha, Dominos door delivery, 1+1 by Dominos on every Friday (for which they used to come on an auto-rickshaw); And of course the ever exquisite filter coffee at Tiffanys (a moment of silence here, No more Tiffanys in IIT L), cheap yet yummy Paniyaram at Campus Cafe, OAT with friends and the cutlet there, many a times I used to go to a movie just to enjoy the cutlet with friends, rides in the insti bus, all these slowly wound themselves around our lives.

The discussions at CCDs, not to forget the Devil's Own, the perpetual problem with insti net, Gigs of data download from DC++ (that’s my preferred software, I know few use Apex though), helping a friend messup with his laptop and of course putting a nightout later to solve it, fun with pals in DCF; going to DKC and TBR for the pristine Air Conditioning, the perpetually worn Hostel/ Saarang/ Shaastra Tee shirts; 
matches in common room, skirmishes of cricket vs. Football, going to hostel where there is HD connection, altercations between supporters in the common room during IPL; The cycle repairs, movie marathons with friends on Saturday nights, back to back serials seasons (my first was Mentalist); Holi & Diwali, and bickering about hostel sweets that never came, ice cream nights where table manners were the last thing you'd notice, overflowing ice cream liquid, protesting over the injustice in flavors the wing got, nightouts, shopping, trips to Tada, Tirupathi etc., with friends; Cheesy hostel nights, with the awesome to yuck range of costumes, never ending DJs;
cycling at odd hours (were there ever any odd hours, I don’t think so?), travails due to monkeys, the unique white Blackbuck (which usually can be seen frolicking in front of Godav or behind Taramani Guest House), long queues at ATMs, hungry-but-no-time-gurunath-noodles, the ever awesome Elec coffee shop (claps and whistles), election fever and the (un)expected results, everything seem to evoke a grand memory.

Every morning checking out on remaining number of classes we can bunk (that was difficult) so as not endup with a W, running to class after waking up late, enjoying breakfast when not having the 8 O' clock class, forgetting calci on exams, begging the proff for Attendance, befriending the TA, queues in xerox shop the night before an exam, crowd at gurunath coffee shop the midnight before an exam, last minute worries about exam venue (trust me it sucks), fundaes with Seniors where no one came on time (you endup doing the same after becoming senior), posing for RGs, are now fond memories.

Awesome HS courses (*wink*wink), anticipation of the girls for Saarang, filmy couples & associated rumors, jealous stares and gossips;
Nervousness before placements, new formals for the occasion, struggling with the knots of tie, pain through the ordeal, smugness after the achievement; BTP, becoming friends with lab seniors, weekly discussions and those software gods;
'She' accepting friend request and slowly establishing connection leading to friendship and… (Happy Dance)!!!
Andhra Mess, Pizzas and lots of Coke;
Not to forget our awesome max insti lingo, all these bring forth a smile to my face.

I miss the chit-chat at guru, the walk along the road from Godav to Tiffanys via SAC, and the usual detours to new hostels to enjoy some fresh evening air, the happiness in the air, with kids frolicking around, near new faculty buildings Kurinji, the pleasant night breeze on hostel terrace, which is so perfect for a long call with her.
I miss checking for coupons/ couriers at the security and the sight of the computers in our DCF.

My eyes are sore for the sight of delivery vehicles of the e-commerce website which seem to lurch on campus roads forever.

There are many more small yet beautiful things and details which made my BTech life extraordinary and super cool. J

I wish I can go back to being that freshie being ragged at 2 am, by asking to exactly reproduce the Michael Jackson steps which were just shown.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

S8 39 Circar Express - part 9

We started out of the class, back to our homes.
On our way, I felt like I heard something. I turned sideways, “I'm sorry, did you say something?”

She said ever so softly, “Can you show me that Casper painting you mentioned?”

Her voice was still raw with holding in the tears. Sensitive yet strong. I'm getting inclined to her more and more.

I dashed to one of the exhibit boards of school, where my Casper painting has been lying around for a few years.

To make the moment light, I added, gesturing melodramatically, “Casper, meet Sonia; Sonia, meet Casper.”

This time she gave a real laugh, slowly leaving her inhibitions.

“It’s so nice & lifelike”

Technically, it should be after-lifelike, I mean, theory suggests Casper is a cute little ghost.”

*A bigger laugh this time*

We walked out, and when we were just outside I looked at her with a contorted look in my face, and said, “Can you wait here for a few minutes?”

“Where are you going?”

“I need to pee really bad”

She nodded her head, giving a soft chuckle and left my hand free.



We were slowly walking towards our homes. There wasn't any sense of hurry, sun was setting & the air around was coming in a light breeze as if it’s trying to blow a soft melody into a flute. Quiet, cool, and low whistle hum kind of breeze.

Trees turned to silhouette, as the reddish-indigo sun bid farewell for the day. 

The only sounds were occasional vehicle horns, flocks of birds flowing back to their sweet homes, with food & fun facts for their young ones, & that of our breath with the soft music of the night breeze in the background. Her dupatta was just following the wind & fluttering slightly, in cute ripples, rhythmically blocking the distant street lamp light that fell on us, making a mosaic of orange black shadows behind us.

My hands were grazing the surface of the back of her hand. Then suddenly I felt my palm was touching her palm. I wanted to grab it, then & there, but I'm not sure if that's accidental or accidentally-on-purpose.

Of course she had taken my hand once, but that was when I was comforting her.

After a small debate between emotion and logic, my heart won the race. I gently laced my fingers through hers.  Neither of us spoke a word, and it felt the natural thing, nothing out of place.

Sometimes silence conveys more than what an intricate vocabulary can. A silence which was so satiating.

Her grip tightened. We were just walking, and then we crossed my home, but I didn't tell her out of fear of leaving her hand.

Holding her hand gave me a sense of contentment & fulfillment and a whole new reason for my life.


We were almost at her home, she asked “Coffee?”

“I'd love to, but let's have some other day, it's too much for one day, I’m not sure whether all this really happened”

She acquiesced with a small nod.

And just when we were about to part, “Hey, I thought you might like it”, I handed her the painting.

Her eyes turned to saucers, clearly puzzled, “You stole back your own painting?”

“I've a feeling Casper likes it near you than in that exhibit board”

Without warning, suddenly she threw her arms over me & hugged.


I can feel her heart beat, while I found my own missing.

I'm breathing contentedly, with the sweet smell of Jasmine, her soft hair all over my face giving the tickling sensation.

I don't how much time we were like that, before she relinquished her hold on me, suddenly aware of the surroundings.



“Meet you tomorrow, Sonia”

Mahi”. “My close niche calls me Mahi”

“I thought you said I was stupid & mean”

“That you definitely are, but I think I can deal with that”, she winked & left.

I kept looking until her moonlit profile faded into the distance and the door of her house was shut behind her.

And I was walking on the road lost in thoughts when suddenly a car's hooting & screeching sound made by its tires, as it suddenly came to halt inches behind me, brought me back to reality.

“Hey, did you tell in your house before you came?” Yelled the driver.

Oh, sorry! My bad!”

Now, where am I?

The realization hit me like a truck.

I should go back to my school. My cycle was back at school, along with my friend Rakesh who would be waiting for me there.

click here for part 10

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