Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The alphabet song - An ode to us......

The best skill my Hotel Management college, and subsequently career, gave me is the ability to laugh at myself, which explains why I am able to collect all the perceptions the rest of the world has about us Keralites (a.k.a. Mallus, Malayalees, Malabaris....)and present it here...

The fact that I got married to a chap whose knowledge of the geography of the country was restricted to Delhi, Faridabad and Gurgaon did wonders to my already tolerant demeanor. (Ofcourse, he can now give a lecture on the districts, sub districts and postal codes of my homeland - the place they call "Gods own country".....)

So lets begin to wreck some myths:

A stands for "Apple" which gives away the true Mallu when he says the word...also stands for 'Avial' - one of the favorite dishes in a feast!!

B stands for "Bess" (or 'bus' as the rest of the world knows it) which is the favorite mode of transport.

C stands for "chaya" which is the beverage that we are proud to produce, package, brew and sell to millions. Closely follows "Chayakada" which is where the famous One meter tea can be found.....And how can one forget - the 'coconut'!!

D stands for 'Da' or 'Di' wherever applicable - its the equivalent of 'tu' in Hindi (see - we have gender differentiation too...)... also stands for 'Duubbai'... where 'yevryone' dreams of going one day!!

E stands for 'yevrrywhere' which is where you will find our clan...

F stands for "forrin" which is where someone in everyone's household is....also stands for 'fish' which is a staple in most homes....

G stands for "Gold" which we love to wear, buy, gift, flaunt, hoard, and when we get bored of the designs, exchange it for a new one in the current fashion....

H stands for 'haluaa' which is made from every known fruit to us... bananas, jack fruit, mangoes, apples, figs and am sure there are more......

I stands for "Iyyoo" - the equivalent of the Hindi 'Arre...."

J stands for 'jolshyan' - the family astrologer (or jyotshi...)... who is consulted for everything from wedding dates, buying cars and houses to names of children....(even know a remote aunt who calls for the jolshyan when she has to go visiting relatives - who stay in the same city!!)

K stands, ofcourse for 'Keralam'.... which is what we call our land... also stands for the 'kanji' ...... the stuff you get to eat when you fall ill and can't eat anything else!!

L stands for 'lolakutty' the caricature of the Mallu girl..

M stands for 'Madrasi' - which drives every true blooded Malluu up the wall if used to denote him/her!! Also stands for the 'Mundu' - the white dhoti we all love....and how can we forget - MOHANLAL and MAMMOOTY - the two demigods of mallu filmdom??

N stands for 'namaskaaaram' which is the age old greeting in malluland....

O stands for 'Oil' (more specifically, coconut oil) which we use on hair, body, massages, and Cooking!! Closely followed by "Onam" - the time when every Keralite remembers to wear the 'Mundu'

P stands for 'payasam' - we have a hundred varieties of them, and each one has a different taste....

Q stands for Quwait (actually, Kuawit but cant think of anything else)- number two in the wishlist, after Duubbai...

R stands for 'rains' which is like, forever in Kerala

S is for 'Sadya' which is a feast every true Keralite remembers fondly - either in marriages or in festivals...

T is for 'teacher' which is the occupation most wannabe brides opt for in Kerala!!

U stands for 'umberla' (or umbrella) - every self respecting mallu has one safely tucked under his arm or, in case of women, nicely folded and put in purses!

V stands for 'Vishu' the other big festival of Keralites - falls on Baisakhi day....

W stands for 'what' and 'water' - pronounced 'vhat' and 'vater' by the true Keralite

X ofcourse stands for X-mas which we celebrate with lovely homemade rum cakes sent in by the Christian neighbors (if we aren't Christians ourselves)..... must mention here that we have almost equal number of Christians, Muslims and Hindus in Gods own Country, and we have a ball enjoying each other's cultures and festivals!!

Y stands for 'Yesudas' - or Dr.K.J.Yesudas to be precise - the pride of Kerala's lovely music - from classical to rock, from Malayalam to Arabic - the guys done it all!! Yet to find a mallu who doesn't swell in pride when his name is mentioned...

Z stands for the last letter of the alphabet (lost here guys........ can't think of anything!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Umbilical Cord.....

The earliest memory I have of my Dad is that of him hiding behind a crowd to see if I could spot him after a month of vacation without him. I was 4, and I did spot him. He beamed with pride and joy when I ran with little steps towards him, my mother trying to keep pace with me.

The earliest memory I have of my Mom is when she caught a taxi and followed the school bus when I missed it the day of my school picnic. The harassed taxi driver managed to overtake and stop the bus, my Mom (who was a homemaker can in no terms be called assertive.....) convinced the traffic cop that it was urgent to stop the bus and hold up traffic, while I climbed up the steps to my seat, every child in there admiring my Mom!! I was beaming with pride and happiness. I was 5.

I am now 33, I have 2 children who are my universe today. I understand what it means to be a parent. I now know the pain of a parent when the child is hurt. I now understand the "NO"s that were doled out to me when I was a naughty child. I now feel the same fear and anxiousness my parents did for every 'first step' of my babies - the first little steps, the first day at pre-school, then school, the first fallen tooth, the first scraped knee.......... million other firsts to come.

I also understand the joy of giving. Every tangible movable item was first looked at with the thought "Will it be of use to my daughters?".... If the answer was 'Yes', the item promptly found its way into a remote corner of the cupboard, lovingly wrapped in plastic wrapping. Sarees, jewelery, books, pens, watches, perfumes..... the list is endless! My sister and I, at a younger age, would love the way my Mom packed up the stuff for "us".....

When we were older, we stopped noticing. I remember us telling her to take out the lovely jewelry she had, or the beautiful china she cherished....... and she'd smile and say "not now..... when you are older, you take it..."

Then came a time every parent dreads. We became young adults, with hormones, emotions and egos running wild. They were 'old-fashioned', 'strict' and 'unfair'. We were 'hep'and 'misunderstood'. We liked everything they did not..... then they began to adjust to the burgers meals and party wears..... I know those are the times I dread the most - when my kids become young adults.....

Marriage changes everything for a daughter..... I got everything I set my eyes on, and more. It took me geographically away from my parents, but emotionally closer to them. I became responsible for, and accountable to, a lot more people. My parents now stopped monitoring my clothes, my friends and my exits from home......but I would call up everyday to tell them every little detail of my life......

I am in a double income family with a successful career, able to afford reasonable luxury today. But some things don't change. Every time I have one of my precious meetings with my parents, I am showered not only with love, but also with gifts....... Earlier they were for me, now they are for me and my family.....

They say the umbilical cord never really gets severed......... maybe that explains the happiness parents feel when they keep doing things for their kids.... Maybe I will understand better when I reach their phase in life.

Dad and Mom - I love you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Growing up in the Mango Orchard.......

The earliest memories I have of my ancestral home is the huge mango tree in the front yard. The mango tree was the first of many symbols welcoming anyone who came to this traditional Nambiar home. (Nambiars are a clan of rulers in the fiefdoms of North Kerala or Malabar region).

As kids, we learnt very early on that nature is man's first deity. All adults (and most kids) knew everything about mother earth and the bounty she held in her heart - which she so generously gave out to her dutiful children.

Vegetarianism was the general norm, though there were instances of patriarchs hunting and eating the kill - which then justified the hunting.

We learnt how to swim in the backyard pond .... older cousins using the insides of the banana stem to create a makeshift floater for the younger ones. We would catch little fish in knee deep water with a muslin cloth held in little hands on all four sides....just to let them back into the water in a few seconds.

We learnt to climb all kinds of trees - the sturdy mango trees as well as the slippery guava tree. Our imaginations took flight on our beloved mango tree. It became a bus, with strong little arms shaking branches for effect of the ride on bumpy roads; it became a household with different branches taking on the role of different rooms in the house. It became a beautiful classroom where young minds questioned everything all the time....

And when friends from neighboring homes came in to play, adding on to the army of 10 to 15 cousins in the family, the elders merely smiled and added more raw ingredients into the cooking pot.... a good meal was after all, a must for growing kids.

Dusk was when we ran back into the home, where some aunt or our grandmother would get every child scrubbed clean and into clean clothes. We then were promised some delectable snack ........ after the mandatory "Nama Japam" or evening prayers.

The lady of the house would light a beautiful brass lamp with cotton wicks, and place it at the appropriate location where all of us would gather round on the floor, and with hands folded sing out the comforting prayer songs which we were never taught - we just knew them !!

Of course the promised reward prompted even the naughtiest child to keep his eyes closed for the benefit of the watchful grandparent. Then came the reward. Steaming hot sweetmeats made with all the love in the world, along with a huge glass of warm milk.Needless to say, the pleasure of eating there, sitting cross-legged on the floor, in the company of playmates and grandparents, with not a worry in the world, is an experience I will cherish all my life.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Little drops of heaven

This entry is a part of the contest at in association with

Ever wonder why this oh-so-scientific phenomenon of evaporation and condensation (which we call rain!) causes many unexplained emotions in people?

I know friends who, at the very sight of heavy clouds, get instant memories of a special "someone". I also know friends who become the "Shayar" of the century, doling out Hindi/Urdu words I swear you wouldn't have heard...I become the mushy, lost young adult I was in college - with a silly smile I just cant wipe off! Whether it is a serious meeting, or a time to have a deadpan expression, I still have a grin that won't come off - all because I can feel the rain in the air! (yeah - even in an air conditioned office!!)

What causes this transformation in the highly practical, (read that as mechanical, robotic) materialist world that we are in?

Is it because the hostile weather (especially in Delhi) suddenly seems hospitable? Lets face it - we are far better people in temperatures that give our sweat glands a break.

Or is it because everything looks so green and clean (well, atleast not the drains, but what the heck..!)- just like when we've walked into a newly scrubbed room?

Maybe its because we are nicely snug in our cars with windows rolled up or in our homes with a nice hot cuppa - while there ARE others out there braving the rain. Is it that we start counting our blessings then?

It was in such a reverie that my little one comes running into the house shouting "Its raining! Its raining!"

A-ha! The perfect oppurtunity .... the aquarian scientist in me decides to prove my theory of "Rain syndrome". So I ask my 5-year-old... "Princess, why are you so happy when it rains?"

"Its so nice... drops fall from the heaven. God is playing with water...." Well, better not burst her bubble of happiness I think. But I still prod, wishing her to come up with a practical solution to my theory... "And what else ?......"

She hesitates, looks at me - gauging my temper levels. She must have decided it was safe..... then the apple of my eye says "Also, Mamaa... you come late from office, so we dont have to eat what you cook...Papa orders out!!"

Friday, September 11, 2009


It is so easy to forget what we hold dear to our heart, in the pursuit of what we consider most important to us in life!! It takes a really jolting moment to whack you in the head and tell you - "Hey!! Duniya gaya tel lene, this is important to me!"

I mean we work our butts out trying to get that elusive thing called success. It can be high grades in class for some, a "white collar" job (which automatically elevates you to the 'sir' or 'ma'am' category), all the money that comes with the job for some, being socially and politically correct always....etc.

But there comes a time when suddenly, you are faced with the hard hitting reality that you would give all that up for that SOMETHING / SOMEONE in life - but maybe we are just a tad late..............Is this what they call 'nirvana'? Is this some kind of self actualization that we keep hearing of in motivation theories?

I was in hospital, trying to keep myself free from guilt..... I am what they call a mother. There probably are zillions of poems, songs and stories glorifying my species.

But there is a difference - I am a human!! I make mistakes. One of them can cause so much pain to a one and a half year old baby, sleeping in drugged sleep. Drugged from medicines given to him to get rid of his "germs" - the virus that was causing the dehydration. The hospital staff were giving me dirty looks - i can almost hear what they are thinking..... "How irresponsible!" ....... "Poor child."

- True I am a busy mom (Ping! Point to Guilt)
- But also true that I loved him and did it all for him. (Now, why wasnt that so convincing?)
- He wouldn't be so ill if I was at home, caring for him all the time (Ping! Point Guilt)

........ I was fast losing the battle to guilt. I got a call. The voice at the other end said "I know you must be beating yourself up..... dont do it!" Thats my sister, my friend. The one who made me feel 15 again...."He needs you to be human. Just snap out of it, get your priorities straight, and make those decisions you need to make. But right now, enjoy your time together. He is getting better, right? So thank God, and start living!"

I took a long time off from work..... thought the office guys can go fly a kite. I surely would lose my job.Well, what do you know - the whole team came to see us, assure me they will keep things ship-shape till I join back.

The boss told me to take it easy....................... I was surrounded by optimism...... and I had kept worrying about things that might never happen, only to have things happen I never imagined!! I love my job.......but you know what - I love life much more.

I still have a job I love, but that doesn't make me lose focus on life. Am I compromising on that elusive thing called succes? Finally I realise now - I AM SUCCESSFUL!!