Story of a lost journalist

July 7, 2015

Why I fast for Ramzan

Filed under: My Musing Moments,Personal — Cris @ 13:40

This is the fifth year I fast for Ramzan, my fasting not all that proper (I take water). I have been asked a lot why I fast, for I declare most fervently I don’t belong to any religion. And that is exactly the reason I fast.

From the time I did not quite know the meaning of equality or the idea of fairness, I have quietly murmured when I heard lines like you are a girl, go help in the kitchen. And it is exactly those words that made me stay away from the kitchen for so long. I refused to wear earrings and deliberately kicked stones when I walked because someone would then comment that’s what boys do. There has always been the strongest of feelings to do these, and not fall into a stereotype.

When I grew up, I understood there was nothing wrong in thinking the way most people did, in being a cliché, as long as it was original, genuine, real. So if I wanted to cook, I could. Clean, or love dresses. Be pink. And if I wanted to play video games all day or watch a cricket match at 3 in the night, I could do that too.

The gender stereotype was easier to solve, at least in my mind, but the religious one, not so. All through my adult years, I would cringe every time I heard the mention of a religion. When someone would inevitably separate a small group sitting with their coffee, into many – “You Muslims, We Hindus, You Buddhists, We Christians.” Stop with the yous and wes, I would grit my teeth and not utter my irritation. But it would swell up.

I hated even giving my name because immediately, they would associate me with a religion, or maybe a caste too. I now watch happily when confused brows go up and down, hearing my name that could belong to any religion. Some would then ask my parents’ names. And when I keep declaring my non-religious status, they dig all the way to my grandparents and great grandparents. “Surely, someone would have had a religion?”

There was this urgent need in me to disassociate with any particular religion.  So I would visit churches, wear sandal paste on my forehead, and fast for Ramzan. The following of rituals is more in need to disassociate from every religion, than to follow one. The labels just had to go. Only ‘human’ should remain. To be one in a world without religion or colour or caste or race or gender or class or the many other differences, one John Lennon dreamed of. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.

May 30, 2014

Meeting Dan, Growing Up

Filed under: life,Personal — Cris @ 20:02

It’s dark outside Kedaram, a shopping complex I may have gone to twice or thrice in all my years in Trivandrum. But it’s the middle spot we chose to meet, Dan and I. I look at my watch, 19-O- 1. I remember the blog lines in Ruminations – I hate people who do not respect others time. Whew, I feel good I made it. Dan’s name is on my phone now. “I am just parking,” she says. She is new here, in my land. It’s taken me three months just to drag Kweeki (my scooter) and come to see Dan. Why do we always push these things, when they are so easy? I step outside to direct Dan. 10 little steps, after five long years. Was it five or longer? I can’t be sure. There were so many of us back then. Writing and reading, commenting, sharing, making friends and favorites without knowing it. I shared Dan’s blog in mine and called it: Dhanya, good girl n good blog. I don’t know which post of her made Dan a good girl to me, or which words, a friend. But standing outside Kedaram, and waving to a smiling face across the road, I could sense no first meeting anxieties, no first lines to say forming in my head. I wait, happily, for a girl I knew for years.

 

dan n meDan and me

“Park cheyaan paadupetto?” (Was it difficult to park?) I ask, like an everyday line to an everyday mate. She smiles, she speaks her Thrissur Malayalam. Surprised I know littler of a Trivandrum than her. “This is a part I rarely come to” I get defensive. We take our Kedaram juices. I want more. I want to get her a packet of Trivandrum Bolis she has heard about so much. The Sri Ananthapuri veg restaurant I drag her to has none. But we smell hot dosas and sit for two. She asks: “Weren’t you the one afraid to meet new people?”
“Yes, that’s me. I am,” I smile. “Weren’t you afraid to meet me?” she asks. “No, I never was.”

I am not sure why. I tell her I might have been a little nervous with Ush, another blog friend dear to us both. “But you, I always knew are a paavam”. “I see” she says. Is there in her face, a bit of that proper reservation one has for first time meetings. Am I speaking too much and too casually? I wonder but I go on about a trip I want to make. About how she should make more visits to the city, and that she will like it then.

I wonder now if I let her speak at all. Is that my way of dealing with first time visits? Speak too much and present myself unintelligent and then feel safe. Safe that the cover is gone. They know me now. I remember the first line I told Deepak, after four years of phone and chat conversations. “Nee aano Deepak” Are you Deepak? But that awkwardness went away with our first meeting. I would now see Deepak at a café next to my office with his wife and brother, and say: “Wow chocolate brownie, give me some!” With Dan, the first meeting awkwardness was not there. For me. I don’t know if I created it for her. For some reason, I am finding it easier to be me, the unreserved saying-what-comes-to-mind me, as years pass by. “Behave when you are outside,” my colleague would always murmur when I spin my skirt around and sing absently at the chayakada down our office. I forget to be conscious, I forget to be ashamed. I think I am growing up. Here at last is old age, with my second childhood.

March 26, 2013

What a girl wants

Filed under: Diary,Personal — Cris @ 15:21

Was one heck of a week. I thought this blog was going to turn into a sort of Mumbai Chronicles, with me recording the progress I make each day, adapting to a new city. But turns out it’s going to be a Trivandrum Journal for a little while longer. See that song above, that about sums it up. Well, not the context, but the feeling. It’s funny how the things you went away for are suddenly the exact same reasons you want to come back for. Namely, the newness. Really, of all the sayings in the world, the grass is always greener on the other side, has got to be the best, no matter how clichéd it is. I went for newness, I got it, and I couldn’t stand it. I yearned for the familiar old life. I threw all away, came back and now can’t help but miss the newness every passing minute. Returning to an old life that you had mentally resigned from is a painful exercise. Really. This is one of those solution-free problems. Simply cause I have no idea what I want anymore. Hmm, maybe this is enlightenment.

December 25, 2012

Online Offline

Filed under: life,Personal — Cris @ 23:22

Not quite time for a yearender but just realized I met four of my online friends in person this year. Just came back after meeting Binu Ninan, blog friend for five or six years, and birthday sharer. Last month met Madhavankutty Pillai, online friend for more than a year. A little before that, met Preethi Krishnan, friend from a google group and a rare g-chat. And before that met Roshni Raghavan, email friend for six years!

Problem with meeting online friends is you have become so comfortable having a computer in front of you to talk to them, you feel nervous about actually presenting a real human form for the other. With a real voice and a real face. It’s almost like going on stage. People are expecting something from you, can you give that? It’s not like they expect a star. But years of knowing each other would naturally build an image of what someone is like. What if it shatters with one look at you, one little conversation? When you stutter and stammer and blush for absolutely no reason, wouldn’t they feel terribly disappointed?

I don’t know about the others, but for me, each meeting has been really rewarding. I felt closer to all of them. Felt a better connection. And none of them appeared unsure, they chatted like long-time buddies. Only thing is I haven’t met any of them for a second time, yet. Gulp. Hope the connection was not entirely one-sided :D.

Rosh and Preethi are both really smart women with really strong views about life. I am a lot scared about meeting people I tag as intellectuals but both these girls had made it so easy for me. Good thing about smart people is they know to tone down their smartness to meet the level of those they meet. So Preethi and I chatted three long hours about everything unintellectual in the world. Was no different from talking to an old school friend. Rosh I somehow imagined to have a really tough voice and a tall frame. She turned out to be tiny and squeaky and adorable. But I missed her funny quips, possibly because I didn’t give her time to chat. I was talking non-stop.

With Kutty Pillai, I turned out to be the absolute shy and non-speaking mess I was afraid I’d be. Thankfully I had given him the exact image before. So no surprises there. He was nicer than I expected, I somehow had a grrgrry image of him always looking angry for no reason. Binu Ninan was easily the friends material I could be myself with. Mainly because he laughed at everything I said. I made a major discovery, laughter is the best medicine for shyness. So next time I feel shy I am just going to laugh non-stop. I might need to remember the sound of Manu’s funny car-horn or one of those just-for-laugh gags or else Maverick’s balloon blowing.

And on that note I stop with a ho ho ho and a merry Christmas to y’all 🙂

May 21, 2012

Rosily-ing

Filed under: Personal — Cris @ 18:53

Friendship should be an easy game to play. You shouldn’t have to be careful about what you say or not. You shouldn’t have to be afraid to be your careless indifferent and sometimes totally intolerable self. That’s why seeing Rosily after four long years was so easy. It didn’t matter I had to take a train to Alappuzha at 6am or come back shaking in a throwy KSRTC for four hours. Cause Rosily was going to be Rosily even if I had missed her wedding, even if I hadn’t called her for months, even if I forgot the name of her husband!

She was there at that Kuttanad doorstep as if she had spent all her life there. This tiny girl who sat near me as a 16-year-old, her long plaits dangling on the navy blue uniform skirt, her wise eyes probing much deeper into the lessons others frowned at and I yawned at. The girl I knew was going heights even as we teased her Thrissur ‘chirri’ and squeaky protests. We wrote letters between Surat and Trivandrum at an age kids learnt of stamps and inlands in history lessons.

We had decided together never to get married. I’d change my mind sometimes but she stuck to her word until another marriage-hater came to her life. Together the BARCers decided to experience the other side of life. “Like my dad said, you have to know the difficulties in life to appreciate it,” Rosily told me happily, playing with her one-year-old Selin and patting her newborn Jerome. I still couldn’t believe my friend has become a mother of two. She was still so Rosily. So genuine. So happily admitting her realities with a pure heart I seldom see. “Her articles are nice and crisp (about me to her husband). I like it. But I got bored reading her blog.” I had to laugh. Her husband (whose name I still don’t know!) was another Rosily (yes she has become an adjective now, my favorite too). He would gladly take little Selin and ‘Babba’ her for hours. Selin Babba walks unsteadily all across the house, always stopping to exchange gaga-gugus with the strange visitor in the house. Jerome opened his little eyes to smile at the guest and go back to sleep.

Walking out of the open house was as easy as coming in. There were no formalities, no stay-a-little-longers. It was perfect. I walked through the roadless paths outside, inviting attention from the women who washed and cooked outside their houses that stood along dirty brown streams and countless green trees. I walked till I found a road. But the water never stopped flowing alongside. I so wanted to bend and catch some drops when I came to Punnamada Lake. But I pretended to be another grave visitor who watched the lake and the Nehru Pavilion, and was interested in boating for hours on stretch. I managed to not throw my eyeballs out when the friendly boatman named his price. 13000 for a houseboat which I wanted to enter. I had to do with staring ahead at the distant ends of the water which I imagined was really just a straight black line like the one I drew in my notebooks.

April 19, 2012

Divsu

Filed under: Diary,Personal — Cris @ 02:26

It’s been many years now (here I am tempted to wrinkle my brows like Old Rose and say ‘but I can still smell the fresh paint’).  Picture a typical hostel room. Picture girls’ only. Picture Chalakudy. That was my three-day stint at NSS. I can’t smell the paint – I doubt they used any. Neither retrace the faces. But I can remember a thin rope on top of our bed for wet clothes. And a pair of protective little hands silently lullabying my nights. Divsu.

Semester end exams were on and we sneaked in an extended-stay-over under the tag of ‘combine study’. Every night the clock would go racing from 9 and 10 to 11 on the little yellow timepiece Divsu worshipped. It’s like seconds were not seconds anymore, they became incredibly micro-er! Divsu and I would move like snails across our textbook pages, 10 words an hour, five when there’s group study. At this point – when it’s 11pm dot – Divsu springs up from the bed and rushes to the clock. She toys with it till it’s 9 again. “That way, I wont be sleepy,” she says happily, comes back to bed and falls like a log in five minutes, clutching tight her book of computer graphics. I watch and do the slow wave-of-head that I see in sitcoms.

I have a habit of using first letters in place of names in the blog but Divsu just wouldn’t be Divsu if you don’t call her Divsu. Over the years I have come to the practice of giving my own nickname to all my friends. But for Divsu, it’s just the perfect name. There’s no particular occasion that I should be talking of this wonderful little package that came to my life in those backbench days… which saw us from barely talking to each other to becoming bread and butter. Hmm is that an expression now? It should be!

I may have stressed the word little a bit here. It’s no accident, Divsu is tiny. Now I could be a little generous with my adjectives, especially when they are for me. So when I say I am way taller than her, I mean two or three inches. Divsu claims it’s lesser. I claim that’s when she jumps.

I suppose it started – this Divsu talk – when I was looking at the clock leave midnight way too early for my liking and silently whining about the injustice of time. Ok not so silent perhaps. I had to finish a couple of assignments before bed and I was nowhere close. All the time talk and the impatient hands of the living room clock brought back memories of Divsu’s tiny timepiece. I opened the document to whine about time lost, and ended up smiling at pieces I left behind to the same lost time, somewhere a little further behind. Is this what they call irony? I have never been able to get that word right. But back to my work now. Good night Divsu.

November 23, 2011

For KT

Filed under: Personal — Cris @ 02:36

Was by chance I checked google reader today and saw an update on KT’s blog. Happily went to read it first, having waited a long time after her last post in September. Read seriously the post written about losing ‘Amma’ to cancer. I thought it really sad that mother and daughter had the same disease – KT too has cancer. I also thought that this was not at all KT’s style of writing. It was when I went through the comments that it suddenly struck me – the blog was not written by KT, but her child. Which meant, the Amma in the post was KT…

I went back to reading on and on again. I didn’t want to believe it. The commenters had to be mistaken. Desperately I wrote asking whoever blogged it, to tell me if it is true.

I had to somehow prove it couldn’t be so. I was sure she just emailed me last month. No, that was in July. What other proof did I have? We never talked on phone or sms-ed. All our talks were on the internet. Except the one time we met. She wanted to meet the volunteers of TidyCity to discuss a project. It never took off. But I was so pleased when she wrote about us and, me in particular on her blog. (http://pareltank.blogspot.com/2009/12/my-triple-century-in-blogsphere.html)

 

“And I had the pleasantly strange experience of meeting my blogger friend in flesh and blood. Crisgirl or cris seetha. She was everything I thought she’d be. And more. A a petite, smart and soft-spoken girl…”

 

The blog that I throw upon everyone boasting the kind of intellect and smartness and sense of humor a Malayali middle-aged woman possessed. I somehow felt so proud when people said thanks for giving them the link of such a wonderful writer. I told Amma, see she’s blogging on her own, you could do it too.

I first landed on KT’s blog from silverine’s. It was a post about shaping eyebrows. I immediately fell in love with her language. I imagined she was a young thing in college (I didn’t realize she was narrating an old episode from her life). Hers became the first blog I checked everyday. My favorites were her lighter veins. Those days I tried to run multiple blogs and one was to review interesting blogs. I wrote about KT’s. She thanked me. I started regularly commenting on her blog. I was on cloud 9 on days she would visit mine and leave a comment. And cloud 18 when she would sometimes say ‘well-said’ or well-written. Meant so much to me.

In one of our first emails, she said I could call her KT like I did in my comments. Or Molly if I preferred it. I chose KT. We’d write occasionally. I remember suggesting some stuff for her blog design and she first claimed to be tech-unsavvy but later managed to make it so beautiful.

After reading one of her posts on English-speaking, I wrote to her telling, I sometimes stutter when I am nervous. She wrote back saying she was so till recently; but the important thing was to concentrate on “what” was to be said than “how”.

And when she made a post about missing Trivandrum, she had mentioned our TidyCity – http://pareltank.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-miss-trivandrum.html

I learnt she had cancer from one of her blog entries. But her later posts were so packed with energy and enthusiasm and knowledge, you’d think cancer is just another cold cause she seemed able to brush it off with her little hanky.

 

Whenever I emailed her, I got a pretty fast response. So I worried a little when I couldn’t find an update for so long on her blog. But I didn’t email her. I brushed it off as silly. She could get busy, she could be traveling or in the US like last year. Or maybe she was just fed up of blogging. Maybe that’s just what it is now. Maybe that’s what I will believe it to be. Cause KT just has to be there.

 

And I didn’t know this, but KT, you meant a lot.

 

 

August 25, 2011

Brothers Karamazov and Ajayan Sir

Filed under: Books,Personal — Cris @ 00:30

“Where are you?” Ajayan Sir, in his long jubba and trying-to-look-serious eyes peering above his specs, would ask every morning when we meet in office. I smile and reply “Alyosha had a long talk with Ivan.”

Ajayan Sir’s eyes would lose all the seriousness it mustered and brighten up. “What a scene! And Dmitry… what a character don’t you think?”

Yes I do.

It was one of the most wonderful gifts I got. Brothers Karamazov. Ajayan Sir, who kept showering praises on the book and rebuked me for not having read it, one day placed it on my hands. I first gathered he was lending it. But then he said he bought a copy to gift me. But alas if I were half as expressive as Dostoyevsky I could have told him what it meant to me. And what it meant to be talking about it everyday. He’d tell me “I ask my daughter the same question. Where are you? And her mother has no idea what we are talking about.”

The book took me into it for all the three long weeks I have been with it. This is the problem with big novels and storylines. We are in the midst of it for so long it is difficult to fathom we are not anymore. I can still feel surrounded by the Karamazov brothers on all sides, different scenes flashing across my eyes… the crazy and funny father running around, making a mess of everything… the innocent but violent Mitya, the indifferent but thoughtful Ivan, the all too angelic (too good for my taste) Alyosha…. And the other characters. I was disappointed with both the women characters – Grushenka and Katya. They were represented as strong characters but I could not see any character in either of them. Sad. My liking for a book – biased as it may be – depends a whole lot on women characters. But here, the women though play a vital role did not somehow come into the crust. Even Smerdyakov (I never thought I will get his spelling right) – the man servant at the father’s house has a stronger impact in fewer scenes. And Ilyosha… oh dear, when Ajayan Sir said it made him cry, I had no clue. But little Ilyosha, his miserable dad and mom and sisters and all those boys… gloom!

Well I didn’t plan to write anything on the book except that the whole thing was special to me. It being gifted most unexpectedly, the three weeks of reading it, the inevitable discussions next morning… I will remember this book forever for more reason than one.

August 19, 2011

Johnson Master

Filed under: Diary,Personal — Cris @ 12:02

“I am Cris, Sir.”

“So the girl with you must be Pris (pointing to Anthrappan),” he joked. We laughed. I got his phone number to do an interview. When I called him later, he was coughing. “I am not so well today, call me tomorrow can you?”

But I didn’t call. And I never got to interview Johnson Master.

Anthrappan called me last night and told me in a breaking voice, “Johnson Master’s gone”. The first thought that crossed my mind was how will Amma take this? Even last day she was going on about how Johnson’s music with its ‘naadan shaili’ and Salil Choudhary’s remain her favourite. I was at the time excited about interviewing another all-time favourite Jerry Amaldev. Johnson Master is the next I’d interview, I decided. He was only 58, I had no clue life would so cruelly depart from one of the most melodious men so soon :-(.

It is not his songs that first endeared him to me. It is the background score of Thoovanathumbikal that Nish taught me and the two of us used to hum for hours. Lalala lalala… and then Namakku Paarkam Munthirithoppukal had an equally striking background score. It must be two strips of music I have most listened to in my MP3 Player.

But then eventually many songs I fell in love with was by Johnson Master.

Etho janmakalpanayil….
Swapnam verumoru swapnam….
Priyatharamaakum oru naadham…
Aadi vaa katte…
Kannukalil pooviriyum…
Swarnamukile…
Anuragini…   Ariyathe…..
Neram mangiya neram….
Kunnimanicheppu thurannenni nokkum neram…
Aakashagopuram…
Devangangal…. (somehow when I start singing this I end up in Anuragini… same ragam?)
Oonjaalurangi…
Maanathe vellitheril…
Enthe kannanithra karuppu niram…
Oru naal shubarathri…

Too many… wanted to write a tribute to him. But I am not sure how to do that. Really sad he stayed away from Malayalam music for long. We lost so many good songs. And so many more to have come. Will miss you lots Johnson Master.

June 17, 2011

Do or dare – Rathinirvedam

Filed under: Personal — Cris @ 01:14

Never in my life shall I think that something daring would add another laurel to your crown, or earn a pat on your shoulder. What it does is earn a big red face and a redder demeanor.

When colleague K called me to accompany her for Rathinirvedam I didn’t think much of it. She is our film journo and had to do a story on release day. Went along, a little sad at having to miss lunch (have become gigantic eater since touching Ernakulam. Suspect Ekm soil is made of hunger-trigger material to fatten poor outsiders).

Sensed trouble on nearing cinema hall when guys saw our rickshaw and started shouting “Chechi no more tickets” and laughed aloud. Oh oh. Stepping into the cinema hall was like walking on fire! Good gracious all eyes were on us. Not a single woman, no girls. All men, men, men! We entered like aliens and sat like zombies. I tried to pretend I had to attend a call and couldn’t see all the people staring at us. K tried to bury herself in her seat and look invisible. My seat – it was one of my lucky days – happened to be a little raised, making sure everyone saw my head, tall and high, right in the front.

I tried to dissolve into one side of my seat, away from all of human race. A little later, two older women entered the hall and the whole crowd was acting so excited. They were booing and yelling at the top of their voice. Oh my! I wished I could meet Jerry and borrow that invisible lotion he uses to trick Tom.

Two hours of this. And then the end credits roll. I look at K, K looks at me. There is the ordeal of getting out – which would include standing up on two legs and announcing pretty loudly our visibility. We tried to duck into our seats till they all left. But the security guard shouted “Hey get out, don’t create a block by sitting there”. He did that on purpose, like holding a torch against our faces and uncovering our anonymity. Men who passed us made loud n snide remarks on the movie. For us to hear. Addressed to us.

And as we walk out pasting brave expressions on our faces (mine meant suppressing the silly grin that would break open every few seconds) we see to our horror, some media cameras shooting the happy audience. Oh crap there goes my brave front. Am sure the grin is completely out now. And to worsen it, a horrid little man jumps at us with his mic and asks us how the movie was. K, the braver of the two, replies that we are also from the press. We hurry out to the streets to be greeted by passers by with a scowl or smirk.

No Siree, no more dares for moi. Not in this life, not in the next!

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