Pushing the train 

“I’ve to do something” I say to myself whenever I face difficulties in life. I hold on to this thought so strongly that I become restless if I fail to solve problems immediately. The delay in finding solutions leads to self doubt which slowly turns into depression. At this stage all my problems look monstrous and I think, “This is the end. I failed miserably.” I always feel solely responsible for the happenings and failures. 

Today I was in one such mood. Suddenly I recollected something which my husband shared with me long time back . As a kid whenever  he traveled by train; he felt if he did not push the train it would not move so he used to sit next to the window and give it a push with all his tiny mighty strength. I thought maybe I’m also trying to push the train. Maybe many of us do? 



My cousin shared an update by her friend on Facebook about Bezawada, in Andhra Pradesh. The writer expressed anguish at what is called Bezawada today, comparing it to the good old days when life was not so fast moving and people found pleasure in simple joys. It was a beautifully written piece. The writer gave a list of landmarks that constituted the city along with its people who made an indelible mark.

As I was reading it another city cropped up in my mind, my Madras; where every landmark has a link to my life. Gandhi beach in rains, Spencer’s, 14 storeyed LIC building ground floor shops, Roman Holiday in Casino theatre, Jaffar’s ice cream, Saraswathi music stores, India hobby centre, Higginbotham’s, Parry’s corner, Mount Road, Central station, Moore market, Kothawal chawadi, Kapaleeswarar temple, Finlay’s showroom organdy sarees, Vummidi jewellers, Peach Melba at  Buhari hotel in Marina and its Juke box, British library, American Consulate, drive-in Woodlands, Eliphinstone theatre, mirrored skirts of Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan, VTI crafts; the list is endless so are my memories.

My daughter who is pursuing her higher studies in USA, presently in India for her field work, shared her perception of Bangalore where she grew up and about Hyderabad where she is now living and working.

All the above talked about different cities and different periods but one common thread in all these is that our city’s landmarks are milestones in our lives that cannot be separated from us. Our cities breathe and travel with us. We would each like to see our city only through our eyes, our memories. Our images of our city are more powerful than real pictures and that is why we refuse to accept the present scenario. It is like someone entering our garden and landscaping it.

Our city changes as days move on, some of us change cities too. We keep filling up our memories with new ones, we do not erase old ones but pile up new ones on these.

Add on milestones for it is an indication of journey, of movement.

Irving stone of course!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ghostwriter.”

The only person who will make my story adorable and unforgettable is undoubtedly Irving Stone.

I would love to see my life come to life in his words. His search for my roots will make it an enjoyable journey. Through his perception I will know who I am.

The very fact that he will write my biography will make it noteworthy.

Are we?

A child who is just 9 years old and a bundle of singing talent, standing devastated with tears in front of judges and a crowd, is a disturbing sight. I am regularly watching a singing competition on television. Children between 6 to 14 years are judged for their singing talent in this programme. This sight of a child standing dazed after listening to the judges’ comments brought back the image of the same child a few weeks ago, bubbling with joy. She was sailing with high spirits and her ravishing smile was as natural as her singing. What happened to that little girl now? Can this child get back her self confidence?
This incident threw up a lot of questions at me. How much ‘self’ is there in self confidence?
Whenever I face a crisis people around cheer me up by saying, “You are such a confident person. You will surely come out of it. Trust me.” Yes, I do come out of crisis and what helps me more than my self confidence, are the words, ‘Trust me’. I too say these words when I want to tell people that they can tackle life with self confidence and I mean it.
I am sure many of us keep going back to survival stories, when we are in doubt, self-doubt. I observed a trait in all survival stories especially when people are left all alone in unbearable conditions. More than self confidence what makes these people win over the situation is their survival instinct. This instinct drives men like nothing else. That is how those who have a fear of water, survive a ship wreck like those with a fear of animals fight against wild beasts when it comes to their survival. This survival instinct makes ordinary men do extraordinary things. Though it is commendable, this kind of survival instinct does not help us during regular crisis management. What helps us in handling routine demanding situations is self confidence.
A person who cooks irresistible dishes produces an average meal under stress. A confident young man stumbles when he walks in front of scrutinizing eyes. A talented performer falters in the presence of highly critical judges. I fumble to do things I am adept at when I know that I will be evaluated for it.
If self confidence is the key then what happens to it when we need it the most? Maybe self confidence is not all about our ‘self’. It is also about people giving us that confidence. People whom we have not met directly and those who surround us, equally inspire us. They put us on our path to success.
I started the process of doing my post graduation, 28 years ago. I had to give it up for various reasons not just once but thrice. Ultimately I took a resolution to complete it and appeared for my examinations. My hands were shivering when I was writing my roll number and I had to hold it tight with my other hand. I went blank when I saw the question paper. I sat back, closed my eyes and tried to recollect what my life partner said while I was leaving for my examination. He said, “It is a cake walk for you.” I opened my eyes and read the question paper again. I started to write and there was no looking back. A post graduation degree that eluded me for two and a half decades fell into my lap with a first class. He uttered just a few words but the confidence it instilled in me took me closer to my goal. Words are not mere words. I feel those who say, “You can do it, go ahead” are as important as my self confidence, to act.
So are we confident enough to face our next challenge?

a song for your thoughts

‘Doe a deer a female deer’, this song from ‘The sound of music’ made me think that music is easy to learn and enjoyable too. ‘Bol re papihara’, Jaya Bhaduri singing this in a cave watching the rain outside, was a beautiful image and I, like many girls of my age then, could easily relate to this character. ‘Zindagi hasne gaane ke liye hai pal do pal’ pushed me to explore life.
Yes, you got it right. I am saying that if you have an ear for music, you would come across songs for every situation of your life.
I can see many hands going up when I say that rains are more enjoyable when we listen to rain songs. One rain song that brings a downpour of memories is a beautiful number by Asha Bhonsle from the Hindi film Priyatama, ‘Cham cham barse ghata’. As a teenager with dreamy eyes, experiencing my first love; listening to this song in the incessant rains of Madras, made it a memorable one.
Some songs, especially when I listen at mornings, set the mood for the day. One such infectious song is ‘Senthazham Poovil Vanthadum Thendral En Meedhu Mothuthamma’. It is no wonder that I keep humming it throughout the day. Before television came into our lives, listening to songs and studying was quite common. There was a certain joy listening to songs on radio as that was the only other option to record players. I was thrilled whenever a particular favourite was played on the radio. I vividly recall one afternoon when I was preparing for an examination, I heard P.Susheela’s soulful rendition of ‘Rayinaina kaakapothini Rama paadam sokaga’. I rushed to my neighbor’s house from where this song was being played. That song and the emotions of the singer has consoled and brought me out of my gloominess on several occasions. S.Janaki’s ‘Thookam un kangalai thazhuvattume’ is so comforting that I can sleep peacefully whatever the turmoil within me. Equally powerful are the inspirational songs like, ‘Unnai arinthal indha ulagathil poradalam’, ‘Ruk jaana nahin tu kahin har ke’ and ‘Saathi hath badana, ek akela thak jayega’. Each generation is inspired by such motivational songs.
Melodious songs are for all seasons. A tiresome day and a tired body rejuvenates with melody caressing our ears. Sometimes we just allow music to take us over and do not pay much attention to lyrics. Just listen to A.R.Rehman’s ‘Salaam Bombay’ number from the musical, ‘Bombay dreams’ and you will understand this. Never before had I experienced this kind of haunting music. It kept ringing even in my dreams.
When I am talking of songs, I have to mention the lullabies I sang for my kids. These are some of the most unforgettable moments of my life. Though my children are grown up now and left home to create their own world, the song ‘Laali laali, vatapatra sai ki varahaala laali’ brings tears instantly with the memories of their childhood.
I cry, laugh, enjoy, hum and live music. I am sure each individual will have his own favorites and every family its own list. Can we forget the cult family song of 1970s, ‘Yaadon ki baarat’?
I am giving below links to some songs that I mentioned here. How can I deny you the joy of searching music so I have omitted the links for other songs that I wrote about.

http://youtu.be/CBH9fnYP7mc – cham cham barse ghata
http://youtu.be/RBBWjwiks4g – rayinaina kakapothini
http://youtu.be/Q9tIxBYZO8g – salaam bombay
http://youtu.be/lpRL0kRehEA – vatapatra sai ki


island of isolation

Loneliness is not a healthy state to be in. Can we blame anyone if we are lonely? We cannot but that is what we do. We fail to see that it is our failing and keep falling into deeper dungeons of darkness. One entity takes monstrous form during this period, our SELF PITY.
I was alone as a child though I was surrounded with people. My parents, brothers and the continuous flow of guests, relatives and friends could not cheer me up when I felt lonely. As I grew up I realized the need to interact more with people. I slowly created a large circle of acquaintances. Yes that was what they were, people just known to me. I just went with the flow of their daily activities. I tagged along with my neighbors on their shopping spree, played games with them, learnt craft and competed to finish it faster. I accompanied the stream of relatives on their hospital visits and sight seeing sprees. Sometimes I was compulsorily attached to wedding groups who shopped till they dropped. I also had a large circle of cousins who were settling abroad. Initially I joined them for their shopping. Later on I completed their unfinished business, booked tickets, collected their shopping orders and did all other sundry jobs for them. In this process I learnt a lot, something about everything. When I look back what I recollect is that it did not matter to me whether it was my job or others. All I needed was some activity to keep me engaged. Apart from keeping me occupied this phase also added new dimensions to my character. Among other things I picked up patience which otherwise I would have never learnt.
As my life moved forward I left behind many of these people and the activities. I raced with time to tend to my family. Today when the nest is almost empty, loneliness is engulfing me again. How did I reach to this state? It was a process of elimination that landed me in this island. I eliminated people because I could not vibe with them. Some I lost along with the cities I lived earlier. I could not accommodate some people because the wavelength was different. My strong opinions about how to live, cut me off from some more. My convictions did some more damage. I could not do something if I was not convinced about it. I considered flexibility as a sign of weakness. Unknowingly I was removing the sources of my interactions, one by one. Ultimately I lost contact with a majority of humankind in this selection process.
I realize now that what I learnt as a youngster, were valuable life lessons. People possess disparate world of thoughts. The differences are not their shortcomings. I was searching for me in others and that was futile. It is the variety that makes the world spicier. I lost this simple truth hence people also. With this thought dawning on me, I think I will be coming out of my imprisonment of isolation, pretty fast.
Interesting times ahead!

customary sip

My love affair with coffee started when I was very young. I cannot recollect enjoying any other drink than coffee. When someone says that they do not drink coffee all I can say is ‘Pity them, they know not what they miss’.

As a youngster my most enjoyable moments were sitting near a window with a book in my left hand and a coffee in my right. Also add a dash of melodious music playing on a radio near me. Is it not a perfect moment of bliss?

Even after marriage, kids and hectic work my love towards coffee did not diminish. Actually I stole time in the early mornings to have one exhilarating coffee. The memory of me sitting on the steps of my house with a freshly brewed coffee in my favourite mug is still fresh in my thoughts. Instead of music there used to be the chirping of birds. It was my time and my space. This one coffee gave me a push to face the mad rush of the remaining day.

I took up a job at a later stage in life. Not to mention the other coffee lovers became my best colleagues. This common bond made us work together for long hours without any complaints. On the contrary we enjoyed working like that with passion and coffee.

Anyone with a little bit of imagination could tell that my most favourite joint was a coffee shop. From India Coffee House to Cafe Coffee Day, Barista and any coffee shop that boasts of fresh coffee was on my list of favourite things. I had some wonderful meetings taking place at these shops. One such meeting that I can never forget was with a student of mine. It made me think a lot about my work  He met me incidentally at a coffee shop when I was with a friend of mine. He asked me about my job and was pretty disappointed when I said I was looking after the administration of a school and also taught occasionally. He said, “No, no, you should be a full time teacher. Do not give up teaching.” Even before leaving he said, “Mam I am not convinced. I still feel you should remain a teacher. I can never forget what you taught us.” In my moments of joy and despair at work I keep remembering him and his words.

There were many changes in life. Slowly we shifted from filter coffee to instant coffee. This was inevitable with everyone having a busy schedule and running to different corners of the city. The family of five has become six now with the inclusion of my daughter by choice, that is my eldest son’s wife. She also shares our common love for coffee. The family members are living in different cities now. Whenever we come together we bring back those happy moments with….. you are right with a cup of coffee.

Over the years an important development took place. I do not prepare coffee anymore. Instead my life partner makes it for me and others, when they are with us. He wakes me up with a cup of hot coffee, every morning. Recently I stopped having coffee due to health reasons but I definitely have the customary sip to start my day.