A place called freedom

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Like all other trees in the neighborhood, the big mango tree standing proud and erect in front of my house too had started shedding its leaves. The fresh green leaves that had been the epitome of life a few months back, had gradually started acquiring a yellow hue and finally one by one, they started to wither and fall off to the hard earth below, under the contemptuous gaze of the young, green leaves basking in the sunlight.

Well… dead leaves need to be cleared away and just the other day, I had embarked upon the particular task. A few swishes with the broom and suddenly it was as though I stumbled upon pure magic! I had inevitably disturbed a whole cluster of ‘appuppan thadis’ (known as Pappus in English which is nowhere as romantic as its Malayalam name). They were till then securely lying under the protective cover of the dry leaves. Thrilled by the first taste of freedom and spurred by the gentle breeze that was on, these charming winged seeds which resemble the long, white beard of a grandfather, started their individual journey towards unfamiliar places…

As I wistfully stood and watched them soar away to invisibility, somewhere I realized my innate desire to fly free like these winged beauties… to travel to lands unknown, to places unseen, to mountains and lakes and forests and valleys… to be one with nature and to drink in its splendor… to embark on a journey to discover myself…to a place called freedom!

The Friday Presence

Come Friday morning and he used to be present at our gates for alms, without fail. In fact, these visits were so regular that very often we used to realize the dawn of a Friday only by his presence.

 

Lanky and dark, the frail man well past his prime, was always dressed shabbily in a tattered lungi and a full shirt, both of which had seen better days. A makeshift bag created from old scraps of cloth was slung down his stooping shoulders. Perhaps it held all his worldly possessions that had been painstakingly collected through the passage of time…With an unsteady gait, the bent skeletal figure tightly gripped the metal frame of the gate as though for support, and rattled the latch so as to announce his arrival to the household.

More than the sound made by the rattling of the latch, it was a deep hollow cough which made us aware of his arrival. As I went out with a few rupees in my hands, I would often witness acute spasms of dry, racking cough that would hit his frail body, causing him to bend over and gasp for breath. He would accept the money that I handed out to him, acknowledge his gratitude by raising his bony hands to his forehead, and depart as insignificantly as he came.

Some Fridays, he looked really ill, and as I went out to give him the customary money, he would show me a medical prescription, indicating the need to buy medicines. Some other days, it would be a wound on his leg which required a doctor’s attention. Then I had to go back to get some more money that I would hand over to him. But sometimes, in my hurry to finish off the morning’s chores before starting off to work, I would willfully choose to ignore the plea in his eyes. I would then see him slowly head towards other homes in our neighborhood, anticipating the generosity of yet another household.

The familiar Friday face is no longer to be seen.It has been a few months now since his visits stopped, and often I wonder where he is… Could it be that he is too ill to move about to make money for his daily bread? Could it be that he has relocated to another place to visit other homes every Friday? Or could it be that he has finally found a blissful release from the miseries of this world?

Wish I knew….

An Honest Thiruvathira Confession

Greetings to all those lovely Malayalee women who are celebrating Thiruvathira today. Essentially a ladies festival, while most of the customs and rituals followed during olden times remain extinct due to obvious reasons, I find that by and large, the spirit of this festival is maintained even today.

Come Thiruvathira, and my mother starts off on a nostalgic trip. She travels to a time when Thiruvathira was celebrated with a lot more of enthusiasm. The day started off well before dawn with a group of family members consisting of ladies and children  setting off towards the village pond to bathe in its wintry waters,  singing special rhythmic songs, and starting off the day on a happy note. The early morning Shiva temple visit along with other ladies (siblings,cousins,friends) was something they looked forward to. Rice and rice products were abstained from and the diet was kept simple with wheat items like upma/kanji accompanied by a puzhukku  (a dish made of tubers, red cow peas, raw banana, coconut, etc) and fried pappadam. The highlight of the meal was the sweet prepared from fresh arrowroot powder, jaggery, and coconut scrapings called Koova Payasam. The meal was served in fresh green plantain leaves in a very auspicious manner. Afternoons usually saw groups of ladies assembled in the tharavadu, for the thiruvathirakali session.  In her aged mind, all the fun and gaiety she used to be a part of, as a child, and later, as a young woman, are still fresh.

I have a confession to make. I do have fond childhood memories of a Thiruvathira spent with cousins and relatives in the same village, but then I don’t share the same enthusiasm of my mother when it comes to observing rituals.

Today, Thiruvathira seems to be more about draping myself in a Kerala saree to the workplace, gorging on hot chapathis and yummy Aalu gobi for lunch instead of the mundane rice and sambar. Thiruvathirakkali that is being telecast in TV doesn’t interest me and I have absolutely no idea about what all plants constitute the ‘Dashapushpam’. As for waking up at an unearthly hour in the morning to bathe… heaven forbid! I seriously do not have the time or inclination in the morning to cut up all those tubers and veggies to prepare puzhukku, which is hardly a personal favorite. I do relish the sweet and sticky Koova Payasam, but no force on earth can make me take up the laborious process of converting the fresh arrowroots into powder form, and  finally stand hours in front of the cooking stove, stirring the mixture to its gooey perfection. … I salute my mother and all the ladies who still go about all these tasks cheerfully. But I am sorry, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Maybe I am getting to a point where I have started disregarding a lot of our traditional customs and rituals for the sake of convenience. Perhaps it has got to do with the fact that unlike the previous era, there is no ‘fun’ element anywhere, since most of the festivals are celebrated alone sans the company of children, siblings, cousins, extended family, or friends; Perhaps I detest moving away from my set schedules and lifestyle, even if it is for a single day; or perhaps I am just too plain lazy!

 

Sankalp ‘Crafts’n Weaves’ Sneak Peek – Stall No: 35

Sankalp ‘Crafts’n Weaves’ Edition 12
10, 11 December, 2016, Rotary Balbhavan
Panampilly Nagar, Kochi.

Sumi is a Kochi based talented jewellery designer who creates  beautiful Ethnic and Bohemian Jewellery. She would be exhibiting her beautiful handmade creations for our Kochi event in Stall No. 35.

Do check these out…

Sankalp – Kochi Beckons…

Recently, Linkedin reminded me that it was the 7th work anniversary of Sankalp. Time definitely flies! 7 years have passed smoothly and today, we are all set to unveil the 12th Edition of Sankalp ‘Crafts’n Weaves’ at Kochi, in December.

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The 12th Edition ‘Crafts’n Weaves’ will be showcasing a whole lot of unique products brought in by about 50 talented Women artists and entrepreneurs from various parts of state and beyond. There are products ranging from embroidered and hand worked designer sarees, stylish kurtis’, and other garments to handmade jewellery, home linen, bags, home decor, craft items, crochet work, terrariums,  kidswear, and other stuff which may not be available commercially. A major attraction at the event will be yummy home cooked food, which includes cakes, cookies, chocolates, pickles, and a lot many other delicacies.

Kochi is a wonderful place filled with a whole lot of positive energy. I know people complain about the metro work, the noise, the pollution, the crowded roads, the traffic blocks, etc… but every time I drive to Kochi, i am engulfed by a positive energy which inspires and motivates me tremendously. I like Kochi. The people are warm and receptive, and very helpful in nature. As usual, like previous years, the Crafts’n Weaves will be held at the Rotary Balbhavan situated at Panampilly Nagar in Kochi. It certainly is one of the best locations in Kochi, and i must say, has been very lucky for us.

I know for sure that this event is going to be a super duper success and i already can visualize the happy, smiling, and contented faces of all the participants who would be going back with a happy heart and a heavy pocket… and that is one weight no one will complain about   🙂

Sankalp – Team Power

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We are all set to enter the 12th Edition of Sankalp ‘Crafts’n Weaves’…. December it is, at Kochi, and with the official confirmation to be brought out soon, i am really excited!

Was checking through some  old photographs of our previous Kochi Sankalp Edition 9, and i must say, all that i could remember were the absolutely fun moments.. with a  ‘fun’tastic team! I am not exaggerating when i say that the best part of Sankalp is its absolutely energetic team of enthusiastic youngsters who liven up the show!

Meet the awesome team members of Sankalp who ensures that the event runs smoothly without any hitches…

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Varun

Varun is the perfectionist of our team, the rule enforcer who manages to keep a strict vigil throughout the days of the event, and makes sure to maintain the right amount of balance between ‘work’ and ‘fun’.

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Sujith

Sujith is our official trouble shooter who is a wiz at solving networking errors. Along with Jithin, he takes care of the card payment gateway.

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Reshma

Reshma is in charge of the Sankalp public relations. Make no mistake about this pretty, dimpled smile, she can be real tough if the need arises…

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Sachin

Sachin, with a keen eye for creative beauty, is our official photographer of the event. With a budding career in photography, he is never too busy for Sankalp.

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Jithin

An ever smiling face, this is a young man who has the rare talent to make others laugh and feel at ease. Jithin, along with Sujith, handled the payment gateway.

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Sudheesh

Sudheesh has a high maturity level and can responsibly  handle any task given to him. He is our official team finance manager.

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Vishnu

Vishnu is a really talented person who has a very creative outlook. He also handles our photography along with Sachin.

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Manu

Manu has a high sense of responsibility and ensures that any chore that is assigned to him is completed with the utmost perfection and dedication.

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Linus

Linus is our official entertainer who is a great singer and who aims to make a name in the world of movies. He is in charge of the music in the hall, and also assists in PR work.

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Manoj

Manoj is the pucca Mr. Dependable, on whom i can count on. Inspite of a hectic schedule, he makes time to be with us for any of our events, helping out in organizing everything. His pleasant smile and friendly attitude has indeed won a lot of hearts.

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A team selfie from Lulu Mall, Kochi. Excited faces the day before the event!

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Absolute foodies!

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End of the event celebrations..  Sankalp@Palakkad

Storm in a Teacup

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I wish I were a Male…

No.. I am really not implying a gender transformation. I am perfectly happy with being myself. It is just that most of the times, life seems to be so very easy for the stronger sex… (though my adult son disagrees vehemently).

I have my reasons… 8’O clock on a Monday morning in a busy household needs no particular explanation. But in the absence of a domestic help, and the presence of hungry family members coupled with a late morning start, not to mention a clogged sink, the kitchen, around which the house pivots, becomes a literal battlefield. There I was, hurriedly conjuring lunch and breakfast simultaneously, all the while supervising a whole lot of other chores I had to get done before my rush to the office, when an unexpected guest drops in to meet my father, and an order for two cups of tea – one normal and the other with a dash of lime and sugar, is relayed to me.

Well.. “Athithi devo bhava”… and frankly, I didn’t have any other choice. Things could have been left at that, and I still would have been happy to be a member of the fairer sex, had I served the tea within a span of 7 minutes. But the lack of a fourth gas stove burner had slowed down my task and the 8th minute witnesses my octogenarian dad walk into the kitchen with a grandiose statement of “has someone gone to the market to buy tea leaves? Why is the tea getting delayed?”

That did it.. That just did it!!! (Male readers might be wondering what the fuss is all about, but I’m sure most of my lady readers would empathize with me.)  Inwardly I was fuming…ready to burst at another provocation, but with great effort I restrained myself from blowing up (waste of energy and presence of guest), and smilingly served tea in the 10th minute. Seething with anger and frustration born out of sheer sense of total helplessness, I sincerely wished I were born a male.

My reasons for desiring so are very clear. For one, if I were a male, especially an Indian male,  I wouldn’t have had to worry about cooking or cleaning or washing up or ironing or any other umpteen mundane, every-day thankless activities which are so very essential to maintain a household in order. I wouldn’t have to worry my head about what to prepare for lunch and dinner,  while making crisp dosas for breakfast. I wouldn’t have to run outside to get the washing from the clothesline at the first drop of unexpected rain in the midst of spluttering mustard seeds for the chutney, and neither would I have to worry about the pile of washed clothes that have to be folded up and shoved into cupboards at 10:30 in the night, when all that I desperately want is some sleep…

Well friends, it is not all about what I wouldn’t have to do… I could wake up after a great night’s sleep, one lovely rainy morning, and take off for a long drive with just my thoughts to keep me company if I wished… I could laze around on the sofa watching TV half the day, and demand endless cups of hot tea after which I could go back to sleep… I could demand homemade chicken biryani for lunch, and have the luxury of burping away satisfactorily after a tasty meal, without even lifting a finger to help in its preparation…  I could be out the whole day with friends, and come back to a neat and tidy home with hot food on the table…  I could happily eat up the 3rd cup of ice cream without worrying about the possibility of looking like a pregnant whale…(This is an endless list, and could go on and on..).

Well… as per the popular English proverb, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would fly’. Since my desire has acute gender specific limitations, I guess, my only option is to sit back appreciate the countless other advantages of being a proud member of the fairer sex!

 

 

Thenmala Tales (Part-8)

Back to civilization

 

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The whole group posing for a farewell snap 

We had an early lunch, and got ready half-heartedly to leave this paradise. The jeep arrived, but it was not our cheerful driver, Babu. Instead, the chief Forester-in-charge, Mr. Prabhat himself had chosen to come with his assistant. A vivacious man, he was proud of the fact that he was able to bring in a lot of activities related to eco-tourism to this beautiful sancturary. We bid a silent goodbye to that sweet little cottage, and bundled up into the forest vehicle.

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A mesmerizing view from the top

 

As promised, we were taken to a view point up above through nonexistent pathways. I was ecstatic on being allowed to drive that vehicle up all the way through narrow, rugged pathways and steep hairpin bends. It was a hot and sunny day, and once on the top, we could see the whole of Thenmala, the huge reservoir, and the beautiful plains below. On the way back down, we passed an estate that had a small discarded chapel that was built during the time of the British.

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The discarded Chapel in the estate

An adjoining grave was that of a British noblewoman, Violet Guilty Lizzley. It was in pretty good condition, and Manish explained that about a decade back, some of her relatives had come down from England and had beautified the grave. But discarded, it was, along with the church, and it certainly felt lonely. Lakshmi, Sharmila’s pretty daughter, true to her compassionate nature, at once plucked a few Bougainvillea flowers to keep on the grave, and prayed for the departed soul.

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The grave of the Englishwoman adjoining the chapel

The journey downhill was very rough, especially for those of us sitting in the rear, but we thoroughly enjoyed the drive, and Prabhat and Lakshmi entertained us with their melodious songs. We were taken to the Eco tourism department office, where our vehicle had been parked. With a contented and grateful heart, we bid goodbye to our new found friends, and started off back home… to Palakkad!

 

 

Thenmala Tales (Part 7)

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Waking up in the Forest

I knew  that this was a memory that I would carry in my heart forever…

The blazing campfire gradually gave way to glowing orange coloured embers in that dark, starlit night, and all became still at Rockwood, the beautiful cottage situated in the midst of the forests of the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary.  Achayan announced dinner, and we all trooped into the dining hall to gobble up the fresh, hot chapathis and a delicious vegetable kurma. Post dinner, the three of us ladies decided to call it a day and went up to our small room upstairs.

Manish had handed us an emergency light, which was the only source of lighting up the room. The weather was cool and we decided to sit for a while in the small balcony. The chirping of the crickets had had taken on a peculiar rhythm, waxing and waning at times, and we sat looking out into the pitch black darkness of the night. The brook gurgled happily through the night. I wondered if any wild animal would be coming to quench its thirst. I wondered if any passing elephant would come and attack the cottage. I wondered if Manish had switched on the power to the electric fence. I wondered if there would be spiders in the dark bathroom with metallic walls. I wondered..i wondered.. I wondered… and fell into a restful, dreamless slumber.

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It must have been nearly 6 AM. I was woken up by a beautiful music coming from afar. Light was barely filtering into the room through the glass window on the side of my bed. I sat up and realized that it was a bird call. I have never ever heard so divinely melodic before. I sat for a few minutes, enjoying the sweet and harmonious song of the unknown bird.

Not wanting to waste these beautiful moments in bed, I climbed down the narrow iron stairs. I could hear the sounds and smell of cooking from inside the kitchen below. Murugan came out with a glass of piping black coffee that I gratefully accepted. I slowly walked to the brook to sit on a rock and sip my coffee. I was totally alone in that world, but never lonely. I found myself enjoying my pensive solitude as my eyes drank in the sheer beauty of the pristine surroundings.

I knew then that this was a memory that I would carry in my heart forever…

Thenmala Tales – Part 6

The Brook Inside the Forest

The only thing we would be leaving behind would be our footprints, and the only thing we would be taking with us from there would be beautiful memories…

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A few meters away from Rockwood, our cottage in the forest, flowed a little stream. It originated from somewhere up above the hill, slowly gurgling its way through the thick vegetation, to form a pretty rivulet in this area. Surrounded by tall trees, thick shrubs, and dense bushes, this gurgling brook lent a special charm and beauty to the whole area, and was a perfect retreat to soothe our minds. There were boulders on which one could sit and watch the cool, flowing water.

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Getting a Fish Pedicure

As usual, Manish accompanied us to this delightful rivulet and we sat on the rocks, with our feet in the flowing water. Within seconds, tiny fishes started nibbling away at our feet, unmindful of our subdued shrieks of delight. What an awesome sensation! The feel of the icy cold water caressing our feet and the tickle caused by the fishes nibbling away, was sheer bliss and slowly, our excited chatter gave way to a subdued silence with a beautiful sense of calm engulfing us. We sat there with our feet in the water, for a very long time. Nature sure does have magical properties to heal souls which have been subject to constant battering in their struggle for survival!

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The pretty brook

It was overwhelming to think that we were the only humans in that vicinity. But surprisingly, none of us experienced any sort of fear or worry. Somehow, it felt like being in the security of our own home. It didn’t matter that we were cut off from the outside world without any avenue for communication. All that counted was that we felt more alive and energetic than ever, with a peaceful and joyous mind that was totally at rest.

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A view of our cottage from among the trees

Amidst the acres of land which abounded in rich flora and fauna, we humans, were the trespassers… a fact which made us actually feel guilty. The only thing we would be leaving behind would be our footprints, and the only thing we would be taking with us from there would be beautiful memories…