Poovar – Of Mangrove Trees and Hidden Surprises

DSCN4656

DSCN4606

Quaint little towns dotted with eccentric houses, sleepy fishing villages gently swaying in the tropical breeze, serpentine backwaters with towering coconut trees, lush mountains peppered with tea gardens and fragrant spices wafting all over; the majestic state of Kerala is the closest I have come to experiencing paradise. For obvious reasons, Kerala is one of the most talked about holiday destinations and internet is swamped with countless pictures of every popular spot in the state. While I was planning my trip to Kerala, I was a little worried that this information overload would scrape off a bit of sheen from my experience. However, when I landed in the rain-kissed, lush green Cochin, I realized that my virtual tour was no match for the sight before me at that moment. Needless to say, my stay in Kerala was serene and picturesque as expected. However, I happened to stumble upon a gem of a place which was not on our itinerary and it convinced me that this state has magic in every nook and every corner.

DSCN4651

DSCN4619

My family and I were returning to Trivandrum from an early morning trip to Kanyakumari and Suchindaram temple and were tired and drowsy. Our driver stopped at a fishing village near Kovalam and told us that our trip would not be complete without visiting it. Fresh from our excursions to Munnar and Alleypey, I was unsure about what more this little village called Poovar could offer and thus thought that we could give this is a miss. But my father had different ideas. Having lived in Kerala for a number of years, he has a sentimental attachment to this place and is well aware of its ability to spring unexpected but very pleasant surprises. We agreed to take a boat ride on the backwaters and could not believe our eyes, thus adding one more item in the long list of things I should thank my dad for.

DSCN4646

DSCN4578         DSCN4597

I felt like someone had taken notice of my wish to visit a Marquezian village and had transported me there. As our boat powered towards the gateway to the estuary, my jaws dropped as we saw mangrove tress flanking the narrow strip of water. Time seemed to have stood still and everything else was forgotten. We sat back and sighed happily as we sailed across the marshy, muddy water and took in the chirping of tropical birds. Every now and then, we would spot a kingfisher or a crane. We passed a few fishermen spreading their fishing nets in the water. As our boat tore through the humid, sultry air, a beach with golden sand appeared before us. I was enthralled as the spirited waves crashed against its pristine, golden shores went back to meet the sea. A few feet away from the beach, stood a rock with an underground church and on the banks, were a few floating restaurants and cottages. We spent around ten minutes sailing around the beach and then the boat turned to return where we had started. It was time again to return to the swampy marshes and muddy water reflecting the shadows of mangrove trees hovering above. For a moment, I felt as if I were in the swamps of Amazon and an alligator would leap out of the murky water. We spent around an hour and a half on the backwaters and with a heavy heart alighted the boat.

DSCN4617

DSCN4585

Travelling is not merely checking off exotic places from a list. Travelling is meant to surprise, to astonish, to stir one’s senses. It is a profound way to teach us that the the world is vast and it’s treasures are limitless, much greater than one person and their ambitions and problems. As I was returning from the lake, my philosophical side kicked in. I reflected about how unpredictable life is. I was expecting a quiet ride back and one turn was all it took for me to gather a memory I would treasure all my life. And also, dads are always right!

 DSCN4591DSCN4569

Advertisements

No Tolerance for Intolerance

I have always thought of sin as an interesting word. Merely three letters long, it seems so innocuous but in fact conveys a meaning of grave consequences, a cornerstone of one’s moral compass. Despite pondering over the deceptive nature of this word, I have never given much thought to the act of sinning itself. I am not very religious by nature and often wonder if I will ever be. However, I do try my very best to be morally sound with my thoughts and actions. Just like most of us, I was raised to stand by “right” and abhor the “wrong”. Now that I have grown up, I have come to realise that there is often a thin line that separates the right from the wrong and choosing between them is not as easy as I was told. We have to choose nevertheless; how we choose defines our character.

Sinning has various repercussions. But in today’s day and age, how do we decide what is sin and what is not. Today, diversity has far greater significance in the society than it had at any point in the past. Be it religion, race or sexual orientation, we are gradually moving towards an era of unprecedented integration that calls for great tolerance and respect. And I think this would be the greatest legacy my generation can leave for the future. At this point, in my opinion, intolerance would be the least desirable trait we would want to see in a person.

I have always had very little respect for intolerant and apathetic people. Empathy for the fellow humans is a virtue I greatly value. Be it everyday situations like helping out a neighbour or standing up for greater causes, we all wish that others show a little understanding towards us. I believe that empathy is a sign of a highly mature character who wants peace and happiness among people. One of my biggest takeaways from my life so far is that there is no one right thing. What is right from my point of view may be shady from someone others. It all depends on a person’s beliefs and values. However, being intolerant towards others’ points of views creates more problem than it solves. Instead of thriving on our diversity, most people end up nursing wounds for being different and powerless. It promotes an environment of profound distrust and fear.

I am familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and if I were to induct an eight one, I would definitely pick intolerance. It is one of the greatest vice that is threatening the world today and needs to be addressed immediately. One of the purposes of our life is to be a channel of hope and happiness for others around us; it should be everyone’s endeavor to root out intolerance make the world a better place.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Eight Sin

 

Mango Smells Like Paradise

I always look forward to summer with an anticipatory glee. The season has a way of channeling my inner child. Indian summers are particularly cruel and looking at it through the eyes of a child is the only way I can come up with in order to enjoy it. The relentless sun, the motionless breeze, the persistent sweating, the unwanted tanning; this season is highly ruthless to us. But I still manage to think that there is a certain grace in which the sun brightens everything around me. The buildings, roads, trees, cars; everything is radiant and so jubilant.

I have a slightly heightened sense of smell. I rely heavily on scents to connect to memories of events and people.The thought of summer too brings in my mind a variety of scents I have cataloged over the years; the earthy smell of the freshly mowed grass, the sour scent of the pickles my mother laid out in the sun to dry or the fragrance of amaltas hanging heavy in the still air. Sadly Mumbai’s air does not leave much room for summery scents. The air here is an eclectic blend of sweat, smoke and dead fish. However thankfully, one of my warmest summer memories still stays alive in the sweet, heavenly aroma of mangoes.

No Indian summer can be complete without gorging on this gorgeous king of fruits. We wait all year to sink our teeth in its golden, luscious flesh. Come May and my Facebook wall is flooded with friends happily announcing about eating the season’s first mango.For three months or so, mango rules the kitchen and menus of all Indian households. Desserts are not a cause of worry anymore. We just make the best of the limited time we get with our favorite fruit. Perhaps I love smelling mangoes more than I like eating them. I especially love going to buy fruits in summer and simply smell all the different kinds of mangoes laid out in display. It just makes me so giddy. The exotic, sweet, fruity smell a ripe mango emanates is one of my favorite things about summer. And the memories of many a balmy nights spent with my family and friends, huddled around a plate of mango slices will delight my heart all my life.

A Swedish proverb goes, “a life without love is like a year without summer.”  And a summer without mangoes is unimaginable. In India, summer is already preparing to depart. It has begun to rain and I am enjoying the soothing, earthy smell the first bout of showers have brought. Thankfully, the season of mangoes will linger for a few more weeks. I better hurry to the fruit store!

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Seasonal Scents

 

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

As much as I love to sleep, I like to evade it as much as possible each night. It is the most curious phenomenon; I actually fight it till the very last ounce of my senses surrender. A little self introspection has led me to believe that as bedtime arrives, I go into utter panic that my day is nearing its end. I then scramble to salvage the last few remaining moments of my day to make it count more. TV shows pending to be watched, books waiting to be finished, room forgotten to be cleaned, poems neglected to be penned, they all suddenly clamor for my attention.

I don’t have a fixed nighttime ritual. However my agenda to avoid sleep for as long as possible is set in stone. I have never been the one to go to bed early. Even as a child, I found it hard to sleep at the stipulated bed time. I find nighttime very peaceful and calming. It is as beautiful as it is stark. I love it so much that I pen poems in it’s honour. It is the time when you retire to your abode and are in the company of only those people you want. I especially like to read or write something at this time if I am not too tired. If I am, then I simple catch up on the TV shows I keep downloading (these days I am alternating between Hannibal and Fargo). These days, the FIFA World Cup also keeps me up till late. If not anything, then there is always the shimmering screen of my smart phone enticing me into betraying slumber. This is also an exceptionally good time for some pondering and reflection; be it the purpose of my life, planning the next day or scheming world domination.

After my body starts giving up, I tear myself from my TV/computer/phone/book and drag myself to my bed. Despite my determination to avoid sleep, I always find myself grateful for the warm comfort of my bed. I switch off the light and grudgingly shut my eyes. The next few moments are quite fascinating as I await my mind to fall asleep and join my body. Sometime I think that I am in a Kafka novel; my mind conjures distorted images and dialogues with a fluidity I am not otherwise capable of. In due course my mind shuts down too and everything is finally still.

While I battle to stay awake, I am often reminded of Dylan Thomas and his finest poem (villanelle to be precise) “Do no go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I know that the great poem talks about fighting death but in my opinion those lines are equally fitting in this situation. If only were there a poem for the dark circles I get the next day.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – Sleepy Time

I Carry My Home in My Heart

Home – the word summons many images and sounds accumulated over the course of my life; a kaleidoscope of assorted apartments, streets, scents and people. A life of frequent transfers has made the idea of home a situational one; always moving, always adapting. For me, it has never been a specific physical entity; never bound by walls or a roof. The reason for this is simple. The thought of home is supposed to indicate constancy. It is meant to make a person feel rooted; to reassure them that no matter where they go, there is always a haven to return to. I haven’t had such luxury. Therefore, understandably, my interpretation of home is slightly different. It is simply the place where my parents are.

Years and years of relocating has made me exceptionally close to my family. Amidst the haze of changing addresses, schools and friends, my parents and my sister have been the only factor that has suggested stability. I speak from immense experience when I say that family is the only thing that you have in the end. Friends have come and gone but my best friend has always remained in the form of my mother. I may have studied under various teachers but my father still remains my greatest one; still teaching me patiently. And I doubt if I will find anyone else who can match the the histrionics my sister displays while laughing at my jokes.

Sadly I don’t have many objects that have remained with me since I was a child. Books, gadgets, clothes are in abundance but they don’t inspire nostalgia. If I leave on an adventure for a year, I will carry things that serve materialistic and practical purposes. But I will carry the thoughts and memories of my family as a reminder of home. I will bear the image of my parent’s smiling faces while bidding me goodbye at the airport; faces lined with pride, concern and unconditional love. My sister’s excited shrieks on fulfilling my life long dream to travel will stay with me wherever I go; unless they sneak in anything else in my luggage to remind me of home. After all, they will be the ones doing all my packing.

Written in response to Daily Prompt – An Ounce of Home

When I was Twelve

My twelfth year was arguably among the best years of my life. Life was all about the little pleasures. I lived in Mumbai back then. It was 1999 and my father was due to be transferred to another city the next year. However, in all my childhood innocence, I had managed to convince myself that we would be living there forever and our lives would never change.

The Mumbai I remember from 1999 is wildly different from how the rest of the world saw it. The city had not become harsh to me yet. I lived with my parents and my twin sister in a spacious two bedroom flat. It was on the seventh floor. We lived in a large colony with five wings. Each wing had eight floors and each floor had two flats each. All the wings were arranged to form a circle with a vast garden at the center. Our flat overlooked the garden. I absolutely adored our flat, our home for the past five years. To this day, thinking about that flat brings nothing but warm memories, full of mirth and contentment. My favorite part of the house were the large French windows in all the rooms. Now that I think about it, that flat is the source of my predilection for houses with large windows. I always equate large windows with happiness. A long, hilly stretch of road enveloped all the wings of the building. This was not a public road. It was well within the gates. Probably the most functional feature of the building, this is where I learnt to ride my bicycle. Teenage kids drove their parent’s cars for the first time here. Be it long walks, parking vehicles or playing hopscotch, that road was a part of everyone’s lives.

Although I lived in Mumbai, I had not embodied its urgency yet. It did not reflect in my personality. It was merely another piece of information about me. My life was in the building I lived in. My building could well be uprooted and taken to another city, I would not have cared. To this day, I have not been able to count the number of friends I had there. In retrospect, it was a strange thing to have; a plethora of friends at an age where the relationship itself is a mystery. There is no denying that twelve was an awkward age. I was not a child, neither was I an adolescent. Surprisingly, I was not puzzled by the things changing within me. Even at that age, I was exhibiting signs of the calm, uncomplaining person that I am today. I somehow sensed that this is how nature works. I was a tad puzzled by the changing behavior of my peers. I am not going to lie, girls were beginning to get insufferable. I somehow did not feel any solidarity for them. I did not notice many changes in boys around me though. They seemed to go on with their lives, playing cricket and hitting each other. From where I saw it, the transition seemed to be easier for them.

That year was the last year of my life where I spent majority of my time outdoors. My love for reading had already sowed it seeds but a desire for social life had swayed me from it for some time. I, along with my sister and friends spent most of our time playing. We never wanted to come home. Our parents could spot us playing from our window and would yell at us to come back home. But we kept playing, tactfully averting our eyes and ears. It was the last year of scraped knees, childish tiffs and innocent jokes. Had I known this then, I would have played some more.

One day in April 2000, my father called from his office. He told my mother that the transfer order had arrived and we were supposed to move to Piravom, a small town in Kerala. This seemed drastic to everyone. Moving from the biggest city in India to a relatively obscure one; it is still one of the most contrasting things to have happened to me. I was inconsolable. I also knew that I had no choice. My parents were sad at leaving too but not as sad as my sister and I. Well acquainted with the mercilessness of the city, they on some level were looking forward to a quiet life.

So one morning in May 2000, two months before I turned thirteen, I bade adieu to that building. My friends were there to see me off, hugging me, saying tearful goodbyes, promising to keep in touch. I was slightly jealous. I could not bear the fact that someone else would now occupy my lovely home with large windows. My friends would find a replacement of me. Their lives would go on while I would have to start from scratch. I had not yet realized that this was actually a gift. I did not know that some day, I would be stronger because of it. After all, I was only twelve.

Written in response to a prompt on Writing 101 – Size Matters

 

New Beginnings

DSCN3545It has been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog, a fact that I am suddenly very conscious and guilty about. I had created this blog about seven years ago while I was still in college. I had felt that I had a lot to say but could not find a channel to express it. After seven years studying, working, experiencing the joy and pain that I like to call life, that feeling of anguish still lingers. I am certain that most people empathize with that frustration that comes with bearing unexpressed sentiments and thoughts within themselves. I am quite sure that my thoughts would be of little consequence to the betterment of society. They would not bring world peace and neither would they solve poverty and hunger. I doubt whether my stories or experiences would trigger philosophical debates. But I do know that they would make me a bit more content with the knowledge that I am communicating more with the world. Even if it doesn’t matter to most of them, I am putting my thoughts out there. Which is why I have decided to resuscitate this little project I started long ago but failed to give time to. More that anything else, I hope that this new innings of this blog helps me strike a discipline and compels me to write much more often than I do now. Writing gives me joy, it gives me peace and makes me feel worthwhile. So, here is to new beginnings