“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Parvati/ Parvathi/Parvathy

As the youngest of five children, I was at the receiving end of both lots of affection as well as loads of domination. Fortunately, my elder siblings moved away early; the elder two sisters by marriage, the third one, brother, to Sainik School – it left me to be bossed, pinched, slapped, blamed for crimes innocent of and privacy constantly besieged by the sister 4 years elder to me. Of course, she wrapped my books in brown paper, labeled, sometimes combed my unruly hair, stole my comics– guess that was just about it. As I boy, I might have been a bit of an introvert; I kept my own company, but complemented by books. In the secure world of fantasy, an oft recurring theme was a younger sister. A younger sister who would look up to me as her big brother who could do and get anything she wanted. She would be beautiful and any boy who dared cast his evil eyes on her would be doomed.

As an adult, willing to get married but none willing vice versa, I fantasized about a daughter. She would have pigtails and would ride on my back. She would become a great dancer ( I still have great awe for dancers) or a wildlife biologist. I envied my friends who had wonderful, pretty daughters. Of course, soon after K was born, I was content with my boy, though often I used to wish he had a little sister.

The best years for a girl-child, according to me, is between five and ten. Before the self-consciousness of approaching of womanhood robs her of unaffected, natural behavior. But I notice that even most girls of this age have lost the air of innocence that I had found enchanting.

Today early morning Parvati and I had been to a house to meet a renowned ayurvedic physician and sage, Swami Nirmalananda Giri. He is a saffron-clad, shaven-headed sannyasi, but quite respected in North Kerala as a spiritual teacher and practitioner of Ayruveda. He visits Trivandrum once in a month. Among the few waiting to see him was a young mother in her late twenties and her daughter. The child wore the uniform of a well-known convent school in the city. About 9 or 10, she was skinny and not too tall by the general standards and had long pigtails. Big-eyed, dark eye-browed, she had bundles of energy and moved around restlessly. Her frontal teeth were missing. I could feel my face break into a smile every time I looked at her; and sitting by my side, she would look at me and give that toothless grin; for no reason. Happiness is in her face and heart. My cynicism- addled brain suspected for a moment – is she mentally retarded? I was ashamed at the next instant – I could not recognize innocence any more. The young girls in our cities have forgotten to grin. I would have loved to make small talk to her.

Later, as we waited for the prescription, P noticed me looking at the child. She bent down and asked her name. She gave that toothless grin again and said, 'Parvati'. 'Oh, my name too is Parvati', said P. 'You study in Holy Angels', don't you?' She nodded vigourously. 'Which class?' 'Third', she said. P put her best teacher-ish look and said – 'Hm, III A, isn't it?' Little girl's eyes widened. 'How do you know?', she asked open-mouthed. 'I am a teacher', said P primly , 'we teachers know everything'. The girl looked at me and smiled. 'Who is this?' she asked P. 'This is my husband'. I kept a mock- serious face. 'Do you have a girl-child?, she asked. P said, no, a boy.

I stand close by and watch all this interaction silently. Little Parvati glances at me and smiles. I keep a straight face and ask her – 'Parvati, is it? How do you spell your name, ti, thi or thy?' she bursts into laughter and giggles. Her mother looks amused. Prescription given, the mother takes Parvati/Parvathy/Parvathi's arm and moves on. As they cross the gate, Parvati turns back, looks at me and shouts, “P -A-R-V-A-T-H-I!”

Quite likely, this could be the last I ever see of Parvathi. It doesn't matter. I will keep that toothless grin in my heart for a long time to come.

********* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 29.01.2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

“Ain’t no sunshine when she is gone”

Some days are quite strange. They would begin just like any other day, the dull routine, the dreary drudgery; one would wearily remember the things one has to do, one has to go through and would set the machine rolling. Then suddenly, quite unexpectedly, you hear the drums roll.

Like today. Got up at 0500 to drop K at his tuition center (he is in 12th). Rode the bike in chilly darkness all the way to Kowdiar. I clipped at 80-90 km/hr in that stretch, just for the brief exhilaration. K peered over my shoulder and said, ‘You touching 90 now, slow down.’ Though I had thought of taking a morning walk, decided against it as it was too cosy chilly. Back home, instead of hitting the hay, I opened the ‘net. Listening to Bill Wither’s ‘ Ain’t no Sunshine’ from the blog, I googled him.

Bill Withers started his singing career in 1971 and ended it in 1985. Said, ‘I don’t want to show off no more’. In a video on him, Bill said, “I think I’m kind of like pennies. You have ’em in your pocket but you don’t remember they’re there.” What made me fall in love with him are his words - “It’s O.K. to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it because that may be as far as you’re going to go.”

I listen to Bill’s other songs. I look him over in google images. He is a handsome, instantly likeable 71-year old. In my heart, I strike a chord with Bill. I love this guy. Guitars strum, jazz rolls. I hum, sing aloud ‘Ain’t no sunshine’ all the morning, as I sweep the courtyard, as Dosas sizzle in the pan, as milk for the dogs boil in the kettle. I hold the spatula for turning over Dosas like a mini guitar and do a jig as Sancho watches quizzically. He has seen me going crazy, but this loud, off-key noise that emanated from my throat was unfamiliar to him. As P passes by, I strike a pose and croon to her, ‘Ain’t no sunshine when she is gone’. K watches with a wry smile and says – ‘Should take a video of this rare scene’. He asks, - ‘ Acha, you want a mike?’ I tell him, ‘Go on now, don’t you spoil my mood’. I swing, I step lightly, I love this morning.

Some days are like that. Strange. Beautiful. Softly lit. Glowing. Nothing can ruin it.

********************* Balachandran V, Trivandrum 27.01.2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do you dig the music?

If you like the oldies from seventies, listen to the first song by Bill Withers, circa 1972, one of my all time favourites..

I will be away for a few days...