My Language Learning Lounge

I am very picky about what I see on Television. So there is a huge debate within me for viewing a show and only when it is justified, do I watch the serial! There is a sense of purpose which moves alongside of the viewing activity.

I have always been fascinated with Language and learning new ones is such a pleasure. I love the fact that I am from a place where there are multiple languages that you could find uniqueness in each of it.

During my childhood I had for a long time just listened in to Hindi movies even if I didn’t understand the dialogue and slowly the language opened up to me. It was nearly 8 years later that I spoke my first sentence to another person who knew Hindi. That is being very brave.

I love listening to people, especially if they are excitedly talking. I don’t mind eves-dropping on conversation if it would teach me language. But I make sure I don’t judge the person since the activity was aimed for learning the language.

It began with Hindi in Chennai, Mandarin and Malay in Singapore, Spanish and Korean in San Francisco and now written Hindi and Samskritam. There is a force within me that wants to self-learn languages and to do that drama was clearly the best source. This way I will not be violating rules and eves-dropping on personal conversation.

Those days of watching Doordarshan channel was such a pleasure for me. I always felt that you learn better when you listen to songs. So Wednesday Chitrahaar was a must watch for me. I looked around and this one had a sample of the Chitrahaar I knew from my past.

Back then there was just one channel and it had a fixed duration of viewership. I think I like those days since there was more time for children to play and participate in sports.

Once the Regional Doordarshan channel came in then it became a more full time affair. I think the content in those channels were more towards regional aspects. The drama soon became a regular affair then slowly when regular serials became a daily based one, I think it happened as an unconscious affair.

When I went to Singapore the first thing that I checked out for my language learning need was to listen in on those Chinese and Malay programs. I found it a little complicated because I didn’t have a reference to their facial expression. So it was hard and that fact that I was little pre-occupied didn’t add up.

Till this day I have never been anywhere that I hated. I always had been in a state of merriment when I am in any new or old places. Even though my experiences in Singapore were a little challenging, I still look upon the city with much affection.

I wanted to see those cultural entertainment events and observe the culture without questioning any of its reasons. I love accepting culture as is and enjoy the uniqueness that is special for each culture.

The Traditional Chinese Theatre or Chinese Opera is such a wonderful experience to have and somehow it feels that drama whether in the West or East has a common element to entertain with some message. The beauty of watching the ancient drama kind of gave me a sense of continuity that seems timeless.

There is much that I learned about Language and how it becomes a part of a community. There is so much to learn and to say that you go to school only for the duration of your educational life. I feel education is something that is simple, unstoppable and happens at every turn of a human life events.

So that is when I ask myself, this question, are we really teaching love for language in the best possible way? Even now I know that if I keep exposing myself to a oral and written language then, rest assured I will also learn to write.

Language is a way of being able to express the complex thoughts in a familiar pattern of script which gets transferred between two conversing persons using a single language. Now the extent to which actual communication happens is entirely limited by the understanding levels of the participants. So though skilled are people really communicating? That is the question!

It is a weird combination of partially or complete lack of understanding of the medium of communication, thus, resulting in misinterpreted communication. For instance in the fact that most of our advertisement play on the facts of language and its usage. That way I feel there is much in the scope of the way things are being communicated.

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The Bhagavad Gita of My Life | Exploring Inquisitively

This goes back to that time when I was just out of college and I was still figuring out my career path. I am a naturally confused person, surprisingly even today, I am the self-same confused person. Now I feel that the confused state is to bring order and well-being through analysis, which I take it to mean, as a strength of character for me. Back then, I was double-minded, if I should believe in the presence of God or not.

But then, I had this sense of unshakeable faith in my Personal God; but reluctant to accept certain concepts of my Hindu religion. After all, my personal god had got me out of all the life challenges. He had ensured that I was safe and learned something at every struggle that I had faced in the course of my living. So, during one of my breaks from work, I was at home figuring myself out. When naturally I hypothesized, that if I were to study something then, I can figure myself and the Society surrounding me.

I believed, if I learned some life-skills more then, I will be able to work better and be able to handle people with the finesse of well-developed character. It has taken me many years to understand that you learn on the job by doing it. The art of working in a team is an energy exchange, that is what happens when the entire team reaches the right level of comfort and of complete confidence within the group, that the participants are willing to place their sensitive thoughts with freedom within the team’s brainstorming. I still have a long way to go, before I can say I understand the dynamics of teamwork.

So, coming back to my story of self-discovery, in this break post-college, I was learning to play the Veena and that instrument actually made me more focused on my inner being, than those singing lessons during my childhood with my sister. I was a grown up and I knew the challenge ahead was steep. Though I was struggling with the notes, given my learning disability, I did enjoy the instrument. But I could hold a raga and play relatively okay. My music teacher was blessed with great patience because he would wait until I got the fingering right on the fret.

Veena playing is like performing an arthi. You have the arthi plate in one hand, while the other one is ringing the bell. Likewise, your left hand is on the frets and the right one is plucking the strings. It takes great coordination. There is something to learn here for my entire life.

Meanwhile, I had one besotted listener, who was a little mouse, our resident pest. Once he came close enough and sat on the corner of my mat made of grass. I looked at him and he looked ready to run, if I so much as moved a muscle, but I continued to play my Veena without noticing him, hoping that he will remain to listen in. That was when I gave my first concert for a single other than the human audience. I could only play for half an hour, it was clear that the mouse heard a mini version of the concert which was not even half the ticket value.

During this time, my mother was making one of her visit to my brother’s place and I was responsible and in charge of the house. I was super nervous and tided it over with being super organized. The housekeeping was already in my bucket since we had run out of maid choices. Though I was doing this with confidence as if I knew how to do it.

My father had to put up with my cooking behavioral quirks, of course, he helped with the roti rolling activity. That way papaji was a very considerate person. During one of our conversations, he explained about his practice of holding silence every Sunday helped him but was disapproved by my grandfather. But I learned something about my family though the elders disagreed with younger generation thoughts, we were yet given the right to explore spirituality in our own ways. That thought of my father’s perked my interest and I decided to find some daily rituals for myself like him. That is when I remembered the lighting of lamp activity that mummyji would insist that I perform.

That is when, I choose the idea of working on the spiritual aspect of my life. So, I decided to take up the lighting lamp activity, at the same time included reading a book or scripture anything that was in book. So I had the choice of book from the past gift. I found a version of the Ramayana and a small box of the Bhagavad Gita well worn out. It was my youngest uncle’s copy. I got comfortable and just read the English part with great faith and hope of transformation.

I was fascinated with the Sanskrit text and sometimes would just gaze at it. Of course, I couldn’t read any of the Devanagari scripts, neither Hindi nor Sanskrit, so that left just the English text which I could make out. I was not happy with the translation of the texts, but still, it was prayers for me. It was later, many years after, I could read and recognize one conjugation of the Noun Rama.

Each chapter was read with a great eagerness and sharada, while on some days, my pestian friend would check me out from his corner and silently join me in the lamp lighting ritual. I don’t know if God thought to Himself, ‘what an odd pair of friends are seated together in front of me and wool-gathering. Both of us were evaluating, whether to risk licking the rock sugar that I have offered to the Lord, both were kind of eyeballing each other for those thoughts. This cat and mouse interaction with my pestian friend kept happening since my focus was divided between the reading of the shlokas and watching out for my prasad.

Over the years our small-sized species of mousy rat problem was completely solved and the reading after that period became very spiritual-centric. When I got married and went to Singapore the first housekeeping task that I did was to set up my prayer room on the edge of the Kitchen counter. The assembling of the pooja stand was fulfilling by itself. But one leg had not traveled well. So I had to find the zen spot for the stand to be perfectly still, almost an act of  Zen spirits.

I enjoyed the self-assigned task of balancing the entire pooja stand. I stuck all my Gods and set up the silver murthi and brass ones on small space for display. I had a Gangajalam brass sealed container which is a compulsory inclusion in the gift of pooja articles.  I had the brass vessel cleaned and decorated with sandal paste and vermillion marking the auspiciousness. These, according to me, were my personal activities, that calmed my mind, as I struggled with coming to terms with the new place and culture.

The one thing that I found out about myself is that I am not frightened of new places. Because I picked lines from my past reading of scriptures, which became the reference point for all my life situation. I connect with my spirit and the blue sky is always blue everywhere (maybe a different shade, but still blue!) and when we meet people they are just like each other and their nationality doesn’t matter when we see them with humanitarian eyes. I always carried Bapu’s peace and thoughts of Ahimsa in my heart. I rarely get angry, because I spend a lot of time with children and their literature in my free time, I am aware of the level of patience one needs and requires to work with a child. It is almost like a zen practice of watering a plant with mindfulness. Life is about being curious like a child and be childlike in your approach to new things in life.

So, my spiritual practice was all about peace and finding it within. I started listening in to shlokas and reading books that were in English about spiritualism. I wanted to know what constitutes my Soul? The science and art of my personal soul and I was recommended to read the Bhagavad Gita. So I began reading online and later during my Master’s in the US, I was gifted the book titled “Autobiography of a Yogi” written by Paramahansa Yogananda and gifted by a good friend and professor of mine. I read the entire book in a week without putting it down. That was when I saw his other book on the Bhagavad Gita interpretation, so I got the copy which was titled, “God Talks To Arjuna.”

A take away from the book was the one question, placed at the end of every day which even now I ask myself, “Today then, Vidya, who won the battle of Kurukshethra?” There are days when its either one of the Kurunandanas. But the idea was relentlessly to respond to that single question with complete honesty. I am sure one day, I will figure out that, the side of the Dharma won always and the right thing was done even though I was up against my own human families. In this, could I call me, as a scientific person living inside the material body or an artist living inside a being while finding the random connection of my life?

This confusion has persisted in life for a long time and I have still not found the answer I am seeking. This is interesting – are we then seeking for the very same answer we assume is true or are we seeking answer which is the ultimate truth? This, then means, the answer could not be the answer that you feel is right; but entirely something else? To renounce and leave to the jungle has been a greatest inner desire, but then if I cannot handle the concrete jungle I am just running away from one unexplored place to another place. So, despite the need to give up the life of being a part of the social life circle, I seek solace in small pocket size moments. There are times when there is complete peace, it is not a state, that I need to get to, but I am the peace. That realization has been happening a lot these days.

I am a person who can sense energies around me, I know which ones make me feel safe and which would provide me space to improve. No energy is right or wrong, it is just that ethereal truth of life which is been guided by the Divine. I cannot understand human body languages or their verbal interaction, because I am often baffled by the reactions to my thoughts. But I know that, if there is peace within me then it is there in the conversation too. I then, feel that everything will be alright. This belief that even in the energy of disagreement there is scope to expand the spirits of peace within our being. This is a brand new understanding, that I am learning in my life, given the set of challenges, that I am facing currently in my personal life.

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A Personal Favorite Poet Who Inspires My Work

Poetry is my passion and I love to work with words. It has been my companion since my coming of Age days. I have found innumerable moments of pleasures reading and writing poems. I have a few favorites who have shaped my thoughts and emotions over the growing years. Among them is John Milton, his “Paradise Lost” was a compulsory reader for me during my college years. It was part of the books listed for the Poetry paper and I was so moved by Lucifer’s fall that I wondered at the space of information about the fall that Milton explored. Here is a poem which truly inspires me and is still my personal favorite.

On His Blindness

By John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Exploring the Poem My Style

The last two weeks, I have been experiencing some problem with my eyesight and somehow I panicked to have it tested. I wear progressive spectacles and never learned how to look down in the lower rim to read, so I land up having the habit of lifting my spectacles to read.

The first time, I went to Rajan Eye Clinic, I was seen by Dr. Rajan, himself. He was the first doctor after my family doctor who made me comfortable talking to him. That was the first time that my eyes were dilated and the eyesight took some hours to get better. These days due to overuse of laptop has rendered my eyes incapable of being dilated and so the extra drops to force it to dilate. This then, means that it takes longer to settle down. I am slowly learning to give up my fear of hospitals and being in those spaces.

Somehow hospital experience leaves me in a state of unrest and agitated feelings. There are very few doctors who really take time for the patients to settle down and understand that the person is worried, scared and tensed about the outcome. Even if the sight were to be lost completely a humane doctor can make it seem less stressful.

Somehow, I feel that is something that comes from the old school of hospice, which is slowly been taken away by the money making trends of doctorhood. But this time, the doctor who attended my case was truly humane and I was so happy talking to her. She made me less nervous and this time also I had made sure that I had not come in a rush to have my eyes tested, but relaxed to spend the rest of the day in the hospital.

But surprisingly, my reading power had gone by a few points, of course, I still need to learn to look down using the progressive glass and that happens only when my laptop is on my lap and I am comfortably seated on the sofa. I tried to understand, why is that I feel super inspired at home and my quirks of working are really getting me to be such a clown.

So, I looked into my past and I remembered John Milton who is my inspiration for most of the Miltonian sonnets that I wrote in my young days. I love to play with words since it gives me spiritual pleasure. Everywhere I worked, I would have a word file, where I would have written poems.

I often think about why I have been born in this world and what are truly my roles. The fact that I only have a single-minded talent to write with emotions which I believe would be the gift of words that I leave behind after me.

I fear not death so much as to lose my eyes not just for myself but for others too. Then again, there is much technology that will help to live a life of high quality even when the eyesight is lost. It is not how long you live, but how well you live, that really counts. I have learned to accept some of my quirks and have gathered sufficient courage in life to be able to handle things my way.

So talking about this poem, I first read this poem in seventh or eighth I am not sure. I must say that my English classes were of a higher grade than the regular schools. So I was exposed to much poetry at a very early age. I also had my uncle’s library where I checked out a collection of Shakespearean sonnets and plays. My uncle had a good collection of the bound classics which were truly inspiring to read.

I have been a little careless with my eyes and I love to read lying down and removing my spectacles. This kind of makes my vision power to increase, but the pleasures of reading is taken over by even the risk of reading improperly.

I found in this poem an interesting connection, that I am drawn to explore. For instance, much like John Milton, my eyes even now hurts a little and throbs, as I am exploring the poems as personal experience. I will never give up writing, at whatever cost. That passion has been the founding stone of my very being.

So much like Milton, I do have a question for the Lord, if I would be of any service to Him. But it is all in the patient waiting for the call of the muse and the sanction of inspired writing. There are days when, my inspiration to write is so high, especially when I am well rested.

As Milton, the poet who is close to my spirit of writing, because I am a tone-deaf poet who loves to rhyme, unlike Milton whose poems were all about sounding right. I have written some collection of Petrachian sonnets and enjoyed thoroughly the experience of playing with words. Sometimes, it is not about doing as bid by the Lord; but it is more being in the moment and just transferring the text flashing in the mind’s eye. I sometimes feel that I cannot take ownership of the poems written by me because it was just recording the muse’s words. Now I stand in wait for that command to write from my Creator. Waiting for my inspiration with suspended animation.

L’sLT Series | Finding Peace In Confusion and Cluelessly Figuring Out

So, a few months back in December 2018 I believe, that all channels were advertising for channel selection and TRAI rules and regulation. I, for my part, was sure cool, I could see it and there was so many an actor explaining it. But for me, I was clueless, I only understood that I had to pick a family pack or Mera walla pack. Guess what do I do, I wait for these guys to call me and ask! Urgh! But no one called and one fine day channels started disappearing. I am in like ‘where are my channels?’ – a questioning mode, while I am looking on clueless as ever?

This led to a fictionalized mixed reality of creative non-fiction which of course I am enjoying writing. I do not have anything against anyone, but just that when procrastination leads to a mess eventually which becomes harmful for the procrastinator. These last-minute rescue decision-making has become a way of life for me, which I am trying to change. But sadly, not even the 48 days or oru manadalam (Ayurvedic time duration of a medicine course) practice seems to be working.

So let us talk about doing the right thing at the right time is the wise thing; while a right action, if delayed then, it is not the right action at all. Most of our life’s situations are time-bound and some require an instant decision, while some can afford to be thought over before arriving at a decision.

So why is taking a quick on the spot decision is so vital? My life is filled with decision taking on a daily basis and it is nothing different or unique about it. But over the years, I have started to learn how to take the decision not just for me but on behalf of others too. There are moments when I want to chew on a decision like a cow’s cud process time, but then time is premium so some decision is taken on the spot.

When you take decision for yourself and if things go wrong despite one’s best efforts, then it is easier to just tell ourselves that we will live with it. But when the decision is on behalf of others, then I become super conscious of the extent of responsibility that lies on my shoulder.

There are moments when I freeze while taking a decision, then it starts the chain of events and choices. The postponing of decision-making has a huge impact on a later date. In my earlier days, I was such a free spirit who never thought again of any decision, made a choice and then move on, was my attitude. Even today, I have that free-spirit surprising me with its presence. There is much that is mysterious in life among them is my logically processing to a decision.

I always keep thinking, that should one take the instincts’ hint or think it through logically and then take a decision? A Egg and Hen question. My twisted logic series is a different track altogether, maybe should be another of this series entry. So, for instance, there are moments when I am completely in swirls of logic because I think in circles and it can be very tiring. I love to keep pondering and if the material I am pondering on is literary then, I am super happy.

For instance, when you need to take a decision on a text, even though I don’t know it that well, it seems easier to decide, but not with live people. But I have improved by far in these many years of experience with collaborating with people. Honestly people are far more fun and you learn with them too. I still feel that taking a decision on behalf of others is very super tricky. But then, if we must, then we must. The rule of my thumb is to make sure it is for the common good for all involved.

Eventually, the act of decision making is sometimes art and sometimes science, but then also an experiential learning that grows the being and the spirit. I wish there were some quotes to give away as I think of all these wonderful things about decision-taking the swamps around my thoughts. Life is about upgrading non-stop and don’t settle quickly.

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L’sLT Series| Humour In Written and Visual Format

The inspiration to write Life’s Like That series came up from my past reading experience. I used to read Reader’s Digest with great pleasure and I believe they have a section in their book titled “Life’s Like That” which tickles my funny bones.

Life’s Like That is my favourite section has cheered me many times when things did not look great. I check out the Laughter the Best Medicine and Life’s Like That, Humor in Uniform are the sections that I read first and then go in for other more emotional articles. Somehow, in these sections, I feel the best part of quick wit is seen.

I always felt close to humour because it lightens the situation. Given the fact that my siblings are better at humour than I am. I am never succinct in any situation, I am an over-the-top garrulous person who loves talking non-stop nonsense. For good humour is sure to be killed if you are not able to sharpen the narrative for the right impact.

That reminds me of Non-Stop Nonsense, a German comedy show which was hilarious. It was a voiceless comedy show. I believe if you have humour in you, then you can make anyone laugh. These days, I have a very rare opportunity to laugh out loud. I have subscribed to Comedy Central; but then, I don’t know where in the maze of channels it is listed! I think I need to find it, one of these days.

I think I liked the DD days when you were given programs in a ration. From 6:30 pm to 10 pm, then DD goes to sleep showing dancing dots on the screen. I think that was much better than the 24/7 shows. Of course, there are far more thrilling and exciting shows now. Since, when you see a drama in DD it just looks like a stage play. But these days we get VFX rendered dramas, yoohoo!

So, getting back to humour in the text, I believe it allows the mind to think with a sense of being wiser somehow. The reading of a joke is far different from seeing a humour filled drama or scene. We have become so much about visual and audio that flash on our mobiles, that a no-nonsense text just plain does not go well down our consumption tube.

But I am an old timer, for me reading the books is very important, these days it the Kindle. I love words and when they invoke a burst of joyous laughter, I am thrilled. There is a different kind of witty response, but the ones that leave you baffled are the best wit for me. I love seeing Standup comedy. Among the various Facebook post, I liked ones that had Standup Comedy links. Sorabh Pant’s comedy though not the best, but yeah kinda cool. By God, I got no idea how I got him in my friend’s list. Anyway, I don’t regret it, but I don’t know about Sorabh though. Ama yaar khanh phasgaye hum! Most probably.

Anyway, the skill of telling a joke is almost like the ability to pause, fast forwarding and even it out in the narration of the joke. I had a book on Sardaji jokes, I tell you, it was hilarious, I believe the best thing about humour is its ability to remove stress and to makes life more human somehow.

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Nightingale Diary 2019 | My Tryst with Diaries

The year 1988 was significant because it was the time of my maximum changes. I was growing, changing and figuring myself out, and everything was a part of the process of growing up. I had a lot of things happening in my life and for the first time in my life, I felt joy since I could pour my thoughts into a journal. I believe around the Summer of 1987, I wrote my first poem on the four seasons and partly the reason why, even today, I want to read Ṛtusaṃhāra (ऋतुसंहार) in the originally written language.

When I came to know the four flat seasons that I had described was of no comparison to the power-packed English version of Ṛtusaṃhāra (ऋतुसंहार). I hoped and prayed that I could write so movingly like Kavi Kālidāsa (कालिदास).

These days I refrain from writing journals and have switched to analyzing the text and performing a high-level exposition to find the core values that I hold in my life. I have always been a very closed person, so I find it difficult to connect with people. But with books and texts, I am totally in connected mode.

I have never bought diaries for myself. Because usually, my father would give me his company’s complementary diary that he would have ordered to gift it to his clients. So when I planned to get a diary, he would simply hand me that year’s copy of the diary. I was happy with it since it had a lot of lines for me to fill.

I used to write in those diaries and sometimes 1989 diary would have entries till 2000. I never stopped writing diaries and I don’t know at what point I started to maintain an Online journal in MSWord format. Around 2001 I believe I began holding Journal Yeared online versions. Things became a lot more different with an online journal and somehow I never wrote as often as I did my physical diary.

But let me backtrack a little here. When I first wrote these diary entries, pouring my very soul in it, I found a sense of peace at the end of the exercise. It was almost cathartic feeling. One more interesting thing is that I always picked Reynold’s Bold pen to write. I liked it to be over thick ink stains on the pages with my hand clearly printed and which spoke of me, as someone who was over-emotional. I am over emotional to a fault sometimes, but then, I try to meditate on words and find my balance.

After many years, this January 2019, I got a book from the Nightingale Brand of Diaries in Amazon. For some reason that I cannot seems to bring myself to explain, I was fascinated with a specific type of diary. I couldn’t stop myself from buying it, but then, I didn’t have a huge budget for the diary. So I spent Rs. 135/- from Satish Sellers since I like the Diary pattern. It was about environmental themes.

When I got the B6 Diary with my favorite elements in it, my heart felt a joy of the Summer of 1987 when I wrote my first poem, which was a well-kept secret for a long time. For me, diaries are an essential way to connect with my inner being. I usually meditate with words. Even now as I am writing this there are parts of my thoughts which are clearing and expressions get refined.

But more to the Diary that I got, I am not writing a long statement in the Nightingale Diary, but merely connecting dots of thoughts to mark my understanding. This diary is used more for work and writing life. I can write my heart out on my father’s company diary and I am still searching for a diary that will allow me to pour my soul in it.

I think I miss those days when my diary and I would spend countless hours just being ourselves. My diary silent and listening; while I am garrulous and expressive. To this day, there no one as close as a diary in my life. I find my peace and joy in it.

Somehow MS Word didn’t feel like a person and a close friend just like Anne Frank’s kitty. I think I need to find my journal again and start writing my heart out. Sometimes, when you leave your heart out on your sleeve, people will squash it and leave you bruised; but a diary would never hurt you like that. That compassionate, non-judgemental diary is a gift to the shy and the social outcasts.

But overall, I was happy with the Ecologic version of the Diary even though I felt guilty that I have bought a diary for the first time in my life. I have always used leftover books and father’s company diary for my journal entries. I want to revive my writing habit and get back to verbally analyzing things in my life in written format.

I am working in the very company that makes Nightingale Diaries and much more strong branded products that take me back to my first love at first sight poem to the seasons of India. Of course, I am looking at what my life is leading me up to with all the new experiences.

In that way, my diary entries in the Nightingale brand diary is more succinct and that is not my old self. I want to probe into the very being of my self and discover myself again in restructured words and be the change that I seek within me.

My every company that I worked was always about spiritual growth for me. I go by my father’s adage if you are given a task then persistently do it until you finish it. Over the years, words have been the tools that I took to the work table and never regretted it.

Words move me, sway me, rock me to sleep, or just plain cathartic process. I want to revive hand journal writing with my special brand of pen Reynolds Bold. Someday, I would revive my passion of the first journal entry which I shared with my brother after many years. He read it and smiled and gave it back to me that felt like an encouragement to me.

 

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Podi from the Online Outlet Idlies

How many of you can remember your patti’s kaipakkuvum? I come from a joint family system where uncles, aunts and galore of cousin team up to make an experience well worth it. A brahmin household is teamed with specific food items which are exclusive to that community.

Our signature food items come in a set. Like Vetrikuzhumbu with Parruppu Thovaiyal, Sutappalam with tomato rasam seasoned in ghee and spluttered mustard, Adai with Avaiyal and Idli with Milagaipodi.

Ah! When I think of Milagaipodi, I am reminded of my mother, I learned the making this side-dish from her. When she religiously makes it and the visitors praise her effort, I think my mother felt great pride in her cooking.

Since the making of podi quantity was for a larger audience, so, I felt it was easier to buy them for just a single user. I have been searching for that specific amma’s brand of milgaipodi and have been sadly disappointed. Since even the Sharada Stores ones also was not close to Amma’s style. About a few days back one of my new friends suggested that I try Idlies an outlet of all Brahmin cuisine to check out the Podi.

I was nervous but then, I knew I am being guided by the authentic source. When I tried the Podi this past Saturday, I was lost in thoughts and missed my mom the most. I felt sentimental and remembered how my grandmother used to have idles, podi and curd combo.

There are some stylistic preferences that one would almost remember WB Yeats’ poem A Prayer for My Daughter, where he explains how girls eat crazy salads. In many ways, life is about food and various unique ways that people have it. Like for instance, having curd rice with mixture or omapodi. There are some really weird combos and I have such preferences too.

The interesting part was the fact that Podi’s package had one of the best themes and the color combo was simply fantastic. The touch of color scheme and the caricature of grandmom with the little girl in the kitchen was such a wonderful design theme.

But I am more used to the Meenakshi Ammal “Cook And See” the every new bride’s mother’s gift to her daughter. I tell you, Meenakshi Ammal used words that were hard to understand. She spoke about how to cook rice on Vengalapanai. Of course, she would describe how to do the scare thing of draining excess water.

But there was much that I learned from cooking various dishes. My mother taught me a few signature dishes which I kept repeating but I would experiment too sometimes. There are days when I feel like cooking up a storm and there are days when I would not move my being to even boil water.

But there are days, when I feel truly inspired to create a most complicated dish I take all efforts. Pappaji loved my subzi and amma didn’t like Northern spices. So I had to strike a balance for both of them. Among the many things, there is a certain food that reminds me of specific people in my family.

Food always brings the family together and binds us in a common understanding of people who you love-hate and everything in between. Podi reminded me of three people when I tasted with my idlies. My athai who passed away recently and she was a rock of Gibraltar in the kitchen. The food preparation was a joint effort of all the brothers, daughters-in-law and athai. Athai used to be the main cook with my mother making sure she gets the ingredients that are needed. So when my athai makes Podi it is wonderful to taste.

The brahmin household is never bereft of this ingredient. It is a quick breakfast side-dish solution. If you are pressed for time and cannot make the chutney, use the Podi, the all-purpose side-dish for Idly and Dosa. If the hunger factor is beyond a bearable point, pull a plate, make some quick swish Dosas and have it with podi. The countless joy of having that podi was to refresh the mind of past memories of my childhood.

 

 

 

Unearthing My Mother-Tongue with Sujata Bhatt

Today was an interesting day for me. I am excessively emotional about poetry and I love to dabble around with it. I came across this Poem quite by accident really. I was looking for Daksha Sheth’s dance drama titled “In Search of My Tongue” but I kept getting Sujata Bhatt’s poem.

I got fascinated by the link and went over to the page where the poem awaited me with patience. It showed me what I have never really lost. I have felt like an alien at all places because of my English language.

All these years whether at a Convent School, Women’s College, or US College I always felt that I didn’t belong anywhere. Even now I stand as a stranger not knowing when I would reach home.

But this poem gave me back my identity that has been wallowing around in dark corners to hide from the reality of my existence. This poem put into words those unmentioned words that gets stuck within me.

Even now, as I am writing this piece, I tell myself what language is truly me. My understanding of English is a little stronger than my understanding of my mother-tongue Tamil.

Yet I feel I am not accepted by English speaking people and rejected by my own people who take pride in their Tamil knowledge. I can’t be free when I’m among English speakers and I fear my mother-tongue speakers.

In 1998, I got a chance to see the dance drama “In Search of My Tongue” staged by Daksha Sheth dance troupe which was hosted by British Commission in the Government Museum theatre in Egmore, Chennai. This dance drama was based on the poem and was truly a treat to watch.

This was my first live theatre to which I had free passes given by my Uncle. Once seated, I settle down to be entertained. But then, that didn’t happen but it became something else altogether.

The play expounded the birth of language from the initial random sounds to the musicality of words strung together. The human characters in the play began initially by making wide bodily movement and then moved on to produce whole sounds at the end of the play.

When I reflected upon the play, I understood that the birth of storytelling started with wide physical puppet-like movement, then solidified into a string of musical words that was sounded.

Eventually, the sounds got recorded and became printed words on a sheet. Mostly the entire play was aimed at showing the language in symbolic bodily expression and how sound eventually took over the expressions of human emotion.

It set me thinking deep within me as to my own identity and what I perceived to be the person that I am. The confusion both the languages put me in left me bereft and alone to figure my own way out.

To this day I haven’t yet found reconciliation for both the languages. There are few things that my English speaking Tamil heart is unable to really express in any language. Yet struggle through I do.

So when I read the poem “Search for My Tongue” by Sujata Bhatt I understood that my mother-tongue lies awaiting to take over my dreamscapes.

I live for those days when the dreams entirely takeover and I am not overwhelmed by my mother-tongue. But I believe sometimes silence is the best language that expresses everything.

If my mother tongue comes alive in my dream space then I would welcome it with open arms to be my permanent mode of expression. I feel like a prodigal daughter whose family awaits her arrival.

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Surprised In the Summer of 2000

It was in the year 2000, that I came across Ponniyin Selvan and before that I knew nothing of this epic book. It had happened quiet by accident like much of my other experiences in life.

My father ran a family trust that had printed two books and he wanted to collect the payment for the earlier batch, so he took me along to Higginbothams, a book store in Chennai.

He left me with the books, while he went to settle the payment issue and I was left lost in the world of books displayed on the shelves. Of course, my father regretted leaving alone with the books once he saw the arm load of books that I was carrying to buy.

I was browsing the books in the shelves when I came across a book titled “The First Floods” of Ponniyin Selvan (Part 1) translated by C V Karthik Narayanan. It was the last book on the 12 books I was already holding. But after one look at this book, I moved no further and picked that book to begin reading, just when my father came searching for me.

One look at my expression and my father asked, “You are not thinking of making me pay for all those books, are you?” Well my father can be very easily convinced and I believe my sad puppy face did do its magic. But then he bargained hard and eventually I dropped all the books and chose Ponniyin Selvan alone. I was hugging the copy close to my heart as I walked out of the shop dreaming and quietly convinced that I am the actual owner of an entire world.

It was nearly two years later, that I was able to get the rest of the parts of the book. Appa got a promise from me when I got all the parts on the same day that I am not going to ask him for anything for the rest of the year and I readily agreed to not ask him anything for the rest of my life! But my father just shook his head and got me the books.

My father was a fair person who didn’t exploit the situation by asking me to give up any of my wild ways in life. Mind you, on that day I was willing enough to agree even to study the dry subject Economics too, if I had to redo my college. I was that agreeable to any conditions for the rest of the books.

To this day, if I come across a book, it would stop all my other works completely and I get warned, threatened by my mother for not doing my assigned chores. Eventually, she will give up on me as she knows nothing will stop me from completing the book. She also knew that I will bug her for the rest of her working time to just talk to her about the story that I read. There isn’t any hope for my confirming to house rules until I finish the book that had captivated my sensitivity.

Both my parents were surprised that I was so goo goo and gaa gaa about the historical novel which was popular during their young adult days. They were happy to have a conversation about the Kalki magazine being their favorite and how people in their house would fight for the copy.

Once I finished the book and I wanted the rest of the books. I reread the Part 1 book about couple of more times and every time the magic remained and never vanished from my imagination. I think I feel in love with Vallavarayan Vandiyathevan that summer of 2000.

Around that time, I was part of a Writer’s Mailing List through email. It was very basic and I was trying to get any native English speakers’ opinion on my work. I found myself wanting in trying to be calm and collected but it took me a long time to understand their critic on my works. I wished to know if I could even contemplate publishing them in the future.

I remember writing a piece that was totally inspired by Kalki’s “The First Floods.” Even today when I reread that piece of creative non-fiction, I am reminded of the causative feel that made me write. Even now I feel that magic of reading the hero on a tired horse traversing along the banks of Veeranam was so romantic for me.

When I wrote that piece I was like nothing could be more magical than the moment that I am drawing out of my memory that pure imagination. I almost felt that Chennai had turned into something special and when the Koel’s call resonated in the sky darkened with rain-bearing clouds, my heart would just sing a timeless and ageless song.

I tried really hard to read the book in Tamil since the magic of a language cannot be captured at the same level. But honestly, I think C V Karthik Narayanan had done an exemplary artistry with the translation. The rhythm of a Tamil story in English was beautifully captured. Since then, I am trying to write like Kalki but then nowhere near as yet, I am not giving up hope though. But the truth is that, if you write the way you write, the writer within will find that personal rhythm which the reader is able to connect with eventually.

My favorite character in the epic novel was Nandini and I just loved her role as a vamp. I was like rushing to read the books because there was such energy in the work that I felt enervated as the plot unfolded. I think none of the characters were willfully bad. The shades of grey that I found in their personality were such pleasure, that I found happiness in the balance expressed in the story.

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Embedded Family Time during Electricity Outage

I think sometimes Human beings are in a kind of continuum in the social skills. I have read in some book about the cave dweller habits of telling stories around a fire. I think it must be in the social science book in school.

The interesting part of the important piece of information, was given in the details about how the cave dwellers spent their nights telling stories and creating social stories that were common knowledge!

How they spent their time around the fire which ensured the protection and source of light to dispel surrounding darkness thus dispelling fear of the unknown. These gathering leads to some interesting story-bites about hunting and adventures and songs with crude musical instruments.

The concept of darkness seems to bring out fear in people and this is universally applicable over the timeline of earth. But then, the community comes together and assures themselves about being safe even in the temporary darkness.

Darkness has lurking danger, which I am sure everyone feels even to this day, especially when opening the door to an unlit house, apartment, room, walking in a dark alley, or just when there is no visible light.

That apart, of late I have observed that Chennai doesn’t get as much power cuts are it used to. With advancing technologies of powerful Generators, power cuts are just the time it takes for the switch over from the main power source to the ancillary power source.

But back in the past, there used to be a lot of current cuts and each house would look pretty with various sized candle lighting up the house. I don’t know how the houses would have looked up from the sky.

When there is a common distress in a community, then this brings the people suffering come together. Exchanges such as, queries if the electricity department had a timeline for rectifying the fault, and other such questions gets exchanged.

Of course the fact that the mosquitoes have a fields play with uninterrupted source of food chain. The interesting thing about power cut was that it brought people together.

In our house, when there is a power outage the family members get together in the verandah because that is the only place with a grill that provides fresh air. The conversation ranges from any wild topics or it would be extempore singing sessions with entire family members.

Of course, appa and amma would hum and let us do the hard singing. We never thought about being a nuisance to the neighbors. Surprisingly, they never complained!

Mostly, songs from Raj Kapoor movies and some early and late 80’s will be explored. Surprisingly, we never tried the current songs. These days the music channels screen the latest movie songs and make it almost as popular as the old time songs.

There were different types of power outage experience for me. When I was in the fourth and the fifth grades, the power-cuts-based socializing was different from, the one I had as a adolescent.

Those from the school days were to race to put out the candle when the current vibed on the line. Especially during the time when Cricket matches were going on then, there would be the battery operated transistor blaring scores and the small community of like-minded listeners would gather.

This state of natural sharing happened when people got together during times of distress. Even to this day, it quietly happens when I have conversation over the windows with my neighbors.

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