November 15, 2010

PART 1: Trichy

A trip of three days. Three cities. Trichy, Thanjavur, Srirangam.

I went knocking on old worn-out stones. Some that had grayed with age, some that still had old scripts paving lines on its ruggedness. We went through meandering streets which stank of money and material, into a stone den that once had my mom captive. Still does. I seemed to smell maiden dreams in the air, probably the ones my mother spun some twenty five years ago, when as a demure lass she walked through the same entrance into the Malai kottai temple of her Uchchi Pullayaar, eyes alight with hope, friends in tow and simple joys to define everything.

Distant bells echoed in my head- all the bells my mother would have heard through her three years in the city of Trichy, where every weekend meant a visit to the Rock Fort temple.

Old stone talks to you. In silent resilient tones, after withstanding years of hands that touched it: crassly, gently, caressingly and cruelly; some defying the holy scripts that run their breadth on the walls by imposing shaky hearts and etching lover names on it.

The million steps to climb seemed an invitation to heaven-hewn out of rock and made to obey the dictats of humans by enclosing it within corridors spanned by lofty gopurams.

And when we reached the top, after folding palms in front of the other many gods you have to pay respect to on the way, I was left shattered at the stark negligence with which the sanctuary above had been renovated. Cold impersonal sparkling granite in black and gray stared with brutality. Stark and bright tube lights stole away the sanctity and the few old stone columns wept silently, forcibly rendered to watch the ruin of their times.

For once I wished I could cry out loud how much the climb above had not been worth it. As the entire city of Tirichinapalli lay sprawling beneath like a little architectural scaled model, I wondered if any heart had bled when they had mutilated the beautiful stone hall that had years of prayers resonating within. In the name of renovation, a sanctuary had been violated, thoughts that drifted across times and secreted in stone had been cladded with death cold granite blocks.

And suddenly, I could not hear the whispers of my mother and her friends that I suspected I was hearing all the time I was climbing up.

My tryst with the past remained unfinished.

November 09, 2010

Short Story-14

She piled up the stones one after another. This was her joypile. There were thirteen stones in all. One for the little blue mug. One for the feather of the Azure-winged magpie that her uncle got from China. Then there was one for that day she got to climb the hill and saw a rainbow.

Suddenly, a gust of wind blew, and the stones toppled over.

Thirteen was always unlucky.

November 08, 2010

Short Story-13

Once again she collided with the wall of the past. It had grown longer, sturdier and thicker somehow. Piled up, she thought.

She wanted parts of it broken. Will a slap do? Will anything heal?

Some walls cannot be broken. They'll be there to shamefully remind us of all our failings. To taunt.

November 07, 2010

Short Story- 12

There was a time when all I had to do was reach out. And a rainbow would be mine. It was a life of sunbursts and glittering rains. Answers were simple one words. Worries were bound between school textbooks and were left behind once homeworks were done.

And then I grew up.

Perspectives got added. People walked in and out of life like I gave them a choice. Things that mattered died with time. I never thrilled the same way when I saw a touch-me-not shrink within itself. It was too familiar a sight. I shrink almost everyday. From people, events, truth.

November 04, 2010

The delight of being home

I wanted a dose of a new city. To flap my wings and stretch it and put a sort of litmus test to my existence. Ahmedabad happened and opened my eyes and intellect to the big good-bad world.
*A Whole New World plays in the background

But every once in a while there comes a point where I get saturated with my freedom, limitlessness and the fun and hard work of NID and I crave for a whiff of home.

And when I DO FINALLY get into an auto to head home, after the painfully stretchy last days at NID, the feeling is un-word-able! A sudden hyperactivity seeps through my veins and I begin looking forward to everything from that warm first hug from my sister to the undeniable Koovam.
* Sorgame Endraaalum plays in the background

Nothing can quite equal the first morsel of favourite food- mostly vethakozhambu and urlakazhangu roast- that you down with all the attention from the family.

The home-bound happiness is Part A of the joy of returning to the turf. The familiar sounds that lull you, the smells that waft from your kitchen that you can predict with a sniff("Amma... vendaikka roast pannariya?"), the clockwork precision of sleep-rise-sleep, the fights to shun the sob serials of Aththipookkal and Magal and other crap, the stolen moments of TLC that warm my heart, familiar niches where I curl up to read and write, windy walks in my terrace and the good old jolliness of the family become therapy to a home starved kid.

Part B cause of joy would be the public transport itself-Share autos and struggling for bum space and leg space, the heart-wrenching "anna" word you can use to call out to the bus driver before demanding a ticket to streetnames that roll of your tongue so easily and unconsiously(Thambiah reddy road, G.N.Chetty road, Pondy bazaar, Ranganathan street) and the train journeys- especially at dusk when you see tributaries of Koovam transforming into romantic silvery pools as your train whizzes past.

The C cause of joy are the favourite haunts in the city. The Kleios visit that is soon-to-be, Bessie beach that seems to be on the cards multiple times, good old crowded Station road, mad Deepavali obsessed T.Nagar, the stately majestic Sardar patel road, The Landmark tucked under Apex Plaza, Spencer's from the outside, Express Avenue that is enchanting me with a promise of Escape, Okkiyam lake that I might skip this time, Vivekanada Coffee for the brew that can never be matched anywhere, Khivraj automobiles as a reminder of a long ago's perfect day and dear old Gemini flyover for being the stable icon of my life. My list would be blasphemously incomplete if I ignore my very own(ahem! excuse me dear owner whoever-you-are) Satyam Cinemas and their tub of caramel popcorn and the visions of that lovely spice jars that they once had to flavour one's buttered popcorn.

The D cause of joy is just the smell of Tamil. There's really something to the language. When you hear snatches of street fights in a Chennai by-line, it simply fascinates me, whereas a similar incident in Ahmedabad wouldn't be even quarter so interesting. The language has a charm that is indescribable. The films that are made in Tamil have an essence that nothing ever seems to duplicate. A well made Tamil film or revisiting one of my old favourites is enough to keep me smiling from ear to ear in a way no other film can do. After all, this is the land which gave me the joy of watching Sam Anderson who can cheer me up anyday!

The E cause would be the calmness that the city seems to inject into my system. What do you have Chennai, in you, with you, that you seem to gift me every once I return? No matter how battered, how disturbed, how lonely I feel before I touch foot on your sand, you seem to erase it all and charm me into becoming your dutiful slave forever!

I am sure I will travel immensely and may end up working in some other distant city. But Chennai is and will be to me something that no other place can ever dream of being. My own, my precious dear home nest! :)
© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall