We left Chennai on Christmas eve. After a short visit to Chidambaram and overnight at Vaitheeshwaran Koil, on Christmas morning we set off towards our destination — a small village named Komal.
I remember my grandmother mentioning Komal several times, but beyond the name, I knew nothing. To me, Komal sounded out of place. It was too north-Indian a name, to be a village in Tamil Nadu. In fact, for a long time, I thought it was in Myanmar!
We knew no-one in the village. The house was sold several years ago, and my father hadn’t been anywhere near Komal for forty years.
We had no address. Back then, my father told us, people never had addresses. Everyone knew everyone else in the village. Each house was identified by its occupants. How, then, were we to find that house? “I’ll know it when I see it. I’m told it hasn’t changed one bit,” said my father.
One of my father’s cousins gave us the name of a person who could help us locate the house, just in case.
“It is near a temple.”
We followed the highway leading towards Kumbakonam and asked for directions from locals. Our landmark was a temple. We found one. And another. And another. But my father could not recognise anything. “There should be a bridge, followed by a row of shops. I don’t understand. ”
My father asked a few local people about the person my uncle had mentioned. “No brahmins live on this street,” said one man with a glare. He pointed towards another street, and told us to ask there.
On the other street, we were told that only Iyengars lived there, no Iyers. They pointed towards the end of the street and told us that some of the residents had been living there for years. Perhaps they could help.
At the end of the street, we stopped outside an old looking house, that my father thought looked familiar. Unsure, he knocked on the door, and asked the residents if he could take a look. A few minutes later, he came out and told us that it was not the one.
We had been going around in circles for over an hour. The sun was beating down on us.
Dejected, and frustrated, we were planning to return to Chennai, when we saw an elderly gentleman. As a last-ditch effort, we asked him about our mysterious contact person. To our delight, he knew the person. “Oh! Yes, I know him! But he doesn’t live here. He lives in Komal. This is Therazendur.’*
Once we realised we were in the wrong village, it took us barely 10 minutes to reach the narrow entry to Komal.
“The bridge!” my father exclaimed. “I know this! We are here! Those are the shops. Take this turn. Right here. Wait! Stop!” No sooner had the car stopped, that my father sprang out of the car. He looked around the small roads, and then began walking at a fast pace.
There was an old man, walking alongside a cycle, on the side of the road. My father asked him about a house that had once belonged to an uncle of his. “Oh that person passed away many years ago,” replied the old man.
“Yes,” my father replied in an excited tone, glad that someone finally knew about the house. “That was my uncle. My father had bought it from him.”
The old man’s eyes widened. He took my grandfather’s name.**
“Yes! I am his youngest son! Can you take me to that house?”
My father’s steps quickened. His excitement was evident. The minute he laid his eyes on the house, my father pointed towards it and exclaimed, “It is just as we had left it!”
The old man introduced us to the occupants of the house. He must have become accustomed to members of my father’s family coming to see the old house, and graciously allowed us inside.
“This house was the only house in the entire village to have electricity, in those days!” My father was visibly proud. “There used to be a swing. A large swing. Is it still there?”
The owner smiled and said it was there. Everything was just the way it had been. The swing, the large stone grinder, even the light switches and fans!
“This house was purchased in 1940 when the war broke out, and my mother had to move with three of her children along with our grandparents and stay in a largish house. It was bought for Rs. 4000. It was in this house that I was born,” my aunt later told me.
Watching my father almost run around the house, I can only imagine how many memories must have come back to him. Every wall, every pillar, must have meant the world to him — a world very different, and in another time, from that of ours right now.
The owner told us that my uncle once casually asked if it were up for sale.
“So was it?”
“No! It’s been a very lucky house for me,” replied our smiling host.
Kolam outside the Komal house
A stone grinder can be seen on the right
* My grandfather was born in Therazendur. We had practically gone around the whole village a couple of times, and it is likely that we passed by one of the houses that may have once belonged to his family. But we will never know.
** That old man, we later found out, was a distant relative of my grandmother!
This week the Daily Post asks us to post something orange. Strangely, there is very little orange surrounding me. Not even my repository of photos has a hint of orange. I turned away from the monitor, wondering what to do, when this neon orange paper flower caught my eye. So for the first time, I decided to shoot something new for the challenge.*
This flower was made by one of my mother’s little students. It was great fun to shoot this adorable gift.
Just as I was about to post, I read the fine print — it had to be gallery. Bummer! I told my mother I needed more images with orange. And one by one, she brought things for me to click. An Indian tri-color ribbon, a bangle, orange candies — which were also from her students. My mother encourages me in the sweetest ways possible :)
This morning, we visited the Mughal Gardens, and there too, she pointed at everything orange. To be honest though, we weren’t very impressed by this year’s flowers.**
And so, for today, I will stick to just one picture. Hope you like it :)
* Yeah, I cheat most of the time by picking shots I’ve clicked before, and most of the time my posts are drafts waiting to be posted. I just adapt each draft for each challenge!
** The Mughal Gardens are within the President’s Estate — the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The gardens are open for public, free of cost, for one month, every year. Maybe we have very high standards… we Delhi wallahs are spoilt rotten, I tell ya.
For several years, we’ve had a lemon tree in our balcony. I don’t quite remember when it was planted. My guess is that it’s been with us for over fifteen years.
One of the oldest plants in our balcony, it had spread its branches wide. It occupied a lot of space, but not our attention. Not for the right reasons anyway. And like a child seeking affection, it tried to make its presence evident. Every time we went near it to hang the clothes out to dry, it would scratch our hands with its thorns.
Apart from the scratches, the only time the lemon came into our conversations was when our neighbour’s lemon would bear fruit. In its entire lifetime, ours never bore fruits.
My dad brought some fertilizers on the recommendation of our green-thumbed neighbour. Those chemicals were apparently for making the tree bear fruit. But that didn’t work. And so we gave up.
Perhaps it would never flower. It wasn’t supposed to be in a flowerpot anyway. It belonged to the earth. And so we began contemplating getting rid of the tree.
But we couldn’t bring ourselves to uproot it.
We heard our own voices, and it sounded like disappointed parents thinking about throwing their child away. Thankfully, my father refused to throw it.
As if expressing joy at my father’s faith, the following year, the tree surprised us with two small flowers. But that was it. The flowers fell off without turning into fruits.
Last year, a towel got caught up in the thorns of the lemon. Nothing unusual, except this time, the cloth caused our lemon flowerpot to fall and break. We quickly transferred the plant to another flowerpot. But the damage had been done. A few days later, the leaves dried up. Two weeks later, the tree was gone.
For many months, the leafless frame of the tree stood in the flowerpot, showing no sign of coming back. My father refused to clear it out. It would return, he said.
But my mother and I had no such expectations. We’d pretty much begun ignoring the remains of the tree.
Until a few weeks back.
The brown branches were beginning to wear a green coat, with tiny leaves peeping out from underneath the wooden blanket—after a long long winter’s slumber, the lemon was springing to life.
Whether or not it flowers again, it doesn’t matter. We’re just happy to have our lemon back.
The image featured in this post is my entry for this week’s Photo Challenge : Rule of Thirds. Check out more imagery at the Daily Post.
PS: I recently completed four years on WordPress :-D
I was desperate to get some rest, but sleep was the one thing that refused to come. Random thoughts and visions haunted me, interspersed with summons, as they were, directed towards me — by whom, I don’t know. I tossed and turned in the middle of the night, till I could take it no longer. And then I wrote this.
Read: Know and understand other people’s points of view. Interact often with fellow bloggers and chroniclers of the world.
Write: Share your world view. Even if it is going to be just you who reads it.
Draw: Complete the picture and fill it with colours of your choice.
While I was in Chennai last year, I received a message from a friend of mine:
‘So are you coming tomorrow?’
‘I’m in Chennai right now’, I replied.
‘Ooh Margazhi. Have fun!’
I didn’t understand what she meant by that. I had visited Chennai during the winter months a few times in the past, but apart from the pleasant weather, I couldn’t think of any other reason to enjoy. I soon found out.
The Tamil month of Margazhi* is considered highly auspicious. For those who are religiously inclined, Margazhi is a month of lots of pujas — temples open much earlier and devotees visit in large numbers for the special pujas. But that was not what my friend, an ardent follower of performing arts, meant.
Margazhi is a cultural extravaganza, a haven for fans of the classical arts, with hundreds of Kutcheries — music and dance concerts — organised throughout the month. Margazhi is, in fact, now synonymous with the music festival.
Chennai takes its music seriously, and audiences don’t clap unless the performance is very good. I found that out on our last day in Chennai, when we spent close to six hours in one auditorium, listening to back-to-back musical performances (for free)!
Even those not interested in the arts — and there are probably few of those in Chennai — cannot escape the Margazhi season, for the art overflows on the streets. Take a walk in the interior parts of residential areas. The Kolams that are drawn at door-steps of every house are much bigger and colourful. The kolams at the temples, though, were my favourite. These are from the Chidambaram temple:
Kolam at Chidambaram Temple
One of the twin kolams along the side of the entrance of Chidambaram Temple
And if you are not interested in art, well then there’s always the sea. The cool sea breeze, on the cool sand is the perfect place to relax.
Yes, Margazhi is the time to visit Tamil Nadu.
*Margazhi begins in mid-December and ends in mid-January. The Corresponding Sanskrit name is Mārgaṣīrṣa. After the end of this month, the harvest festival of Pongal (which falls on Makar Sankranti) is celebrated. The festival marks beginning of Uttarayan – the beginning of the sun’s ascent, signifying the beginning of the end of winter.
The images in this post are my entries for this week’s Photo Challenge. To see more symmetrical images, check out the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.
A little student in my mother’s class brought a gift for her. There was no occasion. But it was out of sheer love for her teacher. As is always the case with us, we admired the packaging more than the content :)
This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Scale. Today, the Capital of India went to polls. My vote—a small drop in the big ocean of voters—is my interpretation of the challenge.
On my way back home after work, a colleague asked me whom I was going to vote for. I thought for a little while, and replied “I don’t know.” And to be honest, I wasn’t sure even at the time I actually pressed the button.
In the run up to the Delhi Elections, several thoughts—all disconnected, but deeply disturbing—have been going around in my head. Facts and perceptions created by different media, rampant hypocrisy and boot-licking…
One party has ruled for decades and divided the country ruthlessly, making hideous amount of money at the expense of taxpayer’s money. And the other party which has replaced it, drips with arrogance and testosterone (not to mention more criminals).
Indian politics is brutal, and severely patriarchal. Those who work for the welfare of the people often end up being penalised. A Chief Minister who transformed Delhi and was re-elected twice, became a sacrificial lamb as her own party let her down miserably. The mismanagement of the head of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games was entirely forgotten, as a certain bureaucrat singled out the CM for a smear campaign. In case I haven’t said it before, the Commonwealth Games in 2010 were a huge success—those who focus on scams probably never saw the Opening Ceremony, nor attended any sporting event of the Games. And Delhi is just about as unsafe, as any other part of the country. It’s just that other places don’t get so much media attention. After a 49-day stint, the muffler man hopefully realised that making tall claims and staging protests against corruption is one thing, running a Government is quite another.
Two thousand kilometres away, a similar story unfolded. Within a few months of emerging as the third largest party in the general elections, the party head was handed out an exemplary punishment, effectively ending her political career. Scams and scandals of Members of Parliament of the previous Government, of course, have been completely forgotten.
While the Congress is still living in a son-inherits-father’s-throne mentality, the royal son-in-law’s shady businesses are blindly ignored (anyone else noticing a pattern here?). The BJP, on the other hand, is trying to paint a false reality by glossing over women empowerment to please the American President. Their Chief Ministerial candidate admittedly commands a superstar presence. At least she used to. But by exploiting her popularity for political mileage, her image has probably taken a dip, and I only wonder if she is going to become another sacrificial lamb.
In such a scenario, is there anyone worth voting for? The enthusiasm with which Delhi voted 14 months ago faded by the time the General Elections came. A glimmer of hope vanished within months. And today, it seems, Delhi is back to its old ways, with voters becoming indifferent.
With these thoughts in my head, I went out to vote. Neither this blog post, nor my opinion is probably going to make much of a difference to anyone. And my vote is definitely not going to change Indian politics… But a tiny part of me (0.000001% to be precise) has a little bit of hope. A hope that the collective power of votes may shift attitudes. Whether or not that happens, we will soon find out.
Update: It turns out, I was quite wrong about voter indifference. The people of Delhi came out in large numbers to vote. More than 8.9 million people voted—the largest number of Delhiites to have ever voted for any election in Delhi. And the verdict was an unprecedented sweep by a party wielding a broom!
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely personal. I am not affiliated to any political party, nor is this post intended to spread any form of hatred directed towards any one person/party.