Janaki ammoomma

Janaki bhai. Or Janaki ammoomma? She made a transition to and fro between the two. She came into my life as my pseudo-nanny. She didn’t really baby-sit me, but picked me up from kindergarten and walked me to a day-care nearby. I’d spend my evening with Valsala ammoomma till dad came to pick me up. Valsala ammoomma had many kids my age to cater to, and an assistant, Mani chechi. By the time I reach the day-care, everyone would be up, having their evening snacks. Mani chechi would play with us for a while and soon leave, as the kids start leaving. One by one, all of them would leave, and it’d be just me and Valsala ammoomma. She’d then take me to her home adjacent to the day-care. I’d watch her make tea and crush the areca nut, layer the tobacco and make a cute betel leaf pocket with a touch of slaked lime. It is a beautiful sight to watch her meticulously prepare the murukkaan (paan’s Kerala version). Then she’d offer me a piping hot cup of tea to relish. I was hesitant initially, mostly because tea was a new thing and I was worried if parents wouldn’t approve of it. Mind you, I was barely 5. But when I finally took the cup, I tasted the most exquisite ‘chaaya‘ and the taste still lingers in my tongue. Every ‘good’ chaaya ever since takes me back to Valsala ammoomma’s kitchen and the kitchen doorway where I sat watching the bustling traffic. Memories like these come with a tinge of loss and a lot of happiness.

That was an unplanned digression. But one is incomplete without the other. Back to Janaki ammoomma, somewhere in the middle of all these, she got promoted as a house help for my working mom. As kindergarten came to an end and when day-care was not very exciting, I started coming back home to Janaki ammoomma who waited for me at the door. She’d clean and I’d watch TV, and she’d keep me company till parents come. Things changed when sister came into the scene and I grew old enough to be home alone. Amidst and beyond all of that, some things haven’t changed. The memory of she running to reach home lest I be alone, the rare occasions where the ‘auto chettan’ who picked me up from school picked her up too, panting and running on her way to our home. Her overgrown mole in the middle of her chin, her frail build, her rough hands that used to hold my hand walking from school to the day-care, her alcoholic son, and most of all her calling me “Soumyakkutty…”!

P.S. Ammoomma is Malayalam for grandma.

Thirukural – 2

Here’s today’s random Thirukural.

Chapter 55 – Sengonmai (Just Government)

Kural #541

Orndhukan noataadhu iraipurindhu yaarmaattum

Thaerndhusey vaqdhae murai

The deliberate will not take sides, will be impartial and consult the men of law (before judging) – such is the way to ensure justice.


It was a purely random flip of a page verse, but is invariably relevant in the world of today. The Kural is “Thirukural” for its omniscience and ever growing relevance after all! Continuing my sojourn of exploring the words of wisdom, see you often with such insightful verses.

The Music in Life

Classical music is something very close to my heart. Neither am I a singer nor can I even actually enjoy it. But it is a very nostalgic thing to me. It reminds me of the ‘horrific’ music classes I was forced to attend, the ‘rich’ family where most relatives have got something to do with music and all those dreadful Navaratri days when I was forced to sing at random homes. Most of my painful associations with music came to a stop ever since I passed on the baton to my sister. The only difference perhaps is that she actually sings. There was a time in life where I was very choosy about the genres of music. Over time, I’ve begun to realize music is all that matters, no matter the genre. I now listen to very random tunes and enjoy the presence of music in life. I’m no longer searching for the music of my life, but merely bobbing my head and tapping my toes to every tune that flows by. Life is so beautiful when you discover the music in it. Wavy and fluid.

Depression

Depression is a very loosely used term. People don’t mostly understand the full meaning and scope of the word and throw it around so randomly. As an onlooker, it hurts to see that happening. The more cliched it becomes, lesser is its impact on the listener and the gravity of the situation gets lost. Depression is not merely a mental state. It is a disease that cripples life itself. You losing a loved one, not landing the dream job or being heartbroken in love doesn’t necessarily make you depressed. What you experience then is sorrow, sadness and despair. Some days, weeks or months pass by and you pull yourself together and move on. But if you try your best to get past it but cannot even bring yourself to rise from the bed, that is when you suffer from depression. When no amount of positivity can help you, when you break down in the middle of the night for reasons you can’t understand, when you lose the drive to just be – that’s when you are depressed. You sneeze one random time or catch a common cold – you wouldn’t proclaim you are suffering from COVID right? Every passing sorrow or a phase of grief shouldn’t be associated to depression for the very same reasons. The last thing you’d want to do to a loved one is to make it more difficult for them to open up, just by trivializing the term ‘depression’.

P. S. Above are my thoughts from experiences in person, through others’ experiences and some random reading. By no means do I intent to define the term ‘depression’ or limit its depth. You never know the full story unless you are a part of it.

Challenging Oneself

Recently, the most stupid decision that I took was the 30-day blogging challenge with myself. I’m glad I didn’t invite anyone else into the challenge and put that person through the torture of reading what I write. The last couple of days whatever I wrote isn’t the best of me. Not just that, some of them are even utterly horrible. Somewhere between this challenge, I started looking at this as just another chore of the day. Somewhere, I did lose the spark of thoughts and the fluidity of words. Almost mid-way now, should I let go of this challenge then? After all, the content is bullshit. But no, I’m not letting go. Think of a sport you enjoyed before the Lockdown. Or a regular activity you did outside of your routine. You miss them now, I’m sure. And once the lockdown is lifted, you’d want to rush back to that routine of yours. With no practice for the last couple of months, would you have your best shot right away? A little warm up and some extra effort would make all the difference there. So is the case with my writing. This 30-day challenge is indeed with myself. To make me convinced that I can resume writing – write without a pause. Perhaps not the worst decision eh!

The Clichéd

Withering flowers and the fallen leaves

Do they think life ends there?

Kissing the soil and hugging the ground,

Do they relish a new beginning?

The flowing river and merging flows,

Do they finish the journey at the sea?

Meeting new friends and exploring new levels,

Do they begin their endless trail?

Beauty in nature and peace in life,

Do poets preach what they’ve seen and felt?

Lost in the crowd and unheard in the chaos,

Do they yearn for the unknown?

Why do poets sing of trees, and flowers, and rivers, and the Sun and the rain?

Why do they say what’s been said,

Why do they see what’s been seen,

Why do they want what’s never there!

Tears make you…

Strong, or weak? It’s a debated topic. Boys shouldn’t cry, men shouldn’t show their weakness and so on. Sometimes it’s beyond gender. Crying is somehow always associated with weakness and fragility. It’s weird though, that the other extreme of emotions aren’t associated with weakness or vulnerability. If you ask me, I think a person is the most vulnerable when they are angry. Of course, crying is perhaps the saddest phase, but anger is when you have no control on your words, your body language, your psyche as such. Anger is when you say things you wouldn’t have said otherwise, anger is when you lose your mind – anger is your vulnerability. When you cry, you expose your vulnerability, of course. So do you, when you are angry. The difference is, one vulnerability is exploited in favour of others but not necessarily against you, and the other vulnerability is almost always exploited against your own interests. When in tears, you might agree to give away half your wealth to someone empathizing with you. But in anger, you might just end up breaking the most expensive vase you bought last week. Without having to explain, wealth and the vase are all just metaphors and not literally about their physical worth. I always fear being exploited in a way that I lose something cherished, than someone else gaining something from me. But again, I cry as often as I lose my temper and throw stuff around (atleast inside my head!). It’s a balance most people struggle to establish. I would totally like to say crying makes you stronger, but that could be very one-sided since I don’t know how strong you get without crying. One thing I can, however, is that anger makes you equally fragile and weak in the knees. Should we not start a saying that ‘Boys shouldn’t be angry’? Perhaps, take out the gender and rephrase – ‘People who make it are people who start with inner balance!’

Sounds of Life

Rattling roofs, splashing water,

Croaking frogs, crickety crickets,

Buzzing phone, whirling ceiling fan,

Distant news reader, chirping birds,

Clacking keyboard, snoozing reminders,

Random voices, deluging conferences,

Humming notifications, pouring raindrops,

Creaking chair, and a fading music.

Alone with You

The breezy walkway that leads up to you,

The fine grains of sand that crumble under my feet,

The stone-laid pavement that’s still warm from the afternoon Sun,

And the shimmering light that beckons me to your door.

Those are my memories of a past with you,

The days of love and the days of despair,

The days when I rush to you for a word of solace,

When all you’d do is the incessant smile,

Without a blink, without a thought, without a word.

I look around for the cues you leave,

The silent chat and the momentary pause,

And in a quick swirl, I turn around,

Walk away like I wouldn’t return,

But between you and me, I never leave.

When the crowd is gone and the sky is dark,

It’s just you and me, over and again.

From the darkest of the night,

To the brightest of the Sun,

It’s just you and me, over and again.

Lessons in Forgetting

Kavitha kurikkuvan kaminiyayi, omanikkan ente makalayi,

Valsalyamekuvan ammayayi, nervazhikattunna thozhiyayi,

Pinneyen jeevante spandanam polum nin

Swararaga layabhava thalamayi. Arinjathalle nee arinjathalle…

Ninakkai… Aadyamai… Ormakkai.. . iniyoru sneha geetham!

I was probably 10-12 years old when East Coast Vijayan released his music album series – Ninakkai, Aadyamai, Ormakkai, Swantham (For you, For the first time, For remembrance, Yours truly). Music albums had only started being a ‘thing’ then, atleast in Malayalam. Despite how long it has been, I find myself humming these lines quite randomly even today. The image of the hero and heroine of the album and their poetic love have made a very deep memory in my mind. Though I’ve relished many other romantic poems and versatile lyricists, East Coast Vijayan and his trio series pop out of nowhere every time. Being the first has such lasting impressions. It is just not about music for me. I seem to remember an unnecessary load of things from the past that I just can’t get rid of. I remember my first (and only) dentist, first hospitalisation, first time of hearing about someone’s death, first burn, first conversation with my longest standing friend (it has been 24 years), first news of heartbreak (I very clearly remember how my mom broke the news to me – that I won’t be the only apple of their eyes – that’s 20 years again). Just too many of first time memories – all well before I was 10 or 12. There’s nothing really wrong about remembering things. I remember the good and the bad equally – from random conversations to life altering moments. But I wish a part of it just fades away. I don’t want to feel the pang of nostalgia every time I hear a music, see a person, be at a place or notice the date. Ah dates – don’t even get me started! You remember your birthday. Family’s. Friends’. Significant other’s. Some anniversaries. Some deaths. Maybe some more. Do you remember the birthday of a colleague you worked with barely for a year? Do you remember the anniversary of your distant cousin? Death anniversary of a relative you never really knew? Naming ceremony of your neice? Birthdays of classmates whose faces you’ve forgotten? Well, I do. And that is such a painful experience. You remember it’s special for someone today, but you don’t even care about it sometimes. It is an ugly reminder of some memories from the past and some people you’ve lost on the way. It’s just a memory of your memories.

By no means does this mean that I’ve a stellar memory. I forget routine stuff like a normal person. I can’t find a book I read and cherished just a year ago. I misplaced the title ‘Lessons in Forgetting’ by Anita Nair and it’s frustrating!