January 28, 2006

The Circle of Familiarity - On Lexington and Me.

What story do I tell you,
When bits and pieces clutter anew,
My whimsy, my muse, my confused mind,
Tell me my story, do be so kind!

Thus I ask my mind, to clean out old words, heard but not forgotten; to clear out the cobwebs of unwanted memories; to weave from the few threads that border on sanity, to discern hidden among my nascent thoughts - silly and serious, a story sane enough for me to recount here...

Guilty as charged - I am sleepy and muddled and have no idea why I am writing something that is careening pretty much towards barely understandable trails of thought, but look carefully and perhaps you will notice hints of sanity hidden amidst this hazy cloud of incoherence. Perhaps not.

And so today's story is about our sleepy little town, Lexington. Five years of going to UK (University of Kentucky), spending sleepless nights on assignments, graduating, getting a job here, getting married, making friends and it's hard for me to say that I am not "attached" to the place. I wonder how I will handle the day when I have to leave Lexington for good, it seems such a distant possibility. But sometimes life springs a surprise on us when we least expect it and we are left mulling over possible courses of action that we had not even dreamed about a few moments back...but I ramble, I write this post not because I am leaving Lexington but because people around me are leaving this place, leaving behind little pockets of voids...some hard to fill, some just making me uncomfortable for reasons I am still trying to understand.

We don't often think about all the people who constitute our so-called community, some just exist in it's circumference for us, filling it in to give it shape - a kind of completeness. We feel comfortable knowing the circle is complete, living, breathing in and out to let in more people, happy with more participants, willingly joining hands with new comers. We sometimes notice the addition, the change, sometimes we don't. It's when they leave that we take a note and something fleeting grips us suddenly and gives life to unspoken fears - fear that the circle that we exist in for the past so many years is dwindling away slowly, fear that a familiar face and a welcoming smile is being taken away from us...and then the feeling passes and the circle re-arranges itself and we exist in a new state of equilibrium, interacting - sometimes, superficially and sometimes, seriously with the people around us...

But how long will this circle last if the points that constitute it slowly fade away, one by one? Will it still be as it is - dynamic and alive? Perhaps just existing without anchoring oneself to the circle will help us disengage from it when the need arises? But then what about now when I wish to be at it's core? Will I not miss out on life if I hold back now to be secure in the future?

Confusing. Agreed. Insane? You tell me.

Anyway, here's hoping, more familiar faces and to-be familiar faces join us in the circle here in Lexington...and here's also hoping that Dinesh, Prabhu, Deepa, Trix and Ashok form their own circle of familiarity wherever they are :)

January 24, 2006

Sky, Toast, TV, Earth and a Story - talk about overloading!

I drove alone today, after a long time and I chose the right time to drive too. The sky decided to experiment with the right shades of colors - a bright pink and orange right in front of me, as if I am driving towards its core, to a less distinct, paler shade of orange and hints of blue, a sudden shift to a dark blue and finally a greyish black cover, just as I parked.


And I walked in to find crispy brown toasts and hot tea all set nicely at the table, thanks to k, who decided to be a work-at-home husband today.

Also nice.

No, not just because its fun to work from home but because we got our new television delivered home today. So, I watched, amazed at how big my TV looked compared to the tiny box we had earlier.

Realllly nice.

But my post today is not about the perfect shade of pink or crispy bread slices or the wide-screen TV. Its about saving the earth :) In reply to Dinesh's tag (and am still wondering what made him think that I could come up with 3 ways to save the earth! Maybe its because I dwell so much on trivialities, he wanted to see how incongruous a post on saving the earth would look like, in this space :),

* Firstly, why save the earth? For posterity, of course! OK, so if we are doing something for our future generations, we need to make sure that there is some entity that can be termed "future generation" or in other words, assuming some natural calamity doesn't make mankind perish, we need to first make sure, we don't kill ourselves and leave the earth safe but empty :) (Yeah, yeah, drama, alright but a tiny point hidden in the drama.)

There are a million ways, a million reasons for which men hurt men. Am going to just touch upon one - hate crimes. For example, crimes inflicted due to racial prejudices. More relevant and real to NRIs like us. So, what can we do? Teach our kids to not make the mistakes that people make today (and that ofcourse involves teaching ourselves to respect, in the real sense of the word, people who are not like us - how many times have you heard people say, "Oh xyz, thats a totally ----- area!") Yes, they do that at school but perhaps we can be more careful before making statements that even insinuate such things. Maybe we teach them, sincerely, to not be prejudiced, not because that is "right" but because we "feel" it is right.

* OK, back to specifics. Have you ever noticed how people (mis)use the toilet tissue dispensers in restrooms? I mean its almost funny in a "seinfeld" kind of sense - its as if they are drawing water from a well using a rope - pull with your left, then your right, then your left, in fast forward, until there is no more paper left! I mean, come on! Am all for being clean but this is the limit! Keep doing this and you won't have the one square (tissue) that you desperately need (remember that Seinfeld episode with Elaine?) :)

* Carpool - If you use public transport to get to work, great! If not, atleast car-pool! I know its tricky - you have to work out the going time, the returning time and make sure you are comfortable car-pooling but once that's done, it might actually work and make for a less boring drive to work!

And that's that. Three things that my little mind could come up with to save the earth (Aarti, hope this is in the spirit of what you began, apologies if not). And now, the fun part - I tag Kamal, Bus and Kumari to see what they can come up with!

And oh yeah, the story, it's here, do check it out :)

January 23, 2006

Conversationally speaking...

Ever been in a situation where you say something slightly out of the ordinary, hoping that people will join in, nod their heads wisely in consent and say, "Ah, yes! I always felt that"?

But then what actually happens is that they first look at you blankly as if you just spoke in bits of Chinese to them. And then they exchange the exact same look with each other, as if everyone in the room spoke bits of Chinese but everyone only understood Latin.

And then, just when you are sufficiently embarassed, one of them tries to make you feel better by offering you a response, along the lines of,

"Err...No, not really" and then looking embarassed themselves.

"Really? Is that what you felt? Have you been eating properly?", with a look of concern.

"Am sorry, did you say something?" and coughing.


Especially, when you are not the one who spoke the initial bits of Chinese.

Someone else did. You just get to watch it and blog about it :)

And if this feels like Chinese to you. Let me try to explain with an example. Remember that scene in Friends where Ross and Chandler decide to "confide" to each other just like the girls? And then Chandler says something totally inappropriate, thinking Ross is going to jump in and agree and Ross goes, "Dude! you are weird!"

Exactly that.

January 18, 2006

Coincidences, Irony, Life and such.

"All of these telephones seem to be out of order.", he tells me, an understanding nod, he knows how it feels to not be able to say goodbye. One more time.

Strange, this need to call back home just after you have said your goodbyes and all. Something about hearing my mom's concerned voice asking if the flight is on time and my dad's gruff voice, trying to hide the pang of separation, yet again...something about the tinny voices that makes me feel that I am still at home, as if still holding on to the sights and sounds that are so familiar to me, sometimes, I fear I have no identity without them...

Ofcourse, the airport with the bizarre sights and sounds that it offers is a place that has an identity of its own. It helps me distract myself from that taut feeling I get, as if I am leaving behind something I never should. The bored looking security guy scanning the luggages in, the loud family of four flying for the first time and unable to hide their excitement, the strikingly beautiful girl who is checking her wrist watch for the third time, an expression on her face that conveys quite clearly, she has done this too often to be interested and finally, the appropriately dressed fifty-something uncle who sits next to me, unperturbed by the announcement that Air India Flight 121 is delayed by forty-five minutes, the same uncle who had tried unsuccessfully to make a phone call earlier. Maybe he did not hear the announcement.

So, I tell him, "Looks like the flight is delayed."

"Flight 121? Oh, I see..."

And then there is a pause, which usually marks the end of these conversations for me. But this time, I am bored and have time to kill, so, I say, "Yes, are you going to Chicago too?"

"No, I catch the connecting flight at Bombay, to Sydney."

And so we exchange such banalities, only partially concentrating on the conversation. We discuss Lexington, H1B visas, cost of living in New York vs Lexington, life in the United States, India and Sydney and I suprise myself by finding topics that I could discuss with this stranger twice my age, for so long. And then the topic takes a turn to marriages because he asks if I am travelling with someone and I tell him, that I just got married and my husband will be joining me at Bombay (that happens, atleast the first few days after you are married, you somehow can't resist the impulse to declare the fact to the world :)

Anyway, he says, "Oh, my son just got married, september 15th, at Geetha Bhawan."

"Oh, I got married on September 14th." (There I go again)

"I see. The boy is also from Madras?" (I should have figured this question was next)

"He is from Bombay."

"I see. He speaks Hindi?"

"Oh, he understands quite a bit of Tamil" (Why? Why the need to convey this bit of information to this random uncle? I will never know)

"My daughter-in-law is not an Indian."

For the first time, I remain silent. I am surprised. He just did not look like the kind of father-in-law who would have a non-Indian daughter-in-law, you know what I mean?

"Yes, she got married Indian style though. She is a vegetarian, which is important to us. We like her, my wife and I. My wife is very religious, she wanted only an Iyer girl."

"I see." (Its my turn for "I see")

And then, on an impulse, I ask, "Your wife...has she adjusted to this marriage?"

"Oh yes. She is very happy now. She took longer than me to adjust ofcourse. But, what does it matter if the girl is a Romanian? My son likes her, she is a vegetarian and she is quite understanding. She even wore a madisar for her wedding and specifically asked my wife for all the Indian-style bridal jewellery..."

And then it strikes me. Of course. When you least expect it, life delivers a delightful little quirk in your lap.

"Are you Narasimhan uncle's friend?"

"Yes, from Indonesia?"

"Yes! Is your son's name Karthik?"

"Yes..." and he looks surprised now.

"Narasimhan uncle...I mean he is my uncle. I am Ramya."

And now you ask me why I brought up my first name in the midst of all this. And I will tell you why. My uncle had sent my jadagam (kundli) to this very same couple to see if I was a likely match for their son, Karthik! We did not hear back from them though. Now, I know why :)

"Oh, you are that Ramya!", he says

And we both laugh.

"And that would make you, my could-have-been father-in-law", I smile mischievously.

He retorts back with, "And now I know what I missed."

We both are silent for sometime, both immersed in our own thoughts. And then he says,

"My wife, she insisted on an Iyer daughter-in-law only. Your aunt told her you were probably more inclined towards an Iyengar style of marriage and so she was hesitant..."

And I muse over the irony of his statement. We talk some more but are now distracted by what we have discovered.

The flight finally does arrive. We leave without saying goodbye.

January 12, 2006

ஆண்டாள் (Andaal)

"பச்சை மா மலை போல் மேனி, பவழ வாய் கமல செங்கண்,
அச்சுதா அமரரேறே, ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்,
இச்சுவை தவிர யான் போய் இந்திர லோகமாளும்,
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன், அரங்கமா நகருளானே!

"Now say it again with me, child", Vishnuchittar turns to his daughter and she sings the verses flawlessly, not once faltering, eyes closed, a mischievous smile playing on her lips.

It seems just like yesterday that Bhoomadevi blessed me with this angel...and here she is now, singing in so mellifluous a voice...", he looks at the Lord and folds his hands in gratitude...


Dawn, a time most auspicious, a time to surrender completely to Him, a time when the golden rays of the sun and the fresh green of nature mingle to create heaven on earth, when peace and clarity fills the was dawn that a pious brahmin in Villiputtur (near Madurai), Vishnuchittar (Periyazhwar) found a beautiful girl child nestled among the tulasi plants in his garden. Being childless, Vishnuchittar and his wife considered the child, Kodai (daughter of earth), a gift from Bhoomadevi.

Vishnuchittar, being an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna imparted to Kodai, his own love for Lord Krishna. Each day, he went to his garden and collected flowers to adorn the Lord and Kodai would prance along with him delighted at the prospect of seeing the Lord. Each day, as Vishnuchittar sang in praise of Lord Krishna, as he told her stories of Lord Krishna, the child's fascination for the Lord grew.

Lips as red as corals, eyes as beautiful as a lotus...

And each day, the Lord would grow more beautiful in her eyes, each day she would long to see him, to praise him and to be with him. Each day, before her father came to adorn the Lord with the flower garlands, she would don it on herself and look at her reflection in the mirror - Lord Krishna will wear this very same garland..., she would think to herself and smile, happy to be near anything that will adorn her dear Lord. That day, Vishnuchittar happened to come to the temple earlier than expected and he was shocked to see Kodai wearing fresh flowers meant for the Lord.

"Kodai, what have you done? How will the Lord forgive me now? These are flowers meant only for Him! Now, I shall have to go get some more flowers for Him...what have you done?"

Kodai could not understand why her father was so upset. She was sad to see her father adorn the Lord with flowers that she had not worn on herself.

That night, as Vishnuchittar fell into a troubled sleep, the Lord appeared in his dream, "அவள் சூடிக் கொடுத்த சுடர்க் கொடி! அவள் ஆண்டாள்! அவள் என்னை ஆண்டாள்!"

Hearing the Lord declare that he considered the flowers worn by Andal and Andal herself more precious to him than anything else, Vishnuchittar realized that his daughter is perhaps destined to be more than what he gave her credit for. From the next day, he let Andal wear the flowers and then he would offer them to the Lord.

As Andal thought about Lord Krishna day and night, Lord Krishna started appearing before Andal and playing with her - he would kick the mud castles that she would build and tease her, he would disappear suddenly, as she cried, "கண்ணா! உன்னை காண வேண்டும் போல இருக்கிரதே கண்ணா!" and then He would appear behind her and hug her from behind and console her...Andal's childhood was thus filled with His games and mischievousness.

As she grew up to be a beautiful young woman, her love for the Lord grew stronger until one day, she resolutely declared to her father that she would marry none other than the Lord himself.

"I belong with him!", she declared and Vishnuchittar worried about his daughter. That night, the Lord appeared in his dream again and told him that his daughter was destined to be His bride.

Vishnuchittar was at the same time happy to see his daughter's dream come true and sad that she would no longer be with him - a father's mixed feelings. The next day, Vishnuchittar took Andal, in full bridal glory, to SriRanganathar at SriRangam. And Andal became one with the Lord that day (Koodaravalli).


A post for the month of Marghazhi :) Many thanks to my mom and dad for their stories and enthusiasm (the mistakes are all mine though!) :)

January 11, 2006

Death and Life and such - scene 2 from my head.

Death is not something I am comfortable with. For that matter, it is something that not many of us are comfortable with or have made peace with. I don't discuss it, I don't like to see it happen in movies, I don't even like to write about it and even if I do, it is with considerable effort that I do.

And why such a morbid topic to talk about? Well, all I wanted to do was write another post like the previous one, about my days at Bits and the one memory that I tried to keep avoiding, that is still clear in my mind, is one involving death. The one scene that keeps coming back to me is one of my closest friend, holding the telephone receiver tightly and crying as she kept repeating, "இருக்கவே முடியாது! நீங்க தப்பா சொல்லரேங்கோ! அப்பா உடம்புக்கு என்ன? சொல்லுங்கோ!" - she had just heard from her relatives that her dad was critically ill.

And that was my first introduction to the realities of life. At that point, all I wanted to do was run away, laugh hysterically, do anything to not hear her voice. But I did stay there, I did hear her voice and later when she came back after a month, I did manage to make her feel better.

The day before she returned, my friends and I decided that we would try our best to cheer her up and so we did the last thing that people expected us to do, we decorated her room, doodled on the walls, wrote anything that we thought would make her laugh - filled her space with the trivial pleasures that life is sometimes kind enough to let us indulge in. And when she came back and saw her room, she did laugh.

A few days later, she told me, "ரம்யா, எல்லாரும் என்னை பாவம் மாதிரி பாக்கரா...எனக்கு பிடிக்கவே இல்லை..." (Ramya, everyone looks at me with pity, I dont like it at all...) I don't remember what words of wisdom(?), consolation (or the very lack of it) escaped my mouth that day but I promised myself that I would not make the same mistake. And while I was not mature enough to handle anything this grave, I was glad she confided in me. I felt closer to her that day than I ever had in the past.

We tried to help, in our own little ways, in the only ways we could...we tried to help knowing we would never feel what she feels until destiny chooses us next to play its cruel game on. Destiny, a single word for all that we cannot make sense of - the present, the past, life and death...

And that concludes scene #2 in my head.

January 09, 2006

Itsy Bits-y post - scene 1 from my head.

Sometimes, I surprise myself by the clarity and vividness with which I can recall memories, more like moments, scenes be it from a few days ago or several years ago, it's all there in full color and I remember the most mundane details - the color of my dress that day, the background sounds, even fleeting thoughts that ran across my head that moment, many years ago...

I remember that I wore a white salwaar kameez with small purple flowers in it, I remember that I was standing in Meera Bhawan (Bits) and carrying a green plastic bucket in my hand and my dad was giving me some more advice about living in a hostel, away from home...and then I saw him. He had not worn his glasses that day and I remember thinking that he looked better with his glasses on. For a second, I forgot how awkward I looked carrying the bucket, forgot every other sound and presence around me and I blushed. All the sweet innocence and color that a sixteen year old can muster, when her eyes meet the eyes of yet another sixteen year old boy that she was hoping very much that she would run into, "by chance", rose up my face.

And while that moment was fantastic and embarassing at the same time, since my dad followed my line of my sight and proceeded to ask me, "Hey, doesn't he look familiar? Let me go talk to him and see if he shares some common classes with you" and it took me a while to dissuade him, the memory stayed back - pristine and perfect.

And I still wonder why I remember the moment as I do now. The boy is forgotten, the feeling is archived - stored as a bit of memory, pleasant to recall but difficult to reproduce now, the sixteen year old girl is ten years older now...still, the memory remains, like many others, painting itself in front of my eyes, as if it happened yesterday...

Strange, what the mind decides to store and what it rejects :)

January 03, 2006

One day to 2007!


It's 2006!

Are you still doing the same things that you did in 2005 that you promised yourself you wouldn't carry over to 2006? Then, stop! Do what you love, channelize your creative energy, join a class, write cute little notes to your loved ones and tell them "I love you" everyday until they start giving you this really strange look and ask you if you are alright.

Yes, we have all read all these inspiring stories and talks about doing what you love and basically, everything that I mentioned above that I don't care to repeat. And then you are really inspired for those four minutes after you read the article and you look around you with steel grit and iron determination (and other metals that are really strong and also easy to remember, unlike zirconium, which makes for a really bad adjective) and you thump once on your table to seal your resolve. Then, while you realize that you really need to clean your table, judging by the dust particles that just jumped up when you thumped, you also realize that this is not the first time that you resolved to do something different in life!

As moments turn into days and days into little chunks of monotony easily forgotten, you also end up forgetting your resolve to do something different, to make a difference in your life.

And I ask, what better day than...err, the third day of the new year (I knew I should have written this post on Jan 1st!), to question what we do and more importantly, what we are not doing!

So, go on, join that pottery class, call up Michaels for the next painting session, do your laundry, vacuum the carpet...that didn't sound right, sorry, that's just a part of my daily-chores-list and not be-creative-list. Where was I? Yeah, just do your thing, surprise yourself and do something you wouldn't normally do.

See, I knew I was bad at this inspiring-speech business. So, I'll just stick to what I do best - write random stuff. Yup, I do a great job at that!

And remember you have 362 days to make a difference but that doesn't mean you have to wait that long. Just pretend you have just one day left in 2006 and do what you would do then (hopefully you are not thinking of just getting drunk and waiting for 2007 :)

January 02, 2006

A new ignorable post!

There goes one of my new year resolutions - to be on time, be it to a party or to write a post :) I've been meaning to write this post since last year (I know, sorry, I just couldn't resist the "last-year" joke in this post), anyway, here goes...

Wish you all a very happy new year. I hope 2006 is a year that sees us achieve atleast some of our dreams, personal legends (from The Alchemist - I believe we can have more than one!), that makes us dream bigger, better dreams, that brings us closer to friends and family, that helps us forgive and forget those that we should...that keeps us happy and at peace with ourselves.

I watched a bunch of good movies the past few weeks - Casablanca (thanks to Senthil), Must love dogs and Flavors (thanks to Arun) - liked them all, do watch.

And tomorrow will see me keep up one of my new year resolutions - am going to join YMCA tomorrow and gosh, am so excited about it!!! (man! even saying that and the additional exclamation marks do not generate even a touch of enthusiasm in me about exercising - I just hope its not as mind-numbingly boring as I fear it would be).

And 2006 has now seen me write one of my most unrelated, disconnected and inconsequential posts of all times - I promise to do better as the year proceeds :)
© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.