Mommy blogger

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The great temples of Chola

For the last two years, every night when I read a story to my 6 year old son ,  I would try and describe the visual beauty of the Chera, Chola and Pallava reign in Tamil Nadu. A child friendly homemade oral version of Ponniyan selviyan, Narasimha Pallavar and the realization of a great dream - Parthiban Kannavu was simply not enough to kindle the visual imagery in the mind of a child reared on picnic drives along OMR, ECR and resort hotels  parading as remnants of the great heritage .

So this December , we planned a trip to the great temples of the Chola reign across Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore. Covering the prominent ones just to get a glimpse of the wonders that were created more than 1000 years ago.

My son was excited about getting on to the train.(That he is an ardent train lover would only be an understatement). I was excited about getting back  with my spouse and child to an enjoyable phase of my student days - Trichy. And so we left for Trichy  by Rockfort express one Thursday night.

Covering the temple towns of SriRangam, Thiruvanaikaval, Samayapuram, Tanjore, Trichy, and the musical abode of Thiruvaiyar in 3 days was indeed a farfetched cry from resort bound vacations that we were used to.

The mysticism of Indian mythology lies in the magical blend of mysticism with reality. Huge temple complexes surrounded by fort towns resplendent in their timeless grandeur exist as testimonials to tales of mythology. The feeling of could it have all really happened ? Did Andal actually marry Sri Ranganathar in this temple leaves you wanting for more out of these pilgrimage spots.

Crowds - both tourists, historians with scientific temper and devotees immersed in devotion throng the thresholds of the temple leaving the administration at sea and us with some bitter sweet moments. However the darshan of the presiding deity wipes out all the tirades you may have stood up to in seconds. Call it positive energy within the sanctum, power of the unknown, achieving what you set out to accomplish or simply bhakthi - the feeling of completeness is felt by one and all exiting the premises.

Thiruvanaikkaval, Brihadeeshwara, Trichy Rockfort temple complex, Tanjore palace stand witness to tales of shaivism sweeping the region during the Cholas reign. Mammoth gopurams standing 20-30 ft tall, perfectly symmetrical, not casting a shadow ,covered with intricate carvings of gods ,nature and common man make us ponder on so many realities that time throws at us.

Equipped with knowledge more than "modern day gadgets" the sculptors and architects breathed life into every piece of chiseled rock.  I could not help but wonder while we snapped and whatsapped images , these pieces of art brimming with life from lifeless stones have stood the test of time , invasions , cultural transformations, juvenile graffiti and much more.

History says that the civilization brought artisans from South east Asia and across the country of India together which is reflected in the styles adopted and blended in perfect harmony. Marathas , took over the Chola dynasty and developed a unique identity through Saurashtrainism which thrives till date. The thread of the linkage to other cultures is evident in a number of tourists of South east Asian origin and Maharashtra visiting these parts as a part of their ancestral linkage.

The highlight of the trip was the stopover at Thiruvaiyaru - literally translated means confluence of 5 rivers. Half expecting the great saint Thiagaraja's samadhi to be closed for darshan, we were pleasantly greeted by the serene almost empty temple on the banks of the river Cauvery. This is the place where the great saint went into Samadhi. The idol of Lord Rama, who he worshipped with a showering of  krithis is kept in an abode vibrating with his melodies.  The annual festival that draws throngs of worshippers of music converge here in January. For now, the place had a small team of boys playing their game of cricket outside a stone structure that has given the world a religion sans caste, creed -music. Looking at the idol of Rama,I could almost hear the great saint call out to him  -" Nagumomu Ganale... "

The taste of Tanjore is incomplete without a mention about the cuisine. Full three course meals laden with traditional sweets, varieties of chutneys and pickles, the hallmark of a tanjorian, was served to perfection on plaintain leaves.

Boarding the train that night , my son could now name temple silhouettes etched in the darkness of the night by their gopurams. He has his favorites now in Brihadeeshwara followed by Thiruvanaikkaval and Srirangam .As I completed the story of Raja raja chozhan 's dream run of conquests , his eyes visualized the kings of yester years across the streets of Tanjore.

Yes, there is always the issue of improving restoration , preservation and promotion of these magnificent structures. The people could be more enlightened and civic while visiting. Littering,etching their names on walls of historical significance, jostling, fighting, bribing - well we could behave better in the name of a civilized society. The administration could do with a  bit more concern for preserving than merely earning. The hygiene - Oh yes could be a lot better. But the fact that history continues to silently shine through these dark spots calling out to us to relive the times blurs the line between mythology, fiction, history and time.

To more such travels in India is what we look forward to.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Growing up with Sonny

Abhi, my son Abhinav, had just turned 2 and a half. It still seems like yesterday , that I took a bundle of flesh and blood with lots of apprehension in my arms. A form that had kicked inside me was suddenly out crying and yelping. I was unsure, I felt young, I felt suddenly thrusted into a new world of responsibilities.A sneeze, a cough used to send my pulce racing. The feeble creature grew, and so did my confidence.

He knew I was his mother from the word go, I on the other hand had just started to feel so.

I finally wrote what I had just experienced may be with a little poetic license.

5 months:
Poops didnt scare him or me,
Meal times became fun with new food on our knees,
He laughed when I sang, gurgled when I danced.
This little baby on the floor,
I still wondered , when will it grow ?

8 months:
I carried him for walks, introduced Surya,Jyothika and the lots.
We toppled, we crawled, we boughts toys not one but all.

12 months:
We cut the cake and blew a candle,
The first step , the first word we bundled .
We went to the park and climbed on a swing ,
Up in the air, and down in a blink .

15 months:
We read stories, we brushed our teeth,
We bathed like big ones with a mug behind a sheet,
We learnt about vaccinations , cycles and chocolates ,
We voted for the last to win an accolade.

24 months:
We introduced ourselves to another candy colored world
where teletubbies and teddies galore .
They came at a flick of a switch
and stayed on late until we flipped.

25 months
Our application , our first school
Were all applied for and prepared
Reading books, listening to rhymes
Dancing and singing we waited and rared.

We were admitted, to begin school
Not before June, until Noon.
We went shopping , and bought a few things
We washed and prepared for the day to begin.

30 months
We walked up, we walked down,
At the gate , we hugged and sang a song.
He went in alone ,he tugged at my heart,
He left my hand
My little son had just grown up.

Friday, May 12, 2006

As Usual...

The powder on the face felt cakey. The cameraman hadn’t given enough time, Devi thought to herself. They used to make better powders when I was a kid.

Devi’s younger days were chirpy. She was always on her toes. Wherever she went she sang melodies and tapped a feet to the beat. Her floral print skirts were a rage in the small town of Chitradurga. Devi’s father owned the only grocery store in the village. Her mother, “Amma “, sat at the back of the store cleaning pulses and grains. She had no siblings although she yearned for one, at least just a year younger than her. But life went on as usual.

She remembered the day vividly. She was going along with Amma to the town fair. Amma gripped her hand. Devi was worried about the bangles breaking, but Amma’s grip gave way to a larger fear. As the young men’s pace caught up with them, Amma’s grip tightened.

The return home was quicker. In the light of dusk, Amma rummaged through the suitcase and brought out something that was like a saree, a little shorter in length. Devi’s movements around the town were more restricted. She never knew why? Amma removed the mirrors from the walls. Devi engaged herself by talking to the walls as if they were here confidants. She could not understand why Amma would not allow her outside. She sewed, cleaned, cooked. Her days very predictable, and boring.

Days grew into months, and Devi could see herself grow. Appa passed away in sleep one night. It was a shock for Amma, who suddenly aged faster. She took on the responsibilities like a man takes a plough. She managed the groceries at store, and Devi the home. Life was a plateau of the usual.

Manikandan was from a nearby village. His family owned lands, but Mani went away to the city to earn a few more coins. He was good looking, and took the coffee from Devi’s hands without a flinch.

“She is beautiful” claimed the old lady near the door. “What a flawless complexion.”
Devi walked back into the kitchen. The wedding over, she climbed onto the state bus with a heavy heart. Who doesn’t feel the pain when waving to parents, even if the new home is just a street away?

Life moved on with the usual humdrum. Devi and Mani moved into a one room house in the city. Cooking cleaning kept her occupied. She never moved out alone, Mani was always with her as Amma was before.

It was a Saturday; Mani’s superior at the agency came home to drop him.
“My wife, Devi” said Mani. “Say hello...” he turned towards her.

Sir broke the silence “I say she would be a perfect face for Tulasi soap, Mani “
Devi lifted her face for the first time.

“Devi, some coffee for us”.

The next day, Devi and Mani went to the studio. As Mani left her hand to go behind the camera, Devi looked straight into the black glass.

“Smile”. Popp went the lights. Devi closed her serene eyes, enjoying the moment. Her face was a cameraman’s delight. Something about her eyes which were capturing and an infectious smile so captivating.

Magazines, papers, products she was everywhere. She smiled into the camera, as if it never existed. Some said she was Mona Lisa of Hyderabad; some revered her like the real Devi.
She seemed unaffected by the adulation and went on with life as usual as before.

It was a tiring day and Devi rested her back on the chair. She bit her lips to bear the pain that was searing through her.

Mani…………….she thought before she fell asleep.

Devi woke up to a humdrum of activity around her. The lights on the camera suddenly seemed above her. It took her a while to realise she was lying on a table.

“Devi you have a beautiful baby girl. She looks just like you.” – the doctor’s voice boomed.

Mani brought the bundle of joy to her.

“A reporter is here to take your photograph with the baby.”
Pop, click went the camera. The new born slept undisturbed in her mother’s arms.
“Very beautiful photograph madam, the baby is very beautiful.” – The reporter said as he was leaving.

The powder on the face felt cakey. The cameraman hadn’t given enough time, Devi thought to herself.

The silence of the room was broken by the drum of the fan. Mani and Devi held on to their bundle of joy. Devi turned towards Mani and spoke softly, only into his ears.

“In all my years on this earth, I have never felt this joy in my heart. Frankly not even at the time of the marriage. Mani, I am so happy and excited today. Holding on to her I feel I have achieved something big. “

She hugged the baby closer. Moments passed, a tear rolled down those cakey cheeks.

“I feel like tearing this black screen in front of my eyes. Really Mani, I have never missed my vision in all these years as I am missing them today.”

As the tears rolled on faster, Mani wheeled his chair closer to her. The three held on to their creation. Life today didn’t seem usual.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Media Frenzy....

I tried this exercise , and may be each one reading should try and do what this is worth.

Collect first page and editorial reports of 3 months in anynews paper. After 3 months try glancing through the pages , what you will find shocks you beyond doubts. No headline lasts for more than 1 week , no investigation is reported to its logical conclusion. I am not too sure if this is a rule of the media houses (print,television and otherwise) worldwide, but going by the basic premise of why media , I think it defeats the purpose of existence.

Agreed, media is not an investigating agency.But it is surely a reporting agency , affecting and shaping the opinion of millions reading/watching/hearing to it. Ask yourself , do you have answers to these -

What happened to the Bihar plane crash?
What happened to the crores of Rupees collected during Tsunami relief fund ? Are we satisfied in seeing the names of the donors with amounts in descending order .. or do we need to see what went to the receipient?

Music and video of tsunami dominated regional political televisions in TN , but has anyone bothered to consolidate and send a report to each of the donors saying where their money was used ?

Much has been written about the controversy surrounding actors comments on something which people have no background to , but not a single line mentioned about Manjunath, the young man who was murdered for reporting the truth. Where is the fourth estate heading ?

Why doesnt the media have guts to stand up , print a letter from a reader complaining about its pathetic content or reply to him/her? I am a customer of your paper , I deserve to be heard , if that means replying to lakhs of letters streaming in , so be it.

Why sensationalise every issue , but not try and see through the depth of the case. If the journalists are indeed running behind headlines , their days are numbered . What they should be seeing is to create an unifying opinion , and an uprising against what is considered universally as not acceptable. To enrich each reader with a fair and an unbiased view of an event - any event not necessarily a national calamity or an emergency.

Where are the days when a copy of "Sudesa Mitran" could ignite the spirits of people reading it . Do we need another invasion for the fourth estate to wake up .

If I were a deciding authority .. I would say ...

BE sensitive in what you write and how you write (photograph of Shoba De , skimping in White skirt can be a supplement , not next to a report on rape of a 7 year old girl)

If you do report on a national tragedy , see it through the logical end , We want to know what was wrong in the plane that crashed in BIhar in 1997 , more than we are interested in following Karishma's marriage woes through the years. If someone has indeed reported on the same , I am sorry it was not as prominent as the actor's marriage.

Avoid instances like distracting saree /jewellary advts next to a state flooding report

Avoid TV scrollers like " to know more on the suffering, pain , tears in Cuddalore and govts response , read the eveninger " ... Tragedy should not be a selling point .. if it is- Shame on the paper which is owned by the biggest writer of our times.

I dont know if these opinions are shared by you, but I am a writer and you are a reader .You have the right to object , and my duty is to listen/ address them ... not defend them. If you are a journalist , I definitely need a response on this .

Friday, October 21, 2005

Waking up...

3 months/12 weeks/90 days …

That’s exactly the time when my blog went to hibernate. Call it personal distractions, professional tribulations, plain boredom, need for a fresh thought. The reality is today it finally decided to shake itself up.

As Sangeetha in Flavors – the movie says “ You need inspiration even to do nothing ma !!!”

Hmm… so what was yours ??? Is that what you are thinking now ? so read on …

A day like any other

– A zillion to do things on the list, none struck off
– Calls galore and a customary smile , concealing the ignorance of the query
– Proposals, feedbacks, trip reports and more trip requests

I felt my mind screaming for a break. It had been long since I had read anything that reminded me of yester years. I went to my mail box, and scanned through archives

– amma’s recipes, replies to letters, updates on who’s who
Anna (Big brother)
School friends
Class friends
College friends
Summer friends

Days when all that seemed to matter was mailing and writing.
I saw it change over the years to subscription lists, group mails, forwards, spams and slowly trickled to a few of even them. And there was that one mail from a date so long ag o…

From an unknown unseen face... Just a line it said

“I happened to come through some links, nice to see someone who writes on an average of 2 blogs a day. Don’t know if you are jobless. But it does add a zing of joy to my life to see that someone is rambling non sense as I read one. Keep the ramblings going, I must say sometimes they seem to bring joy to the reader and a smile on the lips”

So here’s to the one fan who inspired the bear to come out of hibernation. Don’t know if I can maintain the frequency, but will sure keep the ramblings as ramblings….

Toast: To a fresh new start blog, and otherwise ;)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chennai Times

Back to checking out what's in and what's out !!!

What's in
What's out

Umbrellas and Raincoats ( YEPP THE RAIN GODS HAVE STRUCK !!))
Umbrellas and Shades

Adi Masam discounts
Summer offers

50,000 + color saree on Jyothika

Annual Increments
Annual Leave

Manmohan in Washington
Washington il Tirumanam( that is Tamizh writer saavi's classic for the uninitiated)

Queing up to lay hands on first copy of Harry Potter
Queing up for the first Chandramukhi Ticket

Sarkar- the movie ticket sales
Laalo Sarkar - look alike doll sales

Thats what's in for this week
Signing out

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pati and me

My 'pati' ( Grandmother) was 81 when she passed away last week. A seasoned grandmother who had seen most of the ups and downs in life, seen her grand children grow from skating on a toy scooter to zipping past in flashy cars.

But I had not realised till the day I saw her sleeping quietly on the drawing room floor, how much I had really built a bond - a silent bond with her.

She was one generation ahead of my mom, but we never had arguments over attire or phone calls. We actually watched and laughed through Pandiarajan movies together. I practised my dance in front of her - mostly classical, and sometimes even to macarena. She tried every dish I made, ( even if that meant, picking out 100 pieces of shredded onion blended in cabbage). She oiled my hair, massaged my feet, gave me ready to eat - thayir sadam ( Curd and Rice mix).

She was a learner, and a teacher bundled in one. She never believed in learning/teaching anything by force. She had not studied beyond the V std. So we taught her English and Hindi , but ended up learning to read and write Tamil . She learnt to sing , when her voice had cracked, but she sang religiously every day. She was always immaculately dressed. I remember hiding behind the dressing table just to see her perfect the vermillion on her forehead and adjust the flowers on her hair. She shone, and my eyes glinted.

As time flew by, we became "grown ups". Reached the age of 25 when grand mothers were relegated to good mornings, and good nights. " Patti please, indha serial vendam "( No patti , not this serial again") was more heard around the house.

It was a Saturday I would never forget. It was the last time I saw her alive in flesh and blood. She was 81, frail but the enthusiasm with which she ran her hands over the silk saree, and her chain was catchy.She wanted to attend a family function the coming friday. The calender , was testimonial to crossed off days signalling a count down. She had bought a new box of Ponds powder(She always smelt the dreamflower woman). She was like what her little grand daughter was 15 years back.

She held my hand , and asked " Do I look healthy ? Do I look good ?"
" Pati , you look gorgeous. Just come at 4:30 pm , the whole crowd will be there to see you."

Yes, the whole crowd did come in to see her, but she didnt live to hear the chatter. I dont mourn her demise. I understand , she escaped from pain. She had lived a full life. But I do miss her presence in the house. The silent pati on the chair, when I came back from office was someone I will miss for ever.

When we went through her box, later that day, I could see , an obvious vacuum in the box and an implied one in us.

We were living life , like a pair of logs. Small joys did not excite us like it did before. Dressing up was a routine, family get togethers were crowds, life appeared short , fast paced and went past by the clock. I looked up at her photo on the wall, waiting to hear her voice. But she was smiling. She never spoke much, only smiled. But this time Mrs.Rajalakshmi Vishwanathan ( that was her name) had something to say.

Why do things become a drag on us? Because we fail to enjoy the moment of truth. Enjoy every act of yours , and also others. It brings zest into life , and life into rest.

Ofcourse, she would have typically said this laced in the frog and Bhagya story, but that was pati.

Wife to my Thatha, Mother to my Father, but a nice cuddly pati to me.
I will miss you.