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Death is cruel but —

1041 days without Sriram and counting,’ was the response from his wife seeing the picture below . A tip of the iceberg of the sorrow pulling her down, every moment.

That is how everyone who lost his/her dearest and nearest, feel . The remaining part of life left behind for them, is a cross they have to carry to their last day. No escape. They have to live. That is how people have been living everywhere.

Not a day passes for me without remembering Sriram and Rajesh my two nephews , whom death mercilessly snatched at the peak of their youth, when they were shining best in their profession.

How much hard work they would have put in to acquire excellence in their education and how much competition they would have faced to obtain admission, in Indian and then in foreign universities, purely on their merit, not spending a pie from their father’s pocket!

Was it all for getting wiped off from the face of earth unceremoniously when they had a long way to go?

Remember my brother in law’s struggle to take Ramu to the examination center when all the roads were blocked due to a curfew in the city. How many such hurdles the parents would have had in bringing up the children!

How many sleepless nights their mother and spouses would have spent waiting for their children’s return from their workplaces !

How exuberant the parents would have been when the kids were playing snd growing or when their exams results were declared or when they left for foreign lands for higher studies or securing jobs, or when they were married ?

Every time my nephew told me ,’ ‘mama,

my intervention was timely, a life could be saved’, I used to feel proud and bless him ,’ God bless you’ .

God carried him away! Separated him for ever, from his family! I cursed the god out of my desperation but I realize God is helpless! One has to die when he is destined to.

The torrential rains of Fate just washes off the young lives, right before the eyes of parents, spouses and children!

Death is cruel, but the fact is – it is a part of our life !

And earlier we realize this truth , good for us.

During the rocking period of romancing, the boy is not sure whether his girl friend would stick to him or go after a guy with a more stylish hair or a bullish look . But, once the wedding is over, he is certain, she is certain, they have to share a room. I overheard my wife once telling her mother, ‘don’t worry, his anger won’t last beyond dusk’!

She had no worry, as she was absolutely certain that I would be back by sunset.!

Similarly, we can be free from worries , if we have no confusion or doubt in our mind that death is inevitable and it can happen anytime , we can live a peaceful life.   

‘I’m not going to be the first person to die!’

I tell myself and gladly share a peg of wine with my son or a joke with my daughter or daughter in law !

Mahakavi Ullur beautifully said:

Death is striking our life tree, merciless with his axe, throughout day and night. The heart beats are nothing but that sound ‘

കാലത്തും, അന്തിക്കും, ഉച്ചക്കും, രാവിലും,

കാലൻതൻകൈമഴുകൈവിടാതെ

ആയൂർദ്രുമൂലത്തിൽആഞ്ഞാഞ്ഞുവെട്ടുന്നി

തായതുഹൃദസ്പന്ദവേദ്യമാർക്കും

Picture below was clicked in a forest in Vancouver, Canada,  with my two nephews and their families. Ramu is to my right.

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Sundi

Sondi’ in Telugu is dry ginger powder. ‘Sundi’ in Malayalam is the one who gets easily irritated, gets angry.

Old people of good old days , most of them, were Sundis. Respecting their age and position in the family, youngsters didn’t revolt. Now, mostly the youngsters are living separate. The old man living with his wife cannot afford to turn Sundi as she is his sole supporter. Moreover, love between couple blossoms in the old age. That is what people say  Higher the age, higher the affection and attachment between couple. Again , that is what people say!

I belong to the old group but I’m not a Sundi . I just could not afford as I was, for the past two decades living looking after my younger brother whose general health as well as hearing capacity is my below mine. No scope to exhibit my Sundi! Really bad!

If  I shout ‘Vuchaaaaaa, you idiot!’ He will respond by saying ‘ no Anna, I had my kAppi already !’

In USA , my children behave in such a way that I never feel that I’m neglected, ignored. Or may be, by nature, I’m ‘cool ‘, ( as youngsters often say ) in this mostly cold climate . Or may be my heat level has come down due to shortage of gas in my cylinder.  I get Sundi at times only at God but my Kartha doesn’t care!

But still , I do,  at times , become a Sundi but the smart youngsters here change my mood by offering a cup of wine or an extra cup of fresh decoction kAppi or praise me about my stories, poems or music though none in my family has the habit of going through what I write! If nothing works , Meghana mention the name of schoolmate or colleague and ask:

‘The girl who praised your moustache was SyAmu or KAmu?’

There was a Sundi +++ whom I haven’t met but have heard many stories about his loosing temper.

‘Did his wife spray  ‘Sondi’ ( dry ginger powder ) on his front and back lower holes?’

That was a cruel and nasty way of talking about an old man by an old man but You might perhaps know that oldies at time go on cloud nine when talking nonsense!

The reply brought tears to my years!

His daughter, (who was majestically charming at the age of 70 when I met her) was married to a handsome boy from a rich family , when she was 9/10 in a grand ceremony. She returned as a widow within a few months. The young man was ruthless murdered in a land dispute. The father was getting old seeing his widowed daughter right before his eyes for the past 60 years !

One would have gone mad . He didn’t. He turned a Sundi!

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Strong coffee effect

Old people invariably feel that they are smart in talking. I’m genuinely smart in many aspects and talking is only one of my many attributes!

An youngster of the family, while preparing coffee  this morning for him, asked me:

‘Appu mama, why not a half cup for you? Strong coffee . Your second dose!’

I never say no to any inspiration boosters and replied : why not? Make it a full tumbler. You know, I never go for anything half or a quarter?’

‘ You’re a complete man’, he complemented

Yes, I’m!

The coffee was really strong and tasty. ‘Coffee should be coffee, women should be women!’

‘You bring women always in your talks ,’ he said when I turned to his wife and told her :

‘Now I know for sure why you, with your charming face and sweet voice selected my nephew as your life partner!! Didn’t you, in your first meeting, ask him to prepare coffee and he  obeyed instantly ?’

The boy’s mother leaped from nowhere dragged him to a corner and admonished ; ‘you prepared and served coffee to your would be wife, even before the wedding was finalized by us ? ‘

‘No Amma,  how could I ? Did you send me alone to see the girl ? All my half a dozen sisters, cousins, a dozen of them , were with me when we went to meet the girl . And you were the head if the group! How could I have , before the watchful eyes of you all, obliged her?’

‘Don’t say obliged . Say obeyed . You became her slave on your very first meet. Appu mama never tell lies . I know him’

The old lady, praised my trustworthiness for the first time !

‘Mom, Appu ( I won’t call him ‘mama ‘ now ) was not even present on the occasion and you know that!  What he said now was not based on facts but on his fancy imagination. And you also  know that he is good in that’

Now the good lady started suspecting whether I lied for the first time in my life. She looked at my innocent face and vibhoothi -coated forehead and confirmed to her son ‘ no, he is a ‘yogyan ‘ a decent man ‘

‘Paramayogyan’, chuckled her son .

Anyway the lunch served by her daughter in law , had the taste of my compliments to her in the morning! It was fantastic!

But, next morning when my nephew was preparing coffee for him, he didn’t enquire whether I would like to have a second dose !

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Let none suffer for food and clothes

The wish of every father, every mother

The Sun yet to shine bright
The women yet to tie their plait
Why hurry for breakfast,
Were you for a week, on fast?
Is it fair, not to share
Even with the lady dear
Seated so near?

Little Sidhu cried for milk,
For me, dad’s blessing clicked!

He didn’t say, ‘you’ll become rich
He didn’t say, ‘you’ll build a castle
He said, ‘you won’t suffer
For want of food,
For want of clothes’
And I haven’t so far
And I haven’t so far!

I see before my eyes
Young and able guys
Unable to eat, unable to drink.
Food they have in plenty
But, die stomach empty,
Their body machine’s wreck
Play havoc.

Like my father, I too pray
‘Let my children never suffer
For want of food
For want of clothes,
Let none in the world suffer
For food or clothes, ever’

Is not that the wish of every father?
Is not that the prayer of every mother?

File foto from New Jersey

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Spasm for santhosham



Superstition can even go to the extent of killing, though it is really difficult to decide what superstition is . My firm belief , may be superstitious for you. Even atheism is condemned as madness by some.

Superstition has killed people before and it is a pity it continues to kill even now when science and technology has much advanced. The recent report on the unbelievably cruel Killing of two grown up girls by their own parents , is heart- breaking . They were not uneducated people from a backward area. They were highly qualified. Even illiterate poor won’t commit such a heinous crime . But the parents thought they were performing their duty !!. You and me condemn their action as unpardonable but they feel they have done a noble task- yes, killing their dear daughters! That was what even those who encouraged widows to jump into the last pyre of their diseased husbands, too thought . That was those who killed animals before some deities too thought .

There were and still are prevalent what I call superstition but was a belief for my ancestors . One such is the spasm of eye lids or other body parts . My mother believed that twitching of her left eye was harbinger of some bad events. She used to worry that ‘something bad was happening ‘ to me in the far away Hyderabad and pestered my father to send a post card to find out that I was Ok . If she were alive now she would have still believed so, but her anxiety wouldn’t have lasted long as cell phones and FaceTime facilities are available now. ( the point to be noted is that as a mother she thought and worried about her son and not about herself or even about my father!!)

This belief (which I don’t have ) was there in our country from time immemorial. May have some reasons for that which I’m not aware of .

When Anjaneya entered Lanka, says a Malayalam poet :
ജനക നരപതി മകൾക്കും ദശാസ്യനും
ചെമ്മെ തുടിച്ചിതു വാമഭാഗം തുലോം

Janaka narapathi makal- King Janaka’s daughter. Sita
Dasaasyan. One with ten heads -Ravana
Vama bAgham – Left side

( Remember- VAmae bhoomisudhapuracha HanumAn —)

Thudichu.- fluttered

Meaning :
When Hanuman entered the gates of Lanka, for Sita Devi and Ravana, their left body parts had spasm( indicating good thing was going to happen to Sita and bad for Ravana)

During my young days ( not now 😐) while walking behind young ladies( unintentionally 😐) I used to wish and pray that my right eye(or any right part of my body 😐) should flutter but the spasm was always on the left !

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Let me be what I’m

Don’t please , compare me with you.

You may be a lion,  me a lamb,

You may be divine, me a devil

So what ? I’m me, my mother’s child.

I’m not all good or all bad,

I’m  with my own good and own  bad

I can’t become you and you can’t become me

I’m me, my mother ‘s child.

No duplicate copies in God’s press

All original, incomparable

So you be what you’re

Let me be what I’m.

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Isn’t it that yours ?

When I lose my way and go astray

When I slip and fall,

A hand lifts me up!

Isn’t that yours?

When I fight for my survival

About to be disarmed and defeated

An armory Impenetrable for the  enemy- sword comes from nowhere

And covers my chest

Isn’t that yours ?

When my hands go weak and the boat doesn’t move ,

The waves nears to swallow me

The shore moves towards me;

Aren’t you that shore ?

Will you my Lord ,

When my eyes fail to see, ears fail to hear,

Come close , very close to me,

And play your flute, go on playing

To cheer me up and lift me up ?

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FaceTime chat at a wrong time, with a wrong person

The -3 and -4 deg C Baltimore temp. dulls my spirit, despite the best protection provided by my children.  Most of the day time,  I spend sleeping if not,  eating.  Consequently nights turn a  nightmare !

Lying on the bed with a heater near my bed , I keep meddling with my iPhone and iPad much against the instruction from Meghana.

In my half-asleep, half- awake condition,  I click  on wrong letters on the keypad and on wrong icons on the FaceTime screen. One such mistake lead me to a bad start and a happy ending.

My wrong click on the video icon intended for a Fb friend  Kavitha,  unintentionally went to Savittha ,  another friend  who was not a fan of my face or what I write.   She had , sometime ago vowed not to look at my face again when I made a comment on her photo in the Facebook,’ ‘your grand daughter will look more appealing in the salwar kameez you’re wearing !’ . It was unnecessary for me to have made that insipid ,irritating remarks though BTW what I wrote was true. I didn’t expect a 70 plus orthodox woman in that dress but it was her choice and it was none of my concern. Had I used the accepted phrases such as ‘amazing’ ‘unbelievable’ etc , I would have been appreciated.

The moment I realized  my wrong handling and was about to turn off the camera with a polite ‘sorry madam’, her husband peeped into the camera and I shouted in excitement of meeting an old friend , ‘oh, Ramu, you ? What a surprise! And you look much younger to your age and your face hasn’t lost the sheen of our college days ‘ . No old man of nearly my age or a few decades younger  can have a shining face and my exclamation was due to my excitement of meeting a classmate unexpectedly though on the camera. But , Savitha madam didn’t take it so light. She screamed : you intruded into my privacy and now insulting me?’

‘Insulting you, how, mami?’, politely I responded.

Her husband had a hearty laugh . He was really on cloud 9 realizing that he looks young, a truth he was not aware of but had to be told by an old friend.

‘Where is Parvathi, your girl friend, Ramu?’ I enquired. My intention was only to know the whereabouts of another classmate.

Before he could reply, mami looked at his face in anger and asked,

‘Nghaa!  you had a girl friend too! Now I know why you are getting up at night and going to the kitchen ! To call you girl friend surreptitiously. Right?’

‘’Savi, at night I feel chewing some peanuts or biscuits’

‘I don’t trust your words’ His wife vowed . ‘Now on, I will never trust you ‘

Then, turning to me she said, ‘ mama, please tell me all about your friend ‘s college days. I should decide my future course of action’

I was in trouble.  ‘Future course of action! What it could be? I worried. Anytime Megh could enter in and ask me why I was still with my iPhone. Or it could be even my son. It is not a good habit chatting with Facebook friends at late night hours, that too within a fortnight after an eye surgery.

‘Mami, I feel terribly sleepy. Can I call you the moment I get up tomorrow and share all I know about Ramu’s college days ? . Where is Ramu? Let me say good bye to him ‘

‘He is snoring!  See, he is least interested in chatting with you though you old friends , are seeing each other’s face after long time . And see me, I’m  interested to continue our chat though your call was an intrusion into my privacy’

‘Easwaro rakshathu ‘ God save me! In fact He saved me.

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Spasm for santhosham

Superstition can even go to the extent of killing,  though it is really difficult to decide  what superstition is . My firm belief , may be superstitious for you. Even atheism  is condemned as madness by some.

Superstition has killed people before and it is a pity it continues to kill even now when science and technology has much advanced. The recent report on the unbelievably cruel Killing of two grown up girls by their own parents , is heart- breaking  . They were not uneducated people from a backward area. They were highly qualified. Even illiterate poor won’t commit such a  heinous crime . But the parents thought they were performing their duty !!. You and me condemn their action as unpardonable but they feel they have done a noble task- yes, killing their dear daughters! That was what even those who encouraged widows to jump into the last pyre of their diseased husbands,  too thought . That was those who killed animals before some deities too thought .

There were and still are prevalent what I call superstition but was a belief for my ancestors . One such is the spasm of eye lids or other body parts . My mother believed that twitching of her left eye was harbinger of some bad events. She used to worry that ‘something bad was happening ‘ to me in the far away Hyderabad and pestered my father to send a post card to find out that I was Ok . If she were alive now she would have still believed so, but her anxiety wouldn’t have lasted long as cell phones and FaceTime facilities are available now. ( the point to be noted is that as a mother she thought and worried about her son and not about herself or even about my father!!)

This belief (which I don’t have ) was there in our country from time immemorial.  May have some reasons for that which I’m not aware of .

When Anjaneya entered Lanka, says a Malayalam poet :

ജനകനരപതിമകൾക്കും  ദശാസ്യനുംn

ചെമ്മെതുടിച്ചിതുവാമഭാഗംതുലോം

  

Janaka narapathi makal- King Janaka’s daughter. Sita

Dasaasyan.  One with ten heads -Ravana

Vama bAgham – Left side

( Remember- VAmae bhoomisudhapuracha HanumAn —)

Thudichu.- fluttered

Meaning :

When Hanuman entered the gates of Lanka, for Sita Devi and Ravana, their left  body parts had spasm( indicating good thing was going to happen to Sita and bad for Ravana)

During my young days ( not now 😐) while walking behind young ladies( unintentionally 😐) I used to wish and pray that my right eye(or any right part of my body 😐) should flutter but the spasm was always on the left !

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Mouth should open or shut when it should

We live on hopes and trusts . The belief that I will see the sunrise tomorrow gives me good sleep this night. The belief that my mouth will open again gives me courage to shut it after eating food or shouting at Ammalu . But for trust and belief , we will be living a life of fear and uncertainty.!

I used to teach a song to little Shasta, who is now with her maternal grandfather in Chennai

‘കാക്കെ, കാക്കെ, കൂടെവിടെ —-

‘KAkkae kAkkae koodevidae?! The same song I was teaching Ananu, 15 years ago

Imagine my agony if I can’t close my mouth to say ‘kae‘ after ‘Ka’ !

Imagine my agony if I can’t close my mouth to say ‘lu’ after ‘Amma ‘ while romancing with Ammalu.. you know what will be the consequence.?

She will yell : ‘even now Amma! Amma , Amma, always Amma!
Go to your Amma; she will bottle feed you’

Is this the age for me to be bottle-fed?

God is great ! After ‘kA’ I can say ‘kae ‘ !
Not a small matter! After ‘Amma’, I can say ‘lu’. Not a small matter!

You’re not unconvinced ?

Read this story :

Anantha Jyothi, my Habsiguda home. Sometime last year before my leaving for USA.

Soon after getting up from the bed, I open the main door to look at the rising Sun and pray ‘jayathu, jayathu Soorya ‘, as usual.

There stands in the opposite gate an angel wearing a Kerala sari, apparently the new tenant . I stand awe struck, my mouth wide opened at her charm , without noticing the fat man with a harsh look, obviously her husband, beside her. I try to shut my mouth realising that it is ungentlemanly to stay long in that position but alas, my mouth refuses to close!

‘Don’t turn your face,’ warns my intellect,’ Ammalu is watching you from the hall’

I become nervous as I can’t either stand at my door, mouth opened , like a ‘cheenganni’ or alligator when a newly married couple was watching from their house front, right opposite ; nor could I turn and face Ammalu!

Ammalu commands ‘get a salt packet, please’

‘Why salt in the morning ? Are you going to add salt instead of sugar in my morning coffee?, I wanted to ask her but my mouth refuses to move ! That was the first time in life I learned the fact that mouth has to close and open to perform its task and it can’t remain either opened or closed.

I walk down to the Kirana store, ignoring the surprised staring of the neighbors on both sides of the street at me, walking mouth wide opened, (like a cheenkanni.)

The agony was not over. To express my need to the shop owner, I had to open my mouth! My mouth was in the open state but I can’t say a word !

(Later, I learned that the husband of the damsel had used a Malayala mantravadam to keep my mouth motionless. Later , having learned from the neighbors that I’m a gentleman, he released the bondage using an antidote mantram)

We don’t bother to understand what a great system we are provided by God while sending us to this world ! Our mouth opens and closes; our eyes too, at our will ! Our hands and legs fold and unfold at our will! Our eyes move horizontally and vertically, our neck turns to our right and left, up and down. Our hand turns to scratch our back or leg moves to the front to kick a ball. These are great gifts by God and we won’t realize their importance till they protest.

Baghavan ! Keep my organs in tact, in working condition, well fabricated so that I can see what I like to , eat what I want to and close when I don’t want to see or eat or talk . Other than these, I have no activities in this world now !

Cartoon courtesy – my cousin Ramki Kumar, the popular wedding cartoonist of Chennai,