Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ruminations About a Destination

When tomorrow dawns, it would be exactly eight years since the day I started my career. The day I set foot inside the Infosys campus in Bangalore, 26 July, 2004. Along with some two hundred others who joined in my batch, starry eyed and fresh from college, I walked into the prestigious compound brimming with pride, for I had hit the jackpot in the very first chance by landing a plum job right after college. I made scores of friends in Infosys, of which Gowri, Viswadhara, Pratap, Deepak and Krishnakumar and myself formed a close knit group. In fact, it comes back to me now, I had even formed a personal folder in my Outlook for mails from this gang, and called it Infyclosknit! The girls of the group, Gowri, Viswadhara and myself stayed together during the training period, and along with the boy hung out both during weekdays and weekends. Like the lines from the song Summer of '69, “those were the best days of my life”.

Today, when I look back at these eight years, it is astonishing to find how much all of us have moved on. All the three girls are now out of Infy, while the guys are still sticking on. Ironically, I was the first to leave the company. Thinking about my reasons now, I remember becoming too restless, feeling stuck. The kind of work I was assigned caused a fatigue to set in, and that was the reason I cited for moving on. However, in retrospective, I realize that I might have moved on anyways, because, over the years I have found out that I don't remain content with one kind of work for too long. After working in a service company I worked next in a captive, and thrived in that environment for sometime. However the fatigue followed me soon enough, and within two years I was working just for the sake of it, and losing interest in what I was doing.

Thankfully marriage gave me the ticket to fly out of my second job and land in a third. The third stint was the shortest and I must say, the least productive. Though I say least productive, it is amusing to note that it is only in this job that I got not one but three awards for my work, and that too in a short duration of 6-7 months. I conceived soon after I joined and so within an year stopped working. After an year of being completely busy with my infant, for the past year I have picked up my long forgotten hobby of writing, which had grown a bit rusty, dusted and polished it, and am now dabbling freelance writing.

My husband has teased my many times about my career path – I studied biology in school, Instrumentation and Control in my Engineering, worked in Software and am now playing in literature. Where the hell I think I am headed? I have no answer, because I wonder the same thing myself. Towards peace of mind? Maybe. Biology I did because I liked it, ICE I did because that was the only subject left in free seat category during the Engineering counseling in one of the few respectable colleges. Engineering was what I chose for graduation because that was what everyone seemed to be doing at that time – it was the in thing. Similarly, software industry was the place most engineers headed after their degree, and I followed suit, and ended up meandering aimlessly in the world of Mainframes for nearly 6 years, not to mention the world of Finance and Capital markets, since that was the domain I worked in. And now, I have embraced English.

Looking back, this path is certainly a blindly followed one, heading to fall in the same well like others, just because others have been doing it. One thing I knew for sure since childhood is that I love English. I love to read and love to write in the language. Maybe, if I had learned to follow my heart in childhood, I would have taken up BA English, then went on to do MA, PhD, and so on. It definitely sounds a less glamorous option than the professional degrees, but I would have gotten into the world of writing much earlier, instead of the circumnavigation that I have done now. Maybe life would have been simpler and much more fun. Then again, may be it would not have! Like my spiritual beacon says, Providence has designs ready-made for us, of which we know nothing. We only see what is in the present and rue over it. We are nervous because we do not know what future holds in store for us, but if we care to introspect our past, we would see that every time we have been in a soup Providence has had a way of clearing up things for us.

One thing is for sure though. A resolve builds up in my mind as I write this and look up at my son stirring in sleep beside me. I will not impose my personal desire or the standard path that others are following on my son. Though, if he wants to follow it he is free to do so, but if he wants to try something else, say become a painter, or a sculptor, I will certainly give him the freedom to try out his luck. I know it is easier said than done. Therefore I implore the Providence to give me the strength to stand by my resolve. Maybe this post will come in handy to bring me down to earth on days when I get carried away by my desire to see my son win the rat race.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gifted, Blessed and Happy - I Am

Gifted is not he who has had

Many friendships in his lifetime.

Gifted is he who has

One friendship to last a lifetime.

Blessed is not he who is able to

Make all his dreams come true

Blessed is he who has a friend,

Who exults when his dreams come true.

Happy is not he who is always

In constant touch with his friends.

Happy is he with a friend who will,

Come calling when his morale is low.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here We Go Round The...

At about seventy feet, one does get to notice a lot of what goes on, on the ground below. My builder built my brother and me to contain five storeys each. I know five storeys is not too tall, especially when standing beside a family of eleven storey buildings. But my creator is a stickler to rules, so there was no way he was going to venture beyond the stipulated height for building near the airport. That the creator of the other family dared to do it is a different story. My builder would not dream of it.
To say the truth, I am glad he kept us at five storeys, because, at this height I can view things both above and below, quite clearly. I am sure the eleven storey folks would have trouble discerning what is happening on the ground. But us, we get to see everything as clearly as on the newest fifty three inches high definition LED TV that Mr. Mehra has bought. The latest model in market, which has so many features that I am sure Mr. Mehra has deciphered not even five percent of them. Why he wants such a big TV in the first place is a mystery in itself, given the fact that he and his wife are hardly at home. Nevertheless, there it is, the sleek, stylish, glistening black coloured TV, occupying the place of pride in the living room.
However, Mr. Mehra's TV is not what I want to talk to you about today. Though, I do keep a tab of what new appliance or furniture comes in or goes out of every home inside me. With about sixty families living inside me, I get quite a lot of entertainment to keep me busy throughout the day... and night. My builder may be a sticker to rules, but he certainly didn't stick too much to quality, and as a result my walls are not so soundproof. Neighbours get to hear what goes on in each others homes, and I get to hear what goes on in every home.
Therefore I am privy to the fights, romances, dramas, conspiracies, arguments and everything that happens in all the sixty families housed in me. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am able to listen to and see everything does not mean I misuse the information. Like the priest who listens to the secret confessions of people seeking redemption and locks all the secrets in the deepest echelons of his heart, I too bury all that I hear deep inside my foundations. Though I must admit, they all make up for good entertainment material.
Of all the things that take place in and around me, there is one occurrence that intrigues me to no end. To the extent that I wake up right at the break of dawn to witness it. Every day, just as the first bird starts cooing, Pradeep from 503 comes out of his home, clad in tracks and t-shirt, walking shoes from Reebok on his feet, Bose earphones connected to his I pod. He then starts circumambulating my brother and myself, round and round and round, for nearly an hour. The first day I saw him, I thought he was searching for something. Probably something Aryan, his son, left lying outside while playing the previous day. But he does the same thing everyday, walking at a furious pace, as if in a marathon. And right behind him, some twenty minutes later, Latha from 401 marches on.
As the day blossoms the number of 'circlers' increases. People walk around the compound anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. There's Shaji aunty, tottering slowly on her arthritis affected knees, swaying her heavy torso dangerously like a spinning top coming to a halt. It is a miracle that she doesn't lose her balance and fall off. Then there's Malhotra, the slick and stylish corporate guy whose every clothing and accessory reeks of money. He walks quite fast, as if in a hurry, all the while talking very seriously and excitedly over the phone. He says he walks to keep his heart in good condition, but I don't understand how the tension and excitement he usually is in when he walks, help the heart. Godbole uncle always comes clad in his kurta pajama, with his walking stick handy, and has a nice relaxed way of walking that I like. He breathes in the fresh air, relishes the pleasant early morning breeze, and has that serene and fresh smile on his face. That is how I believe walking should be.
It is no secret that all these people are walking for health reasons, because I hear each and everyone rave about it in their homes and with their neighbours. However, the way each one goes about it makes me smile sometimes, and at times, cringe. I see young ladies like Sumitra and Prachi, new mothers, walking quite fast, anxious to lose their post-pregnancy fat, with their babies. The baby is usually in a pram which they push using one hand, while the other hand holds a phone to their ears into which they talk anything and everything from relationships to gossip. I feel so sorry for the baby which looks around in fear and confusion at the fast changing scenery around it.
Is walking not supposed to be in a relaxed free manner, so that the fullest benefits of the exercise can be reaped? However my walkers, most of them at least, walk with various thoughts and plans and emotions brimming in their heads. Old ladies think about their bahus' (mis)deeds, young ladies think about their sasus' atrocities. Girls walk thinking about their love interests, and professionals like Malhotra walk thinking about the economy and stock market. Hardly anyone enjoys the actual act of walking, the burning of calories, the intake of fresh oxygen and the music of chirping birds. Except, as I said before, Godbole uncle. But then, I guess he is able to relish it all since he is past most of the worries that others have.
I used to wonder why these people circumambulate us. None of our predecessors had experienced anything of this kind. Isn't walking in a joggers park or a beach more enjoyable? Then it slowly dawned on me that my residents circle me as they do not have anywhere else to go. Joggers parks are few and far between and the roads are best avoided if one intends to walk for health, thanks to the traffic and noise, and of course the lack of footpath for pedestrians. So people are left with no choice but to turn their apartment premises into walking paths and march on unwavering, as the parked cars and motorbikes look on with sleepy eyes. In South India people circumambulate the presiding deities in temples so that God would answer their prayers. Maybe these 'circlers' also go around us, praying for a good park to come up for them to walk in instead. But neither am I a deity, nor can I do anything about it, except praying with them. For now, I simply watch them, have fun looking at their gaits, enjoy the steamy gossips thought streams and gossips and start each day with something quite similar to a riveting episode of a soap opera.
Bahu – Daughter-in-law
Sasu – Mother-in-law

Friday, July 06, 2012


During summer, my blog wore a rainy look,
Now that rains are here, it is ablaze,
with bright sunshine.
Vibrant colours, exciting hues.
Is this self-denial,
What am I running away from,
I ask myself.
Maybe it is the way of reminding myself,
That the only thing that doesn't change,
Is Change.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Tracing Back the Roots

When my father returned home from work on his retirement day, the last day he would ever go to work, I welcomed him with a mixture of satisfaction and anxiety. Satisfaction, because he had worked real hard for more than thirty years and deserved to relax in the twilight years of his life. Anxious, because after having worked continuously for thirty long years, sitting at home might seem stifling for him. I did not want him to fall into the trap of self-sympathy, get notions of being useless and dependent and lose his peace of mind. “An idle mind is a devil's workshop,” and I did not want the devil setting shop in my father's mind. However, I didn't have to worry much, as I found out the next day.
My father woke up at the stroke of six, walked for an hour, prayed for a couple of hours, read the newspaper for quite a few hours, and then, after lunch, sat at the computer table and typed something away in Google. When I saw him after sometime, he was deeply engrossed in something. It looked like some article from a blog. A couple of hours later, to my surprise, he was still at it, and what's more, he was taking notes too! Now he really got me hooked on, and I couldn't suppress my curiosity to find out what he was doing.
Handing him his cup of evening tea and a plate of snacks, I broached the topic. He seemed to have been just waiting for me to ask the question and embarked on an enthusiastic explanation for his serious 'Google'ing.
“I have been trying to trace back our roots,” he said.
“On the net? Are you sure it's possible?” My ever doubtful mind offered.
“I don't know. I've got to try anyway. I am also thinking of speaking to a number of our near and distant relatives. I am hoping to build a family tree with the information I get, which I want to be as detailed as possible and dating as far back as possible.”
It seemed quite an ambitious plan to me. I could remember my lineage only as far back as my father's grandfather. On my mother's side, I realized I knew much less. There was no written record of our lineage, and whatever we knew was known from hearsay. However, what my father was attempting to do was of extreme importance for people like me, who are often at a loss when they are inquired about their identity.
The community I belong to descends from a group of settlers from Western India who made South India their home. As a result, the culture and traditions we follow are a heady mixture of both worlds. While it does seem exotic to describe, I, like many others from my community, have had to face a lot of confusion and unanswered questions about where I belong.
Every time someone asks me, “So where are you from?” I say “TamilNadu”, the south Indian state.
“Oh so you speak Tamil!”
“No. We speak Marathi.”
“Then you must be from Maharashtra.”
“No we live in Tamilnadu but speak Marathi.”
“But you speak Tamil so well that no one would believe you are not Tamil!” And those who have heard our native tongue Marathi, say “But what you are speaking is not Marathi!”
At this point the person interviewing me usually gives me a look that ranges from ridicule to sympathy to amusement.
I have to then offer the lines of explanation that I have probably repeated a million times from my childhood to whoever asks me this question –
“We are Maharashtrians settled in Tamilnadu. Our ancestors had come and settled down south centuries ago. That is the reason our Tamil is so good and out Marathi so out of tune with what's spoken in Maharashtra.”
By the time my explanation ends, the interviewer gives me a hasty nod of understanding, regardless of whether he understood me or not, and eagerly abandons the topic. I pity the person for having invited upon himself this unwarranted lesson in History.
When I was a kid, I remember having pestered my parents with many impertinent questions about our community which more often than not, went unanswered or were deflected. All for the simple reason that my parent's themselves did not know. So when my father undertook to find out more about our past, I was all for it and even offered to help him.
In the days that came, my father dug out some truly intriguing stuff about our community. The influx of Mahratta people like us into southern parts of India had taken place during the reign of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Western India, in the region largely known as Maharashtra. This was in the seventeenth century. Shivaji's half-brother Venkoji had invaded Thanjavur, a bustling town in TamilNadu today and the seat of power in TamilNadu in ancient times, to drive away the ruler from Madurai who had usurped the Thanjavur throne from its original king. His invasion successful, Venkoji settled down in Thanjavur permanently, supposedly due to a dream he saw in which God came and asked him not to leave.
So there it was, the starting point of Mahratta-Tamil amalgamation. As the settlers who came with Venkoji settled on the fertile basins of the Cauvery, they imbibed a lot of things from the culture of the land, while contributing richly to its traditions. Thus we find many south Indian recipes, with a definite influence of Maharashtrian cuisine, and numerous customs and rituals that are similar in both Tamil and the Mahratta communities.
Reflecting on the chain of events, I find that it was not only about Mahratta-Tamil, but also about Mahratta's in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, who speak Kannada and Telugu respectively, much better than they speak Marathi. Like the water carrying tankers on the streets on Indian towns which spill half their contents on the roads before delivering what is left to the intended destination, a few of Venkoji's entourage presumably settled down at different places along the route from their native Maharashtra to Thanjavur. That is probably why half my relatives speak Kannada instead of Marathi, and why a search for grooms for me from my community brought up Telugu speaking families within the community.
In the course of my father's research I also found out that it is not just Mahrattas who have become naturalised citizens of a region away from their own. Throughout India, one can find numerous examples of people originally from one region, settled in another. We have Gujaratis living in Mumbai for centuries, Rajasthanis making TamilNadu their home and speaking Tamil more fluently than the locals, Tamils living in Delhi, and so on. Talk about cultural diversity!
My chest swells in pride when I picture the diverse flavours of ethnicity one can find in India. In the age of 'racial discrimination' and 'ethnic conflicts', the life of the common man in India, living a largely harmonious existence, can still teach a lesson or two to the world, despite the spurts of unrest which the media undoubtedly blows out of proportions. Unlike the American identity or the British or Chinese identities, the Indian identity is but a super-identity. We more closely associate ourselves with our sub-identities of being a Tamil, a Marathi or a Rajasthani than being an Indian. However, given the extensive cross-migration that has been continuously happening from every part to every other part of the country, these sub-identities are increasingly becoming complex. And due to the sheer weight of their complexity, they are becoming more and more blurred.
The pace at which the world is moving today doesn't allow time for elaborate history lessons when one is asked about his background. Neither the listener nor the speaker has the time, energy or interest for it too. Today's Indian, especially someone with my kind of background, is therefore better off calling himself simply, an Indian, instead of trying to condense centuries of his history into a couple of sentences. Therefore I too, ignoring the risk of appearing theatrical or cocky, have decided to answer, “I am from India,” the next time someone asks me “Where do you come from?”
Nevertheless, what my father found out has been of profound importance to me. It has enlightened me on who my forefathers were, and the glorious life they led. I take pride in the fact that many persons from the Thanjavur Mahratta community were highly learned and distinguished individuals, who held important positions in the courts of many local kings. The fact that my roots are as strong and powerful as those of a Banyan's gives me a new confidence and increases my respect towards my fellow community members.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Sky's Labour

She looks full, stuffed.
The sky.
A nine months pregnant woman.
Awaiting with bated breath,
The moment of delivery.
The out pour.
Thunders grumble and lightnings flash,
Pre-labour pains.
Are these false alarms?
Or is this it?
The damsel wrings her hands in tension.

Everyone looks towards
The labour room.
The sky.
Listening for
The first cry of life.
The first drop.
The instant when the water will break
And new life will pour out.
Fulfilling the promise
Of continuance.
New saplings breaking out.
Fresh scent of a newborn,
Wet earth.

The wait is on,
For dryness to end
For the parched earth
To become slush.
But  downpour remains,