SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, May 31, 2010

Vacations ...the end is near...part 2!

(So if you did not catch the previous post, do check it out as this is the sequel!)

Going on a vacation was not defined the way it is nowadays. My dad being a business man, taking off was a rarity. He kept travelling, so all he (probably!) wanted to do was pack us all off so that my mum would get some respite!.
Packing us off meant that we headed either to Bombay ( yes i'd rather say that, as I have visited Bombay but never seen Mumbai!!), where his sister and youngest brother lived along with my grandparents. Or to Hyderabad where his other brother lived. But the crucial factor was where my grandparents were positioned at that time...they were the quintessential parents, moving from one offsprings house to another, depending on where their services were needed, but predominantly using their elder son's place(my dad's) in Chennai as their base camp.

Travelling always excited me, it still does, and it probably goes back to those magical days.

Train was the obvious mode of travel. So all the preperations for the journey would start a week in advance. All kinds of things would be packed, like nothing can be got in Bombay and every thing has to be taken from Madras!
Coffee powder, pooja items, like kumkum, turmeric, sandal, loads of vadam (dried Popodam for frying).
Food...glorious food. Pulikaichal would be made, a tangy spicy concoction made with tamarind paste, with a delicate seasoning of peanuts and curry leaves. This would be mixed with rice and stuffed into the lower most container of a "tiffin carrier" (ahhh, the multilayered stainless steel convenience, that has been replaced by tupperware and plastic!).
Idlis (steamed rice/lentil cakes) undoubtedly would be packed in humungous quantities. No chutney, as that would perish in no time, but 'gun powder', a mixture of dry roasted lentils and red chillies, mixed with oil for the adults, and sugar for the kids!
No food was bought at the stations as they were considerd too unhygenic, and any food from the platform other than coffee or tea, was frowned upon by the elders.
Not that it stopped my father from buying chilli bajjis, or vadais from a passing vendor, which was surreptitiously shared by the adults while we children scratched our heads at the hypocrisy!!
...Surprisingly, we never questioned them, such were the children of yore, unlike now, who pull us up like medieval judges if we do any action that is contrary to what we have spoken!
Somehow our baggage would be monumental. Food, clothes and gifts squeezed into many, many bags and that meant reaching the station early so that we could find adequate space to fit them all in. Inspite of that we would have bags all around us and would find ourselves sitting on something, and being scolded for crushing it!

The train would leave the platform with a gentle hoot and a tug, and the butterflies in my stomach would explode into million warm feelings. Excitment, happiness, curiosity, sheer delight and anticipation, would see us running from one window to another, not wanting to miss the scene on the platform ( we travelled only by 2nd class sleeper back then).
Craning our necks to see the stalls rush by, waving to every stranger on the platform, just so that they dont miss the fact that we were going...away...on holiday!!
Literally my mother would let herself loose, all the worries and responsibilities, daily chores and hassles to be left behind. Just looking forward to 36 hours of eating sleeping, and watching the world go by. Bliss, I'm sure, for a much harassed mother of 3!
We never gave a thought to clean/unclean toilets, or the soot that covered us from the spuming engines. Mum did her job from time to time, handing over food, distributing goodies, that we had not even noticed being packed.
Playing cards, watching the scenary, chatting with the co passengers,time stood still...yet chugged its way ahead!
To see the train as it took the bend, seeing the bogies snaking its way like a gigantic multi segmented beast on the track was a thrill. This would surely be followed by a mini tussle with the sibling as she too craned and pushed to see what the other was seeing!
We happily talked to strangers, no fear here. I remember many trips that I have travelled on a complete strangers lap, just because that was the only way to get to a window seat. No paranoia, no apprehensions, just some friendly camaraderie as the grown ups shared food, general views and embarassing family details!!

Travel to Bombay: the landscape rushes by, telephone poles zoom past. Miniscule farmers toil away in far off fields of rice.
Plain lands give way to mountains, creaking and groaning the engines pull us through and into the caverns.
We strain to see the tunnels approach, and as we whooooosh into them, the defeaning roar frightens us. Each time...every time. We close our eyes and ears. Then when daylight bursts in through our closed palms, we run back to the windows to catch a glimpse of the sheer walls on one side and the deep valley on the other.
Then again closing our eyes and ears as we thunder through another tunnel.
I can still feel it in me!!

36 hours later as the train chugs into it's destination, Bombay Victoria Terminus, we are grimy, soot laden, tired and...hungry! Can't wait to get into the taxi, and reach home where grandparents waited with equal anticipation, love and most importantly loads of hot food!

The adults have still to check and count the luggage, bargain with the coolie and taxi wallah, load the car and the kids. Yet there is relief at having reached with no untoward incident, safe and secure.

Mostly my parents would accompany us, stay for a week and then push off back, while we children stayed back to enjoy the holidays with grandparents.

What we did during those days is another story isnt it?

You can wait for the sequel to this too...!!

Vacations...the end is near!

Our vacation is coming to an end.
Lazy mornings spent rolling in bed with cousins.
Half the day is done for the other members. Fathers have gone to work (poor dears, have no vacation like we do, isnt it?). Mothers insisting that it is time to wake up.
"C'mon, holidays doesn't mean you can sleep forever.Get up and brush your teeth. When will you have breakfast? At 11.00 O'clock?

"Please ma/chithi(aunty), dont open that curtain, just 5 minutes more."

Then when you come back, you find one reading a book (yes without brushing!), another hanging upside down from the bed playing with a toy, and a third with the sheet pulled right over, trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep!!

The lazy morning stretches into a lazy day. Late breakfast, a leisurely lunch interspersed with play, books,and T.V, and then more play, books and T.V!

This sounds familiar?
Well that's how we have spent the last 3 weeks. I was the chief bugle blower and entertainer. Waking them up and generally cattle prodding them to move and make their way through the usual morning motions. Seeing they get their daily rations, so ably prepared by my mum and over-seered by sis.

Taking them out almost every day inspite of the heat was also my job. Still I could not get them to the museum, but we did log the Guindy park, Marina beach (many times), crocodile bank and even the St.Mary's church inside Fort St.George.
I would have liked to take them to the museum but somehow this got vetoed every time. Maybe when they are a little older they will appreciate an outing there....maybe not!
Some great story telling sessions and the kids were inspired to make up their own small skit, which they enacted to us. A funny one about a lazy dentist. dearth of it!

Eating out, pizzas, icecreams, cold drinks. Children have it made nowadys and it appears that we too dont mind at all.
As this vacation comes to an end, it is impossible not to reminiscise on other vacations, especially my childhood ones....

Well you can wait for the sequel!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sipping the wines of friendship!

Catching up with old friends is like drinking wine. Not that I am a connoisseur of any sort, nor do I know even know the ABCD of it (literally translated from Tamil!!).
Merely based on heresay and the little I watch of cookery programmes and of course books.
To me catching up with old friends is like drinking wine!

The timing needs to be perfect.
School friends, are of course easier to catch up with, now with Facebook, and Orkut. But just like wine needs to rest on the shelf to gain flavour so also these friends from the past need to be left alone, for some years!
Once in a while you need to rotate the wine (I am told ), so once in a while you could check on them. How they fare, how life has taken them, just a looking into, a dip into the flavours we can say.
Then comes the right moment, a good numbers of years after you have left the wine to mature, to take it off the shelf, to savour its sweet, tangy, buzz! Now you catch up with your friend, savour the glorious past, taste the sweet flavours of maturity and catch up with the heady of buzz of each others life.
I must say it gives me a high!!

Choose them with care.
In the same way as the wine depends on the quality of fruit that is used, so also the kind of friends we choose, will only enhance the flavour of our friendship. So choosing these people who we wish to keep in touch is no small job. We need to taste the fruit of companionship, test the quality of committment and finally add them to our bottle to mature over time and to savour in our leisure!

I am told wine has some essential ingredients that helps longevity. Resveratrol is found especially in the skin of grape fruits that helps protect the body cells from all stresses. Hey so does friendship! The friends we keep determine our health and happiness! N'est ce pas?

To nicely balance this let me also say that an overdose can lead to addiction and complete lose of balance. Any thing has to be had in moderation, which only time and maturity determines. Toxicity is directly proportional to quantity!
Just as we need to savour our wine in moderation and not go overboard about stocking the cupboard, so also dont fill your life with every specimen in the market.
Choose them with care, store them with love, savour them with happiness!

Friendship and companionship are important ingredients in our life.

Old age need not be neccassarily lonely if we follow this recipe for happiness.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

paradise is here

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Thats why I feel every morning I wake upto paradise.

Hey, that sounds wonderful for the opening lines of a song!

That's the view from my sister's apartment balcony. I cherish the morning sunrise, a view that I will not get when I leave here.
To wake up with the sun in its full glory reflected on pristine waters, with man and his machines dotting the seashore. An amalgamation of all that is life.
The beauty of nature and the toils of man in his pursuit of a living.

Every morning is a time to thank Him for all that I have and a time to reflect on how important are the things that I feel I dont have!!

As water meets the sky, I feel the infinitism of space and the minuteness of my life in this space.
Daily hassles worry us no end, yet when we share this moment of peace or solitude with nature, we can feel the answering call.

Sometimes the moments of happiness are lost in the deluge of sadness. But just as the wave happens, to recede and return, every wave in our life brings with it some moments of pure joy, some moments of peace, some sadness or bitterness and many times just plain nothingness!

It is impossible not to respond or react to the changing waves.

Yet I still hope to face these waves with a calm and invariance that is my quest in life.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Breaking the cycle

Childhood spent in fantasy,
Filling tiny cups of memories.

Of early mornings and agarbathi,
And jasmine plucked from the bushes.
Strung by deft fingers into garlands,
For the lord and the servant.

Kindly neighbours adored the lass,
Feeding and clothing
The little princess as if their own.
They grew her in a world of their own.

Crisp starched sarees ironed to perfection
Training school stories and rare independence.
A world away from the poverty
That haunted the other siblings.

Marriage promised a change
From a burdened living,
But alas little do we know
How time does decieve us.

Orthodoxy and tradition crippled her soul
As she struggled to balance
A life with four children
And an indecisive workoholic.

Where is the Man?
What is there in this for me?
No answers there, as she absorbed herself
Consumed herself with rearing.

Bitterness and recrimination
Remorse and despair
Negativity and anger
Hardened her core

Children reared on simmering anger
Each one coped individually
A legacy of anger and discontent
I fear, is carried in the genes.

I watch this circus of life
As a spectator and a participant.
Hoping that I can break this cycle
Of intolerance and viciousnous.

Happiness, joy and love
Are easily taken for granted.
Yet its value is known only,
When we witness a troubled soul.

The story of many lives
Is mirrored here in my lines.
To identify these souls
To support and help them.

Break the cycle
It is an illness

Saturday, May 15, 2010

~Scripts that we read ~

I have made many comments on Roles we play.
Every individual in his lifetime plays many roles... and so on and so forth....

But have you ever heard the Scripts?

Have you heard yourself at any time?
Actually Heard yourself as you repeat statements that have been fed to you over time. Stuffed inside your head, forcing you to say them at the appropriate time.
"do your duty"
"try and satisfy them/their(others) needs "
"obey your elders"
"dont speak when elders are speaking"
"dont talk back "

I am sure there are many many more such statements that we spew forth in our effort to correct and educate.

These are scripts that we have heard and we store in ourselves and that we automatically use in a situation that is deemed appropriate.
Every role has a script and this is my crib for today.

Why do we use these words and patterns of expression?
Individuals need to break free from such confining words and attitudes. Roles restrict us and we tend to play the part without understanding the content.
So also, we say  the words but we dont actually understand the impact of the words or the need for the words or the fact that the words can be phrased in a different way to convey the same meaning.

Yet again we need to question the meaning behind these confining words as well.

What is duty?
Is duty a blind obediance to age and authority?
Then when do we teach children to question authority that is corrupt or simply questionable?
Dont you think that sometimes by asking someone to be dutiful...we are actually instilling a fear, a fear of transgression?

Why try and satisfy a need in the other when we are dissatisfied ourselves.
Blind obediance is worse than slavery in my mind.
Expression and Speech if curtailed is a loss of a fundamental right!!

I know this topic is too complex and intricate to be sorted out here entirely.
What I wish to do is not provide any quick fixes, but to raise an issue on how Patterns of Speech corrupt our thoughts into believing in its truth and invariance.

Rewrite the script folks, try to give the future a different perspective, a just and fair one for sure, not one biased by cliches.

(This is not to say I dont indulge in such cliched speech, I do..
...but it is only today that I became aware of it and its impact...)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Hanuman's Ramayan", reviewed by my resident Storyteller!

'Finally, what matters is the story, not the teller."

A storyteller feels the pang!!

How can Devdutt Pattanaik finish the story with such a disputable statement is what I thought? Is he justified in saying this?
I am biased when I say this, but every story is in the tellers skill as he weaves his magic around the warp and the weft of his story.

Truly magic has been created in this book by Devadutt Pattanaik which has been illustrated by Nancy Raj.

How it came home?
Tulika Books happily sent  free books to all those who had participated in their very first blogathon. It arrived when we were just leaving Kanpur for our annual vacation to Chennai.
So it got packed in. But somehow  in between the packing and the leaving, it got unpacked, and I found my daughter reading it!

The Verdict
After the routine million questions on where this book had come from and why, my daughter decided to review it for me
"Amma I will read the book and tell you the story first."
And she promptly read the book.
I was fascinated both by the story and the tellers grasp of its content.
With ease she told me the details, and the story flowed as beautifully as it had been illustrated.
She told me how Valmiki was unhappy that Hanuman had written a Ramayan, she had also picked up how Valmiki was upset that a monkey's Tale was better than his....
She told me how Valmiki searched for the Monkey, and his query and finally how Hanuman was happy to eat up his story(!), as he believed he had written the story for Ram...and not for the name (glory) of writing the story.
She got it all...and she told it to me so well...not once even looking at the script..though she did go back and forth as she looked and shared the illustrations with me.

The beauty of the story is apparent when the child is able to read and understand and enjoy, and here is one story which is all that and more...
So much for the story and  for my resident teller...let me share more about the actual story teller.
This story is retold by Devadutt...who is a self taught mythologist, ethnologist and storyteller.
For the past 12 years he has unearthed and analysed uncommon Hindu mythological stories for all and applied it to corporate scenario. I have been following his blog for some time now, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that this beautiful Red book is from his collection.
Again a story I have not come across...and so simple in its content, yet powerful in its message. I can only say thanks Tulika!!

I am not finished.... because I have not even touched the illustrations....
Nancy Raj has brought out the story using  the Mithila Art form, or Madhubani as it is also known. Truly the book is a visual treat.
I love the page where Hanuman's Ramayan is shown illustrated on the Banana leaves...the pictures bring the story alive....

What the book does is to make us aware of a multitude of details...a story, a writer, an illustrator, an art form...what more does one want!!

Add it to your collection...its absolutely worth it!!   

( I had asked for the English version, but this story is available in many other languages...please check it out)
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