Word Muse #1 – சற்றே

Words – just stand-alone words – are beautiful. Sometimes, one just gets into my head from somewhere, for no reason, and it becomes a muse.

A very short-lived one. And leaves me with nothing more than a fleeting thought in a volatile string of words urgently pulled and put together.

This section is going to be a simple headstone epitaph to those muses. And gravestone inscriptions these truly are – making not much sense to anyone but the writer, and given to vastly different interpretations.

Here goes the first one..

பாரதி சொல்லி சென்றான்.. நிமிர்ந்த நன்னடை 

நிமிர்ந்தே நின்றாள், நிமிர்ந்தே அமர்ந்தாள்

நாற்காலியின் காதில் மட்டும் சொன்னாள்


 சற்றே சாய்ந்து கொடு

Translation : I concede defeat. I can not, for sweet life, translate the last line anywhere close to elegantly. Hence, I refuse to attempt to translate or explain.

[Update : 30th Oct 2012]

Transliteration :

Bharathi solli senraan.. Nimirndha nannadai*

NimirndhE ninraaL, nimirndhE amarndhaaL

Naarkaaliyin kaadhil mattum sonnaaL


SatrE saaindhu kodu.

*Reference to Subramania Bharathi’s famous poem describing Pudhumai peN : Nimirndha nannadai, nerkonda paarvai.. (Modern woman : Majestic straight gait, confident straight gaze..)

Possible lines of interpretation :

1.  General interpretation : The modern woman walks erect, stands erect, sits straight, oozes & flaunts confidence. But every once in a while, she secretly asks her chair to tilt back just a bit for her to relax.

2. The hidden special interpretation : A woman with chronic back pain suffers in silence, while putting up a brave face in fighting the pain and letting it not show to the world. But sometimes, her office chair is her closest friend.


Keep Distance

Prema – all of 13, twelve years back, was an unsmiling child. Every summer morning, I sat watching her on the portico. In her hands, the broom was aggressive – scratching and scarring the floor with every sweep.

Giving a final thwack with the broom, she went around to the backyard – to the voice that called her to breakfast. Special brunch served personally by the lady of the house, on exclusive cutlery – Prema’s own plate and bowl. No one in the household is allowed to use it. I get yelled at when I rebel every once in a while and serve myself a snack on her plate.

Grandma was a fierce fighter for Prema’s rights, for what Prema deserved. She deserved to be served her food where she works – she need not drag herself to the dining area, or serve herself. She deserved to drink water from her own bottle, while everybody else had to use common glasses. That Fanta pet bottle that should have been discarded weeks back, but had been saved just for this.
Cos.. you know how it is.. Grandma does not like to bring back utensils Prema touched, ate and drank from, into her oh-so-pure kitchen.
Apparently, Prema deserved to be belittled – softly, politely, every day.

Her poverty-ridden life served her daily meals with an accompaniment of humiliation.

My elite polite life served me confused inability to question the injustice.

Casteism is easy to stand up to. One might even argue that it goes away with the “older generation”. Not this intellectualized hypocrisy.

For casteism, it was not. Liberals do not do caste, remember? This is all about hygiene!
You know how it is… these poor people don’t take bath properly and are brimming with infections and diseases, and “we” do not want to catch anything disgusting from them? They neither use soap with anti-bacterial properties nor carry around sweet little bottles of hand-sanitizer liquids – like “we” do.
It is “keep distance” – from the unhygenic.
Somehow, “socially” hugging people – the elite kind of people – is hygienic. Skin infections, after all, affect only the poor.
Somehow, sharing a drink or eating from the same plate – with the elite kind of stranger you just met – is hygienic. Elite saliva is all clean and clear.
Somehow, gorging on street-food in the rains is hygienic. It is so kewl & fun and such a liberating experience of the “real india”! And of course, “we” can pop in a zinetac, a cetzine and, if necessary, a cefaxelin later.
Only the beggar boy touching “us” with just the tips of three of his fingers is unhygienic!
“I am not comfortable with this. I don’t mind giving 10 rupees.. it is after all a job, you know?. But I am not comfortable with this touching”.
“Yaaaaa.. it is TERRIBLE!”

I am so horrified, that I even forget to pick on that ultra-moronic “begging is after all a job” part!
This is no hygiene – this is just “keep distance” – from poverty.

“Keep distance” – from poverty..
Said disguised in high-sounding words, with a smile, and a “you know how it is..”.

I can’t fight them – these liberal, open-minded hypocrites.
I can only escape..
“Keep distance” – from hypocrisy.

At least, I can afford to now – after years of independence and learning to stand up for my beliefs.

Prema still can not.. She can not afford that luxurious bit of self-esteem – ever.
Damned poverty!

Years back, there were hand-me-downs..
She wore my faded t-shirt.
She wore my old party skirt
She swept while safety pins provided old-age support to the elastic waist band.
I looked on..
Wearing her helplessness.

Years later, there are hand-me-downs..
She now wears my aunt’s not-good-enough saree.
Her infant son wears what my niece has outgrown.
She sweeps while my aunt yells at her to leave the gurgling-cooing-nuisance at home.
I look on..
Still wearing her helplessness.

Only hand-me-downs it will be.. For ever.

Given with generosity..

From a safe distance.

Little Mysteries in Life #2

Think about long walks on the beach..

All so lovely, all so dreamy, all so romantic?



I mean, if I am on the beach, I would jump, run, splash around in the waves. Chase the waves. Swim, surf, challenge the waves.

I would suddenly startle & run behind a friend or make a friend run behind me – madly – for no reason. And laugh at the craziness of our behavior.

I would play with the sand. Make mounds and name it a castle. Even have a house-warming ceremony for it.

I would collect shells. Throw back starfish and oysters into the ocean, if they have been washed ashore alive.

I would chase crabs. Or just watch them flitting by funnily, if I am feeling saintly.

I would watch people for a while. And catch up on the years of missed out beach sundal, molagai bajji and balloon shooting, if I happen to be in Chennai.

I would sit and watch the waves letting time rushing past uninhibited. Just the waves – thundering, crashing, playful waves, checking on me now & then, teasing, evasive, soft, twirling in silence, taunting me by their total absence – the whole spectrum. Waves dazzling in golden metallic splendor, if the sun happens to touch the horizon.

And talk my heart out if a loved one happens to be sitting beside me.

Now.. WHY on earth would I take long walks on the beach?

I can do that anywhere! To watch the sun or moon playing hide-and-seek among tree branches? That can be enjoyed on a deserted road – better if it winds around a hill. And guess what? I don’t even have to watch where I step to avoid stepping on filth, glass pieces and the like.

Am I supposed to walk  watching the water?

I can’t do that facing the water front – for obvious reasons!

Am I supposed to walk along the coast, turning my head sideways to watch the waves?

Rrrrright! As if I don’t have enough pain in the neck already!!


Just WHAT is this whole concept of long walks on the beach all about?

I just don’t get it!