Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Glass Slippers

At the stroke of midnight, her train arrived. Her senses prevailed and clutching the wailing infant, she waited with bated breath . Her memories whistled past, as the train thundered plundering her senses. She could feel the heat, the hot wheels scratching the cold iron.

Like him and her. Hot and cold. Fire and ice. Two people who should have never met. Who should have never exchanged vows. She wouldn't be here, if she knew he was not destined for her. If only she knew...If only she had known...If only she understood fairy tales never happen in life. Never did she wildly imagine this would happen. A ghost of a smile escaped her lips as she remembered the first day she set eyes on him- her own Prince Charming. 

An innocent salesgirl was no match for him. The first time she saw him, he was wandering through the supermarket, his look pensive, his brows knit together in an uneasy frown. He looked almost lost. As dutiful as ever, she had walked to him and asked- " Sir, what would you like to buy?". He turned to her with a calculated cool, his eyes sizing up her slender frame. Plain appreciation filled his eyes and he let out a low whistle. She could feel blood drumming in her ears and could hear her heart beat fast. This was no ordinary man. One look at him, she knew he was rich...filthy rich. Her brain sent her warning signals which she chose to ignore. And pay she did for her mistake, with her life.

He left the shop happy, whistling and bright. His idea of waiting for his new girlfriend to finish her dance classes, at the nearby supermarket was indeed the best one he had for years.  He loved the salesgirl, she had that air of innocence around her. Huge eyes set wide apart, slender figure, petite and luscious lips, she looked angelic, even in her uniform. He started visiting the shop almost every day, hunting for trivia. Ignoring all warnings from friends, she awaited eagerly for him. 

He started wooing her, showering her with gifts. Dresses, perfumes, bags and slippers...she remembered one particular slipper that almost resembled a glass slipper. Reminded her of Cinderella. She had always imagined herself as Cinderella, since she read the fable in her school days, wishing some Prince would come for her some day. She had ignored her parents' advice, stuck to him like a nail to a magnet and ended up pregnant- one fine morning. When she announced she was pregnant, he was quite taken aback. God, he hadn't thought of that. A baby? That sounded confusing at first.

He thought a lot, spent time weighing the advantages of being 'taken' and decided to go for it. His parents had been pestering him for a daughter in law and an offspring would be an added advantage, he mused. The wedding was a fairy tale, with thousands of guests, flashy cars, glittery jewels, expensive clothes and gourmet food.All that it lacked was 'love' from him. May be he is quite busy with the wedding, she thought. May be he will be normal soon, she hoped. Everything went on a nosedive the moment they were alone. Sensing her nervousness, he held her hands and said-" I married you just to rid of the 'villain' tag. Expect nothing from me. You will be fed well, clothed and accessorized in finery, go by flashy cars. But you are never my equal. I love women. Loads and loads of them. I just want to be free. So long as you remain within your limits, we both shall be happy".

She blinked away silent tears, tried to shake her head and clear away everything like a dream. She was Cinderella. She had everything- cars, jewels, servants, money and even the glass slippers. The clock chimed twelve as he turned away from her and she stood shaking like a leaf. Pooh! Everything had vanished in a cloud of dust. She had everything, but not 'love'. She remained distant, dreaming in her own world. She hated seeing people, stayed indoors, singing softly and whispering words of love to the yet to be born little one. And when the little daughter was born, he was away partying. He was now a total stranger, who had few words for her and the little one. 

It had been one year, since she had met him. August 14...she thought, as a forlorn smile lit her face. Tomorrow...she will be free. As everyone in the country. She had gained strength. The little one's first smile had done wonders to boost her strength. 

The train rattled away as she sat near the window clutching the child. Stars lit up the night sky, clearing the darkness. A silvery moon shone from the dark clouds. She looked at the blissfully sleeping little girl in her arms- her little Cinderella. May be her little girl will own a glass slipper someday...May be the little one will find 'love' someday.
This post is part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by Blog Adda.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Love is a butterfly

One rainy day...

Rain lashed the huge banyan tree where I stood huddled. Wind howled in my ears and drowned out his words. I could not hear them, though I could see them coming...A single tear that had threatened to trickle down the long eyelashes had now turned into a free and steady stream. Hiding my face from him, I ran. So fast as my legs could carry, to the confines of my room. He took a few steps towards me, then chose wisely not to. 

The last two days had been so confusing. He had been elusive, the first I had seen him so, all these years. He kept smiling at me in the training classes, passed on curd at the hotel during lunch hour and everything else had been normal about him, or so it seemed. I noticed he was much withdrawn and aloof. I smiled at the little Jesus motif on his pen. He was never religious, I knew that. May be that was one of the reasons why I tried to remain distant from him. He talked less to everyone and maintained a careful silence whenever I was around. And i was dying to talk to him. To listen to his 'da' and watch his smile light up his eyes. To ruffle his hair and laugh at his crazy jokes. To watch the nimble fingers hold the cigarette stub. To tell him finally that i made up my mind. To tell him that our Love-Hate relationship was over. To bare my heart out in the open...

Few years back...

First day, first college, first classroom. Everything was new and fresh..the college, the class rooms. For a small town girl entering a college, i was pretty nervous, but maintained steady. The whole class turned around to watch me, the girl with a boy cut, the short stature, reed-thin frame. Feeling probing eyes, i turned my head to look straight into the most expressive eyes i had ever seen. A big friendly smile ensued and i was surrounded with warmth. By the break time, i gathered he was friendly with everyone. He came to me in long strides, his six foot frame towering over a midget like me. "Any help, you can ask me", he smiled. His smile- not just a smile, it is a flower that blooms...slowly. His small lips that open wide, revealing white teeth in contrast to the deep brown cigarette kissed lips and the smile tinkling along the little eyes with long eyelashes drooping. 

As days passed, i moved out of my shell. It was tough, fighting out for the marks, recognition from professors and participating in everything under the sun- debates, essay writing, poetry, football, athletics, quizzes. Fighting for recognition does strange things to you- you never try to perceive others around you. I was almost insane, mad for 'more'. How much ever I achieved, i was thirsty for more. It was this craze that hid something precious from me. Him! 

He waited patiently every evening for the classes to end, to walk with me till the terminus, buying me ice creams and happily chatting away about the day. He bought me roses, cared for me, followed me everywhere i went. Annoyed and irritated...that is how i felt initially. My name was not to be sullied. I was a great student, someone who was going to be the 'best'. He was a hindrance. Noting my indifference, he proposed...not once, a million times and hundreds of ways- subtly, openly, strongly. I understood, but feigned indifference. I had to complete the course, settle down in a job. Love could always wait. 

So i started pretending. Pretending to hate him. To yell at him. To make him look a fool. To alienate him from his friends. How much ever i hated him, his love simply kept growing. A single day's absence from college brought him to my home. With feverish lips and burning eyes, i could feel his love as he barged in demanding why i was not at college. His eyes changed a vivid pool of concern looking at my tired face and care spilled in his words. As he left, all i could feel was hate- i hated me for not loving him. 

Years flew fast and he remained the same, we openly showed hatred, I was fighting him at the flimsiest excuses and hiding all the love within. Nothing could move me. Not his day- long wait on a Valentine's Day, not his cards and roses. I was fighting a different battle of proving myself. Not loving someone...The last i ever saw him was on the journey back home, the last day in college. Clutching a bunch of  postal envelopes that he gave me with a long sermon on writing to him, I stood smiling. Nothing registered. I had completed graduation. All i was waiting was for a job. That stood between me and him...I shall tell him my love someday and till then, let him hate much as he can.


Two years is a long time. People change. Cities change. Everything changes. Love too...I never wrote back to him. I never called him. I believed he could never hate me and his love would never change. I was naive, back then...Love can change. Hate can change. People evolve. He too had evolved. That rainy day, he had evolved...into something beautiful. A butterfly...He had found love. Someone caring for him was waiting for him back home. He had chased love amid all the hate and discovered it. I was so happy for him, elated...yet sad for me. Years have flown by, he had married his sweet heart, i had married someone real nice, landed in a job, have kids and everything in life. As i note my first grey hair, i cannot help but smile, thinking of him...All that is left of him are a bunch of postal envelopes concealed in my box a few fond memories... and this-

This post is a part of Wrote Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Queen Of Spades- Part 11

Story so far...
Commemorative stamp issued by Government of India on Queen Velu Nachiyar
This is the story of valiant Velu Nachiyar, the Queen of Sivagangai who fought the British much earlier than Jhansi Ki Rani. This work is pure fiction, though it draws heavily from the history and the times of  the Queen- late 17th Century. The Queen who is driven out of Sivagangai finds refuge at Dindigul fort, forging an alliance with Nawab of Mysore, Hyder Ali. After a wait of eight long years, combining forces with Gopala Naicker of Virupakshi and Hyder Ali's trained forces, the strong army of 6000 men and women soldiers, descend into Sivagangai Fort in the night. Kuyili, confidante of the Queen douses herself in oil and walks straight into the gunpowder storage of the British and lights it up, dying the Queen who has no idea of what is happening stands watching in horror.
Silence...The ashes were strewn everywhere. Gentle breeze was picking up the dust and littering the area. Periya Marudhu stood paralysed in shock. Kuyili...their Kuyili...his Kuyili was dead- shattered beyond recognition. His stallion refused to budge as his heart that had stopped still. He failed to notice the soldier lunging at him. Chinna Maruthu was vigilant. Though in shock, he was sharp to note the soldier lunging at Periya Marudhu and in one swift moment, his sword tackled the soldier. All Periya Marudhu could do was acknowledge his sibling in a curt nod and move forward. A thousand voices were clouding his mind, yet Chinna Maruthu was strong. Strong enough to push everything aside and he risked a glance at the Queen in horseback who was shielded. Her eyes were wide in pain and shock.
The neighs of horses from the makeshift stables floated through the air. The full moon shone in a distance, its rays bathing the gopuram of Kalaiyar Kovil temple. Velu Nachi stood watching the temple, her mind in a whirlpool of emotions. Capturing Kalaiyar Kovil was her dream for the past eight years. Every living moment she had spent imagining this victory. The threshold of the temple where she lay crying, holding to a dead Muthu...the blood, the sweat, the suffering, the pain that refused to erase from the distant past. The sight of Kalaiyar Kovil in the soothing moon light did nothing to ease away her pain.
Kuyili...why did she have to do that? Why did she never talk to her about her plan? Her best friend and confidante was now gone...vanished. All that remained of her were the little escapades of their younger years. How carefree and happy they were...Two little girls who grew up amidst laughter and fun in the Ramnad Palace, the love of a valiant Muthuvaduganathan had changed everything about her. Her life had now altered totally. She had a fierce battle ahead...the ensuing battle might bring her death or victory. Velu nachi was ready to face both with aplomb. All she could not comprehend was the sacrifice of Kuyili. The poor woman was caught in the whirlwind of her life. She was never able to show her love to Periya Marudhu, though she pined for his affection.
Periya Marudhu...Velu nachi had totally remained engrossed in her thoughts and shook out of her reverie. She had to see Periya Marudhu. She wanted to meet him and knew where exactly she could find him. The huge black stallion rose like a tower against the dark night silhouetted against the rising moon, its silky coat rippling as it munched on the grass. Periya Marudhu lay on the grass, listening to the owls hooting somewhere far away. The full moon...reminded him of the last meeting with Kuyili. She had come to him as he was waiting for the Queen to complete her prayers in the Abiramiamman temple atop the Dindigul Fort.
The famed kalmandapam stood proud atop the hill and Periya Marudhu perched on its steps, enjoying the night breeze, his striking long hair ruffled by the wind. Kuyili who had finished her prayers soon, tiptoed to the kalmandapam and was rewarded with the sight of Periya Marudhu...all of windswept hair, toned muscles and in deep thought, his eyes savouring the full moon above. The sound of tinkling anklets woke him with a start and he opened his eyes, staring straight into the most beautiful face of Kuyili. If eyes had soul, he would have understood her unrequited love through them. Periya Marudhu chose to ignore the eyes as always. He wouldn't risk falling into their depths and lose Chinna Marudhu- his dearest brother.
The Kalmandapam atop Dindigul Fort, a testimony to the lives of Velunachiyar, Kuyili and Marudhu brothers
"Isn't the moon beautiful?", Kuyili tried to strike a conversation. Small talk always helped to bring him out of his non existent shell where he would coil himself into, every time he saw her. With a silent nod, he turned his attention to the full moon, thought his senses shrieked at him to look at her. The mild fragrance of jasmine flowers from her hair, the smell of shikakai and turmeric...a heady mix lethal, emanated from her and wafted through his nostrils. " I would like to tell you sss..something", she stammered. Her lips quivering and eyes fluttering. Dear God! This is not the time and place, he swore under his breath. " We are moving soon to Kalaiyar Kovil", she said. He nodded and she continued now, gaining little hope.." and I would like the battle to end soon. I..I..would like to marry you...", she blurted out.
Periya Marudhu risked a glance at her and regretted immediately. Her eyes bespoke volumes of love, her best years spent in yearning for his love and attention. He pulled up his guard again, the mask slipping back. Kuyili stared at  him, she could see the softening of his eyes, his shoulders relaxing a little and his hardened lips showing a ghost of a smile, before the mask slipped on. Now his expression was hooded. Lowering his eyes, he looked at the void beyond the hill and stood silent. Kuyili waited with bated breath for him, his word. All that ensued was silence, with the breeze touching the two wounded souls very much in love. Periya Marudhu tried to bring back the image of a desolate Chinna Marudhu, shattered by the news of his wedding to Kuyili..No..he wouldn't let this happen.
He shook his head and looked away. Kuyili could understand his hooded emotional turmoil. She had been watching him for years now. Now that she had laid her heart bare to him, she now knew exactly how he felt. And it dawned on long she waited, Periya Marudhu would never be out with his love. She felt happy, glad that she knew he loved her. That one moment when he stood transfixed, letting himself be just a lovelorn man, she understood his love. With a tear threatening to evade her little left pride, Kuyili turned from the brooding man and left...
The tinkling bells, the cool breeze, the full moon...and a life without Kuyili...Periya Marudhu lay on the grass, lost in the web of his thoughts. He knew exactly why she had chosen to take the extreme step of blowing herself up. She saw no future for both of them and her kohl- laden eyes will always haunt him. Approaching footsteps woke him with a start and he sat up abruptly looking at the Queen herself who came towards him in a swift stride.
To be continued...
p.s.: Please bear with  the long gap between Queen Of Spades- Part 10 and this part. I have been trying to write this series without break...I swear ;) I will promptly complete the series.
p.p.s.: Back to work after a small break. I wonder why Indian Railways doesn't change its outdated and antique duty hours roster. At times I wonder what time of the day it is- morning or night...Whatever time I am awake is day and when I sleep is night;)
p.p.p.s.: My son got a special mention in today's Hindu, gave his first press interview on the biodiversity express train...Happy :)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Of glow worms and butterflies....

Thank you blogadda!
Friendship Day!
Friendship- always evokes strong memories of my childhood, the sweat, the games, the falls, the tears and the unlimited happiness. The childhood spent in one of the most picturesque villages on the foothills of Western Ghats...complete with a waterfalls, a flowing river, lush green paddy fields, plenty of friends and mischiefs. Those were the best days of my life!
Who wouldn't love a serene moment here?
We were awesome together- she a terrific introvert, ever smiling and soft. Myself- the proverbial chatterbox. My memories of Sharmila are ever green- the idlis and chilli powder her mother makes for us, the happy moments spent in the dance classes, the dance program we both performed in the temple of her hometown, her brother and his dance moves...The sweetest memory is that of how we bred a caterpillar in captivity, hiding it in a coconut shell, feeding it with leaves, watching it pupate and slowly limp out as a wet butterfly! Probably the best moment of my life was watching the brown butterfly dry its wings and fly we both watched mesmerised!
That is me!
And how do I not mention Vallabi? Still remember how she used to draw two love birds in her notebook's last pages, a secret! And her passion for songs, how she taught me there was indeed a turquoise blue ink and her mother's special rava laddus! My math tution partner Siva...the long walks from and to the tution together, the magic of stealing guavas while master was busy teaching Sin and Cos...My cycling partner Velmurugan- our 6 kms cycling everyday watching the gloriosa flowers in full bloom in the mornings and adoring the glow worms in the dark. The long discussions with him on politics, tamizh language history, poetry...The numerous competitions, dance floors, debates, quizzes...
How can I forget the two years in Chennai? Senior schooling in Chennai's SBOA- the pranks, movies, fights, football matches, cycle tests, competitions and happiness. This is where I learnt friendship crosses all borders- gender, language and everything else. The VCRC Batch #3 is one of the 'worst' and 'notorious' batches would vouch all our poor teachers. The cycle tests...yuck! The early morning homework copy sessions...Cut+ Copy+ Paste..."Hum aapke Hain Koun" with almost all thirty seated in a single row at Woodlands, that football boys Vs girls match...
The gang then...
I discovered what life was- how the thirty odd people overcame every obstacle and finally how we all have settled down. A bunch of hardworking, intelligent and tough nutsThough now in every nook and corner of the world- my best pal Prasanna in Washington, Bhuvana in Dubai, Gnaneswari, Vijayan and Sushmitha in Chennai, the loveable pair Triju and Jinie, Karthik in Bangalore, Geetha in Hongkong, we are a truly scattered group who regroup with vigour and warmth that remains just the same after all these fifteen years! Special thanks to Facebook and our group mail for keeping us together.
The gang now- complete with spouses and kids, after 15 years!
Those years made us what we are now. The get together we arranged a couple of years back brought every memory rushing back. That our children could hold hands and play, taking forth the bond of friendship further is just magic. The magic of friendship!
This post is part of Write Over the Weekend an initiative for Indian bloggers by Blog Adda!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Break free!

The social stigma of openly airing one's views on the issues of women is still attached to every one of us. How many of us are willing to openly sit and discuss the menstrual cycle, its physical and emotional effects on a woman in the confines of our home? Are we ready to ask our adolescent girls how they view the peripheral issues covering the menstrual cycle? Or rather how many of us ourselves can openly pronounce 'we are fit' to light the lamps, 'fit' to roam about the house freely and the least of all- dip our hands in that rice bag?
Abnormal Myths- all associated with the very normal cycle in every woman's life. The so- called conservative households still segregate their women during those days, however educated and sophisticated they may be. The entire household knows when you are supposed to get your cycle, in fact there are women who sleep on balconies in apartments! This is when every adolescent girl would like to rest one's head on the lap of her mother...Aren't we denying that simple gesture to our young? One is required to sleep alone, required to self wash the mats, pillow cases, bedspreads, dresses and everything under the sun every morning. It promotes personal hygiene, for sure, I agree. But imagine the plight of women who already have the physical discomfiture of cramps, pain and menorrhagia- over bleeding.
picture courtesy- menstrupedia
And a visit to a place of worship when you are 'impure' is unimaginable. A woman is the best creation of God. How come she is not allowed to pray and visit His Abode during her 'bad' days? The so-called elders had taught us too many 'don'ts' during those days. The rice bags remain a 'no touch' area. How is it supposed to rot when someone in her periods touches it is still baffling to me. The plants and flowers...the garden of our homes are supposed to be the biggest stress busters. When a woman is emotionally drained and physically down, all she looks for is something, anything to make her smile. Flowers- always bring a smile to us. Are we not supposed to go near them? Water the plants? Not wear a new salwar during those days though I had ogled for it? Ridiculous!
If women in the cities by themselves face such inconveniences, imagine the plight of rural women. There is absolutely no education to the little girls on their menstrual cycles that they are caught by surprise the first time. Discussing the normal physical changes in a girl's body never happens at home, mothers seldom educate their little ones. They are totally unprepared for what ensues. The commercials that 'educate' such women on personal hygiene are just 'hooded'.
Sanitary napkins- the issue I wanted to discuss is finally here. The sanitary pads market in India is a multi billion rupee business, with the demand topping a whopping 10 billion pieces per annum. The growth is estimated at 20% in urban areas, quite acceptable. The rural areas still lag behind, with just 7% growth, the main reason being the lack of awareness and open discussions and personal hygiene education. The girls of the rural areas need more awareness of the menstrual cycle and their personal hygiene. I sincerely wish the Women's Self Help Groups of the rural areas are being roped in for this service. As women, we can spread awareness among us, to reach out to those millions of girl children out there who don't have an inkling of what their periods are. The Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) is one such initiative that has borne fruit in Puducherry. More such initiatives are required to bring positive changes in the otherwise 'closed' communities.
Disposable pads are definitely an environmental hazard, though they boast of being made of cotton, they contain polyacrylate and are rolled from polypropylene, the linings made of polyethylene! All these ingredients can ignite series of health troubles ranging from skin irritation to respiratory infections. Polyacrylate is the main ingredient of latex house 'paints'. Probably we are using a killer that contains the most petroleum by products. And polyethylene the worst of all- the most common plastic that takes centuries to decompose. Can you imagine the single napkin we use takes 800 years to decompose? What are we leaving our children? Mountains of used sanitary napkins untreated. I definitely wouldn't like that be a legacy I leave behind.
Is there any other alternative? Yes!
Welcome to the world of cloth napkins. Simple to use, washable, definitely re-usable and can decompose easily. Our mothers, grandmothers have been using it and let us give them a hearty welcome. Presenting eco femme- an initiative by women, for women and of women. The washable cloth pads are made by the rural women through AVAG, which in turn conducts menstrual education seminars and discussions. Switching over to cloth napkins is something that I am seriously contemplating with right now. The product comes with a wash proof bag to carry them easily, they can be washed easily too. It is not that bad to wash away one's own blood, is it? Soaking them for half an hour can do the magic- simple hand or machine wash later would suffice. Imagine the cost cutting- the reusable pads can be used for anything between three to five years! It keeps us safe from all that petroleum that we are sitting on top of!
Cloth pads by Eco Femme- they look lovely, don't they?
Are you still 'whispering', 'staying free' or 'care free'? What would you use if you are left with options of choosing cloth and disposable napkins? I would like to know. Looking for a healthy discussion on the issue at hand. As women who are empowered, educated and liberated, we have a responsibility to our society- our lesser fortunate women. Spread the message as much as you can and please feel free to discuss. Talking of menstrual cycle and sanitary napkin is not a taboo anymore.