Saturday, October 23, 2010

Like a Child in the Rain

It’s by pure chance that I stumbled upon an old diary at my mother's place. Amma informed me that she was planning some renovation in my family house and that many displaced things will now have to find some storage space in 'my old room'; I have to free up some additional space by moving a few of my obsolete, useless, stove away stuff OUT !
 I have always dreaded this moment ever since I first left home to work and then when I was supposedly married away. Let me admit this, I am by nature extremely possessive about my things - be it my clothes, books, souvenirs or gifts collected over a long time, greeting cards, my relationships, my dreams etc etc. Over a period of time and in the interest of world peace, I have trained myself to endure the pain of parting with some of them at certain critical junctures in life.
 'My old room' was a touchy topic anyways so I started in a grumpy mood to clear the ‘mess’. What I had not prepared for was the unexpected delight that the next few hours would give me when little little things from the past started to tumble out of my shelves and bed-side tables and from even under my mattress - well, don't get any ideas now; I had this habit of storing posters of my teenage icons under the mattress as I wasn't permitted to put them on the wall for reasons known to my parents then, some of which I appreciate now!  
 I felt like an archeologist unearthing precious forgotten history from an excavation site. One by one, the buried treasures resurfaced.

With Amma - sweet memories

The cache included old photographs, letters & cards from ex-friends, a verse penned by my grandmother herself and gifted to me during her last years, childhood diaries, scribbles and poems, the one and only card that M ever gave me during our betrothed phase, the white kurta which I bought from Bangalore for him and we thought is lost forever, photographs from my school and college days and of my initial days in Chennai, Gibran’s love letters, Vivekananda’s speeches, Tagore’s plays and poems, Palgrave’s Golden Treasury….I can go on and on about each one of these relics and what it meant to me. In the interest of brevity and how utterly non relevant it can be for anyone else, let me just be content to bask in them and save it up for later.
My intensely passionate tryst with rain started many years ago. Here’s sharing with the world, my modest first attempt at poetry when I was ten or eleven, which I recovered from the old diary I mentioned at the start, from amongst the reclaimed relics. So here goes…

Like a Child in the Rain

This hasn't happened for a long time,
Me sitting awake in bed
With the bed lights on, at midnight
Something deep inside me, wanting freedom,
The freedom of being an innocent little girl once again

I can hear the rain showering heavily outside
They make me yearn;
To feel the cool droplets stream down me
But, they say I'm grown up now
Not a little child anymore, to play in the rain.

That small girl in me is still there
That burning desire too is still in me
But I am grown up now.
And a thousand faces around me, I look
When that little girl alone stares at me from inside

And then she hopes hopelessly
"Better not to have grown, shedding my childish desires".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To the Globe Theatre

I knew one thing for sure, I  couldn't possibly leave the UK without having seen at least one Shakespearean play , and that too in Shakespeare's own Globe Theater. It's the least I could do being a graduate in English Literature, lest my Professors feel ashamed of me !
Shakespeare's Birthplace

On an earlier occasion, we did drive down to the bard's birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon along with our daughter who enjoyed most playing with the animals in the barn in Shakespeare's mother, Mary Ardens family home. 
At Mary Arden's Farm
As we walked through, history unfolded in every nook and corner of the cottage where Shakespeare lived with his lovely wife Anne Hathway once upon a time during the medival era and wrote many an acclaimed play which was either staged there in Stratford or in the distant Globe at London where probably existed more connoisseurs of the stage.
Anne Hathway's Cottage

The small little town breathed so much of Shakespeare,  triggering a rare joyfulness  when reels of long forgotten poetry seemed to unleash in me from a bygone era.......spelling the end to a long drawn famine in my heart, once I had abandoned the classrooms and corridors of my college days. 
Shakespeare's Theater at Stratford Upon Avon

Before I wander too much and get lost in my own world and musings, let me come back to my original purpose of presenting the translation. This translation is a continuation of M's travelogue and visit to Greenwich which was followed by a visit to Shakespeare's Globe by the Thames later in the evening when I too joined M after work to watch 'As you like it' along with a dear colleague.

As I write now, vivid images, expressions and music of the closing pageant grips me, all the actors on stage together in a marvelous song and dance spectacle.............  If and only if I had another chance !
Inside the Globe Theater

To read the translation, you may click here,

Monday, July 26, 2010

In search of an imaginary line

Though I had visited the Greenwich Meridian at least a year prior to M, somehow it did not occur to me to write a travelogue.

But I can’t now help but recall my own enjoyable experience when the three musketeers from Peterborough -Deepthi, Sanchita and I set out in search of the imaginary line ourselves.

Ours was a rather ambitious plan which was to include Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Canary Wharf, Greenwich and the London Bridge, all in a day either by walk or using only the Tube to commute. Besides, we also wanted to have a full Kerala fish curry meal at Deepthi's favourite Kerala House – and yes, this was indeed a priority considering that we were a group of 2 Keralites and 1 Bengali, all fish eaters who can challenge the British at their own game in their own land of ‘fish and chips’!

Believe it or not, we did complete justice to our planned itinerary though many times to stay on the right track we had to resort to mobile consulting with our friends (read Raja, Souvik, Nikhil etc) who had chosen to stay back at Peterborough.

I remember while we were standing by the Thames succumbing to the romance of the night, the cool breeze caressing us, lost in the stunning sight of the beautifully illuminated London Bridge, we were still not sure whether to call it a day. Close to midnight, our aching feet and tired bodies finally gave in and we boarded the tube back to Kings Cross for catching the last train back to Peterborough.

It was a year later that M got a chance to visit Greenwich on his final visit to me in the UK. True to his passion, he came back and wrote a travelogue. Here is a translation of his original travelogue which first appeared in Malayalam on his site which I have now translated in my effort to make amends for not having written one myself !

Click here to read the translation

The Ramassery Idli

This is one of the earlier travelogues written in Malayalam by M on his travel blog . You may click here to read the English translation

Memories of the Ramassery Idlis do bring back a craving in me to retrace another journey to that part of the world...

If Mullaperiyar collapses

While the thoughts, expressions and creative energies may not match those of the original writer, nevertheless this too is a labour of love.....

Under the label My Translations, I have posted some of the translations I attempted for my best half. Due to the limitations of adding posts on 'My Translations' as a separate page on blogger, I am now moving it to the home page 'My Strokes' itself.

My maiden translation was sometime towards end of 2009 when the 'Rebuild Mullaperiyar, Save Kerala' campaign was launched on blogosphere. It initially appeared on a Malayalam online website started by a group of literary and socially conscious bloggers.

Click here to read the English translation and here for the original Malayalam version.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Certain characters I have come across in both real and surreal life have captured my imagination and left an ever lasting impression, much beyond what words can express. They have at times inspired me, delighted me, shocked me, scandalized me, saddened me, traumatized me and sometimes taken my senses to dizzying heights so much so that I haven’t been able to prevent myself from being involved with them deeply in a kind of intense and platonic or more accurately a spiritual relationship .. lest anyone misunderstands.. Why is it not just platonic but spiritual? I suspect platonic is more applied in a man-woman context and that’s not the premise here!!!

None of these characters are perfect, in fact it is their imperfections and aberrations which has left its mark and provoked my thinking, endearing and embedding them into my conscience. These are true to life characters. To me, anyone who appears to be too good and flawless stands the risk of being too good to be true. Let me wrack my brains a bit now…. What exactly does Bacon say in his famous essay ‘On Truth’ - “Truth may perhaps come to the price of a pearl, that showeth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of a diamond, or carbuncle, that showeth best in varied lights”

So that debate continues in my mind…..

There are many who asked why my tag line is ‘Gone with the Wind’. The reason is ‘Scarlet’. If you wiki, you will know that Scarlet is a bright red color with a hue that is somewhat towards the orange. It is redder than vermillion (interestingly translates to Sindhoor for all Indians who know what it is and what it stands for). It is a pure chroma on the color wheel one-fourth of the way between red and orange. [2] Traditionally, scarlet is the color of flame and it is also considered the color of human blood….somehow not sure how flame and blood may be the same color.

Vivien Leigh in the movie - Gone With the Wind
(photo courtesy - wikipedia)

No, I am not talking about Scarlet that impressive color, I am talking of Scarlet the indomitable character from Margaret Mitchell’s classic Novel, Gone with the Wind – all of flesh and blood and no less of flame or raging fire…..almost an anti-heroine. I have to confess much to the astonishment of many who believe have known me for some time as much to the surety of a few who have experienced me , if there is one woman I admire ardently for all that she is , it is Scarlet..Sometimes I think she is my spiritual companion, sometimes my devil’s advocate and sometimes when the lines grow thinner, there is no more duality, she and I; we become one.

In the novel set in chaotic times of the American Civil War years, Scarlet O’Hara is introduced as a spoilt, headstrong, selfish and rebellious 16 year old girl who struggles to find love clouded by her own interpretation of life’s myriad emotions and values. Nevertheless she is an absolute fighter in one shot and a reckless opportunist in another. She is confused about who is really her love object but is clear that what she wants is nothing short of the best in life, even if it means jeopardizing herself at times.

During most trying times, she takes complete charge and defends her family and the honor of her loved ones against the union soldiers, carpetbaggers and starvation itself. At a very defining moment in her life, she realizes - There was no security or haven to which she could turn now. No turning or twisting would avoid this dead end to which she had come. There was no one on whose shoulders she could rest her burdens. Her father was old and stunned, her sisters ill, Melanie frail and weak, the children helpless, and the negroes looking up to her with childlike faith, clinging to her skirts, knowing that Ellen's daughter would be the refuge Ellen had always been.

That reckoning was her moment of truth. She was seeing things with new eyes for, somewhere along the long road to ‘Tara’ her home, she had left her girlhood behind her. She was no longer plastic clay, yielding imprint to each new experience. The clay had hardened, some time in that indeterminate day and that night was the last time she would ever be ministered to as a child. She was a woman now and youth was gone. And at the end of this road, there was nothing--nothing but Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton, nineteen years old, a widow with a little child.

In her challenge to resurrect herself and rise from the shambles, she does not comprehend that she was drunk, drunk with fatigue and whisky. She only knew she had left her tired body and floated somewhere above it where there was no pain and weariness and her brain saw things with an inhuman clarity.

Having toiled hard and conquered hunger and poverty, to having survived a marriage of convenience to bail her family from misery and debt, she finally marries her worldly admirer Rhett Butler, but her apathy toward him in their marriage dooms their battling relationship, and she again returns to Tara to find consolation and to sow the seeds of hope and win back the true love of her life. In the final pages of the novel, there is no one more convincing than a broken Scarlet, unabashed standing atop the ruins of her vanquished life and declaring ever so sprightly ‘Tomorrow is another day’.

Scarlet awes me with her ability to look things in the eyes and call them by their right names...she continues to inspire with her unconventional outlook to life, her inconsistencies and her blemishes..she makes me want to emulate no matter how ever controversial her words, deeds and motives.

Thus my tribute to Scarlet, my alter ego.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My dreams are under your wings

Last night 9 year old Naina revealed some of her hidden desires in life to her mother.

N: amma, you know what…. I have decided what I want to become when I grow up

G: really, what do you want to be?

N: I want to become a Bollywood actress !

Gauri was quite taken aback ..first she wanted to blurt out laughing and then she suddenly wanted to shout and then cry …..not knowing what would have been a better way to respond to her lil daughter's declaration, she tried to maintain her calm fighting the myriad thoughts that flashed through her mind in those few seconds between her response to young Naina

G : Why is that ?

N : I think they are really coool

G: What do you mean by cool?

N : Oh, that means they do lots of fun things, hangout in places like beaches, shopping malls etc with their friends and they DO NOT go out with their parents

Such a direct blow, the parent in Gauri was shattered, wouldn’t she possibly be her lil girl's best friend and not so much a motherly influence when she is a bit older? Swallowing her injured pride, Gauri decided to reason out and discourage Naina from such fanciful dreamy ambitions.

G: But you know what ..I don’t think actresses are so cool, they don’t always do the things that they want to do, in fact they rarely do anything that they really want to do ..they only do what the directors tell them to do.. so it is not so much fun really. Besides, people only like the way they look and they always talk horrible things behind their back,..actually most people think actresses are dumb

Naina didn't quite like her mother's opinion, maybe a little challenged but she tried to defend her understanding

N : Dumb ? does it mean not intelligent. So is Katrina Kaif dumb ? What about Vidya Balan – isn’t she intelligent ?

G: I don’t think Katrina Kaif is intelligent . Nor is Vidya Balan…Yes..dumb means not intelligent ..and that isn’t cool, right?

Naina's face fell. Gauri thought she was starting to partially win her battle of prejudices but soon discovered that young Naina wasn’t to be deterred, where there is a will there surely is some way!!

N : Ok , do you think then I can be an actress and a writer too. Writers are intelligent, right ?

Well, that’s what is called a boomerang coming from the offspring of parents who are passionate about literature!

G : I don’t think so dear, its not so easy to be all that , Actresses normally don’t become writers. You have to really work very very hard for that..

N : See .. for that all you need to do is go to bollywood, that is in Mumbai ..amma, do people other than actors stay in Bollywood ? Can I go to Bollywood ? Don’t you think I can act well, see like this ..

Naina donned some unusual facial expressions, fluttering her eyes and snapping her lil fingers in the air across her face like a celluloid diva.

That’s it, Gauri couldn’t take it anymore………..she was slogging her life only for this kid to become an actress of all the choices in the world! She did not mind so much when Naina as a 4 year old had declared that she wanted to join the circus, neither did she get uncomfortable when her lil girl wanted to be a teacher when she was 7 years fully knowing that her husband who hails from a family of teachers will not particularly appreciate adding one more teacher to his fold having had an overdose of them already in his life.

Certainly this is not what Gauri wanted from her only child. It is probably true that she did not do or become all those things that her own parents wanted for her many years ago !! But isn’t this too senseless an aspiration that Naina has opted for, even to offer any kind of poetic justice????

Gathering her wits but still unsure how to tackle it, Gauri whined inside while trying to tactically approach the situation and avoid an offensive.

G: You are only 9 years, too young to really know what you want to do later in life, so we will talk about this later. It is not necessary that you know at this point what you are really good at and what you want to become in life later. You must concentrate on your studies and on any arts or sports etc which you can learn now and this will help you decide later what is best for you..

N: But amma, my teacher has told us that if children dream of something, parents must help them achieve them. Do not spoil my dreams, for my dreams are under your wings. Its not only engineers or managers like you who do well in life, even artists, writers, sportsmen and actors become successful. So you and acha have to help me reach my dreams ……

Naina's words reminded Gauri of a few famous lines from her favorite Irish poet, WB Yeats - “But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”

G : Yes , when the time comes we will talk and we will help you also. Now do what you must to build your foundation. Let’s switch off the lights now and go to sleep, tomorrow you have to go to the summer camp and amma has to go to office.

Kissing her goodnight, Gauri retired to her bed trying to chase slumber but Naina's profound words continued to tuck at her heart strings, ‘Do not spoil my dreams, for my dreams are under your wings’ ... She knew Naina may brush this current fascination to become an actress under the carpet in some time once she fancies something else but Gauri also realised this was only a beginning of testing times for her as a mother....this was nothing but a premature curtain raiser of more inevitable conversations to come when her daughter shall soon step into the enigma of teenage in a couple of years from now !