Tuesday, December 20, 2005

That Tamarind Tree

That one, you know, that one, is that tamarind tree in which that ghost lives, they say. I don’t know whether I would go there; I don’t need to. It is not on the way to the farm I am going now. Is it 12noon? I don’t know. I didn’t check before leaving. I forgot. I feel little uncomfortable in my stomach. I look at the sun. It is almost just above my head. Seeing the sun’s position, it looks that it could be 12noon. I look at my shadow. Is it slightly longer on the east? Yah? If it is, it is after 12noon. Yes I can see the shadow of my head just in front of my feet. Doesn’t that mean it is slightly longer in the east and it is after 12noon? Big breathe. Better now. I adjust my bag in my hip. I am going to a farm to wash all the clothes in a pump-set. I kind of enjoy that. Murugeswari akka is walking in front of me. We are walking on the varappu, a narrow ridge that separates farms and acts as foot path. I like to walk on the wet grass of the varappu. It is very green, fresh and pleasantly cold. Sometimes it hurts too, if there are any thorny plants. But it is not a big deal, as these thorns are flowery thorns, as my mother says. The thorn from karuvelai and seemakkaruvelai (Prospis) are dangerous though. Once I was hurt and we had to go to a doctor to get that out. I was limping for sometime. I think I still have scar.

I look at the tamarind tree again. This time I take a deep look. Mother says that I am a daring person. Mother says that I am not afraid of ghosts. Mother says that I dare to go anywhere in the night however dark it is. I look at the tamarind tree again. It is at a very far location, atleast three farms I have to cross if I want to go there. Murugeswari akka would think that I am crazy if I tell her that we should go there just to check whether there is a ghost or not. She is not afraid of ghost either. “Latha, did you read Sandilyan’s Yavana raani? I think Tiperius is intelligent than Ilanjeliyan. We blindly appreciate him simply because he is from our country and we think Tiperius is a villain simply because he is from Yavana Nadu”. What? …….. Soon we both were arguing so much about that, and then on some distracted side-track stories.. “Hey look, cotton plants”. We both love cotton. Young cotton fruits are very tasty. Mmm.. We hide amidst cotton plants so that the farm owner, if he is there in the farm, wouldn’t notice us. This is one of the attractions for me that makes me never say no to this weekend-pumpset-clothe-washing sessions. The biggest attraction being the whole session: the washing in the pump-set, drying in on the grasses and then folding before going home, actually. Murgeswari akka taught me to fold. She folds clothes very nicely and very neat. Myself and akka spend the whole day like this. I just love it. I would like to own a farm myself when I grow up and have money to buy. I will have rose plants around the well. I will surely have my little hut where I will make coffee and cook sometimes. :-)

Oh, that tamarind tree. I look at it again. “Akka, do you know that ghost lives in that tamarind tree”? “I don’t know. I have never been there”. “You know that farm owners, how do they handle it? What do they do whenever they have to go there? They have their crop, they irrigate it almost everyday. What do they do? How do the workers handle it? What do they do when they have to weed the crop, apply fertiliser/manure and harvest the crop? I mean all sorts of things they have to do there”? “I don’t know. I have never been there. Don’t even think about planning to go there. Your mother will kill me”. We have reached our destination farm. We select our stones and sitting locations/positions… The sun is hot enough to compete with the splashing water. I just love it. :-)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice)

First time in a school trip. No, it is not my school trip. Chithi’s. She works as a teacher in a different school. I study in the best school, my Chithi says. She even had to fight with her bosses to enrol me in my school, and not enrolling in her school. I have never been on a school trip or school cinema or anything outside my school. Once my father caught me in shop, buying coffee. I volunteered to buy coffee for my teacher. He came with me and talked to my teacher that I should not be sent out ever again. He said that my studies are very very important.

This is the first time in a school trip. We are in Vaigai dam. It is one of the popular picnic spots, I have heard. Today we have been to the park and the dam. Tonight we are sleeping here. We are leaving tomorrow. It is very nice and strange to feel this night time outside my home. I have never been out like this. Never at this dark night time. Never seen this open sky with stars, well, I have seen from my vaasal and when we are all playing outside our houses, but this looks very new and different. I am so excited.

We all go inside the hall. We are going to eat our food. Mother has given us Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice), my favourite. I get to eat puliyodharai only when we go out on tours. Last time I had puliyodharai was when we went to Madurai. I can’t wait to eat puliyodharai. Chithi is holding my hands. All day she has been holding my hands. All the other students walked in lines, and I walked on the side along with my Chithi, holding her hand. She is teacher and I am the teacher’s kid, you know. Students talked with students and Chithi talked with teachers. There was no another teacher’s kid for me. Never mind, coming to school trip itself is good enough for me, I don’t have complaints. I got to see the open sky, dark and twinkling, so big, so breezy, didn’t I? I don’t have complaints. I can’t wait to open the puliyodharai parcel. Father packed it in banana leaves. I just love it. I can’t wait to eat my puliyodharai, my favourite.

Why are you eating like this? Look they are all waiting for us. It is because you are too slow. EAT.
Why are you eating like this? They are going to think we have left you starving for months.
Why are you eating like this? Have you not seen food before?
Why are you eating like this, spilling all over the place?
Why are you picking the spillage, you dirty stupid? It is dirty there. You are shaming me in front of others.
Sit right and straight. Is this the way you sit in front of food and in front of others?
Do you sit like this without respect? Bend towards food and eat.
What are you looking at? Do you need my permission to eat? You are a great actress. “You, know she generally doesn’t respect elders and give reply word for word, now she is acting as if she needs my permission to eat EAT”.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Naming of Parts by Michelle

I am 14 years old and my mother's aunt and uncle are coming to visit. I've never met them. They are my mother's father's family - the Scottish Dutch side. My mother has cleaned the house for their visit and I've helped. We have swept and polished and dusted and now the house is beautiful and clean, but we are filthy. My mother is panicking because she wanted to wash and change into clean clothes and our guests have arrived early. She tells me to make tea and entertain them while she gets cleaned up.

I take as long as possible to make tea and hide in the kitchen, but I can't stay there forever. I take the tea through, and the tray with plates of little cakes and biscuits. They make me sit between them on the couch. My great uncle Laurence looks nice. He looks a bit like my grandfather, his older brother, but he's thinner and he smiles more. My great aunt Gertie looks okay. She has bright eyes like a bird and she's staring at me...

She says, "You have cousin Connie's ears. Do you see that Laurence? She has Connie's ears, but that nose… that nose is Doreen's."

Great Uncle Laurence smiles and eats a biscuit. He asks me some simple questions I don't remember anymore.

Aunty Gertie is still watching me. She sips her tea and continues talking, "Your mother now. Your mother has the same eyes as great aunt Ida, but I think her face shape is more like uncle Len's. Not like your aunt. Now she is exactly like aunty Phyllis... although Phyllis has Margery's teeth and that's unfortunate."

As I sit there between them I feel myself disintegrating. I am floating away on a sea of unknown relatives who all have prior claim to my "bits". Who am I? I am a patchwork collection of family pieces. There is no "ME". There is only Connie's ears and Doreen's nose and Gaileen's smile. I always thought I was ME. Unique. Complete. But now I'm finding out that I'm simply a collection of family body parts. Nothing belongs to me. I feel lost and strangely taken apart, like a human jigsaw puzzle.

Many years passed and one day I found myself at Great Uncle Laurence's funeral in Johannesburg. After the service all the family gather at the old family home. They are all there, all my Scottish-Dutch cousins... blonde and built like Vikings, even the girls are over 6 foot tall. I am 5 foot 3 and dark. I feel like a pygmy. I wander around, squeezing between unknown people eating plates of food. I feel lost again. I go to sit on the floor by great aunty Gertie. She is smaller and thinner, but her eyes are still very bright. We sit in the corner and watch five generations of family talking, eating, remembering… An unknown relative asks who I am.

Who are you?

Who ARE you?

Who – are - YOU?

…and Aunty Gertie starts to talk, "This is your second cousin, Michelle. She is your grandfather's brother's daughter's daughter. Can't you see? She has your mother's ears, but when she smiles she's the image of your sister."

As she talks I feel myself being connected. Before I felt taken apart, but here at this funeral I am being woven into the family by my ears and my hair and the colour of my eyes. I start to see things. My cousin Al has his great uncle's jaw and his daughters look like Aunty Gertie's daughter's daughter. And how come I never noticed before that we ALL have the family nose? It is a big nose, it's hard to miss. A long sharp Scottish nose. Cleopatra would have envied that nose! I watch these unknown family moving and talking. Family groups laugh the same and their body language is the same too. I notice, to my embarrassment, that my own personal portion of family stand out like parrots in a flock of chickens. We may look like all the others, but we talk louder and we wave our hands around. My grandmother's Greek-Irish blood shows only in me physically, but all of us carry it in the way we talk. We are louder and more emotional. We are more fun… we are embarrassing. We are something I sometimes hate. We are something I cannot escape.

…and suddenly I understand. This is what family means. It isn't being torn apart - it's being created out of a hundred different people who are all unique and yet... we carry the same ears, the same noses, the same smiles. Wherever we go in the world we will take that with us. We will always have this "home" within us. It lies in our blood and our genetics. We cannot escape it - we are the sum of all those parts. We are family.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Kallaatta kallapparuppaatta

Kallaatta kallapparuppaatta… We all are shouting together. It is a game, very interesting one. Very tricky too. We can play this game with any number of girls; the number just has to be even as we need to divide us into two groups. Sometimes we don’t mind having unequal number of girls, as we can not say no to any girl if the gathering happens to be an odd number in total.

Except our group leader we are all sitting on the floor, one behind one, stretching our legs straight. Wearing full-length skirt is very important for playing this game. We use the skirt to cover our legs fully. Our group leader comes to each one of us and hides that stone, between our legs and we have to cover it with our skirts. Sometimes my brother Senthil insists on including him in our game, then we ask him to bring a big towel and he spreads it over his legs, after sitting. The trick is that we should not let the other group know who is really having the stone, as there is only one stone. So, we all pretend as if we are hiding the stone. The group leader can keep the stone as well, which she does sometimes. She hides her hand by wrapping her skirt several times over her hand. She could be holding the stone, or the stone could be with anyone of us. Not even the group members know with whom the stone is, it is only that girl, with whom the stone is, knows about it. Then we all shout “kallatta kallapparuppaatta” together, moving our legs sideways, away, close, away, close. It is very rhythmic. It goes very rhythmically with our kallaatta kallapparuppaatta. As we play this game in the evenings, the darkness help us hide the stone better. The bulb in our street light has lost its last breadth yesterday, making our game even more interesting. The game is the other group has to find out the stone. If they find correctly, they get points. We will stand up and leave the ground for them to sit and start. If they don’t find the stone, we get points, and we continue the game. Of course the whole luck of the game depends on who starts the game. We decide that by playing pulling-at-the-line. Group leaders go head to head, stand on a line, pull each other (one leg at the back to gain strength). Whosoever pulls the other group leader to her side wins and gets to start the game. Kutti is our group leader, and she has won this time. So, we started the game.

“Lathapponnu…” We all had to pause the game and I go to aachchi. (one information is revealed that the stone was not with me). “Aachchi, I am playing”. “It is dark and getting late. Come eat and sleep”. “I am in the middle of a game. I will come once I have finished it”. “What kind of a game is that that needs finishing so importantly? Are you going to loose your head if you don’t finish?”. “Aachchi, I am not hungry; I am not feeling sleepy either. I will come once when I have finished the game”. “Who are you playing with”? “Kutti”. “Eeh, Kutti, come here. Aren’t you Rengamma’s daughter?”, “Yes Paatti”. Now Kutti is also standing in front of my aachchi, answering her questions. “Have you had food?” Kutti is worried. She scratches her head. I can tell that she is trying to figure out which answer is going to be a less-problem-bringing one. “No paatti”, her words come out of her mouth before her decision-making-thinking is finished. “Why are you playing in empty stomach”? She goes blank. “Go and eat. Let Latha also eat. You can play tomorrow”. “And, what is that you are holding your skirt so high like that, showing your legs?”. She had to drop the skirt that was wrapped around her hand. The stone was in her hand. Shit. Aachchi has made us reveal our stone. The game is lost. I turn my head towards Jaya, the other group leader, and tell her, “Jaya, we will do it again”. “We will drop Latha from our game. Her aachchi or amma or her chithi always interrupt our game and ruin the fun.” I feel like crying. I look at aachchi, “Good. You are not in the game anymore, so, you can come and eat first”. “Look, they dropped me from the game because you people interrupt the game all the time and ruin the game and fun for others too”. “Adengappa (an expression expressing sarcasm), what kind of game is that? Are you all playing to win a kingdom? Or, are you all going to bring rice for tommorrow’s ulai (While cooking rice in traditional method, water is boiled first and rice is added when the water reaches boiling point. The water boiled before adding rice is called ulai, which synonymously mean food)”. Kallaatta kallapparuppaatta.. Is it Jaya’s group? I can’t hear very well. Seems Kutti has lost the previous round.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I am upset. Malar was like a star today. When she comes to our class, everyone wants to be friends with her. I am a kind of loser with this name, no any other person has. Whenever Shanthi is referred, they always ask me, which Shanthi? Then I tell them which Shanthi she is. There are two Shanthis in my class. But, there is only one Rajalakshmi in my class, but still people ask me which Rajalakshmi? Then I tell them her father's name. Some people still don't get it. Then I tell them her mother's name. For some other girls, their brother's or sister's name works well too. But, in my case, they ask me who I am, when I tell my name, they know. Because, there is no other Premalatha in my whole class, in my whole school, also in my whole street, also in my whole relative houses and in my friends houses. I was surprised when Shanthi named her younger sister (just born you know) Premalatha. There was another surprise to me that she gets to name her sister. I don't understand why would she want to name her sister with my name? She said she liked it. I don't like it! I am going to ask mother why did she name me like this. "Well, we did ask your suggestion, but this is what you liked too". Mother is laughing. Why are you laughing? Is it a funny name? If it is a funny name that makes you laugh, you could have told me and changed my name! "I don't believe you. If at all you had asked me I only would have suggested the name Malar". "Malar"? "Yes, you know, Paappathy Teacher's daughter Malar, that Malar". "Oh, right". "Next time, if we can change your name, we will definitely ask you for suggestion". "Do people change name?" "No, not generally". "Then why did you say that we will change name and you will consider my suggestion?", "Well, because you don't like your name, we should do something about it, like changing name". "Is it possible? how will they all know it is me still?" "We will tell them". "how"?, "Well, think about a new name for yourself for the time being, we will figure out how should we tell everyone about it. OK"?

Thenmoli is a good girl too, except that, her mother is not as popular teacher as Paapathy teacher. I don't like to be in Then's mother's class. Also, when Then comes, no one really cares about her. And there is Lakshmi teacher's daughter. She is in my class, so she is always there, so no one really treats her any different from me, and above all, her name is Latha!! I don't want that name. Shanthi is cool. You know, just father's name wouldn't be sufficient to make you completely differently identifiable from any other Shanthi. Wait, if I am Shanthi, then it goes like, that military man's daughter Shanthi.. Oh crumps! They will know it is me. Nobody is going to ask another question. Even if they tell Ponniah's grand-daughter, no another question either. There is also this, "Muthulakshmi teacher's sister's daughter" I am known by...

PS: I was told that I was named "Angayarkanni" originally, which my father thought that it was too old fashioned and then they changed it to Premalatha. I always remember that name, as it was the name I could have been known by..

must read: En peru padum padu (I will translate for non-tamils, later).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Home is.. sand? - by Michelle

I was looking at Prema's name "KOMBAI - THE HOME TOWN" and it got me thinking. I have lived in several towns, but there's really only been one that felt like home - the town I was born in. And yet I've lived in some very nice places. I can't say my home town was prettier or bigger or had more shops. So why is it the place I still think of as "home"?

What place do you think of when I say "home"? Is it where you were born? Where you lived as a child? Where you live now? What makes a town a home town?

I've sat and thought about this for three days now and I still can't find an answer. So instead I started to write down what I remember about my home town. The things that still make me homesick after all these years. The thing that stood out was - sand. Home is sand.

My home town is where I was born and spent my childhood. It is called Bulawayo, which means "place of slaughter". Not the best of names! It is where King Lobengula built his capital city in 1870. He named it after a great battle he won in 1872.

My most earliest memories of Bulawayo are of sand. I still miss sand. Red sand, orange sand, golden sand. Baked hard by the sun and wonderful for playing games on. Grass was a luxury you saw in parks and the gardens of rich people. Our house had grass in the front yard and sand in the rest. My dad did try growing grass down the side, but it never worked. I grew up with sand and I still love it. Grass always looks dirty to me. It's fussy and itchy and it has insects hiding in it. Snakes hide in long grass too. Nope, I don't want grass. I like sand. :)

Our back yard had a vegetable garden with chickens and behind that there were the fruit trees. A pomegranate, an avocado, an orange tree with dark dark green leaves and two sad skinny wobbly pawpaw (papaya) trees. The sand was so hard that my dad never got root vegetables to grow. the carrots were too weak to push through the ground and they always came out small and crooked, but the green beans were tougher and they grew ok. We ate a lot of beans! And sometimes I'd eat a pomegranate. It only got a few fruit, it wasn't a big tree, so fruit was a treat. I'd sit against the kitchen wall in the shade and peel away the thick skin. Eat the seeds one by one, spitting out the centres on the sand. There was something magical about those seeds with their clear red flesh. They were so shiny and pretty. It was like eating beads.

Outside our house the pavement was sand too. All pavements were sand. With big trees spreading out wide and keeping you cool as you rode your bicycle or walked to the shops. In town the park had grass, but the town hall had wide sand pavements with huge trees. The flower sellers sat there in the shade. When my mother went to town we'd stop there and look at all the flowers. Behind them there were fountains that hissed and spread cool mist in the air that you could feel on your skin as you walked past. I loved the trees in town as well. Silver oaks, flamboyants and Jacarandas mostly. I never understood why they called the ones with the beautiful glowing gold flowers "Silver" oaks. Grown-ups were so stupid. Everyone could see the flowers were GOLD, not silver! And they were full of nectar as sweet as honey and so thick it was like tar. The grown-ups hated them. If you parked your car under a silver oak the nectar would drip on the car and set like tar too. It was almost impossible to get off. I loved them, they were pretty and tasted good, but my favourite were the Jacarandas. In spring they'd flower and it would be Jacaranda festival. The shops in town would decorate their windows and entrances with paper and tissue flowers to match the blue and lavender Jacarandas. And outside the trees would be covered in flowers that would fall down and lie like carpets on the orange and red brown sand. My mom's favourite were the flamboyant with their huge "umbrellas" of deep red flowers, but I loved the soft blues of the jacarandas.



My grandmother had grass. I'd forgotten that. There was sand at the back by the kitchen, but grass around her fruit trees by the bedrooms. She had peach trees and apple trees, grape vines and guavas. The grass was thick there for some reason. The back section where it was sand was a strange place for us grandkids. It was where gran buried her pets. Rows of tiny wooden markers for all the cats, dogs, birds that had passed through that house for two generations. We'd kneel in the sand and read the names and dates of animals that had died before we were even born. There was even a monkey grave. My mom had raised it from a baby after it's mother was shot by a hunter.

At school we had more grass. The boys played cricket on it and we girls watched from under the trees.. where the sand was. We'd draw in the sand with sticks or play games. It was nicer under the trees in the shade than out on the grass where the boys were. And your lunch was safer too. Out above the grass the crows kept circling watching and waiting. Every day there'd be screams and yelling as some kid forgot to watch and had his sandwiches grabbed by a crow. Much safer under trees on the sand then on the grass.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Vaangithaa, Vaangithaaren (eq. to Trick or treat).

Info: the next day to Diwali day is (was?) celebrated as muthaalamman festival, a festival of local Goddess, Muthaalamman.

Senthil is wearing a mask. I am a little shy to put the mask on and not sure why should I do it. I don’t do things that I don’t understand. Senthil is all that “enjoy” type and I am all that “why” type. So, there we are Senthil with his mask on and I, with my face as my face. The main point is to show our new clothes to everyone. All our elders give money. Its collection time!!! Grinning from ear to ear, we both depart. We are holding a plate with thiruneeru (ash used in prayers, also applied on the forehead, similar to bindi, except that it is applied in a rectangular shape) and some coins Chithi gave us just to make it look like our collection has already started. Actually we don’t need to fool anyone. Maattukkaara Paattaiyaa (the grandfather, who has bulls and cows) certainly will treat us. We just have to ask him. But we like to have that starter money on our plate. It makes us happy. It makes us feel that we have already collected some money. We run straight to maattukkaara paattaiyaa’s house. Paatti and paattaiyaa welcome us laughing and smiling and so much noise in their house too.
“Vaangithaa, vaangitharen”. Senthil shouts from behind the mask.
“Eh, look, Senthil and Latha are here. Bring that money”. Karuvaayan chiththappa comes out.
“Eh, you have to say it otherwise we won’t give you any money”.
Senthil shouts with so much joy, “vaangithaa, vaangithaaren”. I am there standing, bending sideways, smiling and just looking at them.
“No, no, you have to say too. Where is your mask?”, chithappa asks.
Pattaiyaa interferes, “eh, do not talk to a girl child like that. She doesn’t have to wear any mask or say anything. Didn’t you hear her brother saying? That includes her too”.
Chiththappa doesn’t give up. “No, no. If senthil says, he gets the money. Look at him, he is wearing a mask too. I won’t give money to Latha, she is not a wearing mask, nor is she saying “vaangithaa, vaangithaaren”.
“Didn’t I say not to talk to our girl child like that? What are you thinking of her? She is from our family. She is brought up with so much culture. Did you think she will go around and shout in front of others houses for money? Did you think she will put on the mask like a clown? It is ok for a boy. That is why Senthil is wearing mask. Senthil is the man of their house. He is taking care of her. He is going with her. When he is there, it is for both of them and he always includes her", Pattaiya pulls the his "man of the house speaketh" card.
“Chiththappa, look, I am wearing new clothes”. I spin full in one go and show him my new skirt, grinning ear to ear. Senthil is jumping out of excitement.
“Chiththappa, look, look, I am wearing new clothes too”.

We get good collection there, as paataiyaa, paatti, and three chiththappas give us money separately. We run straight back to our house to show our collection. Mother tells us the other houses to go next and our day continues. We come back home after visiting all the houses. It was a good-collection day.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dog of the Wind


Since Prema asked me to join here and write I thought maybe my first piece should be an introduction to who I am. The simplest would be to say "I am a mongrel". For a long time that worried me, but in recent years I've realised there's a lot of joy in being a mongrel.

I was born in Africa in a British colony. At first I thought I was British. Well... for three years I WAS British, but then Southern Rhodesia declared it's own independence and I became a member of a rebellious non-acceptable country instead. Then Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and they took away my nationality. Now I belong nowhere. I thought I was British, but then I did my family tree and found that I had as many ancestors walking Europe and the Middle East as I had in the British Isles. I thought I was Christian, but when I went to school my religious teacher told me my beliefs weren't "right" and researching our family tree led me to distant Muslim cousins in Turkey, one Buddhist, some Jewish family in America and way too many Christian variations to list.

So I have thought a lot of things only to find out they were illusions. The truth is I am a mongrel. I have no country I can hold as my ancestral home, not even a single continent I can claim as "mine". I have no single religion that runs through my family history alone. When I look in the mirror I see my grandmother's Irish face, my grandfather's Scottish nose, my father's English hair.. and in all this European-ness I have Persian eyes from some long lost ancestor.

There's a saying in Southern Africa - to be a "dog of the wind". Something homeless and restless, a person who has no roots. I am a dog of the wind and it can feel lonely. For a while it made me feel rather lost, but then I remember the blessings it brings me. If I belong to nothing I can also belong to everything. If I stand with my ancestry on different continents I can be a bridge between different cultures. I can enter many places of religion and find God... at times like that it feels good to be a mongrel. :-)

So I'm going to write from my own mongrel viewpoint. My British-Colonial mixed-up cultural muddled-religious self. I hope it will entertain more than it offends, but mostly I hope it helps to add another layer to prema's wonderful stories of her own culture and childhood memories.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


image courtesy wikimedia-kolam

I am going to draw Kolam today. I have specially practised that new Kolam for this day. I have already bought kolappodi (finely powdered limestone, different type of limestone), when I went to buy whitewash-limestone from the kiln. Mother used the whitewash-limestone to whitewash the house. House looks all new, like wearing new clothes, like me. I went to the vaasal with my kolappodi. Chiththi has found out what I am upto. "Eh, what are you going to do?" I am going to draw kolam". "No, don't do it. By the way how did you get kolappodi?" "I bought it". "Who gave you money?" "I bought from my pocket money" "Akka, look at your daughter" She is calling my mother. Neither herslef nor me are really afraid of my mother. She just wants to make noise about my kolam. She comes with a bucket of water behind me. "What?" !! "Why do you need that water for?" "I know you cannot draw kolam well. so, if you screw up, I will clean the vaasal". "I won't screw up, I have practised it well." where did you practise?" "In my notebook" "So, you have wasted your notebook!! Akka, look at your daughter. We buy her notebooks for her study and she wastes them for kolam.", then looking at me, "Kolam has to be practised by really doing it with kolappodi. Without that you won't get the fluency". "What, you will let me practise that in our vaasal, when you are coming with a bucket of water like this?" "What do you need kolam for? our vaasal is small, bulls walk by it and they will ruin all the kolam and so you should not draw kolam. In our house we don't do kolams. That is only for those komuttichettyaar ladies." "Why it is only for them?" "Listen, no kolam in our house". "I am not going to do it everyday. it is special day. Please do not ruin it." I have already cleared the area in the vaasal. I start drawing the dots, using which I have to draw the kolam. I start counting the dots. There are two types of kolam dot style I know. One is, alternate line of dots are inbetween the dots in the previous one. we call them "idaip pulli" litterally meaning "inbetween type dots" and the other type in which the dots are in line with the dots in the previous line. In both the cases, the centre line will have maximum number of dots and then it will keep on decreasing both sides, until we reach one dot or sometimes three dots only. So, it is always the centre line has odd numbered dots. In few special cases they are even numbered and finish at two dots, like the one I have practised for today. It has 14 dots at the centre line and it has two centre lines. I start counting the dots and continue my kolam. "Eh, eh, they are not straight. Didn't I tell you, you cannot do them". "They are fine". I conitnue. Karuvayan chiththappa goes holding his two bulls. "What mathini, Latha is drawing kolam. And, what are you doing with bucket of water?" "She cannot draw kolam, so I am going to clean it once she finishes it". "Latha, Chithi is going to clean it anyway, so, why are you drawing kolam?" "Please tell her to leave it chithappa. I have been practising it for weeks. I can draw well. And, it is special day too. " "Mathini, let her do whatever she wants. Even if it is not nice, let it be there. Why do you want to clean it?" "See you are going with your bulls. They are walking on the dots. Already two dots are lost because the bulls have stepped on them. In few hours all the bulls from all the houses and cows from all the houses will go by this vaasal and all the kolam will be lost. That is why I want to clean it straight away." If the bulls and cows ruin it, let them ruin it. The kolam will be there for atleast few hours. but you want to clean them straight away. that is worse isn't it? " "That is why I am telling you not to draw it in the first place". "Mathini, let her do. She is small after all. Why are you fighting with a small girl?" "So, small girl should stay as small girl. why is she drawing kolam?". "You draw lathappillai. I support you". But he leaves for the farm with his bulls. He has lot of work to do in the farm so, he cannot stay and support me. Chithi is sitting there drinking her coffee watching me drawing my kolam. Myself and Murugeswari akka have practised these kolams and we have been planning for days. We both have bought this kolappodi without our folks' knowledge. I can tell she is having similar session in her house, except that, she does not have chiththi, (well her chithithis live separately), but her mother compensates for that. I have almost finish......what, it is going wrong. I stop for a minute and look at the lines, have I drawn correct? It looks like one dot is missing. "Didn't I tell you, you cannot draw. I knew it!!!" "no, no. it is fine. I am just checking it". "Why do you need checking if everything is fine?", so I stop checking and continue to draw. Almost there. Looks like it is alright, except that it does show that I do not have real practise in drawing kolam in vaasal using real kolappodi. There you go, I have finished. I look at the kolam from all sides with so much satisfaction. Blang!! a bucket of water dissolving my limestone kolappodi washes the vaasal making it cleaner!!

Interactive kolam

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loss and Gain

I have lost one reader (Michelle) when I gained her as the other contributor. I was feeling a bit down since then, because, she was the only regular reader I have had,....Well, well, until today. There was this email waiting in my inbox saying that how nice my post was. My post on Diwali made Sudha miss her Diwali. She wants to go home... Hope she enjoys a nice, home Diwali, unlike ours. Anyway, the point is, my blog has atleast three regular readers, that is, if Sudha stays a regular.. (so much pressure on you Sudha:) ).

On this popular demand, I am going to continue blogging. Soon, there will be posts by Michelle to break the monotony of young-premalatha's "jumping"s. :)

Friday, October 21, 2005


"Wake up, wake up".
It is only 4 am. But I am excited. I wake up. The hot water is ready for me. I brush my teeth quickly. Then I take my new clothes out and look at them happily. I am going to wear them today, yaay!! Nice warm wash with the water poured from big pot to my bucket. Aunt keeps bringing the hot water complaining. "You waste too much water. Your mother is slaving in the kitchen heating water for everyone. You need to finish and come out soon too. People need to go in after you...." She doesn't stop. I take my time and indulge myself in.  I like the smell of the green arappu. It is powdered leaves of a tree in our area. We use it to wash our hair. I like the fresh clean feeling of the hair after arappy wash. I quickly wash the body and come out. I don't apply turmeric on my face. I don't like the unnatural colour it gives to my face. I come out.  It is still dark. "move move, move away. Others have to wash their hair. quick, move". I put on my new clothes. I dry my hair with the towel. Will have to wait for the sun to be out to get the hair dried properly. 
There is so much noise outside. I hear chiththappa shouting. "stay away from that cracker. it will come onto your face if you stay that close." He is talking to my brother, Senthil. Senthil is all brave type and enjoys fire crackers. He is very noisy too. He is laughing loud. It must have been him, who lit the crackers... 
bhooom, patapatapatapata... 
It gave me a fright. Oh it is that saravedi. A type of firecracker that goes on continuously for sometime.  It is his favourite. There is this gun-cracker he likes a lot as well. I don't like any of these noisy things. 
"Akka, come come," he is calling me. I go out in my new clothes. I stand leaning on the door frame and smile at him. 
"Akka, come, and lit this one." 
"No. I don't like."
"Vamma, come and lit this cracker, you will like it", chiththappa calls me. 
Senthil laughs at me. "Give her that maththappu, (the one that doesn't make noise, but gives out flowery fire). She is very scared of noisy crackers chiththappa." He laughs again. "Come and try this." 
He lits another saravedi just to scare me. This time I am not too scared, as I expected the noise. But, still little bit scared as the noise does scare me. 
bhoooom, patapatapatapata... 
I shake a little. 
Senthil laughs loudly. "See, didn't I tell you that she is scared." 
I am still leaning on the door frame. 
"Come to the vaasal, don't stay there. It is Theevali and you have to enjoy as well". 
Chiththappa calls me. I go to the vaasal. 
"Chithappa, I like sangu maththappu and poomaththaappu". They are all that softies, no noise, only flowery fire. Sangu maththappu spins all over the place and we have to jump to get away from its flowery fire. I like that. I lit a sangu maththappu, it spins, I hold my new skirt and start jumping and running all over the vaasal to get away from the flowery fire. 
Senthil laughs at me. He lits another saravedi. I lit another sangu maththappu. He laughs and I jump.

I want you to be the best - I

Oh, that’s a Giraffe

Yeaeay!!! This aunti and uncle play with me. Yeaeeey!!. I am going to bring my ball!! I jump and jump. “how are you, how are you.. what did you do this weekend.. what did you do this weekend… we went to zoo. Oh that must have been nice…. Oh yes, she particularly enjoyed it…. Oh yes, children like zoos. Don’t they…. She was talking all about it even after we have left the zoo… Do you remember she was telling all animals we saw there, even yesterday… Oh yaah. Come here baby; tell uncle and auntie what you did you see last weekend? Where did we go last weekend”… I was jumping and jumping and what.., is he talking to me?. “Come here, come here”. Oh yes, he is talking to me. I stop jumping and go to dad. Dad holds me. “Do you remember where we went last weekend?”.. I look at him. He is tall, even when sitting. What? “Do you remember where did we go last weekend”?, “where”?, “You have to tell”, what? “do you remember we went with that aunt, and uncle and their daughter Kavya.”, Ohhhh, Kavya, she was nice. She was big. She knew many things. She was walking fast and talking fast. She even dressed in big clothes. She was big. I want to become big like her. “baby, do you remember where did we go with Kavya?”, what?, oh, I got it. I know. We saw many animals. I jump and jump. “Stop jumping. Tell this auntie and uncle where did we go last weekend with your friend Kavya”, who, my friend? Jenni? Jenni is very nice. She plays with me. I play with her too. She is very nice. I will see her tomorrow. I go to school, you know. Oh. I don’t want to go to school…. “hey, hey, listen. Where did we go with Kavya? Tell this aunti and uncle”. “It is alright. She might have forgotten. It is week you see”. “No, no. she doesn’t forget. She has very good memory. She was telling yesterday. She can tell. Tell baby, where did we go in our car with kavya?” in our car? Kavya? I like our car. It has very nice window. When it rains, I can see it through the window. I can see flowers through the window. I can see many things through the window. It is a magic window. “Hey, you were telling yesterday, do you remember, zooo? Where did go with Kavya?” Oh, I know, we went to zoo with Kavya. “Zoo”…. “See, she doesn’t forget”. Everyone is laughing. Auntie and uncle are looking at me with so much surprise. “Did you go to zoo”? “Yes”. I nodded. “Did you go with Kavya?” “Yes”. I nodded. “Is Kavya your best friend?” “Jenni is my friend”… “Jenny is a girl in her nursery”… “Oh!”. “Is Jenny your friend?” “Yes” I nodded. “Who else is your friend?” “Anna. She is very nice too. Barbara, Dave, Katy, Steve, Stephanie, Warwick, Michelle”. I jump once for every friend. “Oh, you have got so many friends”? I smiled, “yes”. “Who is your best friend?” what? “Who is your best friend?” what? “Is jenny your best friend?” I am confused. But, nodded anyway. “ok, ok, baby, tell where did we go last weekend, with Kavya, in our car, drdrdrdrdrrr like that, do your remember?” what? “You just now said, zoo, remember, zooooo”, yes, zoo. I am still confused. “What did we see in zoo?” What? Do you remember that Giraffe? Oh that giraffe? “Yes, Giraffe!” I jump and jump. “What else did you see?” what? “she can tell all the animals she saw there. She tells so correctly. These days children remember many things”. I have to tell correctly. I start breathing fast inside. “What else did you see”? em, em, em, a monkey. It was funny. Jumping all over. “Monkey!!” “that is correct”, ah, I have said correctly!!! I jump and jump. “But, what did you see next to Giraffe?” what? “What did you see after seeing Giraffe?” em, em, what? “Listen. You said on the other day, do you remember. I was telling you on our way back home all the animals we saw there in order?” em, em, em…. “I think she is in a different mood”. “No, she is just shy. She can tell all the animals in the same order as we saw there. “What did we see after Giraffe? Bring your animal book, they are all there in that book”. I went to my book corner. I know my animal book. I picked correctly and ran to daddy and smiled. “Open the book”. I opened the book. Oh that is a Giraffe!! “It is a Giraffe!” “You have already told giraffe. What else did you see there? Open the book and point out all the animals to uncle and auntie in the same order as we saw there in the zoo, the zoo, we went with your best friend Kavya”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Saraswathi poojai and Aayutha Poojai


The letter aayutham


Saraswathi Poojai

பாலும் தெளிதேனும் பாகும் பருப்புமிவை
நாலும் கலந்துனக்கு நான் தருவேன் கோலம்செய்
துங்கக் கனிமுகத்து தூமணியே நீ எனக்கு
சங்கத்தமிழ் மூன்றும் தா.

(I don't know whether I remember this song correct. so please correct me, if any of you know this song).

There is a pile of packed books in front of Saraswathi. One of them is mine. She gives knowledge and intelligence. She can make me clever. She holds veena, the music instrument, and wears white saree. I don’t know whether veena has got any link with knowledge. Saraswathi has four hands. She holds books, well, palm leaves in one of those hands. That is what my teacher told me that she is the Goddess of knowledge. “I will offer you mixing all the four best things, viz. milk, clear honey, cane-sugar-jaggery, and lentils. Please give me all the three Tamils of Sangam in return”. I open my eyes. Look at the Goddess. She looks very peaceful to me. “Go, go, go… stand in the queue. Sundal (chickpea, with desiccated co-conut) is being served. I stand in the queue. I stretch out my right hand, to receive sundal. I hold my right hand with my left hand. It is respect you know. Anything you do with God and Goddesses, you have to do with respect. Some paper from somewhere, comes flying, falling right at my foot. Oh no. I think my foot has touched that paper. I bend to apologise to that paper. I feel guilty. No man, not on the day of Saraswathi poojai!! My foot has touched the paper which is associated with knowledge and hence associated with Saraswathi. I apologise to that paper and immediately pick it up from there. I can’t throw. It is Goddess. I keep it inside my shirt pocket. I wipe my hands and stretch out to receive sundal. I hold my right hand with left hand.

பாலும் தெளிதேனும் பாகும் பருப்புமிவை
நாலும் கலந்துனக்கு நான் தருவேன் கோலம்செய்
துங்கக் கனிமுகத்து தூமணியே நீ எனக்கு
சங்கத்தமிழ் மூன்றும் தா.
“I will offer you mixing all the four best things, viz. milk, clear honey, cane-sugar-jaggery, and lentils. Please give me all the three Tamils of Sangam in return”.


Aayutha Poojai

"Lathamma, come here. there is pongal (rice pudding if it is sweet pongal, and white rice like risotto if it is just pongal) here for you”. There were few plates of pongal from our neighbours and relatives. each plate has some pongal, a small piece of banana and a small piece of coconut in it. some plates have sweet pongal as well. "Why don't we celebrate aayutha poojai? we could have also given to them". I want to go around and distribute pongal in small plates to all my neighbours like my friends did. "We are not farmers anymore. we do not own shop. What do we have to keep as "aayutham" to worship today?". Yes, she is right. It is necessary to have something as “aayutham”, after all it is aayutha poojai. What aayutham do we have? I don’t think we have anything anymore. What about that saal (old style of water-lifting tool, that was used to lift water from wells, used in irrigation. It was normally operated by two bulls). “We do have aayutham. But it is not used anymore. See, that saal is with so many holes, it won’t lift any water if used today. It is an insult to God if we keep that in worship”. She is right. I apologise to God, Aayutha god, for even thinking of insulting. “what about my pen? Can I keep that in worship?” “Didn’t you have pooja for knowledge yesterday? Your pen is covered in that”. Oh yes. She is right!! I go and eat pongal from one of those plates. All my friends are enjoying distributing pongal. I am stuck here eating it. What a looser I am.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I was angry. I am very hungry. If they stop talking I can pretend I have calmed down and can eat. Food is served and is sitting just in front of me. "Are you going to eat or not?". There you go. I can't eat for some more time now. "I don't want food". "Will you let it go?", mother tells me. "What do you mean let it go, I didn't do that. How can you blame me and make me look like a bad girl", "didn't you do that(2)", chithi tells me. "No, that is not how it happened". "OK, let it go", chithi tells me. "No, it is not like that. Why can't you all believe that it was not me", Chithi tells something and mother tells another thing, and I reply them with facts, "what are you? a lawyer?", "it is about right and wrong, I am giving you the facts". "She is handling all of us at a time without any problem. She doesn't have respect for elders, she doesn't stop replying". I am hungry and feel self pity for being framed like this. I don't want to eat. Nobody cares to see the right and wrong. I am just telling everything clearly. They don't want to know. "eat and get it finished for God sake, we have to eat as well".. "Oh, that is it, you want to eat and you want to finish off with me. you don't care about me". "Let us eat, she won't finish it. if we keep talking to her, she will keep arguing like a lawyer. She can even handle more than two people at a time". They are eating. I am hungry. They are not telling me to eat anymore. I can't eat myself, that will be pathetic. I felt pity for myself. I am a pathetic loser. I have nobody who would want to bother to know and care about me. I can’t eat now. I should not eat now. I am hungry. I wish they didn’t overdo the argument. I could have eaten my food. They leave the place. Aachchi (mother’s mother, periyaachchi’s sister) comes in. “What Lathappillai. You still haven’t eaten. Why are you so adamant? You should never show your anger to food. Food is “Annam”, the Goddess you know. You should never disrespect the Goddess. Eat it”. I start crying and tell her, “They don’t want to know how it happened. They are blindly accusing me and arguing with me, they are twisting my words, but they are blaming me for being like a lawyer”. “You know what, let them go to hell. Those two are always like that. Just ignore them and eat it. Oh god, it is noon already”, she looks outside, looks at the shadows to judge the time and starts mixing the food for me. A big ball of food is inserted into my mouth. I can’t stop crying as I feel more "self pity" now. “You should not cry when the food is in your mouth, you will get cough. Stop crying, swallow it first, then you can cry”. I swallowed it. Before I could continue my crying there was another big ball of food inserted into my mouth. “Don’t talk while eating; finish eating first then we can talk about how it happened, OK?”
Place:- Kombai, Age:- 4 to 16, several times.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I hear thatha's loud voice..."Lathaaaaaaaa.....". It is coming from the woods.. I can see him now. oh, oh, he is going to fall. No. he balanced. He saw me too. I ran towards him. I wanted to tell him how upset i am.. I held his legs, "thatha".He took me and held me. I rested my head on his shoulder. I am safe now.."where did you go", thatha asked me. That confused me. He seemed upset too. He seemd mad at me. "How did you come here", he asked me again. I pointed at the girl, "she brought me here". She is our neighbour girl. She sometimes takes care of me when thatha, periyaachchi and mother have to work. "She told we are going to see aachi farm, I thought she was taking me to our estate where you all work". Later someone explained it to me that the name of the farm where thatha found me is aachi farm. I don't know that. How did thatha find us? He knows everything you know.

Place:- Puliya malai. Age:-2 years

The lorry started to move.. Where is it going? How will I come back home? “Ammaaa”… She comes out of the house. She is horrified to see me in the back of the lorry, which is moving. Lorry picks up speed. Mother shouts and started to run behind the lorry. The distance increases. I am getting scared now. Mother is running all over the place with her hands stretched out, crying, calling for help, and running behind the lorry. I see her eyes, so helpless and crying. She is running behind the lorry, shouting for help. The lorry stopped.

Place:- Calcutta, Age:- 4 years.

This looks like vilaam fruit. The tree is very very tall. "Akka", my brother calls me. "Akka, I am scared". He comes to me and holds me with fear. I am surprised. He never comes to me like this. "Akka, we are lost". "What?"....looking around, I can see no-one in the visinity. It is a cardamam estate with lots of trees after all. They may be in another slope. "Thatha... ammaa.. aachchi..."I am starting to feel the fear now. Suddenly I feel responsible and guilty for bringing my brother here and get him lost like this. It is our school vacation. I was exploring my favourite areas. I don’t want to let him know that I am scared too. "Don't worry, I know all the routes in this estate". That looks like a foot path. I am feeling better now. I hear some voice, a man’s voice.. “What are you both doing here?”. “We are lost”. “Come with me”. We are in our neighbours garden!!

Place:- Puliya malai. My age:- 8 years, Senthil's age:- 3 years.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Let her come today. Bommai her name is. She comes everyday. Mother likes her. Mother feeds her too. That too giving our food. I have to eat myself. She brings a little doll with her. She is very fair. Mother tells that she is beautiful looking. All I get from my mother is “behave yourself”, “you are ugly”, “you look like your father”, “you are adamant like your periyaachchi”…and what not. Bommai speaks Hindi. Everyone around here speaks Hindi. I speak Hindi too. I usually hide underneath the cot. Father keeps a special long stick to search for me under the cot. Mother complains to father all the time. She tells him how bad girl I am. Let Bommai come today. I am armed with a big fuel-wood. I am very clever you know, I am hiding behind the door. Mother is talking to Bommai’s mother. Here she comes… bang!! Oh.., she cries and becomes even more “good girl”. I have become even more “bad girl”. Bommai her name is, or, I don’t know, I never asked what her name is.

Place:- Calcutta. Age:- 4 years.


attention deficit disorder

n. Abbr. ADD
A syndrome, usually diagnosed in childhood, characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness, a short attention span, and often hyperactivity, and interfering especially with academic, occupational, and social performance (from here)

Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Periyaachchi - IV

I rushed home from school. Someone from home interrupted my some class and told me that periyaachchi has passed away. I just saw her on the way back to school after lunch. She asked have I had my lunch. I said, yes, I had lunch and I was late to school so, I gave her a flying look and was running. I saw her standing in the middle of the road watching me running to school, for few minutes, before she headed home.

I have to say I am not all that surprised, after her suicide attempt last year. When I reached home, I saw her body positioned in a sitting posture, decorated with lot of garlands. She was covered with my mother’s pink saree. I stood there for few minutes. It took me sometime to realise that I was not crying. Everyone around me was crying. My mother was sitting in front of, what, the body? Some more minutes of standing there, again made me realise it is not good to stand and stare without crying, people might think it is odd and bad. I went inside. Changed my uniform half-saree and put on very old clothes, as they are going to get dirty today. Went back to the hall. I was the one who reported the problem last year. When I went to ask money for her coffee, as I always do, she was very odd. We used to buy morning coffee, and it was my job. I take separate thookku for periyaachchi and for the rest of the family. By default I was included in periyaachchi’s group. It was my job to get money from her to buy coffee for us. I woke her up, and she was….odd.. “Chithi, amma, see here, periyaachchi is odd”. It was timely and we saved her. It took so many months for her to recover her speech and to get back to normal life. It was just this month last year!!! She has made sure that she dies this time. She is successful in her second attempt. Later I got information that she planned it very well too. She went around the entire village and spent some time with every relative close to her heart, including her eldest brother with whom she hadn't spoken in a long time… Suddenly I felt guilty. She was at our place this morning. I was getting ready to go to school. Tidying up before leaving to school was my job. I saw a bowl of rice lying on the kitchen floor, so I moved it to the corner area, my mother shouted at me saying that she had offered that to periyaachchi. I didn’t know. I apologised and gave her back. She refused and said she had food. I felt, I might have insulted her and that’s why she was refusing. Did I add to her hurts? oh, no! I might have catalysed her wanting-to-die feeling. Oh no. no! I didn’t mean it aachchi. I didn't. Just a couple of tears, not enough to wet my eyes. Went inside again. Took a magazine to read. Chithi came inside. “What, not even a death of a person can shake you? What kind of human being you are?”, she said seeing a magazine in my hand. I left home and went to my friend’s place. “Kutti, I don’t know, I can’t cry. I don’t want to sit there. Everyone is looking at me and thinking I am bad”. “You are after all a small girl”, A friend of my age tells me. What? I am fourteen. I should have emotions. I wondered about myself. But, I couldn't help the feeling relived for her. It was good for her. At least that she didn’t suffer. I am not old enough to earn yet. I could not have done anything to save her from the miseries she was going through. Death was good for her. She did it very well. She even talked to her older brother. I wish I knew what she was upto. I would not have given just a flying a look and ran away, when she was standing in the middle of the road watching me. She asked me did I have my lunch. I wish I had a chance to tell her I didn’t insult her this morning. I would never do that. I hope she rested in peace.
Place :- Kombai, Tamil Nadu. Age:- 14 years

Periyaachchi - III

I like to sing and jump and dance when I am alone. The area around my house is generally my favourite place. As everyone goes to work in the estate, leaving myself and periyaachchi, I am generally alone dancing, singing and running around. I can climb guava trees. “aachchi, give me that hook, I want to pluck guava fruits”.. “Don’t climb trees, you might fall. Wait, let me come”. She comes with a long hook. She watches me climbing and tells me where to keep my next foot and where to sit comfortably. She shows me good fruits, not too ripe, not too raw. She bends the branch for me, using the hook; the fruit comes just in front of my little hands. She waits until I pluck it. I give it to her asking her to keep it for me. When I have plucked few of them, I come down. I like to jump. “don’t jump, don’t jump, do you ever listen!! Show me your legs, did you hurt them? You got dirty.. You know those leeches, sometimes they stick to your skin and they suck blood out of you.”. I know. I had that experience once, terrifying. These leeches are very bad. I can’t climb orange trees. They are very tall without any branch at the bottom. If there are branches, I can use them as steps. Periyachchi uses her hook to pluck few orange fruits for me. Yep, fruit picking is finished for today… Thatha made a little hook for me, which I can carry with me and use it myself. I am a big girl now, you know. I can carry the hook and climb tree as well.
Place :- Puliyamalai, Kerala. Age:- 3 years

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Periyaachchi - II

It was raining. I like rain in our estate. Periyaachchi was preparing my favourite black coffee and roasted peanuts. Thatha was sitting on the cot covering himself with a blanket. "come inside, come inside Lathapillai". Sitting inside the blanket with thatha hugging me, having my hot black coffee with roasted peanuts, watching that choooooo rain... mmm very nice..
Place :- Puliyamalai, Kerala. Age:- 3 years
Periyachchi woke up at 2am. "Lathamma wakeup wakeup. We have to go now, otherwise we may not get enough peanut plants".. Since thatha and periyaachchi have come to Kombai, leaving the estate, periyaachchi has not been doing very well. She looks very sad. She tries to cope. I can see. She is going to peanut harvesting in somebodyelse farm so that she could bring some fresh peanuts home for me. She will get two padis (one padi = two litres) of peanuts as her wages, along with some money according to how much she will harvest. She always took me to the field with her, as I will get to eat lot of fresh peanuts all day, free. I liked going with her, not just to the field but to whereever she went, to friend's/relative's houses, as accompanying her was the only thing I could do for her. I was her favourite grandchild. Well, not many had me in their list of favourites....

Place :- Kombai, Tamil Nadu. Age:- 11 years.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Periyaachchi - I

Aachchi means maternal grandmother. Periyaachchi means elder sister to maternal grandmother. My periyaachchi was not only the elder sister to my aachchi, she was also another-aachchi for me, as she was living with us and she was just another member of our family. Somebody told me that she was married off to someone in Thevaaram (nearby village), and she even went there to live with him. He soon died due to cholera leaving my periyaachchi an young widow. She came back to live with her younger sister to look after her children, who were my mother, my chithi (aunt) and my mama (uncle). I always respected her for her generous nature. Periyaachchi is one of the people who had a very significant role in my life, though the time period I shared with her was the shortest of them all.

“Come inside, come inside”, Periyaachchi called me. I ran to her. I knew she was going to offer me to sleep inside her saree, which she wrapped around her. We slept in the kitchen. She was warm. Thatha (maternal grandfather) was sleeping in the cot. I wondered why we both can not go there too. I suppose it is because periyachchi was not married to thatha. “You don’t stay in one place and you roll all over the kitchen. Take care that you do not hit your head against the door frame, also do not go the other side, as the lamp is there on the ammi (stone tool for grinding curry paste), hitting your head against ammi will hurt you too”. As there is no door to the kitchen, it saves some space. I can sleep watching thatha and periyachchi and the entire house. Do snakes come? Someone told me that snakes used to come by following those beams. That joist beam is very big and I suppose that snake was big too? That beam is just above thatha… “No that was a long time ago, before anybody lived here. Now we are all here. So snakes won’t come. Sleep, dear Lathappillai” .... I like the mornings. I jump and walk in the misty roads, holding thatha’s hands. Thatha has his torch light. How do they see if any bus comes? I jump and walk… we are going to get breakfast… road bends with a steep slope on one side.. “don’t jump, Lathapillai, come this side… don’t run..eheheh”….. there are few of my favourite rose bushes on the way. They smell very nice… “Lathapillai, what do you want?”, thatha asks me at the shop. The shopkeeper smiles at me.. “Neyyaappam”, as usual. I watch the neyyaappam being prepared. Very tasty and very satisfied. We jump and walk back.
Place :- Puliyamalai, Kerala. Age:- 3 years


Against all my voices telling me not to do, I have successfully started my own blog.

As, all the "premalatha" options have been taken, I was forced to choose "kombai". Here you go, Kombai is stuck with me forever.


I am still not sure what am I going to do with this blog.. Hope I will be able to figure out before my next post. There are few things I am thinking, mainly the "don'ts" than the "dos"

1) Though Tamil is my favourite language and perhaps I might do better in Tamil (than in English), I am going to stick to English.

2) I am not going to write my day-to-day activities...

3) I am not going to write my opinion/beliefs/likes-dislikes/.... mainly because they have always attracted countless number of arguements in the past and I am done with those arguements. Too tired of the labels controversial/bold/what not.... (may be I am getting old..;)) Secondly, nobody cares to pay attention to what I think, nor it could change anybodyelse's thinking. That's my experience speaking... Right.... didn't I say I was not going to talk about that... louder please.... yayah, I can hear myself now... so, moving on...

4) I should restrain myself from...., well, several things actually; so the list begins...

that should conclude my "starting" post. Hope the second one, which actually is going to be the begining of the series, is a good one.