The boy in this park and the boy at my hostel are both called Bittu. I know because everyone is always screaming the name- the mother at the park and the five adults in the hostel. Two kinds of screaming for the same two syllables. This Bittu is running around in circles while his mother playfully waddles behind him, pretending to fail to reach his bony arms each time she stretches out her arms. Bittu, Bittu, Bittu- she sings in a rhythm as he laughs and runs. He runs and laughs and runs in circles around trees and shrubs and little birds, until he stumbles over his own feet and falls. In a second, his mother swoops him into her arms. His little face freezes into a smile-frown, as he considers crying but realizes he doesn’t need to anymore. Continue reading “Kinder Joy and Roller Coasters”→
It’s not that I’m entirely lacking in self-esteem. While I’ve never been comfortable stepping out of my house without eyeliner, I never actually craved a mask either. I am only as insecure as the next person. I had never feared mirrors or hated photographs. But I feel ugly in India, in the last few months and the winter before and the summers before that. I hunch more. I avoid more. I don’t even have the motivation to wear eyeliner. I rarely seek reflections along the roads I walk through. Continue reading “Ugly and Somewhat Unapologetic”→
“But it is important to know this, to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle… Like you have missed the beginning of a story and now you are in the middle of it, trying to understand.”
– Pari, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
In Papa’s village, people like me. They take both my hands and press it to their cheeks. They want me to eat more, smile less, learn more. They want to see three degrees at the end of my name. They never call me by name. They have called me doctor since my first summer out of high school. In this Kerala I half-know, I bear my name as a crown.
In this landscape I find myself in the middle of, remnants of a feudal structure tower over me, extending its shadow into every aspect of this unfamiliar story. Though the distinctive clothes and vocabularies of a forgone era have given way to more subtle methods of differentiating class and caste – and accordingly, breadth of smiles and politeness required – the inheritors of the legacy are easy to spot.
The city priest smirks as the woman bends over backwards serving him breakfast after mass. He nods me off as I make a joke about my almost-Hindu-sounding name. There is no laughter. The city doctor smirks as she tells me she is a professional. When I tell her that I find her methods of diagnosis offensive, she tells me she has seen hundreds of me. I’m a replaceable part of her structure. In my village, I’m not. Continue reading “Roots and their Contradictions”→
The good thing about a room with no shelves is that there was no need to unpack– I could simply feel at home, even without my normal rituals of sorting, hanging and color coordinating. Though it was a scarce hour since I had reached the rural health center, I was restless enough to crave a walk. I had just ended an argument before the car had pulled out of my grandparents’ house, the journey required tiring conversations of a forcibly positive tone, and the room smelled like wet, dead rats. I opened all the windows, prayed for some air circulation and left the clinic with no sense of direction. I was perhaps hoping for the sort of self-analysis that long, solo walks in the kind of nature people write poetry about would bring and yet, wasn’t entirely disappointed when my phone rang and a cousin’s name flashed on the screen. We were the same age and for the most part, along similar wavelengths, and unlike the vast majority of my relatives, it never took us forced effort to make conversation – not even in our shyness-suffused childhoods. I talked to her as I walked, taking in all the landmarks I could. Continue reading “First Impressions and their Corrections”→
It’s either LKG or UKG. I can’t tell the two years apart in my barrel of fragmented memories. Ironed-white shirts and muleta-red skirts; the autorickshaw driver lifts us up and gently drives us into the spaces in between the blue seat’s torn edges and the ashy knees that are already in front of them as if we are fluid lego pieces. Brown arms with half a dozen holy threads and the scent of Cuticura layered over that of the sambars and rasams in metal tiffins that dangle from one hand while the other balances water bottles hanging around feeble necks- the driver must be good at tetris. When the auto reaches the school gates, a miss in a cotton sari runs up to our side. Dots of sweat decorate the arm that reaches out to grab me. At Assembly, as we claim all those around us – those we intend to steal chocolate from, copy off of, gossip about, play with and intentionally not play with, unintentionally forget about, learn from and about, grow up with and leave behind – as brothers and sisters, simply by virtue of the label on our application-pending passports, I feel the sweat on my forehead running down the sides of my face. Water and sodium, urea and fear; the little fingers on my non-pledging left hand restlessly pound my thigh. Today, I might have to read it aloud. The fear manifests in tears that, for now, are not marked by mascara streaks. Continue reading “On Impossibilities.”→
It was supposed to be about going back and trying to understand this city again. But for some reason, everything seemed different and less… colorful. This city has become strange. All of a sudden, it’s full of boundaries and locks, and I am a trespasser in a stranger’s home.
But the thing about colors, I’ve learned, is that they come and go. And for every utterance of never and forever, the punishment comes with another stroke of gray. And as that paintbrush pushes you forward, your back bleeding against the rough canvas, maybe- just maybe- you’ll be the one adding that bit of color.
“നീ വല്ലതും കഴിച്ചോ?” എന്നത്തേയും പോലെ വേനല് അവധിക്കു വീട്ടില് വരുമ്പോഴുള്ള അമ്മച്ചിയുടെ ഈ ചോദ്യത്തിനു തലയാട്ടികൊണ്ട് ലിവിംഗ് റൂമിലെ വെല്വെറ്റ് ദിവാനിലേക്ക് ഞാന് ചാടികേറി. കുറച്ചു കാര്ട്ടൂണ്, പിന്നെ ഒരുറക്കം, പിന്നെ അമ്മച്ചിയുടെ വക വഴക്കും ഡിന്നറും- പതിവൊന്നും തെറ്റിക്കാന് പാടില്ലല്ലോ.
അന്ന് പക്ഷേ അമ്മച്ചിയുടെ വിളി ഒരല്പം നേരത്തെ ആയിരുന്നു, ടെക്ക്സ്റ്റര് തുടങ്ങിയിട്ട് അധികം ആയിട്ട് പോലും ഇല്ല.. ശോ! ഈ അമ്മച്ചി.
“എന്തോ?” ഞാന് ഉറക്കെ അലറി. “ആ” എന്ന് അലറിയാല് അപ്പച്ചന് വഴക്ക് പറയും. നല്ല കുട്ട്യോള് “എന്തോ” എന്നാ വിളി കേള്ക്കുന്നേ എന്നാ അപ്പച്ചന് പറയുന്നേ.. ആ, ഇനി ആദ്യത്തെ ദിവസം തന്നെ വഴക്ക് വേണ്ട – എന്തോ എങ്കില് എന്തോ. Continue reading “കാത്തുമ്മയുടെ ആട്”→
Her blue eyes intrigued me the most. I’d take my favorite crayon box next to her, and poke and prude those shiny blue’s until I found one that blended a bit. Unlike all the other dolls that I kept near my bed, she was kept on a shelf above my desk. My mom had bought her for me from Austria and had told me that she was very fragile. Her bright-blue eyes rested on a porcelain face with perfectly blended circles of painted rouge. Sparkling golden curls lay perfectly on her shoulders, a deep blue cloche hat framed her face and a long laced dress finished the picture. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and with her, my life began to change.
I was six years old and Papa’s Bullet was the coolest thing in the world. The Bullet was red and its engine roared when I sat on it. My dad’s village, which was always one of my favorite places to visit, was known for its hills and rubber trees. The ride up the hill was not particularly fun but as any native would know, every up has an associated down. And unlike in life, here, the ride down would always be the most fun! The bike would change its sound from a roar to a loud hum and the wind would push my face into my dad. I could feel the edge of his helmet on my head. Continue reading “The Butterfly In My Throat.”→
How do I study when the World outside is performing Her masterpiece? The wind is singing her beautiful song, an old melody that I’ve learnt by heart; much more brilliant than Rahman and Dvořák (yes, they surely belong in the same sentence). The trees and the grasses perform a dance of their own. Opening the window next to this table I sit at is like encountering a whole another world.
One in which there is a porch with three white chairs, made of a kind of straw. Continue reading “When the Heavens Distract..”→
Once upon a time, a little girl would take long walks with her Appachen in this little town called Tiruvalla, where people spoke this crazed-out language called Malayalam and heat was actually hot. And on the way (to nowhere in particular), they’d stop at this little tiny store that sold random yet necessary things (sambranis, bar soaps, chewing gum & neelam). And this little girl would sit on top of the counter and drink a fizzy carbonated drink called Thums Up while her Appachen and the storekeeper discussed the INC (kaipathi!), CPI (‘M’ may or may not be added) and white-white kerala politics (Munshi and Asianet News at 7!).
And then, somewhere in between, the little girl grew out of that adjective and forgot the ease in language, the strength of the heat, the name of that shopkeeper and of course, the taste of Thums Up.
Then, somewhere further down, asian supermarkets came into the picture and at least one of the aforementioned was turned right. True loves reunited ♥
In the reflection of that dirty glass bottle remains everything that truly matters.
“What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.”
Woah! Since when do we get laptops for labs? I stared in awe, and perhaps even drooled a bit, as our physics teacher began to pass out brand new and of course, the fully PERFECT Macbooks to everyone. Sanitize your hands, she was saying, you don’t want to get oil stains on these things. They’re worth a thousand dollars each… The instructions went on but by this point, everyone had already tuned out. After all, the point is- we get a new toy..Twenty thousand dollars worth of equipments for each department? No wonder school taxes keep going up. And that too, just to save ourselves the two-second walk to the computer lab. Brilliant. Now we can do the calculations for the lab right here in the classroom (and then spend another few thousands on exercise machines.. right in the classroom). Superfluous, much? Of course, of course I’d love to peacefully protest and boycott this infringement of basic financial practicality. But.. seeing that everyone else was already playing around with the webcam and photobooth, just one question- should I make myself fisheyed, pop-arted or bulged? I love you, Steve Jobs (almost as much as Larry Page and Sergey Brin..almost)! Continue reading “As I sit in class…”→