Spare me the sermon

I like my Diwali crackers. Okay. That’s an understatement. I love my Diwali crackers. Through the year, I look forth to the eve of Diwali when I’ll head to the shop and buy my anars, chakkarginnis and phuljhadis. So what if I’m 39, I’ve been this way since I was 6 years old. But today, when the green revolutionists show off that they’re not buying crackers and celebrating a green diwali, I feel a range of emotions. Guilty, that I’m not selfless like them, irritated that they’re hypocrites and angry that they who keep their ACs at full blast even during winters talk of going pollution free. But being the shy introvert that I am, I don’t say any of this. I simply smile, say ‘wow’ and pat on their back. And then I vent it all out on this page.

For those against crackers. While I don’t advocate lighting crackers after 10pm, I think all Hindus deserve a couple of hours of play with their favourite fire crackers. When you have blocked out the noise of the honking horns in everyday traffic, when you’ve blocked out the loudspeakers which blare out sermons or filmi songs at obscene hours, when the music at the pubs and discos doesn’t feel loud, this is your religion and you must embrace it. If you can’t, then close your windows, close your ears, and stay indoors.

For the anti pollution advocates: Do you know how much we collectively pollute our environment with smoke from vehicles and air conditioners? Instead of banishing a festival, why not reduce the usage of vehicles and plant more trees instead?

Talking of toxicity: True, the norms for regulating toxicity in firecrackers need to be revisited. We tend to go overboard in showing off how much louder and better our firecrackers are than the neighbours. Banning the production of those that cause such toxicity could be a good solution. Reducing variety is another option. Lessen the number of days when crackers are sold, regulate the producers, set a time for crackers maybe.

For those who went on to tell me that lighting diyas was using up oxygen: We have a historical significance for celebrating it. We light diyas with til oil because, the oil adds to positive vibrations in the environment. Fire means warmth, diyas mean light.

Diwali comes once a year. And I love it. Not just for its beautiful lights and nip in the air. Not just for the families it brings together. I love it with its lights and sound. For all those who say that instead of firecrackers, donate to the needy, I say do both! For those who scream pollution, I say turn off your air condition, for those of us, who make it a point to celebrate valentine’s day, Halloween’s day, father’s day, mother’s day and all those other fests from the West, with no cultural history whatsoever, please light your diyas..and spare us your sermons.

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RIP Abdul Kalam

Abdul Kalam passed away yesterday evening.  India’s 11th President, a brilliant scientist turned politician and known fondly to many as the ‘missile man’. A great man who influenced people with his words, what I perhaps liked most about him was his simplicity and uniqueness. Abdul Kalam could be recognized among a crowd of people. He was short, had a distinctive hair style and dressed in a formal suit. And there was something else, he wore all the time: his sweet smile. Though he couldn’t be described as handsome, you could call him cute. He was a people’s person. He was approachable. He was intellectual. And most importantly, he was human.

He was a strong writer too and having read his work in ‘ignited minds’ I also often always read the quotes that come up usually on social media sites. No surprise, but there are plenty of those trending today. A man lives his mortal life in a grand manner, not through the wealth he earns, but through the respect. And when he has the latter in plenty, he becomes immortal. RIP Abdul Kalam, you will live in our hearts forever.

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Home, Humidity and the Husband

Last week I actually went brain dead. In fact it was only yesterday that I realized such a thing could happen. My mind just stopped working. I simply lay on the sofa watching an episode of Mentalist and didn’t want to budge or do any work or anything at all. The husband came home in the evening (luckily early!) and proclaimed that this condition with me wasn’t new. In fact, come Vizag summer and I behaved worse than the kids, he added. I didn’t have the mental strength argue. More importantly, like he said, the kids were actually taking the heat quite well, while it was driving me insane. And so, I decided that he shouldn’t just make this a statement but do something to help out his ‘ailing’ wife. I declared that in order to cool down, I needed some ice cream.

He had had a tiring day at work, driving for two hours, being out in the horrid weather and sweating like he’d stepped out of a bath and hadn’t toweled dry. And then he’d come home to me. But he agreed. He took the whole family for ice cream, and also prodded me to drive the car, so I could snap out of the madness. But well, I was so un-focused I couldn’t get it out of the gate as well. But the ice cream worked, and I did drive back from the store and my hippopotamus or hippocampus or whatever woke up during this process. Well that was something.

Vizag heat really gets to me, and I’m glad for the blessings of air conditioning and an understanding husband. And when we’re not fighting over where I placed the doormat or kept the bucket, he can be a really lovable guy. That’s what a life partner should be about, right? He should be a person who pushes your limits, fights with you and for you, but most importantly helps you snap out of your stupor every time you’re brain dead.

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In sense with Incense

We have all burned incense sticks at some point in our lives. The fragrance and the effect aroma has on us are not just soothing but elevating as well. But have we ever stopped to think about how these are made to give such a soothing consistent smell. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn here.

The beauty of incense lies in its quality of fragrance and on how it burns. To get a perfect end result, the maker would need to take a thin bamboo stick and roll it in the mixture of aromatic incense materials. Often just one or two fragrances are used, as complex blends lead to a confused fragrance. Pure water and resins are then added to the mixture to help it bind. A thin combustible resin base is applied over the bamboo is also often needed to ensure that the aromatic materials adhere well to that stick and burn well along with the stick.

We are such in life as well. The bodies we have are like that bamboo stick, needing to be rolled in and dipped into the ocean of varied knowledge. The fragrance we emit deepens with the depth and quality of what and how we learn. The person who does a little of everything without deepening his/her sphere in any one area is like that confused incense with mixed fragrances. And the beauty of what we learn and gather through our life is of no use, till it is put to test. We must all burn, like the incense, to be able to give to the world what we have learnt. Some of us take just a few minutes to make our mark, some of us take years in the pursuit. But to ensure that we burn just right, without getting extinguished or bursting out, we need to keep our soul in tandem. For it is the resin that binds our body to our mind, and ultimately brings us peace

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Unexpected: The story begins

The rhythmic sound of the rickety old fan and an occasional cough from the occupants of the large high-ceiling room, were all that could be heard. An uncomfortable silence hung here, as the man in the white polyester shirt with a black coat started reading from an official-looking stamped document. ‘I hereby declare that after my death, the fifty seven acres of land will be distributed among my four sons in equal parts.’ The four so-called sons, shifted in the antique rosewood seats while a few sighs of relief escaped the lips of their wives. They seemed glad that their father had left them the property in a manner a sane man would. ‘The gold that belonged to me and my wife should be distributed amongst my two daughters’ the document continued to mention, except for these two items: The stone studded bracelet should be inherited by my grand-daughter Velala Ramadevi Nishikanta while the oval shaped emerald locket should go to my grand-son, Miryala Veerabhadra Baalaark.’

No one spoke at this point of time, the silence profound as it hung heavily in the room. ‘The silver and other articles of importance should be distributed among the servants, who have been loyal to me and stayed to serve me for over the past one year. My books are to be donated to the Central Library along with a sum of Rs. Twenty lakhs. I finally request that the book ‘Nirmalaya’ be handed over to the care of Nishad – my sole friend, confidante and attendant, as only you will know it’s worth to me. Look after it well.’

The silence in the room seemed to ebb out and nervous laughter could be heard from the family. Only two aunts seemed dissatisfied, ‘Why did tataji leave nothing for my son? How come only Nishikanta and Baalaark received special gifts?’ But uncle managed to console them saying ‘It’s two useless trinkets cast in silver. Be glad, the old man left us anything at all.’

One of the aunts ordered for tea and snacks for everyone present. It was most probably going to be their last family gathering. They had met today after twenty years, there was no reason why they’d come together again. Or was there?

This is the first part of a story in progress, a mystery thriller that revolves around the lives of members of a one-joint family. Of an old eccentric grandfather who left two trinkets, important parts of a puzzle for his two favourite grand-children, of loyalty from unexpected quarters and treachery from others. Of how despite the many riches, a family continues to suffer and how they end the fear that looms large over their heads.

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The proposal

‘Oh God, how difficult could this be?’

She stood at the gallery wringing her hands. The painting contest had been over, and she had promised Ryan that if she’d win she’d tell him something.

A part of her wished she lose. And the other part taunted ‘Oh God, how difficult could this be?’

The second and first runner ups were announced as Nitya and Sakshi Deshpande. ‘And now’ the announcer said dramatically, ‘put your hands together for Rhea, who has bagged the first place’

The hall had filled with applause, and Rhea’s heart had filled with joy. Or was that warm fluttery feeling of hope, happiness, trepidation?

Ryan was waiting outside when she stepped out. ‘So, how did it go?’

‘Ok’ Rhea said non committal. ‘I came 2nd’.

‘Which means you won’t tell me what you had promised to tell me?’

‘Sorry, I can’t’ Rhea replied. ‘Rules are rules.’

And just then Sachin walked past. ‘Hey Ryan, congratulations Rhea, your art work was superb.’

‘Ya? They displayed everyone’s work?’ Ryan asked

‘No, just the winner’s.’

‘pak pak pakaak’…Ryan was mimicking a hen as he thanked their mutual friend Sachin for the news.

And to no one in particular he added, ‘Someone I know is chickening out. Someone with so-called high ideals and value systems, who talks of rules being rules.’

He’d started the scooter with three kicks, and as Rhea sat behind Ryan, she hated herself for chickening out.

‘Okay baba, I’ll tell you, but I need a quiet corner.’

She could almost feel that victorious smile that must have been emanating from Ryan as he said, ‘This is a quiet corner.’

‘No, not this. Some place else.’

‘Where? Should we go to Raj Dhaba?’

‘No.’

‘Kapoor chowk?’

‘No.’

‘Vaishalipuram’

‘Are you crazy? No.’

The scooter braked suddenly.

‘What? Why have you stopped here? It’s the middle of nowhere.’

‘Get off’ Ryan said. ‘I’ve stopped because we’re in the middle of nowhere. Either you tell me here or agree that you’ve chickened out.’

And before Rhea could protest, he got off, and pulled the two-wheeler on its stand. Leaning his tall muscular frame against the scooter he folded his hands as he faced the beautiful Rhea with her deep innocent eyes.

‘Now tell me.’

‘It’s no..nothing.’

‘Chicken’ he taunted.

‘Ok. It’s about…you know…us. You..you went to Delhi, came to Kanpur, then at your place, you said you saw the doll museum, had chaat.’

‘Yes’ Ryan said impatiently, ‘ I travelled, I ate, I returned, what next’

‘When you weren’t here…I…I missed you.’ Rhea’s mind went deep into the hollow of her heart, the place from where she had missed him. ‘Very much’.

Ryan’s voice softened, ‘I did too.’

‘Liar. You’re saying so because I said so. Why didn’t you say so first?’

‘ Well, what’s this? A who says it first contest? And stop this, tell me what you wanted to tell me. Out with it.’

This night, the decision to tell Ryan had been a tough one to make for Rhea. All her friends had been proposed by their boyfriends. And all her friends had advised her to tell Ryan. Why did she, of all the people, have to do the proposing? It was unfair, all of it.  What if he said no, where would she take the million pieces her heart would break into. And what if she never got this chance again? What if he found someone else? Or she died? Or the world ended? Didn’t they say that it was all about today, tomorrow was an unknown stranger?

‘Okay’ she said staring at the brown tips of her jootis, ‘I think I love you. And I really don’t know what you feel about this, but I wanted you to know that I have feelings. ’

‘You think or you know?’ Rhea would have stared at her jootis for the rest of the evening, but something about Ryan’s tone made her look up into his eyes.

‘What?’

He was smiling. ‘I’m just saying that you think….but I know’

And then he held her slender shoulders with his strong hands, ‘I know…that I love you.’

‘Liar. You’re saying so because I said so. Why didn’t you say so first?’

And that’s how it all began, the first brush-stroke on the Canvas of Dreams.

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Dear dear Mahesh

Dear Mahesh Babu,
I write this fan mail in the earnest hope that it reaches all fans of Telugu films across the globe, and through them to you. I don’t know how computer-literate you are Mahesh, and whether you really update your blogs, or even whether you have one at all. (At this point of time, I know I should google for the answers, but to admit the truth, I’m quite a lazy person).

Anyway, this mail is not about all that. This is a message to tell you that I’m one of those millions of fans who fell in love with you after Athadu and Pokiri, but unfortunately fell out of love after seetamma vakitlo (the rerun of the movie on TV was too much to take). And that though you may not find me in the mad crowds that mob you outside the stores you inaugurate and the programs you visit, I’m always there in spirit.

I wanted to tell you that family films are not your type. I for one, think you’re a lover-boy, woman’s-man, so please, stay like that. Don’t vent your frustrations on flower pots and plates of food. Kick up some ass with tacky background music playing, or break some walls. What you’ve done in this film is tame even by the standards of a housefly.

Also, the fact that women came up to you through the film to tell you how good looking you were, was a bit too much to take. We all know good looking guys when we see one, but we’re not idiotic enough to go and tell them that. I think that perhaps there are only five girls on this planet who are that stupid and my guess is that they’ve all acted in that film. Moreover, You were jobless through the film which made me sigh (If MB can’t
land a job, who can)

I was happier that your flick was ‘One’ after that. And though i was a little apprehensive, I’m glad you did not make the same mistakes as you did in Seetamma. However, for the future, don’t make your films a carbon copy of Athadu or Nenu okkadine or okkadu, because, we are all bored to see you do the same thing in every film. Anyone would think (wrongly I’m sure) that you know little else.

Having said all that, I’m your fan for life and given a chance would love to dance in the background for one of your songs with the heroine. (I know I lost a good chance at Nenu Okkadine, but then with your memory flashes, you would have forgotten me.) But please, before you rush to give me a chance to do just that, do learn some dance yourself. Watching your P.T. (that’s what they called it in school) is a little disheartening.

That’s all for now. Hope to see a new flick with a new story from you quickly. I hope you don’t take my words too hard. After all that’s what fans are all about.

Say hi to Namratha 🙂
Your honest fan,
Nenu okka-dani-ne

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