Friday, April 29, 2011

My childhood summers

Summer camp! Summer camp!! Summer camp!!!

It’s raining summer camps everywhere. The colored flyers and banners are all around, each one claiming to teach art,craft, music,drama, pottery and many more in short span.

As I see many latch-key kids making use of the summer camps, I am reminded of my own summer camp. My summer camps were always @ my grandparents house in the city of Madras( i like the ring of madras than chennai) which can boast of only one weather, though in varying degrees- hot, hotter and hottest.

But it never mattered to me that I travelled from the cooler climes of Bangalore, because I had the cool company of my 10 cousins who would also descend from their cities to my grandparents house at Mylapore (a suburb of Chennai). We also had company in two little girls who were the nieces of our maid servant. Those girls had actually come to share the extra house hold work but we would drag them to play with us, they almost become a part of our gang thus making it 12.

No structured pattern in our camp, just footloose and carefree days of gay abandon.

My grandparents house served as a transit point for all those relatives who broke their journey while moving from the southern cities of Madurai, trichy to the cities in the north like Delhi, Dehradun, Calcutta etc.So we had a regular flow of relatives. We enjoyed meeting them and then our story sessions with our peria patti( my grandmom’s elder sister), the frequent visit to relatives house and outings in the big amby car MSR 2277 in which all the 10 of us huddled along with our thatha and patti, our presence at weddings and occasions , our walks to santhome beach and occasional visits to marina, triplicane or elliots beach, our daily visit to Kapali kovil(temple) and shopping around the shoppers paradise called Luz, eat outs @ woodlands, shanti vihar, the famous rayars cafĂ© and then of course the way we played pranks on each other and the various games on the mottai madi (terrace)- all these and much more made my summer camp.

We also lent helping hand to our elders when required. This was more fun than a chore. We helped them when they went to market, we bought the essential provisions from the nearby store, helped thatha with his work like filing papers etc,watering plants, cleaning the fridge, pumping water from the hand pump etc.

What we enjoyed most was sweeping the terrace in the evening and splashing buckets of water to make it cool, because this is where we would camp in the night under the star spangled sky, Our fans were natural which came in the form of sea breeze from the nearby Santhome beach . Thatha would sleep on the string cot while my grandmom, my mom and her 3 sisters along with their 2 sisters-in-law(mamis) and brothers would keep chatting. We children would play hide and seek, chat and share stories. If it was a full moon day, it was an ocassion for us, since we would have ‘nila sappadu‘ on the terrace. (Moon light dinners)

My perimma (mom’s elder sis) would bring sambar rice and appalams in a big dish to the terrace while my elder mami would bring in Thayir saadam(curd rice) and vadu manga( baby mangoes brined and spiced).

All the 10 of us(cousins) would sit around perimma. She would then give small plates which would hold our appalams. We would have a bite of the appalam and stretch our hand for the sambar rice. Perimma then would place the sambar rice on our palms and we would pop it into our mouth hurriedly and stretch our palms again. It never mattered to us if we were hungry or fussy all that mattered was the competition to stretch our hand for the next morsel. In a trice the sambar rice would be emptied.

Next was the thayir saadam. Now vadu manga substituted the appalam. All of us would have a bite of vadu manga and then stretch our hands for the thayir saadam.

After dinner, we all would go down 2 flights of stairs to drink water( this served as a exercise) and then brought our mats and pillows and then spread it on terrace.

After some running around and some story sessions later we all would blissfully go to sleep counting the stars in the sky,or waiting for the beams of the light house and looking at the temple tower of kapali koil which was visible from our house terrace. Sigh! Such blissful days. Will they ever come back? I would trade any material comforts for those lovely childhood days I have had - if ever I could live through them again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An evening of thrill and excitement!!!

I am not a fan of cricket, but I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s DC vs MI live at Rajiv Gandhi stadium, Uppal. Hyderabad.

My husband’s company has booked a whole box (9 seats) for the IPL series at Uppal.This ticket is only for the employees and not for their family, so only he can watch the match. Not wanting to disappoint my sporty crazy children, my husband booked tickets for the family to catch the match.

We reached the place an hour before the scheduled 4.p.m and so positioned ourselves comfortably below the shade of the camera crew at West pavilion terrace.

The experience of watching a match live is different from watching on a TV. It was indeed nice to be among the sea of people who went on to cheer irrespective of whichever team hit a four or six. I was only worried about the crowd but it was totally organised till the end.

I had anticipated the craze for sachin but perhaps underestimated it. After a lot of vacillations between ‘Will he?” or Won’t he?. (owing to the ill health of his spiritual guru Sai Baba) . He appeared for the net practice at 3.p.m along with his team mates and God, you must have seen the euphoria of the jam packed stadium ( 38,000+ spectators). I have only read about the craze for him from newspapers , but every time he touched the ball, or bent down their was a high decibel ear-drum shattering roar, not to mention the chants of ‘Sachin, sachin’ through out. It was indeed sad that the world renowned spiritual guru’s death coincided with his birthday. ( sachin is a follower of puttabarthi sai baba)

Huge cut outs, banners claiming him as God and king and wishing him for his 38th birthday were all around the stadium and on the road leading to the stadium.

Banners ranging from :

‘ You never get older with age, you only get better with age, Happy birthday, Sachin’,

’ der was only banality and then god decided 38 years ago let der be cricket’.

‘ cricket has fans, but God has followers, sachin is god’ etc.

'If sachin permits, I would put my head at his feet'

Some fans had even painted their t-shirts with the single letter ‘Happy birthday sachin’, and all of them had to stick together so that they could be read. What caught my attention were these people more than the match. It was more interesting to see these fans vying with one another and screaming to catch the attention of players close to the fence. Interesting people, really!!

I’m sure if Sachin uses all these good will for noble causes, he would simply be followed.

It was definitely an experience to catch the thrill and excitement Of a match in the stadium than on TV, with a small grouse though. The security did not allow us to carry water bottles, mobiles and handbags of even ladies who claimed they had their baby's food but it was puzzling to see so many people have binoculars and knap-sacks on their backs. The boy sitting next to me told he carried his cell phone in his socks but how could a big binocular and knap sack go unnoticed.

So much for our security.

Nevertheless I caught the thrill and excitement of the live match and the Disc jockey who held the audience to the sway of the Mexican wave. It was a lovely sight to see the rise and fall of the spectators as the wave kept going to the instructions of the jockey. Unrehearsed synchronisation.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

IIT - Dream of most parents

are the chants which play on the lips of parents of high school children in Hyderabad.

No, these are not the names of religious gurus but branded as 'techno schools' which train children rigorously in the name of ‘IIT foundation course” and acclaimed and hailed as the right mentor for IIT- JEE.

These schools look like corporate office with chrome and glass facade, have an a/c atmosphere, work from 7 to 7 and... yes, yes, they deliver otherwise how else would you get to hear on NDTV year after year that 40% of students who crack the IIT entrance exam every year come from Andhra Pradesh.

I remember my neighbor santhosh telling me his daily schedule. He went to a residential techno school 5 years back. His day started at 4, after yoga, they were given milk and they had to study till 9. Then they would have their bath and get ready to classrooms by 10. From 10 – 4 it would be school with an half hour lunch break, after which it would be IIT coaching till 7, after 7 it would be studies till 9. ( no, I am not exaggerating, I am infact playing it down).

No recreation or extra curricular activites, after all they are not here for that you see.

This 'IIT' training starts very early, perhaps ‘Catch them young’ is the mantra for these schools.

Every year during summer, this is an epidemic with most parents (not just urban, even rural uneducated) whose children are in 7th,8th or 9th. They want to enroll their child in the IIT foundation course. Many parents feel, they are missing something by not enrolling their child. Some over enthusiastic parents infact call the educational counselors to enquire if their child who is in class 5 should start the course.

It is all understandable, All concerned parents are worried about their child’s education and IIT being one of the premier institutes of India, it is a dream of most parents to see their child in IIT.

But in their love and affection they fail to see the interest of their children and their childhood. The child may not be technically inclined but he/she would have to join the course due to their parental pressure and their parents social status. For these children if technical skills are one end of the spectrum then soft skills are at an other end.

My husband and his team go to recruit his company’s trainee engineers at various campus interviews .He says all of them are technically strong, but just technical skills will do no more, for client interaction, group discussions, knowledge transfers we need soft skills too’.

Now, with this year there is a new epidemic, immediately after the tenth board exams, the schools have accepted admissions for 11th standard based on the pre-final marks and this summer the schools will work in a/c atmosphere, After all IIT entrance is only two years away, so they are not wasting time and the parents argument is that when you are young, you’ve to work hard and now is the time, so no leisure.

I am not against IIT, but against these training. Infact ,my cousin cracked his IIT with his average intelligence studying in and out of many government village schools ( vernacular medium) and English medium schools( in cities) due to his father’s bank transferable job, with no formal training and lot of self study. Other than him, I have 3 uncles who are from PSBB and IIT (any tamilian would know what I’m saying but for non- tamils PSBB is a most sought after school in Madras some years back). All of them are a part of brain drain.

Let IIT be a part of every parents dream for their child, but let them also enjoy childhood. If they don’t play and enjoy now, when else will they?. IIT is not the only solution for a bright future. There are many more avenues.

But, even I’m scared I may succumb to the pressure of my peers. My daughter is in the tenth with no inclination towards engineering/medicine. She is more interested on the creative side like animation, designing, communication etc.,

With a recent call from the school where she was one of the meritorious students selected to meet the great ‘ IIT guru’ Dr. Chukka Ramaiah, I thought his speech and words would change her mind. But she came back telling ‘I don’t want to be an engineer/doctor.’

Now, I am a parent on the cross roads. Should I enroll her against her wishes or comply with her wishes. Though my husband is clear saying ‘ She’ll decide and we’ll only guide’.

P.S: Please note that everywhere I have used 'most parents' and not 'every parent' this is a generalised post and does not apply to every parent in AP.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

God and politics

Campaigning and election manifestos are a part of elections. Politicians of Assam, Kerala, Pondi, Tamilnadu are/were very busy with the above. Especially in tamilnadu along with the campaigning channel wars are also on.

Any follower of politics would know that the traditional rivals in TN are DMK and AIADMK. Both of them run their own TV channels and the campaigning( read defaming) is all over the visual media.

They creatively stage short plays to defame their opponent by highlighting all their opponents misdeeds and trumpet their own efforts. This is just to revive the short term memory of the people. Honestly, I don’t watch both these channels but I love these ads for the humour and creative content.

As if this was not enough TN politicians also descended on Chilkur Balaji temple to ally with GOD. Read about this temple here before you proceed, You would then know why the politicians descend on this temple during elections.

When I entered this temple today at the wee hours of morning, which is 40 kms from Hyderabad. The banner that greeted me in the temple read…

Devotees,Students,Visa Applicants,Movie Actors and Directors,Bureaucrats....
now it is TAMILNADU Politicians!

What is common in all of them?

You find them all making wish doing 11 parikramas in Chilkuru Balaji Temple.

The head priest Dr. M. V. Soundara Rajan ( who can be called ANNA HAZARE of the temple protection movement) is pushing for the de-politicisation and de-commercialisation of temple administrations. After successfully amending the endowment act( government interference in temple admin by issuing VIP tickets,mis managing temple funds, temple jewels etc.,) to make Chilkur an autonomous temple.
He is now trying to prevail upon the TN politicians to introduce free darshan, ticketless ‘archana’ and ensure administration of temples without political interference in TN too.

DR. MVS – the chief hereditary priest had already impressed upon Y.S Rajashekar reddy (Ex. CM) who had visited the temple during the 2004 pre-election days, and after his glorious win , kept up the word and amended the endowment act to make Chilkur balaji temple an autonomous trust. Similar was the case with the Karnataka politicians who visited this temple, they too honored their words . Hope the TN politicians do too.

If his demands are met, then Tamilnadu – the land of ancient temples would definitely become a travelers/tourist/devotees delight.

P.S: Chilkur balaji does not encourage donations, VIP darshans,special privileges, Hundi collections(there is no hundi in this temple). Encourages handloom weavers, donations only through two nationalized banks which are well accounted, no plastics used and is an institution where traditions, culture and healthy lifestyle and moral values are preached through discourses.and preserved.

This is one of the rarest temple where you can feel the presence of GOD. Even if you are an atheist, do mark this place in your ‘places to be seen’ during your next visit to Hyderabad you will feel the difference.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring delights

The fragrant white and pink frangipanis, glorious red gulmohars, the lovely florescence of mango tree and neem trees, the newly born tender shoots and other unknown multihued fragrant blossoms, the sing-song of birds, the warm sunshine - all these 'spring delights' perks up my mood in this short and sweet spring season.(I notice them during my daily walk and hence have listed here)

What adds more vibrancy to the above is in this season we celebrate a series of festivals starting with holi, vasant panchami,Mahashivratri, Sri ramanavami, the regional new years like Ugadi, gudipadwa, bihu, tamizh puthandu, baisakhi, lohri, visu etc.,

Tasty neivedyam (food), colorful kolams( floral patterns) and thoranams( festoons) mark these festivals.

It is a tradition during festivals to tie a festoon made of fresh green mango leaves and adorn mango leaves in kalasam on auspicious occasions like festivals and weddings. (for tamil new year even neem leaves are used, mango leaves are used for aesthetics). These leaves help in keeping the surroundings clean and hygienic.

There is a strong scientific reasoning supporting this. A person with basic knowledge of science knows that green leaves absorb carbon-di-oxide and releases oxygen. So on occasions when there are a lot of people around ,one could end up cross- breathing. The air filled with carbon-di-oxide is lighter than the pure air, this gets purified immediately while passing through the festoon. Also it acts as pest controller since all insects gets attracted to the green leaves and are barred from entering into the house. (these days we use pest-o-flash and all sorts of chemical pest control).

Even today, in Indian villages the ash of burnt dry mango leaves are used as first aid for cuts and fresh wounds. It has the capacity to check the bleeding. Also it is scientifically established that the color green keeps the mind fresh even modern medicine prescribes greenery for a tired mind and soul. Same is the case with the plaintain plants put on either side of the entrances in wedding halls. In olden days, Weddings usually took place in open areas where there were many reptiles and lizards. The sap of the plaintain bark served as first aid and was used to check the poisonous bite of snakes.

Also most south Indian household apply turmeric on the threshold. Turmeric being an anti-septic and antibacterial checks the microscopic organisms from making their way into the house. If the green festoon does its job at the top, The yellow turmeric does its job below. These days of course many households don’t differentiate between house chappals and sandals worn outside. This acts as an open invitation to all the microorganisms into the house.

Wonder how many of us follow such practices? How many are still relevant today?

In these scientific and technologically advanced age, are these practices still relevant?

If they are, let us pass the baton of Indian cultural values to our future generations that has been designed, nurtured and cherished by our wise ancestors, lest they get drowned under the skilful marketing tactics of the west and the orient.

(will ETA photo of my fav frangipani)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

KD'83 to DD'11

I was'nt following cricket for the past 20 years except in movies like 'Lagaan' but my super positive apartment people's enthusiasm rubbed on me since the Indo-pak match. They bursted the crackers much before the win and the way the little ones and elders went about with the huge flag of India around the complex, my heart too swelled with pride.

My son and my jetlagged hubby(early morning he returned from a long term) were watching the match on a big screen in the club house with all our co-residents, while my daughter who was watching at home dragged me to watch the final over.

Like most Indians, I too was a great cricket enthusiast long long ago.I had maintained a scrap book with all data and details of the cricketers those days. I remember taking permission from school to watch the prudential cup in 1983 and yesterday after a long time , I was truly ecstatic when i saw Dhoni's men hold the cup aloft. All along though I was'nt keen about the game I was always in awe of this man called Dhoni.

The way he handled the situation and the winning interview yesterday was simply exemplary. He has a cool body language. A matured head on young shoulders. No glamorous business degree on management can hold light to the team-managing skills of this guy.

Now all the apartment kids have replaced KD'83 (Kapil's Devils 83)( Thanks to chain kuli ki mein kuli) on their cricket bats with DD'11 (dhoni's dashers of 2011).

Two thumbs up to Dhoni's dashers for capturing the cup.