Monthly Archives: July 2011

Manjadikuru – The Coral Tree Seeds

Update for week ending 22 July 2011

Amminikutty was a devout Krishna worshipper. She would visit the village shrine each morning after her 5 am bath – dressed in her white “mundu” – cotton waistcloth commonly worn by people in Kerala. She would regularly pray for the needy and sick. One o fher relatives was seriously ill and she had taken a vow for that she would pray for him at the famed Guruvayur temple. Hailing from a poor hamlet on the foothills of the Western Ghats, she had little means of taking public transport to Guruvayur, so she decided to cover the journey on foot. Bhaskaran, the bus driver who brought in the bi-weekly load of passengers to this hilly village, once told her that though Guruvayur was not very far off, it was at least a few days of journey by foot. He could do the trip in a day, but if his bus owner heard of him giving a poor lady a free lift, he would lose his job. He however had an idea, he would carry her little luggage (a faded mundu-kattu – a cotton bundle containing more waistcloth inside) to Guruvayur and leave it at the bus-stand with Gopi (the security guard of the bus stand). With that taken care of, Amminikutty started her journey to the pilgrim centre. However on the way, as she passed the rainforest covered slopes, she realized that she did not carry any offering to her favorite lord. She looked around and saw the circassian tree (or the red coral tree) and the glistening red seeds scattered on the ground. They looked shiny and very attractive. She gathered them and when her fists were full of them she looked around for a container that she could store them in. Sighting none around, she decided to use her thorthu-mundu (dish cloth/cheese cloth like towel that men and women usually hung over their left shoulder) to wrap the seeds into. This she would offer to Krishna at Guruvayur.

She reached Guruvayur 3 days later and gathered her belongings from Gopi who grew worried as he expected the matron earlier. She was tired and Gopi offered her some plantains to eat and a glass of “kattan kaapi” – black coffee sweetened with jaggery. Refreshed, Amminikutty headed to the temple tank for her ablutions and she changed into the fresh pair of mundu – both as a waistcloth as well as an upper garment. She unwrapped the thorthu mundu to use it to dry herself with, and then loosely gathered the circassian seeds or manjadikuru into it, before heading to the temple. The day she arrived was the first day of the month and on this day it was the custom that the local ruler would visit the temple and offer an elephant to the lord.  Due to the prominence given to the ruler in the temple, the officers pushed people in arrogance to make way for the king.  The frail lady fell down and her loosely held “bag” of Manjadikuru seeds was scattered on the ground.  A tear rolled down her cheeks and fell to the ground.  As soon as this happened the elephant ran amok and there was chaos all around.  People prayed for this chaos to end.  Suddenly there was a divine voice heard, the lord himself was asking where his ardent devotee was and the offering of Manjadikuru seeds that she had brought.  The people understood their folly and helped the lady up and gathered the seeds and she was let inside to pray and see the Lord.  The elephant calmed down immediately and peace restored in the temple.

The D Boyz were hurt by the tragedy of the Red Palace (Lal Mahal – the Red Palace)and became weak and unable to do their duties on D Street well. So one of them approached a pious old lady who selflessly prayed for all. She looked for some offerings to take to her Lord, and as it was rainy on D Street, quite a few trees swayed and some branches came crashing down (in fact a huge banyan tree also fell in a nearby commercial district outside a movie hall). The old lady who took shelter under a tree barely missed the heavy branch that fell by her – and she crouched out of fear. Some of the Boyz did come to her rescue and took her for medical attention – and at the clinic, she still held onto the little pouch she had of little red seeds (resembling crimson red coral beads). With a little first aid, she was well and ready to go on her little pilgrimage to her shrine praying for the Boyz that were hurt. Her prayers were answered, as the storm blew over and the skies cleared a little; the Municipal authorities got to work mending the damaged roads and trimming the errant branches on overgrown trees. The old lady’s prayers were answered as the weak Boyz could actually get back to work on Friday and lift their fallen SENSEX to reach a 2 week high of 18722 – 121 points up from last week.

In the famous Krishna temple in Guruvayoor, Kerala there is a big heavy vessel filled with Manjadikuru/Circassian seeds placed near the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum in memory of Amminikutty. Even today, people walk up to the brass vessel and scoop up handfuls of the seeds to symbolically offer it to the lord, in respect to the old devotee. This is especially done for health.

Have a safe and happy weekend.



Lal Mahal – the Red Palace

Update for week ended 15 July 2011 

The jeep had reached the Dak Bungalow. We were tired after that long journey through the dusty countryside. Ramdeen, the caretaker of the bungalow greeted us and quickly guided us into the old mansion. It was built like a haveli of a rich trader of yore. The house must have seen better times, but now was desperately seeking a coat of paint, some real good cleaning and better furniture. However, as students on a study tour, smaller niceties of life may sometimes get lost on us, and we really did not mind, as long as the loos were useable and the caretaker could rustle up some good food, and for a weary weekend night, perhaps some drink. Ramdeen looked like the person who could manage that, so we quickly settled in, as we checked out the rest rooms. Ramdeen’s helpers brought in the luggage and we washed and spruced up for the evening repast. Ramdeen was asked to quickly put together a feast for ravenous students – some rotis, masala scrambled eggs (anda bhurjee), dal and rice. As Ram (we had little patience to call him by his full name) served us the piping hot rotis, he asked us whether we would visit the Lal Mahal – tonight being the full moon night, the sights should be quite ethereal.

And indeed the Lal Mahal juxtaposed to an inky blue sky, looked eerily reddish yet ethereal. As we walked up to the deserted palace, the old “chowkidaar” walked out of his little post. The old man was bent with age and had a shawl draped over his shoulders. His monkey cap obscured his wrinkled face and muffled his baritone voice. He hailed out to us and stopped us, enquiring on what we wanted. After brief introductions, he agreed to let us onto the little terrace of the adjoining little villa – Lal Kothi. The view from there would be even better, promised the chowkidaar. He also accompanied us onto the terrace with his kerosene wicker lamp in hand. Our curiosity got us asking questions of the old man, who readily agreed to tell us the story of the Lal Mahal.

In the early 1940s, the ruler of this principality, Rajasaab, lived here alone. He met with a young and feisty woman Mandira, in whose company he would drink and lead a happy life. All this went on for a while, until a younger and prettier, Sumitra came into his life as his nurse. Rajasaab had fallen off a horse during his hunting expedition and Sumitra moved in to nurse him back. Sumitra was the mild and innocent and really enamoured Rajasaab with her simplicity. He immediately married her. Of course, a woman spurned cannot be held back for long, and so Mandira worked on finding out about Sumitra’s past. She traced a teenage romance (or perhaps a crush) and called him under some pretext to Lal Mahal. Shekhar was Sumitra’s childhood friend and on hearing that she was married to a nobleman, was quite pleased to meet and greet the newly married couple. He spent a few days with them. This suited Mandira who told the Raja about the “romance” between his newly-wed wife and the young and handsome Shekhar. Rajasaab’s jealousy and anger knew no bounds. He was determined to end this romance, and perhaps the romantics as well. And so he plotted to get both the “lovers” to the terrace of the Lal Kothi (the side-house of the Lal Mahal), without either knowing the other would be there, on the full moon night. Rajasaab stood at the window of his room and awaited the rising moon. And then he saw Sumitra walk up to red sandstone open stairway to the terrace of the smaller villa, dressed in a white saree with sequins and golden brocade. She gazed out at the moon. After a few minutes Shekhar slowly started his climb. When he reached the head of the stairs, he was surprised to see Sumitra there, alone. That was when Rajasaab took aim and shot at his bride. The loud bang scared her more than the whizzing bullet, and she rushed to hug Shekhar, out of fear. Enraged further, Raja saab took aim again and this time, did not miss his target. First it was Shekhar and after a couple of seconds, it was Sumitra. Both lay still on the terrace as their blood trickled down the red sandstone steps.


The D Boyz set off on their study tour. After the adrenalin induced week that passed, they needed some softener and perhaps relaxant. However, their trip to some sedate looking old town villa did not prove as relaxing as they thought. They were treated to some bad news from afar and near.  So if pasta chomping Italians suddenly had dried wallets looking like their favourite sun-dried tomatoes (red and squishy); the Bad Boyz with their Terror Toyz revisited streets not too far away from D Street. So enough of blood and gore into their lives caused mayhem on their street and their favourite SENSEX – letting it slip 297 points to 18561.


Rajasaab rushed down his stately staircase in Lal Mahal and ran towards the terrace of Lal Kothi. As he saw his bride breathing her last, a lump grew in his throat. He went to her and tried lifting her head into his lap. She whispered about how lucky she was to die in the arms of her husband and sought his blessings as she died. Rajasaab was shocked. He looked intensely at her and asked her about Shekhar; and she told him about how she had tied a “Raakhee” to him as a child and felt sad that her “brother” was also dying on the same night – though he had a bright future ahead of him. Rajasaab sobbed as Sumitra’s lame hand dropped onto the red floor, crushing the lac bangles she wore.

That was when the old Chowkidaar stopped and walked out of the terrace. No-one knew where he went without his wicker lamp. At that moment, the faint sound of an anklet could be heard, climbing up the steps. A lady dressed in a shiny white saree with lac bangles jingling on her wrists walked daintily onto the terrace. She stood at a spot where many moons ago, perhaps the young Sumitra stood gazing at the moon, or maybe where she lay motionless after being shot by Rajasaab. And to everyone’s shock, a loud shot was heard, and the woman suddenly collapsed onto the red sandstone. We could hear loud footsteps and shouts of the familiar baritone of the Chowkidaar. We were stunned to see that despite his age, he was still agile and his shawl gave way over one shoulder revealing a brocade and silk kurta. He rushed upstairs, but by then, the woman had already got up and rushed to meet him. She was consoling him and telling him that this is just his dream. She held his drooping shoulders and slowly walked down the stairs into the little post where he lived.

We were all too stunned to stay back – and quickly followed them to the exit, and that was when the woman came out of the post. She meant to rush away, but was stopped by me. “Who are you and what was this all about?” I enquired. She pleaded to be let off and looked at me with eyes welling with tears. I could not hold her for long. She eased her grip and disappeared into the moonlit night.

So this weekend – as we start off with a Full Moon night tonight, what are your plans? Do you plan to visit a deserted old Haveli or Palace and seek out some history and adventure. Whatever you do, please be safe and enjoy the weekend..


Stadium – packed with capacity crowds

Update for week ended 8 July 2011

The stadium was packed. The crowds were screaming. Cameras flashed as the events unfolded. The tracks were being swept for the 400 m hurdles. At the winners’ podium stood the winners of the steeple chase who had just been awarded. They were bowing to the crowds, waving their bouquets, kissing their medals and posing for the shutterbugs in the stands as well as those on the field. But all eyes were focused on the field – as the pole vault action was about to begin. The first person to run up with the pole was a Pole who barely managed to clear the height, but his ankle tipped the bar and it came crashing down as he flopped onto the mattress, grimacing. The next vaulter was the centre of attention for the day – as he held his pole – parallel to the ground. He concentrated on the bar ahead of him while the screaming crowds could have distracted anyone; perhaps even Vishwamitra, but not Anton. Anton’s dogged attention and focus was legendary – he behaved as though he was a deaf and mute person wearing blinkers that he heard and saw no-one around him (like Arjuna). Anton started his sprint – holding the pole straight ahead of him, parallel to the ground. He had cleared a few metres as his speed suddenly accelerated and then he dug his stake into the pit in front of the bar and the acceleration helped. His strong arms and shoulders used the pole as a spring – compressing it, and then almost magically, he was thrust up into the sky, upside down. Anton knew that this was a critical path where his leg muscles were contracted with toes pointing upwards; and almost like in slow motion, as he felt weightlessness, he curled his body at the pelvis, outstretching his arms beyond his body, hooping over the bar. He had left the pole in mid air as his torso spun over the bar and missing it by a whisker’s breadth, Anton dropped groundwards. Even before he could land on the soft mattresses below, the crowd had erupted into a roar that could be heard perhaps from over a mile away from the stadium. The flash bulbs flashed like mini lightning bolts all around the stands and the shutterbugs on the field had their zoom lenses trained only on Anton. They captured every moment of his rise and his fall and his facial expressions and his gratitude to all. They followed him back to the start-up line, where his coach, manager, doctor gave him a fist pump and hug. Anton knew that he was on his way to glory.

The D Boyz were in a mood for a lot of action this week. After the fairly happy week gone by, they were raring to go this week. The weekend sessions at the gym and their stamina build up was showing as they returned to D Street on Monday – their energy levels were high as they went about their work – carrying the burdensome SENSEX with them. All week long, they ran about the street – almost like a run up at a pole vault event – and on Thursday – they thrust themselves high. As they carried the SENSEX with them, it climbed to dizzying heights with their energy – in fact at a point piercing the 19000 levels. They felt on top of the world – some of the Boyz could be seen blowing kisses to the crowds around them and overseas as well. And then came the announcement – stanozolol. Some of the big Boyz tested positive in the dope test – and like their athletic counterparts, they too were disgraced – as the other Boyz tried to hold onto the falling pole SENSEX. But not all was lost, as the SENSEX had risen 96 points since last week – to end at 18858.

Anton had to wait for the other vaulters – but none could clear the height record that he had set. He knew that he was the winner. He had put on his T-shirt, and the jacket, and with broad smiles was walking about the field. And then one of the games officials walked across to the coach with a  paper in hand. He had some serious discussion and went back to the official tent. The winners were announced. Anton was not on the list. He had failed the dope test.

No-one knows the real story, whether the steroids were part of a contaminated food supplement packet, or someone had conspired against the girls; or their dose of diuretics was just not enough for hot and humid Indian conditions. Perhaps if they were training and testing in cooler Ukraine, this may not have even surfaced. No one knows the true story of what happened – or perhaps it is murkier than it appears – like the sensational homicide in suburban Mumbai 3 years ago. Whatever it  is, be safe, do the safe things and stay happy. Wish you all a great weekend.


The Greening Triangle

 Update for week ended 1 July 2011

The barren strip of land that was a regular for the slumboys for their cricket matches, was slushy. The slums had just been cleared out before the rains. It will give way to a large community housing project jointly undertaken by a large business house and the local administration. It was rumoured that this slum colony, notorious for its vagabonds, petty thiefs, anti social elements, was slowly brewing into a hotbed or conduit of sorts for some more sinister plots related to terror. It was just beyond the creek and a stone’s throw from a leading economic powerhouse market. To avoid any “untoward” incidents, the break in the road median opposite this building was hurriedly sealed, with a  2 foot high median and some bottle palm trees forcefully planted into it. And despite this, boys from the colony would scale the high median to get across the road, and walk down to the barren strip of land – triangular in shape to play games in the evening. And now with this colony gone, the boys were not there. The slush was not the only reason keeping away. A colony of marauding hogs  and “hoglets” were hogging the nearby mangrove swamp and took a fancy to the fresh water slush abundantly available here. A sore sight that many would expect to be set in hinterland India – rural to semi-urban India – not in the heart of the financial district of the commercial capital of one of the fastest growing economies of the world. But that was this city, a place of contrasts that juxtaposed each other so often that it is difficult to decipher whether to admire the sky-kissing capers or get shocked at the gutter oozing shacks by the roadside. Almost like this triangular strip of land that had slush and hogs on one hand, and a rapidly greening – almost velvety, emerald sheen of grass sprouting like there was no tomorrow. It won’t be long before some enterprising cowherd or “buffalo-herd” gets his cattle to this field to save on his feedstock costs. The reason I am so confident is the sight of the cattle egrets in this temporary wetland; already surveying the surroundings and eagerly awaiting their mobile hosts. This place will then become a self sustaining mini ecological circle, as the grass will feed the cattle, whose dung will litter the field attracting insects, food for the egrets and pollinating agents for the little wild flowers in the grass. The dung will also go to replenish the nutrients of the soil to ensure another season of green grass, while the pollinated flowers will slowly turn into seeds for the next season. All hunky dory, except for the hogs that maraud the field once a while; unless some enterprising charcutier (pork seller) lays his hands on fresh porky or ham or bacon in the middle of the city.

The monsoons are here and D Street got its washing down that helped restore the moisture into the streetside. It was slushy initially, but as the water seeped into the dry earth quickly, the D Boyz could move around freely and relax with the cooling atmosphere. This relaxed attitude helped ease the tensions around the SENSEX that was strung tightly; letting it grow and bloom, like the grass along the sides of D Street. This took the SENSEX higher and higher – almost 750 points up, the D Boyz saw some hogs or PIGS (Portugal, Italy/Ireland, Greece, Spain – perhaps) threatening their idyllic Street; so they lost off some balance and let the SENSEX drop some 240 points on Friday. So finally the end of the week saw the SENSEX end at 18762 – up 522 points from last weekend.

I have heard of the famed ham and green eggs – but with no chickens in the green triangular patch of land, and the bad idea of trying to use difficult to catch the rather gangly egrets to replace the hens; perhaps someone can think of interesting pork and dairy product combinations. Perhaps a ham and cheese sandwich or a salami slobbered with buffalo mozzarella on a fresh pizza base. Not bad, what says you? Is the famed West Coast of USA Pizza Kitchen chef listening in? They are not too far away from this fresh produce….

Have a nice weekend – and do let me know of any other porcine dairy combos…..



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