Category Archives: The Real reasons behind how the Stock Markets move!!

The Long Walk


Update as of 10 February 2015

Pichagam, have you made the garlands? yelled her mother. Pichagam was stringing the chrysanthemums with the roses and the green fragrant leaves and had to hurry up. Her mother was dressed in the festive silk saree and she grabbed the last few flowers from Pichagam and told her to go and get dressed, while hurriedly giving finishing touches to the garland. She didn’t use any needles or thread for the garland, but knotted the flowers tightly together with fibre from a banana stalk. When she was done, she took it to the prayer room and placed it at foot of the altar along with the fruits, long needles and hooks, a pot full of milk and the special “prasadam”, sweet offerings made in the morning with jiggery and rice. She bent her head low and mumbled her prayers, as her husband walked in dressed in a yellow mundu, a traditional cotton wraparound garment with a red border. His forehead was smeared with the sacred ash and he prostrated before the altar before picking up the garland, the needles and hooks that had been placed alongside the prasadam. Pichagam picked up the steel pot full of milk and placed it on her head to the chants of Shanmuga, Muruga, and headed out of the house, followed by her father and then her mother. They walked barefoot to the nearby temple where the elaborately decorated wooden contraption was ready with its hook holders. The father’s friends and other well-wishers were already there with a large bowl of the sacred ash and they took the needles and hooks from him and smeared the ash liberally on them. And then invoking divine blessing, they garlanded him and then proceeded to strategically pierce the needles and hooks onto the father’s bare torso. For the first few pricks, the father grimaced, but kept chanting and thereafter, he took each needle pierce with a louder chant – to drown out the pain. And then the helpers, held the wooden contraption up and connected the hooks and checked to see if it was well balanced over his shoulders. Chanting one more time loudly, they then proceeded to embark on their long journey on the hard tarmac street to the temple dedicated to the Son of Shiva. Pichagam carried the pot of milk on her head and she followed her father as they trudged the 4 ½ km long walk along the streets of the city to the temple dedicated to the Son of God. The sky was still dark, but the streets were well lit and there were hordes of well-wishers and passersby who hailed the people walking to the temple. Pichagam and her family were part of hundreds of others who were walking this trek that February morning. There were chants along the route, but the walk was not easy. The hard tarmac and concrete roads were rough on the soles, the needles pierced harder if the walkers moved faster, or lost balance. The heavy wooden contraption only felt heavier with each step and the tiring walk made them thirsty every few steps. But no-one stopped, nor did they have any mishaps along the route.

Even D Street was a lit up early in the morning at this time of the year. There was a lot of hustling and bustling as the D Boyz entered the street. Each step they took was with a clear objective in mind – to keep going straight and making balancing the SENSEX on their shoulders,; but the needles and hooks that pierced them from time to time reminded them of some traditional processions in Interior Tamil Nadu – where devotees of the Son of Shiva would take this pain to offer gratitude for boons granted. The street was not straight – there were obstacles like rough streets, which at times would send the D Boyz off balance. This would result in some more needle pierces or hooks tugging at their skins. The delicately balanced SENSEX would sway from side to side – sometimes up and sometimes down. That was the route the D Boyz took to seek divine intervention to protect them this year. And the D Boyz don’t know if their prayers will be answered – because the SENSEX started at 27855 and climbed all above 29500 before retracing its steps and rebalanced to 28183… all in a span of 6 weeks of the year and there are 46 more weeks to walk on.

Pichagam’s mother was by her side, wiping her forehead of the sweat, as she walked along the route. The crowds swelled as they neared the temple and the morning sun was blazing strongly through the leafy lanes that led to the temple. There was a specially cordoned street that was specially arranged for their entry and the temple volunteers and local policemen managed the crowds that had gathered to watch the spectacle. Many were devotees who also paid obeisance to the carriers of the contraptions. Though most of the crowds were Tamilians, there were quite a few Caucasian tourists who also took photographs of the event. Many Chinese and Malay students joined their Tamil friends to line the street and take in the festive atmosphere in this multi-racial island country, far away from Interior Tamil Nadu.

Have a great year ahead … cheers.

Green Stalk Amaranth


Update for month ended 31 January 2014

This is an interesting story following the update on The Greens that we eat – part 1
(click the title to read about it).

Kanagambal lived in the small temple town in Kerala, dedicated to the playful, flautist God. She led a simple life, rearing her children, cooking for her husband and children and generally taking care of her house. She loved to sit on the large wooden bed in the verandah and look out of the door onto the pathway that led to her house form the street. The street led to one of the 2 main entrances to the temple and was always teeming with pilgrims and general town and village folks headed to the temple. Kanagambal loved to look out and watch the crowds as they hurried to the temple or were ambling along the street shopping for little temple town knick-knacks, like prayer books, little red plastic finger-rings with the insignia of the God embedded in gold, or pendants in red with a gold motif of the God strung on cheap golden chains. There were shops that sold little brass lamps, water containers, prayer flower plates, and metal baskets. The streets were always buzzing with activity and Kanagambal loved to watch the world go by, so her meal preparations were simple, some curry and lots of buttermilk to be eaten with the rice that her husband got her from the temple. She used to admire her sister-in-law who lived in the humbler cottage besides hers. Her sister-in-law would cook up more elaborate meals for her husband and daughters and would have a different “tiffin” item every evening for the children when they returned from school. She would go out and tend to the garden that her husband would help till. They grew basic Kerala vegetables like ladies finger, snake gourds, bitter gourds and the amaranth greens. The town had not yet got its running water from the Bharata River and most households depended on ground water drawn up from wells. So every evening, brass pots of water would be drawn and carefully balanced on the hip to be taken to amaranth greens bed and lightly showered by a partially cupped palm. This would ensure enough watering, whilst ensuring little damage is done to the tender stalks of the greens. There were always multiple beds – for growing different greens or sometimes the same greens but for a staggered harvest. It was at one of these beds that Kanagambal wandered to on a sunny afternoon. She wanted to be of help to her sister-in-law and thought of harvesting some greens alongwith the ladies fingers for the evening meal. Although Kanagambal did not wear glasses, she knew that her vision was very poor. She could barely make out anyone at a distance, but relied on her keen sense of hearing to figure out who it was. She was fond of reading and did not fancy her reading glasses, so she would hold her magazines and religious books really close to her nose to read. This was quite a fascinating sight, as you can imagine… a rather tall woman, sitting partially cross-legged, bent over half to read a book placed on the ground with her diamond studded nose ring shining just above the book. So that late afternoon, she set out to the kitchen garden between the two houses barefoot. She walked into the left amaranth bed and held onto the stalk of the thandu keerai, stalk amaranth, before picking the leaves and collecting them into the end of her saree (thalappu in Tamil / Pallu in Hindi). She moved from stalk to stalk and then held onto one stalk that she could feel vibrating. It wriggled in her hands, and she called out to her sister-in-law who was watering the gourds and flower shrubs, “Manni, why is this keerai wriggling so much?”. And the sister-in-law got closer to see that what Kanagambal held. She shrieked and asked her to let go of the stem and get out of the green patch. What she saw was a green tree snake that was resting on the thick stalk of the amaranth and its colour blended quite well with its surrounding and it was caught unawares in the tight grip of the near-sighted Kanagambal. Both the sisters in law were terrified and the even more terrified green snake slid away as fast
as it could from the garden.

The green leaf mood in the market was set. The D Boyz kept eating the various types of Indian Greens and that perhaps showed in their attitude and the movement of their favourite – SENSEX, as it scaled up from 21000 levels to touch an all time high of 21400. And that is perhaps when they got a Kanagambal moment, as a few D Boyz held onto a green stalk thinking it to be an edible plant, however being shocked by its wriggling volatility. Some say that it was a foreigner impact – of some two-forked reptilian magnitude that could poison the local market by withdrawing – also referred to as the US Tapering; while others felt that the rising local prices in the veggie markets, led to people tending to kitchen gardens, and perhaps the inexperienced hand could not handle the fauna that sometimes go with the flora…… and the scared D Boyz withdrew as quickly as Kanagambal – letting the SENSEX fall from its heights to 20510 (over 900 points…).

In the scramble, Kanagambal let go of the corner of her thalappu dropping the collected amaranth leaves. And the fear with which she got out of the vegetable garden, she had no courage to get back and collect her spills. The sisters in law rushed into the house and sat on the wooden bed to catch their breath. And then, after some small chatter, laughed heartily. Kanagambal rued the fact that she did not wear her corrective glasses, but I guess she was in no hurry to start getting into the habit. The last time I saw her, she still held her magazine close to her nose to read the latest stories and squinted her eyes, whenever she saw some movement in the path that led to her house from the busy streets. She was the ever alert matriarch of her house.

Do you know of people who, like Kanagambal, may have a few disabilities, but go about their lives on their own terms? Tell me about them. I am eager to hear their stories.

Have a great week ahead… Cheers

Santa – him or I?


 Update for week ended 20 December 2013

I could not manage to get into Auntie Maggie’s list this year and was instead suggested to try her cousin Auntie Philomena in Dadar. Philomena was not really an auntie (or at least I thought she was much younger than I expected. She lived with her daughter who had married into a Goan household that stayed close to the Portuguese Church. They were a more cosmopolitan Goan family – who used Marathi as their lingua franca; and sometimes stocked up on the delights from Saurashtra (a store selling snacks like hot cakes at Dadar’s busy Pigeon Square. Although their stock of pork or sorpotel never ran out – it was largely sourced from Michael’s butchery (a store nearby which had a thick cloth curtain at the entrance so as not to offend the Gujaratis who lived nearby) or from the regular supply from Mr Pinto – the owner of the famous bus travel agency, who would get it from Goa on his buses. So here I was in the heart of Dadar waiting for Auntie Philomena to serve me the much prized Christmas Cake and some goodies. I was in luck and I got the cake. I was trudging down her rickety wooden staircase when I heard the familiar strains of a country drum and gentle scrubs – just like I had heard a few weeks ago outside a temple. I peered from the grilled window that dotted the end of the staircase between each floor – and was not surprised to see a familiar figure walking the street below – with a bundle carefully balanced on the head and she was doing the slow rumbling scrub on the drum as she walked slowly. The jingle sound was also providing a regular rhythm. And this was no Santa Claus. It was Morya’s father and mother walking the street near the church neighbourhood trying to “take away the sins” of the street’s denizens. I walked down the stairs carefully with my arms laden with the sweet goodies of the season and cheer on my face while I walked down to watch the two people “who could never be cheerful as they took away others’ sins”. I tailed them as they stopped at the tall fir tree that was decorated for the season with tinsel and fairy lights. It looked tall, green and pretty and they stood admiring the tree and people. There were people gathered around who were also admiring the tree and Morya’s father quietly approached them for alms. Some dropped a few coins into his cupped palms, while others excused themselves. And the father just took what he got and before moving on, saw a little altar by the church side. He stopped there for a moment when he saw a small coin box for collections. And he fished out a coin from his cupped palm and dropped one there. He was not allowed to enter the local temples – with his “sinful” body, but he could always thank his Gods with an offering. I was stunned. Here is a person who does one of the worst jobs I have heard of and yet he was humble enough to thank God for it. Before I got misty eyed, I crossed over to the Christmas Tree. 

 The season of decorating the tall Christmas tree had arrived. The D Boyz were all ready to see the fairy lights in green and red alternate itself on the tree. The cool breeze blowing through D Street also forced the Boyz to get their jackets out. Keeping with the Christmas theme, they wore the reds or the greens and that is how the Street favourite, the SENSEX behaved. Sometimes green, sometimes red, but always cheerful. Even if the buyers from across the shores tightened their purses, the D Boyz took that in their stride and took their SENSEX along with them on a ride from 20715 to 21079. It was not a straight ride one way – it was down at times  – like my climbing down the stairs; or upwards like the towering green fir tree.

 

You are Morya’s father, right, I asked. The father was taken aback, and he answered in the affirmative. Why, he asked, concernedly. Nothing, I said. I just looked at him and asked him if he ate eggs. He was slightly puzzled with my question. I looked at the cake in my hand and asked him to take it. He hesitated, but I nudged him with a head nod. He did not know what to do. I smiled and asked him once again. I told him that it was a cake for him and his family for Christmas. I also asked him to promise me that he would share it with Morya and his sister, and his wife too. He smiled and took the cake and looked at it like it was a treasure that Alibaba found in the cave. He also held it like treasure – carefully taking it to his wife. He looked back at me and almost touched his cloth whip on his shoulder. I shook my head asking him not to whip himself. I felt happy that he was happy. With both happy faces, I was not sure who was the Santa of the season. Was it I for gifting him a cake? Or was it him who gave me a smile on my face? I was getting misty eyed and I smiled and quickly walked away. This is the season of giving and spreading cheer, isn’t it?

 

Have a great week and Christmas ahead! Cheers……. Hope Santa grants your wishes and you share it with your near dear ones!

The Peepal Grove


 Update for fortnight ended 29 March 2013

Lajvanti was a pretty girl, the only daughter to the rich merchant, Kalachand Thakur. She was born to the Thakurs after many years and was pampered by the family and all the servants who worked at the Thakur haveli (household). She was so pretty that even the King felt that his son, the Prince should wed her when she came of age. Lajvanti knew that she would be queen and that made her a little more brash and arrogant. And just before her wedding, her friends decided to go for a Girls’ Picnic in the woods nearby. They packed some food and water for the way and then once in the woods, they went looking for flowers and berries. They chased little squirrels and rabbits and had lots of fun. And when they were tired, they decided to settle down for some food and rest in the shady peepal grove. Though the leaves had fallen off from the previous season, the large network of branches and the thick trunk gave enough support and shade from the afternoon sun. But Lajvanti, who would be queen, was aghast at the suggestion. She wondered how someone who would be regal soon, could be seen sitting like a beggar under a peepal tree and she snubbed her friends and instead asked her friends to pitch a tent on the grassland area that abutted the peepal grove. The peepal trees that were about to sprout out fresh leaves were upset at Lajvanti’s behavior. And when the girls had feasted, they felt sleepy and went off to sleep. When they awoke, they were surprised to see a strong wind blowing and the tent could not hold itself. It threatened to rain as dark clouds gathered and the girls shuddered with fear. Lajvanti was the most scared of the lot. She had never seen nor experienced anything of this sort in the open. And when the first drops of the rain started falling down, they scampered about looking for shelter. On the open field there was no place they could go to seek shelter. That was when Lajvanti saw the peepal grove, and urged her friends to rush towards it for shelter. The girls dashed to the grove, but were surprised to see that the tree now had leaves, not the usual waxy green ones, but wafer thin pink ones. The rain came down in sheets and the tree was not able to protect the girls and Lajvanti and her friends got soaked to their skins. They sheepishly walked back home after the downpour subsided and on reaching home cried her heart out. Her mother was worried and so was Kalachand. They tried to appease her with jewellery, and sweetmeats and even the temple dancer was summoned for a performance, but Lajvanti would not stop crying. The King got to hear of this and sent his guards to enquire what the matter was with the going-to-be-princess queen. And then Lajvanti told them and her father about the peepal trees’ rudeness and inability to protect the young helpless girls in the deluge. She ordered that the grove be hacked and all the peepal trees be uprooted. Now Kalachand was a sensible man, and he knew that these gigantic trees often gave shelter to weary travellers due to its network of branches and the lush foliage. He was doubtful of Lajvanti’s story, but how could he doubt his daughter? So he shook his head and agreed to her wish and set off for the forest with the soldiers. He was surprised to be greeted by a lush green peepal grove with the trademark large green heart shaped leaves with pointy tops that glistened in the sun. Now he was in a quandary, how could he cut down such a large tree which gave so much shade not only to travelers, but also the squirrels and birds; and how was it possible for the tree to have had pink leaves on the day before?

 

The Boyz at D Street were preparing for the spring festival – Holi, and had started playing with colours on the way to work. And with their palms coated with red and pink dye, it was obvious that anything they touched would be tinged in that colour. So their favourite Sensex was tinged in different shades of red for a long time. And the sun was beating down hard on D Street as many trees shed their leaves during this season. The Boyz anxiously awaited the green shoots and the return of shady green leaves on their street. And they were surprised to see that the fresh shoots and leaves on the peepal trees on D Street were also tinged with the pink that they sprayed on each other for Holi. They blinked a couple of times to wish away the nightmare, and then, they saw what they wanted to see after all. The pink leaves started turning a pale green, and the foliage returned onto the barren boughs of the peepal on their street. So after carnage that dyed the SENSEX red and took it tumbling from 19300 to 18700, it finally turned green at the end of the week to 18835.

Kalachand knew that his daughter would want to see proof of the tree being uprooted, and so he prayed to the tree to help in this predicament. At that moment, the tree rose out of the earth exposing its vast roots and asked Kalachand to cut off one that he could take home to show his daughter. Kalachand thanked the tree profusely and took a root with him to show his daughter that he had fulfilled her wish. Lajvanti turned cheerful once again. And Kalachand decided to honour the root by planting it the temple yard. It soon sprouted a shoot and grew to be a large tree that gave shelter to the birds and squirrels and ants and insects as well as weary pilgrims. And even to this day people bow to the tree and pay homage.

 

I was wondering if you noticed the pink blossoms of the peepal trees this year – yes the trees did indeed turn pink with fresh leaves which eventually turned a pale green. If you did not notice, try and catch up with them soon before they get back to their greens!

 

Have a nice week ahead….  

The Temporary Bridge over the River – part 3 of The Grand Fair on the banks of The Great, The Younger Sister and The Subtle


 Update for week ended 22 Feb 2013

“Wake up, Monu”, nudged Govind, the novice initiate. The morning sun had cast a scarlet hue to the skies outside, and one could see without having to squint much within the darkened tent. Monu moaned and pleaded to sleep a tad longer. He had curled up into a ball and had tugged the warm blanket over his face. “Don’t you want to find your parents? asked Govind. That startled Monu, whose eyes opened immediately and he sat up with a start. All this while, Monu had rested blissfully parking his lost status in his sleep and Govind’s words literally woke him up. He burst out crying as he looked at his surroundings and Govind sat beside him with the warm glass of milk. He nudged Monu to drink it while it was warm. Monu turned his head away and that was when the Sadhu Baba entered the tent. He looked at Monu and asked him endearingly whether he would like to go out and look for his parents. Monu was eager, but did not know how to go about it. What if he got lost again? Govind meanwhile, pushed the lip of the tall steel tumbler to Monu’s dry lips and instinctively, Monu started sipping. Govind held the tumbler in his right hand as his left took Monu’s little hands to cup the tumbler, and he slowly let go and got up to leave the tent. The Sadhu Baba walked up to Monu and told him about Govind’s registration of the “found” Monu and they could go and check today to see if there was a registration for a “lost” Monu? The Sadhu baba was convinced that history would not be so unkind as to repeat itself here, but he knew not to fight against fate. But he was hopeful that Monu would find his parents and so asked little Monu to get ready for his bath and be clean and prepared to go back to his parents. In the past 12 hours or more, the Sadhu Baba had been drawn to the child that he felt his eyes turn moist as he said that last sentence. Govind was a teenager, but mature for his age and he tended to little Monu as though he was his younger brother, sometimes chiding, sometimes goading and at times scolding, as he went about getting the boy to brush his teeth with the powder charcoal ashes mixed with salt, (which Monu immediately spat out and made a face), getting him to take off his clothes for the bath – partly reluctant because of the cold, but mostly because of the open nature of the “bathroom” and the persons around looking at him and laughing, and finally getting dressed in cleaner but larger clothes – with folded sleeves on the kurta and double folded “dhoti” all in ochre colour. Monu was convinced that even if his parents would recognize his face, they would disown him by his appearance. He wanted to take off the “dhoti”, but then relented, lest the people in the Ashram laugh at him again if they see him unclothed. Govind was patient and stern and the Sadhu baba looked pleased and relieved that this rebel had become responsible.

Govind had run away from a broken home – a drunk father who had abandoned his family for other hedonic pursuits while his mother struggled to get two ends meet in the filthy hovel that they called home. She had no money even to wash up, and hence found it difficult to even get work as a househelp. She would work at the street sewers cleaning out the muck and at times was asked to broom away the roadkill of a cat that had lived its nine lives, or a puppy that had strayed from its mother. It was horrendous work and Govind was determined to not follow her or his father. He ran away to the railway tracks nearby and one night slept in one of the waiting train compartments. That is where he found his answer – of running away and joined a troop of wandering hermits who had visited his hometown of Rameswaram and were now returning to their abode near the Great River. He was Sundar then. At first he was willing to do small menial work for them, like cleaning their plates after their meal, taking the senior monk to the bathroom and helping him clean up after that, but by the time he reached his destination, he had had enough. This was not what he had run away for – he seemed to be doing the same work that he did not want to and so one night ran away from that hermitage. As he wandered the streets,   he bumped into two men who had just kidnapped a woman and had beaten her up and were hauling her away in a waiting tonga, 2 wheeled horse-cart. Sundar wanted to shout but held his wits as he raised his arms horizontal to the ground and started ambling about like a blind person. He wanted to help the woman but was scared and waited for them to leave in the tonga. Then he ran away as fast he could till he stopped outside a lane where there was an evening prayer in progress. Sundar mingled with the crowd and he felt safe. He walked in towards the kitchen and asked if there was any food to eat. The Sadhu who was in charge of the kitchen was kind and he offered the boy some rotis and dal, wheat bread and lentils. The boy did not know how to break the bread and eat by dunking into the lentil, he was used to mixing the lentils with rice to eat as they would serve at his school in Rameswaram. That is what he did. The Sadhu smiled and asked the boy who he was and where he had come from. The boy could not speak the local language well, but his expressive face gave the gist of his tryst and the Sadhu offered him space in the hermitage only if he would work. Sundar was a reluctant worker, at times absconding from the hermitage to play with the older kids in the street, but more often getting into a brawl with them. He did not mind being beaten up as long as he got to beat one or two of them. The Sadhu baba found it difficult to tame this young boy, but was patient with him, especially at the evening prayers. Sundar mastered the bhajans, devotional songs so well and he sang it with such devotion that he soon became the lead singer of the group. That was one reason why the Sadhu baba had hope for this young rebel – and now he saw that young Sundar had indeed become Govind – almost like the hero of that ancient poem – Geet Govind.

And the day ahead was one filled with hope and the Sadhu baba was about to take young Monu with him to the Lost and Found Desk of the Great Fair when they heard a loud thud and screams rent the air. It was not the usual sound of the fortnightly festive dips at the Great Fair. The cries were not that of the Sadhus rushing into the water for their ritual baths, but more of children and women. One of the ashram mates came rushing from the main gate, halting as he saw the quizzical look in the Sadhu Baba’s face. He was panting and frightened. There was a stampede that had occurred as a large brdge that traversed the river banks to the sand bar island in the center of the confluence and thousands of people had either fallen into the river or were trampled over on the remains of the bridge as people scampered back to the banks for safety. Monu clung to the Sadhu Baba as he heard this.

 

The D Street was trying to shake off its fears of the previous weeks when the D Boyz had lost their way and their SENSEX and had lost over 500 points. And so when they returned to D Street this week, they tried to gather their lost selves and re-assemble the SENSEX. As they picked the threads together and almost heaved a sigh of relief as a Malaysian air carrier tied up with an Indian pioneer aviator business group which let their SENSEX soar skywards, they were jolted out of their senses as another airline wanted to relook at its proposed announcement of an Indian JV. And then the bad news of a trouble from the West blew in and the Boyz who brought the news were panting out of breath as they received the news towards the end of their week – the SENSEX had tumbled 19317. 

 

Monu looked up at the Sadhu baba and tears filled his eyes. How would he go out to look for his parents. He did not cry or bawl, but tears still rolled down his eyes. The Sadhu Baba looked down at him, and held him tight turning his gaze outwards. How much suffering would the young seven year old have to endure? he wondered. He called out to Govind to take the boy back in. The Sadhu Baba urged everyone to stay inside, till there were further announcements. He knew that the situation would settle only if people did not panic, but how could he manage this for folks outside his group? Ramlal had returned that morning after a futile search for Monu. He had registered his complaint at night of the missing boy but had forgotten the photograph – that crucial item that could have saved him and his wife Vimla the travails of the coming days. And then there was this news of the stampede. Though they were safe, Ramlal knew that the stretched administration of this temporary city on the banks of the Great River would not have time to deal with a lost child – they would rather focus on the dying ones and see how they could save as many as they could. How ironical, thought Ramlal, the reason why people came to take a dip at this Great Confluence of the Great, The Younger Sister and the Subtle was to become immortal as legend had it that the place would be blessed by the drops from the heavenly ambrosia of immortal nectar. And here were people dying as they fell into the river. Ramlal looked at Vimla and were relieved to have each other with them at this moment, but Vimla’s eyes were filled with tears. She was worried about Monu.

 

I have not heard back from you on the lost and found ones and any other stories you would have from a Great Fair like this one. Please share with me, if you please.

 

Cheers and have a great week ahead.

The Grand Fair on the Banks of the Great, the Younger Sister and the Subtle


Update for week ended 1 February 2013

 

“I want to go along, too. I too want to go along” was the adamant strain that Monu kept reciting with pleading eyes to his mother, mostly. Monu’s parents were planning on travelling to the Grand Fair by the Great River this year. Although this fair visited the banks of the confluence of the three rivers, the Great, the Younger Sister and the Subtle River every four years, Monu’s parents Ramlal and Vimla, had never visited it. This year, they planned to undertake the short journey by bus and then by train to get to the city of the Grand Fair. Monu was all of 5 and rarely stayed away from his mother. His father used to work far away in a city that he only knew as Rajdhani, and would visit on special occasions, like his first birthday and ceremonial shaving of head  or the death of his grand uncle and sometimes during the monsoon months to help the family with the farmwork. This year he was with the family to attend the Grand Fair. Monu had started sobbing and stopped eating and kept on his adamancy and crying, till he almost went short of breath on that foggy, wintry morning. Vimla tried enthusing him with promises of gifts like a toy bus or a golden stuffed horse. But Monu was inconsolable. He wanted to go with them. She reasoned that it would be very crowded there with Sadhu Babas, ascetics in long flowing beards, who would scare him or even kidnap him. Moreover it would be very cold, and he would have to wake up before dawn for the dip in the ice-cold river and he would have to sleep in the open. And the walk to the river would be miles and miles away. How could the little boy endure so much of trouble? Ramlal looked at the little boy and lifted him to his shoulder and told Vimla, “this boy is light, I think we can manage to take him to the fair “. Monu’s eyes lit up and you could see the twinkle in them despite the tears. And off they went to the Grand Fair City by the Great River. On alighting from the crowded train, Monu could only see a sea of legs moving around him and he was scared and felt lost. His father was carrying the little box carrying their clothes and some offerings for the festive river, apart from the cash that he had earned at Rajdhani. Vimla walked closely to her husband as she too was overwhelmed by the crowds that spilled out of the station onto the streets. Ramlal asked Monu to hold onto to his finger as they negotiated their way out of the station to the nearby bus stand that had buses and mini buses plying to many places including to the Fair grounds/banks. At the Fair Grounds, they could see tents all the way to the horizon and despite the fog, the bright sodium lamps lit the place up in an orange glow. Monu had never seen anything like this before. He was mesmerized as he looked to his left and right, soaking in the sights and sounds of the place. He had many questions to his father – how was there so much light although  it was well past sundown? What were so many people doing at the foodstall. Why were some people clothed in ochre robes, while some had no clothes at all? Did they not feel cold? Won’t they also get asthmatic attacks like him? He could not see any trees nearby, so he wondered where people would rest after their afternoon repast? His grandfather always slept on the strung wooden cot under the mango tree in their courtyard every afternoon. That was also where Monu would play with his long moustache, twirling and tweaking it. At times, Dadaji, as he fondly called his grandfather, would yelp in pain, but quickly smile at the little boy admonishing him for the act. He would never scold Monu, his first grandson. And after all that walking, Monu was tired and asked for some rest. Vimla saw a stall that vended some hot fried bread, puri and some potato curry. She asked her husband, if they could stop and eat before proceeding to the tents. They stopped and that was when they felt the chill. It was cold and despite the hot fire on which the vendor fried small round bread, puris, the open air environment and the proximity to the river ensured that chilly winds engulfed the Fair Grounds. After the short stop, they started their journey to the tents, when Monu saw a bright setting with lights and life size paintings of a jeep, a car, a scooter, he got all excited. He asked his father what it was. Ramlal explained that the this was a Photo studio stall where you could take pictures of the family as though they were driving around in a jeep, or a scooter or a motor car in a big city. Monu had never sat in a car or a jeep or even bee to a big city and wanted to have  a picture of it. Ramlal smiled, looked at his wife Vimla, who smiled too and they left their luggage at the entrance and were guided by the photographer on how to stand and where to look at, and also with what expression on their faces. Monu was excited with the lights and colours. After the photo-shoot, Ramlal paid for the photograph and picked up his luggage and along with Vimla and Monu walked out of the photo shop. That was when Monu saw a gathering, and he turned his turned his head as far left and back as he could to see what was happening. He could see through the gaps of the legs of the men gathered around, glimpses of a Sadhu, with his face aglow from a fire nearby, perhaps.  The sight scared him, and he looked up to his father to ask……. But he did not see his father? He looked to his right, up, left, back. He turned around and searched for the familiar faces of Ramlal and Vimla and could not find them. He ran back to the photo shop a few steps away, and bumped through people who were shuffling through the crowded way. He searched for his parents at the studio. The cameraman seemed to recognize the young boy, but he was busy and said that they would be nearby. Monu wandered back in the direction that they had set-off to, but he was not sure which way to go after reaching the place where he had got lost, The Sadhu Baba gathering! By now, the crowds had thinned and the sad look on Monu’s face gave way to tears rolling down his cheeks. He was sobbing and crying out “Maa, Baba, Maa Baba”. But no-one seemed to have noticed the little lost boy. He sat down by the road side, tired and cold, when he saw someone approach him – what he saw from his bent position were ochre robes and as he lifted his head to look at the face of the person, he was terrified to see a Sadhu Baba stretching his hands forward to lift the boy!

It was the week of the Fairs. There were quite a few that were being held across the country including on streets of the cities, not far from D Street that would be closed to traffic to allow the gentry to enjoy the Fair. The Dark Horse Fair, The Bright Lady temple Fair, the Trade Fair, etc. And these places can be quite crowded and so full of people that some D Boyz could easily get lost there. So like in the story above, this week too, some D Boyz like Monu, insisted on visiting the fairs and got engulfed in the crowds. The crowds kicked up dust and smoke and the foggy conditions at times were attributed to the smoke and dust. The Boyz took a Tata bus to one of the fairs held on a island or a sand bar actually in the middle of the river. The temporary bridge was shaky and although the bus did not fall off the bridge, the sudden swerve at the end of the bridge, caused some of the luggage on the roof of the bus to spill out and fall. Rumours immediately floated around that the bus had met an accident and the D Street was in chaos. The SENSEX tumbled like  a bus into a river from a bridge. It was only late on the Friday evening that the real news of just the slip reached D Street. But the damage was done to the D Boyz’ confidence as they dropped their SENSEX form the 20000+ levels at the beginning of the week to 19781 – close to 300 points down!

Monu screamed as the middle aged Sadhu picked him up. Monu’s reflex was to hit out at him. But those little hands could do little to divert the Sadhu. Then Monu clutched at the beard and gave it a strong tug, to which the Sadhu yelped. He however did not let go and instead took the boy to the tent by the wayside next to the burning bonfire that Monu had just seen from behind a curtain of legs. Monu was so scared  that he now stopped crying and only looked on goggle eyed. His jaws dropped as he saw that it was a temporary settlement of Sadhus. There were Sadhus of different shapes, sizes and ages. There were even some young ones who did not have beards, and were clean shaven. He saw the usual trappings of worship near the entrance. Some idols, a garlanded picture of Gods and Goddesses, some lamps glowing warmly and the brass bells and platters. Monu was stifling his cries and sobs, but could not control it any longer. He let out a loud cry and his pent up energy to kick, hit, punch the Sadhu who was carrying him. The Sadhu sat him down on a wooden cot, not unlike his grandfather’s. Monu did not know why that comforted him a bit. Even the face of the sadhu who sat on a stool nearby did not seem as scary as he had imagined. In fact he felt some sort of comfort as though his grandfather was close by. He dropped his head on the strings of the cot and covered his eyes from the side of his face like blinkers on a horse. He now cried, but peacefully. The elderly Sadhu spoke softly to him, ”Little boy. What is your name? Are you hungry? Where is your mother?” The first 3 statements, Monu listened to between his sobs. He almost warmed up to his “kidnappers”. But the last statement was what threw him off gear again, and he bawled out loudly, refusing to be cajoled. He kept elbowing anyone who would touch to comfort him. The elder Sadhu walked up to the shrine and the brass plates. He picked up a handful of sugar candy on offer, and offered it to the little boy and said, “Little Boy Monu, have some. You like them, don’t you?” Monu was not as surprised by the gesture as he was by the fact that the Sadhu had called him by his name. He stopped crying, but his face was wet, pink and his nose was sniffling. “How do you know my name?” he asked. The Sadhu sat up Monu, straightened his hair, wiped his tears off the swollen cheeks and passed his palm over Monu’s shirt pocket. It had  a handkerchief pinned onto it with a chain stitch design of a name in Devnagari, Monu. Vimla had stitched this onto the kerchief so that it wouldn’t get mixed up with that of his friends at school.

So this week we visited two urban fairs. One was truly urban where one could eat Teppanyaki noodles and cool it down with Strawberry cheesecake or choose to have Puris with Undhiyu and cool it down with Jalebis. It was also a place where neckpieces form Colaba causeway were sold by “tribal artists” at prices that the multiples of the quoted price on the Causeway. All for a cause, we were told. I still preferred the causeway! The art installations were less art, more installations. But maybe my sense of art was so out of place!

The other fair was one of fun and gaiety and of moving to the urban city and yet had its heart at the right place. It did not pretend to sell “ethnic” goods and food. It sold what people clamoured for. Toys, cosmetics, bangles, hairclips. And had rides that could get even middle aged people squealing like kids in rickety giant wheels. The cameraman was here with his cinema star cutouts that one could pose with, while the children got their fill with the kulfi and ice golas.

You can guess which fair I liked!

Do let me know of your Fair experiences!

Have a nice week ahead … cheers….

The Runner Boys


 Update for week ended 11 January 2013

Juma woke up late on the cold, chilly morning. His mother had to yell at the boy to wake up else he would be late to school. Late at school meant whacks on the backside and the kiboko, the cane like stick, was something he feared, as did all his classmates. He got ready for school, putting on the navy blue pullover. His mother had made the light gruel, uji, the warm, watery gruel made of milled maize. He tossed his satchel on his shoulder and started out of his little hut on the hill. The morning mist had not lifted yet, and it was biting cold. His navy blue pullover had holes in it, after years of wearing and handing downs from elder sibling to younger. But that was all he had with him, and he quickly made it down the hill on which his hut stood in the hamlet in the Western Highlands. He passed other such huts and small settlements along the way and the little cabbage patches where mothers had started their morning farm-work, with their little babies snugly tied to their backs with the colourful Kitange, colourful cotton waistcloths. The sun was yet to rise, but Juma could not wait for that. He had a long way to go for school, and the slushy and slippery, red earth beneath his black shoes were not helping him speed up. It had rained last night and Juma feared the kiboko for untidiness as well, if he was not careful. So he started a light sprint down the hill, carefully avoiding any puddles or slushy mud and kept running till he met Benson along the way. Benson was his classmate and he too was late to school. Both of them ensured that there were slightly apart while running, to avoid the splash from their shoes onto the uniform, and therefore ran in a straddle position and kept running till they reached the stream that ran between their village and the village by the highway on the other side. The wooden logs that were placed across the stream helped the village folks to get across the hill stream and both of them slowed down to walk over this precariously, not that they feared getting hurt if they fell. Falling would mean, wet shoes, wet socks, perhaps wet clothes and books, and the headmaster would punish them by asking them to kneel on the sunny patch of the football ground outside the school. That is what they feared, as the crossed the stream. They crossed the little market on the other side and started their slow sprint uphill to the highway. The road was better here, not exactly tarmac, but what they learnt as murram in school. These roads had a harder feel to it when you put your foot down. It was also used for the pick-up trucks that would carry the village vegetables to the district town. Juma and Benson could sprint faster here and they climbed up to the highway and then kept their sometime sprint, sometime speed walk routine along the side of the highway. They were not feeling cold now, as they had warmed up quite  a bit and Juma also felt like taking off his pullover, but dared not to. It was his uniform. And the two boys kept their run, walk routine on, and they were joined by Samson, Keino and John and they followed the contours of the highway, which went down a hill and then up another in this rolling hills country. The average height was about 6000 ft above mean sea level, but the undulating landscape made it ideal for crop cultivation and sheep rearing, as the weather was temperate and the rains less incessant, but plentiful to ensure green all year round. Though today it led to more pools of red water after  last night’s downpour. The sun was out, and the school was in sight. Juma could see the headboy walk towards the headmaster’s room to get the dreaded weapon on all the boys’ minds – the schoolbell gong.

 

The D Boyz woke up on a wintry morning and were slightly late for their daily work. They gulped down their breakfast in a hurry and as they rushed to get to office, they saw other Boyz practicing for the impending marathon due in the city the following weekend. The Running Boyz ran down the street and the D Boyz kept watching them and missed the bus to their D Street. This delayed them and hence were reprimanded by the SENSEX at D Street which caused them a big loss on Monday. Thereafter, the D Boyz tried to ensure that they did not get distracted by the Running Boyz, and succeeded on Tuesday, but on Wednesday the Running Boyz took over the street with their flat runs, leaving the D Boyz to keep their SENSEX flat. And ended the week at 17663.

 

Juma and his friends managed to enter the school gate before the headboy started his clang clang on the bell. They heaved a sigh of relief and were allowed to keep their school bags on the ground by their feet as they stood in line for the school assembly. After the morning school prayers and singing the national anthem, the headmaster spoke of how discipline in school was not only about wearing neat uniforms and being quiet in class when the teacher was not around, or being punctual. It was also a habit once inculcated, could positively impact other aspects of one’s life. Neat uniforms meant that you cared for yourself and therefore likely to care for others. Silence and peace are very essential for thinking and therefore useful in learning more and applying it. And being punctual meant that you had to beat the clock and sometimes would need to speeden up to achieve it. That way you also exercised your body and who knows what positive outcomes that could achieve? Juma and Benson exchanged glances and waited to get into class, away from the harsh Equatorial sun.

 

Wishing all my readers a great Uttarayan – the beginning of the Sun’s journey northwards – and symbolizing a new beginning. It is Pongal, Sankranti, Uttarayan. This is also the season when the runners get into their final round of preparation for the Mumbai Marathon and hence my post today is dedicated to all you runners and hope you get some inspiration from Juma, Benson, Samson, keino and John and others like them, who started their running careers way back, on their way to schools and today run international marathons winning them at record sunning speeds of 20 km/hr!  

 

Have a great week ahead!!

Mitthu and his friends


Update for week ended 4 January 2013

Mitthu was loud and talkative. He was not bashful, but always wanted to have the last word. Every morning he awoke early and started his chatter. His high pitched squawky voice was enough to wake up the neighbourhood. The sky turned from inky black to dull grey in the winter morning and the sunrise was still a few minutes away. Bulbul was an early riser too and she would use this habit to hone her other habit – of singing. Because of her dark complexion, she rarely left home, and even if she did, it would be at such hours when it was not easy to spot her. It was some sort of inferiority complex, thought Mitthu. But Mitthu would not disturb her privacy, though he has met her at mango feasts in summer. The low hums of the homely Gutar stirred up when she heard the sweet singing of bulbul. Gutar was not a singer, but she tried to hum once a while – and it always sounded like she was trying to say something, but her voice would never leave her throat. She wore a lovely silky scarf in bluish green, but otherwise always carried herself in a dull grey tunic, however with one colourful exception – her stockings – they were shocking pink. But the tunic covered her whole body that very little of this pink was visible. The neighbourhood vagabond was also woken up by the shrill tones from Bulbul – Kaalia was ready to take on the world and anything else for the day. He awoke with his loud cracking voice and disturbed everyone. His band of vagabond friends were also ready to take on the day. The sun was slowly rising – tingeing the grey sky with an orange flair, and it almost resembled a different version of the aurora borealis which is not visible in the tropics…. raucous cacophony crowd was enough to wake up even the old Tai, elder sister of the small community, Chimni Tai. She was tiny and hopped around busily doing her chores. And she always muttered and twittered whenever she moved around and she did it this morning too…. And as the sun rose, the cold wintry sheen slowly started lifting off and the old Brown Brahmin woke up and opened out his brown shawl as though to stretch himself out to sun a bit. But that is what got the neighbourhood alert. He was a tough one to please and although most o fthe time he just floated around, he was known to have a keen eye on pests and he would swoop down unannounced to rid the society of the little vermin. He had awoken, so everyone got to doing their work – staying out of his way. So Mitthu went off to meet his dear friend Maina, while Bulbul gargled a little and sang out her ditties. The busy, yet confused grey tunic wearing Gutar went from window to window looking for something useful to do. The Kaalia band decided to raise  aracket to hackle the Brown shawled Brahmin.

It was another cold day on D Street and it woke up this year to noise; lots of nose from the city of the Raisina. But that did not deter the talkative Boyz on D Street to wake up its denizens and get to work. So if the Mitthu like talkative D Boyz started off the noise on Monday, and some ladies who joined the D Boyz for the new year fun sang and danced with the SENSEX on Tuesday to keep it rising, and then even the matronly looking and drab D Boyz could not stop joining the party on Wednesday and when the noisy Black Boyz of D street let out their new year cries, the SENSEX looked like it would touch 20,000 (the N Street had already touched 6000 that day) and then finally with the Brahmins on D Street getting to work seriously, the SENSEX looked closer to achieving its near term goal of touching 20000 by ending at 19784.

And Mitthu met Maina and they squawked and flew off the mango tree where the bulbul was still singing, and the fluttering, confused Gutars flew from one window to a terrace and back with no purpose at all, as Kaalia cawed even as he scrapped over scraps thrown out by early risers and the brahminy rose with rising thermals as the sun rose higher in the eastern sky.

Have great year ahead and may the new dawn bring you cheer and joy ……

Cheers………….

The Climb through the Pine Forest


Update for week ended 30 Nov 2012

The seven year old huffed and with limp limbs said under her breath, “Appa, I am tired, I cannot walk any further.” I looked back and saw the little figure clad in 2 layers of sweaters with a  half, yellow cardigan draped over her shoulders and felt sorry for her. The thin mountain air and the low temperatures made even adults huff after a few steps up these gradients. She was only a seven year old, so I stopped and endearingly told her, “Ok – let me the bulldozer and give you the push upwards so that you don’t tire, dear”. And that way I cajoled her to continue her 800 foot high climb from the road. Naldehra is a picturesque little clearing along the pine forest trail and has sylvan grasslands which would get heavy snow in winter to make it a little skiing slope for beginners. The place was converted into a golf course and still operates as one, but being surrounded by tall evergreen pines, the light green of the rolling grassy golf greens are perfectly offset by the grayish darker green of the pine. The steep climb to the hill was peppered by horse riders who would hire out the steeds to tourists to go up the hill and then give them a glimpse of the snow clad peaks beyond. We were done with the horse rides and instead chose to take the climb – and avoided the dusty horse trails, to take the winding steps that had been carved out on the slope for climbers. The sun pierced through the thick foliage of the trees and we could see the open green golf course to the right at times. But zig-zagging our way up to the hill top, I kept the seven year old and her older sibling engrossed in conversation to divert their mind away from the tedious, but crisp and perfumed climb. The pines rustled once a while and the sunshine peeped here and there till we got to a clearing in the woods which was not at a gradient, but rather flattish – almost like a summit, before another climb. We chose to rest our limbs for a brief while here; and with some clearing in the forest, there was more sunshine here for us to peel away one layer of the sweaters. The seven year old rested on a fallen pine tree that had withered with age and weary travelers resting on its fallen trunk. The softer inner core of the tree had also disintegrated with time and weather beats and a perfect cylindrical hollow made an excellent hideout for a seven year old. Energies recharged, we picked up a bottle of sweet beverage and walked up a few more feet to see what the horse riders were after. Their trails merged with ours at this clearing and the dust kicked up by the horses was enough disincentive for us to keep away from their path and instead walk on the grassy path upwards towards the pine forest ahead. Some of the horses had their day off, as we saw one graze on the tricky grass slopes and it grunted as we got closer. But the view to the east was a feast for sore eyes, as the snow clad mountains displayed their beauty from left to right.

DSCF0853

D Street had suddenly seen a whiff of cool breeze blow through it as winter set in. The D Boyz were overdressed to keep themselves warm, but quite surprised walked into their offices and with cool weather, a few decided to climb the stairs of their tall office building. But the younger ones among them were less experienced in these climbs and needed a nudge or two from their seniors to keep up the pace of climbing. The cool weather, the climb up the stairs also kept the D Boyz’s spirits in good mood this festive season and their SENSEX also followed step – as it climbed steps. So it climbed  a step on Monday and another large one on Tuesday, and the Boyz needed a rest on Wednesday. And that re-energised them to go on and let the SENSEX climb up even bigger steps on Thursday and further higher on Friday to finally see the pretty sight from atop. They could see the foreigners getting ready to fly into India to set up retail stores and restart the consumer revolution in this popular populous country. The SENSEX climbed the 800 points to end the week at 19340.

Our return was quick and energetic as we easily walked down the steps and the grassy slopes and passed by eager golfers about to start their round of 18 holes that warm afternoon. But we had other plans. We were in search of the hot springs along the shores of the icy Sutlej that zig-zagged its way through narrow valleys between these hills.

Have a great week ahead and share with me some of your travel travails and tales.

Cheers

Brinda’s Wedding


 Update for week ended 23 November 2012

The wedding preparations were on since Diwali. Brinda’s family had spent a large part of the Navratri holidays in shopping for the saris and jewellery for her wedding. Navaratri always symbolized the beginning of good tidings, but was still not considered auspicious for weddings. The sari shops had just launched their latest collections from as far off as Varanasi and Kancheepuram. The silks dazzled, and so did their prices, just as the golden metal prices. Brinda’s father was not a very prosperous grain merchant, but was well off enough to ensure that his daughter got all the trousseau that she deserved. She was an accomplished singer, and when she sang the Vitthal Abhangs, devotional songs written and sung by the rural poet saints from Maharashtra and Karnataka, the audience felt transported to the era of Purandara Dasa and Tukaram. Her devotional songs were appreciated by all, especially Vishnu, who had been audience to her performance for a while. He had pursued her and after the concert, had actually walked up to the green room to talk to her. But she was surrounded by her music troop members and was seen chatting heartily with the burly Jalandharan. Vishnu was not one to lose heart, so easily, so he used the help of his dear friend, Shankar to get more information on Jalandharan and Brinda. Shankar was most eager to help his friend, especially if it was to do with his love. But he had not so good news, Jalandharan was engaged to marry Brinda. Vishnu had to figure out a way to get Brinda to break the engagement. And he planned – he got Jalandharan an IT JV partner in US and sent him off for a few months. During that time, he wooed Brinda, but only slightly. She was busy with her concerts and also wanted to earn for her trousseau. Vishnu, helped her quite a bit in that respect. But Jalandharan was becoming quite an IT whizkid, and was planning on taking his startling venture public. Meanwhile, he travelled the US for the IPO roadshows and parties. At one such party, Shiva was there and he saw Jalandharan getting cosy and close with a blonde haired beauty. He sent the party pictures to Vishnu. The rest is understood, and now the wedding cards were also distributed. The eleventh day after Diwali was the chosen date for the wedding and Brinda was excited too. Vishnu’s happiness knew no bounds, as he too shopped for the wedding. The day arrived and the bride was dressed in a bottle green kanjeevaram with red and gold gopuram, templeborder. The groom was wearing his golden yellow pitambar vastra, silk dhoti draped the traditional way in 5 yards. And the wedding venue had the green canopy  of the banana fronds, and mango leaves. And when the head priest recited the sacred 8 shlokas, the anxious crowd cupped their palms filled with vermilion soaked rice, and dug in with their right hand fingers and thumb, pinching a few grains, and showering it on the couple, the moment the white silk cloth with a red swastika dropped down! Brinda and Vishnu were married.

 

The week or two after Diwali have been one or two of much action on the D Street. The wedding season purchases were on, as a few D Boyz were getting married, while others just helped in the preparations. Who likes to miss such occasions? So the green and red saris were bought and the orders placed for the green canopy of banana plants and fronds (sending the SENSEX up and up into green territory); and on the last day, when the curtains fell at the wedding venue, the red daubs of the vermilion stained rice left a few red patches on the SENSEX – finally taking it to a weekly close of 193 points up to 18506. This will also spell the beginning of the official wedding season for the rest of India. (of course, D Street saw its share of marriages as a UK distiller “took his Indian liquor bride”, and there are rumours of an Emirati planning to tie the knot with a Jet setting Indian airways.)

 

Brinda was destined to marry her Vishnu, even though a few a months ago, it seemed implausible. Just like the legend of Tulsi who married Krishna even though she was married to someone else in her previous birth.  

 

Have a nice week ahead….