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Sitting at 15th floor of the Hyatt regency in Dallas, with a night view of the city scrapers in the background, the only thing that flashes is nostalgia. The feeling of growing up, adoring and tirelessly following a true champion in Tendulkar. Suddenly, he is taking one last walk to the 22 yard strip, a test match at his home turf in Mumbai. It must be emotional for many and I for sure cannot hold my tears. It is only a retirement, but wait no. It has been our life in some ways.

Today may well be his last innings with cricket bat in a test match. Stamp of vintage Tendulkar was seen yesterday. Let us hope that he adds a few more of his straight drives and cover drives today.  Never have a farewell touched this close. He was not just a hero, but a pride and a part of my growing up. As he walks to the sunset of a glittering career, a part of me fades from the horizon as well.  The timeless thing of our life, prepares to turn the page! Oh dear life, we have crossed two decades!

Joshy

One of my closest friend, Joshy Sebastian met with a tragic accident in Qatar and unfortunately left us for good. I am terrified in tears with that devastated feeling of emptiness. He was such a gem of a friend, ever since we met in middle school days.

Yesterday, a call from parents back home had this news. When they mentioned Joshy, my initial hope was that let it not be him, but unfortunately it came otherwise. I called another childhood friend with a glimmering hope that things wouldn’t be  as bad as I had feared. Sadly, there was nothing to hope for and it was all over. We just couldn’t utter a thing for a few seconds, just to console each other! It is tragic and the most unexpected.  How do I even scale such a loss? Sitting thousands of miles away, I suddenly felt numb and helpless. Memories rolled back, one by one, painted with pain all over. Oh dear, this is cruel!

After hearing this terrible news, I hardly could take an eye off his face etched in memory. I vividly remember the first day, a chubby boy transferring to our 6th grade class at MGM school; How soon we became good friends, and not before long the best pals around! Seated next to me, on the first day, he had given me a book sticker, which was a grand gift back then, for that matter anytime; Oh dear! How well I had cherished those moments? He would buy those caramel cookies and the groundnut  plaque with jaggery (kadala achu or chickey) from the little store across the road, break it into equal pieces and share with me. Those days, he was the one who had the chance to travel beyond territories, to the bigger towns, which many of us never could even think of during school days.  It may sound strange to fathom. We are talking about different times altogether, huh!  Joshy always would come back with stories to tell, a lot of them! Recently (about two months ago) when we spoke over phone , I had asked him, the movie buff he once was, whether he still watches all the new Malayalam movies. He sure did!

At high school, we were in different divisions, but during the breaks, we used to meet up; There he loved describing the movie plots and boy, did I love hearing those? Do I see those blue eyes brightening up while describing a script! Is it all real? Oh dear, how can he go this soon? Between him and another close friend we had pretty much all sources of Balamangalam, Balarama, Poompatta, Amar Chithra Katha and the Pico children books and many more. Memories keep coming, so do tears!

The middle and high school days are full of nostalgic memories of being together with him. And even the pre-degree days, the fun we all had! The gentle friend he always was, I hardly recollect him overly being angry, even on occasions when he looked pensive.

Once in UP school, we boys out of curiosity and partly spurred with the boyhood mischief, sneaked into a neighbourhood land and grabbed cinnamon skins (Karuvapatta). Without knowing what  it really was , we all munched pieces of it with thrill. Somehow the teachers came to know that. Back at school, post lunch was mayhem when the dreaded headmaster Father Chandi (fondly called Chandi Achan) himself barged into the class with his notorious chooral stick. He began asking who all had indulged into that mistake of crossing the school boarder. Joshy, sitting next to me was one of those honest guys who stood up first. After repeated probing, several heads started popping up. They were all beaten up heavily with Chooral; With each passing second, my feet would start rumbling more and more. The fact that I had decided not to stand up in the first place and the danger of getting a compounded punishment made me touch cold with all senses. Only about 5 or six boys were left sitting by then. Finally when Chandi Achan asked Joshy who among the remaining seated were with him there. The lone culprit remained in me, who was sitting next to him, was sure to get caught. But he chose not to and stood guard a friend he found in me! The greatness of a true friend at that young!  I’d asked him about that later on. He would just smile! It is that smile which comes to my mind even after years since I saw him last. When we spoke over phone, couple of months ago, we were hopeful to meet up sometime and now, a sense of void cutting through my breath.

Rest in peace dear friend. Thanks for the memories. It was such a privilege to be your friend. You will be missed and my heart will never be lighter without you. You were such a beautiful mind! Saying a good bye has never been this painful and how I wish I had a choice not to, but…

joshy_kid

I honestly think Bombay Jayashree and Michael Danna did a great job in creating this very soothing track for Life of Pi. However, this caught an unexpected plagiarism controversy while the Oscar nomination is on and a potential felicitation is ringing at the door.

The controversy is surrounding a portion of the lyrics of this track. Apparently, a couple of lines are taken or adapted from the very very famous Malayalam lullaby “Omana thingal kidavo… nalla komala thamara poovo….”, which almost all Malayalaee mothers recites to their babies at bedtime. The slow pace at which this being sung would draw even the crankiest of babies lulled into sleep. There is a sense of nostalgia and cultural belonging this song evokes to all Malayalees and in that sense it is not entirely surprising that a question being posed when a few of the lines of Life of Pi echoed resemblance to Irayimman Thampi‘s masterpiece. Some argue that the lines under dispute are literal translation of the original, from Malayalam to Tamil, but others refute with the claim that it is a common feeling any mother could have and Jayashree only scripted it in her own words. Whether a segment of the song was adapted from somewhere else, still a lot of work had to be done to make this to a wide awakening one and to something like an Oscar nomination. That way, it is touch unfair to simply brag the artists as copycats. At the same time, if there was a genuine adaptation pooled into the song, then it is only fair to respect and give credit to where it belongs. It is a bit sad that this had to be drawn to a public bashing. Getting an Oscar will be a real delight since that also will take Carnatic music trace to the world stage reaching to a broader audience, hitherto unheard of its rich and classical history.

Since we are on this subject, I thought it is a good time to read up a little on the history of the Omana thingal kidavo song. This song was supposedly written by the famous Travancore king Swathi Thirunal‘s uncle Irayimman Thampi. When Swathi Thirunal was born,  his maternal uncle himself a trained Carnatic musician composed this and was apparently sung by the mother Gowri Laksmi Bhai and the royal ladies to put the baby to sleep. The princely baby was all the more special since he was born after a prolonged wait at a time the Kingdom itself was at threat of being dissolved with the British empire having had no foreseeable replacement of a male successor to the King. Swathi Thirunal went on to become a famous King, who being  an ardent Carnatic music follower also produced several masterpieces, some of them are popular even today. Irayimman Thampi as well produced many more compositions including Karuna Cheyvan enthu thamasam.

Besides the rich and soothing music, the lyrics of Omana Thingal Kidavo are knitted with superlatives comparing the baby to the most wonderful things one can see in nature such as nectar in my sight or the bright and charming crescent moon. It doesn’t utter a word about the sleep, but just has many questions posed by the mother to baby as to which among the greatest wonders will match the priceless baby grandeur.  For any mother, none will match her baby and the lullaby carved into the minds of mothers of many generations. Whether they gave credit to Irayimman Thampi or not, the lullaby echoes in several hearts, even today.

Some interesting information on this composition is here. Further information on Irayimman Thampi and his contribution to Carnatic music is discussed by Dr. PP.Narayana Swamy. Renditions of some of the famous compositions can be heard here. A page on Swathi Thirunal is also maintained here. I am not sure whether it is the most comprehensive of his contribution, but has several useful links there.

For a generation of kids like me, growing up in the 80s and 90s in India, Anant Pai, popularly known as Uncle Pai was one of the most influential figure. Not because of his personality or the aura in public life, but the sheer creativity in transpiring the richness in the Hindu mythological stories to us in the form of children stories. The Amar Chitra Katha stories from him, not only had improved our knowledge on the many epic stories and its variants, but also brought the curiosity in the fairy tale world to young minds. It is with immense sadness I passed the day hearing his sad demise, last week.

It has been raining since evening here in Lausanne.  It was about 19.50 when I came back home for dinner. The light was getting dimmer and the sign of rain was there very much looming. Almost when I romped home, the rain started. My windows shutter seems to love this rain drops falling tirelessly onto them. They make a pretty nice chitter chatter sound which I just cant stop cherishing. Tired to do anything else today, but the rain is still there and the aluminium shutter still make that rhythmic reaction to the rain drops. It is only a moderate rain, but the sound of the water droplets when it embrace the tree leaves and this window is a lovely one. I have been an avid rain fan since childhood. The tiled house of my parents in Kerala in monsoon come close to this. I am ecstatic and now just want to wait longer to enjoy this beauty. Sleep can wait for a while, cant it? Let me stop everything now and just embrace this rain music. How beautiful this Suisse rain?

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

Oscar Wilde‘s ‘The Happy prince‘ is one of the many stories that I have read during early school days. Remarkably, this is one of the few I still remember! I was barely able to read difficult English literature per se then, but still the story of Happy prince was within my grab. I don’t recollect whether I had understood all the words of Wilde, back then. This was at a time, when I was happily enjoying my schooling and life in my mother tongue Malayalam. Malayalam literature had its penchant style and aura, which is difficult to explain to non-Malayalam readers.  I was ‘at-home‘ when it came to reading the Malayalam literary works. Yet, I had thrived to learn English stories, albeit at a reduced speed. That whenever, I got a chance to read. Oscar Wilde was one of the rare English writers whose work, somewhat accidentally came to my reading list.  I was surrounded and enthralled by the works of great south American and Russian writers, otherwise. Partly, thanks to the communist influence in Kerala society, the translations of great Russian and south American books were far more available at ease  and at cheap rate (In fact I don’t remember buying anything, but all borrowed from various small local libraries around). 

Coming back to the Happy prince, the story had indeed put a stamp in my memory as a child.  I may have been 10 years or so when I was ‘introduced to’ the ‘Happy prince’.  The subdued request of the prince to the little swallow was by heart to me. When the prince says ” Swallow, swallow little swallow…”, my heart seemed to have resonated at a lower pace.  As a child, I had never seen an European city, for that matter any great city including the ones in India, let alone city across the Atlantic. It was all in my mind, that I’d imagined a mythical model of such a city, a city of the happy prince!  I used to visualise the position of the Happy prince statue standing tall in the middle of a city. Did I ever imagine the enormity of a city as big as this? As a child it is difficult to fathom and relate the seriousness of people’s struggle, a statue could see.  For sure, I was touched and moved by his sorrows and pain.

The swallow represented a role model so to speak  when it comes to helping others. Subconsciously, the little swallow literally drenched my cheeks by living through that difficult winter.  Back then, I had never seen what it is to be a snowy winter, still, could feel the chill of that season, when the shivering swallow wholeheartedly fulfilled the Prince’s wishes. Years later, the words “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” still linger my ears. Tears still beckons! Perhaps that story have had a deep influence to me since childhood, to an extend that I’ve never imagined. As a child, I wished if only the swallow could go to Egypt, but alas!

Now, I have accidentally come across that very same story in video form in youtube. That brought in a rewinding of years! I feel the same chill now, as a 10 year old that I had felt years ago. I had told this story to Nivedita a few times. I could see her expression when I uttered the prince’s humble request “…Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow. Stay with me one night longer” .. The impact of Oscar Wilde’s powerful writing tells a story in itself. Don’t they?

…High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.

The prince and the swallow still stays on.. in my memory…I really want to tell this story to many kids! The youtube video is commendable too.

Firstly, thanks a lot sufiwindsurfing for bringing the story of Ravi, a young boy from the street of Mumbai India. This boy, without any formal education, all by himself learned some very commendable language tricks.  Now he speaks over thirteen languages (albeit few sentences only, but still an incredible achievement) including English, french, Italian, German, Persian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic.  Amazing! It is quite sad to realize that, the society we live in is so much unaware about the plight of millions of kids like him who are forced to suppress their talents in pursuit of making their ends meet.  In the many streets of India, we may be able to find so many such Ravi’s who are unfortunately pushed to the dark side of the fortune wheel.  I really wish and dream of an era, all the children of this world have equal access to love and education.  It is cruel to leave them alone into the  world of difficulties this early. Forget all religion and fanaticism. Who needs that, when a vast ocean of basic social problems still loom large across the world? It is a known story that, many of the kids begging in the streets of India are abducted and forced into the urban chaos. My heart goes to those parents whose beloved ones are oppressed forever. Every time I see these kids,  my mind goes into that wild scary thought of that beautiful would have been childhood, denied for the millions of underprivileged. Who knows, we may have lost millions of future hopes into the drains of mass urban disaster.  As Betrand Russell said in his beautiful autobiography prologue, “I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot and hence I too suffer“.  As he said, this indeed make a mockery of what human life should be!  We are simply not doing enough! 

and here is Ravi, when he was younger (may be 5 years then?) in 2005 

Growing up in Kerala is an experience one cannot describe in few words. One must live through it to really feel it. It is different! This video

brings back a whole lot of those memories of childhood. I may be heavily biased here to say so much uniqueness about the social life in Kerala, but to me they simply remain so. The greeneries and the beautiful countryside, the many little ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, paddy fields, the list goes on. The days of Onam and Vishu are more than festivals for the people of Kerala. The expectations and excitement build around these festivals on children’s mind and the fun of playing so many little games: playing in rain, then invariably fall sick, all that in spite of being truly aware of the consequences. August-September time frame also had the monsoon settles when all the ponds and lakes are filled with water. As kids, those were special days to spend near full days swimming and play the various games by staying in water. Beautiful! Now, all those little games like Kuttikol, Pulikkali, lathi and the countless many games all must have disappeared and perhaps paved the ways for cricket or computer. I wish to believe that it is not!

Looking back, it is amazing that people of Kerala unanimously enjoyed the festivals like Onam, Vishu and Christmas irrespective of religious beliefs. The excitement of a festival was much more than religion, even though there is mythological trace to each of them.

Coming back to this video, it instantly took me to the days of Onam when we all kids (my siblings, cousins and neighbourhood friends) took pride in displaying new dresses, (more traditional it used to be) and group ourselves to play the whole day, with intermittent breaks for lunch feast etc and the pleasure of eating a sweet or two from the neighborhood house and to feel it tastier than the one at home.

And how can I have enough of those Kani konna pookkal (Cassia fistula), a seasonal flower seen all around during vishu summer days! (Courtesy, this beautiful image of kani konna is taken from http://www.ulujain.org/album/casino/casinoflowers/cassia1.jpg)

kanikonna poothappol

kanikonna poothappol

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