Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lal Lal Mohanlal!

Don’t say that I’m stupid. This is not me, but a die hard movie buff speaking, and he’s quite exhilarated. He just saw, heard and touched his matinee idol, Mohanlal.

Lalettan was attending a function marking the end of his one-year foray into theatre. He had completed eight shows of the solo drama, Kathayattam.

My eyes rarely strayed away from him right from when he entered the podium till he left. I can hardly remember what I blabbered to him. This was the first time I was seeing him in close quarters. This was the first time when I could speak to him.

I know that admiration to eccentric levels is stupidity, but that's what I am. I love, care and admire certain things, to the level of eccentricity. Movies top the list. I grew up seeing movies of Mohanlal, and certain ones, I hold close to my heart.

I’ve seen some of his movies repeatedly that I lost count. His movies (I’m tempted to say he) have a prominent place in my memories, because most are associated with several incidents: curious; happy; sad.

Anyway, all I know is that today I am happy; very very happy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

When names lack intimacy

You know what socialism is, right? Have you heard of a socialist language? No, I am not speaking about the style of using the language, but a language that actually gives almost similar status to everybody. It is English.

I realised this as I typed out the previous post. I said Maman for my paternal uncle. In Malayalam, Maman or Ammavan is a common name for maternal uncle. I call my Appachi's (father’s sister) husband also Maman.

Uncle can also mean paternal one, right?. Here arises the problem. Father is Achan in Malayalm. I call my father’s elder brother (he has two) Vallyachan and younger brother (he has three) Kochachan and I affectionately call one among them, Chittappan, which means the same.

But when translation comes, only one term prevails for all; Uncle. Isn’t English a socialist language? This is applicable for the feminine gender also. My Vallyachan’s wife is Vallyammachi for me and Kochachan’s wife is Kunjamma. And my father’s sister is Appachi. My mother’s sister, had there been one, would be my Kunjamma. Here also, translation offers you the convenience of a single term; Aunty.

I have seen children, even youth, using the term Uncle to denote their father’s brother, their mother’s colleague and even their neighbour. Same is the case while feminine.

Moving to Hindi, only the terms differ. Each of the members in the family have names such as Chacha and Chachi; Taoo and Taayi; Mama and Maami; Kaka and Kaaki. Each pair can be replaced by Uncle and Aunty.

Even maternal and paternal grandparents have separate names; Dada and Dadi; Nana and Nani. English conveniently shortened them to Grandpa and Granny.

Socialism prevails while addressing people also. There is Aap to denote respect (mostly to elders), Tum to show camaraderie and Tu to address the younger ones. We have fine tuned to use You to address an individual.

Back here, I have friends who cannot differentiate between Vallyachan and Kochachan; even worse some don’t even know what they mean.

Unnikrishna Pillai is my Unni Maman, Vivekanandan MC is my Thambi Kochachan. I wouldn’t alienate them by donning them the boring uniformity of Uncle.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Soccer speaks...

For the first time in my life, I was stepping in to the Kochi Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Quarterfinal match of the Santosh Trophy Football tournament between Kerala and Delhi was about to begin. The biggest in the state, the stadium hosted more than One Lakh spectators during the last cricket match, an ODI. Now, there were only about 5000.

I still remember the day when I went to see a football match for the first time. The venue, Lal Bahadoor Stadium Kollam, was a smaller one. I was with Unni maman (maternal uncle), the tournament was Scissors Cup. We were at the gallery. It was drizzling, but it did't affect the spirit of the crowd. By the time the game finished, the whole stadium was wet.

I knew nothing about the game then, other than that you have to score goals to win. When I was a child, my kochachan (paternal uncle) had dictated me two answers. He would ask me, "Jayichathaaraa?" (Who won?) for which I’ll say, "Germany." Then he’d ask "Goal adichathaaraa?" (Who hit the goal?) for which I’ll say "Maradona." And the whole family would laugh!

Everyone of my family, from my 78-year-old grandfather to my sister, are football fans, but I was no hard-core follower of the game. During the 98 soccer world cup, I prepared an album entirely relying on newspapers. I didn’t see even the finals, which was telecast at midnight. I had a very tough time acting in front of my friends that I really saw the match.

Scissors Cup died away, and so did Kerala’s own football club FC Cochin. Two years ago was the last time I went to see a match. Venue was Kollam. I was with my Dad. Then the number of spectators was far less.

Then a World Cup came. The final was on my 18th birthday. Brazil won their fifth cup. Ronaldo was the hero. It was the first televised match I completely saw.

What I expected in Kochi and what I saw there contrasted heavily. Imported variety of "cheer girls" were there, a thing which is alien to the Kerala football scenario. There used to be a time when Santosh Trophy was held in makeshift stadiums, and the entire structure swayed due to the spectators standing up to cheer the players.

These "cheer girls" in their meager clothing does not even serve the purpose of an "item number." Another result of commercialisation of the game. We no longer have the adrenalin for the game. Instead of providing cure, the concerned ones are giving hallucinogens.

Monday, November 14, 2005

For the first time...

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I drank toddy; ate pork; tasted pan masala; attended a ghazal concert.

When Nishin came up with the idea, I was pretty apprehensive. Already he was in a bad mood; the sky was murky; the destination was a toddy shop.

But Mithun, Prasanth and Srini were ready. So out we went to get the machines and Sanil. Minutes later, we were speeding towards Kumarakom, the backwater village and a popular tourist destination.

Rain had already started when we halted at the petrol bunk at Baker Junction. We went on, racing with the rain. We were sure that it will rain heavily. It was a logical decision to make our way as fast as we can.

It was drizzling though. The road was comparatively narrow. I was in "Watchie’s" (Sanil) Royal Enfield. The six-footer maneuvered the machine with ease.

Then we reached the road parallel to the lake. I have never seen a place where you have boats parallel to your machine. The roadside houses, specially ones in traditional style, were lovely.

We crossed the bridge and reached the rice fields. We could actually see rain coming from a distance. It was really an awesome sight.

In the race with the rain, we reached first. The toddy shop was by the side of the road that went through the paddy fields. Much like any local wayside restaurant.

They ordered pork, chicken, fish and four bottles of toddy as we entered the tatched place. Srini and I were strictly no-no to toddy. I remember Neetha asking me in wonder, "Nee kallu kudikumo?" (Do you drink toddy?).

However, I decided to give a try. Prasanth offered me the glass. I poured half-a-glass and sipped it. It was sour, but was not that awful.
Then came pork. It tasted good, though hot. I needed something hot because my throat was sour, and something spicy would be better, I thought.

Prasanth, as always, was late to finish. Mithun reminded us the belief that after eating, if you let your hands dry, your marriage will be delayed. Sreeni came up with another version that the repercussion will not be a late marriage, but a horrible looking wife!

Within an hour we were on the road, fully drenched in rain.

Back in the hostel, Prasanth offered a little from his pan masala packet. No special taste, though I could feel a particular kind of smell in my breath.

Then we went to listen "Umbayee."


"Fragrance of the flowers faded away, all my friends have gone. O! my beloved, when will you come?" I was also translating the lines as I listened in rapt attention to PA Ibrahim, popularly known to Malayalis as Umbayee.

Ghazal, for me, was confined to my tape recorder, television and the bathroom singing sessions. This was the first time I was attending a concert.

I read his biography in a magazine in our library. It was the very first article I read in the institute. I have seen Umbayee in TV, but came to know in detail only after reading the article. And here I was, listening to him.

He gave an introduction in Hindi, with a "madrasi" tinge, but his Urdu was excellent. He began with a song unfamiliar to me, and I began translating.

Ghulam Ali's popular ghazal "Chupke Chupke" was a real surprise. Then came a Malayalam number "Cheruppathil Nammal Randum.." by an unknown writer.

After the programme, when we had a chat with him, he told us that 12 people have contacted him claiming to be the writer of the song!

While coming back, Prasanth commented that liquor and ghazal forms a good combination!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Stamp story!

This week's story is on stamps! I was to report on the fake postage stamps sold here and the way Philatelists chooses genuine ones from the counterfeit mass.

This was interesting, because I collect stamps. During reporting, I came to know of the various sources of stamps in town, and also met Mr Mathew, a veteran philatelist.

I still remember our class teacher in the third standard asking us to start collecting stamps after she took the Moral Science lesson on hobbies. I did not care much at first. By the end of the year, I also began to keep stamps that were attractive. By next June, I was hooked!

My first stamp album was a notebook. A crude way to store, I used to stick my stamps in the ruled pages.I exchanged whatever I could collect with my friends in the class.

Then on the Onam vacation that year came an envelope full of stamps from my Dad who was in Dubai at that time. That was my first jackpot, shall I say.

Then I was like a star among the collectors in my class. But one day, my stamp book was stolen. You cannot imagine the dismay I felt. That was one of the rare occasions in school when I cried without the teacher's beating.

Then, during the summer vacation that year, Dad came home. He gave me his collection that he left in one of his suitcases, what we called "Bombay Boxes."

Then I had a real stamp album. He gave me a brand new one also. It was made in China. From then on, his letters were accompanied by stamps.

My collection grew. I began understanding the various ways of collection. It takes a lot of patience to collect a stamp, separate it from the envelope, dry it and arrange according to the album space and classification.

There are stamps which when arranged in a particular order gives you a picture. Once I got two stamps of Pilippines, which formed part of a map. I sent it back to Dad and asked for him to lookout for the joining pieces.
Then, after two years, he sent me the other two, completeing the picture of the map.

There were times when I totally avoided my collection, adding less than five stamps a year. But I didn't give up completely. My collection was in a dormant state then.

Now I have more than 1200 stamps in five albums. Most are used, some are mint (unsealed). But I am still not a philatelist, but a stamp collector. Philatelists are those who collect, classify and study stamps. I just collect and keep.

Most philatelists specialise in certain areas, such as wildlife stamps, space stamps or stamps of certain nations. I plan to specialise in what I call Joint-picture stamps!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Shoe story!

While coming back from my home yesterday, I browsed through the filed issues of The New Yorker I took from the library. There was a story of a person greatly interested in shoes. He conducted several studies, designed shoes to fit various types of feet, and even those of pre-historic people.

Somewhere, the writer asks why we wear shoes. I remember someone saying, "It is great comfort to wear shoes. You feel it the most when you take it off."

I got my first pair of shoes when I was nine. It was a pair of multicoloured canvas shoes, my long- times wish come true. Wearing shoes was made compulsory in my school that year. I used to wear the same pair of socks for five days at that time!

That was December that year. Black shoes joined the list of our school uniform the next year. I had to wear it on all the days in the rainy June. It became smelly often. I began hating shoes.

Three years from then, I had to wear shoes. In between, I got my first pair of "Action" shoes, cool ones with light in the heels! I joined St. Aloysius’ for high school studies and there was no compulsion to wear shoes in my new school. I almost snapped ties with shoes.

Then I joined SN for plus two. There I had to restore the relationship. I got a pair of black shoes, the sixth pair I had. Then, after six months, dad bought me my first pair of leather shoes-which I still use. I wear it rarely, and they still have their shine, though it’s been five years since I got it.

During the three years in my college, I went wearing shoes only six times (exactly)! And here, two times till date.
Personally speaking, I do not favour wearing shoes. But once I tuck in my full sleeve shirt and wear a belt, shoes become something indispensable for me! Now, I am on a mission to use my leather shoes for three years more.

No, not the record for the longest use. My dad’s Italian shoes are 10-years-old now!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Diwali is here

Diwali is here, but our schedule continued as usual. In the afternoon, we went to attend a debate in the nearby auditorium, hostd by DC publishers.

I had to wait to get the interview of the Publishing Manager to finish this week’s story and suddenly came upon the most famous person we ever met- Sudarshan, the Swayamsevak Sangh Supremo! I got a chance to speak to him in Hindi!

Returned to give away the news and saw candles being lighted in front of the insti! Got a "tilak" and "Balu sheri" (a North Indian sweet) from Khyati, lighted the candles and took photos.

Finished typing my story in record time (which means "screwing" guaranteed)!.
Anyway, I feel quite happy today.