Friday, April 17, 2009

Marriage: A reality check

What’s the first thing you should secure after your marriage is fixed? I’d say a ready source of fund above Rs 80,000. That’s the minimum amount you have to pay in advance for a rented house. This is not for the lucky few who’s well settled in their hometowns with a properly arranged marriage and attached ‘gifts’ from in-laws. This is for guys like us who make a living far away from their hometown. And if yours is a love marriage, the situation turns tougher.

We are facing such a situation. Aby’s getting married this May to his sweetheart for six years. She has secured a job as a teacher in Bangalore. For the last few days, the mission was to find a decent house that’s big enough and affordable.

Priorities were many. It has to be sufficiently close to the girl’s workplace, monthly rent has to be below Rs 7,000, it has to be big enough to accommodate the frequenting relatives and the area should be safe and decent.

It seemed houseowners in Bangalore still have no clue about how big the recession is. They were ready to give the usual concession for families, nothing more than that. A one bedroom-house-kitchen still commanded rates as high as Rs 15,000 even in the not-so-posh areas. And sub-5,000 places were shabby like hell.

But he managed to find a decent den, big enough and affordable. And the landlady was ready to cut the advance amount also. He’s finally setting up his home this May.
After all the mad rush, he heaved and said: “Better go for a properly arranged set-up, and make sure that the girl gets good salary!”

Aby was always sure that she would be his life partner. Luckily, the risks associated with love marriage were mitigated in their case. With no plans like that, my cards look blank. Whatever the likes of Karan Johar and Yash Chopra say, ‘shaadi’ is still a matter of money as long as you care how you live.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

You must vote

To vote or not. My blogger friend was in a dilemma. I seriously don’t think that’s a dilemma at all. Even if you are totally in dark of the smallest political news in circulation, you should go and vote, unless all the candidates share an equally shady history.

I believe you are not eligible to crib about the state of the nation unless you exercise your franchise. Sadly, I missed my chance this time. With the weekend exams going on and the office running on skeletal staff, taking a two-day off to go and cast your vote was a strict no-no.

Elections had always fascinated me. In childhood, the colourful campaigns and posters generated interest. Later, it was the political equations and personal leanings. The old-fashioned bullock-cart-and-drums appeal were still there during my kindergarten days. I still remember S Krishnakumar waving from his car that went past our house after being elected as Kollam MP for the third time in 1991. He was in Congress then.

My first chance to vote came in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004. CPI(M)’s P Rajendran got my vote. I stood faithful to my family’s Left leaning. And PR was truly worthy for my vote.

Next chance came in the Assembly elections 2006. I cast my vote and came home, only to face my Chittappan and his wife disappointed. Staunch Left supporters, both were not in the voters’ list.

Had I been home now, this would have been my third vote. Hope I won’t miss it next time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texting thoughts, taxing thoughts

Festivals and greetings. Inseparable. Every special occasion brings a bevy of e-greetings and SMSes. This Vishu, I was a bit worried. Every greeting message was testing the memory limits of my 1100. What’s the big deal, delete old stuff, you’d say. There lies the problem. I love treasuring messages.

I got my phone as my father’s gift, close to Vishu three years ago. I was packing to go Bangalore for my internship. As I was leaving home on my own for the first time, my concerned parents deemed mobilephone as an unavoidable accessory to keep in touch and to boost my job-hunting.

Greetings for that year’s Vishu flowed in as my number went around the circle of family and friends. Handling a cellphone for the first time, I never bothered to delete any message. By the time I finished my three-week internship, my inbox was full. Then I decided to retain only greetings.

Three years and innumerable messages later, my mobilephone has been flashing ‘No space for new messages’ text increasingly these days. For the past one year, I had retained enough capacity for just one more fairly large message. And when the inflow goes past the limit, I start editing.

Usual ‘hi-hello’ and ad messages were deleted on the spot. Then there were some messages with no names. The senders had changed their numbers and I had deleted the old contact details, making the messages unrecognisable and easy prey for my deleting exercise.

Now, that chance is also becoming slim, but incoming messages are not. This Vishu, I had no choice but to cut ‘repeat texts’ sent by more than one contacts. Time to change the phone? Nah! My model was the simplest and the most user-friendly model available. This model has the habit of making its owners fall in love with it. I remember a colleague grieving online about replacing her 1100. Other than the limited memory for contacts and SMSes, my phone was as good as new. Sturdy and simple, it has braved many big falls from my hand.

It currently has 72 SMSes in its inbox, an insignificantly small number when compared to the high-end phones available at cheaper rates. The oldest one came three years back from Mathew during my internship days, warning about the ruckus in Bangalore after the death of Rajkumar.

That was two days before Vishu. Will I be still treasuring my 1101 next Vishu? Let’s see.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I woke up, sprang up from my bed and stared at the phone. It was 4 am. Phew, I made it! I was not late. I had to prepare Vishukkani.

This is my fourth Vishu in a row when I miss home. Vishu was one of the many pleasures robbed by career from many youngsters of my generation. Though not as big as Onam, Vishu had the added attraction that it came during the summer vacation.

I used to voluntarily wake up early during the vacation days then. But on the Vishu day, ammoomma would beat us all, however hard you try. There was a good reason: she had to prepare the Vishukkani. The very first sight of the auspicious Vishukkani, the silver coins from elders, the early morning bath and the walk to temple and then to my ancestral house, and the fun we shared with our cousins...

By the time we are back, we would’ve collected a huge (by the standards of a school kid) amount. There would be enormous plans about how to use it, but all the collection would promptly end in amma’s purse. This routine went on for many years. The only break I had was in 1997, when I was in Gujarat, at my uncle’s place.

Then came the Vishu of 2002. Awaiting the plus-two results, I spent the Vishu eve at my ancestral home. My aunt, who was taking care of my grandmother, was out of station. I was put in charge of the house, her son and that year’s Vishukkani. I was turning 18 that June, I was experiencing the transition from a teenager to an adult.
Then the three years in college, and by the Vishu of 2005, I had decided to take up journalism.

I was out of home on my own during my internship in 2006. My first Vishu without a Vishukkani. By the next Vishu, I was a sub-editor in a Chennai daily. I never thought twice before catching the bus to Vellore on that Vishu eve. My aunt had moved to Vellore. They were in their new home. I reached there around 5 in the morning, and the very first sight I saw inside the house was a beautifully arranged Vishukkani.

I moved to Bangalore after two months. Then came last year’s Vishu. That time, I was hell-bent on setting up a Vishukkani. I managed it somehow, with Raku’s (remember?) chain in place of gold and a candle substituting the mandatory lamp. But I missed the most important component: the bunch of kanikkonna flower.

I played the granny, waking up each one, leading them with their eyes covered, and making sure that what they saw first that day was the Vishukkani. It wasn’t a total surprise; Raku knew it. Guys were very happy, and I was happy seeing them happy.

This year, I decided to keep every hint of Vishukkani under wraps. Mithun and Aby were out, with me left alone for precious three hours before lunch. As soon as they were out, I tiptoed to our regular vegetable stall, and there awaited my bonus of the year: A bunch of kanikkonna flowers.

I was planning to set up everything after everyone was asleep, and I dozed off. But I managed to set it up well before the first one was awake. Lal was about to spring up from the bed; it was time for him to reach the call centre. I covered his eyes just in time, and he became the first one to see the Vishukkani.

I was happy that our gang was feeling at home, but the phone calls from Kerala and the TV shows were more than enough to make me feel homesick. I know it’s pointless being nostalgic. But I still wonder where will my next Vishu be.