Monday, August 23, 2010

Onam, me, and certain thoughts

It was 1.45 am when Aral took me to the bus stand. The next bus to Chennai was at 2, which didn’t turn up. The next bus was at 4.30 am. A two-and-a-half-hour wait at the deserted bus stand, with biting cold and mosquitoes testing my fever-hit physique. I can endure things worse than this, but can’t afford the prospects of staying back in Bangalore during Onam

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. I longed for Onam like never before after I started living on my own. Lonely life in Chennai had made me terribly homesick, and I looked forward for the day. To make it appear nearer, a dear friend advised me to count just Sundays! There was another reason also — it had been a year since grandma died, and I had to be there to do the rituals. I couldn’t sleep in the train. Then I heard the sweetest voice I heard that year — that of a railway announcer: “Palakkad Junction welcomes you.” I rolled on, to sleep with a smile…

Four Ms and an O — Mammootty, Mohanlal, Mundu, Moustache and Onam — define a Malayalee, say my colleagues. For a person like me who has spent his first 22 years of his life in Malluland, Onam comes integrated within. It was a part of my life, always.

As a child, anticipation for the festivities would begin in August. Independence Day was a precursor. Then, like the big hurdle before the finishing point, would come the first quarter series of examinations — what we would call Onam exams.

The relief of the exams getting over makes the 10-day Onam holiday sweeter. Each Onam left me with a bounty of bittersweet memories — dressing up to play the leopard and the hunter; toy guns with rolls of fire rounds we call ‘pottaz’; a set of imported sketch pens; an envelope full of stamps; my childhood sweetheart; lonely nights at my grandma’s place; her death; my first homecoming after I moved out… And there was grandpa ready to put the mandatory swing on the big mango tree.

He left us last December. As per matriarchal tradition, my family should abstain from festivities for a year. I still don’t know what got into my head — maybe the growing up part had robbed the fervor for the festivity — but I decided that I won’t go home this time.

Life has taken us, the ‘kids’ of the family, to various places. We were too busy to bother about pleasures of the yore.

It didn’t take long to realise that I was wrong. I was turning restless. Then, my aunt called — an invitation to spend the eve of Onam at her place, in Vellore, six hours away from Bangalore. She was in no position to take a leave for Onam on Monday. My cousin in Chennai too was coming down. So I took the early-morning trip, braving the fever and the cold.

We had a good Onam feast. Onam songs playing from the computer and the special programmes in Malayalam channels did provide an ambience. Then, a call came from Malluland.

“We’re off to the temple. It’s only the two of us here,” said my cousin sister.

I should have been there, but here I am, miles away from what Onam means to me — my village, my home, my dear and near. I painfully realise that I am still a nostalgic, emotional fool. I still crave for my Onam.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Commonwealth or Conman's wealth?

What would you do when your interests are at stake? You will desperately appeal to all those involved, so that you don’t lose anything. The picture is such an appeal, written by some crafty public relations executive and signed by Subrata Roy of the Sahara group, set to come out in papers of tomorrow, August 7.

“All our countrymen are feeling, talking, reacting so negatively to-wards the forthcoming Commonwealth Games at such time when they should be participating in, contributing to and celebrating it as the Grand Festival of India.”

I think either Mr Subrata Roy hasn’t properly read the draft, or he is out of his mind. Loot in the name of sports has been going on for quite some time; and we have superstars like IPL’s Modi; but this is something different.

Those involved in the commonwealth games were looting our money, which includes the four-digit tax I paid last week. India, half of whose population is struggling to meet even their daily ends, spending astronomical sums on such events is itself a crime — yes, I stick to the word. And it’s official that the government has diverted funds meant for the development of the backward classes towards this sham game.

“I am asking in all humility and cordiality whether for the wrongs of maybe a hundred people should the hopes & aspirations of 1.2 billion people be crushed,” goes the advertisement. Whose aspirations? Of the soldier in Siachen, who is fighting the biting cold and death in chilling terrain? Of the farmer in Kerala, who is crying over his flooded lands because our government had no funds to build stormwater canals? Or of the urban youth, who are hooked to their cellphones and gadgets, blissfully unaware of what is happening in the rest of the country?

The advertisement agrees that the media is doing its job, but goes on to say that the “media has already overdone it, causing a very big damage and maligning the image of the country”. My foot! When somebody starts looting your home when there is a function going on, what would you do Mr Subrata Roy? Stop the burglar or enjoy the function? Don’t you feel ashamed to put the blame on the media while the fact is that the ‘babu’s behind the scam are the ones who were “maligning the image of the country”?

We all know that public memory is short. And it is really sorry to see our nation’s image getting a dent, but I sincerely believe that this is the perfect time to bring up the issue. You strike the iron when it is hot. Once the games are over, media will stray to other hot topics, and this too will be sidelined — like Satyam’s Raju displaced by Lalit Modi; and Modi himself by Kalmadi.

As for the proper conduct of the event, those who are really interested in the development of sports and games will relentlessly work towards it, and they will have the support of the citizens. But sponsors are there not for the victory of sports, but for their share in the accounts and newspapers.

“The immediate need is to create an exceedingly positive environment for the present organizers,” goes on the release. I am sorry to say, but my biased mind understood it as “shut up and let the games continue, so that organisers like us can get what we want”. Let the loot go on!