Sunday, 17 September 2017

My first school


my estate school days

I had not been a regular school student till I was nine or ten. My occasional sojourns in the estate schools, the schools meant for the Tamil labour's children, where all students sat together in a single room irrespective of the age, class or even  the language, did not offer any chance for friendships. The special seat and status I enjoyed in the school/class even discouraged others from getting near.

The only occasion I got a friend was when Raghu joined. Well dressed and hair neatly combed he had a kuri ( a mark) of sandal paste on his forehead. My teacher Rao sar seemed to have a special respect to him.

We two sat on a small bench, a bit away from our teacher on a chair with arms and a table in front of him. We were a bit away from the rest of the school, they crowded the remaining benches while the smaller ones on the floor. The seating arrangement offered us a lot of freedom to pursue our hobbies and interests. We freely exchanged stamps and match box stickers and talked while the teacher managed others.

Raghu seemed to know everything and required no more coaching. And I had personal coaching at home by the same teacher in the evening. So  we needed little attention from the teacher in the school . He devoted most of his  time controlling the students by sending boys and girls separately at different intervals to the urinals  and punishing the fighters. And the like.

There used to be group activities  in which everybody joined, like the Multiplication tables in Tamil, the teacher recited and all students repeated. We too joined them, at times, though we were not supposed to. The national anthem at the end of the day used to be the loudest with our contribution.  Before joining the school  I used to wonder why they shouted so loud.

‘Aana avanna’  the Tamil nursery rhyme which aids to remember tamil alphabets was another group activity we enjoyed attending. It was also for all ages and all classes.

We enjoyed  watching  the  ball game played by the boys  on the days we attended the afternoon session while the girls played some games indoor using pebbles and chanting

But the pit of tea waste which was the main attraction of the school was closed by the time I joined . The boys used to jump into the feather soft fresh tea dust  deposited into it daily . It had fresh tea smell  and never stained or sticked to your body. But some one started stealing it to adulterate tea sold in the market and the factory started adding a smelly medicine to prevent adulteration. It was likely to cause skin irritation my father told me. So all of us  avoided the pit with a nostalgic look.

The republic day  celebrations in the school was another novel experience.

The luck dip with a difference where all the students won some prize or other was the main item. The prizes  with serial numbers were displayed on a table in front of the chief guest who distributed the prizes to the children. My father  was the chief guest. The prize was announced first and the winner was chosen by  drawing lots . Small scrolls with the names of  students were  picked  from two bottles.  

Raghu  and me were at the bottles picking up the scrolls alternately.

I enjoyed it as if the gifts were being distributed at my pleasure.  But I must admit I would have enjoyed better  a if I was alone. The presence of Raghu  lessened my feeling great to a considerable extend.

Towards the end of the lucky dip, when the scrolls in the bottles were almost at the bottom, there was a break.  the good prizes still on the table, the teamaker ,Raghu’s uncle took the bottles from us  shook vigorously and gave back telling Raghu something I could not  make out. It was  at the time I noticed a scroll which was folded to appear different  from other rolled ones. There was one  similar in Raghu’s bottle also.

The teamaker said something and Raghu took the odd roll. His name was on the it and he won one of the best prizes. There was a murmur among the gathering and we continued drawing. Though Raghu seemed to have lost interest in I continued enjoying it.

I chose the odd one in my bottle last, to win a moderate prize, a celluloid soap dish, though I was prompted to take the folded earlier. The murmur subsided. Every one started to leave only the national anthem held them back.

“Why didn't take the one I told you?” The Teamaker seemed accuse me.

“Since you told me to do so” I wanted to answer, but I was afraid.

On our way back home, my brother taunted me, “you got the last prize ha ha ha“

“It was very nice that he did not win one of the best prizes other wise I would have been in an awkward position” my father said.

I was very confused. Why did he say so?.

I think as children we failed to understand stand the grown up. But it is a paradox as grown-ups too we fail understand the children many a times.

Friday, 15 September 2017

The blue fox


In those days we had not even heard about the TV. The radios were rare and they provided more disturbances than  entertainment in the hills of Munnar. Especially in the rainy season during which we were afraid even to switch it on and I kept away from  it for fear of explosion.

Our only source  of entertainment  in those days were stories  from  our  father. That too was rationed. Just one a night.

I don't think he had that many to last all those nights. Many were made by him at the spur of the moment. Many were repeated with slight changes​. The stories came with the condition that no one should talk after hearing it and we should go to sleep immediately. “Dog poo in the mouth of who speaks next” my brother used to declare immediately  after the story that ensured full obedience to the law. At times I too got the chance to make the declaration. But it prevented any type of discussions.

Of all those stories  one l liked best was that of the blue fox, who accidentally got drenched in blue dye. According to my father the fox’s family and friends refused to accept him as one among them because of his colour.  It cannot be. May be they were jealous of his shining color. I was sure, it was not his intention to become the king of the forest, the circumstances offered him no other way to escape.

I had a soft corner for him. In fact I even liked  the fox. There were many in the estate. We used come across them quite frequently. They were very timid,  and were even afraid of me. I wanted to request  my father to change the story to spare his life, but the dog’s poo…….

My mother used to sing “rain and shine the little fox’s  marriage” and I used to rush to her to hear it whenever ever it started raining with sun shining.  I liked it very much. I could imagine a grand wedding with a lot of foxes  in attendance and a grand  feast with lot of sweets and singing.

On such an occasion we heard a loud commotion from the henns. Looking through the window we saw a fox running away with two of our hens. It was a ghastly sight to see them hanging lifeless on either side of his mouth.

That changed our relationship drastically.I was convinced  the blue fox deserved the punishment. I too started  looking for  an opportunity to  punish the fox who killed  our hens.

Shortly afterwards one sunday evening I  saw a few foxes on the rock behind our house. It was about to rain and my father was at home.

My father had a double barrel gun and he was very good at shooting. I was  able to persuade him to take the gun and come out.I wanted to kill the foxes in revenge

“But there is a problem. We don't  eat foxes How can we kill them for hunting for their food” my father said  thoughtfully

“It is a sin to kill unless you want to eat” he repeated

“But who eats foxes anyway.”  I was disappointed

“The tiger, the leopards and even wild dogs”. My father said

I could imagin the tiger leopard and wild dogs in the gathering around the blue fox but no human being.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

GST and my dog

It was early in the morning. As usual I had just opened  the door  of the doghouse and turned to go to the gate to  get the news paper.
Hello’ I turned back.  It was our dog Husky.
I had been observing the change in the dog's behaviour for the past  few months. But I never expected him to talk like us.
Michael Crichton in his novel  ‘Congo’ says it is unbecoming for us to assume that we are superior to  animals and still  talk to them in our language and expect them to understand rather than to understand and  use their language.
Husky is a very intelligent  dog. He has taught me many words of his vocal language and body  language to such a level that I can understand  all his limited needs.
Looking around  to assure that no one else is around I said ‘yes huskey?’
‘GST’  he replied.
I quickly  searched my brain  ‘GSD german Shepherd  dog not GST’ I said thinking of the dog who comes at times to meet husky
‘GST’ he repeated emphatically.’
What complaint a dog can have about  GST I wondered.
‘Security ‘ he said as if he read my mind. I Looked  at him enquiring.
‘ Service’ he said in explaining
I think he read the expression  on  my face and waited for my answer.
‘Dogs are not liable to pay or collect taxes.’ I was sure he is not aware of the tax system that even our legal experts are not familiar with.. I saw  some relief  in him.
‘Food’ he said in sign language.
I remembered the dog biscuits  I used to give in the morning without  his asking. So I said ‘Oh the GST on biscuits !  it is going to be costlier ‘
‘Bones’ he  said showing me the sign for it. I was familiar  with it as he used it to welcome me back home on Wednesdays with the KFC chicken.
I thought for a moment  and said ‘going to be costly and difficult  to get. They don't want us to kill animals. Only  vegetables’
He was crestfallen .  I was about to say  ‘fish is available  still’  but remembered  the Matsya Avatar  and turned  fast  to avoid his noticing the change  in  my face. I did not take  the newspaper thought I will tell you first.  

Wednesday, 31 May 2017


In those days they used to call me Nasseekarana kappal (Destroyer). With the role of Destroyer class of ships in the World War II fresh in their mind, they might have found a close similarity in me. What ever it be, my ability to spoil any thing that came to my hand was well acknowledged by all in my family.

Along with the fragile things that came to my hand, came the idea to destroy it, disguised as fun games. The bottles were my frequent victims. My cry Enna Kuppi thazhe poye (oil bottle fell down) was so disturbing that my elder sister remembers it even to day. To me all bottles were oil bottles irrespective of their contents whether it be ink or kerosene. You can imagine how damaging it could be.

Our house on a small mount by the road, had a flight of steps and broad parapet like walls on either side in place of hand rail. It was a perfect substitute for the slides we have in parks for children, but for its rough top. My brother who is only two years elder, and me used to make good use of it till it tore our shorts in to strands and burned our butts. So we were normally alloted only old shorts when we were at play.

One day my brother and me were competing in sliding down the slanting walls on either side of the steps. The rough surface soon started telling it tore my shorts and burned my buts while my brother continued. I ran in and came back in new shorts. The one I got when my brother got some six for joining school.

I kept it back when we were inside.

Once in a while we, the entire family used to go to Munnar where my uncle lived. It was then we went to cinema. That week end was such a day. In the afternoon every body got dressed for the occasion, and the condition of my new shorts came to light. To my dismay there were no other clean ones. My mother was counting on dressing me up in the new shorts for the movie.

I was in tears no one was in favor of taking me to Munnar in the torn shorts. I begged my brother, but he was not relenting.

At last I surrendered all my nick names for his free use and borrowed one of his shorts - large almost like a middy skirt. I could hardly stand his sneering look. But there was no other choice.

In movie MGR danced in a shining Black skirt, while his heroine drove the bullock cart singing, but it offered little comfort to me. My beautiful cousin, who was a college student in those days, seeing my gloomy face held my hand while we walked back home. Even that was not much of a consolation to me, I wept silently till I slept.

But the days that followed were still worse. My brother made best use of his right to use my nick names. Which were otherwise prohibited because of the the distress they caused to me. Many had stories attached to it, which were down right hurting me.

That made me hunt for ways to save the bottles and many other things that came to my hands and Ways to preserve them. Slowly I lost the name destroyer. surely a new one came in its place. I will tell you later about it.

I mean the ones u surrendered :)

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Devikulam teacher

I had many nicknames. But the
one that got  stuck on me for a long time, was ‘Devan‘ . It was not at all a bad name. It was fashionable  even among film stars of those days. But It outlived many other nicknames I had. Not because of its novelty. But because of the unbearable  misery  it caused to me, which my brother  enjoyed much,

The story behind the nickname was so humiliating that  I would have  prefered any other, even the dirtiest one.

I did  not have much of schooling till eight. The private tuition at home taught me a bit of malayalam  and arithmetics. The estate schools to which I was sent for  short periods  to get a taste  of school atmosphere  taught me only a few tamil bad words. So at the age of seven I  was sent to the government school at Devikulam where the medium of instruction was malayalam.

The Devikulam  government high  school had a headmistress at that time. I don't think  I knew her name.  We used to refer to her as Devikulam teacher.

My father secured admission for  me  towards the end of an academic year. I think such admissions were rare and my father was able to secure  it only because of his position. I heard my father telling mother that the the headmistress agreed to admit me only  after  some  persuasion and that she too was bothered about education  of her girl child who was of my age. It seems  that my brother  also was there at the time.  

On the day of my joining the school I carried  a gift for the headmistress. It was a large packet  of the best  quality  tea along with the gate  pass that was required  to take it to anywhere. I was  sent  sufficiently  early  on that day  to the school along  with the peon of the estate office so that  I could  give it to the headmistress before  going to the school.  The teacher lived in a quarters on the road to the  school. I met her in front of her house and gave  her the packet  as instructed .The teacher  was pleased she asked me to convey  her  thanks  to my father. Her daughter  was also  with her. She had her head tilted to one  side always. Even  while  talking and walking.It was the first time I saw  such a person and I told my mother about her on my return from school.

My Devikulam school days  were limited  to  a month or so  and was event less, may be because I was familiar with  such  short assignments. I got promoted to the next class at the year end and became  eligible  to join any school.  But my problems  started there after.

My brother who was in the knowledge of  my educational standard was rather sarcastic  about the promotion I got. One day while playing snake and ladder he got angry with me on losing three games in a row and alleged I won the games by cheating  just  like the promotion. “Tea gift” he called  out and thus the new name  started . Later he modified it to just “tea’. But though it served the purpose the name  was not good enough. So  he started calling out Devikulam teacher   whenever required as he did not know her name. He later shortened it to Devikulam and Devi. But Devi being a lady he changed it to Devan without  losing the effect on me. I would  not have cared much but for  what  followed.

Not satisfied with the new name on me he  attached a new theme.  I was to marry the teacher's  daughter and my father had agreed to it to secure the  promotion he added  

You know  how painful it was. But my brother did not stop even there

While calling Devan  he tilted his head as if he were the girl .

My parents and  elder sisters refused to interfere  in spite  of my besieging them to stop my brother from calling me Devan. ‘Devan ‘ means a lesser god as per the Hindu  mythology . How can it  be an offensive one they used to point out. And my brother continued to enjoy  some what free use of it for a long time to my utter despair.

I tried many names on him, to even out, without any success. So I  suffered for a long time.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The prayer

One may say I am a non believer. But if you ask me I am not sure. By definition God is every where but no one has ever seen Him. He is all powerful but wants us, fragile humans to fight the evil for Him. He knows every thing but wants us, dim wits, to spread His message, He is all merciful but all the calamities are His punishments to set us right. He expects us to pray to Him, but His intentions will not change. Yes I am just confused.

So these stories about the devils of Gods own country

The prayer

'Have you any pens?' 
I looked up.
He was not young but I could not place him on the age scale.
“ This is only a medical shop, we do not sell pens” He was my first customer of the day and some thing about him prevented me from disappointing him so I added “ but I can lend you one”.
He was very happy. “ I may take more time to return “ he said hesitating to take it.
“No problem I have many for my use”.
A call interrupted us. “Yes I am Joby” I said to the person on the line, while the borrower of the pen moved away and I forgot about it.
It was almost noon when I went out to get some change. I saw him sitting on the steps of the nextshop, which was closed, busily writing. I smiled at him and went on with my work.
Being a week end I had lot to do and did not notice the time.
“Thanks a lot” he returned the pen and waited for a minute looking around. No one else was there on the counter .
I noticed something wild in his eyes and a number of letters in his hands
He smiled and gave me one
It was addressed to me. Mr. Joby, Care well Druggist, KK Road
I took it and started reading. I did not notice him leaving
It was a prayer, the usual one with an introduction requesting to forward copy of it to 11 people and
gain innumerable benefits and a conclusion warning about the likely damages for not doing. I was
not only disappointed but rather angry
But I could not stop smiling when I saw the signature below.
It was SATAN in red ink and I saw his face smiling below.

Monday, 19 May 2014

My favourite leopard

The Leopard I loved

Have you ever wondered what the opposite of fear is? You may say it is bravery. But it depends on the circumstances. Don’t you fear things and circumstances you are not familiar with?. But familiar ones…. yes, familiarity breeds contempt.

It was possible in one's young days to love the unknown, but fear remained as years passed by. A paradox?
I will try to explain.

We were afraid to go out for a few days after the leopard appeared in the tea estate. The women  picking tea spotted it one afternoon. Though leopards are said to roam free at night in the dark, they are typically not seen during the day. So its appearance during the afternoon was taken as a violation of normal conduct and the menfolk  promptly started their hunt for the intruder.