Category Archives: memory

Being a daughter-in-law of Kerala

Happy Onam to all the wonderful people of Kerala. This post is kind of a personal love note to Kerala. I am writing this just out of sheer pleasure and love. 

It’s wonderful to be a daughter-in-law of Kerala. In my mother-in-law’s house, I am not expected to do any household work. Whenever I visit my mom-in-law, I get to eat delicious food without cooking.

My mom-in-law is the best thing about my marriage. We share a very loving and open relationship. We occasionally argue and bang phones too. But you see, everything is fair in love and fights. I shall now refer her as Senior Mrs Menon (SMM)

With every passing day. my love for Kerala food goes deeper and deeper. Now, my smartphone has my MIL’s recipes of Erissery, Thoran, Inji Puli, Kadala curry and the like neatly typed on the ‘Note’ app.

One of the reasons behind me agreeing to marry my husband is his surname. I have always loved the surname ‘Menon’. My twitter handle is @menondeepika though for all official purpose, I have retained my maiden name. But I love the sound of Deepika Menon.

When I first visited Kerala as a brand-new bride, my husband’s aunt asked me, “Deepika, chor indaka?” And I got damn excited thinking that how exciting to have a Chor/Thief (in Hindi chor means thief) in the house in broad day light. Well, even as I was imagining to put up a brave fight against the visiting thief, I found out that chor in Malayalam means rice. And my aunt-in-law was just checking whether I will have rice or not.

My soul sister is also a Menon woman and she lives in Dubai. Last year, both of us along with my soul-brother went to Kerala on a holiday. I was in tears when I boarded the flight to return to Ahmedabad (where I live and work). That trip to God’s Own Country felt magical. I really miss those moments.

I feel my father instantly agreed to my marriage plans because he thought Malayalis are very intelligent people. (Husband will be happy to read this)

On a good day, I can finish off 10 parippu vadas at one go (Kerala’s famous snack).  They are absolutely my favourites, I talked about parippu vadas so lovingly that Hussain (the man who was our navigator during our Kerala visit) offered to buy them for me.

I am a great sucker for Mallu sense of humour. During my first visit to Kerala, one of those cool aunts (with not so butter-tongue) told my husband that she’s very relieved to know that he doesn’t have a brother-in-law. She thought a wife’s brother generally has lots of nuisance value and little else to offer.

As a journalist, it feels great to be in Kerala because you see lots of people reading newspapers sitting in their verandah, garden or at roadside tea stalls.

My mom-in-law aka senior Mrs Menon during her growing up years in Kerala had a pet dog whose name was ‘Chundaran’ (such a lovely name to have). I asked mummy  about Chundaran’s diet and was in shock when I came to know that he ate idli-chutney, upma and the like. He lived long and led a very happy life. My mom-in-law still gets teary eyed talking about her favourite Chundaran.

All through my years in Delhi, thanks to my curly hair, people thought I was from Kerala (stereotypes at its best). Well, destiny took all those questions seriously and made me a daughter-in-law of Kerala.

When we were living in Bengaluru, one day I ran down the stairs thinking that my husband was having a fight with the Malayali broker as I overheard them talking in Malayalam. Well, they were at their cordial best and having quite a polite conversation.

After listening to them, I stopped any effort to speak Malayalam. But, hey you can’t bitch about me in Malayalam in front of me. I understand the language well. But, now I seriously want to speak the language fluently.  I hope to do it in this life —- My bucket list.

I now wear Kalumuthi’s  (my husband’s grandmother) necklace. I feel privileged to carry  a slice of history and family heritage with me though I never got the chance to meet her. I keep hearing stories about her life,  her wonderful skills in whipping up delicious dishes and her pearls of wisdom.

My new love in life is karimeen fry. Aah, Kerala take me back to your embrace soon. I want my karimeen.

KERALA

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Farewell

Kashmir… I love the sound of it. It’s my elusive lover. Four times, I have come close to Kashmir but I could never meet Kashmir. A land is like a lover, you might be ready for your lover but the lover is not ready to embrace you. There’s nothing you can do about it till it’s the time. I have my own imagination of Kashmir. Before the onset of every autumn (my favourite season), I always travel to Kashmir in my heart. Today, the whole of India is talking about Kashmir and the scrapping of Article 370. Beyond politics, there’s poetry. Agha Shahid Ali is one of my favourite poets and he was from Kashmir. He died at a young age but his poems are his legacy. He is there. Even in his absence. Here’s the poem titled Farewell by Agha Shahid Ali. 

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FAREWELL

At a certain point I lost track of you.
They make a desolation and call it peace.
when you left even the stones were buried:
the defenceless would have no weapons.

When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks,
who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes?
O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished,
who weighs the hairs on the jeweller’s balance?
They make a desolation and call it peace.
Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?

My memory is again in the way of your history.
Army convoys all night like desert caravans:
In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved- all
winter- its crushed fennel.
We can’t ask them: Are you done with the world?

In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other’s
reflections.

Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are found like this
centuries later in this country
I have stitched to your shadow?

In this country we step out with doors in our arms
Children run out with windows in their arms.
You drag it behind you in lit corridors.
if the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything.

At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me. You needed to perfect me.
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. You can’t forgive me.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect Enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory:

I am being rowed through Paradise in a river of Hell:
Exquisite ghost, it is night.

The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves.
It is still night. The paddle is a lotus.
I am rowed- as it withers-toward the breeze which is soft as
if it had pity on me.

If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn’t
have happened in the world?

I’m everything you lost. You won’t forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.
There is nothing to forgive.You can’t forgive me.
I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself.

There is everything to forgive. You can’t forgive me.

If only somehow you could have been mine,
what would not have been possible in the world?

Amritsar… after 25 years

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” — Pascal Mercier

I went back to Amritsar after 25 long years. I went there to honor my mother’s memory, I went there to heal myself. To liberate my inner self from loss, pain and longing. To celebrate happy memories and seek strength to move forward with a sense of joy and lightness. I hope, there will be a new beginning.

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Some experiences need to be only felt deep within your heart and expressing them in words will be diluting them. So, I will keep the ethereal experience of kneeling down and praying in front of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib to myself only.

“Is it your first visit to Amritsar?”

“No, I am coming back to Amritsar after 25 years.”

“Oh, my God… 25 years. That’s really long. Can’t believe it. Amritsar has changed so much.”

“Yes, India has changed, Amritsar has changed. I too have changed.” Civilizations, nations, cities, lives, narratives … all change. Change is the only constant element in this universe.

I also feel, in those moments of deep silence, tranquility and prayers, I found what I had left behind 25 years ago.

“Time is how you spend love,” I remember reading this somewhere. For me, Amritsar is all about love. Love for my mother, love for my father, sisters, little nephew, young nieces, love for my dearest soul sister carving her own life in Dubai,  love for my friend’s father who is confined to his bed for the last four years following a brain stroke, love for India, love for India’s diversity, love for humanity, love for service….

Love meeting love. Love embracing love. That’s Golden Temple for me.

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To Kerala, with love

It’s Onam today — Kerala’s much celebrated harvest festival. But how does one celebrate in the midst of loss, pain, grief and devastation? Kerala is going through a harrowing time because of the massive floods. The magnitude of this natural calamity is beyond anyone’s imagination. But then Kerala has a million stories of hope, love and generosity. Here’s to Kerala’s magical landscape and its beautiful, resilient people. Kerala, you will  always be close to my heart.

(I visited Kerala just a month ago i.e July, 2018. The pics are from my Kerala trip. )

 

PICTURE PERFECT

 

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UNDER A CLOUD… STANDING TALL

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BACKWATERS CALLING

kerala three

 

NET GAIN IN FORT KOCHI

kerala five

 

YOURS TRULY WITH KERALA’S TWINKLING STARS  

kerala six.JPG

 

LET’S GO QUIRKY

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Time

time

(I am writing this because often now I find people suffering from the ‘disease of being busy.’)

The year was 2003. Prasanna, my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. She was in her early 30s and before cancer took over her life, she was teaching in Ahmedabad’s Shreyas Foundation started by Leena Sarabhai, the montessori pioneer. Born in 1915 to Sarladevi and Ambalal Sarabhai in the prominent Sarabhai family, Leena Sarabhai was a pioneer in the field of education.  Prasanna always had high regards for Leena Sarabhai and really enjoyed working at the Shreyas Foundation. Post her cancer treatment, she was confined to her home. Leena Sarabhai wanted to meet her but she couldn’t come to visit her at home as she was not in a condition to climb up the stairs and there was no lift.

When Prasanna was admitted in the hospital for some complications, Leena Sarabhai came to meet her (the hospital lift made it easier for her). It was a December evening. She came with beautifully arranged flowers on a lotus leaf. It was refreshing to see somebody not rushing to a florist for a bouquet.

That meeting between Prasanna and Leenaben is etched in my mind forever. Probably that will be one of the most beautiful relationships between a boss and an employee. As 88 year old Leenaben held Prasanna’s hand delicately yet intimately, tears flowed freely from Prasanna’s eyes. She couldn’t speak that time as she was suffering from a rare head and neck cancer. Just to watch Leenaben wiping Prasanna’s tears gently was subliminal.  None of us were using mobile phones then and there were no way to capture any photograph then. But then I think it would have felt brutal to capture such love and affection in a camera. Most of us in the room were crying seeing that kind of love.

After spending some time with her, Leenaben left the hospital. Some of us accompanied her till the gate. As she was getting into the car, my husband said, “Leenaben, thank you for your time.”

She looked at us and said with a smile, “What’s time for?” 

Well, there was silence all around us.

(Leena Sarabhai passed away in 2012)

 

 

 

 

Love for all seasons

vietnam

This virtual home of mine has been lying neglected, untended. Blame it on an infection and subsequent fatigue I have been fighting hard against. But I have been thinking of my home quite often.

When the chips were down, I received a package from my friend who’s a wanderer. I call her ‘Tuk Tuk.’ In the last few months, she has been to Turkey, Greece and Vietnam. The package had this beautiful card from Vietnam, a packet of Lotus Tea and a Turkish tea coaster-cum-fridge magnet. The card lifted my spirits immediately, brought a huge smile on my face and the Lotus Tea gave me the warmth I so very needed. The Turkish beauty is the new charmer in my kitchen.

No matter how hard life is, love, kindness and thoughtfulness make the sailing little smooth. So, here’s a little note of love to the world. I know, I am late.. but here’s wishing a Happy 2018.

Let us just love. Just love. Without questions, theories, explanations or logic.

 

 

The ache

rishikesh

I went to Rishikesh many years ago. I loved the cool flowing waters of the river Ganga. I love rivers, the stories they carry within themselves, the way rivers flow even as stories around them keep changing.  I found a kind of resonance with Rishikesh and its crisp air.

Years later, my friend went and stayed at The Glasshouse on the Ganges. I fell in love with the images of this beautiful property. I had thought to myself, “When I will have little extra money to splurge, I will stay at The Glasshouse with my mother.”  I wanted to indulge my mother. She had always indulged me in myriad ways. It was my turn to indulge her.

But life on most occasions chooses its own path. By the time, I had little extra money to splurge on a luxurious Rishikesh holiday, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. And the travelling never happened. Because our journey had become a difficult one. Travelling itself had become a luxury considering the nature of her illness.

Now one of my close friends has gone to Rishikesh on a short holiday. And I can’t stop think thinking about the ‘Rishikesh holiday’ I so very wanted with my mother. The holiday that never happened.

Maybe I shouldn’t have waited for having a little extra money for a luxurious stay at the Glasshouse. Maybe I should have just gone ahead with whatever I had.

Maybe I am living with too many  ‘May Be(s)’.