A gave me a birthday gift two weeks ago. Ah, I should probably say that the original gift that I was supposed to get dissolved into thin air on account of the fact that my visit to India was unprecendented and unexpected at the time of her arrival, and realizing that it was almost impossible that the two of us would meet during her trip back home, and calculating carefully that the postal department would make a killing on parcel registration almost nullifying the value of the gift, she had come to the conclusion that it would be better to give me this gift the next time we met, which could not be longer than another two years in time (I have simplified her original explanation which ran into seven and a half pages on standard A4 size paper - front and back).
So after a million whines of self-pity on having no birthday acknowledgement from someone I have known forever, she agreed to put together the one thing I really have wanted for a long while. A CD of tamil songs. Not that I've not heard tamil songs before, but not like this. The CD has pretty much blown me away - you could call it an obsession I guess.
On the other hand, I think whoever said mallu is tougher to learn than tamil knew nothing about either language! I'm a little language shy and A scares the hell out of me every time I try to speak two words. So a few days back I manage a Innu onnum pannala * and she's on it straight away -
"No! What Innu? You should say innukku!"
"But innu is passable no?" (hands a little sweaty)
"NO! It's not passable! And what onnum pannala? This is not your mallu - say innukku onnume pannala * !"
"OK..." (My voice is shaking and I can't say another word)
Hah, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If it's I it has to be pannitaen ^ , if it's he it has to be pannitaan ^ , if it's she it has to be pannitta ^ (oh, actually in very pure tamizh it has to be pannittaal ^, but in conversation pannitta is passable :P ) And elders you have to respect, OK? No enna pannara ** and all... it has to be neenga enna pannareenga ** !
Where does my paavam mallu compare to this where a simple Endhu cheyyuva ** ? would fit everyone and everything!!
But I'm having fun inspite of all the domination and humiliation. And for that, A, you're officially forgiven for everything ;)
The strands in your eyes That color them wonderful Stop me and steal my breath Emeralds from mountains Thrust towards the sky Never revealing their depth
Today completes three years since I left Bangalore - then and now one of my cities of dreams. The place where I gained a little, lost a little, and still continue to learn - a lot. This is a dedication to everything that makes the city what it is - the traffic, the streets, the double meter auto rides, the restaurants, and more than anything else - the people who made my life the way it is now.
The balloon seller was filling up his balloons with helium. He had a daily ploy to attract his young customers. Just as children started coming out of school, he would grab a dozen balloons of various colours and let them loose into the air. It always worked. One hour's work in the evening and he would make enough money for a decent meal three times a day.
On one such day, just as he was about to pack up, he felt a little tug on the bottom of his shirt. Looking down, he saw a little kid looking up at him with his dark brown eyes. "Uncle, if you fill a black balloon with air and leave it, will it also fly like the others?" His small voice brimmed with innocence.
The balloon seller patted him on the head. "It doesn't matter what's on the outside, son. It's what's inside that counts."
I heard this story in church today. I've heard a lot of them before, with long winded parallels and implications that would finally give a moral science lesson. But this one surprised me. Like that one-in-a-hundred story that makes you smile, just because it is so simple its truth can't be denied.
And I suppose that however late, we all realize that it's true. It's what's inside that counts.