Sunday, December 21, 2008

A journey to far-away land - Part II (Memories of Tirupattur)

(Continued from here)

Tirupattur is a quaint little town in Vellore district. My paternal ancestors moved in there a couple of generations back, and carved out a reputation and a couple of blocks of roads for themselves. Half my holidays during childhood were spent at this place that gave me wonderful experiences of life in the countryside. And I just loved it!

My grandpa had 7 kids - 3 sons and 4 daughters in that order. And all those 'kids' spawned families of 4 or 5 members each. Each one of these families was in a different place - Chennai / Bangalore / Hyderabad / Ramanagaram / Vellore / Tirupattur itself. But during hols, most of us would gather at 23, Pillayar Koil Street, Extension, Tirupattur (N.A Dist) - 635601.

The house was one of those typical ones you see in the movies - a fairly big, tiled house. The main gate led to an open area covered with a pandhal. Three steps directed one to a heavy wooden door flanked on either side with some seating space (thinnai). Grandpa's easy-chair was located here, and this is where he would lie down comfortably when someone came to meet him. Evenings saw the arrival of cows for milking here. The main door opened into the hall - or the 'fan room' as it was called in the household. Maybe it was the first room that was fitted with a fan. Dunno. Crossing over from the fan room, one would enter a corridor that went around a yard right in the middle. There were a few rooms lined up along the corridor (bada room, store room, chota room). The yard was covered on top with some grills and housed a Tulasi mutt that had an integral role in Grandma's pooja plans.

Our farmlands were about 3 kms from our house. Every morning, it would take loads of efforts from all the parents to coax us to have a bath in the house. We guys would tie towels on our heads and get ready to go to our farm for swimming. More often than not, we would keep roaming about that way for a couple of hours before resorting to a 2 minute bath in our house itself (Hunger!). But Balaji (my closest cousin there) and I would visit the farms at least once in 2 - 3 days and soak lazily in the water. It used to be an amazing feeling - with the sun beating down from the top, and the water keepin one's lower latitudes ultra cool, and a pleasant green cover all around.

I guess you know how hungry one gets after swimming in the sun for some time. So, whenever we went to our farm, as soon as we jumped into the pool the workers there would go and get us Parle G biscuits and "cool drinks" (Live - O / Love - O / Love One or pure simple color soda). And yeah, all this apart from the numerous tender coconuts! Live was heavenly. I (barely into my teens) would order around 30 and 40 year olds who would oblige with pleasure! (They used to call me "manager" after my father's designation at office).

At the peak in summers, the house would swarm with 33 people. 2 grandparents, 14 uncles/aunts/parents, 17 cousins - all under one roof!! At no point would the house be quiet. And if you count all our relatives living in the same street or the next, definitely the number would rise to a couple of hundreds.

My Grandpa was a very friendly, easy-to-go-with man. At the age of 78 he would come and play cricket with us! Just for a couple of overs. But still, at 78! He was physically very able - he could move a 4 ft big drum full of water without any help! And he always made sure people around him were very happy.

He had his own ways of doing it. Dad often talks of how after the results of exams came out, my Grandpa would go from house to house and reward every child with an amount equal to his rank in class! Those who used to fail in exams had the last laugh :D

All this until 10 years back.

In March 1998 my Grandpa breathed last.

Cancer ate him away.

It was a pitiable sight to look at the man waste away within half a year to such an extent that he wasn't able to turn around in his bed without help. So much that when he died, we felt a bit relieved that he didn't have to suffer any longer.

My sister's 10th standard results came out 2 weeks later. She had come school first. Had my Grandpa been alive, he would have relished the news and spread it around in a jiffy throughout the town!

Tough luck.

The very next year, when I went to Tirupattur for hols, there were just 2 of us - my Granny and myself.

It was initially exciting. The thought of having the house all for myself was just so fulfilling. Or so I thought. Just a couple of days later, I began to feel bored. The house seemed unusually huge... the life was just not there. And I spent hours everyday watching TV - the one that had been bought when Grandpa was in bed to keep him engaged. That was sort of the last nail in the coffin. For more than a decade, we had never realized the absence of a TV in the house. And now?

From then on, all my stays there were largely alone. The next time the entire house was in full strength was in April 2002 - when my Granny died. Now officially it was all over. Her death seemed to signify the end of my trips to Tirupattur. The whole house seemed distant and remote. As if it belonged to somebody else. As if I was just a visitor.

One month after her death, my class 12 results came out and I had topped the state.

Tough luck, again.

It's been 6 long years after that when I have visited Tirupattur hardly 4 - 5 times; nothing worth a mention. What made matters worse was that each time I went there recently with fond memories of the crowded past, I was greeted by the chilly solitude of the present. Kids have all grown up, and elders have grown older. I do not know whether it was the innocence of childhood, but I somehow feel people were happier 10 years back than they are now. And that is so damn inconsistent with my image of Tirupattur.

Why do we have to grow up?!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A journey to far-away land

It was 01:20. That meant 10 more minutes for the scheduled end of the class. But our Quantitative Methods sir decided to end the class then and there. I heaved a sigh of relief. My train to Chennai was at 02:30 and I needed to leave the campus as soon as I could. 10 mins was a lot of time then.

But the moment the Prof signalled the end of the session, the whole class began shouting “Last class as bachelor for Vishwaaaaaaa!”. And Muru screamed “Please advise him, Sir!”.

In his characteristic style, DinKu sir quoted a one-liner: “Love is blind. But marriage is an eye-opener. You will learn it soon.”

Then with a little prodding from Sir, the class started looking for someone to sing some song for me. A few arbit leg-pulls later, Abhilash stood up. As is his wont, he began by saying “On behalf of section D, let me sing a song for you”. Sportively, he then rendered a few lines of nalam vaazha ennaalum en vaazhthukkal. Felt great to listen to that!

Half an hour, and an auto fight later, I was seated in Brindavan Express wondering about the past few weeks. So much had happened in my life. I had got through Mahindra & Mahindra for a group management role – an assignment I am really excited about.

And my marriage was fixed.

I had fixed the bride a long time back, but the wedding itself was finalized the day after I got placed. And the muhurth was just 3 weeks away! That meant near zilch time for all preps, and so both the households spurred into action. And here I was at IIMB... Far away from all the action. From all the excitement. As people at home discussed invitation lists and travel plans, I was worrying myself about assignments and submissions that would mean nothing in the larger scheme of things for me!

And it was largely that. The only thing I did for my own marriage was – inviting my friends. That exhausts most of the efforts I took for this big moment of mine. So naturally I was missing the zing in my consciousness that one would normally associate with such an event in one’s own life.

Until last Saturday.

That was when my friends organized a surprise bachelor’s party for me! I had absolutely no clue about it until a few minutes before I was taken to the venue. And it felt grrrrrrrrrrreat! The moment I reached G-top – our standard venue for parties – the whole group erupted into loud cheers. And scared the hell out of me! The crowd was much bigger than it normally was, and that was reason enough for me to feel great. The proceedings began the playing of a video that my friends had shot for me – allllllll girls of my class said things to me on the video that I could not publish here simply cos Mom frequents this space. Ok the video was scripted and staged. So what! Not many know that na ;) Muru, NT, Vineet and Das led the class in doing so much – the first few moments when the thought that I was getting married actually sunk in.

It was 4.30 AM when Pehla Nasha was played to signal the end of the revelry. The crowd had thinned, but my excitement had not.

Cut to the present.

Seated in the Brindavan, I was wondering about how fast the past few weeks had gone by. As I marvelled at that, a couple of guys rushed into the compartment and looked around, calling out to someone outside “All seats till 32 are ours”.

Mine was 36. And that meant I was right in the thick of the action. A huge group of people of all shapes, ages and sizes started filing in. One look at them would tell anyone that it was a marriage gumbal. As the bride stood outside the coach bidding adieu to everything and everybody she had known over the 20+ years of her being, I couldn’t help but think that this scene was just a few days away in my own life.

Pretty soon the train started moving and I got immersed in my laptop. An hour later I began watching Dasvidaniya. When the movie came to the part where Vinay Pathak visits his childhood crush Neha and they begin discussing memories, I suddenly got a whiff of a fragrance that took me back to my own childhood in a jiffy. It made me take a reflex peek outside the window. And spot the broad expanse of the Yelagiri Hills.

That meant Jolarpet.

That meant Tirupattur – my native place. The Tirupattur that I used to visit once in 3 – 6 months when I was a kid. The Tirupattur where 32 of us would reside under a single roof during the summer holidays. The Tirupattur where the absence of a TV at home meant absolutely nothing to any of us kids. The Tirupattur where there were dozens of relatives living literally a stone’s throw away.

The Tirupattur that I had not visited for years now.

Continued here

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Countdown...