An Unexpected Trip

I was in Kerala all last week. My mom wasn’t well and needed surgery. I found out Thursday, while I was in the middle of work (cos my parents believe that telling bad news is something that can be left to the last possible moment). I took the next flight out, at 4am. The week was spent running in and out of hospitals, mainly. There was a lot of waiting, a lot of stress, and a lot of suppression of emotions cos you have to look brave in front of mommy and act like everything’s gonna be okay so she’s not more freaked out than she already is.

Thankfully, it all did go okay. The surgery went well, and she’s recovering, though slowly. Before they wheeled her into surgery, she made sis and I promise that we’d participate in the Attukal pongalaSis had already done it the previous year, with mom, but I’m not exactly religious. My religious practices revolve more around the eating of the prasad rather than the making of it!

If you’re too lazy to check the link, lemme give you an idea of what the Attukal Pongala is. It’s an offering of sweet rice pudding (or other stuff, this is what I made) for the deity of the Attukal temple in Trivandrum, Kerala. This ritual is meant to be done only by women (dunno why) and the prasad needs to be cooked outside, in a 5km radius around the temple. People flock to Trivandrum days in advance and reserve spaces around this 5 km radius to ensure that they have a good spot on D Day.


This was a couple of days before the day

lining the streets

On the day of pongala


Fortunately, I happen to live around this 5km radius, and we asked our watchman to save a spot for us, so it was pretty chilled out for us, relatively. In fact, I think my aunt, sis and I had the easiest pongala ever cos we had a shady spot right beneath our building and could walk up to the apartment and back whenever we needed to. We didn’t have to go to our spots at 5am carrying all the ingredients (including water) and wait till 10:30 in the heat for when the ritual actually begins.

The payasam is easy enough to make -first add water and wait till it boils. Then add the rice. When the rice is half-cooked,  add the jaggery and cardamom.

Making the payasam

Making the payasam

Towards the end, I added some grated coconut and chopped up a few small bananas as well. You can add other stuff like nuts and raisins, but I left it as is.

All done!

All done!

Pretty simple, right? The tricky part is doing this on a wood-fire, with an earthen pot propped on a “stove” of 3 bricks. The smoke from the fire makes your eyes water like crazy and you’re half-blinded by the tears and the smoke during the entire process.

In spite of this rudimentary method of cooking, I had a lot of fun. I was with my fun-aunt and my sis, and we shared a lot of laughs between us. Plus it was a relief to just concentrate on making the payasam instead of worrying about mom. It was somehow comforting to feel like I was doing something in an otherwise helpless situation. And it was a pleasure to see it all come together pretty easily into a tasty payasam. Everyone around me was doing the same thing (some people were making multiple pots even!), which kinda brought us all together in some strange way, even though I couldn’t relate to all the piousness and felt like I was a visitor in a Members Only area.

If you’re ever in Kerala during this time, you can’t escape the excitement for sure, but try and be a part of it, just for the experience. You won’t regret it.


My Parents’ Home

For the longest time, I didn’t really see what the big deal was about visiting Kerala. When people talk about going there as if it is an exotic holiday destination I find it slightly amusing, considering it is my parents’ home and I’ve always gone there as a kid during summer vacations.

Of course, when I went as a child, it basically meant spending half my time in a white ambassador, being driven around from place to place and visiting countless relatives and giving them “gifts from the gulf” (just call me Santa Claus! :P). I was used to getting pinched on my cheeks and them asking me if I remembered them from when I was 2 yrs old (I didn’t,duh!).

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself ! My grandma lives in the middle of a sleepy little village, in an old house with a lovely large verandah where you can sit and watch the heavens open up during the monsoon rains! The raindrops fall thick and heavy, and I used to watch the the earth soak it up and then overflow into puddles and little rivulets of brown water that eventually get soaked up by the thirsty trees. Guess that explains why the place is so vividly green!

The front yard was shaded by huge mango and jackfruit trees  and there were lovely bushes of jungle geraniums, hibiscus and fragrant jasmine flowers bordering the yard. Beyond the border was a tangle of wild trees and bushes and I was asked to never venture out there on my own (for fear of snakes!).  The flora and fauna spilling out of the place was amazing! For a kid who lived in the desert in a tiny little apartment where the view had nothing more interesting to offer than sand coloured buildings and parked cars, this was all very fascinating!

We had all kinds of fruits and vegetables growing in our “garden”. My aunt used to pluck pineapples from the heart of the thorny shrubs and make me the most delicious pineapple juice ever!  It was thick and pulpy (yeah, I like pulp!) and sweet as honey! I used to be on a steady diet of fruits there – jackfruits, custard-apples, guavas, rose-apples, bananas, mangoes… oh! the mangoes!

My granma’s sister who lived up the hill (a 2 min climb away) from her, used to have a little vegetable garden where she used to grow fench beans and tomatoes and chillies and root vegetables like yam and tapioca. She used to potter around the garden in the mornings after breakfast, to figure out what to make for lunch! I used to follow her around, see her pluck the fresh veggies and turn it into a lovely meal in the afternoon – delicious!

We used to keep chickens and rabbits and goats and cows, not to mention dogs… and I used to “help”  take care of them by “walking the goat” and trying to milk the cow (didn’t work!).

It doesn’t feel like that anymore when I go to Kerala. I feel quite the outsider – the stubbornly-single, independent(said in a bad way) girl whom everyone immediately places as ” not from around here”.  The endless questions that intrude on my personal space and defy the bounds of social norms – Why are you not married? Why is your hair brown? (! ! Born that way?!) When are you buying a car for your mother? (Why the hell would I wanna do that after the way she drove here?!)

We have a flat in the city now, which is where I spent most of my annual 2-week long trips there. Things are very different now.

But I get why people want to go there I guess. The place is beautiful, in a wild, untamed way. The beaches are still lovely,  the weather is balmy, the food is as amazing as ever. And the monsoons still beat down on us like it always used to.

I guess the major change then, is me.

monsoon in kerala

Time flies like an F1 car!

Okay so the Eid hols have ended and we’re back at work (where I should be working I know! :P).

As the Salalah plan went bust, and cos we weren’t able to get bookings at a decent rate anywhere else so late in the game, we went camping instead. To Dibba. It was a far cry from chilling at the Hilton and sipping on wine, but it was fun anyway.

Well…mostly fun. I did end up getting bitten by something that made my arm swell up like a balloon, which was pretty awful. Plus, I’m not much for peeing out in the open, especially when there are crazy campers nearby driving around with quad bikes, threatening to turn your way at any moment (make your own deer-caught-peeing-in-headlights- jokes here), so that was a bit bugging. Also,  we were late in reaching our campsite, so we had to pitch tents using the light of our car (and by we, I mean the guys :P).

After we’d downed a few vodka-cranberries and got the bonfire going, it was pretty chilled out.  I remember one guy got so wasted that he took food from a plate, bit into it and asked ” hey! Why is this kebab round?” And then someone else turned to him and said ” err… cos that’s a burger!”  In my “high-spirited” state, I found that hilarious! Oh, who am I kidding, I still find it hilarious! One of the guys had a guitar with him and kept strumming on it off and on, which was lovely!

I’d forgotten my sleeping bag and all I had with me for cover was a fleece blanket, and that got my allergies going, so I spent a not-so-comfortable night on the hard ground with a stuffy nose. We woke up the next day feeling all grimy and icky and all we wanted to do was get home and have a hot shower!  And boy! When I finally got home and had that shower… bliss!

I think this is mainly why I should go camping more often… so I appreciate the things in life that I would otherwise take for granted!

Anyway… I do have something exciting coming up for this weekend! I’m gonna marshal at the F1 Grand Prix again this year (I was a marshal last year as well), and just getting my mail from the Marshals Club and reading through all the instructions and everything’s getting my heart racing again! It is a different world, that one.. and such a glamorous one at that! I was supposed to go to the Delhi one as well, but unfortunately, with all my bad decision making, I decided to give that one a miss and go to Goa instead. And then Goa went bust! *sigh*

Anyway… at least I’m going to the UAE F1! So all psyched about that! I’m an intervention marshal. Which means that if there’s an accident, or oil spill or any sort of incident near where I am, I (and the rest of the team) need to get it fixed! Hope something interesting happens at my post(not deadly dangerous, just interesting!).

Either ways… you’ll hear about it here! :D






In the end…

It’s not a trip ending that bothers me so much as to what it entails.

When I go for a business trip, I book a cab to the airport. On my way back, I catch a cab from the airport. I’m alone most of the time, and though I hate the impersonal feel of the hotels, I’m used to it, it’s a part of my job.

But when I go on holiday, I’m never on my own. I always either go with friends, or I go visit friends or family. And my days are spent with people all around me. My last trip was to Cape Town, and there were 12 of us living under one roof, cooking breakfast, lounging around the pool or playing silly games around the fireplace. Even when I was just lying on the couch reading a book, I’d still have people chatting around me… some sorta amiable presence.

And then when I get back, I wave goodbye to my family of 10 days and walk away alone. I struggle with the luggage, lugging it to my house, and open the door to an emptiness that is all the more depressing cos of what I just left behind.

Being a part of a family, for even a brief time, a part of something uncomplicated, somewhere that you’re accepted for who you are, and they actually like you … I miss that the most.

Even after being pretty much on my own since the age of 18, I guess I still haven’t really gotten the hang of being alone.

I know of people who crave it, who are completely happy (or so they say) with not having a semblance of stability in their lives, and being completely alone.  I wish I could understand how to be that way. Cos I get the feeling that I’ll probably have to get used to it.

I am comfortable enough in my own skin, and I *know* how to be alone. I won’t go crazy. But I won’t be happy. And it all boils down to that doesn’t it?

A mom and more!

My mum, and her mum, have not had easy lives.  I’m not comparing my life with their’s or equating their suffering to mine. Times were different, lives are different, and the paths we come across are different.

My mum and I don’t get along. It’s not that I don’t love her, I do. But there’s always been a lot of tension between us since I went off to college. I wasn’t always very sure of what I wanted (I’m still not, but I am sure of what I don’t want!) and this has conflicted a lot with what my mom wants from me, which created a rift between us that has just increased the older I grew.

But she’s always been Mom. She’s always the person who will take care of me when I’m sick. When I got my shoulder injured last year, I cancelled all my other plans and went back to India, to mom. To eat mom’s cooking,  to heal in her care. And though the woman drives me crazy, we also have a great time together whenever we agree on things! :P

My sister, who my mum is extremely close to, left for higher studies to the UK around 3 years ago, and my mum’s been pretty much at a loose-end since, feeling lonely and upset and missing my sis a lot!

But last year, she discovered yoga, got interested in it so much that she took a course to become a certified yoga practitioner, and  now… now she’s doing her MSc in Yoga! Yeah! :D

Before she left for uni, she left enough food to last dad the 10 days she’d be gone and ensured that everything would be alright while she was away (she’s a very traditional conscientious wife that way). But dad still missed her presence and was calling her 2-3 times a day anyway (which is so weird! If you knew my dad, you’d know what I meant! He usually claims to be completely self-sufficient! :P)

She’s back now, after a long and exhausting couple of weeks which she seemed to thoroughly enjoy!

Chatting with her usually involves her trying to get me married to someone or the other she’s found on some matrimonial site (yes, I’m on all of them I’m sure! She’s created profiles for me everywhere!)  which ends up with us arguing about the same thing again, leaving us both feeling frustrated and depressed!

Today though, it was all about her Uni and the people she met there and the way the students treated her so nicely (the ones she befriended are students around 20-25 years old) and how amazing it all was.

The university she’s in spans about 25 acres and going from the hostel to the canteen is in itself  a 15 min walk.  And going outside the campus was out of the question as she’d have to walk at least 20-25 mins to get anywhere. This one day, she had a headache and told her friend that she’s going to skip lunch and went to sleep. A while later, this girl comes back with some medicines and a sliver of watermelon, saying that she shouldn’t stay hungry if she had a headache! She’d gone out and bought it all for her!

It gladdens my heart that she’s meeting people from different walks of life, and that they love her and respect her and are actually taking care of her!

But…I do feel slightly… jealous? :o/

I mean, she’s my mom! She’s my mommmm!

But suddenly’s it’s like she’s this whole other person, with a whole new life! A life that I’m absolutely not a part of!
I’m so proud of what she’s doing! And  incredibly happy for her, and yet, just a little … I dunno… is jealous the right word if you feel like you’re missing out on something?  I’m so used to her just being in the mommy role that I just find it a little disconcerting that she’s got this other life going on now that has nothing to do with the person I know.
Does that make sense?
But that’s just a transient feeling! Cos I’m liking this new person that she is.  She’s finally got something to do other than just obsess about my marriage! We’ve got things to talk about now that don’t involve! :P
It’ll be another year before she gets her degree. So that’s a year’s worth of profiles I won’t have to look at! ;o)
Seriously though, I’m thankful that she’s found something that she’s really passionate about, and can only hope that I too will one day, be able to follow my passion as she has!