Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tamanna's Initiation

Tamanna, turned two and a half in October this year. Perfect timing to start school and Little Feat Montessori was the answer for her as it was for Aarzoo when we moved to Bangalore in 2006. Perfect timing also because late September this year had India celebrating Dusshera, a ten day festival, which culminates in Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami, is the day when most children are initiated into the world of learning. In the southern states of India, a big deal is made of it with the toddlers taken to the temples and carted off to scholars and others who the parents decide are the ideal candidates to guide their precious little ones at the start of this long journey. Though I could describe myself as agnostic, there are certain specific philosophies and rituals that I put my weight behind. The initiation of toddlers on Vijayadashami is a very Hindu practice. But my mother, a practicing Catholic, tells me that this has become the norm amongst the Muslims and Christians in Kerala with the little ones being taken to their respective places of worship.

For those in school or college, across India, this festival is a very special time and looked forward to with great earnestness and fervour. For a great many of these kids, it is not because of any high special purpose or spiritual understanding. It is an escape from the drudgery they are subjected to for the major part of the year. This is the only time that parents who are otherwise nagging the kids to “study, study, study”, voluntarily ask them not to touch their books. On the 8th day of the festival, known as Ashtami, books and other tools or instruments of academic interest, are placed before Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and worshipped. A lamp is lit and many a prayer sent with fervent requests to help them get through the academic year without any major skirmishes with red marks in Progress Report, which arrives with clock work precision at the end of the term. Though they look quite cute in aesthetic terms on the said Report, the downside is that one had to deal with the red faced folks at home and teachers at school! These books are moved from the altar on the 10th day after elaborate prayers. Despite the fact that there was no nagging or bullying to study from my parents, I adopted this ritual when we moved to Madras (now Chennai) and I saw my friends, Sridhar and Vijayshree, who lived next door, practice it. Of course, my way of practicing it was minus all the rituals and the paraphernalia. But the prayers were very heartfelt and the kind where I meant every word to propitiate the Goddess of Learning!

My oldest, Manoj, is in his final year of undergraduate college. My fervent prayer (among other requests put forth) this year to her, was that he carry on in academics for a few years more before bidding "Good Bye” to the academic world. And the baby of the family has just stepped into the fascinating world of stories and rituals and learning. As for me, I have begun a journey of whys, whats, wheres, hows, buts, ifs…..all over again. With B.T.Venkatesh, one of the finest human beings in our little world today, as the first Guru having helped her take the first step, Tamanna has a lot of promises to fulfil and miles to go before she sleeps. I am sure Baba, who initiated Aarzoo, must be sitting beside Saraswati and nodding his head in approval.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bend it like Alex P.Thazhamon

The son will tell you that no conversation on football goes anywhere without fat Momma mentioning Alex P.Thazhamon. Alex was my classmate during the last three years of school and captain of the school football team, Kendriya Vidyalaya - Port Trust. And if memory serves me right, he also played with the big guns on the Cochin Port Trust Football team. A champion and an athlete to the core he was also very aggressive in any sport that he played; and he played to win. This made him quite a hero in school, not to mention the couple of hundred thousand crushes and broken hearts that he was the root cause of.

But all those who knew us will tell you that Alex and I had an unreasonable mutual hate society going. I don’t know what Alex’s reasons were. But after all these years, I finally figured out the “why” from my end. For me it was the fact that Mom considered him a good boy. A good sportsman and footballer and the blah, blah, blah!! Talk about irony. Of all the guys in my class, Mom liked the guy who picked on me for no reason that I could fathom! And when you are sixteen that is just not done. It was like mutiny at home! At some seminal level I probably felt that Mom wished that he was her son instead of me being the daughter. Totally, irrational and unjustified, I know. But that my friend is the whole truth. The days when Mom and I had the most turbulent times in our relationship, were the times when this feeling assumed monstrous proportions!!

Historically the mother-daughter relationship has always been one bumpy ride. All hell can break loose when they do not see eye to eye. And despite the few breaks in between, the tradition continues from generation to generation in most homes. There is always some amount of bickering. But this really took the cake for me. Could she not see that he was mean to me? He was constantly teasing me and making me miserable. Did the reports of this rift not mean anything to her? Any other girl in my place would probably have given up school, cried buckets and got daddy dearest to meet the Principal. Highly dramatic I know but for sure it is true. It was thick skinned me who behaved as if it was water off a duck’s back and stood my ground.

Coming back to Mom who heaped praises on Alex. Could she not have picked K.J.Antony who by far was the most even tempered guy? With his cute dimples and an ever smiling face, he was a church goer to boot. In all the three years that we studied under that asbestos roof, KJ lost his cool only once. It took every one in class by surprise and caused a major stir. I still remember that murderous look on his face and still find it hard to believe that it was dear good-humoured KJ.

That Deep Pande was IIT material and the favourite of the parent’s collective of the school was a given. So no issues there for lesser mortals like me. I knew my place under the academic sun. References to him were made from time to time by the old lady but they did not give rise to bile. Or thoughts of murder for that matter!!

I could list the entire class here. But will save it for another story. Writing all this down has been quite cathartic. I am glad I lived through it all and it is out of the way.

Yet, despite all that negativity, I really cared for Alex as I did for the others in my class. I rooted for him, cried myself hoarse and cheered him on when he was on the field. As he did for me. Despite all that anger and resentment, I know he watched out for me and wished me well. Go ahead, call me biased or whatever, I still think he is leagues ahead of the current crop of footballers, anywhere in the world!

And it looks like this sport and memories of those times gone by will have me in a bind for kingdom come. My son is a crazy football fanatic and a Chelsea supporter. It goes without saying that he has turned me into one too. My older daughter plays football in school. The toddler, all of two and a half, too seems to have the knack for it, along with the style and the chutzpah of my champion friend!! The son is a major influence on the girls and the three of them spend a considerable amount of time kicking a ball around. For all you know my girls are probably going to do a “Bend it like Beckham” on me!!