Apr 9, 2014

Life's fitful fever...

There is nothing like an actual fever to put the greater fever of life in abeyance. Life gets simplified to the basics: slap up 3 meals somehow, swallow medications, collapse into bed. All the rest gets taken care of somehow. 

Hectic was quite an understatement for March. The days just seemed to speed up especially when it was school-closing time. Here I stand in a slight fever-haze at almost the middle of April and I have no idea of what I was doing all the time in March!!!

I will tell you what we did right at the end though. We went to the town of Wind and Jupiter. Okay, THAT was a fancy way of saying Guruyvayoor. Our niece was scheduled to have her first morsel of solid food in front of Unnikkannan and we too went off for a darshan of the Lord.

This time I didn't carry a camera with me. It was a conscious decision to omit that one accessory this time. No camera can capture the joy of the darshan anyway and I don't need pictures to remind me of the same.

But at one point in the trip I did wish I had brought the camera. It was when we went to the Guruvayoor Devaswom's elephant keep at Punnathoor Kotta. Since we had already been there once, I decided to let the boys roam while I sat in front of the old നാലുകെട്ട് (naalukettu) and watched the great pachyderms feed. Okay, I will add pictures from when we went there back in 2011...

See that low wall there? I was sitting cross-legged on top of it and gazing off into the enclosure. It was around 5 pm and all the kariveerans were having their tea (?).. ahem, with a side of palm leaves. It was a joy to just sit and watch them methodically separating the leaves, bashing them to and fro on the ground or against the forelegs to shake off any dust/insects and then eating. One youngster I saw had kept some of his snacks on the top of his head. I was wondering about the new trends in elephant headgear fashion when he pulled it off and used it to scoop some fresh dust on to his back and then left the leaves on his head again. Oh, it was hilarious.

Even more fascinating was the use of the trunk exactly like we use our hands. I saw one of the tuskers rub his eye just like we would. Some of them seemed to be multitasking, doing yogic stretching postures while having their tea. One was rotating his neck so fast that DH and I felt tempted to try emulating him, but soon stopped. Then there were two or three who looked like they were dancing. I looked hard to find dangling ear-pieces, but couldn't. Probably they use blue-tooth devices to listen to FM radio and since all three were dancing differently, I can only surmise that they were listening to different stations...

The elephants all had their names on placards attached to their stations. I was gazing at the place of "Nandan" when I saw him being led to his place after a bath. Till then I had thought the other elephants were black, but I got to know what real black was when I saw this freshly-washed hulk. He was so magnificent, it was all I could do to keep myself from running forward and hugging his trunk. Probably his mahout wanted to keep him that way for a while, because he made Nandan lift his pile of palm leaves and carried it away from the other now tatty-looking elephants and made him stand on a grassy area where there was no dust to play with.

What was that, you want more pics of the Aanakkotta? Okay, here are more from our earlier trip...

Here's one helping himself from a hose. Not all are well-mannered like this, some put the hose straight into their mouths! Hmm!

Here is another view of the front yard and the building. There were fewer elephants the last time we went. This time, sitting in my spot I could count more than twenty elephants in just one direction. Currently there are 59 elephants in the Kotta, most of whom are away on duty for temple festivals and such. After the long queues, blaring speakers and glaringly bright shops near the temple, it was so peaceful to be sitting around these magnificent creatures. I don't think any visit to Guruvayoor would be complete without a visit to His elephant herd!

Cat family update: Many were asking about what happened to the kitty family and I was too busy to write about it. Here is what happened. Within a week of delivery, the momma seemed to feel the Flipkart box was too small for comfort. And I guess she didn't want me to wear down myself by trudging with milk bowls all the way from the kitchen to the bedroom. So she shifted her kitties to a kitchen cabinet that was missing its door at the time (one of the hinges was broken - fixed now) and resisted any attempt of mine to dislodge them.

Not about to be outwitted by a cat, I waited till I heard momma going outside, shut all windows and doors and put the kitties back in the Flipkart box. As I had guessed, momma cat was waiting by the door when I opened it. I showed her the box and her progeny in it expecting her to follow me, but she stalked to the kitchen looking, "Come and put my babies back where they were!" So there was nothing to do but catch her and put all three in the garage. Miffed by the downgrade from 5-star to 1-star accommodation, she stalked off with her kids. We still see her around, but she always turns away her head in disdain, however sweetly we call to her. Hope her li'l ones are safe and she will bring them over some time to visit!

Mar 5, 2014

A Dramatic Flipkart Delivery!

Yesterday was a VERY SPECIAL day at Karthi. It unfolded like this:

1:00 p.m: Ani, who didn't have to go to school yesterday, goes into our master bedroom and shouts out, "Amma, there is a cat here!" "Ok!" I say, assuming that it has left as soon as the kiddo hollers.

1:30: I go into the bedroom - note the time - and find Ani sitting on the floor stroking a cat who is lying on her side, relaxing. She barely lifts her head at me and I join the stroking fest. Her tummy looks huge, but from bitter personal experience I hold back from asking how far gone her pregnancy is, fearing a swipe with enraged claws if she isn't pregnant at all! Okay, may be she may just have had a VERY good meal! 

1:45: I tug a reluctant Ani off the floor for a siesta (lack of which can make him very crabby in the evening). He tries to sleep with his pillow at the foot of the bed so that he can watch the cat, but I put his pillow firmly at the head of the cot. 

1:50: We jump right off the bed because the cat makes an odd grunting sound. She comes out from under the bed, looking miffed at the desertion of her personal masseuse and climbs to the window seat and jumps out. Ani stands at the window and calls after her - she wavers a little, then walks off down the driveway.

3:00 pm: I rush into the bedroom because my phone's ringing near Ani who is sleeping. I notice that the cat is back in the room, still lying down under the bed. As I talk on the phone, I wonder vaguely if she needs medical help although she is not showing any distress. It's unnatural for adult semi-wild cats to stay put when they see us in our own territory.

6:30: After our evening prayer, I go into the master bedroom and pull my pile-of-washing-chair up to the bed and start sorting and folding clothes. I hear a rustling noise near the window seat and move the curtain to find that the cat is squatting in a Flipkart box under the window seat. Hmm, interesting... She is grunting and turning round and round. I finally give into my worst suspicion that she is going to have kittens and call up my Mom to confirm. She recommends putting the box and cat outside, but thinking of the distress she must be going through, I put it off...

Well the rest of the story would read like a National Geographic episode, so I will leave that part out. At the end.... Ta ...Da...

Can you see the tawny and the dark little heads there? We have now changed the name of our master bedroom to "delivery suite" and tiptoe around there. Before getting off the bed this morning, I remembered to use the flashlight to see whether I could put down my feet safely. The mom is very sweet-tempered even though she has to bear a lot of prying and flashing lights.

We left a bowl of milk and rice near the box in the morning, kept checking on it and found it licked clean at 10:30. I think the mom felt fit and peckish again by noon, because she left her precious bundles behind in our care for a while:

Today Kunjunni has had the day off from school as his exams are starting tomorrow. I made sure that the kids understand that they are  not to touch the kittens in any way because our scent on them could cause the mom to abandon her kittens. Okay, since that would not be enough to deter our cat-loving Ani, I also told them that he could startle the mom cat into attacking him although she looks too gentle and weary for that! :) The mom is back and the kitties are crawling all over her now.

I wondered if it is our old half-grown Chakki from this post, but looking at the pictures, I think it is a different cat. But somehow the word has got around that Karthi is a safe place for cats. All the people I called said it's great luck to be chosen for such a privilege and shows us that the cat trusts us so much. 

Sooner or later we will be moving them to the garage because claws and soft furnishings do not mix. But they are welcome to bowls of milk and rice at our doorstep as well as all the geckos they can eat from our pantry whenever they want! 

Signing off from the Feline Maternity Hospital aka Karthi!!!

Feb 28, 2014

How has the second month treated you?

Ok, I can hear you going, "हद हो गयी  Sreekala, why are you showing us pics of your bed sheets on the blog now?" Please bear with me for a while. Remember this?

That was the original set of plastic bags that I used to buy our monthly groceries. We reused them month after month, folding them meticulously after each use. But they slowly started giving way. We did get a few new plastic bags (after all we are not absolutely fanatically anti-plastic, yet!) But recently, there have been a couple of embarrassing giving ways of the old and worn handles - not good.

So that set me thinking - there was this old Rajasthani cotton bed sheet that developed a hole in the middle... so here goes!

Three beautiful, handmade shopping bags - double thickness and all seams stitched twice for strength. I know they are strong because I broke one needle trying to stitch them! They are reversible too, because I stitched both layers as separate bags and joined them together. And in keeping with my not-perfect traditions, they are all different in size (completely unintended) and my rather overenthusiastic "handle reinforcement " for my first bag looks like a kid's handiwork...

I choose to show this because with all that "purrrfect"eye-candy floating around in blogland, a novice could be paralyzed into inaction. If such a person sees this, they can go, "Hey, if she can do that, I sure can do better!" :) 

I am pretty inordinately proud of the handle straps that I cut off the strong borders and made in quadruple thickness... please note that the handles are attached way better on this bag!

But then I thought, hey 3 bags are not enough to tote our grocery! So I went searching and ta daaaah....

An old Bombay Dyeing number this time - my needle found this tougher, but I went so slowly and it felt like I was pushing the sewing machine needle myself for each stitch. The second one is still a WIP. Hopefully I will finish it before this Sunday when we will need it for our monthly shopping! And while writing this I got a brilliant idea to do the same to the pillow covers of the first bed sheet - just lop off the tops a little, stitch both together and attach handles, one more bag! :)

Meanwhile, DH, who started off the treasure hunts felt that the youngest member of our family was feeling left out. So he decided to do a number with pictures for the kindergartener...

Amazing drawings... because Ani recognized all of them and found his treasure: a Thomas the Engine book. He was heard to remark as he sat down, "Finallyyyyy, I got a treasure of my own!" 

Naturally his father was inspired to do more. This time he turned to coloring!!

The prize was a Bob the Builder book and equally welcome! 

Howz your kitchen garden going? Hadn't I told you that this is the Year of the Kitchen Garden? Stay tuned for our veggie updates!!!

Feb 21, 2014

Movie Review: Om Santhi Osaana

Quite in non-accordance with our usual movie-going policy at Karthi, we caught the 9:30 pm show of Om Santhi Osaana last Saturday. We expected it to be uncrowded and didn't make advance reservations. Did we learn a lesson from our Drisyam travails? Nope, we didn't! Long story short, we barely made it into the back row of the front section of the theater. Good thing that those seats reclined quite a bit. When I saw extra chairs being lined up beside the rows, I really was thankful that as a family, we tend to arrive rather early at appointments. Unless you  count the time we missed our kindergartener in his graduation costume because we assumed the program began at 4 when it actually was slated to start at 2:30. But we did arrive at 3:15, so you see what I mean by our reaching early:)

To the movie, then! After Abrid Shine's debut venture it was the turn of another debutante director - Jude Anthany Joseph. We were entranced by the little cameo at the beginning of the movie and quite looked forward to the movie itself.

What is it with debutante directors and their thing for nostalgia? Once again, we are reminded of our childhood and the revolutionary changes that have come to pass with our growing up. Pooja Mathew (Nazriya) narrates the story of her life and love. The love story is nothing new - thinking back on it, it's just the ordinary girl-meets-boy story, but the treatment gets full marks. As does the locale, the camera work, the twists et al. We were entertained the whole way through.

Nivin Pauly has little to do except be strong and silent  and smile with a corner of his mouth most of the time. Nazriya as Pooja is bubbly and very easy on the eyes as always. Aju supplies the laughs and the twists. Renji Panicker as the heroine's father is a surprise - a pleasant one, thankfully. He gets some of the best dialogues and was faintly reminiscent of Lalu Alex in one of his supportive father/husband roles. The rest of the cast past muster.

All in all, a good entertainer that can be watched reclining easily - no need to sit on the edge for this one. One sign I got of the movie's entertainment value - our kiddos made it past midnight without sleeping or demanding snacks! Or is it just that they have got our movie-crazy genes???? Hard to tell! :) If you're planning to catch a movie this weekend, you won't lose by going to Om Santhi Osaana!

Feb 14, 2014

How the year has begun...

It's the middle of February now... We got only a few really cold nights this year. But our jack fruit tree is up to his old tricks again. He chuckles quietly when I shake my fists at him for littering the yard when I've just finished sweeping it. But both of us know it's just in jest - he has to do what he has to do this time of the year and I hold no grudges!

This was our combined activity in Karthi last month:

Our coconut yield was smaller this year - must've been due to the extra-dry summer.  So in two weekends DH finished dehusking, I shielded my hand with a pot holder and smashed them all open (got any violent feelings to dissipate - I recommend coconut smashing as the ideal activity!!!). The kids carried the husks to be put down around our coconut trees - to protect the root area in summer and to add to the soil cover by decomposing, of course. Most of the coconuts were dry already so they required only a week's drying before they turned into this...

...around some 7.5 liters of coconutty goodness - yellow now because I added dried whole turmeric to it to prevent it from getting rancid. Some say adding sea-salt crystals and putting the jars in the sun would do the same thing, but I prefer the golden color and not adding more sodium to our diet.

Then I noticed that most of my kitchen rags were literally that, rags!

Poor thing was just begging for retirement! I always recycle any old cotton dresses to make kitchen rags and this has been one for at least 3 years! So it was time to rouse my trusty sewing machine from hibernation and sew up a new set!

They are so thick because I used one layer of cotton and one layer of toweling...

Also with a loop of the cotton material to hang them up by if required...

And then after a lot of drama and diva-esque behavior later, it was time for our histrionic member of the family to do a star turn.. well two actually!

There he is shaking a leg or waving his hand rather, in "Shalala la la la" on his school annual day.

And here he is charming Cinderella as ... who else, Prince Charming himself!

That WAS a good month, wasn't it!

Feb 3, 2014

Movie Review: "1983"

First of all let me say this, if you love cricket even the least little bit, go ahead and watch the movie; if you like any team sport, go and watch the movie; if you ever had to give in to parental pressure to give up a passion because of practical reasons, go and watch this movie and finally, if you like uplifting, clean entertainment, GO and WATCH this movie!!!

No police commissioner need be afraid of the message that this movie conveys to the masses, because 1983 is one thoroughly good movie with nary a new-gen kink in it. Ramesan (Nivin Pauly) watched team India lift the world cup in 1983. He was 10 at the time, just like another little boy watching the same televised game in Mumbai...

Abrid Shine, the director, professes to be a huge fan of the game and of the great little man who paved the way for a torrent of talent into the cricketing pitch. His passion for the game permeates the whole movie and seeps into the movie hall, creating waves of anticipation, despair, pride and joy in successive waves. I am sure that for all people of my generation (born around mid 1970s), this movie will be a huge nostalgia trip...

The whole cast and crew deserve kudos for their effort - I don't want to point out anyone from the lot. Santhakumari appears in just one scene with just one dialogue, but it will last a long time in one's memory - so what to say about the rest!

I won't give away the story, but I will tell you this: I think this movie is one of the best tributes one can offer to Sachin Tendulkar. Growing up, although I loved cricket I was never a huge Sachin fan. And unlike Ramesan in the movie, I didn't have a single poster of him in my room (well, I did have Nitish Bharadwaj in his Sri Krishna costume, but that's another story! :)). Even among cricketers, I liked cool, calm and debonair Dravid, and of late Captain Cool himself. I didn't care much about his burgeoning statistics, his notorious choking in the 90s or his slowing reflexes as long as team India was fighting it out in the middle.

Then tell me why I was blubbering away last November on the day he finally left the cricket pitch for good? Why did I have a tough time coping with my tears that blurred away the sight of his last speech? It's because Sachin Tendulkar is so much more than cricket - he is a model of a person who has dedicated his life to ONE thing and kept his head level in the huge success that came as the fruit of his dedication. I will be the first to admit that cricket comes very low in the list of "meaningful pursuits" in life. Among the celebrations before his last games, Sachin was gifted a painting in which he is depicted as Arjuna. My first reaction was "What?????" When I saw the elongated limbs and muscular torso of the image, I felt it was an insult to his low stature and boyish looks. But then I focused on Arjuna and what Lord Krishna taught him and came to realize that Sachin has actualized the teachings of the Gita in his life as closely as he can. He always put karma first and never thought about the fruits of his labor. In the midst of all the hullaballoo, he stayed centered and calm. All his frustrations were vented among his family and close friends. In fact no one has any bad words to say about him other than an old embittered "friend" who failed miserably because of the lack of the same values that Sachin stands for. The very fact of his conspicuous absence from lucrative liquor ads is a mark of his greatness, isn't it?

So there it is. I think Swami Vivekananda himself would be proud of this modern Indian karma yogi (after all, he was the one who advocated sporting activities for the Indian youth). And Abrid Shine has managed to capture that aspect of it in the portrayal of Ramesan, his ragtag team mates and his family. 

And please people, do stay in your seats till the credits are way into the middle. I lost part of the last scenes because I was left applauding in my seat while all around me people jumped up to go home. Ah well, this one is a certain addition to my DVD collection, so I can see it any number of times!

And no, time hasn't lessened the pain, because even after 2 months, watching Sachin's farewell had me weeping into my handkerchief all over again!

Jan 23, 2014


Eeeek, almost a month of the new year gone already??? January's sun is shining bright outside, cloudy days are too few for my liking and dry grass, dry leaves, bare branches everywhere. My weeding is going on and it's so nice to see the uprooted weeds get almost instantly dessicated in the heat and can be confidently left there to be pulverized into the top soil. Our coconut trees are dropping dry leaves pretty often, provoking startled reactions from me each time. 

What better time to feast my eyes on a little greenery like this...

We were at Ottappalam at the beginning of November. I got it into my head that I would like to visit the Kunjan Nambiar Smarakam at Killikkurissimangalam. So the kids and I caught a bus from Ottappalam and made our way to the old poet's village. I reached the memorial, but the view ahead was enticing, so walked a little further to stop at this curve of the road...

I made the kids sit down and started snapping away madly...

...while answering their innumerable questions about paddy cultivation...

...when an old farmer came by on his even more ancient bicycle and asked us, "Enthedukkyanu kuttyole?" in the lovely Valluvanadan accent...

We saw the Killikkurissimangalam Siva Temple and passed on to this huuuuuuuge temple pond...

There was no way I could fit it into one frame, so here is the other end of the pond...

On our way back, we took several detours...

...to see even greener vistas...

and if it hadn't been for those lovely knots and gnarls in my path...

...I too would have done exactly that!

The very boundary walls sustain so much life...

... like our childhood friends - the mukkutti and the mashithandu all alive and well!

Long have I thought if I had the world to choose from, where would I live... now I have the answer! In Killikkurissimangalam, in an old, dark and cool farmhouse facing the vista of green, green paddyfields, within walking distance of the temple pond. Yup! I hope they have 3G or Wimax capability!!! :)

Okay, I'll leave the greatest satiric poet of Kerala for a later post. Enjoy the greenery!!!

If you want to see the same: Location: Killikkurissimangalam on the route to Tiruvilwamala from Ottappalam. Leave your vehicle on the main road and go roaming into the verdure!