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!

Jan 17, 2014

Have you made any magic lately???

Childhood is a magical place... A bit of colored glass can become a secret key into a fantasy world. A stick can morph into a sword to conquer the world, a tyre tube can be an Audi or a towel can become a gorgeous gown. It takes very little to become whatever you want, whenever you want...

As parents, what can we do to make our kids' lives magical?  Of course we do all the grunt work to make them flourish. But apart from the occasional treats like making a favorite dish/dessert or giving in to a long-held demands for some toy does not constitute magic, does it?

In our family, we have certain clear-cut areas for helping out the kids. Anything related to school projects, studies etc. usually falls in my half. So does taking care of kids' artistic/creative pursuits. DH, with his busy schedule can hardly be expected to take part in such activities except on rare occasions. But he always takes an interest in all kids' activities and serves as both constructive critic and cheerleader.

Recently DH earned some serious brownie points for himself  in the parenting category. He has taken to making up treasure hunts for our fourth grader with chocolates or books to find out at the end! Which of us has not wished to go treasure-hunting at least once? 

In the first hunt in December, the clues were just pointers to different spots all over the house. Now he has progressed to tougher clues to get Kunjunni to solve puzzles and riddles in order to find the location of the next clue. Needless to say, I am sometimes roped in by Kunjunni as the wise witch who helps with clues (I keep demanding increasing shares of the booty for each clue I help with! :D).

The latest treasure hunt included a crossword puzzle at the end with cricketing clues. Even I couldn't answer some of them! But I'm sure Kunjunni will remember the answers his father helped him with for a long time. Probably longer than he remembers what the actual treasure was.

It takes real time and love for the activity to make up such a magical experience for the kids. Not to mention remembering the little kid in oneself! Now I am slightly envious, for not having thought up the idea and for not having had a Dad like this!!! 

Yes, some times putting the bread and butter on the table is unappreciated. So is all the disciplining that makes well-behaved and caring citizens out of kids. But things like this, I am sure, will stay fresh in kids' memories for ever. 

So, have you made some magic in your kids' lives recently?

Jan 9, 2014

Movie Review: Oru Indian Pranayakatha

Aren't we in clover! After Drisyam, this Iqbal Kuttippuram - Sathyan Anthikad concoction called Oru Indian Pranayakatha  is a winner!

In short: Aymanam Siddharthan (Fahad) is an aspiring young politician who is widely expected to be successful, but doesn't hesitate to promote himself as much as possible where and when required. Everything seems to be going his way when several things happen all at once and he finds himself toting filming gear for an Indian-born Canadian Irene Gardner (Amala Paul) who is making a documentary. The story continues with their scrapes and narrow escapes. But little does Siddharthan know why Irene has come to India and what she can teach him.

The movie, like all of Sathyan's movies, has a very positive message. I like it better than usual Anthikad movies because it doesn't have that cloying quality this time and neither the lengthy speeches that have appeared regularly of  late.  Humor, romance and pathos are very well balanced and the whole cast has done a very good job. Anyone who has any knowledge of the current political climate in Kerala will surely have a lot to laugh at in the movie. But it is much more than that. And it didn't hurt that most of it was shot in my scenic home district Kottayam, including our CMS College! :)

Even if I thought Drisyam was good, I wouldn't want to watch it in its entirety once again - too nerve-wracking and dark.   But this one certainly deserves a place in our DVD collection.

Dialogue to look for:
"Khasaaakkinte...  vere enthandokkeya vayichirikkunne, ithihaasam vayikkan samayam kittiyilla"

Do catch this Indian Pranayakatha in the theaters!!!

PS: We also caught Philips and the Monkey Pen at our nearest  theater before 2013 ended. It was good although a bit too sugary for me. The performance of the child artistes is unbelievably good. Wow! Our kiddos thoroughly enjoyed the movie and were fully in sympathy with the protagonist kids. Vijay Babu's performance as the transformed Math teacher Pappan is very good too. He managed to invoke the feeling of a very urbanized Kaduva Chacko maash (remember Thilakan in Spadikam?). But I did wonder why little Philip's parents never sought to help him learn something? Very uncharacteristic of Indian or Malayali parents...  :)

Jan 8, 2014

Happy 8th Day of the New Year to you all!!!

What a perfect day to start blogging in the new year! All day it has been cloudy and overcast with little intermittent showers to keep things fresh and sparkly. Yep, down here it is a GOOD thing! The kind of weather in which you want to wrap up in a cozy blanket and snuggle down with a hot cuppa tea and an old-fashioned detective novel. Well, that's exactly what I did after the tasks for the day. Lord Wimsey kept me company with his irreverent and highly intellectual badinage in a venerable library edition that seems to be older than me!

First, here is a bit of color from me to you in this new year!

Looking back at the last year is somewhat inevitable for this first post. What peaks and vales I see! I think the theme of the garden fits my 2013 very well. As most of you know by now, the soil at Karthi is my special despair. I had fancied myself as a fine gardener when I was growing up because I could stick anything in the soil and make it grow, I begged and borrowed plant cuttings and seeds wherever I went and gave them all a good life in my garden. My topiary bushes and 12 varieties of hibiscus bushes were my special pride.

I thought I could bring it all back once I settled in Karthi. Nope! It's made me plumb the depths of my fitness to be called a gardener by insisting on letting only the weeds grow aplenty while the plants I cherish have a gargantuan struggle just to exist. And this summer, there was scarcely enough water for the humans that I couldn't water my plants as well as I would've wanted to. Several plants died off. But the ones that remain are strong and can survive anything. One of my good neighbors generously gave me several cuttings when the monsoons finally came and I am glad to say that they have ALL thrived although they are slow to grow. I got help twice this year to hold back the weeds, and now am managing a little each day on my own. 

And then come these little miracles, you know....

like this self-seeded wilderness...

this plant that grew up EXACTLY where a variegated plant had breathed its last in the summer heat (oh yeah, I am a little out of practice with my topiary skills and the bushes take a loooong time to grow)...

And this little bit of lusciously bright color growing all on its own in my back yard when I had tried and failed to make some grow in the past three years!!!

As many of you know, 2013 came with very bad news about my Ma's health. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer with metastases even in the lungs. In her already frail state with diabetes and its accompanying nerve debility, we wondered if it was even advisable to let her go on a regimen of chemos. One of her much younger and healthier cousins had just undergone a course of chemo for the same problem and had had severe reactions which we didn't want Ma to be subjected to. But she chose to go ahead and see what lay in front of her. I cannot but bow before her courage. 

Ma went through a course of 6 chemos and then underwent surgery and coped with all of them much better than we expected her to. She has always been good about medications and although the vagaries of blood sugar levels have sometime caught her unawares, she absolutely strictly followed doctors' instructions for caring for herself through the ordeal. She also took aloe vera juice and various herbal decoctions to control her diabetes. Yes, she lost her hair and asked me to make bandanas for her which I made from my cotton duppattas. 

Last month, Dad and Ma had their 40th wedding anniversary. My sis and I planned a surprise party for her with a few of our relatives from Kottayam coming over to join us. On the 22nd of December, we invited them to lunch at our home ostensibly to celebrate my niece's birthday in advance. And then we had the joy of surprising them with a whole crowd who went "Happy Anniversary!!!"

That's my Ma on the right, her hair grown back into a pretty bob and not wearing her pink bandana for once. 

It was not only Ma's courage and good medical treatment that held us up in this ordeal. At first Ma wanted no one but immediate family know about her condition. But I went out on a limb and contacted her old colleagues from school who also happen to be my teachers. They responded with lots of love and care. They dropped in as if on a casual visit and Ma shared her diagnosis with them. They joined her in prayer and reassurances. I am absolutely positive that helped a lot in her recuperation as did the support of other relatives. We all owe them a huge debt for their support.

I too found help in a lot of friends - friends in the midst of their busy lives took time out to listen to my fearful rantings and outpourings and doubts and helped me in coming to terms with my pain. CANCER is a word that strikes fear into the bravest and I am but a poltroon. I am so grateful to all my friends for reaching out and being there for me. You know who you are!!!! Every little bit helped. Thank you all so much!!! 

So it is with a full heart that I turn back to look at 2013. The searing summer took a lot out of us, but we have survived just like my garden, stronger for all of it and with lots of good surprises and a lot of support from our dear ones.

As for my gardening this year: Do you know that 2014 has been designated the Year of the Kitchen Garden? The State Horiticultural Mission has just delivered 25 grow-bags and seedlings and seeds for rooftop cultivation, along with a very helpful booklet on organic gardening. Stay tuned for serious vegetable gardening attempts at Karthi!!!

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