Honey, someone shrunk our house !

memories
We were going back after 15 years and of course we were bubbling with excitement. My sister and I grew up in that house. I took my first steps there, spoke my first words and rode my first bicycle (with balance wheel of course :P ). We had little picnics in our backyard inspired by the Enid Blyton books that my sister read. The large turkey towel was neatly spread out under the tree. We had everything from lemonades prepared by our mom to giant bottles of Fanta and little chips packets to Peppy cheese balls. Sometimes we picked guavas from the tree for the picnic. We sat there talking about all the things only a 7 year old and 12 year old could talk about. Perhaps discussing the Little Lulu show or school gossip. I don’t remember very well. Anyway ,the place had flowers of so many different colours– pink, yellow, white and the red honey flowers. I remember waking up early every December just to pick the purple “december poo” which bloomed only in the winter. Our flat even had its own spooky ghost story. The watchman committed suicide in the house opposite to ours, so they said it was haunted. Life in that apartment was every bit fun for me. Three months back, my sister came on a vacation to India and the first thing on our ‘to-do’ list was to visit our old house. We successfully ticked it off our list. I am going to write all about that but there’s also a twist in this story. Wait, I will get to that part. Anyway, our memory of that place was always grand. Though the apartments were small, the huge outdoor space and a beautiful garden made up for that. Going back there to relive those memories was very overwhelming.

The auto turned towards our street. The mechanic shop was still there and the butcher’s. There were many shops that I didn’t recognize. We were almost there. The big house next to ours came into view and the next moment the auto stopped. My mom got down and quickly went inside the house. I stood where I was. My sister didn’t even get down from the Auto. Something was not quite right. The building in front of us wasn’t our house. No way ! It was small. The steps to the ground floor was tiny and don’t even get me started on the corridors . This place looked nothing like our old house and yet I knew it was our house. There was no mistaking the door number! I forced my sister to get out of the auto but she kept insisting that it was the wrong house. Once we got over the initial shock, we headed straight for the backyard. Another wave of shock ! No flowers and no Ashoka trees. There was only a car parked in that place. Did we really have picnic in this tiny space ? I thought. My sister was wondering if they sold a part of the flat. Oh, how I wish that was the actual reason. ! We both went inside the house feeling like a pair of deflated balloons.

At last, my sister voiced out both our thoughts. The place was never really big. It was just that we were small back then. And every thing looked through a child’s eyes. Oh boy, how our memories deceived us. Returning after 15 years just to realize how so wrong we were. But we came to terms with that pretty fast and moved into the house. How do I describe the exact feeling I got when I stepped into the living room (or hall as we call it) ? It was like a fast forward film of memories. The time when I broke a glass fanta bottle right in the middle of the hall and how my sister frightened the hell out of me saying that the shop keeper would put me in jail for that (she used pull a lot of cock and bull stories back then); watching the Mahabharata serials as a family; coming home from school to watch Little Lulu; the first time we got a landline phone in our house and my sister sixteen prank calls from dad’s office; my teaching English to our maid Mani; our Grandma’s ‘curd rice’; jumping on the bed, dancing to Muthu movie songs with our cousins; playing kitchen set pretending to be ‘Mallika Badrinath’; getting my first soft toy rabbit ‘Kalpana’ (which my mum mistook for a teddy bear). Oh I could go on and on for another ten blog posts about it.

I took a lot of pictures to cherish those memories. Even though a lot of things changed about that place, a few things remained the same. For instance, my father’s helmet was in the same place even after so many years like an antique peaking out of the past.

 

Helmet

The big house next to ours looked like an old ruin. Back in those days, a snooty old lady lived there with at least 10 doberman dogs ! We were (at least I was) terrified to go anywhere near that place. And that is our version of Boo Radley house !

Boo radley house our version

That is our favourite guava tree. Speaking of which, I remember two twin girls in our building whom we called the ‘guava thieves’. It was their tree as much as it was ours but I don’t know why we called them that. May it was the way they moved stealthily. Now I think about it, they strangely resembled ‘Wednesday’ from the Adams Family.

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I was quite surprised to see my Grandma’s ‘ammi kallu’ intact under the cabinet.
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This is the famous picnic spot that I was talking about. Now now, don’t laugh at it :P It looks so much better with tree (which I couldn’t get into the frame).

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We were hoping to meet our watchman Madurai who’s also Mani’s husband. I think he was on leave that day. Sometimes, Madurai picked me up from school if my classes got over by 12 ‘o’ clock. He was a kind old man and too bad we couldn’t meet him. When we almost finished our tour of the building, we met Kuppu. She was another maid who worked in one of the houses there. Kuppu has known me ever since I was a baby and we were mutually surprised at seeing each other after a long time.

Aaand that was our visit to the old house. So is our memory of that place tainted because it wasn’t like how we imagined it to be ? No. That big old place is still unchanged and fresh in our memory. Besides, I remember something my sister said, “Back then it was our home buzzing with activity, now it’s just a house”.

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Black ruminations

Sirius Black

Do you ever get the feeling that you want to see more of your favourite characters in a book ? Well, I do. The world of Harry Potter and the characters that walked through the books made some of the best parts of my life. Snape is my favourite character and not far behind him (in fact missed the first place by only 0.0001 %) is Sirius Black. Anyway, the thing about reading the HP books or in that matter any book, is that it gives you a different perspective every time. With each time, you actually read the book freshly. During this re-read, it was Sirius who caught my interest. He was the closest thing to a Father that Harry had. He cared about Harry almost as much as his parents would have. Yet his life was tragically cut off (for which I will never ever forgive JK Rowling among a lot of other things). Sirius is not, as in Jo’s own words, “wholly wonderful”; he did have flaws like every other human being. But his loyalty, immense bravery and a good heart is what made him stand apart. I really loved the Father-cum-brother relationship that Sirius and Harry had. I wish we saw more of them but the books wouldn’t be the same without his death. Would it ? So, I thought I’d write a fan fiction to get over it. This is my first attempt at fan fiction. It doesn’t have a solid story. I wrote what ever came into my head. I hate to deviate from the original plot and detail. So, I tried to keep it closer to the canon as much as possible. It is not great  but it gave me immense satisfaction and happiness. I hope you like it as much as I did.
Here’s to one of my favourite characters – To Sirius Black.  Greatest friend there ever was.

****

“Well, I’d better get going, Sirius”, said Lupin.

“Yeah, okay”

“If Mad-Eye stops by, can you tell him I can’t make it tomorrow ? ”

Sirius nodded without looking up. Lupin looked at Sirius with an apologetic look on his face, about to say something but only managed to say, “See you, then”.

Sirius followed him to the door. A loud crack and Lupin was gone. He stood alone in the gloomy hallway looking at the various locks sealing themselves magically. “..you can do nothing useful”. “..hiding inside his mother’s house for six months..”. “I don’t see you risking your neck”. The words kept ringing in his ears over and over again. He was seized with a strong impulse to turn the door knob and run outside. A ten thousand galleon price on his head and the fact that most of the wizarding community still considered him a dangerous murderer did not bother him in the slightest. What could possibly happen to me?, he thought. Death. It had never frightened Sirius. He just wanted to fight. However, a second thought pulled him back to his senses. Harry. He needs me. Sirius stumped into the house looking disgruntled.

The house had been quite empty ever since Christmas. Molly and Arthur returned to the Burrow. Occasionally a member or two from the Order dropped by. Only Remus stayed in the house. He too was away working for the order most of the time. Sirius was alone in the large kitchen, rocking back and forth on the chair’s rear legs; looking at the photograph of the original Order of the Phoenix. His eyes rested on the people standing to his right. James and Lily. He couldn’t believe how so much Harry looked like his father. He missed James.

It was half past 10 already. He reckoned Harry was still awake. So, he dug out the mirror from his robe’s pocket. Hoping that Harry also carried his mirror, he croaked “Harry?”. The mirror, however, reflected his own gaunt face. “Harry ?”, he said more loudly. Nothing. Somewhere in the depths of the cupboards, he heard the elf snigger. “Stupid wretched monkey…”, he muttered under his breath. He got up from the chair with such force that it toppled backwards. Without even a second glance, Sirius strode out of the room and sprinted up the staircase. He proceeded to Buckbeak’s room in the second floor landing. The Hippogriff was sleeping comfortably with his head tucked under a pile of straw. When he heard the door creak open, the bird lifted his head up gently. Like Sirius, Buckbeak craved company and a little bit of fresh air but like his master, he couldn’t get much of both. However, whenever Sirius came to check on him, he affectionately put his head forward for Sirius to stroke him. Sometimes the bird acted very human. It was as if he knew what mood Sirius was in. There was a sombre look on his face today, as if almost sympathizing. Sirius sat down stroking him for a while. When he thought about it, both he and Buckbeak were similar. They both were convicted for something they didn’t do; they both escaped death by inches and now they both lived a solitary life. He felt slightly guilty for he believed he was responsible for Buckbeak’s confinement. It was guilt all over again.

****

“Are you sure about this, Padfoot?”

“Positive. It is an excellent plan . I mean, look at it this way. Who is the first person they will think of ?”, said Sirius with baby Harry sitting on his lap.

“You but – ”

“Who is Harry’s Godfather ? “

“Alright, you. But still …”

“You see it right? They are bound to come after me and with my neurotic cousin on their side, it is pretty easy to track me. We shouldn’t make it easier for them, Prongs.”

“I know but will Wormtail – “

“Keep it a secret? You do trust him, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do! “ said James indignantly. “I meant whether he will agree to this arrangement.”

“He will do anything for you James and besides, we are not really putting him in much danger, are we? He will be the last person they will think of. Trust me, James. This is going to work out really good.”

“Hmm. I hope”, said James with a worried look on his face.

****

There were rumours flying everywhere that Voldemort was gone and that Harry had survived. There were other rumours too. He did not now what to believe. Wormtail was missing from his hideout. The place was empty with no signs of struggle. Fear started to rise up his throat. So he took off in his bike to find it out himself. He could see the thousands and thousands of light below the city as he flew. Once in a while, he saw a glimpse of wizard fireworks up in the sky. Celebrations. It must be true, he thought. Voldemort was most likely gone. But a sinking feel slowly enveloped him and his hands gripping the handlebar grew cold. It was not because of the chilly weather. There was a rumour that James and Lily were dead. He did not want to believe it but deep within, a part of him already knew the truth. Surely, James would have communicated the message to him about Voldemort’s fall. Or was he really ..? No. James is probably wounded, he consoled himself.

Godric’s hollow came into view and Sirius’ heart sank at what he saw. The house that he knew so well was in ruins. One side of it was blasted off revealing portions of the bedroom where the fireplace was still crackling merrily. He skidded his bike to a halt and ran into the house right away. Large chunks of wood and rubble littered the threshold and the heavy wooden door with the brass knocker had been blasted apart, a feet away. Fearing the worst, Sirius entered the house. On the floor lay his best friend. His eyes were wide open with shock and his arms bent in strange angles as though someone shoved him to the side roughly. James lay there unmoving. Sirius’ world shattered there. Every bit of energy he had came crumbling down like a landslide and he fell on his knees. He did not cry but just sat there staring at his friend. . It seemed as though his body had lost the will to even shed a single tear. His grief was beyond comprehension. Seconds passed like a lifetime and and then he heard a low moaning noise from upstairs which jerked him back to the real world.

“Lily?”, he croaked. But it was not Lily. The voice he heard was very rough. He crept up the stairs. From the top landing, he saw through the door. Lily’s body lay there. Her flaming red her covering most of her face but the bright green eyes pierced his heart and he could look at her no more. In the far corner of the room was the source of the noise that he heard. Something large and furry bent over crying. It was Hagrid. Hagrid saw Sirius too and howled like a dog caught in pain. Behind him, Harry was standing in the crib watching Hagrid weep curiously. Sirius got a wave of relief inside what was left of him. He quickly strode over towards Harry and picked him up. Harry gave him a cry of recognition and a toothy smile but his cheeks were still wet with all the crying. There was something different about him today though. His forehead bore a scar shaped oddly like a lightning bolt.

Hagrid finally seemed to pull himself together and looked up at Sirius. “Poor Harry..”, said Hagrid. “his Mum an’ Dad dead. A miracle that he’s alive.”

Sirius looked as white as a sheet and at the mention of Lily and James, his lips trembled a little. “I’m sorry Sirius. Yer best friends.. knew ‘em more than all of us. Who woulda thought James and Lily of all people…”. He wiped his tears on a spotted handkerchief. “Well, abou’ time then. I must get goin’. Give ‘im to me Sirius.” and Hagrid gently took Harry from Sirius’ arms.

“What? Where, Hagrid?”, said Sirius looking startled.

“His Aunt’s an’ Uncle’s house. Dumbledore’s orders.”

“Lily’s sister?, said Sirius incredulously. “They are muggles! And they hated Lily. Give Harry to me, Hagrid. I’m his Godfather. I’ll look after him”

“But Sirius, Dumbledore – “

“I know, Hagrid. But who better to look after him than his Godfather? His parents made me his guardian in case..” He couldn’t finish the sentence. A ball of fury was mounting inside him but it had nothing to do with Hagrid or Dumbledore. Hagrid looked at him sympathetically.

“I know how yeh feel, Sirius. But it is not in me position to make the decision. I’ll take Harry to his Aunt’s place. Yeh talk ter Dumbledore an’ then Harry can come with yeh. Is that okay?”

Sirius nodded reluctantly. He agreed because he had an unfinished business to do tonight. As soon as he saw the Potter house in ruins, he knew it. He knew that they were betrayed. A big price for trusting their little friend. His guilt and grief for his friends’ death fuelled a murderous rage. Hagrid started towards the door with baby Harry in a bundle of blankets.

“Hagrid”, Sirius called out. “Take my bike to go there.”

“What abou’ yeh ? Are yeh sure, Sirius?”

“Yeah. I don’t think I will be needing it anymore.”

He strode over towards Hagrid and took Harry in his arms for one last time before Harry left. “Good bye, Harry”, he said and planted a kiss on little Harry’s head.

***************************

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The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

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I thought I would find it very strange writing review for a JK Rowling novel. When the Harry Potter books came out, we die-hard fans never really read it with a critic’s eye. We were part of the huge phenomena that was Potter and simply anything from the author’s pen created waves of excitement among the fans. Now exactly six years after the completion of the HP series, holding a brand new JKR novel was pleasantly reminiscent of the good old days. But in spite of the good reviews, I didn’t want to raise my expectations too much. Nor did I want to be the starry-eyed reader who’d give the book a thumbs-up solely based on the ‘J.K.Rowling’ name tag. So I kept an open mind. I was excited nevertheless. The book did not disappoint me. Jo’s impeccable narrative style is very clear right from the first page. Although initially I couldn’t help but grin at the usage of muggle words like ‘google’ and ‘mobile’ in the book. :D

Cuckoo’s calling is essentially a murder mystery. Lula Landry, a supermodel, falls to death from her penthouse window. Given Lula’s history of supposed drug problems, a fragile mental state and lack of solid proof her case is closed as ‘Suicide’. However, Lula’s distraught brother John Bristow doesn’t think so. He is obsessed with his belief that Lula was murdered and seeks the help of a private detective Cormoran Strike to find the killer. The rest of the story follows Strike’s investigations until finally the killer is unmasked. The plot is as simple as that but Jo’s brilliant narrative propels the story forward. Being no stranger to paparazzi herself, Jo gives us a peek into the lives of celebrities effortlessly.

Another striking aspect of the novel is the brilliant characterization. As Strike interviews each and every friend and acquaintance of the slain supermodel, we have a thorough understanding of every character. The novel is not racy but it rather moves at a steady gait. So in a way, it gives us time to know the characters thoroughly. The protagonist Cormoran Strike is a very likable person with a knack of blending into any situation. Strike’s relationship with his enthusiastic secretary Robin Ellacot (though very professional and the fact that Robin is engaged to her long-term boyfriend ) hints of a romantic side-plot in the upcoming sequel. Apart from Strike, another important character in the book is the dead Lula Landry herself. Through out the book we explore her wild life and underneath all the chaos the real person that she was. For a supermodel who was a household name and who had all the wealth to afford anything she wanted, Lula’s personal life was a stark contrast to it. It was bleak and sometimes even claustrophobic.

There was a point in the book where I felt there was no progress in Strike’s investigation. Funny enough, right after that the book simply became un-put-down-able. The Cuckoo’s calling has become one of the most amazing reads I’ve had recently. Rowling is a master story teller and she proves it this time with her impressive foray into crime fiction. So much looking forward to the sequel. I will gladly give this book a BIG THUMBS UP.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Fresh

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When I saw the words ‘Fresh’ and ‘Taste’ in this week’s photo challenge, the first thing that came to my mind was ‘Filter Coffee’. Chennai is rather famous for its filter coffee. It is typically served in an ever-silver tumbler and a saucer-like thing called ‘dabarah’. Be it Narasus ‘kaapi’ or Kumbakonom Degree coffee, almost every Chennaiite’s day starts with a steaming cup of coffee and ‘The Hindu’ paper. Although I am not a coffee person, I never miss a chance to taste the ‘Kaapi’s in Chennai Hotels.

This picture was taken in Hotel Saravana Bhavan, a famous south Indian restaurant in India.

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A midnight rant – Lays, Philosophy and Bill Cosby

laysweight

You may find this post a pointless rant. I started off this post as a book review of Bill Cosby’s ‘Time Flies’ but ended up writing about Lays. It is 1:30 AM in the morning and I am super sleepy. Don’t blame me.

I finished Bill Cosby’s ‘Time Flies’ a couple of days back. I bought the book for two reasons. 1) There weren’t many choices. Bill Cosby’s familiar face loomed out of a dozen chick lit and magazines. 2) It was just 20 rupees. While reading the book, I had some mixed feelings. The whole book was like one big stand-up comedy that I couldn’t relate to. May be if read at an older age, the book would make sense to me. Cosby talks about aging and his perspective on adjusting to middle age life. I had a few chuckles here and there, and some laugh-out-loud moments. But that was it. I wondered if I really should have bought it in the first place. That reminded me of my Lays Packet philosophy.

You see, I have a simple philosophy. When you buy Lays with 20% chips and 80% air for 20 rupees, you don’t have to think twice when you buy even the most tattered old book in the platform-side book shop for the same price. I proposed a similar theory way back in stone age when the price of silver/gram was just eleven rupees. I told my sister, why can’t people buy a gram of silver instead of buying a Lays packet every time? (I know, I know I churn out a lot of mad theories and philosophies. You’re welcome.). She said it just doesn’t work that way. A lot changed after that. I got wiser and churned out more crazy theories. Silver and Gold rates shot up and so did the BP rates of many parents who were saving up for the weddings of their 10 year old daughters. My sister came up with more ways to refute my theories. More than just “it doesn’t work that way”. One thing hasn’t changed in all these years. Lays. Sure, they have come up with a dozen more coloured flavours (Yellow and red, my favourite) nothing short of a rainbow. But they still pack more air than actual chips.

You tear open the plastic cover and a gush of air enough to power a windmill comes out of it. You look inside and all you see is this dark abyss. Some where under the depths of the cover, you dig your fingers and stumble upon some chips. You finish eating the chips faster than you can actually say ‘Lays’. OK where was I ? Yea, the book. I have wasted hundreds of tens and twenty rupees on Lays through out my college life. So, a mere twenty rupees on this book is not that big a deal. At least I got a few laughs out of it. When I become old and wise(r), I may probably appreciate the book. So, that’s my point. Now, thank you so much for wasting your precious time on this post. I did warn you at the beginning of the post. ;)

P.S : Dear Lays manufacturers, don’t take it too hard. I actually like Lays. And some day you can pull this off..

lays

Posted in Humor, Is it just me ? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Miracles do happen

believe

People talked to Gods all the time. Sudama’s humble hut miraculously turned into a palace. Rishis gave boons. The list goes on. I wondered how miracles happened all the time in the previous Yugas. I asked my Mom the same. She said two things – People were good and fair back then and the world was a better place. Secondly, miracles don’t always have to be flashy, with the Gods coming face-to-face. So many months after that little conversation with my mum, something happened in my life which totally changed the way I saw things. An encounter which reaffirmed my faith.

I was getting ready to go to my Uncle’s house and stay there for a couple of days. My parents were out of town. I was so engrossed in my computer that I forgot to pack. I did every thing in a hurry; dumping things randomly into my bag, boiling the milk, locking all the doors and windows; Check. Check. Check. Then I started from my home. It was approximately 8:30 PM. I had a peaceful sleep that night and then came the morning. The day was as uneventful as ever. It was around 5:30 PM (why do I keep saying the time like some paranormal activity movie? Wait, I will get to the point) and I was sitting in the Jhula, rotating slowly. A cup of hot coffee in my hand. That is when I remembered something. The Milk! I didn’t turn off the Stove. Or did I? I wasn’t sure. But I panicked. I told my Aunt and Uncle about it. My Uncle jokingly said that he saw a big crowd near my house while he was coming home from Office. That scared the hell out of me. On the way to my house, my mind raced with dangerous thoughts. What if there was an explosion ? All our things. Not just the things, what if someone died in the explosion? It was terrible.

We reached home. The place was as calm as ever. But the maid was standing outside with a peculiar expression on her face. She told me that there was a strange odor coming from the house. My heart almost skipped a beat. I opened the door and rushed to the Kitchen. There it was. A jet black something which looked like the remnants of our milk cooker. Underneath it, blue flame. I heaved the biggest sigh of relief and switched off the stove. Then I collapsed in the chair, shaking so badly. After that I don’t remember much except that I was crying out garbled words “Oh my god” and “I am such a fool”. I couldn’t thank God enough.

And that is the story of how I almost blew up my house and possibly my worst “dementor” memory. Even now when I think about that incident, it makes me shudder a little. Had the milk overflowed and put off the flame, the gas would have leaked. What if someone pressed a switch by mistake? I don’t have the courage to think about the consequences. But when I ponder over this incident, I can’t help but take it as a miracle. As some one who usually fills a LOT of water in the side hole of the cooker, I didn’t fill any water that day.

Anyway, that particular incident strengthened my Faith. My mum was right about her second reason. Sure, I do worry about the silliest of things but there is always a little ray of hope lingering in the corner of my mind. After all, miracles do happen. Only thing is, have faith.

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Through the door…

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It was 12:55 PM. I thought I’d better go outside and wait for the Auto. I locked the house and walked towards the gate, about to have the longest day of my life. Of course, I did not know it then. My hands fumbled around to open the rusty gate. The wrought iron handle felt very cold in the December air. With great effort I opened the gate expectantly to find the Auto but it wasn’t there. It was 1 ‘o’ clock already. The street was totally deserted; not a man, animal or vehicle in sight. I waited. Five minutes passed. He was probably caught in the traffic. Fifteen minutes. Did he forget about it? I took out my mobile to call him but it had no signal. So the universe really decided play with my patience. That was just the beginning of it. Another five minutes passed. I started to look left and right across the end of the street ends for any sign of the vehicle. Nada. He wasn’t coming. I didn’t want to waste any more time, so I decided to hire an Auto on my way.

Brows contracted, lips pursed and my face drew a nasty scowl as I walked the street alone. It was so silent and at this time of day it was only normal. The housewives would have been done with their morning chores and settled down for an afternoon nap. Schools kept the children busy and others were probably dozing off in their offices. The silence did not last long. Somewhere along the street, I heard the faint sound of an MGR song playing. Probably a black-and-white film in KTV’s matinee show. As I walked through the road, I looked around the mundane place hoping to find something to amuse me. There’s a new shop I hadn’t seen before ! The signboard was painted bright blue with large white letters displaying the name of the shop. Underneath the name was the address with the pin code Madras 04. That brought a little sunshine on my otherwise crappy day. I have always preferred the name Madras to Chennai. It has more history to it and I like old things! Every time I saw an old signboard with ‘Madras’, that made me happy. I withdrew my eyes from the petty shop and moved on. A few yards apart, I saw another shop. Having not left the house for a week, I think I missed a few changes to my street. Again my eyes lingered on the signboard. Madras 04. I thought, Well that’s odd. A feeling of uneasiness settled in me. I couldn’t explain why.

At last I reached the main road. Instinctively, I looked at the herbal apothecary shop ‘Dabba Chetty Kadai’ on the other side of the road. The place looked considerably smaller than before. Stacks of tin containers adorned every corner of the little shop. Bending over a grindstone in the middle of the shop was a very old man whom I had never seen before. That strange feeling in the pit of my stomach started to rise rapidly. The air was different. More trees. The road appeared broader with two metallic strips in the middle of them. Just when things couldn’t get any more bizarre I heard the rattling sound of wheels and a steady rhythmic bell on my right. I looked towards the noise and there it was, glaring in my face… A Tram.

A tram in the middle of Chennai city! I am not even sure my parents have seen trams. The thought of them gave me an idea. I called my mum but I think a part of me already knew that it was of no use. The mobile was lifeless without any signal. At least the prospect of seeing their names in the little white screen was reassuring. Surely I hadn’t time trav.. I hushed my mind not to think of that. I had to keep myself sane through this. When the tram came to grinding halt, I hopped in uncertainly. I sat by the seat nearest to the door. Naturally, I invited strange glances from my co-passengers. A bunch of ladies giggled among themselves. Something about them reminded me of old Thyagaraja Bhagavathar movies, probably their heavily oiled hair and Jasmine flowers tucked neatly in it. Some of the men threw a disapproving look at me. Sure, I looked like a freak-show to them. The conductor approached me. This was the hard part that I had been dreading for. What was I going to do? Hand him a one rupee coin clearly printed ’2009′ ? The last thing I wanted was to land in trouble than I already had. I searched my handbag for some old 25 paise coins, hoping for some miracle. After all, I travelled back to another century. I was sure I could manage this “tram-travel”. There they were, a few ‘Ana’ coins. I gave him two coins and in return he pushed a small ticket into my hands roughly. Amidst the confusion, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of old Madras. The tram glided gracefully through the streets and the Madras that I had always admired in old black-and-white pictures came alive right in front of my eyes.

Manthiri_kumari

Like a child seeing a circus show, I was gawking out the window taking in all the beauty of Madras in its original glory. The Kamadhenu theater which had not yet turned into a wedding hall had huge posters of the movies in the entrance. One big poster with two women read “Mandhiri Kumari (1950)”. A movie which is going to become a classic in the coming years, I thought. So it was the year 1950. My parents hadn’t even been born yet! The conductor had been watching me staring out of the window with curiosity. He called out to me, “Ooruku pudhusa? (Are you new to the city)”. I blinked. “Tamizh theriyuma?(Do you know Tamil)”. I nodded and mumbled a small ‘yes’. I was a stranger in my own city. Shaking his head, the conductor went back to his routine. Passengers got in and out of the tram. A middle-aged woman with a little child came hurriedly sat right next to me. Tucking in a bag of rice safely beneath the seat, she dabbed the sweat on her brows with her saree. Then she untied the knot in her saree ends to take out the ticket money. The coins scattered on the floor and I helped her pick it up. The child looked at me with her big black eyes and when I caught her seeing me, her round face broke into the cutest grin. The mother thanked me and started talking. So one thing hadn’t changed in all these years. The random bus conversations between Chennaiites. The woman told me how difficult it is for people to make ends meet in such an economy. She rambled on about her woes, her family with occasional instructions to her daughter, “Padma, don’t suck your thumb” “Padma jannal la etti paakadha(Padma, don’t poke your head out of the window) ” “oru edathla okkaru Padma(Sit in one place, Padma)”. I was just a silent listener saying ‘yes’s and ‘hmm’s and ‘oho’s. After a while, little Padma and her mother got down in Mount Road.

Padma left behind her marapaachi wooden doll but it was too late by the time I noticed. I rolled the doll between my fingers absently and looked out of the window. The tall buildings that usually outlined Mount Road weren’t there. There was no sign of the towering LIC building. It would be another 10 years after which Madras would see its first skyscraper. Spencer Plaza was just “Spencer and Co. Ltd”. A line of Victorian style buildings dotted the road. It was magnificent. People were ambling along the road window shopping. Most of the shops I noticed had very English- sounding names. The tram turned around an edge and was nearing George town. Only a few people were left in the compartment. That feeling of anxiety engulfed me once again. I did not know where to go or whom to approach in this big city. Who would believe a cock-and-bull story about time travel? I started to miss my family. With a heavy heart, I got down from the tram. The city loomed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. As I stood there hopelessly lost in time, a car zoomed past and the wind dropped dust in my eyes. I rubbed it really hard cursing under my breath and blinked multiple times. When I opened my eyes I knew at once that my prayers had been answered. The hustle bustle of the city told me that I was home. The name boards read Chennai. Trams were replaced by green buses and Autos. The traffic was back. Chennai was back. I got into a bus and sat by window waiting eagerly to go home. My phone rang and my mother was scolding me why I had switched it off. I didn’t not retort for I was glad to hear her voice. Moments passed and I wondered whether it had all been a dream. Did I hit my head somewhere and lose consciousness ? If it had indeed been a dream then it was really realistic. Thinking things over in my head I rummaged my bag to get the ticket-money. My hands came across two things – a small white paper with the jumble of numbers along the edges and in the bottom of it was printed the words, “018 Tram”. The second item that I found was a wooden Marapaachi doll. Padma’s doll. My only souvenirs from Madras…

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A few weeks back I came across Weekly Writing Challenge’s topic “Through the door”. I was fascinated by the theme of Time Travel. Furthermore, the movie ‘Midnight in Paris’ which I watched recently inspired me into writing this fiction. Writing this post gave me immense joy because I experienced my biggest fantasy through these words.
Madras or Chennai, I love my city the way it is.

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