Saturday, 30 May 2015

Romance In The Park

                                 People In A City Park Free Vector Free Vector       
                                                      ( Courtesy Freevectors)

    Age did not seem to diminish his energy or the penchant for wooing women. He jogged into the park  every morning strapped with a kit, his closely cropped salt pepper head bobbing over the rest of the early risers. He was seasoned, one could make out from his correct jogging shoes and the accessories. Only his shorts were a bit too brief for others' comfort. 

   The green square fringed with the amaltas, neem and a couple of teak trees was a source of freshness, entertainment and a balm for the tired eyes. At daybreak, the denizens of the surrounding tall buildings streamed in. Some jogged, strolled, walked, exercised or attempted to shake their limbs between gossip sessions and discussion of the futility of present day politics.

   There were some  old ladies barely managing to reach the park wobbling with a stick and then there were some who quite defied their age and seemed fit enough to park their legs on the back of the benches to bend forward. A couple of those women who ambled along the track talking of their daughters-in-law, never seemed to be in a hurry to excite the lards resting peacefully on their ample frame.They most likely went right back home and gorged on the parathas cooked by those very  daughters-in-law. The ring of  benches under the kikar tree, in the center of the park, was the permanent meeting place for a group of just- retired, on -the -verge -of- retiring, retired -for-decades gentlemen who strolled a couple of rounds around the park and then got down to their favourite pastime of lambasting every Government programme worth their byte in the media. And for breathers, they  shook their hips from side to side and attempted to touch their toes between topics of conversation. Everytime, their fingers barely managed to reach beyond the knees. These rare attempts were further abandoned when the discussions got juicier where they could provide their two cents worth of wisdom gained from the years of experience. 

  And so life went on in the green square fringed with the amaltas, neem and a couple of teak trees. The birds warbled to fill in with the perfect morning notes. Happy little groups, relaxed twosomes and threesomes and inscrutable singles within the confines of  invisible circles drawn around them.  She stood out from the lot  practicing her yoga  facing the sun, happy to be in her own world; letting the grass smear her palms with  dew that she massaged into her face; singing bhajans clapping her hands as though she was the only one in the park.
" Namaste! What a lovely morning it is, isn't it! " she bowed to the old couple stretched  out in the snake position on the grass.
They waved back at her.
" Oh! It is so good to see you! May God bless you! " she smiled at an elderly man in the middle of his breathing exercise. Her smile stretched to brighten up her face with fine lines that wrinkled at the corner of her eyes and lips. They waved back to her always. Sometimes engaging in little conversations. But she never seemed to stay with anyone for long. She flitted with quick steps  like the butterflies hurrying on to catch up with all the other flowers.   

   It was after she came into the park that the salt and pepper jogger usually entered, going around the track for a couple of rounds. On many occasions  he did his sit ups and push ups quite close to where she was. At first she did not seem to notice him. She went about her routine oblivious to the new pattern that was setting in. As days went by her hands quite frequently smoothed her hair. She stole quick covert looks from the corner of her eye as she massaged the back of her neck.  His arrival was alerted with an American drawl on the pedometer, "You have done five kilometres in forty five minutes! Congratulations!" While he front rolled and squatted, she walked past him on her toes and arms raised to the sky with a quick surreptitious glance at him. He watched from afar as she closed her eyes and released her breath in spurts. One day he walked upto her while she was in the middle of executing surya namaskar. After a brief conversation he followed her movements like a student learning from a teacher. He was a seasoned one alright.

   It didn't take very long for both of them to jog into the park together. Taking up their former spots on the grass, each one followed their own set of stretches. The cheerful woman and the salt and pepper jogger. The petunias around the trees were growing into scraggly, unkempt shrubs and the amaltas pods above were waiting to burst open into golden chandeliers. Everything else went on. The same set of people. The same set of indulgences. Life went on. 

  One day, the cheerful lady and the jogger entered the park separately. She came in first and went about her asanas. He jogged in later stopping near the little mound of grass while the American drawl confirmed his target for the day. He did not look at her once and continued with his squats like she did not exist. She tossed her head to the other side and continued to balance herself on a vrikshasan. He did his back rolls and front rolls while she avoided looking in his direction. She then left with a sideways glance at him and he focussed on balancing himself on the lurches. This new pattern of aloofness soon replaced the older one.

  It was one of the usual mornings. The woman  folded her hands in obeisance to the sun rising over the buildings before she sped out on a round around the park. Nothing unusual there. The familiar brisk walkers were out pacing each other. Suddenly a small group assembled in the far corner, under the neem tree. People at the back of the gathering were trying to peer over others shoulders. Someone had fallen on the track. It was the cheerful woman lying on her back with a dazed look in her eyes.  Some of the other ladies in the park had reached and urged her to rise up but she  looked around confused at the faces peering at her.

" Are you okay? "
" Come on! Get up!"
" Here, let me help you."
Everyone seemed to know her.
" Are you feeling sick? Are you giddy?"
" Come, let's clean you up"
She shook her head and lay as though it was the most natural thing to do. To lie on her back, on a walking track early in the morning. After a few minutes of coaxing and cajoling she reluctantly allowed to be helped to her feet and made to sit on a bench nearby. But that lost look stayed scanning the faces like a child searching for the parent. While the others dusted her t-shirt and sweat pants, she turned around, looked over her shoulders, craned her this way and that way. She was desperately searching.
" What do you want?"
" Do you want some water?"
She shook her head.
" Are you looking for Vikram?"
" Where is he..." she said weakly.
" He should be here, don't worry" a brisk walker said. 
" Will someone please call Vikram?" a lady suggested.
Now everyone joined in the lookout for Vikram turning their heads around to see if they could spot him.
" There he is! Vikram! Vikram!"
Two more voices joined in summoning him.
Vikram had just entered the park and had continued his last lap. His machine confirmed another five kilometers for the day as he walked up to the group. 
" Vikram, please take her home...she doesn't seem to be well..."
" She fell suddenly while taking her walk"
She clutched onto his arm frightened as though he was the last hope.
 Vikram held her hand tenderly and led her out of the park taking slower steps, wiping away the sweat on his sleeves. The group dispersed and went back to their lives.

   The amaltas trees were in full bloom now spreading a golden hue in the fringes of the park. The women still strolled and lamented about their daughters-in-law. The men continued with their animated discussions under the kikar tree. The focussed ones counted the number of laps completed. It has been quite a few weeks now but the spots by the grassy mound are now occupied by new faces bending and stretching to touch their toes. 


Monday, 18 May 2015

A Market In Koh Samui

   On Fridays the entire Koh Samui comes alive in Bo Phut beach  with the weekly walking market in Fisherman's village. While on other days you can ride or drive through the street flanked with shops, restaurants and bars, on Fridays just park your vehicle and stroll around the stalls that the vendors line up on the streets. You can't miss it. Ask anyone and they will guide you to Fisherman's village on a Friday evening. I shall leave the story of the lively market here for a short while. Let me begin the travel story from the top...
                                                           Fisherman's Village Market

       Hunched in front of the monitor for hours till the body refuses to straighten up; scouring the internet for the best options; zeroing down on the probables and then long distance discussion at length with the hubby to close a deal; is our idea of planning a vacation. Painful? Ah! But we like to know exactly where we are going and where will we be staying. And yes,our most important discussions take place over the guessed it, that's when they( husbands) are most attentive. If I need to be heard, I wait for him to leave and then make a call. Voila! He is all ears! But I digress.

   Destination  was Thailand. And we were not interested in a Bangkok-Phuket-Pattaya-Koh Phi Phi etc etc. After trawling the travel blog posts for days we finally agreed that Koh Samui would be a good place to unwind. From the many beaches there, it was Bang Po that caught our eye although Chaweng and Lamai are the most popular ones for their powder soft sand and shaded teal water. Well! Actually, it was the wooden cottage bang on the beach that nailed it and the prices. It's not rocket science to comprehend that a tourist infested area translates into shelling out more. however, it was love at first sight for me, the price tag came in later. If you look at the picture you will know what I mean. I fell hook, line and sinker for it. And once there I realized I'd found my ideal holiday accommodation. I would have traded my house keeping skills for a life long stay here.


Coconut Paradise Wooden Villa

Adorable Kitchen

   We were contemplating the most cost effective plan to reach Koh Samui from Bangkok, considering that  the baht is double the rupee, when a friend, Mike, chipped in with his advice. He should know for he, an ex army officer, organizes biking tours not just in Leh, Western Ghats, but also abroad like across Northern Thailand through his Victorianz. Koh Samui does have an airport but it is the expensive Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways that flew in and out. There are overnight trains and buses that ply from Bangkok to Surat Thani. Since we were travelling with senior citizens, we opted for the easier option. He suggested we check the Nok Air, the low cost domestic airlines. Nok Air flies to Surat Thani and from their the passengers are taken by coaches to the pier and then on by cruise to Koh Samui. All  this was inclusive in the return Nok Air fare which was around three thousand Thai Bahts approximately per head. The travel time is roughly five hours from the Don Mueang airport in Bangkok to Koh Samui. Despite the many halts and changes in transport, the journey was  hassle free and easy on the pocket. We just had to board the waiting coach and the waiting cruise.

   Koh Samui let us  relax and soak in the moments of the salt laden breeze and the gentle lapping of the waves at Bang Po. The sand is coarser than the much sought after Chaweng and Lamai white beaches but it is quieter. No touristy crowd, touts and vendors taking up every space on the beach and shops lined up to distract you and lighten your pocket. Since we had a fully functional and an adorable kitchen, grocery shopping took us to a fresh market that had us surprised. A flippant remark from my father " if you are going out, get me some tamul paan" like he would, back in Assam ask for the areca nut and betel leaves, had us replying " yeah! sure!".
Picking up some eggs at the fresh market I suddenly jumped," Oh My God! Tamul paan!"
Stacked neatly in packets were green betel leaves and the nuts to go with it, complete with lime and tobacco! The Burmese vendor was so happy to know we were from Assam that he added an extra egg to our lot.

  There are many activities to keep you occupied in Koh Samui like island hopping to Ko Phangan, Ko Tao, snorkelling, scuba diving, water sports and so on. Since we were there only for three days, rushing around was not our idea of a holiday. Setting aside one full day for scuba diving, we generally soaked in the Koh Samui air, lulled by the gentle waves on Bang Po and refreshed by the lush tropical flowers and foliage heavily scenting the evening sky.

  One such evening, our last on the island, happened to be a Friday. Fisherman's village in Bo Phut, is where the action is with hundreds of lights brightening up the place. An array of food on skewers grilling and roasting, fill the air. Between the many eatery stalls are those selling curios, mementos, garments,spices, packed Thai food to carry back home, accessories, aroma oils. From five to eleven in the evening, this little place in Koh Samui show cases all  that is Thai mingled with the expat trends.

    One of the stalls caught my attention with it's wrist bands, t-shirts and other accessories in red, green, yellow and black. Looking up I saw the legendary Rastafarian gazing out with contemplation from a fluttering banner. Bob Marley seemed to have found resonance in this island with many bars belting out his reggae numbers. Some included bars themed after him. Probably having arrived with the backpackers and the western tourists, the reggae icon just stayed on in the islanders'imagination blending with their life. We just strolled around checking out stuff, friendly bargaining and warm smiles all around. So a normal bargaining scenario after we quoted our price would be like;
"Oh! Cannot Madam! Cannot!"  with the most disenchanted look on the vendor's face. Then out comes a calculator and he or she quickly types the lowest selling price for us to see so there is no ambiguity left in the communication of the right figure. The figure quoted, in turn, horrifies us and so with a smile and a pulled look (practice this, really!) we utter,
"Can! Can! Oh! Please can!"
Thus the banter continues for another few minutes till the desperate one succumbs to the implores of the other. English is not exactly a  universal language we realize, even in Asian countries. There were moments of exasperation but it was fun. In any case it was far better than Bangkok where we were literally pulling our hair apart reaching nowhere with the language issue.

      Fisherman's market is not just another mundane market, it feels more alive with the variety of stuff, shops and stalls. If there are stalls with naked bulbs to light up the wares, there are also artsy corners for a relaxed evening with a drink. There is live music right on the road or a band playing in a restaurant. Some of these restaurants are beautifully done up providing a cozy ambience with greens hanging all around and the fragrant blossoms weighed down from the eaves. You can stroll around, pick your stuff, sit down with a drink,  ramble around again looking at the curios, pick up a skewer grilling on the fire, listen to some wonderful music to soothe away those tired limbs or walk into a cute restaurant.  That's what you do in the Fisherman's village market.

    The market is teeming with people and yet there is no jostling. And believe me, time just flies and it flies beautifully! When the last of the Pad Thai is scraped from the bottom of the urns, packing up the empty cauldrons and the last of the curios and fridge magnets laid into the cartons, attempt a last minute bargain. With a smile. Clutching your goodies, grab a bottle of beer and walk down to the pier and feel some far off music bouncing off the waves...Ah! Koh Samui ! The Chinese named it well..."safe haven"...




Colourful Knick Knacks

Frangipani Hair Clips

Skewered Seafood And Meat

Bob Marley Stall

Accessories in Rastafarian Colours

A Woman's Delight

An Artist By The Road

A Green Cafe

Fragrant Rangoon Creeper  Adding To The Magic

Friday, 15 May 2015

Will The Real Mother Stand Up?

mother baby hands
Courtesy    Free Photos

         All the brouhaha has subsided and the declarations of love for the mothers and salute to motherhood have died down for the next 364 days. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against all the beautiful sepia toned snaps as status updates or the the notes of gratitude dedicated. I am, because I too have one. And I share her with two other siblings. And no. This isn't another one dedicated to one more mother. In fact, this post is to pose a question to all the mothers. You have had your share of limelight on the 10th of May and are mighty pleased with the attention showered by the worthy offsprings. There have been accounts of how youngsters have been emotionally blackmailed and threatened by the mothers to change their 'dp', status updates with the loving mom's snap in all social media or groups worth their bytes, short of probably fixing them on bank papers. Mothers too demand their pound of flesh to flaunt on wherever they exist digitally. Hmmm... just made me wonder whether the Mother India  avatar had changed with times. But no, that incarnation also comes in handy when nothing else works. More of that later.Well, actually these niggling thoughts have been plaguing me of late and what I elaborate on, may tantamount to blasphemy.

  Shall we recall a regular scenario of the neighbourhood park where you may have strolled in with the apple of your eye awaiting compliments at how well your genes have manifested. You have enjoyed all the cooing and the warm glances thrown at the bundle in your arms by total strangers. Back home when you have recounted the delightful little details to your neighbours or the others in the family, the comparisons cropped up. " Oh! When my Chunnu was this young, the entire neighbourhood would be fighting over each other to hold him..." In all those noddings and affectionate clicking of tongues, somewhere deep down a tiny bit of resentment crept in for having tried to hijack the attention showered on your darling. As they grow up and you get older, it only gets more obsessive. This desire to have constant spotlight on your own.  

   Or shall we talk about the time when your child was not selected for a competition or a race and that just didn't go down too well with you. Instead of saying " maybe he or she was better than you", did you say " let me go and talk to your teacher and find out"? Did you just plant the seed of cut throatism instead of striving for a healthy competition? Or the time when your neighbour's daughter got into the most sought after engineering college, did you badger your own to follow her footsteps? You want your own to stand out and yet you push them into a herd.

  And then you have sighed and recalled the great difficulties surmounted when raising them. The sacrifices made. The opportunities missed. The sleepless nights. The more you repeat the more the child grows up thinking what a tyrant he or she has been. The more he or she thinks thus, the halo around your head just gets bigger and brighter. And you have got them right there. Wound around your little finger, your creation is your entitlement. Never mind that they could have a mind of their own.  

   You would say, they are your own. They ought to be aware of every hardship faced by you in bringing them up. But then every mother is saying the same to their's. Tell me something... did the child beg to be born? Now, of course I shall not get into the details of their conception. The child came into this world because you wished it to. Well! When you did wish one of your own, but naturally, the onus of raising it lay with you. There is no  best way to raise them. How you raise them shapes them as individuals. I have seen mothers jumping into the fray when children are squabbling at play.
" Why are you not playing with my Minni?"
Children will play and children will fight. They will go back to playing again forgetting the past. Adults need to keep their eyes and ears open not their mouth. Do intervene if it gets out of hand but let them sort it out first. In most cases they do a wonderful job of it when left to their own devices. These are important life skills. The ability to sort out one's own issues instead of waiting for someone else to do the dirty job. If they have made a mistake, encourage them to accept it and make amends instead of conjuring a smokescreen of excuses. Most often the general perception is that your's is the cherubic angel who can do no wrong and the 'other' is the red horned devil. And this rosy tinted vision continues well after they have tied the knot and have had children of their own. Your child can do no wrong. Just step back a little and see that they are all children. There is no harm in embracing the 'other' child with all his little imperfections.

   Why am I saying all this? Of course there has been no dearth of illustrations borne out of your children's matrimony. Yes, yes the TV serials have only added fuel to the ghar ghar ki kahanis and the family politics theories.  The daughters-in-law are these scheming beings who  need to be shown their right places while the daughters are not to be taxed with unwanted burdens. The sons-in-law ought to be paying more attention to their wives while the sons should be advised subtlely to keep the wives in check. More so, because you have toiled hard to raise them and now the wife reaps all the benefits. This is the time when the Nirupa Roy and the Mother India incarnation comes in very handy. This play of power within the family will continue as long as people marry and refuse to grow up as individuals.

   The reason why I think on these lines is because the role of the mother is much higher than these petty skirmishes. In the light of two incidents in Delhi, all the mothers need to do a reality check. A mother allegedly incited and instigated her teenaged son to thrash a rash DTC bus driver who later succumbed to his injuries. Now the teenager's future is in doldrums. The mother forgot to learn and impart an important lesson " as you sow so shall you reap". Your actions and your reactions in a given situation will catch up with you sooner or later.

  The second incident was the 'bricking' of a traffic constable by a mother in front of her children. First the mother jumps the red light and then refuses to produce the necessary documents when asked for by the traffic police. She allegedly gets abusive and the situation turns for worse. And all this, in the presence of her own school going children. What a contradiction in the lessons learnt in school and lessons perceived in the real world! If the lady had any sense she should have owned up her mistake, shown her documents and paid the fine. If she had any courage she should have told her children that the traffic cop was doing his duty and that the law exists for our protection and safety. The children would have imbibed an important lesson in honesty, civic duty and courage what hours in a classroom would not have achieved. Most importantly she would have earned their respect.

   Is it fair to ask for a better world when you have not contributed in any way to build it? You may lament about the indifferent, callous and inhuman ways of the world but remember to ask whether you sowed  the right seeds. You may go hoarse telling the child the dos and the don'ts but they will register in their impressionable minds only what they see and perceive. So be a Real Mother and help your child to take the right step forward with a sound judgement. Don't tell the child. Show the child how you do it.