At Chennai International Airport

As we deplaned at the international airport at Chennai – it was a domestic flight from Mumbai – and made our way to collect our baggage, on both sides of the long walk we were treated to some delightfully eye-catching high-quality art-works – panels in relief, paintings, icons carved in wood…all drawing upon the rich cultural motifs of Tamil Nadu.

And that’s when our good old Murphy’s Law kicked in. Even if the gentleman had not said anything on the subject, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean. Here was art decked out in all its splendor pining for attention and adulation, and for crying out loud, my camera-cum-cell-phone rides in my wife’s handbag, about fifty feet in the lead. Lumbering along with a particularly heavy piece of cabin baggage, I had to be content merely ogling at these art pieces, telling myself may be next time…

Finally, caught up with the lady waiting for me to join at the entrance to the baggage hall.

I set my load on the floor and told her by gestures there was a pressing matter to attend that cannot keep..

Inside the toilet, I finished the business and then by sheer chance looked up.

And saw this:

The poster art, a civic initiative, by itself made sense as the city is presently reeling under severe water shortage this year. But its juxtaposition

May be it’s a brilliant move: Where/How else a message could get undivided attention for even up to a minute or more smack in the face of an audience helplessly glued to their station and at the same time in a relieved frame of mind 🙂

Retrieved my camera and took a shot of the art to ponder over the ways of those creative minds that worked on it – a perfect brain-food 🙂

And a small compensation for not ‘capturing’ those enchanting art pieces?

End

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Moments In The Morning (A Vignette)

A glorious morning to make one happy to be alive.

The rose bushes swayed a little in the gentle caress of a breeze.

The butterfly deftly balanced itself over the rose: ‘OMG, the man is coming to us here with his basket.’

‘Let him,’ said the rose unruffled.

‘Let him, eh? You very well know why he is headed here.’

‘Yes, he’s going to pluck those of us in full bloom – me included.’

‘And you’re not worried? How could these humans do that? Can’t they enjoy the beauty, letting you live and look gorgeous on the stem?’

‘Listen, don’t grieve for us. In any case we have only a couple of more days to go before we begin withering away. At least…’

‘What ‘at least’?’

‘If the man takes us with him, yes, that’s end of the road for us. But we go out in glory….you know we’ll adorn his deity, god…in the crown!  What better way to…’

The conversation ceased suddenly without goodbye’s said. A teary butterfly took off swiftly, getting out of harm’s way; for, the man was already up on the bush.

With his basket almost full up, the man was set to go when he spotted it.

As his fingers closed around, the butterfly made a valiant attempt to distract him.

To no avail.

All the same, buzzed by the flying insect, he lost his balance for a moment and the rose fell back into the bush.

Could see it lodged deep inside the bush on a bed of thorns, a few petals shed in the fall.

Like the great Kuru, Bishma?

‘So be it,’ the man walked god-wards, the loss tinging him for a moment.

The butterfly never in its life returned to the bush.

End

Take Those Candies Back, Will You?

candies-chochliki-3-5-kg

We were on our evening walk – about thirty minutes up and another thirty minutes down the sidewalk lining a main road in Rockville (Washington DC).

For an urban area, there’s a lot of greenery on both sides interspersing prim-looking townhouses, apartment blocks and single-family homes set back from the road by their foliage-and-grass front-yards. Sometimes we even sight a deer or two lazily grazing in the open spaces between the houses.  The only anxious moments are given by those tethered dogs straining at their leash menacingly baring their teeth and barking at us as we hasten up past those houses.

Usually sharing it with us are a few other ‘oldies’ out on walk like us, some joggers sweating it out causing the green-eyed monster to well up in our hearts momentarily though, young parents pushing their little ones in carts…yes, and a few walking their dogs that we stay clear off – smaller they’re more aggressive they seem to get.

Presently we were gone a little beyond the pretty little cottage when my wife a few paces ahead – for many years now I hopelessly trail behind her in these walks, forced into a single file to make way for the odd biker pushing ahead at break-neck-and-a-few-limbs speed – turned back: ‘You saw those children?’

Obviously I had not.

‘They were waving to us and saying something.’

On an impulse, I turned around and walked back to see a couple of small children of Chinese origin standing on the porch looking happy and still waving hands. Keeping watch on them was an elderly lady seated at the back in a cane-chair.

As I neared them, an older boy (10 to 12 years?) rushed up to me from somewhere at the back of the house inquiring nervously: ‘What’s it? What’s it?’

‘Nothing, not to worry,’ I pulled out a couple of chocolate-candies from my reserve stock I always carried being a diabetic and handed them to him, ‘just these…for them’ pointing at the children now curiously looking on.

The boy took it from my hand.

Then it struck me. I rummaged my sling-bag and found the last piece: ‘This is for you.’

I gave the elderly lady at the back – I thought I saw a smile – a friendly nod and walked away to join my waiting wife so far left wondering about my sudden detour, though it was only for a couple of minutes.

And, man, for the rest of the walk I listened to: ‘How many times do I have to tell you not to go near strangers…You’ll learn your lesson only when you get reported to the police…’

Mind is a strange device often dredging up on a cue unconnected memories – for some reason, I remembered  what I had learnt several decades ago on how a small signal applied at the base was amplified beta times at the emitter of a transistor!

Yes, she had told me before and I understand this is not the ‘done’ thing in these lands. I suppose one of these days this would be drilled hard into me in a manner not very pleasant and I’ll be cured of my impulses.

You can say it again: Life, these days, is different for sure.

End

It Happens…

First of a series of short vignettes on life around as seen, heard, felt or even read about:

I was on my morning ritual – walking around the outer periphery of Diamond Garden near where I live, with an enthusiasm that wasn’t exactly gushing, taking in the usual sights: other walkers speeding past me with an ease that at first annoyed me to no end, now at peace with it; straight-from-Nashik farm vegetables sold in a brisk but unlicensed trade under the fear of sudden raids and confiscation by allegedly-bribe-taking authorities; a motley bunch of young and old of both sexes collecting inside the Garden, flinging their limbs about as directed by a trainer and emitting noises from the deep-end of their voice boxes like they do in a movie on martial arts; an enterprising middle-aged lady serving, in small plastic cups designed to hold only a little more than a spoon-full, a chlorophyll-rich herbal concoction of ingredients pulled from half-a-dozen polished containers, perhaps to make up for an husband idling or lying senselessly drunk at home; another bunch, mostly in their sixties and above, in casual postures, letting out bursts of loud mirthless laughs – do these qualify for health benefits? – sure to  startle the unwary; a homeless guy looking like a runaway from coal mines, sitting feet up on one of those shiny steel benches reading a newspaper in English; …

I’m digressing.

Into what was my third round I think, this man crossed my path heading somewhere beyond the Garden, clad in a black dhoti usually worn by Ayappa devout’s, unshaven, with a small sandal-paste-kumkum tilak on his forehead.  As he pulled ahead of me, as they all do…ugh…, I read ‘TATAVAMSI’ printed at the back of a sleeve-less jacket he wore over his shirt. I was intrigued. One has heard of many vamsam’s (lineages) named after illustrious guru’s, acharya’s and even venerable rishi’s from mythology. But a vamsam by this name TATA – this was a new one for me. Who was this TATA his grandchildren so proudly and publicly announce to the world? Why not take his name? The word means grandfather in Thamizh.

Well, the question remained in my head for a few moments, going out of my mind no sooner he went out of my sight.

Then, it was not to be. In my penultimate round executed more in joy than in breath – the end was in sight, you know – this guy was walking right back along the same way he had gone, crossing me again. Curiosity could not be contained. I stopped him in his stride to ask him politely who was this TATA and what was grand about his grandfather that he went about carrying the old man on his back instead of in his heart as the usual practice was. He was startled out of his wits to be suddenly accosted by a perfect stranger and hit straight out of the blue with a query that made no sense to him even after he recovered his wits about him. Helpfully I drew his attention to the words he carried on his back.

‘Oh,’ he burst out laughing, ‘Sir, it’s nothing about my poor diseased TATA who would have given his life to belong to a worthy vamsam, it’s TATVAMASI.’

No elaboration was needed for the profound advaidhik pronouncement from the scriptures.

‘Oh,’ I said.

Moving on, mercifully and gracefully he didn’t make it worse for me. Having said that, I must also tell you this – at my age, it takes lot more than this for me to be shamed, a limit not challenged yet.

At the same time, inescapable’s cannot be ducked for long, Regrettably it looks like the long delayed visit to my doctor would be sooner than I had planned for my cataract. Though it would still leave me with the flawed ‘auto-suggest/correct’ feature embedded in my grey cells unfixed.

End