The Last Mango

The Last Mango

The Last Mango

The car zoomed up the gate and stopped abruptly. It was almost synchronously followed by the front door opening, and a group of exuberant faces emerged – sporting big grins – they were there at the gate in no time.

I gingerly stepped out of the passenger seat of the white ambassador car, my face having that typical embarrassed look – it was always an odd feeling for me, meeting them all after 2 years… I never knew what to say at first.

My grandmother, in her trademark white sari and blouse ran to hug me. My face was for a few moments showered with kisses, and the embarrassed look gave way to a wide-toothed grin – if there was one thing that was constant in this world, that was my grandmother.

Her penchant for disfiguring faces with her kisses would never change :).

Extricating myself from the bear hug, I proceeded to acknowledge my aunt, and my cousin – they were tugging at our bags while giving us those lovely smiles that always warmed my heart. My grandma wouldn’t leave it at that though. Excitedly, her wrinkled hands clasped my tiny one and led me inside the gate, with a purpose. I looked sideways at my mother, but she was too caught up in the exchange of pleasantries to notice.

Soon, we both were at the foot of the mango tree (at my age, I wouldn’t recognize it so however). She pointed to a lone green mango, hanging at a reasonable height and said

“See that? I’ve left it for you to pluck. I haven’t let anyone else pluck it saying that it was meant only for my darling”.

The profoundness of her statement made me look at her in wonder. I had never plucked anything from any tree before and this was like a God-given opportunity (one never got to be near too many trees when growing up in Saudi Arabia, you see).

The woman of 65 obviously knew the mind of a child of 10, well.

I reached out, and my grandma bent the branch towards me. My fingers grasped the green mango, and before I knew it, it came off the branch. I proffered it with pride at my grandma – she said “Shall I make a pickle out of it then?”, her affection laden voice matched by a face with a smile that I can only call heavenly. I nodded in happiness.

My cousin came to hold my hand and whispered in my ear “She wouldn’t let me pluck it for so many days! All of the rest was gone a week ago, but she asked to leave just this one till you came!”

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

[Many, many years later…]

“Let her pluck a few!” That was my mother, today morning.

I raised my eyebrows at my dad in mock superiority and smirked. He smirked back, “Let them be for some more time. We can eat them ripe, that would be better”.

“She’s here only for 2 more days. You’ve had enough ripe mangoes in your life. My poor daughter… she’s so far away, who’s giving her any?”, motherly concern dripped from her voice like honey.

I grinned and looked at my dad, and winked. Here I was, a 29 year old, bordering on 30, woman, and my mother still spoke of me like I was a 5 year old ;). Gosh, mothers are just so wonderful.

(We were ambling around the garden in front of my house, the three of us. As I skipped around the grass, my dad stooped often to pick up stray leaves and my mum was critically examining the flowers on her treasured creations. It was just one of our together-times, I guess.)

Seven green mangoes were hanging from the small-sized mango tree … pretty amazing bunch, I reflected, especially on such a small tree. I reached out for one.

This time, I mentally made a statement – directed at the tree – it was just a request – “I’m taking one, pls. don’t mind”. (I had read somewhere that one must ask a tree for permission before plucking its fruit – apparently, trees feel pained when their fruit is yanked off rudely – but give off willingly even with just a dash of politeness ;)).

As it had many many years ago, it came off as soon as I gave a gentle pull.

A memory flashed past my mind – the rustle of the white cotton sari, and the wrinkled hands, gleeful eyes with the crow’s feet marks outlining them. Kindness, love of a unique kind.

My eyes then focussed on the two people next to me, as I watched them  – chattering incessantly about seemingly inconsequential things; enveloped in their own world – a world where I was just so important.

Such treasures were hard to come by. For a few seconds, gratitude poured within me.

19 years had passed. But the past and the present were merging. There was only one moment. And only one emotion. Love.

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Bygone Innocence

(c) Rajesh Vee

It was 5.30 P.M and the sun was beginning to set. I could feel the anticipation rising…my anxious eyes searching to connect with the other pair, that belonged in a face that evoked so much love in my heart.

She was washing her feet and hands passively; if she sensed my urgency there was definitely no indication of it. After much diligence in making sure her anklets were rid of any specks of dirt, she motioned for me to do the same. I hurriedly went into the bathroom, splashing water over my feet and quickly rubbing my hands in the steady stream of the tap.

I rushed back to the living room to find her she was deftly oiling a wick. In a few moments, a lamp was lit, and the Gods were smiling through the yellow flame. She folded her hands and stood in silence, deep in prayer; I didn’t want to be a spoilsport so I stood in obedience, next to her, with my eyes closed. I heard the anklets walk past and looked at her, taking the lamp in her hands, reciting “deepam” and going out of the house to the thulasi thara, liting the lamp there too. Folding my hands, and taking a few resigned breaths, I stood leaning at the door frame.

She turned to look at me, with a twinkle in her eyes, and said, “so shall we go?” Furiously nodding, I walked towards her. She said “Ask mummy first. If she doesn’t agree, that’ll be a problem”. 

“I asked her already! She was okay about it”.

“Ask her again. I don’t want to get into trouble!”

*Grunt*…. “Mummmmyyyyyyy” …

I hopped behind her on the narrow pathways leading to the house behind ours. I could hear her in front of me asking “Chechi, shall we pick the leaves?” – and then consent being given after a few friendly exchanges . We were soon at the thick bushes, plucking tiny dark green leaves one by one, putting them into a cover. Soon, we had what we thought was a substantial amount.

Back home, she placed the cover containing the leaves next to the grinder. It must have been 6.30 because the power went off. I let out a wail; waiting for more time was unthinkable. She grinned, went inside a room and came out holding a lamp. The lamp was placed beside the grinder, and as I watched her shadow on the wall as it loomed large, she stood, splashing water on the surface of the stone and proceeding to mash the leaves into fine green paste. I sat on the ledge, swinging my legs, engrossed in our (seemingly philosophical) chatter.

The paste was transferred to a shallow steel vessel, that was placed on the dining room table. A few minutes later, the room was engulfed in light and I rushed to pull a chair and seat myself next to the table. She emerged with a triangular cone in her hands, made out of coarse cloth. I spooned the paste into it… we tied the ends of the cone so that it wouldn’t be squished out from the wrong end.

We took turns, peering with deep concentration at our hands as we tried to etch out complicated designs. Or atleast I did. She was always satisfied with the simplest thing she could make – a big blob in the center, and then the tips of her fingers covered  with the paste. And if there was still more, dots all around the circle in the center. After about fifteen minutes of concentration, I had an exuberant smile on my face. The glob in the center of the hand was shaped like those mango designs that you found in saris those days. And the dots were not random but emerging out in a pattern onto my wrist.

She was excited for a moment and then wistful. “Oh! that is lovely! I wish I had done something sensible instead of this!”

I proudly held up my palm for exhibition, my smile indicating an achievement much more significant that merely a decipherable pattern of mehendi on my hands. I said to her, “Doesn’t matter. Will make it for you tomorrow. I love your pattern of dots too!”. She must have been satisfied with my reply, because she proceeded to stow away the cone.

Dinner was funny. Our left hands were stuck out carefully, many inches away from us, and we attempted to gobble our food quickly, taking care not to move our left hands too much. Soon, It was time to sleep. She said “we’d better sleep with it, otherwise the color won’t be that red tomorrow”. I looked at her in doubt.

After a fraction of a second, mulling on that statement of profound importance, I went over to my mother. “Mummy, can I sleep without washing the mylanji off my hands?” (mylanji being the malayalam word for mehendi). The nod came after a frown, and then a resigned sigh.

The next day morning, I woke as a deep and quaint smell wafted into my nostrils. My sleepy eyes opened to see a red blur in front of me… I heard an eager whisper “Go, get up and wash your hand! I want to see how red the color is!”

In a blink, I was up. I looked at her hand eagerly – the deep brown-red getting a stamp of approval in my mind as soon as I saw it clearly. I ran to the bathroom and held my hand under a tap, picking at the fragments of dried mehendi rapidly to uncover the rich color underneath.

The smile of satisfaction was unbeatable 🙂

P.S. Many years later, one night, 9.00 P.M. it was. I was crouched on the bed, poring over something in detail, the concentration in my mind visible on my forehead. It was her hand outstretched in front of me, and the mehendi cone was in my hand this time. I had stuck to my promise, as I had done so many times before… my design was being etched out on her hand. The next day was to be the day she got married.

Simple Joys of Life

Ever wondered about those simple pleasures of life that you probably didn’t give much importance to, but contributed to making the experience of your life pleasant and wonderful?

Ever realized how sometimes, very trivial and at times, even funny, experiences or probably some routine things you do, turn out to be that which uplifts your mind and soul from the problems and worries of daily life?

Today I thought of listing some of those experiences that were important to me – the simple joys of my life. (And no, this isn’t a forward I received, but I vaguely remember receiving something similar a long time ago :)). Here they are in random order – coming directly out of my memory:

  1. Enjoying the wind blowing in my face while travelling in an auto/bus – I deliberately remove the hairbands that keep my hair in place, because I love the sensation of the wind playing with my hair, and the strands dancing around 🙂
  2. Seeing a child laugh. Infact, anything associated with a child is adorable, except for potty ;). Their laughter is the most uncomplicated thing in this universe.
  3. Rain and all of its associated sensations.
  4. Vanilla Icecream. I love the texture of icecream, and vanilla is my fav flavour.
  5. Switching on the radio/to another radio channel, only to hear one of my favorite songs playing…
  6. Listening to music on the walkman/mobile, and dancing like crazy at home. At times, when I walk into my home in the evening, after the trip in the office bus, the earphones are plugged in, and there’s this amazing dance number playing on radio, I just go shake, prance and groove all around the rooms of my house. Yeaaaah 🙂
  7. Standing in a glass lift and peering through the glass with glee, while the lift moves up or down.
  8. Throwing my head back and laughing heartily after hearing a joke/anything witty.
  9. Hugging my cuddly n cute mum 🙂
  10. Watching TV till late on a Friday night…Its my way of rebellion 🙂 to compensate for the days I reluctantly drag myself into bed cos I have to go early to office.
  11. Going for long walks with a dear friend 🙂
  12. Taking a cool, refreshing bath (with sweet smelling soap) on a hot, sweltering, summer day.
  13. Floating, neck deep in water. As a child, I loved floating in a tub full of warm water, with soap bubbles all around me. In recent times, a place I enjoyed being soaked and floating in water, was Hoganekkal… and with me, was my friend – we just lay neck deep in water for hours, bobbing up and down and feeling the waves of the water course through us. It was amazing.
  14. The feeling of deja vu I get when I sense particular smells… I have always been able to associate many of my experiences, places and even people by smell – so much so that when I get a particular smell, I always have a sense of deja vu, and feel like I’ve been through it before.  It wasn’t till Balaji wrote about Synesthesia,that I realized what it may be :).
  15. Getting in touch with a long lost friend
  16. Cuddling in bed, wrapped in a blanket, on a cold wintry morning.
  17. Shopping for accessories – mainly junk jewellery 😀 – I am a total junkie when it comes to stuff that hangs on my wrists and ears… bells, chains, stars, tinkling things, stones, metal…you name it. I love looking around for quirky looking stuff that matches with my clothes.
  18. Discovering money (that’s been forgotten) in an old purse/jeans pocket. Ah! It makes me feel so rich in a moment :)…and sometimes, I purposely stash away some money somewhere for that experience of finding a treasure 🙂
  19. Coming home to a warm, lovely meal with the family… in my case, its with mum and dad.
  20. Getting a bouquet of red roses 😉
  21. Renting a video cd to watch on a lonely day
  22. Solving a particularly difficult puzzle. To this day, I feel the same thrill when I solve a complex problem at work, or even sudoku in the paper, as I used to feel when I was solving math (mainly algebra) problems in school. Its wonderful.
  23. Giving a compliment. I’m generally prone to blushing when I get a compliment – still don’t know how to deal with it :). However, I love giving compliments where they are needed. I’ve realized that it takes a very small effort to notice something extra special in a person. And contrary to popular thought, giving a compliment actually makes the giver feel much better than the one it is intended for… I think it brings about a connection between the humans: you feel appreciation/respect flowing out of it, and it is wonderful,… spiritually rejuvenating.
  24. Reading the Sunday newspaper,whilst drinking a hot cup of delicious tea. Its my favorite activity on a Sunday morning, and one of the most relaxing ones. In fact, tea features in a couple of my other favorite activities, and I love drinking tea at odd hours… way into the night :).
  25. Hearing an old song and being transported back into time. A lot of songs have that effect on me, and one I distinctly remember in terms of even the first time I heard the song, what I was doing, and what I felt, is Tere Dar Par Sanam from the movie Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi. To this day, when I hear the violin piece at the start of the song, I get transported to my room in Dammam, Saudi Arabia – on a cold winter evening in my bedroom, looking outside the balcony adjoining the room, while listening to this song for the first time on my walkman.
  26. The high of performing on stage. Dance is my passion.
  27. Seeing ducks/swans/lotuses in ponds. Often, as I’m travelling on a train to Kerala, once the picturesque locales of the Kerala countryside appear in the train windows, it isn’t uncommon to see ponds filled with pink and white lotus flowers. I also get to see ducks and swans paddling peacefully in the ponds, and I always wonder what lovely looking birds they are… so fluffy and cute… and clumsy, like me :).
  28. Going through old photo albums. Photo albums are the only way of holding time still. Which is why I like photography – because I think it is a way of bringing time to a stop and getting a slice of life in a picture… I have a lot of old family pictures at home, and in my school years, it was often a hobby (a very pleasing one at that :)) of mine to categorise the pictures and put them into different albums chronologically, or distinguished by the families they belonged to, or by events etc,to write labels for all the albums and arrange them neatly in a bag. Today, Flickr is the online equivalent of that for me.
  29. Poring over book titles in a library/book store, anxiously reading their summaries, biting my nails and wondering which one to rent / buy. I love reading books and it gives me great pleasure to curl up on a bed/couch with one and spend an entire evening reading it and musing dazedly on its contents.
  30. Watching my favorite TV shows – right now, its re-runs of Friends, Full House and Bigg Boss, to name a few.

Some list there, eh? I wasn’t planning on such a huge list when I started out, but as I started counting the pleasures of my life… one by one of them popped up on its own accord. Just goes to show that even though we may not know it, we would probably have many such wonderful things that make our lives so special, and make us blessed to be alive and kicking in this world!

Rain

I love the rain. It is truly the most beautiful and sublime act of nature (if we ignore its capacity for destruction).

Some of my most vivid sensations are of the rain; I love

  • the smell that emanates from dry earth, when the first drops of rain fall on it…
  • the feel of wet grass after a sudden shower…
  • the sound of the rain, pitter-patter on the ground…
  • the sight of rain drops trickling from the roof and car windows…
  • cupping my hands to form a pool of rain, and wiping my face with the water…
  • turning my face towards the sky, and feeling the drops fall on my face…
  • the freshness in the atmosphere and the earth after the rains…
  • fresh silvery green color of trees, dewy drops on leaves and flowers, puddles on the ground that go splash…

A lot many of my fond memories of life are also of the rains. I remember going to school on a Thursday many many years ago… it had been pouring non-stop for many days and I was waiting for the school bus at a bus stop which was about 10 minutes walking distance away from my home. The bus failed to turn up, and someone then came and told me that there wasn’t any school that day (the school had been partially flooded); so I started walking back home in my school uniform. It was pouring cats and dogs, and there was water on the road a little above my ankles – I was so exhilarated with the feel and sound of the rain, (and the thought that I didn’t have to go to school ;)) that I closed the umbrella, started singing my favorite songs and splashing around in the water, while walking back home – the people on the road must have thought that I was mad 🙂 but I had not a care in the world…

Then again, during my college days, it was the day of my computer practical exam. I was walking to the bus stop, again with an umbrella since it was raining, and mid-way I realized that there was thigh-deep water in a huge stretch of the road that I had to go across. I continued walking, and slowly the water level rose till I was almost wading in the water, and my kameez was half-drenched. There weren’t many people on the road and most of them were standing in shops lining the side of the road… some of them called out to me telling me not to go on the road since it wasn’t safe… but I was having fun 🙂 holding on to an umbrella and walking in the middle of the road (or rather, in the middle of the mini-flood) as if I owned it :D. Thankfully the water wasn’t all that dirty (unlike how it would be in Bangalore, say), so emerging out of the road, I was still fit to go to college and attend the exam.

Another very beautiful memory of the rain was when I went to Bombay/Mumbai once, during the monsoon season. I went to the Juhu beach, and as soon as I stepped into the water, it started raining like crazy… and soon, there we all were, being showered with cold water from the sky, whilst being waist-deep in the warm water of the sea, and having the tide throw us around in the water… heavenly :).

Coming back to my post, why am I talking of rain now? Well, it is monsoon season in India now, and I’m feeling privileged to witness this miracle called rain.

Rain in Kerala is a beauty to behold – transports you to a completely different world altogether. I’ve often felt that if there is heaven on earth, it must be in some parts of Kerala during the rains. Below are some pictures (courtesy Manorama and Tata world) that may justify my statement :

Naalukettu Agathalam (Inner part of a house in Palakkad)

Part of a thatched roof

Raining inside the temple

See the beautiful drops of rain...

Football fever in the monsoon...

A fisherman going back home