Tuesday, July 31, 2007

At a Japanese farm house!

" Kombamwa!!! Is it Nanditha san? I am Tamura ! We wait you in car.....you ready? We wait OK? ".................
"Kombamwa!!! Ok Tamura San! I 'll be right there!" I replied and took my bag and rushed down.
I was ready, as I knew how punctual these Japanese were....I could never move around according to the IST ( Indian Stretchable Time) here. We once took a wrong train and traveled in the opposite direction unaware till we reached a new place!!( all because we boarded the 7.35 train instead of 7.34!). Can you ever imagine this in India ?

Mr and Mrs Tamura were waiting for me in the car.
" Wow! Your Indian dress nice!" complimented the couple.
" Arigato!" I thanked them in Japanese.
" You Japanese good! ... Indians clever!" I bowed at Tamura San's compliment . They were always surprised how Indians could handle so many languages!! I had the extra privilege of knowing Malayalam, a language which can be credited for offering maximum flexibility to your tongue!

We had a long drive. We were heading towards the country side, and I enjoyed every bit of the serene picturesque panoramic beauty around.Each day in Japan was a new experience for me . I enjoyed these experiences and encounters.After an hours drive we reached a small farm. This was unlike any place I had visited before. I was invited to give a performance! I wondered where I would perform, for I did not see any signs of it! There were a few wooden chairs, around fifteen in the yard.

We were welcomed with all warmth and I was receiving all the attention and care of a gaijin( foreigner).
It was getting dark, and still there were no signs of any formal function! I wondered and worried what PP would be doing back in our apartment.I had not fixed dinner expecting to reach before our dinner time .....I rang him up on Tamura San's mobile and explained to him the situation I was in . He told me not to worry and that he had fixed dinner ! I felt a lot better ..!

As it was getting darker the crowd was slowly increasing .....Tamura San told me,"come, lets go for walk!"
What did this mean! Was I brought all the way here for a walk? And that too, when my stomach was grumbling , partly due to hunger and partly due to the turn of events here! I had never been invited for a performance, and asked for a walk! I would have preferred to walk with some casuals on ! Now here I was all decked up in a silk saree, with matching jewelery, and make up! I thought I was invited for a dance performance !( thank God I decided on not wearing the dance costume....) Imagine walking in Japan in a Bharatnatyam costume....with all the farmers!

"we show you the farm"....Tamura San could surely not see my facial expression in the dark....We had to be very careful....there were damp and swampy areas and I could hear ducks quacking away in their coop.
All my uneasiness vanished as I got the first glimpse of the moving stars dancing in front of me! This was a rare sight ! I had never seen something like this before! They were numerous! As we continued walking we were surrounded by them ....They had created an aura on each one of us....I was transported into a different world altogether ....They were the fireflies!... Yes ! and this was the firefly festival ..! The whole farm was glowing with their light ....I felt as if I have entered a fairy land! I remember seeing fireflies when I was young ... but never were they so huge in size or infinite in number!

As we walked backed to the farm, I felt the fire flies had kindled my spirits and evoked a sense of calm with in.They reminded me that each of us carry a light with in us....which when it glows can transform our land into heaven.....

Back at the farm house, I was not bothered about dancing with out a formal stage or a hall packed with audience! I danced under the twinkling stars and in the midst of glowing fire flies....in front of a small audience , who lived a life of simplicity! I was honored! My performance was followed by a musical symphony...which played ethnic country music! I was fascinated by their instruments and music which transformed one into a different horizon.

Later, we were served food under the stars....They loaded Tamura san's car with lot of their farm products, ! Which was unloaded at my apartment...It was their gratitude ! their token of love.....What I experienced was so precious , so valuable .....I treasure those moments , at the fire fly festival!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tribute to Balanna!....

I used to open those gates with a special sense of feeling......( a feeling that sprouts from intense admiration , respect !)...I knew I was entering the house of God...( of course! I was entering the temple of dance...). I involuntarily prayed..." let all my actions and words be always right!"...

I was always welcomed by his compassionate smile and kind words! They immediately put me at ease! No one had to prompt me to fall at his feet and seek his blessings! It just happened . He was always at Padukka's side , like a pillar of strength , with whose support and companionship , the artiste in her bloomed.

Last week I was in an elated mood! The music and rhythm that emanated from my music system would invite me into a world of dance ...which would raise my spirits ....and all three of us ( my two little boys and me) would dance around in our living room ..energizing every cell in our body...later plunge on to our couch , on top of each other , our walls echoing enchanted giggles! That night , I dream t of him! As usual beside his sister and my Guru.
" May God bless you, ma!" he echoed in his usual affectionate tone.
I reflected on my dream the next day....and came to a conclusion that I was contemplating too much on my days at Chennai , and my dance classes!

Yesterday , my Amma called from India ......" Balanna is no more!.... he passed away!"
My hands went cold .... and I replayed my dream once again....
" When?" I asked....feeling a burner glowing in my stomach!
"5 days back!", came the reply.

It must be my flight of imagination , or just an accidental co incidence of incidents!.....I like to believe that passport and visa were not hindrances for him , after he left his body....so that he could come and bestow his blessings on me!
I felt a pain rolling in my throat....trying to find a vent!... But I knew for sure that I was blessed!

Yes , when I open those gates again, I will no longer be welcomed by his kind talk and compassionate smile....
Yes ,who ever came across him will miss his presence!...
May his blessings and good will ....that he has left behind....kindle our spirits ....and enlighten our lives!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kanna and Sree visit the Zoo!

" Anna , Anna !.. ... wake up, anna! " There was urgency in the 2 year olds tone.

His brother was still in bed and didn't show any signs of waking up.

"Anna , wake up Anna , today we go zoo! " Now Sree was on top of his brother , Kanna and was howling into his brother's ears!

"Yeaaaa! Zoo.... Zooo! both of them were in heights of excitement already!
"Sree, come lets brush our teeth " , now the 5 year old Kanna took over.
Within seconds they hoisted themselves besides the wash basin and proceeded with their brushing!

"More paste! Want more paste" , Sree started crying....
"NO!" replied Kanna, " more paste will spoil your teeth, see how I'm brushing"
"I Want , I want more paste", Sree invited his mother to the scene...She some how explained about the whole lot of wild animals waiting for him at the Zoo and wound up the brushing!

"I give fish food...."Sree yelled.
" wait for me.. wait for me...." Kanna almost knocked his brother down.
By the time the fish food was in the small aquariam, there was enough on the ground too!

"give me milk! give me fruit loops!" Sree squatted on the kitchen floor.
"I want cornflakes , with honey and banana and lots of raisins!", Kanna squatted beside his brother.

"I want the red bowl", shouted Kanna.Their mother knew well what would follow!She sighed...
"Red me ! red me!"now it was Sree`s turn. Mother sighed again, wondering when she would be able to strap them on to their car seat.
Red bowl was given to the younger one (as usual), Kanna was bribed with an extra spoonful of raisins and pacified with an orange bowl( explanation: orange and red hail from the same "family!").

"Amma, Sree is eating from my bowl!" complained Kanna. Mother knew well, there was no point in yelling at Sree, for he had the most powerful weapon, his heavy down pour with thunderous sobs!

Mother again brought Zoo to the picture, and cajoled Sree with thoughts of wild animals eagerly waiting to see their beloved friend Sree!

"Come on Sree , lets play in the bath.."
"All my animals need a bath, Wait Anna, let me get them", Sree was busy picking up his bath toys.

Today it was father's turn to give them a bath, while mother packed snacks.
"Amma.....! Sree is splashing water all over the place" mother ran with the mop....while father scooped them from the bath !
Both were hanging on their father's shoulders like langoors....

" Sree wants Anna shoe!....Anna shoe!" Parents Sighed in unison, this was yet another hurdle they surpass daily!
Sree was adamant at wearing his brother's shoe , and that too all by himself.
"Animals want to see Sree's new shoe.. or else they will cry!", Kanna came up with a new tactic which consoled Sree.

Thank God!... not much of a drama today!...Parents were relieved!

Finally Kanna and Sree were buckled in their car seats...Kanna picked up a book... and so did Sree...Kanna started his usual enquiries," when will we reach the Zoo!" Sree echoed.."when ZOO WHEN ZOO!"

"Give me something to eat!" Kanna pleaded......" Sree MA..MAMA , SREE ma..mama!" Sree followed..
Mother passed them the apples hoping the snacks would last through the Zoo visit!

In the Zoo Sree and Kanna enjoyed their train ride....

"This is Thomas the tank engine....", Sree was excited.

Both the boys were so happy to see many peacocks, just walking along ....

" See , see they are dancing!" Kanna spotted.

"Did you see the flamingos, Sree!...look at one sleeping on just one leg!" Kanna tried to imitate!
" You know how they get their color? " Kanna continued without waiting for an answer."They eat food with beta carotene!"
" Sree,so you should eat lots of carrots! OK" , Kanna had started his non stop lecture.

They hopped into the Kangaroo shelter and even saw a baby kangaroo peeping from its mama's pouch.

"Did you know how Kangaroo got its name?" asked father.
"NO"..Kanna replied.
"once a foreigner visited Australia and asked one of the aborigines what the strange animal was? The Aborigine replied,"KANGAROO".. MEANING I don't know!.From then on Kangaroo got its name!" explained father.

"Amma Maamum, I am hungry" Sree said.
They had a picnic lunch under a tree.

Then proceeded to see the other exhibits.Till five in the evening they walked around the whole zoo... amused by the animals...

" Amma , legs are aching how long will it take to reach our car", Kanna was tired.
"count till 100 and you will be there!" said father.
" come on Kanna, if you finish counting till 100 and still do not reach the car , then Appa will get nice beatings! OK" Mother raised up Kanna's spirits!
The thought made him laugh and he started counting loudly inviting a lot of attention.
By the time Kanna reached 100 , father was running - Sree, Kanna and Amma close behind.

Return journey was easier as there were a lot of things to talk about.All had a light dinner and plunged on to the bed.
"How was the day? did you enjoy it?" asked Amma...
"Zoo no good! no dinosaurs!... Why no dinosaurs!....Sree like dinosaurs!"

"ONCE UPON A TIME, long...............long.............ago.......there was a dinosaur...."When Amma started a dinosaur story Sree was happy and he involuntarily closed his eyes with a baby smile still on!

"I wish i could see dinosaurs too.. i like Apatosaurus and Triceratops and Stegosaurus.. you know why ? they were herbivorous...." Kanna too dozed off to sleep , weaving his own dreams!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Month Of Ramayana!

Today, is July 16th and the month of Ramayana begins!....In Kerala it is the month of heavy down pour ! Nature pours down its purging waters , and people of Kerala wash down their impurities with Ayurvedic Sukha chikilsas( full body treatments), coupled with intake of food apt for the purgatory process(karkidaka kangi).They squat before the lighted lamp and read or listen to Ramayana(aayana or journey through Rama's life).


Ramayana, the literary masterpiece of Valmiki is an epic poem, which reflects Indian ethos and values. This allegory not only quenches the spiritual thirst of the inquisitive listener but also the imaginative elevations of a curious child. Ramayana, portrays the divine birth, extraordinary childhood, exciting adolescence , and spiritual maturity of Rama the hero. It represents a story line where good triumphs evil, love triumphs lust, where virtue triumphs vice! Ramayana is not only the story of Treta yuga, it is also the story of Kali yuga. In Rramayana, there is war, battlefield, defeat and victory! the same strife, the same war, the same struggle is manifested in our inner world.... the Ravana in us alive.....we need to call upon the Rama in us to rescue us from this battlefield and mark victory ...: lead our path towards better evolution!


Valmiki , who authored Ramayana was said to be a great enlightened sage. He was not a born saint , nor was he born into a family of saints. He was an arrogant, ignorant hunter, who lived with his family in a forest and hunted and robbed for his livelihood. Once he aimed his arrow at a pair of birds... A great sage witnessed this and asked him , the reason for committing this sacrilege.... and warned him of the consequences! The hunter was confident that what ever he has to bear in his life for his sins, he will always have his family by his side! Back home, he realized that he will always have to suffer alone, when his family backed up from sharing the fate of his deeds! Realization dawned on him ... he badly needed to come out of this life's maze. He ran back to the sage and surrendered at his feet. The sage asked the hunter to sit in between two trees and just chant...aa maram(that tree) ee maram(this tree)....He sat as per the sage's directions and chanted aa maram eemaram .... for a very long time .. which eventually became rama rama rama rama....He was enlightened.....this was the power of rama mantra!(chants which take you beyond your "man" or mind).


I was first introduced to the rama mantra by my Appa(father).When I was fascinated by my own hand writing, when I began to hold my pencil right and drew alphabets on paper.....Appa introduced a routine for my brother and me. After our regular chores in the morning we were supposed to write down one page of rama mantra. I still remember chanting Sree ram Jai Ram JAI JAI RAM and writing it down in a book.The enthusiasm of writing actually sprung from the innate competitive spirit to outdo your sibling! My Appa still keeps our books. This helped us in improving our hand writing and also introducing us into mantra japa without our own realization.

I also remember waiting for Sunday mornings during my school days, so that I could watch the Ramayana story telecast on Television.

Later RAMAYANA came alive to me through the dance sequences taught by my mother.The literary magnum opus found expressions in dance and music , creating Rasa! I was awe struck by the dance potrayal of Ramayana by my Guru Dr. Padma Subramaniam.She lived Ramayana in her Ramayatubyam namaha!, where audience were enthralled and glued to their seats,and elevated to ecstatic states!

For the past few years I have been regularly reading Ramayana , during this month . This year I left my copy of Ramayana back in India. But I have started a story session with my kids , every morning, much to their excitement.
Sri ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram !.....as this mantra echoes in me ... it also enlivens sweet childhood memories!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A small victory!

My childhood days were spent in and around a small township.The township had a hospital, where I was born; good schools where I did my schooling; temples adjacent to our school where we used to bribe God for our tests and exams and also for the tasty prasad of bananas sliced into small triangles and sprinkled with sugar.Our township had small shops where we could purchase all necessary groceries and vegetables, and one Martin's barbershop, where customers queued up for their turn of haircut and to hear Martin's interesting stories.Rather than taking me to a beauty parlor, I was often taken to Martin for trimming my hair, and I used to enjoy his pamperings as a child. After nearly 25 years, still my father has his hair cut by Martin and whenever I go home, my father takes my son to Martin's barber shop, where he still pursues his job with the same old enthusiasm.

I am not going to write on Martin and his hair cutting techniques...... ; I was just trying to fly back in time and pay my obeisance to my Guru MARTIN!
It was in Japan , when I first tried my hand at this art.I do not have any formal training in this arena, but my regular visits to Martin's barbershop would have surely stimulated the artistic expressions in my fingers! Language was always a big hurdle we had to face in Japan.Though I picked up the basics of the language necessary for my survival, initially even the mere task of shopping was Herculean task.After facing umpteen number of embarrassing situations, Our whole team rather preferred to have long hair rather than approach a hair cutting saloon.

I was impressed when one of my Japanese students ,Nishijima San told that she herself cuts her husband's and children's hair.All our team members including my husband PP were now slowly transforming into Neolithic Homo Sapiens with enough hair to put two tiny ponies!This was when I first armed myself with scissors and comb and cajoled my husband into agreeing to be my guinea pig! (privilege of the newly wed)!. I inwardly saluted my guru , and started to cut in all directions...My hands just moved according to my imagination....After the job was done I knew it was not perfect... but PP gave me a satisfying smile...( you know why? ... he could only see his front cut... if he dared to see his back cut: but he was least bothered.....)

This was my strength ! With each haircut I learned a few tactics and techniques...Today I manage to give a decent haircut to PP and my two boys....And also save $35 on the 3 haircuts! .... I rejoice in this small victory!

Enjoy this virtual haircut (hat tip to Mishmash). Do use your head phones for a good laugh!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Once upon a time.........

Once upon a time, there was a tall strong tree which majestically ornamented a garden. A new leaf with pastel shade of green sprouted on one of its branches. As time flew the baby leaf acquired new shades of green and expanded in width. The leaf started feeling a new sense of pride. It thoroughly enjoyed the golden radiance of the Sun during day and the silvery reflections of the moon at night.

One day it looked around and found one of his earlier companions who was slowly changing color. This increased its sense of pride. It grabbed the opportunity of showing off it's might and looking down upon the sad plight of its yellow companion. The yellow leaf only smiled in return. Days passed, the yellow leaf again transformed into brown, life almost drained from its veins, a mild breeze finally pinched it away from its parent, and there it lay, merging with the brown earth. Now the green leaf which was brimming with life energy and sarcastic laughter, slowly started changing too. Its once charm and beauty began to fade.Green turned to pale yellow to brown.Once again blew the wind, and the leaf could no longer fight back. It also embraced the path of its companion.Yes! when the brown leaf falls let not the green one laugh!

Does not this tree unfold our own story? At the prime of our youth, when the fluids in our body are meandering in its right course, with all its might and vigor, we tend to believe that, this is how we will be for ever. When we are still young we take our parents for granted, unmindful of their sacrifices. Only when we step into their shoes do we realize what they had once gone through. Yes, today I am able to understand my parents more! The expectations and hopes they had built on us. It also makes me pause a while .....and think/feel about the years ahead.......the twilight years!

Have you ever glanced at the twilight sky.....still sheltering the shades of the disappearing sun, the hues still reflecting the silent rays, not of warmth but of calm? Does not this sky unfold our own story?

Have you ever tried to capture the depths of the ocean? Its vastness, its depth, its ebbs and tides? Does not this sea unfold our own story? Swimming through the ocean of life, with tired limbs and weak body , can they find floats? A small touch, an understanding glance,a few loving words and a small amount of our time......these can be perfect floats!

Let us learn from the green leaf, and the vast sky which holds hands with the deep ocean! Let us not laugh at the brown leaf, but rather offer companionship. Let us not look down at the tired swimmers, but rather provide support. Let us remember that we reap what we sow..... but many times over!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A secret formula!!

An instant rewiring occurs in your cerebrum and within no time your priorities change, your attitude changes. The only thing that is permanent in life is change! Yes, when one takes a leap into motherhood,what occurs is a metamorphosis. One sheds the layers of youth and finds oneself suddenly embraced in the new layer of womanhood.Those thoughts which once diverged to your likes, dislikes, your passions , pursuits , your hobbies , jobs ... all now seem to converge at one core, your child.

My passions and interests blurred away into the unseen past, as I cloistered happily into the innocent warmth of my baby. His smile, giggles and baby talk filled up my whole space and time. I was away from my home land, in a new environment , surrounded by a new culture. I was not woken up by the bicycle bells of the milkman or paperwala, or by the spluttering sound of the mustard seeds in hot oil accompanied by the aroma from the kitchen. As I peered down from our eighth floor balcony all I could see was people rushing for their jobs and kids rushing to school. My husband too had to rush early to his office. But I never felt lonely, I was charmed by the unearthly beauty and love that sparkled from my baby.

When he was 4 months he turned over on his tummy gleaming with pride at his new achievement, on his new world view; at five he managed to sit upright, not yet mobile, still unable to explore new horizons.Whenever I turned on my music system ,I noticed his head and tiny hands keeping in rhythm with the music. I was excited, and in order to amuse him started to dance with the music. Like a doll which responds with the turn of a key, he would blush with peels of laughter which automatically was reflected on my face too! I wanted to amuse him more, and one day took out my precious dancing bells (Chilanka), which I had not used since I conceived. This time I had a dance music on and danced with my dancing bells, and to my amazement I found my only audience sit upright and clap his hands with a toothless smile.

I was possessed by an intense desire to perform. But circumstances were different now. I was not in India where there was more exposure and oppurtunuties for my art.Here I had a wonderful audience, my baby who never hesitated in applauding and appreciating my every move and turn. Keeping my desire burning within I danced everyday before, the best audience ever, satisfied after every performance.

Days passed, my baby was fully accustomed to every step I took and every expression that came along. One day, my husband announced the 30th Anniversary of FORD in Taiwan (Ford was a client of my husband's company) and proudly said that I was asked to perform Indian dance. The secret formula had worked once again for me. A formula???

yes! I know formula that has worked wonders for me....

"Desire + Effort = Grace" You should have a strong desire and should put in your maximum effort, you can harvest miraculous results!

I danced for the anniversary celebrations before a huge audience, but my precious little one was enjoying every move from the front row in his father's lap, applauding and smiling his toothless smile!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Art of Listening

"All the world is a stage, all men and women merely players, each has his exits and entrances......" truth echoed in the words of author- philosopher William Shakespeare.

All of us are playing our respective roles thus unwinding the tapestry of human life. Born with innate artistic tendencies, the whole life is welcoming us to unlock our inbuilt faculties, prompting us to deliver our monologues,our dialogues and soliloquies, clothing us with our costumes ,guiding us through diverse acts and scenes from prologues to epilogues!

Our first stage,that of a new born baby, untainted by the games of the mind, our art flourishes in full bloom. It is a stage which reflects our true and pure nature, when we can smile, a half moon smile in wrinkles of sleep without any particular reason; a stage when we can listen to the drama around with our whole being , unperturbed by its sounds and furies.Then as a child, still upholding shades of innocence, we plunge on to a deep search, our tiny eyes deciphering every twist and turn, unable to comprehend everything around. We are now transformed into a curious listener, listening with rapt attention to the various stories that unveil the undiscovered and untrodden roads ahead.The gates of adolescence invites us to a maze of mirrors, where we stumble and dash upon our own reflections , confused ,frustrated , puzzled , trying to fix the missing jigsaws. Fully surrendered to the power of the mind, now we are audience to only our own mind drawn conclusions. Surviving the maze now, an adult, a victim of worries and anxieties which wring your neck with spondylitis, a slave of a mind created world. Twilight years, which promised peace and relaxation have left you weak, dragging you back to the immobility of childhood yet unable to smile, the untainted smile of your true self.

The art of listening, an inherent trait in us gets buried and fossilised under the mantle of life. When we listen to someone, we no longer listen to them but only to our own judgements and prejudices which is non stop played in us. We might be physically present, but our thoughts have taken us else where.I remember sitting in my physics class, staring at my teacher but mentally in an Utopian world.

The art of listening also reminds me of an episode in the Indian epic, Mahabaratha. The warrior hero Arjuna is chatting with his pregnant wife Subhadra, speaking to her about certain war strategies he has mastered. Surrounded my enemies from all sides, Arjuna seems to be the only one who could penetrate and successfully exit from the army formation known as
"Chakravyuha". His wife dozes off to sleep, but the unborn baby in her womb is still awake intently listening to his father's interesting stories.When Arjuna finds his wife fast asleep he stops midway and his unborn son, Abhimanyu, is unable to grasp this special technique fully. Abhimanyu turns out to be a great warrior like his father, and in the battle of Kurukshetra,
he is able to enter into this Chakravyuha formation, the result of his listening to his father from his mother's womb. As he was unable to listen to the whole story due to his mother's sleep, he was handicapped in releasing himself successfully from the formation in the battle field and embraces death with honor.

The greatest gift we can give someone is to listen. Let us cultivate this art. When we listen, let us do so with our full being, only then arises true communication. It is not only a gift to others but also a gift to ourselves. I have not yet mastered this art, but I'm sure that it can enhance and enrich the quality of life. So lets practice the art of listening and master the art of living.