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Tide - 16

Part - 16
The drain in Sanjana's house and was going to take a good few days to be repaired. She along with daughter Tara, had temporarily packed their bags and moved in with Padmaja.
Padmaja is on her bed reading while Tara lies next to her asleep. Padmaja watches the slender frame of her grand-daughter sprawled alongside her own body. She pats down her hair with tenderness. This is the only time of the day when Tara will allow her grand-mother to baby her. “I'm eight years old, paati.”, she would complain wriggling and struggling against any attempt to cuddle her.
Padmaja can hear the television playing in the living room. Sanjana is ironing Tara's school uniform for the next day while humming along to the song playing on tv. It is about a mother's unflinching, unconditional love for her son.
'You starve while you feed me, You have no life outside of me', sings the son to his mother.
She remembers reading somewhere that the actress playing the frail old mo…

Tide - 15

Part 15 
“Ah, it's you”, says the tall lady (Padmaja should really find out her name), “you're back. I thought you had forgotten the way to my house.”
It is a Thursday morning and Padmaja had remembered that there was to be a special bhajan celebration to mark somebody or the other's birthday.
“Look, who's here,” announces the tall lady to the assembled crowd of eight women, “it's our friend from the A block.”
Unsure how to react to this reception, Padmaja waves at the others in the room. Perhaps it would have been better to simply slink into a corner, she would recall later.
“We were expecting you at our annual trip to Shirdi.”, says the tall lady turning her attention back to Padmaja, “I had booked group tickets for all of us, including you and I had paid up front. We couldn't get in touch with you and there was no one else who was free at such a short notice. In the end, it went to waste. I ended up losing money because of you.”
“Oh”, manages Padmaja feebly, “…

Tide - 14

Part - 14

For the community notice board.
Highly experienced retired primary school teacher offers FREE tuition lessons for  children aged 7-11 in all subjects. Hours to suit your need. Please contact today.

Tide - 13

Part - 13
They had painted the slide red. It used to be green to match the colour of the uniform. Red just didn't seem right in the surrounding. Did they change the uniform to red while I was away?, Padamaja panics. But the sight of the students in their green and white uniforms as they stream out of the classrooms for the morning interval (the bell had just gone), reassures her that they had not.
Lalitha teacher is in a meeting with someone from the Education department. Padmaja has been waiting for over half-an-hour and it appears that she would have to be there for much longer. Not that she minded, not at all. Some of her older students come up to her and ask after her well being. She notes that the boys have grown taller and girls more rounded. She may not recognise them next year, she remarks to herself. Though it might be that they would have forgotten her by then.
The door to Lalitha teacher's office swings open letting out a young man with a purposeful stride.
'…

Tide - 12

Part 12
There are things that people do when they eat out alone. Like use their mobile phone to call others they would never talk to otherwise. Or look intently into their plates, afraid that the food might run away if they took their eyes off it. Some check their watches a lot. As if to suggest to others that they are really not eating out alone. But simply waiting for someone else to join them at the table.
Padmaja never used a mobile and rarely ate out. She kept stirring her coffee until it had gone tepid and then finished it in a swift gulp. She could only vaguely remember what that man Prakash looked like. She thinks that he wears glasses and has a shiny bald head. He had a mildly expansive waistline, the kind you get from leading a good life and in the photograph that he had sent, he was laughing at a joke that had been cracked by someone beyond the camera. He seemed like the kind of person who never suffered from self-doubt. He was a couple of years older than her and had bee…

Tide - 11

Part 11

“Chee! You ought to be ashamed of yourself”, thunders Sanjana.
The drains in Sanjana's flat were blocked that morning and she had come to her mother's house for a quick shower on her way to work. Padmaja was not home and Sanjana had let herself in using the spare keys. She had found a file marked 'Hindu responses' left open on the dining table. Intrigued, she had gone throught its contents and had grown increasingly furious that no sooner had her mother come home than she launched into an attack.
“Have you gone senile? Have you thought about what you are doing?”, Sanjana continues lambasting her mother.
She was never one to hold back. Padmaja often wonders where her daughter gets her tempestuous nature from. Probably from her father, she reasons. Padmaja would attribute to her late husband traits that she did not recognise in her daughter. And over the years, she has thus fashioned a mental portrait of him which makes him seem a little more real than the fa…

Tide - 10

Part 10
She is not quite sure how to indicate that she is following the conversation. If you can call it a conversation, that is. Srikanthan has been talking about his research for the last 23 minutes and at first, she was able to keep up with it. But once he got into the finer detail of oncology, he lost her. Plus, his very thick American accent just made everything he said that much harder for Padmaja to understand.
However, this much she knew. He had been married to a fellow interventional radiologistBabs (Barbara) for 32 years and they had two children. Following an indiscretion on his part, they had separated nearly four years ago. He is very close to getting his decree nisi. He was in India on a sabbatical and that was when her advertisement caught his eye.
He is still talking about the cutting edge technological advancements in cancer research when it occurs to her that she really did not want him in her house. The thought makes her jump.
“Are you okay?”, asks Srikanthan …

Tide - 9

Part 9

“If you wanted to do something, anything, then why didn't you just tell me?”, begins Kamakshi. “I would have introduced you to our ladies club.”
Padmaja could have carried on her own. But the burden became too much to bear. It followed her everywhere, making it difficult for her to swallow or sit alone. It itched at her constantly, she was unusually fidgety. So despite her misgivings, she confessed it all to Kamakshi. “You know, this month at the club we are learning to make vegetable pickles. Next month, it is that old hag Jayashri Sundaram's turn to organise something. Mark my words, she is bound to mess up. Or fall sick, conveniently. You know what she did at our last meeting?”
“Kamakshi!”
“Sorry, Padma. You know how I feel about the ladies' club. Right, so how many people know about this matrimonial advertisement of yours?”
“Only the few thousands who read the Sunday matrimonial column”, replies Padmaja.
Sooner or later she was going to have to tell Sanjana …

Tide - 8

Part 8

Respected Madam,
I am writing to you about your advertisement in last Sunday. I am G.Krishnan, aged 48 years old, working in government job for 24 years. If you like I can meet you at your house and explain my situation. I have not married ever and I am absolutely no trouble at all. I have sent you a photo of myself with this letter. The lady next to me is my late mother Smt.G.Saraswathi who passed away in her sleep last November and I have been missing her very much.
Your's Sincerely G.Krishnan

Tide - 7

Part 7

Dear Mrs,
With regards to your advertisement in last Sunday's Hindu. My name is Mr.S.G.Santhanam. I am 65 years old. I retired in 2007 after 40 years of service in the Indian Railways. My daughter and my son are both married and settled abroad. I am in good health except for slightly high blood pressure. Last year I have undergone an operation for a growth in my retina and now my eyesight is better than it has ever been. I follow a strict vegetarian diet (no oinions no garlic) and I have managed to bring down my cholestrol levels also. Recently I have suffered from pain in my hips and my doctor has adviced me to go for a hip replacement operation which I am due to have some time in the next month. So if you reply to my letter, I can arrange to meet you before I check in to the hospital as I will have to be in bed rest for 6 weeks after my operation. I have also attached a photo of myself with this letter. This was taken before I had my new set of teeth.
Your's sincere…

Tide - 6

Part 6

Padmaja has been feeling restless since early morning. She begins by straightening the sheet on her bed. She stretches it on one end, tucks it under the mattress before turning her attention to the other corners. Satisfied, she strips the pillows of their cases, plumps the pillow cushions and soaks the blankets in warm, soapy water. She dusts the window sills and wipes the window panes with a damp cloth. She climbs atop a chair and reaches for the grime laden blades of the ceiling fan with a wet rag. She ignores the pain in her neck from craning and swabs until its surface gleams. She pokes her little finger into the hidden corners in the living room and pulls out imaginary bits of dust. She runs her hand along the dark nooks in the kitchen shelves and inspects her finger tips for fine powder of soot. The stainless steel plates are washed and dried, light fixtures cleaned, curtains rinsed, the floor scrubbed and mopped and the drains pumped with bleach. When she is certain that…

Tide - 5

Part 5
The tuition classes have ground to a halt and in many ways, Padmaja is relieved when she acknowledges it during a telephone conversation with Sanjana. “Their loss, Amma”, consoles Sanjana, “let's see how many other equally-experienced, patient and affordable teachers they can find for their children”. Padmaja does not tell her about the new tuition centre that has opened two streets away which seems to be doing rather brisk business judging by the number of bicycles parked outside the building.
The rains have finally stopped and there is even a reprieve from the stiflingly dense, humid weather. It is the one time of the year when Padmaja actually enjoys living in the city. Evenings are cooler and days gentler. Soon there will be music concerts all over the city drawing visitors and performers from across the world. Sanjana buys her a seasons pass to concerts at music hall which has good acoustics for a change. It is a little far from home but if she walks briskly, Padmaja…

Tide - 4

Part 4
It is now July and if she had been working, schools would have been busy preparing for quarterly exams. The heat from summer is yet to subside and it is too hot to venture out anywhere during the day. “They have started holding Sai Bhajans in a flat in D block on Tuesday mornings”, ventured her neighbour Kamakshi one day, “I thought you may want to go, now that you are free.”
Kamakshi is a year younger than Padmaja and was one of the first people to buy a flat in the block nearly eighteen years ago. She lives with her retired husband who devotes the remaining years of his life solely to the purpose of following cricket and writing letters to the editor of all major newspapers. Her two grown sons lived in different parts of the world leaving Kamakshi to sort out other people's lives for them.
So it is settled that Padmaja will go for Sai Bhajans two mornings a week. Despite her deep-seated reservation of communal worship of any sort, Padmaja decides that she would give it a g…

Tide - 3

Part 3 

Tuition lessons seem liked an obvious idea at first. “It is perfect for you, Amma.”, says Sanjana, “You don't even have to step out of the flat. You can have the classes when it suits you”. There are always children in her apartment block who needed coaching in elementary Maths and English. Padmaja prefers primary school children who were better behaved and she didn't have to deal with parents of secondary school children who were constantly complaining about their performance in exams. She makes little work sheets for her students for them to take home with them and return the following lesson. She writes down questions at the top, middle and at three-quarters of the page leaving enough space for their answers. She would be kind but firm with the children. No more than five students at any time, she assures the parents and it begins promisingly. Three students sign up in just the first week after she put up a small advertisement on the community notice board. This…

Tide - 2

Part 2 It sounded grand calling it a career. As if it was something she had chosen to pursue after years spent studying and training for it. Padmaja had never considered going to work. Why would she have to go to work when her husband went to office? She would look after the house and her husband and when the children came along, she would look after them.
She had only seen Ramanathan once before they were married. Her father had matched their horoscopes and predicted a long and blissful union. Someone remarked that he looked like that cricketer Venkatraghavan and for many years after his death, whenever Padmaja could not recall his face, she would remind herself of Venkatraghavan.
They had been married for seventeen months and Padmaja was six months pregnant with her daughter when Ramanathan was killed in a road accident. He was one his way to Trichy to attend a family wedding when the bus he was travelling in collided with another van and he was one of the six who had died immediat…

Tide

Part 1
She knows even before she has opened the wrapping paper what is inside it. Rattling the box confirms her suspicion. It is an alarm clock. Just the like the one the school had presented Vijaya teacher when she retired and to Lakshmi teacher before her. They had organised a small function in the school assembly hall for her. The headmistress, Lalitha teacher had given a brief talk and presented her with the gift-wrapped box. No one was sure what was supposed to happen next. So Lalitha teacher suggested that they sing the national anthem which they did.
There was not much to take home with her. A few books, some old photos, a couple of birthday cards and that was about it. Lalitha teacher asked her to look after herself and promised to keep her informed if the school needed any help. As ever, Pazhani was waiting for her by the school gate. She eased herself into his autorickshaw feeling it sink under her weight. For a long time she would take the bus to school. She would leave …

Becoming British - 2

I must have been six or seven when I became aware that people travelled between countries fairly regularly. The realisation must have been triggered by an uncle’s return after a trip abroad and much fuss being made of his jaunt. No one ever called it abroad back then. It was always ‘Foreign’. Someone who had crossed the national border was ‘Foreign-returned’ and this was not an accolade easily earned. Foreign was this mysterious land that would only allow access to the special ones among us. It was a land populated by chosen people and to have been amongst them and breathed in the same air as them was a rare privilege only a few ever managed.

I can still recall the smell of the luggage that accompanied an uncle’s family after they returned from Foreign. It was smooth, fresh and nothing like the pungent odours of our crowded household. It smelt of clean, white people. A race far removed from the plagues of us dark-skinned beings. Foreign back then was synonymous with any place where …

Becoming British - 1

I am no longer hysterical like I was when the letter came through the post a few weeks ago. "But this can’t be right", I wailed dramatically to my friends, "I don’t look British. My dark skin belies the pale English sun." I was distraught when our application for taking up British nationality was approved. Suddenly, I felt like I had sided with the colonial oppressors as portrayed in Tamil movies and had earned the technicolour wrath of all our movie heroes who played freedom fighters.
Mine was not a reaction I had foreseen. After all, I was the one who had pushed for naturalisation in the first place. I wanted to travel around Europe more and getting a visa each time we needed to leaves these shores was a nightmare. A British passport would open doors more readily for us and it seemed the obvious thing to do.
And yet, when the reality of becoming a British citizen and what we would have to do in order to be formally included sunk in, I became agitated. First, to b…

Clerihew - A Competition

A Clerihew is a whimsical biographical 4-line poem. Its rhyme structure is AABB and is often quite contrived. Like this one made up by the eponymous Mr Clerihew Himself.



Sir Christopher Wren Said, "I am going to dine with some men. If anyone calls Say I am designing St. Paul's."
And here's one I made up earlier.

If Anna Hazare were a cook Who wrote a recipe book, It would be empty for pages And suggest you fast for ages.

So that's your challenge. Come up with a Clerihew about anyone you please. And post your entry in the comment box. I'll give it a couple of weeks and then announce a winner. Off you go!

Been A While...

I had lost my interest in blogging and never picked it up again. But recently I have been wondering about posting competitions on this blog like I once used to.

So starting very soon, there will be a few contests to liven up this space. Be on the look out.

Why I Run

Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact day when I decide to run. I was 18 at that time, a cadet with the National Cadet Corps. Selections were starting to get underway for the annual Republic Day Camp scheduled for the following January. We were to be put through a series of rigorous camps where we would be tested on various abilities and only the chosen few would make it to the state contingent and be part of the prestigious camp in Delhi. I had signed up to one of the early camps and was awaiting instructions when my Senior Under Officer picked me out of the line-up. 'You', she said, 'looking the way you do, you are never going very far. You're too short, too dark-skinned and frankly, it would be a miracle if you can complete the 3 km cross-country distance'.

It wasn't so much the fact that she had questioned my ability to run that irked me. But it came as a complete shock that she had dismissed my chances at selection because of how …