January 14, 2006

pongal wishes

awake at 4
every once a year
my chitti came home
smelling of hamam
white flowers in her hair
and the morning dew
my cousins with her
sleepy-eyed though
dressed for school
and waiting for the show.

after coffee and gupshup
a complaint or two
of homework not done
of things to do
amma would get
the big plates she had set
until late last night
of sugarcane sticks
and coloured rice
shaped into balls
for convenience.

dropping our bags
pigtails oiled and black
faces powdered
so sleep won’t be back
we flocked around the table
as little children would
extending a hand each
towards the centre
over rice balls and all.

a coconut was broken
but not split in two
just enough for the water
to trickle through
amma held it such
chitti’s hand under hers
and four little hands
stretched and stretched
beneath, making it six
at least.

round and round
the rectangular table
three times we went
not stopping not rushing
trying to catch
each drop of water
that slipped through
our strained fingers
our many hands.

kakpudi vechen,
kanpudi vechen
kakekyella kalyanam,
kurvikyella seemantham…

watching our mothers
repeat these words thrice
(somehow i still
never get it right.)

the show was over
yellow, red,
brown and white
the rice balls some
were kept at the window
for the crow to peck
the rest we offered
for the cows in the street
as for us lucky children
vadas and jaggery-rice
pongal, and chutney too
would be in our dabbas
for school
our happy treat.

tomorrow at dawn
my dear amma
and chittis
will meet again
perhaps granny too
they’ll go around the table
crows will be called
and cows will be fed

but all this only after
coffee and gupshup
and a complaint or two
of the times that were
and the children
how fast they grew
how fast they have gone…

January 9, 2006

what’s in a name?

everything. a name could be an identity. a power which, unknown to you, lets you draw strength from it. a memory. an association. a feeling.

a name could be tradition. it could make you feel accepted in one place, alienated in another. p k gangadharan in kerala could feel more at home in the united states as peter ganga. sukhdeo singh would like to be suky, just like v pratap can demand so much respect when you say daku vir pratap chauhan
some names just grow on you, don’t they? if they don’t suit you, you change them.

for women the rules are generally different. the girl just born, who grows wearing her name like a second skin all her life, is expected to shed it off once she gets married. till her death, her husband’s name is then attached to hers. does she like the new name? does she feel sad parting with the old? has anyone bothered to ask? that’s not for us to know. it’s tradition, that’s the way it is. it’s unfair.

i saw a few marriages before i myself got married. few very close friends, few cousins. arranged marriages where along with the new husband, the new family, the new extended family-friends and relations, the girl also gets a new name. i could never understand it. when it was my turn, i was lucky my would-be husband would agree to my conditions:

i will not wear a ring,
i will not wear a mangal-sutra around my neck,
i will not change my name.

“sure, no problem,” he had said laughing, “do you want me to change mine?” (note: i do wear a mangal-sutra, but one i designed myself)

my father did not approve. “you can’t just live like how you want to all your life! a girl changes her name after marriage, it is normal.” and i had argued. “i was born with this name. so i see no reason why to change it. i like my name. radhika j nair. j nair. it also rhymes with jane eyre, see!?” i saw him glare at me through the rear-view mirror in the car. “when will you change?” he seemed to ask. in my mind, i replied, when it is time to change my name, i will know.

three years and six months into my marriage, i asked my husband for a different anniversary present. (of course, this, apart from the other list… a new dinner set, a pullover, jeans, dinner outside…) i asked him, for his name.

i wasn’t under any pressure. no one asked me about it. i wasn’t bored of jane eyre. it just happened. i was ready.

when i called my father this morning, he was driving again. i read out to him one of the ‘deed-agreements’ (I ABSOLUTELY and entirely renounce, relinquish and abandon the use of my former name of …. and assume adopt and determine to take and use from the date hereof the name of ….) and told him how much i hated the way it was done. such harsh words for my father’s name. i didn’t ‘abandon’ it, i merely was making a choice. already, i had turned my friends back all the way to ipswich where they had come from: they were to sign the deed as witness but i hadn’t expect the deed to sound anything like this.

two weeks later, i realised i had to decide now or never think about it again. i was looking for a response from my father. was he okay with it? my father only laughed out loud. “i am both happy and sad,” he chuckled. “…sad that my name ends here, happy because you have taken the right decision at last.”
“when i have a daughter,” i told him,”i’ll marry her off to a nair.”

less than two minutes after our conversation, the phone rang again. it was amma, asking mischievously, “hello? can i speak to mrs radhika praveen?”

January 7, 2006

i’ve been nominated too!

update: the winners have all been chosen. congratulations to all of them 🙂 me? i didn’t win. but so what? i still have my blog, and the 13 lovely people who faithfully voted for me will still come back to read me, right? right?


i am on the final list of nominations for the indibloggies award!!

of the other 110 blogs on the list, there are some i visit regularly already, and some more excellent blogs i had never seen before. in the five-and-a-half years of blogging now, and four design changes, i think it’s always great to be learning something new everyday.

and it feels even greater to be put in the best design category (my first, thanks to praveen for all the coding :-x), among all the other beautiful minds, and beautiful blogs. to the mystery people who first picked me for the award, thank you, thank you!

and now i’m happy to see i’ve reached so far (especially since i didn’t even know i was nominated, until last night), and i can’t help being greedy at this moment! in fact, indibloggies has made it easier by giving me a cool license for the same…

vote for me
so go ahead, make my day 🙂

ps: you have to register on the page to vote. if you don’t have a website, simply leave the field blank, but do vote. and while you’re at it, why not visit some of the other blogs on the list and vote for them as well!