Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Of Paddy fields and Daddy fields...

I've written lots about my hometown, Nagercoil, in this blog... about how every trip home is like being embraced in earth's bountiful bosom. So you can imagine my surprise when for the very first time in my life, I felt bereft and speechless at her decrepit state. The past few weeks were exactly like the earth in Interstellar, a dust bowl, that's the only way to describe Nagercoil now. All her roads and mudukku's have been dug up, vehicles ply over these pathetic roads leaving a trail of dust in the air. There is a fine coating of the characteristic red mud on every visible surface... and amidst all the dancing and swirling red dust, people go about their daily lives, unfazed and undeterred, patiently waiting for their little town to go back to it's former glory of quaint roads and angel rays that flit and float through tree branches, playing shadows with the ground below. I was pretty much covered up like a terrorist there, a duppata covering my entire face except my eyes... my family refused to walk with me sometimes. That was my dust bowl existence, it kinda made coming back to the city less painful... 

Despite all this, my time there was pretty exciting... Sajeeve, a cousin, gave me the idea of lighting candles arranged in the roman numeral way of depicting 2015. Nam and another cousin, helped me out with this...
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How pretty they look flickering away, welcoming the new year. Those motifs are kolam patterns made using kolam stencils... dad bought these pretty cool stencils in the fish market, it was fun playing around with them.
Visited the farm too with the old gang, and hung out at the water tank munching on chocolates... 
Visited the special school too with the girls and it was nice seeing all my old friends and children... met Mother Magdalene after ages, she introduced me to A. J. Cronin and I fell completely in love with him.  
Hung out in these paddy fields...
And took lots of pictures. 
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And a video of the swaying crops with the mountains in the background... I can never tire of this sight, they always seem to beckon...
Ate lunch on the riverbanks... it was a potluck, so I made masala coated eggs, and roast potato masala, the others brought mint rice, coconut rice, tomato rice, poppadams and kesari. 
Nam took this picture of me and the river..... 
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And finally welcomed the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal... 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Ringing in 2015...

Christmas turned out to be wonderfully surprising this year. After the midnight mass I ended up having Irish Bailey's and plum cake with nuns in the convent. Clinking our glasses to Sláinte! (the Irish version of 'Cheers' or 'drinking to your health') we sat around the dining table swapping stories. For a person missing her choir friends from the church back home, these friends from the religious fraternity made Christmas night pretty memorable.

New Year's was pretty exciting too, it was great being back with family and friends... meeting the shepherd boys of 2006, those small little boys who now tower over me... hanging out with the choir girls after mass, baking and eating the rum cake, and drinking bacardi while being extremely glad for a wonderful 2014 and hoping that the years to follow will be filled with good memories, exciting times and a lot more adventures... this is what I wish for all you readers too.

Today being the feast of Epiphany or the Three Kings feast (Jan 6th), it usually only means one thing... taking down the tree, the crib, the lights and all Christmas decorations. Here are a few pictures before I woefully pack everything away, to be opened after eleven months... 
The creche at my Nagercoil home... 
The Christmas tree... 
I like this little wooden cow near baby Jesus... bought him in Brienz, Switzerland. The Nativity figurines were purchased in Velankanni,
This doesn't look all that good, but my twin brothers birthday makes the Christmas week even more joyful, and even though they weren't around... I wanted to make something to mark the occasion. Settled on making a wheat base Superman pizza... made the S with sausage.  
When I was part of the parish community here, I used to make different Christmas greetings for the parish priest. This year I made Christmas card chimes, here it is hanging in father's home...  messages from the catechism children are stuck behind the card. These messages are really funny, the kids all like him... so most of them are about how cool father is. 
And this is the crib in father's house... he really did a great job here. You know how mud gets caked onto walls, and they develop a character of their own through rain and sunshine... well, father managed to scrape one such mud structure and he placed it in his creche, and it looked so natural in there, with the shepherds at the base of this mud hill while the holy family resides in that small little cave in the corner from which light shines forth... how profound, true Light who came down from heaven.
A house in the colony... Christmas is always fascinating down here... 
Houses are beautifully lit up...
The whole colony seems to glow, with festive cheer.... 
This is the creche at a friends place... 
The crib in the special school.... 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Interstellar Crib...

Every year, setting up the crib is an experience... when we were kids, the crib was made with this sweet smelling wild reed that dotted the landscape back home. I don't know what they call it, but the scent of the freshly built crib wafting through the house spiked the excitement levels. The reed though it smelled nice and looked great, was a time consuming project that involved dexterity, planning and patience.  So over the years, buying the reed gave way to other forms of constructing the Nativity scene... it became much easier to form a basic structure in the shape of a hut and then put a different spin on it every year. like the one in 2013 and 2012...
Here is this year's crèche, named it the Interstellar crib... cause of those floating specks of light wafting through the time space continuum. You can't see it here, but it sort of looks surreal with only these specks lighting up the nativity scene. 
And with a little bit of light, it becomes more clearer... see the angels, Cooper, Brant and Murph flying through space...
I saw pine cones lying everywhere on the ground in Geneva... I would pick up the good ones and stuff them in my bag. Painted a few of them gold and placed them in the crib, they complemented the curls of wood... and they looked like they could be alien pods. 
This little angel holding a golden star, I saw her in Salzburg and she spoke to me... so I bought her and here she is keeping watch over the Divine Child. 
Another look at the Interstellar Crib... see the speck over Joseph's shoulder casting an ethereal ray over this scene. 
One of the many stars at home... 
The tree peacefully radiating all the wonders of this season, from a corner...
Another star spilling out its light... 

Right up there, on this page, under About me... it's easy to know what Christmas means to me, and this year with my brothers not around this George Strait song says exactly what I want to say too...  that it doesn't matter if family and friends are not around. their memories are captured in our hearts forever like a living Christmas card. Even though we are all scattered, it doesn't matter cause the magic never melts away... Christmas always draws you in. So readers, wherever you are... may the pace, hope, love and joy of this season drag you in and envelope you and may you radiate this peace all your lives, Merry Christmas, everybody... 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Signed poems, a book and a book plate...

I've written about Tyler Knott more than once on my blog... how I came across his poems, how one poem of his evocatively captured all I needed to say after my recent trips, and how the phrasing in his poems is what gets your attention even though you don't necessarily agree with all that he says. So when I read on his instagram account that he would be visiting New York in November (2014) I was behind my sister and brother in law to attend his book signing event at a Barnes & Noble store. I had to plead, and make deals with them to ensure that they would attend the event. They assured me that they would, but every now and then, they would resort to blackmails and threats. If I said something they didn't like or if I pulled their leg, they would be like... 'do you want your poems signed?'
So anyway, after all the trauma they put me through, they finally did go to meet him and they got my poems signed. Here is the man himself, Tyler Knott Gregson signing a few poems and his book... 
And now that they have come home for the holidays... I finally get my signed poems and the signed book and the signed bookplate. I have to frame the poems now, put them up at home. Thanks guys... Nam and Jude, this is a pretty cool Christmas gift... let's do country singers next.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The flight back home...

I started documenting my trip here and inspite of nobody  reading it, I've come to the final post of my 2013 Eurotrip. And there is only one way to describe it, like warm sunshine spilling over my being, shrouding everything in a warm hazy glow. Like Gene Kelley says, 'There's a smile on my face for the whole human race, why it's almost like being in love.' That perfectly sums up my three months roaming with the siblings in Geneva, France and Germany.. You know how a book can take you to faraway places... that's what I've been doing since I fell in love with the written word. Now to finally discover the world beyond books and pictures is nothing short of incredible.  

In a way the special school was like this too, those years are always shrouded in warm hues of sunshine. It was great being with those kids, every day in school was an adventure... I used to wake up thinking what is going to happen today, it was that exciting. I should visit the school and hang out with all those angels, when I go home for the holidays.  

Anyway, getting back to the last day of my trip, I didn't want to leave my brother's place... but that's not the way life works. So you console yourself, get on that flight and then your only worry is reaching your destination in one piece. On the flight from Geneva to Abu Dhabi, I had a headache which was threatening to explode so I asked one of the flight attendants for panadol, and after that I was asleep most of the journey. Then in Abu Dhabi after buying the customary duty free alcohol and chocolates, I boarded the cramped flight to Madras. I was in the middle seat, a guy from Bern was beside me and he turned out to be very entertaining. Just after take off, I started scrolling through the movie list and came across Superman and decided to watch that cause Anju was telling us about Henry Cavill and how hot he is. And after seeing him, all I could think was wow! he really scorched through his scenes. So anyway, there I am almost ready to fall in love with Henry, when the Swiss guy decides to start talking. And I'm not one to talk with strangers, I mean since we can remember, that has been one of the basic rules stuffed down our ears... don't talk to strangers. So I just listen, smile and nod to what he says... but then the conversations become interesting, and I let down my guard. After that it was quite fun, conversing with a total stranger for four hours nonstop, I didn't even know that we had landed, it was that engaging. This was in November 2013 and it was his first trip to Madras, he was here to watch the chess tournament. He is quite passionate about the game and he predicted that Carlsen would win, though he had a lot of respect for Aaa -nah-ndh (took me a few seconds to figure out that he was talking about Vishwanath Anand). So after establishing the basic stuff about why he was travelling and what I was doing, the food arrived and as usual I put a sign of the cross, said a prayer before meals in my head, and that's when I heard him laughing and saw him shaking his head. So I was like, what's so funny... and he's like, you praying, and that started us off on another conversation about religion, God and our beliefs. It was so random... it was nice, we spoke about books, literature and how the German spoken in Bern sounds harsh and explosive compared to the soft flowing rhythmic French of  Geneva.

So as it turns out, the journey back was quite nice... even the air hostesses were fun. I traveled by Etihad airlines and before the flight took off, they played the Etihad airline ad about beautiful people. The air hostesses were so chilled out, they were pointing at each other and singing the chorus, laughing and having a great time. All in all, it was a fun trip back... I seem to be meeting angels everywhere I go. 

In case you would like to read the different posts in this Eurotrip series :

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beer with Jesus and the Entertainment industry...

So this is the November issue of the magazine with a few articles by me. Thomas Rhett's 'Beer with Jesus' has been included here and I wrote something about the entertainment industry which might be a bit preachy... 

Entertainment is not what it used to be
When you switch on the TV or listen to songs by the biggest names in the music industry, you cannot help but cringe and wonder at the abasement of it all. How did this degradation seep in? When did it become cool to objectify women and let derogatory comments pass off as comedy? Most of the famous shows today have this cool character whose life revolves around drinking and sleeping with different women, perfect examples would be Charlie Harper and the legendary Barney Stinson. These characters are the epitome of being cool and having it all, and they have the best lines on the show. This is the idea that is being propagated to young people who watch these shows, that your life is enjoyable only when you drink all the time and hook up with random women. The TV show, ,Two and a half Men, is disgusting, crass and completely juvenile. Barney Stinson on the other hand, is kinda likeable because of all his crazy ideas and notions that form the lifeline of HIMYM, but his attitude towards women is despicable. These shows can be entertaining to people in their 30’s and 40’s, since their moral values are already in place. They understand that what they observe in these shows is just a parody of the times we live in; they aren’t influenced by the characters. To them it’s just a way to unwind and have some fun. Impressionable young ones on the other hand, tend to think it is cool to be a womaniser and they try to emulate these unscrupulous characters.

And the music industry is a whole different dimension of insanity and debasement. Granted, a few songs do sound nice and they are worth listening to, but a majority of the chart topping songs are sleazy and profanity laced. And the music videos are even worse; they seek to shock rather than entertainment. And the biggest grossing movies are not far behind; they too celebrate crassness and vulgarity, in fact they revel in it. To a Catholic these movies, songs and shows don’t offer much growth or inspiration. They serve to desensitise us and make us think that what these characters do is acceptable in today’s world. I mean we no longer feel that it is a sin to sleep around with random people we just met, because everybody on TV does it. Everything is overtly sexual these days, even the advertisements on TV have only one agenda for their products, to make you more desirable to the opposite gender. I really don’t know what goes on in the minds of children when they see these advertisements, or hear songs with questionable lyrics. The Steubenville rape case is probably a result of such blatant sexualisation of women as propagated in the media. A google search will reveal the arrogance with which a couple of jocks took advantage of an intoxicated 16 year old and captured themselves violating her on their camera phones, and later bragging about it to their friends and sending them the pictures to prove it. Cases like this depict the eroding values of society; friends and classmates watched as the boys committed their crimes, no one thought of helping the girl or calling an adult.

Genuine entertainment should be sought out, movies and music that can enlighten and inspire should be propagated instead of violence and debauchery. Of course, it is good to stay abreast of times but it is not necessary to wallow in the filth that plagues society. Do not let this filth seep into your lives; learn to discern between decent meaningful entertainment and the senseless entertainment that serves no purpose. Inspirational movies, books and music will enhance your inner peace and joy, and serve to strengthen your faith. Search for books with true literary value that will enable you to evolve as a person. Learn to set ground rules for children and teenagers, their exposure to electronic media should be supervised. Starting today, try to seek out decent movies and shows, try to listen to good music with meaningful lyrics. Propagate love and peace through your actions and words and don’t be easily influenced by media and society.

Monday, November 10, 2014

DIY : Autumn in a frame...

So Autumn was just starting when I was in Geneva last year and all the colours of fall were pretty fascinating. I would pick up lovely autumn coloured leaves and preserve them in a book while I explored so many beautiful places with my sister. She would scan the ground too, to find leaves that declared the poetry of the season. And if my brother was with us, he'd stand at a distance away, pretending that he was in no way related to us sisters who were running around collecting leaves. 
This is what I made for my brother, framed autumn leaves. It's pretty easy too, collect pretty autumn leaves and preserve them in a book. Make sure you preserve them properly with no folded edges, just place the leaf gently between the pages of a book and let it remain there for a few days. Gently stick the leaves to a chart paper; I used a black chart paper here. Then use a transparent nailpolish to gently brush all over the leaf to give it a glossy look. Write a few lines (or not), and get it framed. 
Made this one for mom... 
And this I made for my sister... the glass cracked while transporting it. 
And here lies a remnant of my trips, beautifully preserved between the pages of one of the greatest books ever written, by one of my favourite authors.