Friday, March 28, 2008

Morning Dirge

The morning stillness amidst a round of wide roads and rising glass towers, is sharply cut by a booming loud speaker. A hymn resonates through the square of homes around the temple. The four corners sing together in perfected harmony. The voice...steadily quivering through the glade of the rising sun. The dewdrops from the air conditioner unsteaily melt to die in a liquid with the warmth of the morning song. The sleeping mind awakes silently through a sleepy haze... Its morning. Allah has spoken. And I am in the middle east.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Avial and tandoori chicken - on the beach

Zero is my favourite number. The oval, pot bellied, doodle is not only a much relatable figure (ah! the only to familiar battle with the bulge) but also a great value addition. While I constanly forgot the number of zeros my hundreds had in my wallet, I managed to survive a whole month of food hunting on a distant land by turning fingers into peepholes and creatiing imaginary zero-shaped outlines in mid-air in the most remotest parts of Kerala. Appam, Idiyappam and Puttu with rasam was my daily dietry addition and in God's Own Country, which in non-Mallu lingo was the shape of zero. My assignment was simple. A lazy travelogue of the back waters and lagoons of the pristine, serene and crystal waterred moss of Kettuvalloms that were to become my home and caprture the rapture of Kovallam, Veli, Alumkadavu, Cochin, Calicut.

That was the plan...

But as coconuts and rice pancakes can leave an unfamiliar taste, so did my slight diversion to explore Kalaripayattu. The martial arts tribe seemed to be more stimulating than an ayurvedic massage. A chance meeting with a mystic, Arrayappa Devasthanam Kutty got me in hot pursuit. Over rasam and pappad, he told me about this place in central Kerala that have year long camps of martial art training. I don't know if it was the colour of his eyes (black pebbled) or the passion of his speech (crisply accented English) or the mention of some Mangalorian cuisine his Carnatic singer wife can throw up. I took directions, addresses and stocked up on banana chips (gestation: my first lil black book) and headed for Thrissur to explore some Kutty woven magic - a Kalari and some brave Kerala stories. Oh did I mention? Kalaris, traditionally are supposed to be the most desriable menfolk especially for out-of-town distant curious women...or as I would like to believe.

What was to follow was ten days of a dstrict safari through Thrissur. The landscaped plains, the coconut breeze, the inviting sea wind made me a wandering fair coloured gyspie (well in comparison) along Aloor, Chermanangad, Kadalassery, Kodungallur, Netissery and Wadakkancheri. My unpardonable lack of Malayalam and refusal to bring a guide along, had me conversing in ways I never knew possible. Save a remote bus or two that still adhered to my use of phoren language. I found my Kalaris, but my camera refused to capture their spirit. Zero helped me through and a serving of avial at a convent in Netissery made the 1000 odd kms I traveled in four days.

Back into surburbia, familiar Mumbai and a message in the inbox, Mallu power, damn good mallu band avial playing tonight. Deja Vu? Recurrent Mallu hangover? What was this? Decided to mark attendance with good Punjabi friends. S, P, L and I sat in the upper steps of the Bandra amphitheatre and in a Mallu crowd, with Mallu rock music...Avial played. I could almost smell the convent dish...its rich, spice laden fumes and smell of coconut milk would not leave. Was I imagining this, while the lead singer sang of revolution, narrated Keralite poetics verses, spoke to an audience in full agreement with his words. Did he carry Netissery aroma with him. The amateur band and its histrionics converted the crowd. The English speaking lot started talking an almost-now-partly-decpherable lingo. What the heck? I gave in. Stood and pretended to attempt a sorry excuse at lip sync.

Then...from the distance he gazed. The perpetrator of all things - good and sensual. I should wait and talk. But this evening I left. For my tandoori chicken and paneer butter masala sensibilities, Avial overdose was gong to be as good as it gets. Only I couldnt be Jack Nicholson tonight. I bowed. In God's own country, amongst God's own men, the Kalari and now at the Avial Rock show...I found my first culture curry.

Will buy Guerilla-look alike CD cover Avial container. They rocked heavy. Not before last night, S gave earplugs to Mallu funny song - Hotel Keralafonia. Aiyo.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


मैंने सोचा,
वाणी और साहस
में से किस को चुनो।
वाणी तोह मधुर है -
पर साहस तोह अनमोल है।

मैंने सोचा,
सम्मानमन और प्रेम
में से किस को चुनो।
सम्मान तोह मान है -
पर प्रेम तोह भाव है।

मैंने सोचा,
अपनापन और आज़ादी
में से किस को चुनो।
अपनापन तोह एहसास है -
पर आज़ादी से ही तोह साहस है।