My Malayalam Blog

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A Woman's Fight to Live

It was Saroj’s fourth delivery. In accordance with the prevailing custom, she was brought home from her in-laws’ house. From the earlier three deliveries she had a son and two daughters. Relations with her in-laws were not good. But she was mentally quite strong and kept things to herself, without her mother and other relatives knowing much about her problems. But such matters cannot be kept secret for long.

Read the complete story at The Writer's Drawer.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The IndiBlogger Popularity Rank

[IndiBlogger is an assembly of blogs from India. By becoming a member, one’s blog is seen and reviewed by other bloggers. Blog’s visibility and credibility is increased by becoming a member. I became a member, too. It was Shikha who told me about IndiBlogger.]

Day before yesterday, 26 October, I received a mail from IndiBlogger that my blog has been ranked 65, which meant 65 points out of 100. Certainly not bad, for a two-month and 14-posts old blog. I patted myself on the shoulder.

I thought, “Good, the IndiRank is not bad at all.”

It was today morning that the idea occurred to me, “What are the ranks of my posts according to popularity, or votes polled?”

Just a curiosity. It was around 10 in the morning. Today being Sunday I thought I have some spare time and let me do this exercise. I logged on to IndiBlogger and to IndiVine. The default setting of the posts is as per popularity – the posts with the highest number of votes come first. I clicked the ‘Offbeat and Personal’ tab, where all my posts appear. The first blog had 687 votes. So I thought to come down to 5, which is the maximum number of votes received for two of my posts, I may have to go up (or down) to may be 1000th rank or more. The tabs have been arranged in such a way that the maximum number of blog posts you can jump is 50.

I started clicking on the last tab. The next set comes, I go to the end and click the last tab. When it was about 500th rank I knew it would certainly go to more than 2000, or maybe even more. When it was 1500, I thought, ‘5000’. When I crossed 5000, I stopped guessing and predicting and even counting. It became mechanical. I click the last tab, the next set opens, I go to the end and again click the last tab. It took about half an hour for me to reach the 10,000th rank.

Enters Jayasree (my wife).

She asked, “What are you doing, clicking and clicking? Sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left, sometimes pulling down the bar, what is going on?”

I told her, “I am trying to find out the popularity rank of my blog posts in IndiBlogger.”

She asked, “Oh, so you have got rank, too, in IndiBlogger?”

I said, “Yes”.

She asked, “Oh! So what is your rank?”

I responded, “I am just reaching there. Sit, and I’ll show you.”

She sat beside me watching me clicking, clicking, and again clicking. It was another 20 minutes or so when I had crossed 15,000th rank. 

Jayasree said, “It is Sunday, and I have a lot of work to do.”

She left telling me, “Tell me when you find out your rank.”

She had already reached the kitchen. I shouted, “All right.”

I continued with my Herculian task of reaching up to my rank with 5 votes. I have decided that I will certainly suggest to the IndiBlogger team that they should also have a facility to search in the ascending order, so that it will take only a few clicks for me to reach my rank.

I felt dizzy with clicking, clicking, and pulling the bar repeatedly. I stopped looking at the number of votes or the rank, because I realized my target would not come any sooner. The rank went down (or up, should I say?) to 20,000 and then to 25,000 and still no sight of anywhere reaching my target. It was more than an hour since I started clicking, clicking and clicking. When it crossed 30,000 I thought of quitting. On second thoughts, I decided to carry on. Let me see who wins, the IndiBlogger rank or I. When I crossed 36,000 I had reached posts with six votes. Oh! God. At last. I started going somewhat slow. But, the posts with six votes do not seem to end. Posts with five votes began to appear after rank 39,000. Then I became very slow. It was more than 100 minutes since I started this exercise. I don’t want to quit now, I have to see the end of the task. It was 39,700 and still my blog hadn’t been displayed. 

Jayasree called from the kitchen, “What happened? What is your rank?”

I said, “Just a few minutes, I shall let you know.”

Due to the numbness of my fingers, the next click, instead of the next group tab, went to Log Out. Oh! God! What is happening? What did I do? Please, please, don’t take that command, it was a mistake. Please wait, please wait, I pleaded with the computer.

The computer just logged out! I was stunned.  Maybe a few hundred posts, and I would have been lucky to see my blog posts and their ranks. I just sat in front of the computer as if my mind had gone blank.

Jayasree called from the kitchen. “So, what is your rank? It is two hours since you have been trying to find it out.”

I said, “Just a minute, I am calculating.”

I calculated, at the rate it was going, my posts certainly would have crossed 40,000, may be 41 or 42 thousand. The total number of posts could be around 60,000 or more. I didn’t want to tell her that my popularity rank was more than 40,000 out of 60,000. 

I called out to her and shouted, “It is 18,568 out of 60,000.” And then in a dim voice I added, “Counting from below”.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Diary of a Neem – Part III

The body of the hapless animal lay there for two days without anybody taking any interest. As soon as they saw it, they turned their heads away. Slowly the body began to decompose and the foul smell began to spread. Even then they just didn’t care. I was surprised at the indifference of men. As days passed, the foul smell spread stronger and farther. It even reached the nearby housing society apartments. The park had nearly hundred societies on its sides. The only thing the occupants did was to close the doors and windows facing the park. They didn’t, however, forget to curse the dead animal. They were upset that the dog found only this place to die!

Everybody wanted somebody else to do something but nobody did anything. Not even one of them thought of undertaking the task himself. By now I have studied men. I have been listening to their talks while they walked. They think we cannot hear or understand them. Each one of them blames others for every wrong thing. I have not heard even one of them telling, ‘I must do’, ‘I must have done’, or I did a mistake’. No one thought of digging a small pit and burying the decomposed body, at least for their own sake, if not for the dead animal’s sake. They could close the doors and windows, stop coming near the body of the dog during walking, turn their faces in disgust, close their noses with fingers, curse the unfortunate animal, or blame other men. They could do everything, but could not dig a pit to bury the body!

Then the rains came. The whole area was flooded. The decomposed body of the poor animal was covered with rainwater. Small pieces disintegrated and spread all over the place through the water. Water helped the body to disintegrate faster. When the rains stopped and water receded, the body was full of small insects which feasted on it. The foul smell spread far and wide and still nobody thought of burying it, or doing anything at all.

It was during those days that again some workers arrived. They began to dig up the whole place for erecting electric polls and spreading wires for installing lights along the walkway. When they came near me to work, the foul smell was so unbearable to them that one of them dug a small pit and buried whatever remained of the body and put a heap of soil over it. While digging the pit, they even cut a few of my roots. Though it was physically painful I was mentally relieved a lot. At last, about 10 days after he was brutally tortured and killed, the dog was buried. I heaved a sigh of relief. The disgusting foul smell remained in the air for a few more days, as a reminder of what had happened. 

The painful memories will remain with me till the day I too fall down, uprooted and dead. I can see in my mind several men wrenching my tiny branches to prepare four inch pieces for them to clean their teeth. But none of them would even bother to realize that the very same pieces could contain liquefied parts of the blood and meat and every possible part of the dead dog which I could draw through my roots and spread along the branches.

I only hope and plead and beg to human kind to show some respect to your society which includes not only the page 3 or the front page dignitaries or your own kith and kin but also the animals and plants without the existence of which you will be a big zero. Think of the day when no plant or animal exist in this world, but only humans! I earnestly hope that if not today, tomorrow ... at least tomorrow ... will be the day when we non-humans get some respect and consideration from you. I also hope and expect that you will admit the right of plants and animals to cohabit along with you super creatures.


Monday, 22 October 2012

The Parents of Palakulam

I don’t remember when I first met them. It was a few years after my marriage. We visited them at their house, Palakulam (each house in villages in Kerala has a name), in Kadampazhipuram (Kerala). ‘They’ are the mother and father of my wife’s elder sister’s husband (whom I call ettan, meaning elder brother or elder brother-in-law), Thrivikraman. The house was located on a tiny hilltop overlooking vast stretch of paddy fields. One needed to ascent scores of steps to reach the house. It was a picturesque view from the top. In the front was the huge paddy fields beyond which you could see several more tiny hills, all joined together like a long green canopy. On the sides was land area with rich variety of trees, bushes, vegetables and other useful vegetation.  The house was their ancestral home. It was quite old. Like all old houses in Kerala with tiled roofs, sunlight refused to enter it. A few modern additions on one side, however, ensured that at least those portions got adequate air and sunlight. They shifted to ettan’s more modern and convenient house later on.
The father was tall and slim while the mother was shorter and slightly stouter. The most memorable thing that attracted me was the childlike smile of the mother. Whenever I had met her, the smile always used to be present. She talked very softly and the motherly love flowed endlessly through her words and the constant smile. She would have been very beautiful in her younger days. The smile had, however, somewhat lost its vibrancy due to old age and illness when I met her nearly two years ago. The father was, however, more serious and talked less. Being the eldest and because we were like his small children, it was natural for him to keep a little aura. We also understood and cared not to break it.
It is said that it is a blessed life if one sees ‘1000 full moons’, or completing 84 years of life. By then one is supposed to have several grandchildren and grand-grandchildren. These parents were very fortunate that way. Both of them crossed their 84th birthdays, the father several years ago, and have several grand-grandchildren. The 84th birthday is very important and is usually celebrated in a big way by the children and grandchildren. This is an occasion for the near and dear ones of all the three generations to come together and enjoy and wish their grandparents many many happy returns of the day.
Most of their sons and daughters were at faraway places and both of them lived nearly alone since the last few years. The eldest daughter and her family, however, lived right across the lane and she used to come every day and offer whatever assistance her parents needed. However, since the last few months the situation got deteriorated and they needed to be looked after constantly. They were also quite forgetful towards the last several weeks. So the children took turns in staying with and looking after their parents.
The mother left for her heavenly abode last month (September). One day she peacefully breathed her last. Her husband, too, had been keeping very unwell since some time. His mind and body became weaker. When he was told about his wife’s death, he did not betray any emotions. It was not sure whether he fully grasped the fact. He followed her after three weeks and passed away last week.
The mother’s childlike smile and soft voice cannot and will not be easily forgotten.
May their souls rest in peace!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Diary of a Neem - Part II

I have now grown to a big tree. I am no more afraid of my branches being wrenched out because it is not easy to reach up to them. And fortunately people are lazy to bring a ladder and climb on me. Since the last few years I have been seeing several people, more than a hundred or two, taking morning and evening walks. Six- or seven-years olds to seventy-year olds come and walk along the walkway. NOIDA authority staff members sometimes come and fill the ground with sewage water. They have repaired the walkway by adding more soil a couple of times. I have seen a few of my friends being uprooted and dying because they had initially been planted in shallow pits. When they grew, the thin soil above the roots could not hold them. They were uprooted during storms. And the people who have been walking beside them every day since a few years, without as much as blinking their eyes, just looked at them and continued their walk. Some of them were horrible, they wrenched all the branches to prepare four inch pieces for cleaning their teeth. They were enjoying and even celebrating the death of those friends! Man, thy name is treachery!

Then one day the most horrendous incident occurred, which I shall never forget. It was around noon and some boys, maybe school students, came and sat on a cement bench near me. There were five of them. They were eating something and talking and laughing loudly. They were enjoying. It was then that a dog slowly approached them. This dog used to come to the park and I have seen him several times. Some people used to give him milk, roti, or bread. He came to the boys thinking he would get something to eat. He was patiently waiting for them to throw something for him. Since they didn’t care, he sat there, expectantly, patiently, looking at them. One of the boys saw him and threw to him a piece of something he was eating. The dog enthusiastically started eating the piece. Suddenly, to my horror, the boy got up and violently kicked him on his stomach. The poor fellow was shocked at the unexpected attack. He fell down moaning. After a few seconds, he started moving away slowly leaving the food behind. But the boy wouldn’t let him. He kicked him again on his face. Then the others too joined him. I can’t tell or don’t want to even remember how long the hapless animal suffered their totally unnecessary cruelty. It looked like they were possessed by some evil spirit. After dancing on the wretched animal for about half an hour, they left laughing, talking, and singing.

The poor animal couldn’t move. Blood was oozing out of his mouth and nose. There were injuries all over his body. Several of his bones must have been broken. After about an hour or so he started crawling slowly and somehow managed to reach near me. He lay there clutching my trunk panting, moaning, and pleading with God of Death to relieve him of his agonies. His breath burned me. His agony suffocated me. I was destined to watch everything silently. How I wished to give him some comfort by covering him with some of my tender leaves! Humans say that my leaves are medicine. I prayed to the wind god to blow and break a few of my tender branches so that I can cover him with my leaves. But nothing happened. I watched his agony till slowly and slowly life ebbed away from him. And he lay there, dead, still clutching my trunk, the poor animal whose only crime was that he was hungry and he trusted the two-legged monsters to give him something to eat!

What happened then?

[To be concluded]
[Updated on week-ends]

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Diary of a Neem - Part I

I don’t know when I was born. But when I started understanding things, I was in a nursery along with several friends of my age. I must have been about three or four years then. I was happy there, though we were kept in small plastic bags with adequate soil to run our roots. We used to get food and water. The mali (gardener) uncle used to come every day and tend us. He was our friend. We thought this was our world and it will be like this for ever. Then one day some people came with a truck. They took several of us in the truck. We were driven for several kilometers. One uncle divided and distributed us to various parks. A few of my friends and I were planted in the C block park-cum-walkway in Sector 62 of Noida (UP).

The unfamiliarity with the new environment troubled me a lot initially. Earlier in the nursery we were all together. We could touch each other and even murmur jokes into each others’ ears. We used to sing and dance together, especially in the presence of our best friend, the slow breeze. We were all very happy there. We had never thought that we would be separated and planted in separate locations one day. I could see only a few of my friends planted several metres away. We could not touch or speak with each other, or dance together. I felt very lonely. The only solace was our friend breeze which brought news of my friends in this park and in other locations.

Slowly I got familiar with the environment. I was, maybe four or five feet tall when this man came. He looked at me and with a horrendous smile, wrenched a tender branch of mine and walked away. I cried in pain but to no avail. Blood oozed from the cut and I cried, and cried; sobbed and sobbed. I saw him removing and throwing away each of my leaves. He only wanted a small piece of about four inches to clean his teeth and he cut the whole of my three-foot branch. The wretched, unkind fellow! He did not bother to think that it has taken several years for me to grow that branch and he wrenched it in a second! Are all humans like this? Why do humans think that everything in this world has been created for their pleasure and convenience and other living things are subservient to them and they have no rights on their own?

One day some workers came with some instruments and truckloads of concrete bricks and sand. They built a four-foot wide walkway using bricks and sand running through the length and breadth of the park. The next morning I saw a man walking on the newly built walk-way. Suddenly I realised, to my utmost horror, that I may have to confront several human beings every day from now on. They will walk along, and wrench our branches to clean their teeth. After the day when that rogue man took away my branch, I had seen him and a few others doing the same thing with several of my old and new friends. We lamented being transferred to this wretched place. How happy we were in the nursery! 

But alas, I didn’t know that more horrifying shocks were awaiting me.

[To be concluded]
[Updated on week-ends]

Friday, 5 October 2012

The Uniform

I was studying in Class 6 in the Government Upper Primary School, Puthuvely, when a uniform dress code was established in the school for students – khaki trousers and white shirt for boys. I had no white shirt. All my shirts were dark coloured or checked. White shirts got dirty very soon and would have to be washed every day. And we could not afford that much detergent. But now, it had become mandatory to wear white shirt in school. Also, there was no money to purchase a new shirt. A new shirt would have cost around five rupees, which was huge.

Mother had a solution. She gave me one of father’s shirts. He had only white shirts. He wore shirt very sparingly, only when he used to travel very far by bus or on special occasions. When I wore that shirt, the colour or make of the trousers that I wore (or did not wear) didn’t matter. The shirt covered including my knees completely hiding my trousers. I stopped almost all kinds of plays and adventures that normal boys of my age used to engage in, for two reasons. One, it was very inconvenient to engage in any kind of activity wearing such a huge shirt, and two, I did not want to dirty the shirt, lest mother would have to wash it every day. 

It must have been a week or two after the uniform rule came into effect. Every day I wore father’s shirt. One day the headmaster, (he was my mother’s cousin) called me to his office. It was frightening to be called by any teacher to the staff room. It was usually to award punishment for some mistake we did. And to be called by the headmaster was even more scary. I entered his office ready to be punished for some unknown mistake which I might have committed. I slowly approached him. He smilingly handed me a piece of paper and a 50 paise coin. He asked, ‘Have you seen Koothattukulam Textiles?’ I said, ‘Yes’. During those days that was the biggest textile shop in Koothattukulam. He continued, ‘All right. Go there, give this letter to the manager. He will give you a packet. Bring it to me.’

I was so much relieved. Wow! It was not for awarding a punishment that he called me. Instead he wanted me to run an errand for him. I was proud to do it. After all, he was the very strict headmaster whom all the students feared and even teachers respected very much. And he was my uncle!

Koothattukulam was about three kilometers from the school. I took a bus. The ticket cost 10 paise. I collected the packet and returned to school. By then school time was over and students had departed. When I gave the packet to him, he said, ‘It is for you. Take it.’ I could never imagine that he would give me a present. He continued, ‘It is a white shirt, wear it in school from tomorrow.’ I did not know what to tell him or how to thank him. It was wonderful to receive a present from anybody. And to get a shirt was even better, and that too, from one's headmaster!

I ran the distance of about two kilometres to home. To reach home I had to cross tiny hills and valleys, narrow passages through paddy fields, cross streams, and climb through stone walls. I  was nearly breathless by the time I reached. I proudly told mother what had happened in school. She listened to me carefully, looked at the shirt, and silently kissed me on my forehead which was profusely perspiring.

I didn’t understand then why mother cried instead of being happy.