Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bookie Me -1

A few months ago, a friend of mine on facebook posted a list of 100 books that are must reads and asked “how many have you read?”. I looked at the list and scrolled down and down and down….. very few books that I had read. Many I hadn’t heard about. And I call myself a bookie!

Here are the books from that list that I have already read:
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 
Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Emma-Jane Austen
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnet
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

And that’s it!! Out of the 100 must read books, I had read 13 titles!!! What a disappointment! And even worse is the realization that I read most of these when I was 16. I barely remember the stories.

So I decided that I would start reading the books on the list and cross out the once I have already read and the ones I now get my hands on.
I started out but then landed a job so now I have almost no guilt free time to spend on lavish reading. So I hope to read a book each month starting with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I will update the list by January.

Meanwhile, try and get your hands on The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. I read this book sometime in April and loved it. So many mysteries, a nice mix of facts and fiction… after watching Jodha Akbar, my imagination was running wild!


Halloween came and went uneventfully. I was looking forward to Thanksgiving. The harvest festival of this country is in many ways like the one in India. Harvest, gifts, vacation, travel, parades, television, feasts! It’s the same for Thanksgiving and Onam.

On Thanksgiving morning, we dressed up and went to our parent’s place. At home, we all sat together and ate this huge meal! Mushroom soup, Turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sea food salad, corn bread, casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato pie, and of course wine!

Family and friends – grownups, children and our dog! 2 hour long meal! Even after the plates were clean, we sat around the table making small talk. And even after all that food, we still found space for a bowl of ice cream!
It was unlike any other afternoon. All that food, and all that conversation, all that sluggishness that followed!! It felt oddly satisfying. By 3 in the afternoon, we were stretched out on our couch at home, barely able to move.
It wasn’t over for us. We had the left over carcass of the poor bird. It went straight into the croc-pot – with mushrooms, carrots, celery and stock. A soup was in the making. We had guests to entertain next evening.
We let the soup work itself as we slept on it and by next afternoon, we had a delicious pot full of turkey soup all ready to be served.

By 8 in the evening, our guests were ready and so was the table. Turkey breast, ham, mashed potatoes, chicken and pies. Arvind truly outdid himself. It was an amazing meal.

We sat till 3 in the morning, laughing, singing, playing till we could stay awake no more. When Vishal dozed off on the couch, we called it a day and crashed.
The weekend was fun filled. All that food, all those people and all that fun!
Scaling Mission Peak

I am not an athlete; not even close to it. My heart beats at 150 after just 2 minutes on an elliptical machine at 5 miles an hour. When I moved to Fremont, I was told that I should climb mission peak. I was sure that it would be a lot more than a causal trip and I was right. My husband and I tried 3 times before we succeeded.
Our first attempt was on a beautiful summer afternoon. During those days, staying at home had inspired me to hit the gym quite often and I was starting to build my strength. In spite of all the morning hours at the gym, we dragged ourselves to 3 turns and gave up because of failing light and hurting lungs. On the way back, I was pretty sure that I would never climb to the top- not with my stamina.
Our second try was out of pure guilt. Both of us had been very careless of our diet and exercise. So one late evening, we set out again with our dog. We climbed till our vision was compromised and the fear of mountain lions and hyenas got us to turn around. But even then we did not cross the height we climbed on our first attempt.
Summer rushed by and fall started. I put mission peak out of my head thinking I won’t have to think about it for the rest of the year. Temperatures dropped, leaves changed color and the days got shorter. And one beautiful afternoon, Arvind came home in a wonderful mood. He’s just had a beautiful drive around Fremont on the way back. “Let’s go for a drive and walk” he said. We drove around the neighborhood and end up underneath mission peak.

[Picture : Almost there!]

It’s 3 in the afternoon and we have plenty of light. So the 3 of us began our climb. We paced ourselves and in 2 hours, we are at the top – freezing! It didn’t matter! We made it to the top and both of us were proud. It was beautiful I bet looks even more beautiful during the day!!

[Picture - View from the top - The bay]

Now came the dangerous part. Sun had begun to set and we had a long way down the hill. It took us an hour to get all the way down. Slipping, falling, stumbling, we managed to get down the hill unhurt.
We simply had to reward ourselves. A long dinner at Outback! The food was delicious but neither of us had any energy left in us to care. We gobbled up our food, packed up the leftovers and hurried home to fall asleep- satisfied.

Monday, June 1, 2009

American Days 1- The Journey Home

It's been over a month and i guess i can safely say i have settled in. Moving to the other side of the planet is a big thing. I had expected it to be and may be that helped me cushion the big blow that came with the change. From the moment I landed in this new alien land I kept my eyes and ears wide open trying to grasp and experience all the new stuff around me. It was overwhelming and i was fighting to not gasp at seemingly ordinary things.
Stepping outside the airport was a big relief and i welcomed it and turned every corner of the path pushing my trolley hoping to see Arvind waiting there for me and he was there just as I had remembered him.
Once we got out of the big buildings I realized how tiny i was. I was tiny in India but this was just "out of proportion". Coming from Cochin where every one has just enough space for everything, this was spacious.
The parking lot was huge and I stood there staring at the cars parked side by side neatly. I realized why the cars over here were much bigger when i saw the first family walking up to their car parked beside us. I was really tiny.
It took me only a few minutes to get used to the size difference.
All throughout the ride home Arvind was smiling and chuckling as I ooohed and aahed and gasped at things around me. When I realized that he was laughing at me I had to blush coz all that I saw around me was new only to me and I was pointing at really ordinary stuff. Seeing my embarrassment he said, "Its ok.. i felt the same when I came here first". "Yeah... but you were 13!!!". I forgot the embarrassment as we sped through the bay bridge and I kept quiet - just watching the view as we went home.
The drive from SFO held me quiet as I watched the clear blue of the skies and the greenish blue of the ocean sped past.

(view as the plane landed)

There were wide roads and traffic was a new experience.
As we got closer to home, the big and tall buildings of SFO were replaced by smaller ones with beautiful flowers lining the buildings and dividers. Homes has neat lawns and slanting roofs with tiles. Mento Terrace was just a few minutes away and I remember walking into my new home and being greeted by my new family and my first dog -Jude
More to Pen and Pencil

I got some time these days to myself and i tried out some sketches. Here they are

I found some crayons lying around in the study space and tried a rose flower.
I also found a picture of a face on the internet. I liked the idea so sketched a face on my own.

This is something that i started drawing while at Madurai.

I never got the chance to complete it. I left that sketch book in India when I came here. So all I have now is the photo of the incomplete sketch

So.. one day I'm feeling bored and Lazy.. there is nothing on TV that is interesting, I got tired of reading... i sketched a part of Arvind's office room.

Just wondering....

Thats all for now...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time for a short entry here: 14/4/2009


Today is the first day of the malayalam Month Medam and also the first day of the astronomical new year for us malayalis.

(Krishna's deity)

This year's vishu will be treasured in my memories for longer than all other such festivals of the state.

I am leaving the country and joining my husband and his family and this is one last round of celebrations here at home.

Thoough none of our cousins were coming over this year, mom and dad wanted to make this year's vishu celebrations 

just as grand as usual.

We spend yesterday evening arranging for "Vishukani". 
This is the part of vishu when all of us sat down in the pooja room and decorated it in yellow, red and gold.

As usual, it was my job to dress up the Krishna vigraham.
Kani konna was arranged in an old uruli with fruits and rice, coconut and money and gold - all symbols of richness and prosperity.

(Vishu kani arrangements - the night before vishu)

Lamps were lit and arun and I recited vishnu sahasranaamam and grandma recited a part of the ramayana.

(Grandma reading ramayana)

We then went to the most fun part of the evening. Crackers!! Lots and Lots!!

(Mom, Me and Arun with crackers)

(Crackers at home)

After making more than our share of noise, we went to bed so as to wake up early for the start of the new year.

Dad woke me up at 3:30 with his palm over my eyes, he brought me before the kani... It was beautiful...

Grandma gave us vishu kaineetam and then we all went back to sleep.

I spend the whole morning calling up people and wishing them new year. Mom and grandma made payasam and a good lunch.

It was a simple vishu with just 5 of us but it was very precious....
Will miss it a lot!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dad's gift

I'm leaving the country in 18 days. Dad and I decided to go on a trip to his home town. Kongad is a quite little place nestled among the ghats. A very green and beautiful place. I've been there many times and have spend a lot of time in my grandmother's home with my cousins.
I remember not having much to do back then. I wasn't too mischievous growing up. So, climbing trees was out, throwing stones at ripe mangoes was a crazy thought - my aim isn't too good. 
Cycling was definitely out of the question as no cycles were available around there.
I remember walking around the place looking at strange flowers and fruits and picking ripe tamarind off the grass and hiding it in my pockets. I didn't mind having nothing much to do. As a child i kept to myself and enjoyed being alone with my own imaginations.
This time the trip to Kongad was different.
I am 23. Not the quite girl with a lot of silent thoughts but a talkative one. My dad 
is my best friend and I can spend days with him with no other entertainment. Just talking.
So this trip was special. Just the 2 if us heading out in our car to Kongad. Pooram was at its peak of celebrations at the local temple and that was our first destination.
When we got there, the crowd was a surprise. I had been to the Pooram 7 years ago and my memory of it was hazy. But dad was surprised at the crowd.
We zig zagged through the crowd looking for my grand mother and her sister -in-law with no luck. We gave up the idea of finding them and decided to walk around and enjoy the evening.
The first things we saw was the kottikayattam
The goddess was taken to the pond and bathed and brought back on an elephant, accompanied by more elephants and drummers.

That was a sight. 
My heart gave a lurch as the elephants climbed the stairs that lead from the pond to the temple. These graceful and slow animals seemed to not mind the deafening noise around them. In 10 minutes I was soaked with perspiration. Man! it was too hot to be allowed.
Dad and I walked away from the crowd for some fresh air. He and I walked to the ponds where my dad used to go swimming in. He showed me houses of his schoolmates and places that he used to meet friends.

Sarppakavu near the pond.

It was fun to walk around and see his life the way he lived it before i was born. That was an interesting experience.
Later that night, I, my dad, his mom, uncle and aunt went to the temple again to listen to the thaambakam.

The stalls were put up and there were lights all over the place.

By the time it was 11:00 at night i was too sleepy to sit around and watch the elephants so I got home and slept.
This trip was very enjoyable. The place was beautiful as always. People there are innocent and lovable and I will miss it dearly.
Thanks dad for the trip...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Taj

We’ve been told about many spectacles in life and when we finally come face to face with one, we feel a sense of elation. I’ve felt that elation before when I saw a rainbow for the first time. I remember that feeling even though it is an ancient memory. I had imagined it, seen it in drawings and photos and I even drew it in my little drawing book – all 7 colors with sun and clouds and little houses in the picture.

I expected the same feeling when I visited Agra – The Taj.

The feelings were different though. The rainbow’s occurrence was unexpected. It’s presence was just pointed out and I had jumped up and down with joy. The Taj however was an imagined vision lingering just beyond my eyesight – I knew it was there but hadn’t seen it yet.

Standing in line to get through the security check, my thoughts were nowhere near the Taj even though that’s where I was headed. I felt a nudge from Arvind and I looked up from rummaging in my bag to see the spectacle I will never forget in my life. Through the entrance of the sandstone fort stood a vision in white, so majestic that the thought that it is a mausoleum never struck me. I just stood there – feeling a feeling I’ve never felt before.

The beauty of the structure hit me before the stories that lay behind it did.

It was cold and there was a light fog. That made the Taj look even more beautiful, mysterious and majestic.

At the distance, the grandeur held me spell bound for a while- a few snaps were taken and the guide rushed us to go closer. The winter was biting through us and the Taj would soon be lost to darkness in a few minutes. We moved on along the line of fountains that led to the Taj.

Up close, the intricate work on the surfaces and the symmetry of the sides stunned me- so did the architecture where a 4 sided pillar looked 8 sided- trick of light.

Inside lay Mumtaz, the beautiful and the lucky; all around Agra, tour guides spoke about Mumtaz and Shah Jahan and their love for each other – of how Mumtaz was a very beautiful woman – one guide even went on to explain how Shah Jahan was bad at fishing because he could never concentrate as he was distracted by the beautiful Mumtaz.

The atmosphere was the best for us 2 newly weds to wander around – lost in time – in the stories of the great kings and queens- in their love and legendary grandeur.

So there we were at Agra, in the land of luxurious palaces, forts and memorials, a land with stories of love and affection…