January 31, 2008

The luxury of ordinariness

This is one man who played a very important role in my life. I do not know his name. Everyone calls him Panditji. He is the purohit in the small Hanuman temple in Warangal, where I grew up. He is the man who facilitated the successful delivery of prayers---mine and those of my family, to an unknown address somewhere.

Exam times, illnesses, my brother's severe jaundice, my father's fall from the bed on Deepavali day, my grandmother's series of ailments...at these time, and every Saturday evening, we headed for the unassuming little temple run by this man. The puja was quick and simple. After lighting the agarbathis and giving aarti, accompanied by temple bells, Panditji would break the coconuts people offered. He would then give us the orange bottu and theertham, and then proceed to deftly slice the coconuts into small pieces with a very sharp knife. He would sprinke some sugar on these pieces and proceed to distribute the prasadam. Invariably, without even looking up, he would ask my mother, "Kaise hai?...saab nahi aaye?"

One of the Panditji's sons, a tiny lad at that time, wearing dhoti and kurta, used to assist him in the puja. He looked cute in his 'little Panditji' garb, as he did the puja in all seriousness, not a trace of a smile, leave alone a giggle on his face. I always wondered whether the boy was happy helping his father with the puja, for his expression revealed nothing. What if he wanted to go to school and study? And if he did go to school, did his friends tease him about being a purohit in a temple? However, I was too involved with the unfolding of my own life to bother too much about him, though I did, many a time, think of weaving a story on the life of this character....the little purohit.

I wish I could write here, about seeing this little fellow as a young man, still helping his now-aged father. But there is no luxury of such ordinariness in this story...this boy, apparently died of a brain tumour some years back. Can this be called irony? Or just fate? Should we attempt to call it anything at all?

In the meantime, Panditji continues to carry people's messages to that address, which is neither snail mail, nor email, somewhere beyond reach of the world wide web or the satellites that empower communication.

Was he too busy to send up his own?

January 17, 2008

Small happinesses

It is finally small happinesses in life that keep one going.

On Sankranti day, we were on the terrace all three days, 4-7 pm. Our children proudly kept score...we finally cut a record 36 kites and lost about 14. AND found four beautiful kites which glided gracefully onto our terrace, one straight into my daughter's hands!

The last day, we truly felt like emperors of the sky...our cute colourful kite, with two twinkling eyes, (we had found this) was up proudly, cutting every kite that came our way, even after dark! The last kite we cut was a yellow one...the fight was tough, and even as Vijay persisted with the pench, using all the techniques up his sleeve, the lot of us, some family and some friends, like kindergarten children began chanting yellow, yellow dirty fellow sitting on a buffalo...so loudly, even our opponent, yes, the owner of the yellow kite from the terrace of the next building could hear the crazy chant! Finally the yellow kite was torn brutally, and then cut and disappeared into the darkness. We shouted another great big kite-winner shout k-a-a-a-a-t-é-é-é, some of our kids hooting, jumping up and down, clapping...ah! jubiliance!

Agle saal dekhlenge,
the guy shouted from the other terrace, and one of our friends shot back: ham bhi dekhlenge...isi patang se phir kaatenge!

These small thrills...they make me very happy...I revel in them!

January 10, 2008

Introspection

Sometimes, end of the year and the beginning of a new year become overwhelming, even though I tell myself that they don’t mean anything. December 2007 ended with a lot of bad news in the circle of people around us. It began with the demise of my children’s Montessori school Director Mrs Vanitha Bhushan. A gentle, soft spoken, dignified woman, who contributed a great deal to the Montessori education scene in Hyderabad. We will miss her.

And then fate was cruel...a very good friend of ours lost his younger brother in an accident. Another good friend lost her cousin. And then we heard about Benazir Bhutto. The next in the series of unfortunate events was the passing away of an acquantance in a bus accident, and then of an 80+ years old buzurg family friend who died peacefully in his sleep.

So I awoke on Jan 1, wanting to kick 2007 away, and wanting to welcome the new year. But in the new year, all these people have to learn to deal with the loss of their close ones. I hope I can be of some support...but what can one do to help? The finality of death is so real, and so incomprehensible.