Fourth for this Week

It had to be the Pudumund Marlimund Road today.  We lived on this road long ago but never ventured too far down the road. Of course it had grown and changed. Lots of small houses around Forest Gate , each with its set of drums and basins and tubs kept ready to catch the water tanker . The road stretched and curved  beyond the fork to Anikorai into more pastoral reaches.

Houses became more  scattered. While the presence of large bungalows with glimpses of colourful gardens added grace. Suddenly at one corner  opposite Adyar House was the brightly painted  police station of Pudumund. At the side were a dozen bashed and broken up cars , swept up from Ooty’s roads.


Somewhere there had to be the Marlimund lake, for which the road was named. Probably dry and swampy. Still I had to see it. And discover it I did. A beautiful sweep of water near the small dam. At the back, where waters must have collected from springs and rain, cows grazed peacefully on the green cover. Even the pipe drawing water from the reservoir stood 2 feet above the water level.

Lets hope and pray and believe in the good monsoon,  predicted.


Third Day

‘Go around the lake ma’, suggested my daughter. Right around being rather ambitious for me I thought I would walk on the less crowded , far side of the lake.

Starting a little further down from the Arboretum which the tourist vans seem to have discovered, I walked down the road, which ran parallel to the railway tracks for a short while.  Quiet prevailed as I passed West Mere, where we’d stayed as children; host to a hundred memories, looking rather forgotten now.

Further on was the Deer Park, barred and barbed , allowing no one to get past the bramble and undergrowth. Disturbing a young couple looking for quiet, I had to hurry on with glimpses of the lake through trees and wire. Finally there was the second Boat house with colour and sound .

Time to turn back.


Second Day

Zoning in on a quiet,  level road to walk on Day 2, wasn’t too difficult. The road from Fernhill to Avalanche via Kundah has always been a  favorite. Smooth to drive on, tracts of cultivated land lining one side, passing through numerous small villages; this road leads to many interesting spots.

But since I was going to walk, it was doubtful whether I would reach even one.

Passing the bend at Cairn Hill, I met some monkeys  sipping water from a small muddy pool near the road left behind from the rains. They eyed me warily while they pushed each other aside for their turn.


Later, I met some cows grazing happily at the side of the road. Besides us, there were no other pedestrians on the road, it being more of a highway. On one side were verdant green tea fields and on the other, fields being freshly sown for the next crop.


Further on was a carrot washing shed. Always delightful to watch the carrots go in muddy and come out a fresh orange. Why dont’ they do it for radish or potatoes ??


30 minutes later, I was gazing on the slopes of Mullikorai., a prosperous looking hamlet. A stream flowed through the valley below cutting through fields of cabbage and carrot. The school was freshly painted and gleamed in the evening sunshine.


The charm of small houses always attracts the eye. Brightly painted, the areas outside swept clean and tamped down,  the bare sparseness speaks of simple living and one imagines, contentment.



On my way back as I crossed the Bhavanieaswari temple;  I watched a mother sitting outside the house attached to the temple, in sweet ease with her children . How many mothers Ive heard , wishing to live again  those  simple, busy days  when their children were young and life less complicated , although life’s material riches are now more in abundance.



Stepping out

I was looking forward to May as a time of rest and being at home and pottering around but all that is getting a bit too restful . My friends are busy with visiting children or visiting their kids. The town is too crowded to drive and park and do anything much. I’ve been doing a bit too much work in the  garden with not so good consequences for my back although the garden is looking rather colorful .  So Im finding it rather painful to walk on slopes. And I’m not sure that stoicism in this case is a good thing. So haven’t been walking much either. All that is my sad story. 
Then today there was a friend setting off to the hills in the Northeast. 
And after getting over the wave of envy and resentment that washes over one when someone else seems to be doing something adventurous which we wish we had the gumption to organise ;  I thought -I am living in the damn hills after all!  So why dont I use this time to explore .
I  took the car out to the Lovedale road, parked and walked along for an hour. I got my walk on level ground on a nice well tarred road which contrasts with our pot hole ridden one ; a new place to explore, velvety green tea fields on one side, tall trees on another, vistas of train track and tunnels.
Most of all there was the joy of stepping out of my usual ruts . It takes a little leap to do something new, to go somewhere new… and to do it alone. And the happiness in overcoming inner resistance to actually do something a little difficult is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
 Somewhere new I promised myself every day of this week.
In the rush of leaving I had left my phone behind, so there was no stopping to take photographs. Another time!

Rare Flowers

All of us have certain tasks  in our lives for which we have to fight some internal resistance to start the action. For me, vegetableone such task  is  going to the vegetable market. It is something I keep putting off until the fridge is bare. But once I get to the ulavar santhai, then the sight of the heaps of fresh vegetables is invigorating. I invariably buy more than we can eat in a week and stagger back with loaded bags.

This morning, I made the trip early, by scooter which is the easiest form of transport as Ooty gets busier in summer. And I had two interactions which stayed in the mind.

One was talking to Ibrahim who was selling cauliflower and broccoli. Just finished with his plus two exams, he is working at the market in the holidays. I told him about the program to be conducted by Hotel Sullivan court – a 2 week program of internship at a 3 * hotel, with food, stipend and a certificate. We are finding it hard to get students who want to make us of this opportunity!  Boys would rather wander around with cell phones and taxis driver friends and if possible,  girl friends, than go to work.  And like rare wild flowers we have boys like Ibrahim and Nallendran .  Nallendran, is studying in  the 10th standard. Before and after school, he works in a milk booth where he also sleeps at night.

Then I was buying oranges and I didn’t have the money to pay for them.  The lady vendor, with whom I was not familiar, said pay next time. I was so touched and gladdened.


As we are so quick to complain, I thought I must appreciate the  new Passport Seva Kendras which have taken over from the government.

They are organised, quick, helpful and efficient. As my father put it, ‘They want to process the passport as opposed to the old government officials who wanted to find reasons to stop you getting one.’

I remember going through the process thrice for Darshini just a couple of years ago. Each time , there was a tiny flaw in the spelling or a dot in the wrong place and her application was rejected.

This time, although the name of the street in my father’s address had been changed thrice over the years, the girl at the counter  was helpful and we managed to find two identity cards with the same address and she passed it.

Getting my 88 year old father ready with his documents was my major battle. He couldn’t decide in which photograph he looked best. Finally, they took the photograph at the Kendra and fingerprints too. Although I landed up in Coimbatore to get his documents processed 24 hours ahead, he would hand them over to me only two hours before ! :-0

My ordinary, non Tatkal passport reached me on the third day after the interview!

Women’s Day

‘What Does It Mean to be a Woman Today to You’

One of 6 speakers,  I was given 5 minutes but it is hard to be brief ! I  wanted to talk about the differences in the lives 1904042_10152343599708833_1255281752_nof my mother, myself and my daughter on a few aspects.

About 30 years ago, when the serial Mahabharata was all the rage and everyone gathered around the TV on Sunday mornings, my mother would get excited too. She would have everything ready and be set to watch it when my father would appear and announce ‘ Im ready to eat’. She would depart very sadly to make breakfast for him. She couldn’t even say ‘ Why don’t you eat before or after?’ Her needs were never considered important enough.

Now I can say that to my husband. And as for  my daughter, my heart stops when she says to her husband on the phone ‘ Hey loose’.

The balances in marriages are changing . There is more equality, friendship and intimacy vs the respect for age. And all for the better.


That was the way I began and somehow this seems to have touched the hearts of many women there. Many of them came up to me and said rather bitterly, ‘ It ‘s still the same. I have to drop everything when my husband wants to eat’.

zumbaAs this event was organised by the Doc who runs my Fitness class, the talks  were followed by a short  Zumba routine and then a healthier tea than usual 🙂

I had a good feeling about myself later.  Good with the long talk but still short on the Small talk 🙂

Act now!

Why is it so hard to carry on  with routines  when disaster happens to a friend or member of the family?    Even sitting down becomes a little hard. It seems good to pace up and down or better, take some action which most probably, does not help anyone . Talking with other concerned people helps a lot. But the best remedy is to pack a bag and head for the disaster area.

The best remedy for me, I guess 🙂 Probably there are Freudian undertones of importance and ego stroking which I don’t care to explore.

Late last night, after I heard a niece has been admitted in hospital for an ectopic pregnancy, my instincts have been to go; be there in hospital with her and her mother, my sister. My sister probably needs more support. But, we have a meeting today of Our library society  for which I have been planning for a week. After thinking of relative importance on the scales of life, I thought  I would skip the meeting and sent out a message immediately and rescheduled my classes. Immediately, people called to say they would postpone the meet. Then I called my sister who said, there is a period of waiting so its okay if I come a bit a later. So I called back again and rescheduled the meet.

Meanwhile, it is hard to mark time.

Im sure there are many people for whom waiting is as hard. In the movie ‘ Home Alone’, when the Mom finds out her son has been left behind, she catches a series of planes and buses and cars and gets home at the same time as the rest of the family who caught a straight plane home after her. That’s me.

Hospitals and parents

Im in Coimbatore. Its 6 am and still dark outside. I go downstairs and the front doors are wide open, kept ready for me to sail out on my walk. Athai says with a sniff, ‘ what you are just going? I thought you have come back from the walk. ‘ I wonder if the next generation feels as much parental pressure as we do.

My father and his sisters are hardy village folk. Hard working, independent, uncomplaining, undemanding yet demanding in very subtle ways which makes it harder, disciplined,  morally upright and judgemental… they are a little hard to live with. Tick all the opposites and you have my mother’s family.

Chinna athai has been here for two weeks. She came for a wedding from Trichy where she lives alone a

nd is staying on hoping for medical treatment.  We’ve been hoping her son, who lives in the same city will take her but he hasnt. Today is hospital day. There is some discussion about hospitals and doctors. I call my sister in chennai. She promises to fix up with a colleague in Coimbatore.  She calls back. Go before 8.30, otherwise the doctor will leave for rounds. Its 8 a.m. Ten minutes later I have the car out and go to fetch Athai. She has draped a rich maroon pattu saree and looks beautiful.  I tell her that and she glows. She slowly combs her hair, cleans the comb, washes her hands and takes leave of the gods.

We reach the hospital at 8.30. I have no idea of the medical history or her records. My sister has given the wrong name. I give the wrong age. The doctors are going to sigh impatiently and give me loathing looks. Ive been there before.

We get to see the doctor at 9.30, jumping the queue some of who have been here since 7 a.m. and will continue to wait till evening. With a 86 year old woman to take care of, I sit strongly on my moral misgivings. Athai tells of her falls, the blackouts,  the pain in her arm. When we walk out, she can barely stand. We sit down for a while. Why didn’t you tell the doc about the pain in your hip I ask? That is because I havent been very active these last two weeks she says. I can hardly go back to see the doctor.

I call my sister.  She recommends a wheelchair.  Athai refuses. We make our way slowly through a battery of tests. Too bad, she’s eaten, now wait for an hour, says one technician . Ive had a hard time persuading her to eat in the canteen . Too bad, there is oil in her hair. Shampoo and come back says the Eeg technician making it sound like a beauty treatment. With pressure, he unbends after vigorous wiping with a hanky.

A few hours later we go home to wait for results.  Go back and get a couple of xrays for that hip and back orders my sister. Back again in the hospital and then we are in the queue to see the doctor.  There is something wrong in the Eeg and her back is bad. Take these tablets and come back after 15 days. He is dismissive. Do doctors these days stop with such simplistic explanations?  Dont they owe us some more however busy they are?

I go in search of my sister’s friend. She gives more details. At home, my father says with dissatisfaction,  she should have written out her diagnosis.  I retreat to a book. Tomorrow it is going to be a day with the ear doctor and him.

Ah, well, the life of a middle aged woman can be taken only one day at a time.

Feeling The Earth

IMG_2942This is one of my favorite days of the year – the day when we re-pot the plants.  We sit in the sunny garden the whole day and go through a cycle of replenishment  and planning and hope. The pots are emptied, scoured out, washed and then filled with a happy  mix of manure, sand and soil.

We decide which plants should be split and which goes into which pot . We’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, Dhanraj , who came to help as a young teenager and still helps part time, and I. I have the book learning and he has the experience of his years in the fields with him. We’ve both learnt on the job; he to act as if he was bowing down to my superior knowledge and me to trust his green thumb even when he chops the roots rudely and shoves the plant carelessly into the soil.

The pots recall a number of stories. Some of them are from the times long ago, when as a green girl,  I used to go to the market and buy the pots and lug them home anxiously in  a bag.  Some from a time when the house was newly built and money was very tight but a visiting niece persuaded me to buy all, all the pots a vendor was carrying on his head right on our road. A couple of tiny pots from a train ride up north when Laloo Prasad created an outlet for potters by selling tea in terracota  cups on trains. A bunch of small pots used for serving kulfi when my brother in law and sister ran a take away catering service. Some rounded pots used for the children’s wedding ceremonies. A couple painted by my sister and filched from her, when she wasn’t looking.  Some gifted by a friend who was leaving town. It is like looking through  a photo album.

The process usually takes place in January; the feeding of the soil and the planting of new seedlings so it will all burst gloriously into flower in May – the Season. A British relic, of course, that all we Ootyians  embrace.  Some of the more serious gardeners will compete in the Flower show. We have no such ambitions.  Enough if the plants flourish and flower and amaze us and our visitors .Till then we will anxiously water and potter and nourish the garden.

In June, when the rains set in  and we are driven indoors, we let ourselves be enveloped by other concerns and allow Mother Nature to  take over. Slowly , all those boundaries and edges and demarcations disappear  and the garden settles into a green wilderness  which is relaxing and restful. We  make occasional forays into weeding  and pruning but our hearts are not really there. The work will begin once more, truly in January when the compost rots to the perfect pitch in the shed of the cow herd.