Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coco loco

 For a land named after coconuts (keram= coconut in malayalam) , it is only to be expected that the people there are mad over coconuts. Literally every part of that useful and much loved tree is used for something or the other. And any self respecting house that has a few inches of space surrounding it will have a coconut tree!

I grew up in Kannur, in North Malabar, and one of our neighbours had an oil mill. In the evenings around 4pm, the  air around would be redolent with the smell of freshly made coconut oil.... We used to have our stock of coconut oil ( there was no Parachute around in those days) sent across from them.
While I enjoyed the body massages my mother used to give us once in a while, I certainly did NOT appreciate the daily head massages.  The shampoo bottle was confiscated after it became known that all that oil was being religiously shampooed away.  And we used to have to go to school with those oily locks that were the stamp of a mallu girl. Yuck!

But slowly, the goodness of coconut oil did sink in... When my sister's marriage was fixed, the good neighbour was approached for those dried cakes of coconut ( after oil had been expressed from them).Called Punnakku in malayalam, it was generally given to cows as fodder and as we had no cows, this was the first time I saw it. It was supposed to be soaked in water about half an hour before you had your bath and you were to scrub your body with the water logged cake. It used to be hard on your skin initially, but the more you soaked it, the softer  it became, and it had double benefits. The hard cake (before it became softer with the extended soak)  worked as a scrub, taking away the dead skin, and the soft residue worked to smoothen your skin and HOW! The results have to be seen to be believed. It was the best moisturiser ever! Needless to say, seeing the results on my sister, I started using it too.
Punnakku used to be ordered  post delivery of babies, for all the women in the family as well. (That bath (phew!!) is fodder for another post, another day).

I moved from home- to student's and after that working women's hostels, but coconut oil remained a mainstay of my (non-existent) skin care regime, though the neighbour's oil came to be replaced by Parachute. When I had a baby the goodness of coconut oil was reinforced once again. He had very dry skin and the doc recommended coconut oil instead of  all those 'new fangled ' baby oils.

So when I saw this contest for the goodness of coconut oil on women's web, I couldn't but add my bit about it. I can vouch for the  'jagaye love dubara' bit.. :-D

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Of thinking before helping!

It was review time again. I had  my presentation ready, had packed my bags, set the alarm .....was woken up by the taxi guy calling up at the unearthly hour of 3 am, asking for directions... Our regional revenue reviews are held in Delhi, and start promptly at 10 am. The two and a half hour distance means that my flight needs to take off at about 6.30 am, which means I have to leave home for the airport at about 4 am, which in turn means that poor me has to wake up by about 3.30 am. Sigh! .

So as I was saying, I was woken up by the taxi guy at the unearthly hour of 3 am asking for directions to chez moi. I gave him the needful, and woke up, wishing I could cuddle under the razai and hug the warm body of my sleeping son and go back to sleep. But -this month, maybe the Revenue-Target God/Monster wanted to wish me a happy new year-  for I had over achieved my targets, and so this was one of the few times I was happy to be going for my review.

The taxi guy called again when I was brushing my teeth, saying that he'd arrived. I told him that I'd be down in another 10 minutes, and continued with my morning ablutions. I was about to start having my bath when he called again. I was irritatedly telling him that I'd be down soon, when another voice cut in and very apologetically said that- he was sorry to disturb me, but he was from my neighbouring  apartment complex and had to go to the airport to catch the 6.30 flight to Delhi, and he'd asked my taxi guy if he could share the taxi, but my taxi guy had told him that he could do so only if madam agreed. Without stopping to think, I said that of course it was not a problem, he could share my taxi. And he said thank you, and I said no problem, and we hung up.


These days, dear reader, are not happy days, Forget happy, they are very unsafe days. Women were not safe accompanied by a male friend, on the streets. Bestial criminals tricked you by appearing to be aam junta going by public transport and committed unspeakable horrors. And here I was - having agreed to travel on the long, deserted, minimum one and a half hour stretch between Sarjapur Road and the Bangalore International Airport, with a strange taxi guy and an even more unknown fellow, of whom I knew nothing, except that he'd said he was from the neighbouring apartment. What had I been thinking of??? Or to be more accurate- what had I NOT been thinking of??

The Acha was not at home, he'd left for Cochin the previous night. My Mom and sister were visiting, but if I told them anything of this, they would
a) never let me hear the end of how crassly stupid I could be
b) surely ask me to call the guy and tell him that he could look for his own transport

And I agreed that it was crassly stupid of me, but I just didn't know how I could tell the guy I didn't want him traveling with me. What could I tell him?- No, sorry, but I'm afraid you will rape me, so am not sharing the cab with you???? Or worse still- No, sorry, but I think you and the taxi guy have been conniving together and this is part of your plan to rape me, so am not sharing the cab with you??

I would really not have had such dire thoughts, but - how could any person plan to go to the Airport at 3.30 am and not book a taxi or any kind of transportation? What kind of person would rely on methods like these to get to the airport? Surely it was unbelievable? Surely there was more to it? And these were, as I said, days when unthinkable things happened.

I I finished my bath in a daze of worry about what-could-take-place and how-could-I-possibly-avert-it. While lighting the lamp, all my prayers had nothing to do with the review, and everything to do with the impending journey to the airport. My thoughts went haywire- where was he going to sit? If  he sat in front, fine. What if he was going to sit behind? Should I call Security now and ask them to check out this fellow from the neighbouring apartment? I didn't know his name, apt number, or ANYTHING. Just that he was going by the 6.30 flight to Delhi. What if we started out fine, and in between, the car had a "breakdown"? Should I take a weapon of some sort with me? But then, if nothing happened, and I landed up at the airport safe, what would I tell the security check guys about the knife in my bag?

I am NOT AT ALL a follower of Asaram and his Saraswati mantras, but finally, I decided to leave everything upto God. Besides, one couldn't go on living life, with doubts that all men might be rapists. I said bye to my Mom and sis, kissed my sleeping son, and left the house. And walked with a thumping heart towards the gate and outside the complex. There were 2 figures standing near a car, that came forward as I approached. It must be the driver and the guy, I thought.  I walked forward hesitantly. One more guy came out of the shadows of the car.   My heart jumped to my throat. WHAT THE F***??? I thought, getting ready to tell the man that he could walk to the airport for all I cared.  By then I 'd reached close and saw that the 2 figures were -  a man and a woman.

What a RELIEF!  The man came forward and introduced himself and his wife. Phew! The couple were indeed from the neighbouring apartment and  apparently had meant to take the airport bus from the main road, but they'd overslept!! and were sure to miss the bus, which is how they'd started enquiring with all the taxi guys parked around our apartment.. and found my guy who said he'd only take them with my permission.

The times are not good indeed. But they're also not so bad..
She and I got into the back seat, he got into the front with the driver, and we set out.
And all's well that ends well. At least this once.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Cotton Tree

The Early Years- Joy...

In the early seventies..... I used to be one among a line of 7 cotton trees that lined the playground of a convent girls' school.  A low wall stood right next to us 7, with steps leading down from the other side, down to a sand pit around a pair of gymnastic swings, in which girls used to build sandcastles.  I was the youngest and the handsomest of the lot, with sturdy branches that were low enough for the girls used to leap and grab from the top of the wall and swing on...

The day used to break with the chit-chatter of birds, for there used to be 7 of us, a jamboo tree (a favourite of the girls')and mango trees  in the yard nearby, and a dozen coconut palms lining the avenue to the bathrooms, and plenty of flowering plants and shrubs in the gardens near the classrooms. The girls used to come and have their lunch on those stone steps and many were the tidbits that'd drop from their boxes, only to be pecked up eagerly during the day or the next morn by my feathered friends.

The playground was flanked by classrooms on 2 sides and all through the day, I could hear girls- young and old-  talking and laughing and yelling, with the odd teacher also shouting above the din. In the afternoons, I was privvy to the many secrets that were whispered and gossips that were circulated. During the games periods, our trunks used to be the pillars around which the girls swung while playing pillar game and such.. And the weeks before sports competitions, the girls learned to throw shot puts and javelins from the ground and we learned to dread their (non)aim....

The years went by in a medley of joy and fun, gentle breezes from the neighbouring trees mingled  ours, and with the laughs and cries of the children.... we saw the children and even the grandchildren of the earlier students and smiled to see the resemblances..

*To be continued....*