Sunday, April 12, 2009


Many thanks to Little Bro, Firestone and an evening on the terrace.

Brother God was in an artistic mood. So he took out his special blue chart paper and spread it out on his work-table. But inclination is not enough, inspiration is necessary too. Brother God put the end of his paint brush to his lips and paced up and down his room. "Green!" he thought," green went well blue!" But what to do with the green? Brother God ran his green smothered paint brush randomly up, down and around the paper, hoping to create something interesting.
A few minutes of this showed him that the effort was futile.

Inclination got consumed in impatience. Brother God crumpled the now blue-green paper into a tight ball and chucked it to the side.

But he didn't aim properly. When he glanced in the direction of his throw he realised he had flung it on his prized black and diamond curtain.While he was fuming over this mishap Sister God walked in. She was in a happy mood and was hoping that Brother God could be enticed into playing House. She tugged ineffectually at his shirt-tail only to be waved away impatiently. Tears threatened and Brother God recognised danger. Ah well, the curtain was a lost cause anyway, and we can always get another one. Might as well entertain Sister.

Quickly pinning an ingratiating smile on his face,he tugged gently on Sister God's pigtails. "I'm sorry sweeting, come lets do some art." Sister God cheered up quickly."What do we draw?" she asked.
"Oh we are doing craft-work today." and so saying he drew her attention to the blue-green ball on the black and diamond shawl." What can we add to the blue-green ball, love?"
"Emeralds!" chimed Sister God "And platinum on the top and bottom!"
Brother God followed her suggestions,sprinkling and pasting the gems and foil from his art box. A few minutes later the Blue Green Ball was bedecked with rubies, emeralds, platinum, sapphires... it glowed from within the dark diamond studded curtain.
"But it looks empty somehow..." mused Sister God, pouting in concentration. 'Oh I know!" she quickly pulled out a pilfered, grimy toothpick from her pocket and broke it in two and stuck a ruby on top of each one. " Look! Now there are gods there!" she laughed happily, sticking the broken toothpicks on the Blue Green Ball.
Brother God personally thought the Blue-Green Ball looked a lot better without the stick figures. But Sister God was ecstatic. She chattered gleefully about what the stick-gods would do on the Blue-Green Ball until she began to feel sleepy. It was time for her afternoon nap after all. Mid-sentence, she let out a huge yawn that stirred the stick figures to life.
"Oh look they're moving!" she mumbled, snuggling into Brother God's chest.
"Yes,yes they're moving... now let's get you to sleep." He said carrying her to her crib.

Later that day Mother God was cleaning up the messy playroom and came across the Blue-Green Ball on the Black curtain.
"Oh those children! They can never keep their stuff clean!" she huffed, pulling down the curtain. "Ah well... may be Brother was having one of his 'arty' moments again. Better ask him first before throwing it away."
So she took the curtain and spread it behind the light-board to keep it out of the way. There was so much to do! Father God wanted to call a meeting of the Gods, so everything had to be neat. And Brother and Sister had to be made clean- which was a task all by itself. Mother God bustled off meaning to ask about the curtain, and completely forgot about it in the rush. Brother God had gotten some new idea for a sculpture and the curtain with the Blue-Green Ball was lost in the mists of his memory. Sister God got a new doll. Father God didn't even know about the Blue-Green Ball with its moving stick figures.

And so the beautiful Blue-Green Ball lay on it's black,diamond studded curtain behind the light; the yawn-animated stick figures going about their stick-figure business. It lay there waiting to be rediscovered by the Gods that created it. Perhaps it's lying there still.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Ambassador of Car-tastrophe

Our vacations were characterised not by rest and relaxation but by visits. There were aunts, uncles, aunts of uncles, relations whose relations were lost in the tangled branches of the family tree... And all of them needed to be visited and plied with the customary laddoo and jalebi package ( pakodas and murukkus for the diabetic). Naturally these travels had to be done in the trusted chariot of all mallus- the Ambassador, the car for all occasions,the one non-four wheel drive that can house eight adults and several tiers of young ones and still move at comfortable 80 plus. Besides being most accommodating, it is also built like a truck ( I suppose that explains the load-pulling capacity). Come rain, storm, terrible roads or mindless traffic- the Ambassador will prevail.
Of course we are talking about the general Ambassador. Our favored vehicle was a little... different.
My father doesn't like to drive on congested roads. Generally given to road-rage even in sane traffic circumstances, my father would be courting hypertension if he spent three months driving in India. Hence, most of our motoring was conducted through the smiling, furry-faced, bespectacled services of Unni uncle. Unni uncle himself was rather normal, unremarkable even. It is his car that gives him the questionable honor of appearing here. An ancient Ambassador that seemed to hold itself together through sheer will, it was a traveler's nightmare. Incapable of going beyond the snail-pace of perhaps 50-60 km/hr, the car was always in constant danger of having its parts blown away. And travel in the Parakkum Thaliga{translation: 'flying saucer' (Any mallu worth her/his pop-culture salt will know the reference[ and if you're not mallu, there'll probably be one about three paces away more than willing to explain])} was far from comfortable. Let's just say that a 4hr airplane travel still leaves you with some energy, but one hour in the P.T and you are half dead and limp as a boned fish. The logical of course would just not hire the services of Unni uncle and his trusted ( to fall apart) car. But the loyal stick it out. Unni uncle had been a family associate since my father's younger days. And thus every vacation we trundled on in the rickety car, which- though it gave us a really bad backache, among others- also gave us several anecdotes.

The best one perhaps, is the one on the rainy night.

It had been a long day, sullen and gray and threatening rain at any moment. Which is to be expected at the peak of the monsoons. It was humid and muggy and it did not help that the
family had spent most of the day in the P.T . Of course Unni uncle was cheerful as a daisy and cracking jokes that none of us could find the energy to laugh at. Somewhere towards late evening we stopped by at our cousins' place where lengthy chai based discussions later it was decided they would come along with us to the ancestral home.
This meant nine people - excluding the one at the steering wheel- squeezed into the back, front and middle of the car (The boot was already occupied by the luggage.). The prospective travelers shot wary glances and murmured something on the lines of "...may be we should take an auto..." But Unni uncle bluffly waved away all the doubts and pushed and maneuvered the people into ( or at least, more or less into) the car. Several squashed minutes later Unni uncle crunched himself in and started the car. The car let out a tortured groan and stayed put refusing to be put through more agony.
"No problem!" yelled Unni uncle over the groans of both car and customers. "It'll start up just now!" He accompanied this patently over optimistic statement with a grin that was eaten up by his facial hair.
The car did eventually start. But not before an entire antakshari session, a minor squabble between two of the cousins, the passing of a mangled packet of banana chips some one managed to extract from between the levels of people, the finishing of said packet and not of course before the rain decided to make its presence felt. Very very strongly. Which is when we found out the windows could not be rolled up completely.
" No problem!" Unni uncle yelled again." just take the plastic covers from the back and put it in the side!"He grinned again and this time the tempestuous wind blew the hair back so we could glimpse a bit of teeth. Teeth alternately gritted and clattering the passengers grimly held on to flapping plastic covers and proceeded to ignore the rain splattering on either side. En route we decided to stop at cousin number two's abode where we were promised vehicular back up. Surprisingly enough we got there in one piece. We waited desperately for the car to putter into the garage before spilling out in an uncoordinated tangle of limbs. In the midst of stretching our cramped joints we noticed Unni uncle hovering around holding the car door open.
" No need to keep the door open, Unni," said my father with no little relief." We'll be a while."
While we chatted and played tag with the batch number two cousins, the rain decided that it'll take a break. Seeing this as a sign the batch number two decided to come along as well.

We'll never learn.

Batch number one and two were redivided. The weaker, frailer ones piled into the shiny,top condition, sturdy ambassador and we were left to P.T ( reminds one of the allocation of life-boats on a sinking ship). No sooner had batch one left in a cloud of exhaust, than the rain decided we must have missed it a lot. We the stragglers scrambled up to the unpromising hunk-of-junk unsuccessfully dodging droplets the size of golf balls. Unni uncle, ever chivalrous, was holding the door open for us. We quickly piled in (literally) and got ready to get on the road again... and realised that Unni uncle was still holding the door open.
"Unni, we've all gotten in. Now let's go!" my father yelled over the racket of the rain. Unni uncle nodded back in acknowledgment. The grin was missing... a bad sign that...

Unni uncle swung the door shut...
it swung right back at him.

There was a moment of silence...
"The door isn't shutting." chimed little brother unhelpfully.
While we were unproductively gaping in shock, Unni uncle had been thinking.
"No problem! Just a minute I'l be back."he hollered as he shkwapped through the rain towards the boot. The grin was back... a very bad sign that...

Unni uncle shlopped back bearing two rags that you wouldn't touch with a barge-pole.
"No problem!" he said,"We'll just tie the door to the frame with these and you can hold on to the doors as well" he grinned happily at our frustrated faces and proceeded to shoo us out for better tying access and then hurry us in, strategically placing able-bodied individuals on the door side(all the better to hold it closed.)

So there we were- about six of us in a rickety ambassador with all its four wheels in the scrap-shop, hanging on to the back-doors for dear life and simultaneously getting drenched by the gleeful rain flying in through the stuck windows. And of course the car was being driven extra slow now so that the doors don't get blown away. It suffices to say that a general urge to bury Unni uncle under the cantankerous vehicle warmed the soggy ambiance of the party.

An interminable age and several "re-tying" stops later, the car and its captives trundled into the hallowed courtyard of our destination. The passengers all but passed out from relief. While we stumbled out ignoring the pouring rain (we were wet anyway) from the purgatory of the P.T, Unni uncle cheerfully asked my father-
" So... We'll go out again tomorrow morning?"

For a moment, just a fleeting moment, we could see denial, desperation and the urge to murder war with each other in my father's tortured glance. Then he inhaled deeply and said:
"We'll give you a call."
Unni uncle grinned, his face turning into a mass of fur and broad forehead. "No problem."

Incidentally, the car is, was and always will be problem. And yes, it's still going not so strong or steady, but it's definitely going.