Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good Walls make Good Neighbours....a nostalgic not...

Part of the old house still exist today.....the upper portion from the front 40 years later.!

Steps to upstairs from the outside! Today (40 years later)
Covered corridor to the backyard, connected to the next house.  
Today (40 years later)

Till I was eight years old, we lived in the town of Athirampuzha, in a high, steeply tiled, two storied house, rich in wood. The floor of the second storey, which lay in two heights, had smooth floors of wooden planks, with a dusty dark attic above it that housed old books and heaps of tattered papers. Each of the floors, except the attic, let sufficient air and light, through many wooden windows on all sides. In commercial towns, most houses huddled together. Mostly, two houses shared one or more common walls and a closer relationship with the other side. They were all strong and good walls and as the saying goes, good walls made good neighbours. May be, good neighbours made good walls.

My brothers and I could walk into all those houses and expect a door-less entry from the kitchen yard and run around with the young members of the household. One day, my two year old younger brother Justin lifted a tin of mustard seed from a neighbour’s kitchen cupboard and threw them all around the soft and watery backyards. A few days later, mustards sprouted, with tender green leaves in the rich monsoon rains. Everybody enjoyed the childish prank and such incidents never had any negative impact on the open door policy of the neighbourhood kitchens. Today Justin has grown up from that sprouted mustard seed to become a senior executive in a premier software firm in the United States.

‘Ding ding’, the bells of bullock carts sounded, and woke us up on Mondays, the market day in Athirampuzha. In the early hours of the morning, slumber still in our eyes, we would open the front door of our house and sit on the downward steps and gaze at the sea of activities in an otherwise peaceful road. Never ending chains of bullock carts moved along, in a slow jerky motion, laden with vegetables, spices, fish, coir or rice. The beasts wearily stamped their worn-out shoes on the sun burned bitumen and created painful patterns, while cart-men lashed their merciless whips and pushed them forward.

Men pulled handcarts faster than animals, with huge piles of banana bunches on them, as streams of sweat ran profusely from their bare necks and muscles and disappeared into the tightly wrapped dhotis around their waist. Groups of men and women walked happily home with provisions, balanced in cane baskets, for their homes.

Today, thirty five years later, as I sit on the steps of our old wooden house (a part of it still exist), all of those bullocks and most of those men stand still, like murals in the old walls of my memory. Athirampuzha wears a new face, with wider roads, modern buildings and automobiles rushing and jamming the town, a place where bullocks and neighbourhood walls once ruled.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The cold-webbed reptile

A lump weighed heavily in my lower abdomen for the last one week. When I was alone, the cold-webbed reptile paced through my flesh and stretched itself towards my thoughts. Then it sprouted its tentacles, gripped my spirits and hurled me up like a weightless, fearful, floating body.
When I woke up it pulled its claws back and crouched to a frigid corner but would not leave me. When my lips stretched, it squeezed the smile away from my face. My words fell, dead-cold from my mouth. It came back to live with me after a long time but I don’t want him any more.
I carried my unsteady steps to the chapel again. The oil lamps still burned and their flames flickered gently in the cold draught. In the silence of the gloom, the shadow of the Blessed Sacrament fell on me. I had no reasoning to do. I huddled like a silenced lamb corned by a savage wildcat.
This is the depressive experience that I have when I: Face a failure Am hurt by an incident or person Have serious financial crunch Have break-up of relationship Or anything similar
May be, I need God in such helpless occasions. I need God because I was brought up with him, in a culture of religiosity. For people in different parts of the glob, surely, this is a different experience. Many people need a symbol to touch God, may be like the image of ‘Siva Linga’ or ‘the Blessed Sacrament’. There are others who don’t need anything, even the touch of God. I think God needs man to differ from each other.... and he will always be so.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Male chauvinistic God?

We went to the chapel again and we were all alone there. The only intruder was the soft spinning creak of a grease starved ceiling fan. My wife and I sat side by side. My daughter lay sleeping on the comfort of the carpet, exhausted after a hectic playful day on a scorching sunny day.
The chapel was dimly lit by the two oil lamps on the alter, and a hidden zero watts bulb that kindled the transparent blessed sacrament. Then in the initial distraction of my contemplation, on my side I noticed my wife covering her head with her dupatta, something which she had never done before. I turned around and pulled it down but she grabbed it back from my hand and draped it over.
The preacher at the retreat had warned that God wanted women to cover their hair when they come to him and he swore it by holy words. I was confused and asked God, whether he was distracted by the pony tails and curls and twists of a woman's plait. He would not answer in his customary ambiguous silence that confused his creatures for ever and ever, Amen.
Then reason ruled over faith and I asked God why he wanted only women to cover her hair and not men. Why did he create women different and with glorious hairs? Or did he create women to distract men and at chapels? Was God male chauvinistic to create women unequal? Should I stop fighting my inner urge to dominate over my woman at home?
Then I opened the book and read "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in God" (Gal 3.28).
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