Friday, 20 September 2013

Front yard friends!

“Maaaa, come quickly…” I whispered urgently.  I tip-toed to the balcony door holding my breath.
Ma realizing what it was all about came to watch over my shoulder.

Mr and Mrs Sparrow were visiting our garden.  They had just moved into our neighbourhood and were looking for raw materials to build their home.  They were hopping about busily picking at the grass and weeds.  They flew away with some twigs in their beaks and returned after a while for more.

We lived in a flat and we had a balcony where we had managed to grow a small garden which, to my delight, attracted birds and butterflies in good numbers. 

When the sparrow couple had left, I kept ready for them a bowl of rice and another of water, for I knew they would return.  And sure enough they were back and eventually hit up on the treat I left out for them.  They took a break from their nest building business and pecked at the grains and the water!
They came everyday from then on, after a few weeks they brought their little ones along; the happy parents of two little sparrows!  They ate, drank and bathed in the water bowl, and made quite a show.  Within weeks they came in flocks!  Some mischievous little ones also ventured into the house taking off at the slightest sound.  They would scatter around in the balcony and chatter on and I would sit by the window and watch them, getting thoroughly entertained!  Pigeons, mynahs and bulbuls also frequented our little garden.

I have now been blessed with a home in the suburbs of Udupi, which feels like a nature resort in itself!  All I need to do is sit in my front yard and simply watch.  And luckily ample species of birds and animals frequent our garden. Among the birds are the commonly spotted crows, pigeons, bulbuls, parrots, mynahs, humming bird, and kingfishers, to coucals, cranes, drongos, wag tails, eagles (even bald eagles), wood peckers, and occasionally, peacocks, and animals ranging from dogs, cats, rats, squirrels to mongoose, rat snakes and the python (occasionally).  Besides these are the species whose name, I am afraid, I am not aware of, and would not want to offend the poor creatures by naming them wrong.  Then there are those who hail from the phyla annelida, arthropoda and reptilia.  

The other day this cat was sneaking behind a bush.  He was a black and white coloured tom, with a curious black patch on his left eye.  And I enquired, “Hey there! What you up to?”  And the look he gave me was alarmingly stern.  He then gave me a loud meowy cat scolding for disturbing him and walked off in a huff.  How rude!  I was just trying to make conversation, how would I know if he was about to pounce on some unsuspecting bird or a mouse!  We don’t see eye to eye since.  

Another day I spotted a mongoose trotting gaily by the side of the house.  He stopped suddenly, conscious of being watched, so I turned away pretending to examine a flower.  Only after he was sure no one was looking, did he hurry to his hiding place.  Well, I smirked, for I knew for a fact that he was residing with his wife and kids back there!

Monkeys are by far the most entertaining folk.  Though I have had some unpleasant experiences with them, in hindsight I feel it must have been more horrifying to the monkeys!  It was nothing much.  Just that I had a few encounters with the little apes closer than I would have wanted to (one of them where the little devil dared to pull at my dress), and every time in my defense I let out a banshee like scream, no, more like a red Indian war cry!  I suppose you can imagine the terror they must have felt as they fled for dear life!

But for these experiences, I find their agility and activity very attractive.  They sometimes visit us in troops looking for food.  They usually take the most conventional paths to move from one point to another.  Like the electric and telephone lines from pole to pole, or one compound to another.  Say they are crossing an electric line; each monkey goes with its own stunts.  If one goes on all fours, the other goes upside down, crawling like a sloth on a tree while another uses only the fore limbs with the hinds swinging in air and next one would spring like a trapeze artist. I am always fascinated at the sight of a baby monkey clinging to its mum like Velcro.

Snakes form the horror section of course!  Especially this programme on Animal Planet of the world’s deadliest snakes was pretty hair-raising!  Fortunately, I have had just a few momentary uneventful encounters with the rat snake.  

Clearly, the best entertainment I need, I get from nature!  It is amazing how much there is to see once you start observing nature.  You can actually watch like you are watching TV!  And I have the Animal Planet channel in my front yard. The joy you find watching a kitten or a puppy at play, the content you feel on seeing lush greenery or a couple of butterflies fluttering about one blooming flower to another are priceless!  You see it and take a deep breath, take in the sight and fill your lungs, and that feeling is nothing but happiness!


Thursday, 5 September 2013

It’s your day, every day! – With loads of love!

Padma’s father was an Agri. Graduate and worked in a sugar factory.  He had work in the villages advising farmers about growing sugar cane and guiding them in sugarcane farms in and around Mandya who supplied sugarcane to the factory.  Padma’s mother, got married at the age of 11, and later on had five children; Padma, Sarsu, Lilly, Guru and Venky.  The older children lived in the town with the grandparents for their schooling while the parents with the smaller kids lived in the village near the farms. 

Padma was the eldest of the siblings as well as of all the cousins.    She was the second mother to her sisters and smaller cousins and took care of them in their mother's absence.  She had grown up faster than most people, taking responsibilities at such a young age.  

One day they all went to the village to attend a pooja there.  There was a water canal running near the house.   Four of the girls ventured out near the canal when the elders were busy in the pooja .  Attracted by the flowing waters, Sarasu, Lilly and Malli, the three year old cousin, enjoyed crossing over a narrow stone which was used as bridge to cross over the canal.  While doing so the little kid Malli who was held by hand by Sarasu, elated by looking at the flowing water bent towards water with an exclamation.  Due to the sudden jerk and also due to the narrow path both lost control and fell into the flowing water.  The channel though not very deep, was sufficient to drown a three year old baby and the current of the flowing waters was sufficient to wash her away.  Lilly who was eight year old stood shocked and looking aghast at the scene not knowing what to do.  But Padma who was just 12 year old, without a moment’s hesitation jumped in and pulled out both the little girls who might otherwise have flowed away in the water.  Padma had saved two lives that day.  She would have probably got a bravery award for her heroic feat of saving two lives, like the ones they give on Republic day.   But surely she got a good scolding when they got back drenched all wet, that too for not taking care of the younger ones.

Tears welled up in my eyes with love and admiration as I listened to the story.  Padma is none other than my own dearest, loveliest grandmother, who has been a mother, my first teacher and a friend to me.  

She is the one who brought me up, fed me, taught me, and helped me with school stuff.  She is the one who was at home when I got home from school.  She is the one to whom I narrated the day’s events, about my friends and teachers, and who listened to it all with unabated interest.  She is the one I went to whenever I was in pain.  She is the one who cries for me when something hurts me.  She is the one who nursed me when I had fallen seriously ill and brought me back to normal. She is the one who pampers me and dotes on me more than anyone in my life!

 My grandmother has been my idol.  I don’t think there was ever anything unknown to her.  She knows home medicines when you fall ill.  She knows to mend things.  When things don’t work, she makes them work as if she has a magic wand.  She has an interest and eagerness to learn everything that comes her way. Her work is always impeccable.  She stitched frocks and dresses for her siblings, and then for her children, and then her grandchildren.  She knows embroidery, and crochet and knitting.  She knows to make all kinds of delicacies.  She is so disciplined and punctual, you can tell the time from her activity.  She works like a clock.  She relaxes only after her day’s chores are done even to this day and mind you, most of it all was self learning and auto suggestion. 

If she had been given good education and could have studied higher, I am sure she would have worked wonders; become a great surgeon, or an engineer or a great teacher.   She has been a homemaker and been within the confines of four walls of house all her life.  I feel she has done every activity humanly possible being at home.  She is so broad minded and open to new thoughts, considerate and compassionate.  She is a gentle, beautiful, adorable soul!

To this day, at the age of 80, she does not like to depend on others for her work.  Being a very active person all these years, she is frustrated with herself now, for like most old people, she feels she is useless and a burden to others.  She feels helpless, as her mind is still enthusiastic to work but her body fails to cooperate.  She complains she has had enough of life and blames God for still keeping her alive.  She is consciously aware of getting old and feels there is no point living any more being dependent and helpless.  But whenever I am with her and show her something new in my laptop I still see her eyes sparkle with interest.  We get our heads together and cook something or do something new, meanwhile chatting or playing music in the background. 

Grandpa is another interesting personality in our family.  The first thing that comes to my mind when you mention him is his smile; which lightens up his eyes in a twinkle! He is a unique personality in our family.  A man of principles, highly optimistic person, a theist and lives a disciplined systematic life.  

He lost his father at a very young age and worked his way to school and then joined the bank.  When he married my grandmother, he did not take any dowry in those days, and he had made it a point to bring the ‘mangal soothra’ and the bride’s saree.  You don’t get to see that much even in these days!
He does not share any close bond with any of us; he is detached yet loving.  He is not the one who tells bed time stories to his grandchildren.  But he is the one wanting to have them around him from the day they got vacations from school till the very last holiday.  Stubborn and adamant wanting his way always, he has become so child-like now due to aging.  He is as careless as can be.  He says, “If anything has to happen it will happen, there is no stopping it.  Now why worry about it?  Accept the fact and you will not be unhappy about anything and anybody. ” – is his usual preaching and lives by it.

As a kid I thought my grandparents had always been the same, never younger than that or older, and they would remain the same.  Somehow that thought, or image remains childishly, even today. 
I feel very strange and sad too, seeing a person grow old. Of course, it is something inevitable.  But seeing your dear ones, who had been so strong and the ones you depended on, who you imagined or wished and hoped would always be the same, suddenly growing old, weak and helpless, is heart wringing!  They become like children, or rather like grown up little kids!  Still they are the old know-it-alls (of course, they know it all and there is no arguing it), so there is no telling them to do or not to do anything  :D

On Teachers’ day, I am simply taking this time to write about them, the most significant teachers of my life, reminding myself of the important place they occupy in my heart.  They have been patient and persevering with us in childhood.  Whatever I am today, whatever culture or sanskar I have today, where ever I stand today, what happiness I cherish from my family is all their blessing, teaching, boon and the good ‘karma’! Yes it is!

With Loads of Love