So near, yet so far

Today I visited a neighbor of mine after a very long time. The last time I entered their house would be about an year back to borrow some books. And the house is just 3 houses far from mine. I realized that I’ve never even bothered to give it a glance the numerous times a day I pass that way. It wouldn’t have been such a shock to me if it had been so always. But no, there was a time when things were different; a time of which only memories remain. The long gone days which just disappeared from the charts just like that; without leaving traces; with no regrets.

15 years back

I was new to this locality. Bro would always complain as to how bad a place this was coz he had no friends and the neighbors were all kids. Neethu lived 3 houses apart. We got acquainted and due to our mutual need for company, we became friends. I don’t remember how it was initially. All I remember is that it was play time for me everyday from 4pm to when it got dark. I would go to Neethu’s place. And we would play all sorts of kids stuff. She was adamant about calling me by name even though her mother always reminded her that I was 2 years older. She was my first friend here and the only one at that. The other kids were too small and not our ‘league’.

We did play with them kids at times as the big bossy chechis. The big bossy chechis left to themselves used to play ‘set’ with broken bangles, horror night relived where we always made neethu’s lil bro appu the bhooth, hide n seek, police-kallan around their compound, and many more bizarre kid games :D. We used to have blanket tents for the bhooth game and used to scream our heart out despite knowing it was the little boy playing bhooth. Maybe it was an intrinsic feeling that real bhooths might get inspired seeing our antics and pay us a visit!

There was a swing in front of their house and we used to take turns swinging. There was also a cement bench in their garden where we used to rest after tiring games involving lot of running and jumping. If it was raining, we had to be content playing hide n seek inside the house and my favorite hiding spot was the curtain behind the sofa. I would flatten myself on the window so that my shadow wasn’t visible. Around 5, aunty would call us for the evening tea and snack. We would start phase II after the break.

Every year during the summer vacations, we played much longer and aunty thought it was time we stopped wasting all the time. So began the Malayalam classes. We started off with letters and moved on to the usual ‘pana’, ‘thara’, ‘aana’ etc. If I know how to read and write Malayalam now, it is all thanks to her. She used to give us dictations and quizzes and we were enthusiastic about scoring in her classes. Also, every year on my birthday, I used to get two handmade cards for sure. One from neethu n one from appu. They never forgot my birthday. Neither did I forget theirs. I would also make something creative for them either something I learnt in the art classes or from the hindu young world.

We all went to the same school too. But I was a senior there, and we had our different groups there. Those worlds never clashed. As we grew older, we had our world of books too. We shared story books, novels and told each other stories we had read. The funny part of the companionship was, unlike the latter ones, we never did any bitching. And even if I were to meet her today, I wouldn’t. It was an untainted relationship maintaining all its innocence until it faded off. Once I was in 9th, there wasn’t much time to spend playing and also I perhaps had the feeling that I was beyond the playing age. I would still go there and spend time. But it wasn’t the same as before. We were more into our new friends and there wasn’t much I could retain of the old.

Now, I don’t even remember when their birthdays are. I don’t remember which class appu is in. They seem to belong to my past and I never bothered to carry them along to my present. True, there is no ill-feeling in between us. We just went on with our lives. But today when I was looking around the house, it seems so unfamiliar; yet so familiar. The bench was still there, but it housed the flower pots now. The ‘unjaal’ had been taken off. The garden had many new plants. I saw myself all over the place and all these memories flooded me. I don’t want to lose them again. It had been chained to the past for long. I know I can’t thank them enough for gifting me all the good times and the smiles. All I know is, they are special and they remain so.

Reliving the Nightmares

I have this sudden urge to watch horror movies now and again. As a result of this recurrent phase, I rented 13-B yesterday. It wasn’t too engaging, but provided a good watch all thanks to Madhavan.

I have been his admirer right from the ‘sea-hawks’ days. Sigh! Those were the days! In fact, at one point of time, I had even made elaborate plans to meet up with him and get ‘acquainted’ err like dating him and all. Those weren’t the days when you keenly followed celebrity gossip on magazines or tv. There was only the good old DD to provide news and I never bothered with the news part. So, I helplessly fell in n out of love with every single good-looking guy appearing on national television not knowing whom they were linked to or married or even how many kids they had!

Ok, coming back to the point, 13-B, even though it wasn’t too successful in scaring the wits out of me did bring back many sweet old memories.

The story goes back to when I started sleeping alone in a room and every single thing used to frighten me. I felt I was a brave little girl to have undertaken the dignified task of sleeping alone but it was actually coz my brother refused to share a room with me any more. He said I ‘talked’ to him while he was busy reading comics and that ‘disturbed’ him! Fine with me! I was no coward. I could manage on my own. Hmmf!

So, I would take all necessary precautions like repeating my prayers about 10 times to ward off Satan’s army, keeping the available pillows in all possible arrangements so that demons had no access to me and closing my eyes tight so that Satan would feel guilty about disturbing an innocent sleeping child and many more.

Some days I would accompany bro to watch horror serials or movies on television and those were the worst. I would have to hop from room to room switching on the lights so that none of the places I was to walk remained de-illuminated. A dark room meant sure prey to devils! And on those days, I was particular not to have any limb or head protruding out of the bed. There would be demons below the bed to devour you and they seek blood only when they see the protruding limbs. Also, you had to make sure the fan speed was regulated appropriately so as to not allow the curtains to fly too high. The demons waiting on the other side of the window would come in when they saw the room was inhabited you see. It all made a lot of sense then!

To make things worse, bro who witnessed all my precautionary measures would borrow ‘The Dracula’ from the library. I still remember the cover page of that book. It had a scary Dracula portrait. Same with the Frankenstein novel! He would come in the dead of the night, long after I was comfortably settled in my protected territory, and wave the book in front of me after poking me awake. I would be as good as dead and paralyzed even to scream. He got his momentary pleasure from the malicious deed and left me to reconstruct my fort for protection against such human evil as well.

After a few years, I decided enough was enough. There was no point being scared over such err silly things. So I trained myself well by watching horror movies at night regularly and going back to my room in the dark. The first few days were really testy. But I somehow stood the test and emerged victorious. Yipee! Finally I didn’t have to resort to pillow forts or light bulbs. I was a tigress 8). I had fought my fear! That felt really great. There was no longer the hiding under blankets even in the summers and sweating it out. No more of listening to hushed footsteps in the silence. They were things of the past.

But I have to confess. Yesterday after watching 13 B which wasn’t a scary movie, I made my pillow fort. I checked under the bed for limb attacking demons. I looked out for hands making shapes when the curtain flew. And I closed my eyes tight shut to ward off evil. Trust me, I was just reliving old days. Wasn’t scared at all! Honest! :D

The Parting Shot!

The season of parting has begun. It kicked off with Anji leaving for ghaziabad 3 months back. She had always been around and had to go off so suddenly that it was a blow and it was indeed hard to accept that she's actually going away!

Then, bro went off and I was left feeling numb for a few days because I started missing him the moment he left. That was in contrast with the former coz I always knew he'd be going away n I've never had him near for seven years. Still, it was hard realization that he has dreams to chase and those are miles away!

Now, it is ukg's turn to hit the nail. She'll be leaving in few days and its time for another heavy heart day. Every time I recover from a parting fever another pops up to replace the same. Its not as if I don't understand that they have to go away; only that it takes an emotional toll in itself when someone a touch away is so far so soon.

It is excruciating in that the person who had been around for so long that you stopped noticing, was suddenly fading off the canvas, bidding goodbye all of a sudden. It is always hard to say goodbye. You know it doesn't change anything with someone going away. You'll still be good friends..maybe even closer and you'll still keep in touch. But, it changes the bigger picture altogether. You don't hang around as you used to, you don't take the phone and dial the number you know by heart, you don't plan all that fun trips together, you don't just barge into the house where you know you are always still may be welcome but there is the void that seems to surround you.

It is still the same but ever so different. Its like the sheath surrounding you is withering off gradually and you are left out in the open. The comforts of your cozy being thrown astrew and yourself trying haplessly to reassemble the blown away bits. However a vase once broken never mends itself faultlessly does it?

Wish life was much easier. It is depressing to accept the truth but you are left without a choice. All that the past offers is memories and nostalgia. Learning to live with them is a hard task but sooner or later you need to master the art. If all good things are to come to an end, why are they called ‘good’ in the first place? Moving into oblivion or leaving the past behind offers no solution. Embracing it on for the journey in sight is a deal worth taking and maybe that's all left to dampen the emotional tide that floods the mind with every parting.

The slaughter house!

The lambs for slaughter are arranged in a neat row, waiting outside the slaughter room and are eagerly awaiting their turn to be slain thinking it might be the next best thing to happen to them! They occasionally bleat in excitement and are repeatedly told to shut up so as maintain the ambience for slaughter!

Inside the interview board’s room;

Wolf 1(interviewer 1): Where’s the next set. Slurp! Bring them in fast. I can’t wait to devour them. Slurp!
W 2: Ah! Kerala University! This is going to be fun!

Lambs are brought in and not even given the chance of regular courtesies as they are made to sit in 3 adjoining chairs facing the board in a room which is the executive suite of a 4-star hotel!

W1: 0o0o0o0 Biotech students! Intelligent lot you guys ought to be! (Sarcasm at its peak)
Lamb 1: Err.. Gee
W2: (Menacingly).So let’s start with the basics of immunology.

(Lamb2 instantly remembered UKG* as she was the only one in the batch who wanted to opt for that elective and had to give up the fight for immunology due to lack of public support)

W2: I’ll ask the question and give you the answers too. *evil grin*
L2: Then wtf are we here for! Yes sir. *smiles*
W2: You just have to tell me if it is true! What kinds of interactions signify the XYZ bonding? Is it A, B, C or D. Tell me!
L2: Definitely C. not sure of the rest.
W1: 0o0o0. Hear hear! Is it not A?
L2: err..maybe..
W1: ooh 10 points to u(sarcastically of coz)!

W2: *eyes gleaming* we have hit the jackpot! They don’t know the subject so let’s ask only that!

W1: so tell me more about the immune system. Blah blah blah?
L1, L2, L3 give knowing glances of incomprehension.

L3 wasn’t actually visible to me because of a relatively hot guy in the interview board sitting next to her. So obviously you know where the visual priority lies! And I thought he was a young smart guy among the group of wolves until…

After deriving heart full of sadistic pleasure at having asked the A to Z of immunology,

W3: So, what exactly are you comfortable with?
L1, L2, L3 unanimously: My project!

W3 exchanging knowing glances with the rest: Now we know what NOT to ask!
W2: oh! So you are saying we should ask questions from that only eh! Not done kiddos!

W1: what’s your project?
L3: says something.
W1: yawn!

L1: sequencing of the mouse histones.
W2: Oh! Now let’s talk about PCR. Blah blahs

L1: attempts at answering them but is met by more sarcasm and evil grins

W2: (at L2)What do you know about it?
L2: Just basic theoretical knowledge sir. I haven’t done that project sir. Mine is…
W2: So tell me what are the PCR procedures
L2: :|annai get a hearing aid! Tries her best to recollect some theory about PCR.

W2: to L1,L3: do you agree with what she said.
L1,L3: yes sir.
Some more blah blah about pcr. Again clueless looks and happy board!

W1 to L2: Now what was your project?
L2: peptide antibiotics sir. We synthesized…

W1 cutting in: Oh so how do you suppose it would be useful?*smirking*

L2: confidently starts explaining
W1: (looks at W2) look at her nerve. She’s explaining to us!!!

W2: seems we are done. (To supposed hot guy) you may ask something if you want
W4: ohk. So you people were talking about PCR
L2: you think we were?Nice! Yes sir *smiles*
W4: so you know Kerry Mullis invented it (showing off!). Now, what if it wasn’t invented? How would you go about amplifying DNA without PCR?
L1, L2, L3: Is this the final nail in the coffin or is there more coming? Get a life dude! We have the PCR now! Why bother about the what ifs!

L3: We do the steps individually!
L2: we accomplish heating using water baths!?!
L1: ahem!

W4: good. I couldn't have heard worse answers! Now, let me prepare the killer question for the next set! *evil grin*

W2: How long were your project kids?
L1: one month sir.
Collective sighs!

W1: what can you do in one month? Collect samples? Ha ha ha!
L2: that’s all we have in our course sir!
W2: No no. You can’t do that. Tell them to change the course and accommodate the other subjects in the 7th sem!

L2: Yea right! We know how much we struggle with 6 subjects! And you want 6 more added to it! And yes am so sure that the KU people had been waiting all these years for that one word of dislike from your part. They’ll surely pass an order the very next day to change the whole course structure! *Sad smile* yes sir we should!

W1: that will be all. You people should read more!
L2: Of course we will read ‘how to save face while being slaughtered’ the next time we appear before you. But well, you think we will? I don’t!

L1, L2, L3 find their way out in a neat file and are fed a 4-star meal to keep them healthy in case they decide on coming a second time!

*UKG: UK Gal akku will henceforth be referred to as ukg!

Dream 2 reality!

Dreams are fascinating phenomena. At times I feel it connects itself to reality by some invisible thread of instances. They just seem to link at the most unexpected or odd moments. I usually forget what I dream about. Few days, I delay waking up in the morning so that I could complete the dream but end up forgetting it all the same. Then at some odd time in future.. may be years later it pops up..just like that! This has happened more than once so I am forced to believe there is a connection.

Four years back, I had joined a one month course at CDAC just because I was totally bored at home and had a month long time to spare. I made friends there and we used to have coffee from the coffee machine which was in an alleyway. First time I went for coffee, I simply knew I’d been there before. The same place, the same atmosphere, only difference being it had been a strange place when I saw it 1st in my dream!

Then there was this church I used to see repeatedly in my dreams and never remembered until I saw the very same church with its big cemetery on the Pettah road. I instantly knew I had seen it numerous times in my dreams and I told mummy that may be I was buried somewhere deep down in there in my previous birth. :D

Another unexpected happening was when I was working for that 1 week. One day, I had some problem with the computer and the system administrator asked me something about it. The moment I answered the question I knew it was a repeat from one of my dreams:|. Unbelievably strange isn’t it!

All these make me wonder if there really is a connection or are these just random fabrications of my mind. If it is the latter, I definitely stretch my imagination too far!

But there are other dreams which I remember in parts. There was this highly adventurous one involving RGV’s ‘Kaun’ style settings where few of us were entrapped in a ‘purani haveli’ and murderers/ kidnappers were lurking all around. The escape was ‘home alone’ style :D. Then there was another one last week in which I saw lion cubs in our ‘tharavaadu’s thozhuthu’ at native place replacing the cows and a panda- tiger hybrid animal attacking me:|. I hope that kind never find links in real life!!

the detour

Back after a week long vacation (if you could call it that) at Bangalore. The first time I visited the city was about 6 years back. Then, I had viewed the city with the eager eyes of a little girl and I sat amazed at the huge buildings, busy people and the bustle all around. Also, I had liked seeing trees on either side of the road wherever I went. That one fact still filled me with joy because I thought at least they aren’t rooting up existing trees on the roadside like in Trivandrum. But this time I got a more realistic view maybe because I could be critical in my outlook now. The city is a polluted mess and I found the air too heavy to breathe. It has more people than it can accommodate and is suffering under the strain. The roads are like an unending maze, you turn a corner and you are lost! For a person who gets lost frequently even in Trivandrum, I found the roads of Bangalore to be too intricate.

The city also seems like it has had a massive alien invasion. The aliens in this case being fellow Indians from all parts of the country especially the southern end variety! I wonder how the natives put up with so many others sharing space with them. If I were to see too many non-malayalis here, I would definitely feel odd simply because I am used to hearing Malayalam around or my ears are tuned to hearing nothing else.

Enough of my critical thinking. I believe too much of thinking puts extra burden on the brain and is to be avoided on all costs so that the brain is relaxed and content to give a better perception! Yea right! So ill keep it strictly to facts! The first two days, I gave a nightmare time to my uncle and aunt with a fever running high and long wait for me wherever I went. Then aunt and I were on a shopping spree. I would say I was just the passive observer because we were hopping from shop to shop all over town and I was subject to valuable advice on household crockery, oil bottles, bed and pillow covers and the like :|. It was truly a learning experience and by the end of it she was so exhausted probably with my lack of knowledge on such intriguing subjects that she asked me to bring mom along the next time I visit. Even I thought that was a great idea! But she did know some great shops (by which I mean economic) and I could get some shopping done :D.

Next day, I was to meet Jo and have a stay-over at her place after 12 long years! Aunt took me some place where we met Jo and they shook hands and aunt handed me over to her :D. She took charge of me and we went to her place where we talked on and on sitting in the balcony overlooking the huge and beautiful campus of CPRI. That reminded me of the lovely past of ours when we were bubbly kids endlessly mischievous but at our best behavior when we wanted. We caught up with all the gossip about schoolmates, current lives and much more and it was fun as before. Moreover, I got to taste aunty’s sambhar after a long time! She was talking about how we, as kids used to make elaborate plans of ending up in the same college and being hostel-mates when one among our trio left. Sigh! Lost days! (I am gona write another post on that!)

I assured Jo I’ll find my way back to my uncle’s place the next day but she was apprehensive about it. So she accompanied me all the way back even with a presentation on the same day. I am glad she did coz I am sure I would’ve lost my way otherwise :D. She left me few yards beyond uncle’s place and I went into another apartment with the same name even though it did not resemble the one I left the day before. May be they had repainted it or given it a new look while I was never know! :D. Finally, I somehow reached the correct apartment and started packing. The bus was in the evening and I wasn’t looking forward to another bus ride as the way to Bangalore was too tiring and hectic. Either due to fear of another such journey or the polluted air of Bangalore, I had an attack of breathlessness (second symptom of swine flu in 4 days time :D). It was followed by a violent bout of cough and cold and the lady sitting next to me in the bus was yelling at me for not using a mask. She promptly took out hers and didn’t even turn to my side for a long time after which she asked me to get medicines. Given a chance, she would’ve happily thrown me out! However, I was feeling much better somewhere after the Kerala border (the illness was completely psychological I tell you). I felt really delighted to be back home and I realized the sad fact that however much I convince myself that I never get homesick, I do, especially when am sick! Cough syrup, vintage wine and a dose of antibiotics later, I am back in full senses and ready to begin the search for ‘direction’. I confess, I am lost even in life! :D

The brief stint with 'IT'

IT had always been a fascinating proposition thanks to the high life status it conferred, until the vicious phenomenon of recession hit it head-on. When I was adamant on biotech after my schooling, there was a collective sigh of relief only when I opted for engineering in the same because that meant I could at least have the ‘moving on to s/w field’ as an option if I ended up with nothing else. That was the period when hot shot MNC’s used to recruit the whole lot of final year engineering students irrespective of which trade they were in. So, getting into a decent engineering college was a safe future with a solid job and hefty pay assured. As luck could have it, the tables turned when our batch reached the placement phase. The era of ‘even the chaiwala might get through easily’ was over. The first company to grace the campus was infy and I tried my luck too. At the interview, I proclaimed my undying love for biotech much to the chagrin of the interviewer and it ended up on a sour note. The outcome was obvious but I still had the disappointment of belonging to the mere handful that did not clear the infy interview! As it happened to be my 1st ever interview, I was disheartened.

However, didn’t have to go through similar experiences much because not many companies came to college after that. Elaborate plans for the future were made many of which were followed up and many ended ‘in the pipeline’. None reached completion! So the time frame of the plans shifted a year ahead and the gap was to be filled by something constructive. Idleness created lethargy and I was off on a road-trip in the country-side. That made me rejuvenated and alive. Not wanting to continue with the idleness I accompanied Raks for a recruitment being held at a nearby college. Surprise surprise!! I cleared that and was offered a position as s/w engineering trainee!!! All I felt was ‘cool, I cleared an interview in life’. A great morale booster I tell you. They wanted us new recruits to join in 2 days! I couldn’t run away from decision this once. Had to take an immediate one and the few whose advice I consider, told me to join as it was nearby even though the pay wasn’t commendable. So off I went, confused as ever not too thrilled about being employed. Rather intimidated I would say. 1st day saw me in a cabin with a pack of wolves (read guys). I was the only gal in my side of the cabin along with other fresh freshers and not so fresh ones. I thought ‘oh well..too cool..have something to make my fellow vainokis jealous of’. I was proved wrong. I got fed up of guys too soon. They were all very co-operative and helpful. And they were even considerate that I might feel odd being with them so they made me as comfortable as possible including me in their conversations, helping me with the task of studying Greek and Latin and every other possible way. But still I started missing female company. No, it wasn’t my sudden swing of inclination but just the lack of mushy gossipy conversation which in my opinion cannot always be shared with the opposite sex.

Thankfully, before the full impact of the situation hit me, there was a change of cabins and I was in the company of giggly gals. A wave of respite that was! All this while, I was making a massive effort to master Greek which seemed to come on par with Croatian. And it hurt my ego to ask someone to help all the time and I refused to accept that I didn’t even know stuff others considered ‘puttu’. The gal sitting next to me cleared all my doubts with a smile which made me think that I must be asking really dumb doubts. It took me long to realize that I couldn’t have had a more accommodating gal near me. I still thought maybe a little more of mingling with everyone would make a difference and when I get comfortable in my new niche of friends, it would pilot a better performance. But, I somehow couldn’t talk when I was with everyone. All of them had joined earlier and knew each other by then. I felt like an outsider intruding into their conversations and masti. There was another girl who tried to include me in the gang and I used to go out for tea with them even if I didn’t even want tea. I just thought I’d utilize the opportunity to get that sense of belonging. Tough luck! Dragged through few more days feeling totally miserable about my poor social skills and more about my horrendous attempt at being a programmer. I totally hated what I was doing and I counted hours, minutes, and seconds all the time. I even spent half the time thinking of reasons why I shouldn’t be there! I kept getting better in the task and could think of numerous good ones :D.

And then it was the fateful weekend. Friday had me on the edge. I was getting more at ease with my colleagues but I still couldn’t cope with all the Croatian I was subjected to all day long. The gal next to me was turning out to be an angel helping me out with even little errors which I was impatient to work out myself. I knew I was taking undue advantage of her. That just had to stop! The very thought of the long weekend ahead was tempting. One of my colleagues was going off to a better company and she gave us all an ice-cream treat. All fun done with and goodbyes later, I was eager to embrace the days of freedom from the codes! The decision was made in my heart. I had to leave the place rather than give in to something I contemptuously forced myself to do every day for 8 hours straight! The following Monday had me bidding my goodbyes and contritely informing the admin that I had to leave as I had secured admission for higher studies. They asked me about the details and wished me luck with a smile. I was expecting an acerbic session but was surprisingly spared. The admin was so very understanding and even the other interns asked me whether it was because I couldn’t adjust. They were all so eagerly offering to help. I felt bad that I hadn’t got to know them better in the few days there. They would definitely have made good friends. But I am glad I decided to leave early else I would’ve completely lost the face of me I liked.

All together, I am glad I went to this particular office with its fabulous work environment which did not pressurize you on anything but at the same time inculcated a good work culture and am grateful to its absolutely obliging group of seniors and interns who were ever so nice. I haven’t worked anywhere else to make a comparison but I am sure this is the ideal place to start off for anyone looking for a career in the s/w field. Hope they don’t make the mistake of recruiting any more of shaky feet like me. This was indeed a chapter of my life worth remembering as an adventure I enrolled in once upon a time :).