Monday, September 14, 2015

The green.....errrr thumb !

I have always envied people who can sing, dance or paint. After pestering my parents, they did attempt to get me trained in all these arts in my school days. Needless to say, I was quickly back at square one. The closest I have come to rendering my music talent is by lip syncing at group songs during annual day celebrations at school! Dance certainly fared much better, leading upto professional training in the Kathak dance form, but the usual stigma of being an adult and juggling a career led to it being eventually still remain just a dream and incomplete. As for painting, that's ventured only upto the extent of liberally using the paint for the teeniest bit of art on my forehead I like to call my version of the 'Bindi'.

Why is this suddenly featuring in my blog? - Cause the agenda in my long career break, also included  mastering a new talent I have never tried or tested before. After much contemplation, I zeroed in on the supposedly easy 'Gardening'. It runs in the family and I proudly realized that everybody closely associated with me had what is lovingly called the 'Green-est thumb'. Thus inspired, I too embarked on this journey. 

Now, three months into this venture and with the depressing realization that not only do I not have the green thumb, I have inherited the dreadful 'Brown thumb' from some unfortunate ancestor nobody seems to have a clue of. My six year old nephew fared better at sprouting grams as part of his school project than I did with trying to get my simple creeper grow out of the soil ! As is habit, I decided to do what I can do best about gardening - Write on it. And here we go.

It all began when a visit to my grandaunt's house in Kannur had me witness her harvest bumper yields of organic home-tended greens. Her tiny stretch of garden included space for spinach, okra, ginger (My favorite kind - The mango ginger), tomatoes, chillies, papaya, snake gourd and many others which I am unable to name, but tasted like heaven when cooked. What peaked my interest more was the fact that all this was entirely organic (Yeah exactly ! I had my eureka moment too). Since she was the closest accessible expert in this topic, I earnestly questioned her on the do's and don't's, ambitious to be the new name in organic veggies in the neighborhood. I even dreamt of the day when I would be supplying the harvest for free to all my neighbors and bask in the glory of my noble deed!

For starters, I was given a root of ginger by my mentor as it didn't really require much tending. It was the season of monsoon here and the monsoon rains are torrential in Kannur !I managed to dig up a small patch for my gardening venture and plant the ginger root. Content that the monsoon was doing it's job of enriching the greenery in my patch, I relaxed. Maybe a bit too much relaxation. Cause by the end of four weeks and plenty of travels later, when I set out to inspect my patch and search for the new leaves from my ginger plant, I was horror stricken to realize that a gazillion plants had taken up the spot in my patch, so much so that I couldn't even identify where the root had been planted. In vain, I dug up pretty much the entire patch with no trace of the root! For a minute there, I was hopeful that my mom had actually used my first harvest. The look on my mother's face when I questioned her about it was answer enough for me. 

Once back at home base and with the imposed restrictions of being in a tiny apartment with the tiniest bit of balcony space, I resorted to planting the sacred Tulsi and the easily multiplying money plant (Let me be honest here -The prospect of getting money, even in the name of a flower less plant, while jobless, certainly seemed all the more appealing then!). With the added knowledge from the vast wide web, I also decided to be an enthusiastic conversationalist with my plants. Every morning, I eagerly rushed to the balcony and very vocally requested them to not let me down this time. A new leaf, the tiniest hint of life in them, that's all I asked for. I discussed the fluctuating gas prices with them. I enlightened them on the plight of the Syrian refugees, the current governance in our country, my take on the extravagant onam celebrations in the city. I even read out inspirational quotes from the numerous Facebook updates in my news feed. Other than the fact that my neighbors didn't have to bother reading the newspaper in the morning (All thanks to my live feed on the balcony), my plants decided to die out on me and turn the nastiest brown anybody could ever lay their eyes on !

Dejected, I was contemplating starting one more round of the venture, this time purchasing the soil and manure, when my parents unanimously declared that they would find some means to have me arrested for my multiple attempts at murdering harmless lives (Read - plants). I consented and reluctantly gave away all (but one) pots to the security guard who keeps watch downstairs. One pot, still with the decayed remains of the Tulsi, I handed over to my mom and challenged her to fare better.

I resist going to the kitchen these days - My mom safely kept the pot in the window corner on the counter there and it's a thing of beauty to look at, especially with the first rays of the sun streaming in and washing the leaves giving it the greenest glow ever.

Maybe this is a wrong time to convince my folks to get me a dog or a cat or atleast a fish bowl !

Sigh!! I am back to working on my 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle which has been lying strewn around for years now. Atleast it doesn't take a green thumb to finish a puzzle. So much for going green ... Errr.. growing green !!!!!

Edit note - September 16,2015.
Adding a picture of the now flourishing and back to life Tulsi plant I almost killed. Thanks to my mom's green thumb, it has a new lease of life! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lessons from a grandmother

'Are you asleep'  - She asks.
I feign sleep.
She persists. 'Have you slept'?

It's our routine. Mine and hers. Every night. I tell her good night at-least an hour before her favorite soaps in the regional language are done for the night. I love to read and then fall asleep with my headphone still playing my current favorite tracks. I wake up somewhere in the middle of the night to settle for my proper sleep. And she knows this routine of mine, better than anyone else.

Yet, every single night, we replay the same scene.

She with her persistent questions which I know will not stop until I actually give the usual 'Ammaaammmaaa' (Meaning grandmother in the local dialect).
'Yes. I was sleeping. And now you have me wide awake.' - I crib.

And as is habit, she doesn't wait for my response, ever. She begins by telling me about the tormented daughter in law, the beast of a mother in law, the coward of a son, the innocent orphaned girl, the shrewd sister and every other single character in the relentless soaps aired on television night after night. The same spiteful, 'supposedly' heart wrenching story.

I tell her, every time - 'You sure have some great amount of patience to actually look forward to watching this lame excuse for a soap every evening. Sit with me one day and let us watch f.r.i.e.n.d.s. We can at-least have a hearty laugh.'

'Which friends house are we going to' - She questions me back. And I smile. My smile in the dark which only she sees.

'Stop teasing this old lady' - She continues.

'So what's our topic for tonight's midnight discussion'. - I ask her.

This was our game. when the rest of the world goes to bed in preparation for a tomorrow, this granddaughter grandmother duo use the time to reminiscence the past. Sometimes, even way back upto 60 years ago. It hasn't been long since we embarked on this.

Earlier this year, when I finally resolved to put into action, my big move, of the many things I knew was sure to come my way in life, I wasn't prepared for this renewed bonding with my maternal grandmother. Until then, she was grandmother. The grandmother who cooked and cleaned and swept and wept. The grandmother in her pale starched cotton sarees, perpetually loving to be in the kitchen and conjuring up dishes which could summon an army a mile away just by it's aroma. The grandmother who's still only slight grey hair, smells of the home made herbal coconut hair oil. The grandmother who impatiently checks the clock every five minutes past sundown to make sure she doesn't miss the beginning of the long line of soaps in her favorite channel.

So when I had the option to choose one of the two spare bedrooms in the house, I asked her hesitatingly if I may share the room with her. To be honest, the intention was selfish. It is the only room in the house with a direct view of the night sky (Read - the beautiful unpolluted star studded sky and the occasional full moon) from the bed. She was more than happy for the company.

I complained to her after the first night in the room. That she kept talking at length and didn't even let me get a wink of sleep. It was pure frustration on day one. Day four was acceptance and day seven was compassion. Compassion for this new woman I began to see. In a new light.

The woman who transformed from an old slow moving grandmother to the jumping-running volleyball star in her school days, the young blushing bride fighting against all the odds in her new life, the new mother totally unaware of how to handle a baby, the mother who spent all her days and nights toiling to feed and clothe her expanding family, her phase as a mother in law, the delighted grandmother holding her first grandchild, the widowed wife mourning the untimely loss of her pillar of strength and support. The stories never progressed after that chapter in her life. She admits unhesitatingly that she ceased to live from that day on. It's only been mere existence since then. Invariably, most nights she recounts how that one day disrupted and turned her entire world upside down. How since then, she hasn't even had a permanent roof over her head.

As the days passed and the night stories told and retold progressed, I began to realize the depth of the emptiness in her life. How the simple act of recollecting a life gone by is making her feel more of a person. How the only thing she ever really needs in life now is a listening ear. I tease, I probe and sometimes even accuse her in response to her narration. She smiles each time. Her response to everything.

By daylight we are what we are, generations apart with a long era separating her life from mine. And after sundown, we are the same. She, with a past she fondly remembers and a future she dreads. Me, with a past I repent and a future I look forward to. This perhaps, is the magic combination for night long conversations. And yet, I cannot start the charade without the usual drama of cribbing on being rudely awaken from my feigned sleep. By my ammamma.

*Photo courtesy - Google Images.