Friday, July 29, 2011

The living dead

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all…. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing…. (I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life, as it did my mother’s….)

—Luis Buñuel

We haven't known each other for long, but, ever since your grandson declared that he wanted to marry me, you have welcomed me open armed into your family. You and Aajoba did everything to make me feel welcome and were proud of me and my education like my own grandparents would have been. You did not once tell me to quit my studies and move to Mumbai to live with my husband. Instead, Aajoba kept urging me to work well and achieve higher laurels. You called me your naat-sun even before the wedding and took me with you to Goa, Shiroda and Saawantwadi and fondly introduced me to your home and family. You were thrilled with my rudimentary Marathi and appreciated the fact that I was actually trying to make an effort to communicate with you, instead of laughing at my lapses. You both refused to be bogged down by failing health and made the trip all the way to Bangalore to be there in person for our wedding; and in fact, attended every single bit of it. The days we stayed with you, I would wake up early and have a cup of tea with you and Aajoba, and you would reminisce about the days you worked at the Port, about how your mother gave you mangoes for lunch, about I. Butler and P. Butler who worked at your office! You would urge me to have yet another cup of tea and more biscuits while I chatted with Aajoba and tried my hand at reading the Marathi paper.

Then, aajoba fell ill and your memory started fading. I was bogged down with work and troubles here, and I could not make a trip to meet him in spite of knowing of his poor condition - and he passed away before I could meet him one last time. So, when I heard of your ill health, I wanted to come and meet you, and so I did. I know not what purpose it served. Your illness is of a different kind. You are trapped in your own mind, in a limbo between the real and the imaginary. You stare ahead with unseeing eyes and I cannot fathom what goes on behind those glazed eyes. You did not even realise I was there, though you had asked about me just a couple of days ago. I sat beside you, rubbed your palms and talked to you in my broken Marathi, but you did not respond - not because you were displeased, but because you just weren't there.

They say medical science has made remarkable progress, yet, my friend who is a doc tells me that most medicine is trial and error. Each human is different and hence, will respond differently to medication. Your doctors are trying out every possible thing to bring you back from this state of oblivion, and I hope fervently, that something will just click and you will be back to remembering and recognising us and come back into this world of the living.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mango mela

The summer of 2011 [Vamsee shall smile at this :P] shall be remembered for lot of things - our first summer since Indu left for the US, Gaya3 giving her colloquium, lots of ups and downs at my home, etc etc; but the sweetest memories of this summer will be of the mangoes.

Summer has always been a season of fun and frolic, of lazy afternoons and evenings on the beach, of Kundapur and cousins, of jackfruits and mangoes... Summer is incomplete without mangoes and conversely, the smell and taste of mangoes unfailingly brings the memories of carefree summer holidays. On an impulse, I decided to buy mangoes one day in April, when I went to 6th cross with Gaya3 for some bag shopping. This just marked the beginning of a crazy mango indulgence. My friends and I went berserk, buying and relishing all possible mango varieties available for sale in Bangalore.

We started with the sweet-sour Rasapuri and the nectarine Bangampalli, which for it's flawless skin is also called Benishaan. Amma went on to buy us the sweetest Talappadi I've ever eaten. We then tried the red-skinned Sindhura and the local aapus, Badami. The small and juicy Sakkaregutli were a requested item on the menu. We did not buy any Aalfonso [Haapus] but got to enjoy the tasty ones sent by Aai.

A vendor near 8th cross sold me some huge and pulpy Malagoba which turned out to be delicious! The small lane between the 8th and 9th cross became our regular haunt, with Gaya3, Aswani and I going there often to buy mangoes. The beauty of interaction with the vendors selling fruit on small carts can never be replaced by swanky super markets. We chatted with them, tasted the fruit, laughed at the bees swarming atop the cut fruits, bargained with them and got convinced by them to buy 3 kilos instead of the 1 that we had set out to buy.

By late May, the Mallika [not Sherawat] had arrived in the markets. This mango is a hybrid between Neelam and Dasheri. While it has a beautiful colour and is elongated in shape, it is the embodiment of the Bard's words-

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar IV, iii, 217

The Mallika tastes wonderful, if eaten at the right stage. If allowed to ripen further, it ferments, leaving an acrid taste in your mouth!

Finding Rumani in the Reliance Fresh at 17th cross, 8th main, was a pleasant surprise. I remember Ajja bringing this mango home when we were young, and with his flair for spicing up tales, he used to call it Rumania, making it sound like the European country! The small almost spherical fruits resemble the tiny ooty apple in their shape and size, and have a distinctive flavour.

Langda was, yet again, a chance find at the fruit shop on 8th main. This green skinned medium sized mango comes in from the northern states and has a very un-mango-like aroma that grows on you!

We thought Neelam and Totapuri would mark the end of this very fruitful [pun fully intended] mango season, par picture abhi baaki tha, mere dost! On a visit to New BEL road with Nissim, I had seen a large roadside mango shop and a couple of days back, on the spur of the moment, Aswani and I decided to visit it .... and returned with 10 kilos of mangoes!! The shop, run by very courteous and helpful people, was selling various varieties of the fruit and coaxed us into buying about 3 kilos each of 3 different varieties!! Here we found two new cultivars - Himayat from Andhra and Dasheri, again from UP, and fell in love with the latter :)

Now with July coming to an end and with constant rains, the mangoes are dwindling. The ones that do come in the market have insects ['friends', as Aswani insists on calling them!] and necessitate extra precaution while eating ! Guess we have a few more days left, of feasting on Neelam and Totapuri, and with that, this season of celebrating the unchallenged supremacy of the King of Fruits would come to an end - and it has truly been a golden period!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The pleasure and pain of writing

Have been inactive in the blogosphere for months on end now. Months where so much has happened, months that kept calling out to be recorded in detail; so that one may come back and read them to relive those moments, months where I've been completely swamped; having absolutely no personal time. Hopefully the worst is over and I should be able to get some breathing space. Have applied for an internet connection in my room and plan to blog regularly henceforth. Writing is a form of catharsis, an avenue to vent out my innermost thoughts. Could do with some writing now :)