Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Fallen Oak




After having worked for years in the tea-estates, all the plantation workers lost their jobs when the tea-estate made way to a large holiday resort. Under their very eyes, they saw the plantation they had tended to being razed and cleared for construction. 
Aroo's Baba had been in shock for several months but finally realized that he would have to make a living in some other way. Being good with wood-work, he took up carpentry at a furniture shop while Ma went to work at a nursing home, both a few miles away from their village. 

Even as the family was coming to terms with their new life, fate struck a big blow in little Aroo’s life. Ma and Baba were both killed one late evening on their way back from work when their bus toppled into the ravine.
 
Aroo was taken away to Kolkata to live with distant relatives. They took good care of her and ensured she went to the municipal school and passed her SSC. One of her school teachers ran a computer training institute and Aroo had her first brush with the internet and computers while working at the center doing odd jobs. She picked up the basics in no time and soon moved on to learning softwares with help from the instructors at the institute.
By the time she was twenty-two, she had a good job at one of the better software training institutes in Kolkata.

All this time, the hills and the crisp air of Darjeeling beckoned her but it was only now that she had enough security about her to venture back to her roots.
Her native village at Lamahatta was not the same place she had left. The large resort had finally been been built and the village had lost all its serenity. Many more hotels and lodges had cropped up in the ten years she had been away. Tourist buses and vans buzzed to and fro, while shops had sprouted faster than mushrooms all over the place.

Aroo made her way up the steep slope leading to the little cluster of homes. She recognized many old faces but they just thought her to be an off-trail tourist. She stopped to chat with Lina kaki and Bahadur kaka and they were thrilled to see her. They exclaimed and fussed over her and soon the entire hamlet was around her. They had been a close-knit community and remembered her family very fondly. Lina kaki made sure she was sufficiently fed before handing her the key to her house, one that had been locked for the last ten years. No one had claimed stake to it or tried to usurp it and Aroo was humbled by this fact.

Picking up her light airbag she made her way along the road leading to her home. People had always teased Das dada that he was crazy to build a home that was open to the cold winds from all sides but he went right ahead and built his house, just the way he wanted - With a view that was priceless and out of this world.
She was shivering now as she stood in front of her house, the cold breeze rattling the broken panes and roof tiles.

Gingerly, she stepped up the three steps to put the key into the rusty old lock. Surprisingly the key wound smoothly; she slid the latch and the door was open. 
The place looked exactly as she remembered it from ten years back. There lay the tacky mat on the floor where Ma took her catnaps and the old trunk which served as a wardrobe for all three of them. The old frames of Gods now cracked and covered in cobwebs. The tiny kitchen where Ma cooked hot daal and thick rotis smeared with homemade butter. Tears blurred her view as she went further in. The single cot her Baba slept on bereft of the mattress, on which she often sat beside him listening for countless number of times to the story of a great treasure his great-grandfather had found and then hidden somewhere in the plantation. And there in the farthest corner was the wooden dresser.


She paused by the dresser, a beautiful one that her father had made for her mother. Old memories came gushing. She vividly remembered the great oak tree in the plantation that had crashed during a particularly bad storm that had hit the area. All the estranged estate workers had been called in to help clear away the giant tree. Though the main trunk had been lugged away at a good price, a few remnant branches and boughs had been left behind. Aroo's father managed to get a decent sized piece of the lumbar from the lot. He had been in a state of frenzy ever since he’d laid his hands on it. He painstakingly spent days and hours working on it until the wee hours. Scraping, sawing, carving, sanding and polishing the block of wood into a work of art for his wife, just like the one he had seen in the 'memsaab's' room - A Dressing table. All it needed was a mirror to be placed on top, one he planned to get at the earliest. In the meanwhile all their neighbors came to see Das dada's handiwork. Her mother's face had been suffused with pride and joy as she welcomed everyone home and showed off the object d'art that her man had made for her. 

Aroo too loved the dresser with its many drawers, beautiful carvings and smooth finish. She remembered the day her Baba had called her over excitedly. He showed her a clever little hideaway chamber within a drawer. He told her it would be the place where he would keep a wonderful secret for her, safe from everything. Aroo was thrilled to be privy to such a priceless secret. Only she, Ma and Baba in the entire, whole wide world, knew about it. 
The dresser never got its mirror; the fatal accident took away the master carpenter before he got around to it.

Shaky fingers now ran along the thick coat of dust covering the dresser’s surface. She marveled at the chiseled perfection of the intricate, decorative carvings. It was almost like that day, years ago, she could feel the same excitement building within her as on the day Baba revealed the dresser’s secret to his little girl.

Her hand reached out automatically to the last row, corner-most drawer. It slid open smoothly. She felt about the false backing at its end and traced out the slight gap in its panel. Pushing it gently sideways, her hand moved deeper into the secret compartment behind the drawer. Her fingers moved around and wrapped onto a palm-sized object covered in cloth. Heart beating, she withdrew her hand, bringing out the stashed hoard. It was a cloth bag; she recognized the cloth - Ma's old cotton saree. She tugged at the drawstring and peered inside the bag pulling out a perfectly polished wooden orb. What on earth was this? It felt heavy. She shook it; something shook within. But the orb was completely smooth, how did one open it? And how did this come into her poor Baba's secret drawer? Should she smash it open or should she let it be?

Nervously she switched the ball from one hand to another. The sun was almost down and the room was getting darker by the minute. She peered intently at the object, now shining her mobile-torch on it. She could discern scores of tiny alphabets in Bangla script on it. At the bottom she could decipher some words that made sense; it was her father’s writing!


It read:

The mighty fall but rise again.
Now what on earth did Baba mean by this cryptic message? And how was she to tell her Baba even if she knew? Aroo racked her brain hard...mighty-fall...did, did, did Baba mean the mighty Oak tree that had fallen and risen again in the form of his labor of love - The wooden dresser? She shone the light on the orb and looked over the random alphabets engraved all over it. Searching desperately, she found what she was looking for.


ত্ত – ক্ (Oak in Bangla) 

The two alphabets were next to each other! She ran her little finger over the alphabets, pressing them gently and with a soft click, the orb popped open.

Tucked inside a small piece of muslin was a fistful of the brightest red rubies she had ever laid her eyes upon. The treasure of her ancestors that had been lost, long-long ago!  tale her Baba never tired of telling her. A tale of lost fortunes and hidden treasures. Her Baba must have found it while clearing the fallen oak tree. A treasure that had been hunted for generations, now lay in her palm.




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Disclaimer: The above story is a work of fiction. All characters and places are a figment of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any character living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional. 
The image used in the story is for representational purpose only.

 The above story was shortlisted in the top three in the #StoriesInArt contest held by Tell-A-Tale.




­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Friday, 11 August 2017

Kaapi-ready

The men are stretched out in a post lunch stupor on the bare red cemented vasa thinnai (outer verandah/front porch) with some of them spreading their angavastram (upper garment) on it. They fan themselves with the palm leaf visiri (hand fan) and sink into the blissful afternoon siesta, snores resonating from either side of the street. The houses sitting next to each other sharing common walls run in two rows on either side on the central teru (street) of the agraharam.


Image credit: Hari Haran
https://www.flickr.com/photos/97520583@N03/

The middle-aged men working in government jobs at the municipal, postal or tehsil offices, or in the local school are home for the lunch-break. Of the older men, some are still landlords holding on to tiny scraps of land despite the fluctuating and uncertain returns from farming. Yet others are content to live on stipends sent by children who are settled elsewhere in the country or abroad for brighter careers and modern living.
The women too have retired indoors after a hectic morning of chores cooking, cleaning, running to and fro inside the house that runs lengthwise. They are relieved to lie down on their pai (straw mats) in the cool ull thinnai (inner room or corridor leading onto the main living room or hall) with a pedestal fan for comfort. 
There are not too many young children around unless the children come home for vacations, grandchildren in tow.
Soon the men are stirring, with the afternoon round of vendors from the poove, malli poove (jasmine buds), the ice candy man (a hot favorite), the fruit vendor, the toy vendor and more screaming out their wares loaded on bicycles carted on the main teru.
The women pry themselves off the pais to start off on phase 2 of the chamayal (cooking) saga. It is 2.00 p.m, time for kaapi (coffee). Kids are sent out to tom-tom the message, "Kaapi-ready" to the men in the vasa thinnai. By 2.30 p.m, the kaapi frothing in dabara-tumblers makes its way into the hall where the family assembles for kaapi alongwith homemade bakshanams (sweets and savories) and a round of arratai (chit-chat). Pati (grandmother) exclaiming how the treats have dwindled, looking quietly pleased at the same time that her grandchildren are enjoying them so much. 
I remember many fond vacations spent in this rural setting in my native village in Tamilnadu, loving this quiet afternoon hour.
Time we kids spent quietly reading comics, playing cards, ludo, snakes and ladders in the macchil (attic) or sneaking into the chamayal ull for pati's treats stored in large aluminium dabbas. The milky kaapi that we children drank watching the adults savor their strong brews prepared with the aromatic, thick first decoction. 
If I could turn back time, this is where I would like to go back and savor my own strong kaapi amidst gossip and happy banter with my loved ones.

kaapi ready relaxnrave


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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6, a week long blog marathon based on prompts, hosted by The Write Tribe. 
Today is Day #7 of the marathon and the prompt for the day is: If we were having coffee...





­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Decor - Gets a makeover - Guest post


This is one post I am very proud of. Guest post by a writer, blogger and humourist I deeply admire, respect and look upto for his exceptional sense of humour and brilliant writing prowess. 
It gives me great pleasure and pride to host the inimitable Suresh Chandrashekharan on my blog today.



The gentleman that he is, Suresh sir requested me to give him a word, any word and he'd work a post around it. I gave him the word - Decor. With just that, he has woven this post, in his classic style. An honour to have him write this one specially for Relax-N-Rave!

Decor

You know you are the sort of person who cannot understand the ‘D’ of decor when you come back home to see every single thing from the - settee to the TV – moved around and still look blank when your sister asks you, “See anything different?” Until, of course, you chuck your briefcase at the TV and topple it, while simultaneously plonking your bottom into the potted vase and leaning back into thin air, with the natural consequences of doing so.
All that comes of a misspent childhood where, after reading a few books, you assume that you can figure out the meaning of words all by yourself without the benefit of a dictionary. Which meant that, having come across the word ‘decorous’ before as applied to children, you associate decor with decorousness.
Come to think of it, is there really such a fantastic being as a ‘decorous child’ outside of the pages of a book? The sort that sits silently by – on the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ basis – instead of running about the house upsetting the china and screaming as though someone was chasing after it with a wand and the intent to practice the ‘Cruciatus’ curse on it? (The PARENTS...now there must really be occasions when THEY felt that the wand would come in handy!) Or the ones which behave on the ‘Speak when you are spoken to’ basis, instead of giving sullen stares and groaning when the guest asks, “And what class do you study in?” (Well! THAT is once I really feel in sync with the kid. What a question to ask just as the poor mite had come back home and was trying to forget that there was such a thing as a school in its life...) I believe, nowadays, parents have reason to give long thanksgiving prayers if the kid really did NOT speak when spoken to...the new generation apparently does not feel any inhibition about forming opinions about guests and saying it out aloud. The mildest reply, I am given to understand, is “When are they going away, Ma?”
But...I digress, I invariably do when faced with a subject that I know nothing of. An ability that we management grads hone very well. It will not do to admit you do not know about...anything...especially when the other person is hanging on your lips expecting pearls of wisdom. So, you sort of get into the habit of uttering those ‘pearls of wisdom’ on some other subject and, if you do it well enough, you can get the other person to actually believe that their question was about THAT subject.
No? Sad...accounts for the fact that I never really succeeded at management. Anyway...decor...hmmm! Maybe I should call in that Shah Rukh guy...as and when he takes an interval from acting in one more movie. He seems to think that repainting the house is a breeze and can be squeezed in when your favourite mega-serial takes a commercial break. He is even singing and dancing when he does it. Now, me, I would be more like the Uncle Podger (NOT Potter! He probably waves his wand and says something like “House Decorus” and presto...) in Jerome K Jerome’s works, who hangs a picture after knocking holes in all the walls of his house and smashing up his hands to boot. I would have a better chance of raising a decorous child, believe me.
Be that as it may, let me assure you that decor is something that every house should have. I assure you such is the case even if I would not know what it is, if someone served me ‘decor’ on a silver platter. After all, I am a modern chap and I know that knowing things is absolutely unnecessary to be certain about it.
If you really want to know things about it, please refer a book on architecture or Interior decoration or some such. Like P.G. Wodehouse once had his schoolboy character write in an exam, “Refer the textbook for the correct information. No point going by me. I would only misguide you.”



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ABOUT C.SURESH

Fiction has been an addiction but the need to make a living took Suresh Chandrashekharan (C.Suresh) through Chemical Engineering and a PGDM at IIM-Bangalore; to a long 16 year stint in the area of finance with specific expertise in fertilizer subsidies and a further two years as consulting expert in the same area. That, in his words, about sums up the boring part of his life, except for people he was priviledged to meet.
Otherwise, he can be described as a mess of contradictions - a bookworm but avid trekker; alone but never lonely; enjoys solitude but loves company; lazy but  perfectionist, the litany is endless. Trekking, which side-tracked him from the writing for which he quit his job, is a major passion and he does, at least, one trek in the Himalayas every year in addition to numerous local treks.
He reignited his passion for writing with a fairly popular blog www.jambudweepam.blogspot.in. The blog has been rated among the Top 5 humour blogs in India, twice in succesion - in 2014 and 2015 - by BlogAdda, and has also been listed third among the Top Humour Blogs by Baggout.
He also has a short story published in a collection,"Uff Ye Emotions" and has edited and written a novelette in an ebook anthology "Sirens spell danger"

- Sourced from the Author bio of his latest book "A Dog Eat Dog-food World
A brilliant and hilarious book on the pseudo-history of marketing management!
If you haven't read it, please do! 

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6, a week long blog marathon based on prompts, hosted by The Write Tribe.
It is #Day 6 of The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6  and today's prompt is: Feature a guest - guest post/ an interview.
 


­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI