Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where have they gone?

My current place of residence has been my home for many many years and looking back, there is a radical change in the neighbourhood. The most obvious one is socialising with fellow neighbours which has been on a drastic decline (sadly!) and other is the absence of many many street vendors. In due course, we even don't seem to notice their absence. Here are some of the 'once-familiar' tones which is on the decline or completely absent these days.

Ammi polayalayo (or whatever that is!) : The lady with a hammer and chisel. The eye-catching attire is when she bundles the hammer and chisel onto her head and carries her baby in her saree. She is the one who chisels the often used ammi and kozhavi (mortar/pestel). When the mortar-pestel are used often, the rough surface becomes smooth, thereby taking more time for the ingredients to get ground. More and more people turning towards mixies and motor grinders, seemed to have had a big effect on these poor people.

Krishnaaaaa...aayil : This was how the kerosene vendor went about marketing his 'krishna oil'. I wonder if the blue tint given to kerosene (to prevent illegal trading) gave this common name. The vendor used to pull a bright yellow coloured cylindrical steel tin mounted on two tyres.

Uppu thatha : The frail thatha with a contrasting white moush and hair was a friend of the kids. The only dress we saw him in was a cotton cloth wrapped around his waist. He used to tirelessly go about selling his uppu (salt) from street to street. I hardly see him these days.

Saana(m) pidikaradhe... : The man carrying a cycle wheel structure attached to a wooden structure with a pedal and a sharpening stone used for sharpening blunt knives, aruvaals and importantly arugamanais. I am sure the whole 'machine' was his own design and self-made. Sad that many of our conventional inventions have either gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Jodrippair : Maybe it was 'Jot repair'. I know people refer to shoes as jot (as in 'jottala adippen'), but don't know if its the same. I used to go ga-ga over the cobbler's tool bag. Almost all of his tools are made from a used product. The needle would be nicely packed in a rubber stamp handle, the scrapper would be a shoe polish tin lid and the way he makes the stitches - wow! For me, its a treat to watch anyday!

Kulfikaaran : Though I do see them in the beach, their daily rounds in the streets seem to have reduced a lot. The bell was the kulfikaaran's trademark sound with a petro-max light hanging on his tri-cycle. In our street, our family was probably the only one buying kulfi from him but nevertheless he was popular in many areas. What is reminiscent of the kulfikaaran is his sweat clad face seeming very ghost-like when seen above his petro-max light. I used to watch in awe the way he takes out the kulfi from the metal/plastic-rimmed containers with a knife and slice it up. He would place it on a dry leaf (forgot the name of that leaf). The taste used to be awesome though I used to get odd tastes in between. Some of my friends have warned that the water/way of making might not be very hygenic but the kulfis haven't troubled me so far!

Soan papadi wala : Just like the kulfikaaran, the soan papadi wala is confined to the beaches these days. When I think about the son papadi boy, I am amazed when I realise that I have not spoken a word with him nor have I heard his voice. His arrival was signalled by his bell and the huge bell jar would be tied firmly with a rope to the wheeled cart.

Kadalai vandi : Very similar traits as the soan papadi boy. His trademark sound was the roasting sound of sand and groundnuts on an iron wok with an iron spatula. He would bang the spatula on the wok to announce his prescence. I still remember the words 'MINIMAM 25 paisa' written in a very bad handwriting and bad spelling in front of his cart. It was 10p earlier, then it became 25, later 50 and now I think its 1 Re minimam, sorry minimum! Whenever I got groundnuts from him, my eyes would fall upon the books which he probably got from the old paper mart for selling his groundbuts. Most often, there used to be some kind of text books like Chemistry, Maths and I used to wonder then "aah! what is this guy doing? This guy doesn't know its worth"

Kaikari paatti : Though the tri-cycle cart vendors still visit our streets, the paattis (grandmother) carrying the vegetable basket are not to be seen these days. One should see how the different varities of vegies are neatly arranged in that one round basket. A cloth bundled as a bun on her head would act as a support for the basket and she would sit in the verandah for hours chatting with the ladies of the house. I remember helping the paatti lift the basket and place it on her head when she is about to leave and boy! that is some weight! Imagine having to carry such weight in the scorching sun across many streets. Hmm... what grit!

Paal cover, buddi, papaaar : The old newspaper man is still prominent but the number of them has drastically reduced. In those days, scent bottles, plastics were his best buys and so was iron. During our childhood days, we always used to mimic his tone and the nice paperkaaran used to smile back - not minding our childish mocks. One of the paperkaarans of our street who has been around for a long time has his son studying in one of the good schools in our locality. Isn't that great news?

One thing which is common among these people is their sincerity to earn money instead of resorting to cheap tactics like begging, stealing and other means. I can't imagine myself in their shoes. I can afford to be lazy on a day and forgo going to work but to them each day counts. Its not a question of wanting to become rich but to ensure their family gets their next course meal. My salutations to their grit, determination, hard work and endurance. They do teach us some lesson - don't they?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shun the idiot box, well wait a minute...

The television today, seems to have engulfed - almost - all other activities. Lots have been said how TV has literally spoilt social life, book reading habit, playing outdoor games, visualizing capabilities, made us couch potatoes, given early age eye defects, awful thoughts - what not! And not to forget the oft cursed serials (or the soap operas). Though I find almost everyone swinging brickbats on them, the viewership has not diminished a bit. If you are a regular "serial-watcher" and you missing a day watching it, you would still get the story, miss a week - no worries, skip a few months - you would still be able to decipher the plot! The soap directors think the audience are dunces and we, very earnestly, prove them right - don't we?

Okay, enough of the brickbats - whatever said and done, the TV seems to be a very good companion - at times, the ONLY companion. I have had a stint with this kind of experience during my days away from home. Though I had my roomies, having had to work on shifts, loneliness was inevitable at times and loneliness to me - more than causing boredom and frustration - is haunting! And it was during these times that my friendly companion came to my rescue - who else? my little 14" Videocon TV. Believe it or not, I would just switch on the TV, tune into some song channel or to some insane soap and leave it as is and carry on with my brushing, attending nature's call, cooking, dressing, cleaning and so on - having just a faint idea as to what's going on the TV.

And when I was even farther away from home, getting very little chance to rub shoulders with my native tongue or culture, TV again was my solace. Of course, there were other arenas too - like friends, internet, gazing around, roaming the city, getting to know the other culture, but still, during my times of solitude, I could rely on TV! Even the most irritable song, a disgusting actor, a lousy heroine all seem to have descended from heaven then. I am sure many folks who are staying/have stayed alone (especially the ones living abroad) would be able to relate to this state of mind.

Agreed TV has taken many a quality time but to me, many a time, it has helped me maintain my mental quality :-)