22 April, 2007

Maternal Uncles

Relationships are very important in man’s life. In Indian culture, maternal uncle relationship is something which binds a woman‘s family side and her in-laws side. Out of all the relationships this is the one which had attracted me a lot. A man has so many roles to play and what a great role it is to be an Uncle!

From my childhood I was very impressed by the Maternal Uncle roles. Luckily I have four maternal uncles. My mother was born with four sisters and four brothers. I would say their family is very lucky to have men like my uncles. They all have done great help to their sister’s families a lot.

Of course, my father too had brothers and they were of great help too. But this post I am dedicating it to all maternal uncles. My mom had a great maternal uncle and he was lovingly called as ‘Ram Mama’ by everyone. As far as I know, he was there in Central station to receive each and everyone of my relative who arrived to Chennai in those days. He trained me how to receive people. In those years say 70 or 80 years before, I was told the boys married their own nieces in India. Marriages within relationships were held, in order to create a binding among the relatives and distribute their wealth among them. Ram Mama was one among those men. My uncles must have been inspired by their maternal uncle and they happened to be very good in their role.

All my four uncles were great persons. I am lucky to have two of them still alive. My eldest one who is lovingly called as ‘AKD’ is above 90 and the second one lovingly called as ‘Venu Mama’ celebrated his 80th birthday last year. Two other uncles are no more. They were lovingly called as ‘Sesha Mama’ and ‘Kitchu Mama’. But I owe plenty of qualities I have achieved today to all my maternal uncles and other elders of my family.

I do not have words to describe their love towards their sisters. Their wives were never on their way, when my uncles cared for their sisters. This is a quality which women of younger generation should pick up from their seniors. One of my aunt who was issue less was widowed 30 years before and she is still taken care by ‘Venu Mama’ who himself has crossed 80 and his sister i.e., my aunt is above 85.

Girls get married and leave their parents to start their new life with an unknown family, or a little known man. After this, it is the brother who acts as a new way of communication to his sister and her family in our tradition. The brother carries gifts now and then to show that they still care and love their sister. Again they help her when she is in distress and share her joy and sorrow. I doubt whether many of us are able to do this in today’s world. I know at least few of my friends who try to keep up the tradition.

My uncles had never left our family in distress. In 1974 when my father expired suddenly it appeared as though none of my uncles will be able to participate in the funeral. But still ‘Venu Mama’ air dashed from Pune (comparing to all those air travel facilities in those days in India and the cost). I still remember that I was about to set the pyre on my father’s body and relatives requested to wait for few minutes, and there was this sigh of relief when we could see the white ambassador (MSL 2197..I think) approaching the burial ground. There my uncle stepped out to console our family and to represent my mother’s parents (who were not alive then).

Women should feel proud about their brothers who turn out to be good maternal uncles. Men should equally understand the responsibility and many culture and ethics are based upon the relationships in Indian traditions. My other uncles who are no more had done equally a lot of help to all our relatives and I am really proud of them. I have learnt a lot from my uncles and trying my best to keep my nieces and nephews in good spirits. I still doubt whether I could be like my uncles.

No wonder my mom who is in her late 70’s was talking about them last night and it brings smiles on her face whenever we talk about her brothers.

I thought this is something we have to learn.

06 April, 2007

East and West

I have always loved to take candid pictures. The pictures you see in this post have various common factors. The first one you see was taken in Chennai, India. As I was walking out of a studio in Arcot Road, where I had a film roll developed, I was surprised by this old man who was sleeping with pleasure on the road side of one of the busiest roads in Chennai. He is in a deep sleep, in the noisiest road of Chennai. How blessed he should be to have a peaceful sleep? In today’s world, even a millionaire who has all the facilities in his house does not get a good sleep. This gentleman looks like someone who has no place to sleep. All his possession is his bag, which acts as 2 in 1 (A pillow and a bag). He is clean and we could make it out by his white dhoti. He has had a shower, and that is clear by his marks on his forehead. He looks like a religious man. He knows cleanliness and has kept his Hawaii chappal (slippers) a bit away from him. I took this picture during my trip to India in November 2005. There are millions of people like this sleeping on roads without a shelter, and there are hundreds of political parties in India, led by so called great leaders who keep saying that they are toiling hard for those who are backward economically, but are toiling to gather wealth for their future generations, as well as ministerial positions for their kith and kin. Dear leaders, when are you going to look at a common man like this old man.

The second picture was taken in Edinburgh, Scotland few years before. My friend’s wife took me around the town, and this gentleman with a book attracted me as soon as I got down from the bus. It looks like he was waiting for the sun. He is waiting for the bus and because he is tired, wants to lie on the bench and enjoy the sun as well. He did not want to waste his time and has picked up his book. Oh… he enjoys it.

Both the pictures were taken by the same camera Nikon FM2. In both the cases, the film was just loaded. The pictures were taken more or less just noon. The age of the people seem to be similar. Both of them are enjoying whatever they are doing. I took only few seconds to set my manual readings and click them. I was immensely happy on clicking both the pictures though they were taken at different places, and different time.

People are all the same wherever they are! I like people who could enjoy whatever they do!

01 April, 2007

Free hugs

Being a vivid newspaper reader, I was attracted by this news that someone in Australia has been giving free hugs in the down streets of Sydney. His intentions were that if the small hug could inculcate a small ray of hope in a stranger, the small hug can help a few hundred souls in relinquishing despair for a moment. I was very much inspired by this hug concept, and thought of doing it in a busy street of Chennai.
I was sure, my friends will make a merry of me if I talk to them about this when we meet in the usual Lakshmi Stores corner. I was excited by the idea. Oh! How nice it could be to give hugs to everyone. My mind started pondering about a suitable busy street. I was about to talk it to my family people. I knew that my mom may start abusing me for such a thought, in a traditional, cultured family. Is it not a good culture? Why should I feel shy about it! Also, I started feeling very romantic about it.
Oh... god! If this news spread like anything and plenty of young girls come around and want to be hugged.
Will the private channels be with their cameras!
Will I have any problem if I become too popular?
How will my own community people think about it?
Will I not get a good girl, who gets attracted by my thought and tight hug and become a great friend, partner for ever.
What will I do if more than a girl gets attracted? OK.... probably I can choose... that should not be a problem... Hmmm...
I did not want to tell my family about this idea. I started getting thrilled. I wanted to have a cool shower and visit my friends. It was a very hot day. I went to my garden and took the garden hose. I started having a good shower by connecting the garden hose on to the tap. Oh...what a pleasure it is to have a cold water shower in the open space, on a sunny evening. My thoughts were again on the free hugs.
After the shower got dressed in a cool Kurta/Pyjama and walked towards the street corner. Ramesh was returning back from work.
“Hi ... da.. whats..up... Had a very tiring day today.. Let me go home and come back after a quick shower” – he said.
“I met Jack in the train... Murali and Jack should be here within half an hour. They are purchasing some CD’s in Friends Videos shop” – he added.
I waited with patience. My friends turned up and I told them one by one about my crazy idea. They started laughing on hearing my idea.
“I do not think that will work out here in Madras... da” – Murali said.
“Why not...?” – I asked.
I was waiting for Anand. He was busy talking to a young girl who was just 8 years old. He always does that. As soon as he arrived, I told him and he started encouraging my idea. Jack challenged me.
“If you could do FREE HUGS for one hour in a busy street in Chennai, I shall take you for a free trip to Pondicherry..” – said Jack.
“OK... da.. I shall do it...” – I replied.
After discussing with friends I decided to do “FREE HUGS” at Ranganathan Street, T.Nagar.
My friends said that they may not stand near me, but will we watching from a distance. I decided to write the poster with Indian Ink, after everyone in my family go to bed. I knew that my first critique will be my younger sister. I also wanted to keep her informed, since she could bring all her friends to the scene and I could give free hugs to them.
The D-day arrived. I reached Ranganathan Street and looked at the crowd from the overbridge near the Railway station. The crowd was at its peak. I carried the board “FREE HUGS” and went and stood near the pillaiyar temple and prayed to pillaiyar.
As I had closed my eyes while praying from the street, I felt somebody scratching my back. I opened up my eyes to see a big buffalo, about to hit me with its horns. Oh... god. Lucky escape. I held the board high and started walking here and there. There were two middle aged ladies coming. Since they were looking literate I showed them the board “FREE HUGS”. They looked at me and gave a cold stare and walked suddenly into a fancy store.
But I heard them saying “Oh... he looks like educated. But what to do. Probably must have worked hard for his exams and would have become mental.... I pity his parents.”
Then I saw a group of girls totally ignoring my board and giggling and walking on the other side of a bangle store.
A young boy on seeing my board came towards me and he was my first hug. He said “I have been longing for a hug. Thank you and keep it up!”
Then a group of some Arts college boys came towards me and said “ Ithoda…. Katti pudi vaidhyam kuddukka vandhutaru….. “.
They brought a stinking beggar from somewhere and gave him a five rupee coin before me and told him something in his ears. The man started walking towards me. I knew this was a challenge. He looked like he had not taken bath since he was born. There were plenty of bruises all around his body and he had wrapped the body with just a simple towel and was wearing a canvas shoe.
I just said to myself “Oh…god… let me hug him and tell the world… what he deserves ...”.
When I went near him in a hugging gesture, he said “Sámi…. Let me tell you the truth. I was given 5 rupee by those people to walk near you. But you seem to be very kind and want to hug me. So…kind of you… I have not taken shower for many years and please do not hug me… I appreciate your intention…”
I did not have words to say.
Suddenly a group of men wearing white colour dhotis and sporting a white towel on their shoulder came towards me. They abused me very badly. They said that they belong to some organisation working towards improvement of a unprivileged community. I could make out by their dressing and looks that they have improved very well. They said that people like me are a shame for their culture. They abused me that I am trying to degrade the culture by trying to attract people of opposite sex and hug them in public, and thus bringing a degrade to the culture.
On seeing the confusion within a few minutes, a policeman arrived. Someone of the group went and whispered something in the policeman’s ears and he came towards me fiercely.
“Do you have permission for doing such thing in public?” – He asked.
I said “ Sir…. You need to understand what I am trying to do. I am not forcing anyone for a hug. Impressed by something which happened in a foreign country, I wanted to try the same in Ranganathan Street and give more secured feeling to those who needed it… and ….”
Before I could say anything someone came and held my shirt’s collar. He pushed me and the police had to interfere. My ‘FREE HUG’ poster was torn. I managed to get up from the road. The police warned me to get away from the scene.
I walked towards a tea stall near the station and had a look at the over bridge where my friends were supposed to be. I could not see them in the crowd. I ordered for a cup of tea and sat on the tea bench.
An auto passed by splashing the slush on me. I looked at the Auto and saw a board on the back side of the auto “BE INDIAN BUY INDIAN”.
I smiled to myself.
"It is already 8 'O' clock. Could you please wake up daddy..." my daughter woke me up. I threw the pillow which I was hugging walking to the Toilet thinking about the dream.
Original pic courtesy: Dheera
Morphed by: self