maayan

bulcrt

on a warm day during 1970’s….

it was the day ahead of pongal…the harvest festival

‘pongal’ has always been the most exuberant days of my childhood….

as far as i can remember, pongal was the best holiday i ever had

till i finished school, every year i was sent to my native village where my grand mom and dad lived, this place was the best holiday spot i had ever been to, and it was also the only holiday spot i had been to is another issue.

anyways as a kid i totally had a blast during my pongal holidays in my grand ma’s place.

for it was a most welcomed change for a lonely boy confined to a small house in the ever busy metro city of Madras.

my native village was a very small hamlet called ‘mallal’ , as a matter of fact it just had only 10 streets, to be precise 9. All the nine deserted, muddy streets had two houses each so we have 18 houses all together, not bad for a parched land, with no railway station.

! was sad that our village had no railway station because as a child i was so sure of becoming a train station master, the one who had all the powers to control huge trains.Another thing was i loved travelling on trains, but since my village had no train stations i had to reach there by bus  from my city and it was always the bumpy ride i hated the most. Yet the bus ride was followed by my favorite bullock cart ride, which i thoroughly enjoyed and was very keen every time on not missing to sit near the driver seat.It was the most enjoyable ride any one could ask for. my grand dad owned two bullock carts and i was so proud about that.

Maayan my grand dad’s assistant was always sent to the bus stand to pick me up , he was a tall, dark, well built old guy. Maayan was more than an assistant in my grand dad’s place, he took care of all the works both domestic and business, so he was a part of our family.

no one could guess how old maayan was, he had been around for a long time that’s what very one said.

hmm i have drifted away from pongal haven’t i ? … so lets get back to our story,

so when i reached the bus stand Maayan was warmly smiling and waving at me, i waved back and got down from the bus, it was my last year at high school and i was an energetic,curious teenager like any other kid.

as i got down from bus, maayan reached me , he was wearing his usual  white dhoti tied in the traditional 3/4th  pant style and was wearing a deep blue cotton shirt, a golden chain was shining in his dark neck making him even more darker.

maayan grabbed my bag and his smile widened as he patted my shoulders, he  greeted me in his typical heavy voice ” hi chinna ayya” ( he always addresses me as ‘ Little master ‘ which i never liked, but no use in arguing with maayan he always won).

I was embarrassed when he addressed me as little master , yet i nodded and gave him a wide smile,

before i could open my mouth, maayan spoke looking closely at me ” wow little master you have grown tall, and you are becoming a handsome man like your dad for sure i can see that” i blushed at his comment and replied desperately trying to change the topic, ” so how are you anna? ( i had always called him Anna -elder brother though he was much elder than my dad)

maayan replied ” i am fine little master , as you can see,i am  as strong as i have ever been, you know what this year i have planted two more palm trees in our garden and our cow has yielded a new calf who is so adorable… his eyes are…”

he stopped mid way and looked at my tired eyes and said ” oh i am so sorry little master you must be so tired after the long journey,must be hungry as well, come lets go home first,

your aaya (grand mom) and ayya  (grand dad) are awaiting your arrival ” saying this he hurried away from the bus stand and when we reached the gate there was the most beautiful bullock cart i ever saw, i beamed at the sight of it and i rushed to check out the two bullocks which were painted in  vibrant colors and  the red and yellow cart adorned with silk and sparkling studded chains  and sweet sounding bells.” ho how lovely are these carts.. if only i could ride them once… ” i thought

maayan’s voice distracted my thoughts ” oh little master you still have a craze for these silly bullock carts don’t you? they say in city where you live, you travel in  huge cars and big trucks it seems, yet i wonder why you love these slow carts”

i just smiled and hopped inside the cart  as maayan balanced the cart from tilting and he got into his drivers seat and clicked his tongue and the cart moved, maayan always asks this question ,

i can never explain why i am so crazy about these carts for i myself don’t know the reason.

as the bullock cart jolted to my home maayan had informed me about all the new additions of cattle and the panchayath politics of our hamlet,

he even updated me of how one of our cow had graced into one of my great uncle’s front yard who shared a decade’s enmity with my grand dad

and maayan latter went into great details of how the cow was led to the panchayath and how my grand dad had not touched the cow for a few days as a result of the animals sheer disgraceful behavior.

” little master, now the cow had learnt its lesson she will behave here on that’s my opinion ” maayan ended in a serious tone as we reached home.

I could see my grand dad and grand ma waiting in the wide front yard veranda of our huge villa,  actually all the 18 houses in my hamlet were of almost as huge as ours each house extended from one street on the front to another on the back, so they were kind of very big bungalows.

the black oxide floored well polished front porch was painted in bright colors and the whole villa was painted in white,green and red and blue colors for the occasion of pongal

maayan stopped the cart in front of the yard and i hopped down , he rushed and took my bag  and said” hurry little master lets get in, see aachi and ayya is vaiting” he always called my grand ma as aachi – elder sister and my grand dad as “ayya” – a general word for respect.

“come in dear ” greeted my grand ma as i followed maayan into the porch , my grand dad patted my shoulder and greeted me as well and when i asked about their health, my grand dad smiled and said ” we both are pretty fine young fellow, you seem to have lost some weight though” i smiled and protested ” no ayya … actually i have been eating a lot”

we all got into the huge hall of our home as we talked. my grand ma asked maayan to see if my room in first floor was ready. To which maayan readily rushed to his work, leaving us . Our conversation continued for a while about my dad and mom and about my studies and the usual stuffs. my hot coffee was served by our old cook “mani annan”.

grand mom was so thrilled by my arrival as usual that she left all the house hold jobs to the assistants , while grand dad was also equally happy about the arrival of his only grand son, so he had missed his late evening  sleep as well.

our conversation was interrupted as maayan came and announced that my room was ready, my grand ma said to me ” okay now you better go and freshen up and take some rest we will have to visit our temple tonight “, i nodded and went to my room.

I showered in the warm water and then changed into a comfortable cotton pant and at t shirt. when i came back a plate full of sweets and spicy snacks were placed on my table , i was so hungry that i finished all the food and before i remember i went to bed and was fast asleep and i woke up to the knock on my door, grand ma was calling ” come on ravi wake up its late, get ready and come down its late for our temple visit”

I got up quickly and realized where i was and replied ” yes aaya i will come down in a minute” i changed into the traditional silk dhoti and the mild soft cotton shirt and went down to join my grand parents.

I saw my grand parents were also dressed in silk , grand dad ushered me and grand ma into the cart and he also joined us , only then i noticed that maayan was not riding our cart, as we moved , i asked grand dad ” why is maayan not going in our cart?” , he replied ” oh he is carrying all the precious family Jewels and statues of gods to our temple for blessing, he has to carry it and walk that’s the tradition you see”

I nodded my head but didn’t fully understood why the poor man had to walk all the way carrying such huge boxes on his head, my grand dad had his own rules and traditions, no one can question them, but i felt sorry for maayan, who was to carry all the loads of things and walk so long.

once we reached the temple , i  was so shocked to see maayan waiting for us ,

I wondered how he reached here so swiftly?

he was drenched in sweat and his silk clothes clung to his body, he was panting heavily, i felt sad for him, he must have had a hard time carrying all the boxes all by himself , but maayan was all bright as we entered the temple,

a special pooja was made for my arrival and the usual blessing  ceremony of our family jewels and deities were finished and all the while maayan was helping in all the rituals.  As we returned from temple , maayan again took all the jewel boxes on his head and started before us, i was very upset about this, i couldn’t contain my self from asking my grand dad ” ayya  at least now we can ask maayan to join us in the cart right? why does he have to walk all the way? its pretty dark” my grand dad smiled and ruffled my hair and softly spoke ” my dear boy, why are you so up set there are some things that can’t be changed , its our tradition”, this only increased my anger but by then maayan had left the temple and grand ma had joined us.

so i kept quiet, now i couldn’t enjoy the bullock cart ride any more, my mind was filled with the image of maayan’s sweaty face, poor man he had worked for us for how long , yet he is treated this way, i was filled with anger as these thoughts fumed inside … it was getting darker…

suddenly there was a hustle and bustle, we heard foot steps in the dark and suddenly there were some loud noises but in the pitch dark i couldn’t see anything, my grand dad said some thing to the cart rider, before i could understand what was going on, our cart turned right and i sensed there was a sudden swiftness in the carts speed, our cart rider rode pretty fast , grand dad and mom spoke in hushed voices, i was in total confusion,  slowly i saw a glimpse of a light in the dark, then slowly there were more lights, and i realized they were fire torches carried by few men, our cart slowed down. Now i could make out known faces, they were our villagers and few relatives, all of them were panting they must have come from a long way … they all surrounded our cart as we got down, after getting down i realized we had reached our village , we were now surrounded by villagers and they started to question my grand dad ” what happened? we just now heard the news… are you three fine?”

I was even more confused now, news.. what news…

before i could open my mouth, my grand dad spoke” oh no,no we are fine, it was just a sudden attack, luckily we escaped, they were the usual thieves from the near by forest,”

I was shocked , thieves! were we attacked by thieves? but before i could react, there were murmurs and every one spoke to every one…

some one said” okay okay lets get home ” my grand dad nodded in agreement and we all walked with the villagers and uncles to our home , after reaching home, every one sat in the veranda, my grand mom went inside to fetch water for every one , i was astonished to see the casual attitude of my grand mom , i sat  in the veranda  with others, i looked around and realized the absence of maayan, suddenly i was panicky … where was maayan? what happened to him? …

then, there was a commotion in the front yard, a villager told my grand dad” ah maayan has reached , without him we wouldn’t have known what happened..”

i was confused again…

my grand dad spoke softly “oh he was the one who protected us in the dark”

now things made sense.. so my grand dad knew it was a unsafe route and so he had kept maayan as a guard…and also left him to carry all the valuables… what if the thieves had hurt maayan? what if something had gone wrong? now i felt rage building up inside me against my grand dad… he suddenly seemed too selfish to me, i felt guilt spreading over my head on the sight of maayan who walked past us casually, as if nothing had happened, he gave his usual smile when his eyes met mine. I was so confused to even smile back.

One of my uncles said ” anyways its gud that you have maayan and he has you”

another agreed ” oh yeah he is quiet lucky to be with you ayya”

another chuckled ” of course who can feed him a barrel of rice other than you ayya?”

I could not handle this any more, what do these men feel, why are they so self centered? how can they be so insensitive… how can they even joke about a guy who had saved them?…..

i felt the building anger inside me, so i left the place and went in, i felt sober,sad and tiered all at once, felt thirsty as well so i went to the kitchen,

i lost my words when i saw maayan inside the kitchen,

he was eating there sitting on the floor .. my grand mom was serving him food from a huge barrel!

i tried hard to compose myself, yet my eyes moistened, i fought back tears,

my grand dad’s voice calling my grand mom shifted their attention to me,

both smiled at me, and my grand mom hurried to the veranda ,

i felt the warmth in maayan’s eyes, i felt really sad for him, at the same time i was mad with my grand dad,

something was not right, i felt i had to do something, i turned and looked, maayan was seriously indulging in finishing his barrel of rice.

i rushed to my room,and just sat there for how long i don’t remember… i lost track of time, suddenly my thoughts were disturbed my a knock on the door, it was my grand dad,

i turned my face off, but he came and sat near me, he softly spoke” hey little fellow”

i didn’t answer, i was so mad that i felt if i spoke i would spill my anger all over him,

but my grand dad patted my shoulder,  he spoke in the soft tone ” ravi, i know you are angry, but i seriously think you don’t understand…”

i intervened ” enough! i have seen it all , you are all so self centered, how can you be so cruel to a person like maayan, how can you treat him that way? why should he be carrying all the stuffs and what would have happened if he had got hurt by the thieves  you know they may attack right? why did you make him walk then?, why risk his life?”

my grand dad spoke after a few minutes of awkward silence ” yes my boy i understand your anger, but you see these are traditions , and more over no one can hurt maayan”

i got really frustrated after hearing this ” why? how can you be so sure about the fact that  he can not get hurt?”

“because he is the one who chose to walk all the way … he takes pride in doing his job.. you see” my grand dad said in a calm tone

i fumed ” are you trying to say maayan prefers pride than his life? and he likes risking his life to protect yours?”

he slowly replied ” yes my boy , i will tell you a story, listen carefully…”

i curtly said ” i don’t have time to hear your stories…”

my grand dad spoke ” no you need to hear this ”

something in his voice made me listen, so sat looking at his face he spoke

” i was around your age then, one day i woke up to my uncles and dad yelling at early hours. i saw a great commotion in our front yard,

when i went and saw i realized some one had stolen our bullock cart ,

you see ours was the village head family, so my father and uncles were furious to know that a thief was so arrogant to steal in our house,

so they formed a search party to catch the thief,

ravi, in those days the thieves lived in a separate village and they stole,

that was their job,

they believed that it was their birth right to steal.

they stole for their living.

So my uncles and dad reached the thieves village and searched for the thief .

You see finding a thief in that village was not a tough one, but finding the one who stole our cart would be impossible.

My uncles went in different directions and searched the village day and night, one of my uncle found a cart wheel on a wheel repair shop in that village,

when he observed the wheel, he identified that wheel as ours and so he asked the shop keeper , the shop keeper told him the address of the person who sold the wheel to him, when my dad and uncles reached to the address  they found a young lad of 20 who was sitting in his front yard, when he saw my dad and uncle he stood there staring at them.

When my uncle asked him about the robbery at our place, the young lads parents had come out and they had confessed that the boy had stolen the cart and sold all the parts. After realizing that the thief was a young boy my dad had pardoned him and left.

The next day the young lad had come to our front yard with our bullock cart ,

the lad spoke in a clear voice to my uncles and dad ” ayya i thought i had stolen smartly, but you found me… its not an easy thing to do so, i respect your smartness and i wish to work for you, I know was a thief but not any more”

My dad with out a second thought turned to my uncles and said ” to night  we have to visit our temple to seek blessings for our family jewels, bring the things and ask the lad to ride the bullock cart”

the lad said ” i will not ride the cart but will walk by the side of your cart carrying the boxes no thief will come near me and i can also be a guard ”

“okay fine ” said my dad and asked ” what is your name ”

“maayan, and one more thing ayya,i eat a barrel of rice ” grinned the lad

“so that’s the end of the story … ravi  ” finished my grand dad,

after a few seconds, i looked up at grand dad with pride, he nodded at me and patted my back

he left my room with out another word

i was speech less, i took some time to compose myself and when i reached downstairs things looked different to my eyes now, maayan was washing his hand in our back yard , when i went near him he beamed with his usual warm smile, I smiled back and said ” anna so it is true right?”

“what?” asked maayan

” that you eat a barrel of rice” i smiled

Maayan chuckeld happily and nodded ” yes little master it is true”

“so want a ride in the bullock cart?” asked maayan

I nodded swiftly and added  ” but anna i will ride”

(c) Abirami.k

Irony of Jammu’s legendary name…

every day we hear and read so many terror attacks in Jammu &kashmir,

recent sopore killings and riots…

and to the shooting of manzoor…

how long is this gonna go?

why aren’t we concerned? Have we gone numb to our fellow citizen’s suffering

is it bcos.. we are far away?

is it bcos we are  safe and @peace ?

is it bcos we have our own troubles?

The Wikipedia states….

According to legend, Jammu was founded by Raja Jamboolochan in the 14th century BC. During one of his hunting campaigns he reached the Tawi River where he saw a goat and a lion drinking water at the same place. The king was impressed and decided to set up a town after his name, Jamboo. With the passage of time, the name was corrupted and became “Jammu”.

At times i feel that India & Pakisthan  are just using Jammu – Kashimr as a political / communal scape goat…

In this issue we have to blame ourselves rather than politicians…

I feel India – the common people need to be aware of Kashmir’s pain.

who said reading habit is receding?-the heavier & lighter side of Chennai book fair

34th Chennai book fair… to me Chennai book fairs are always ….fascinating event… i have been to these fairs since i was a kid…

every year… my publishing house participates in the fair and in recent years  my books are displayed as  well,

so now i enjoy book fair as a publisher and a writer.

The personal response that i receive is really important for my further work.

so thats the basic picture.

this year we had a very good response as usual

some unique features were…

we had many new visitors… many first timers who ventured into the world of reading

Tamilputhakalayam @ chennai book fair

Tamilputhakalyam Dhagam Stall @ 34 chennai book fair

thats an inspiring change …

we had the usual regulars … they had a blast checking out the books sipping coffee

another thing i observed in the Chennai book fair was, we had a good response to Tamil books rather than english books and games dvd’s/cd’s.

most publishers said that poetry books did not received a good response… any ways thats not my area of interest 🙂

but serious political,history books rocked this year! –  a healthy growth that i welcome

on this note i need to point out one thing,

before few years we had a craze for historical  books… this was well pocketed by some  mushroom publishers … who published books with fancy titles on history,politics… these books were unimpressive.

i personally bought these books and felt cheated … for the books were very light… and so boring…

this year these books were well identified and omitted by the readers… that includes me as well:)

in contrast all the good books on history and politics had a great response…

how can we choose a good book from a bad one?

go by the author / publisher

have a glance at the writing style …

if you understand and find it  interesting,you are holding the best and  right book…

as usual famous historical novels were sold out

lifestyle books had a great response too…

children story books had a warm welcome this year… we had cute little curious visitors to our stall… 🙂

a serious book addict  @ tamilputhakalayam

a serious book addict @ tamilputhakalayam

curious little readers @ tamilputhakalayam stall

curious little readers @ tamilputhakalayam stall

a serious book addict  @ tamilputhakalayam

a serious book addict @ tamilputhakalayam

curious little readers @ tamilputhakalayam stall

curious little readers @ tamilputhakalayam stall

biographies were not that popular this time,

great news is lighter interest books had low response – cookery,beauty tips, books on astrology, etc

so over all its a happy picture  and we can now ask with a smile..

who said reading habit is receding?

okay now moving a bit off track… the canteen facility was no so tasty …

thanks to all the coffee/tea / popcorn stalls without them survival would have been tough 🙂

next new thing… the book fair pathways were named after famous creative writers and thinkers… poets Barathy, Barathydasan, Shelly, Tagore, Gandhiji etc

path ways named after poets/authors

path ways named after poets/authors

one thing that was bad was the flooring in the fair… it was terrible and many walkers slipped and fell to floor 😦

the evening events attracted very few visitors…

we had few unexpected visitors to our Tamilputhakalayam stall this year like  mr.maniratnam, mr.ila.ganesan -bjp , mr.sanjaysubramaniam, and some usual visitors like mr.pazha.karruppaia, mr.duraimurugan,mr.jagathratchagan,  and many more

mr.sanjaysubramaniam @ tamilputhakalayam stall @34th chennai book fair

திரு.ப.ழ .கருப்பையா - திரு.அகிலன் கண்ணன் தமிழ்ப்புதகாலயத்தில்

mr.pazha.karuppaia & mr.akilan kannan @ tamilputhakalayam stall @34th chennai book fair

Author Akilan’s books ,

Valgavilunthu gangai varai,

history & political books

fictions

lifestyle books/philosophy  – i am happy about the response my books received this year :)(yahooo000!)

k.abirami's lifestyle books

k.abirami’s lifestyle books

and our stall had descriptive posters ..among which the poster on corruption was well received by everyone.

KARPAGAM'S FLEX ON CURROPTION @ TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM

KARPAGAM’S FLEX ON CURROPTION @ TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM

our photo display file of our publication and authors ‘ ninaivalaigal ‘ grabbed every one’s attraction 🙂

tamilputhakalayam photo album

tamilputhakalayam photo album

we had a pongal pot display this year in our stall,

PONGAL POT @ TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM STALL CHENNAI BOOK FAIR

PONGAL POT @ TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM STALL CHENNAI BOOK FAIR

our bookmarks and pongal cards were well appreciated  🙂

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM BOOKMARKS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM BOOKMARKS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM PONGALGREETINGS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM PONGALGREETINGS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM POSTERS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM POSTERS

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM POSTERS ON POLICIES

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM POSTERS ON ITS POLICIES

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM BANNER-DRIVEWAY

TAMILPUTHAKALAYAM BANNER-DRIVEWAY

so we had a great time this year at the Chennai book fair

and there were the funny moments too …

when i was walking around the fair one cute liitle boy was yelling to his father ‘ actor surya’s picture ! surya’s picture’

the father was patiently explaining ‘ no its not surya .. its a real police’

the boy was ponting to his finger to an ips officer’s (who was dresses in his police attire)  poster in a book stall!  🙂

next comment was a parent seriously warning  his kid ‘ hey don’t entre into all the book stalls … most of the books are for writers… not for you… go into the stall that has books for you okay! ‘

the four year kid was bewildered by the warning… so was i 🙂

anyways it was so much fun….

by the way i bought loads of books …

mostly on sri lankan history

indian politics

folklore

atheism / religion/culture

Chinese revolution,

journalism

media

and a lots more…

Thieves…

Rain was becoming heavier and heavier… the splashing  sound of the downpour was echoing all around the house.

” amma..amma” Mariyamma called Kavya who was engrossed in the day’s morning paper.
Kavya slowly lifted her head from the news paper and looked at the middle aged woman.
Mariyamma was more than just a house maid, had been working in her family for more than 20 years… without her kavya’s daily routine would be a big mess.
That too after she had moved to this small village near by Thekadi…as assistant collector her life had become so hectic, that Kavya left all the house duties to mariyamma. The 45 years old woman who had all the experience of house keeping and took care of kavya so well, that kavya never missed her parents who were in Delhi.
‘ammma’ mariyamma’s voice brought back kavya’s thoughts
‘ what is it mariyamma?’
‘amma those villagers have come again asking for you’
kavya didn’t answer but thought to herself…’ what do i tell them now?… how long am i going to postpone this issue?’
with these thoughts kavya said ‘ mariyamma please tell them that  i will see them in 10 minutes’
mariyamma nodded her head and left…
kavya washed her face and and went out to  her house’s front yard… it was an old house, actually an antique bungalow too big for her, surrounded by trees and a small flower garden around the entrance and quiet a big back yard garden.
There were a dozen  villagers.. murmuring among themselves.. silence filled as they saw Kavya.
kavya greeted them all and they wished her back. she asked them to sit …
After every one had settled down, and all the formalities done , followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence  which was broken by one villager an elderly man.
He spoke with a hint of exhaustion  ‘ madam… as you know our problem is getting worse every day…’
another young man added ‘ amma we had complained so many times but the police is not taking any action…
the elder guy added ‘ we don’t know what to do amma… our daily life depends on the river…as you know…’
kavya nodded her head and said in a concerned tone  ‘ yes yes .. i know and i understand your problems… i will do what ever possible at the earliest …i too have clearly explained your issues to the collector… he said he will take action…
she paused and looked around the poor villagers… and said with some determined look ‘ i will meet the higher officials today, iam sure we will get justice soon
the old man now said ‘ madam… we all trust you… please help us … that is all we can ask… what else? the panchayath officer is of no help.. he is on their side…. ‘
kavya softly spoke to few villagers in person and finally they all left .
When she came in mariyamma looked quiet upset, she spoke to Kavya in her own authoritative tone as usual ‘ amma why are you asking these people to come home? after all you have just few spare hours at home to relax… these villagers they come daily with one problem or another…’
kavya smiled at mariyamma and said ‘ come on mariyamma.. these villgaers are so poor they have so many problems… ok leave that.. please make my break fast ready i have to go to office earlier today…’
mariyamma sighed and left …
kavya swiftly finished her break fast and reached her office…
she called the secretary ‘ when will sir come today Manikam?’
Manikam the elderly man humbly said ‘ madam sir has not yet come, iam not sure if he will come today…he said he has an important work today’
  ‘i am tiered with this collector… he is always busy with his own personal work, today he might be busy with his new guest house construction work… or he might be busy with the minister’s celebration party…. here we have so many problems to attend to …but collector Narasimman always has something more important to worry about… ‘ Kavya thought.. to herself…
these thoughts made kaviya tiered…
her thoughts were disturbed by the knock on the door…
peon Mani promptly brought a cup of coffee which kaviya was badly needing…
‘thank you mani…’said kavya.
mani wished her and turned to leave  the room… suddenly he turned back  and hesitated for a moment..
kaviya sipped her coffee and looked questioningly at mani…
yes mani what is it?
Mani came back to her desk and hesitantly said
‘madam…please forgive me for insisting…but that river issue…. madam ….we need to do something madam…’
Kaviya sighed… ‘yes Mani.. i know… don’t be disheartened  i will do something about it…
Mani tried to smile and wished her and left the room.
Kaviya’s thoughts travelled few months behind….
it was a bright day and she had just settled down in her office…
collector Narasimman had been explaining about the next day’s works to her… suddenly there was some noise out side.. first it was feeble but latter kaviya heard high pitched voices and some one was talking loudly…
she and the collector went out to know, what that commotion was all about.
Peon Mani was surrounded by few villagers and he was  in tears!
Collector indifferently asked  ‘Mani what is all this mess?! what happened?’
Mani just stood there sobbing… a villager said ‘ Sir… Mani’s son and few other teenagers who went for boating at the river drowned!We all came here to tell this to Mani.…’
The collector intervened and said in a matter of fact tone.. ‘ ok ok.. just take mani and leave now.. don’t create a scene here…’
But one villager was furious ‘ sir… but this is the third time ….! already with in two months 3 boats had drowned….in the river bed…. he yelled,sir… please… do some thing about the sand thieves…. we have complained so many times to you…sir…’
The collector didn’t even bothered to look at the guy he just said ‘now…. every one leave now… this is no place to do your silly acts… we will take action..now first take Mani home’
Then there were just murmurs and the villagers left with Mani… except for a young villager who was furious…and was trying to talk to the collector…
Kaviya was stunned as she watched all this in silence…
the collector ignored the young villager and turned to Manikam and said…’ go fetch me my files iam off for today…
he then turned to Kaviya and said ‘check all the files that i had been talking about and send to my desk tomorrow‘ not waiting for Kaviya’s reply.. he moved quickly to his car.
Kaviya was shaken by all that had happened so quickly…
she looked at the villager who was still standing at the corridor…
she called him to her room…he hesitantly followed her,
kavya looked at him kindly… he was a young fellow his face was furious with anger … yet he was trying hard to be calm ….she made him sit and in a concerend voice asked ‘ yes tell me who are you and what is the problem?
the villager hesitantly spoke, now in a softer tone but he was emotional,’ my name is Jeeva iam a fisherman in this village…
Murugan …. Murugan  is my friend… he is Mani’s son….today when his boat drowned… i was the one who picked him up… i tried hard but…. ‘the guy stopped abruptly.
Kaviya understood .. and nodded concernedly…
Jeeva continued  after a while… ‘ but madam… this is not the first time ….
even last month two boats drowned in this river… 5 men died….
as you know this is all because of that Paranthaman and his men … he is stealing the river bed sand…
he has been doing this for a long time… he also owns so many lorries and he carries the sand from the river at nights…
we have launched so many complaints against him.. but no action has been taken…
he is a friend of the village panchayat officer…. and also close to the local M.P and has lots of friends in police department too.
madam due to this.. the fishes in the river are reducing… we can hardly make a living …
the drinking water wells are going dry
and we have so many boat accidents….
and this collector is not doing anything about this…
what can the villagers do madam?” the youngster had calmed down a bit.
Kaviya observed Jeeva calmly and she understood the youngster’s rightful anger…
She herself felt irritated by the collector’s indifference…
she spoke encouragingly to Jeeva and promised him that she would do what ever possible about this issue …on that Jeeva left wishing Kaviya.
Latter that day she visited Mani’s grieving family, mani was heart broken and his family were in tears
and from then on kaviya  collected all the details about the illegal sand mining issues.
she took extra effort to convince the collector to take action against the sand stealer.  Her interest on the problem brought  little hope in the minds of the distressed villagers.. so they came to her home often and shared their grievances with her.
All these thoughts filled kaviya’s mind …. she lost track of time and only when manikam came knocking on her door she realized that it was way past her office hours.
As she entered her residence,Kavya saw a small crowd in front of her home.
she anxiously went in pushing away the small gathering… Mariyyamma was standing in the front yard.. two neighbor women were talking with her as they saw kaviya they moved away with respect…
kaviya asked hastily ‘ what happened mariyyamma?
mariyamma quickly responded ‘ amma today again the elephants created a big mess at our back yard..  the fat thieves…. i was washing clothes… suddenly two small elephants ran into our back yard from the river…they ate all our plantains…and they made such a horrible noise that all our neighbors came out! and they helped me chase the little devils off our yard…
kaviya’s anxiousness faded immediately, she was relived after mariyyamaa’s explanation.
she smiled and went in, mariyamma quickly followed kaviya in disappointment ,
and said ‘ amma.. how many times i have told you.. just do something about the elephants….
they are a big nuisance here… see yesterday the small elephant dragged next house kamal’s Saree…!
can you believe it…
and today… this….
i hope some hunter catches these elephants….
i heard from our milk vendor .. that these elephants spoil the crops it seems…
they are a big nuisance i tell you….‘ mariyyamma seriously complained with innocence.
kavya smiled and said ‘ mariyamma… why are you getting so upset? they are poor animals why should we bother them… ok ..now you don’t worry let me talk to the watch man and we will find a way out …’
mariyyammma was convinced after kaviya’s promise and she left for her room in peace.
These days every one in the village had some incidents with the elephants… the tuskers seemed to be amused by disturbing the villagers…
latter that day kavya called the watch man and said ‘ balu anna have an eye on the back yard.. better build a fence or something by next week… so that the elephants trouble may reduce…’
Balu the watch man agreed to this swiftly by saying ‘ yes amma … i will finish those works by next week
After her dinner… kavya was sitting in the veranda,,, in her head the words of peon mani was ringing.. again and again… ‘ but that river issue…. madam ….we need to do something madam…’
simultaneously the collectors cold, indifferent voice echoed in her mind as well ‘ see miss.kavya these issues needs time to settle down.. and more over the villagers are exaggerating things… these silly people are careless and they get into accidents but they blame good businessmen like  Mr.Paranthaman…so just leave the matter for now’
when kavya was persistent about the sand mining the collector got really mad…
he curtly said ‘ how many times i have told you kavya.. this issue is not in my disposition, i don’t want any more pestering from you or from the villagers’
Kavya had tried to solve the problem by police but that too was not working out, due to political pressures…
was jeeva’s, mani’s and the rest of the villager’s  complaints are just exaggeration?
isn’t the lives of the people who are drowning in the river important?
how will the villagers survive with the water scarcity?
and what will happen to the village when they have storms and the river bed overflows …
even the elephants around the river bed are venturing into the villages due to lack of water….
all due to the illegal sand mining….
amma.. amma” mariyamma’s voice brought kaya to the present.
she looked around to see mariyyama at the door step…mariyamma looked tiered after the days work,
kavya smiled warmly ‘ mariyamma you go to bed… i will come latter
mariyyamma protested ‘ amma its already late, you better get in and take some rest…its cold … you may get sick.. so please do come in
Kavya knew mariyamma would not allow her to sit outside anymore… the house rules by mariyamma were pretty strict .
so she followed mariyamma .. and she quickly slept … until some one was banging the front door of the house
By the time Kavya went out.. mariyamma was speaking to some one out side…
it was Jeeva standing out side … when he saw kavya he smiled at her and wished her…
greetings amma… you know what… that Paranthaman… his son was found dead in the river bank…!’
kavya was shocked to hear this…she stammered ‘ what… what happened?
Jeeva explained ‘ amma yesterday night Paranthaman’s son and his men went to  the river bed as usual to steal the sand…but they were attacked by the elephants … the elephants didn’t allow them to come near the river…Paranthaman’s son tried to wade  the elephants but the elephants  attacked him . More over the elephants didn’t allowed the sand miners near the river it seems!
only in the morning the elephants moved away…
Jeeva stopped as the phone rang…
kavya heard the anxious voice of the collector at the other end
hope you know the news.. Paranthaman’s son is dead… they say, he was attacked by the elephants…  i am at Paranthaman’s place… so you just take the necessary action …. i want the elephants to be tackled by tonight…
kavya intervened and said  ‘but sir… what elephants…? there are no
indication of any elephants by the villager’s reports… i think Paranthaman is just exaggerating things sir… the eye witnesses here says that like many earlier drowning this too is an accident ‘
 the line went dead on the other side…
Jeeva looked up at her and gave a warm smile with gratitude.
Kavya was getting ready mariamma  came to her and said ‘ amma ask  Balu to bring some plantains for the tuskers’
Kavya smiled at her knowingly.

India’s Pride

It was a bright sunday noon …

Priya was waving good bye to her mom, dad, uncle ,3 brothers, 4 nephews and 6 cousins at the Mumbai air port.

Mom was trying hard to control her tears and dad was concerned and kept reminding Priya about her safety…

Priya rolled her eyes… ‘come on guys… why are you all making a big fuss… I will be fine… cheer up’ .

It was her day after all.. her dream had came true… She was leaving  for her higher studies to the U.S.A

Priya was always considered the most talented and was loved by her family.

She was the long awaited only girl child of the big family which was blessed with too much  of male kids.

When Priya excelled in her school finals and her teacher had advised her to join in some foreign university  which was ready to give her a scholarship for  her under graduation… Priya was too ready to take it … but her dreams crashed..

when all her family members felt this as an insult rather than a happy moment. Her uncle had yelled ‘ How dare can that teacher even suggest such a silly thing… are we beggars to send our only daughter to some remote place! and that too for free education!… how stupid!’ every one agreed … to Priya’s dismay.

Most of all her grand dad took it hard… ‘ I was a freedom fighter…. now our daughter wants to  live abroad!’

he created such a drama that the plan of sending Priya even to a hostel  at next city was dropped.

She was sent to a nearby college as a day scholar with all facilities , which made her grand dad so happy that he left earth at peace after an year.

After finishing her 3 years degree at her home town, Priya finally had courage to apply to few universities in U.S and she got through in most of the universities. This time grand dad the family drama king’s absence had made things easy for her.. Priya begged,cried and did all things she could do to convince her kin and kith… and finally she got permission, though most of them disliked her decision of going abroad.

Thus here she was at the air port bidding farewell to her family, her aunts were missing here..  for they didn’t had ‘ so much guts to see their girl leaving’ …

Priya gave a final wave and went into her flight.

She was so relieved and she was doing what she wanted to do… now on she will be on her own…  her dreams will become real and she will make her family proud.. may be they will visit her for her next vacation…

with these thoughts Priya didn’t realized that she had slept until she  woke, by then her plane had landed on Chicago …

Once she was out of  air port, Priya was breathing the chilled fresh air.. she felt so happy…

I am in USA! the thought some how made her happy…  few steps closer to my dream….Priya was thrilled…

soon she settled smoothly at her college and her roommates were very helpful… all three of them belonged to her state so she had no  problem what so ever.

By then her family had called her every day confirming if she was ok… adding to this she had  numerous emails from her cousins and messages from the nephews and aunts.

Only by her first semester’s completion, where her family got satisfied about her safety and became less anxious…. leaving her at peace.

Priya had excelled in her studies and she was so happy with her progress…

It was 15th august and her college had arranged for an Indian student’s association’s Independence day celebration.

Priya was all geared up for the function she was the first to enter into the club hall . Priya sat there thinking, she was holding a pen…  Independence day had always been special for her,she was always a proud Indian…

on an Independence day few years back when she was a small kid her grand dad had gifted her a pen and had said

‘ Priya… here is a gift for you… every time you see this pen, you must remember your country… do you know this is a very special pen… It was given by Netaji to me…!

yes…. he himself gave this pen to me when he left from burma… I was working as an officer under him in his Indian national army…

just remember you are born in a free india… this freedom has come to you with a cost… you must repay to this country… so do something that will make the country proud..ok? ‘

Priya had nodded her head.. she was speechless that day, Priya had always kept that pen safely… she was so proud holding it even now … it had always reminded her of her duty… she is a proud Indian…

she had faced so much resistance to come here.. just to prove herself and to make her country proud…

she will finish her education, will return to India to work and make her country a better place. That was her dream from childhood,that dreams going to be true in few years…

her thoughts were interrupted  by the sudden sound… just then Priya had realize that the hall was filled by students and the celebrations had begun…

before she could take it all…. she didn’t understand what was going on ….

the Indian students who had gathered were dancing to a vulgar film song at high volume!

now fully aware of her environment.. Priya just sat there in a corner stunned … the students were  wearing shorts and t.shirts with Indian flags painted  on them… and few even were half naked – had flags painted on their face , back ….

two guys were holding the Indian flag upside down and were jumping .. Priya realized they were drunk!

Priya just stood there starring at them…. taking it all in.

She felt earth moving under her legs… felt weak … suddenly she held her pen tight in her hands… as if taking her support from it.

‘Iam a proud Indian… i have come here to make my dream…..’ she couldn’t finish her thoughts.. anger swelled in her…

she left the hall… even though she was now far away from the sound… the images she just witnessed was haunting her like a bad dream….

she lifted her head and shook it and walked briskly to her room.

‘hey… hey… come on …. every one.. Priya is on TV…. ‘ Priya’s family was glued to  the TV. ‘Here is a special show on  award winning Indian author….Miss .Priya  India’s Pride’

Priya was watching the show along with her family sipping her tea… smiling to herself…. holding her pen….

she was watching herself say on tv ‘ yes i discontinued my masters degree in USA…..

no.. no regrets at all…

….. yeah iam a proud Indian…’

tamilputhakalayam-abirami.k-dinamani -interview-28/3/2010

My dinamani interview link:

http://www.dinamani.com/edition/story.aspx?SectionName=Sunday%20Kondattam&artid=218638

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