Pasumai Niraindha Ninaivugale (It was the best of times…)

Signs of spring everywhere.   It feels like the whole city’s dynamics is suddenly different.  Pulsing, alive, expectant.  My tulips are in bloom.  My daughter is home.  Hah…that almost rhymed.

We survived her 1st year of college, away from home.  She survived.  She is a more confident, more independent version of herself after the past 8 months.  She has promised to spend time with us…already planning evenings of playing euchre, literature, scrabble, or watching our favorite shows as a family – House, How I met your mother, Big Bang Theory…  Spring is my most favorite season – a time for rejuvenation and hope.  The darkness of the winter past buried with the snow – laid to rest for now.

When I think of my younger self, and good times, Pondicherry beach always tops the list. Followed by, in no particular order: waiting for the children’s magazine “Gokulam” every Thursday and fighting with my sister to lay my hands on it first (loved the Vikramaditya stories – still do with a passion – they are THE BEST – he’s my hero, hands down!), fun with my cousins playing ‘ezhu kal’, Trade (Monopoly for those in the US), being able to see the beach from the mottai maadi (terrace) of the house in Pondy.

(I remember believing the grown-ups when they told us we couldn’t go to the beach on Sundays because it was closed but that’s a whole other story about my naivete or stupidity as some people would say)

I also grew up in a family that loved stories. My mom fed us dinner with stories of  Cinderalla, some version of the Beauty and the Beast, a story about 3 sisters Rupavathi, Kalavathi and Gunavathi. (No prizes for guessing their character traits, and who sticks with her father when he’s old and broke!)  She didn’t have access to a lot of resources, and spent her life taking care of her family – I am amazed that she knew these stories because I don’t think her mother (my paati, Perambur paati as we called her) couldn’t have told her either.  (note to self: ask amma about this).

I was the chosen company for my Purasawalkam patti (paternal paati) when she went to the ‘katha kalakshebams’ at the temple during summers. (I think the real reason was no one else wanted to go).  And came to love the stories of Ramayana and other Indian mythology.

My dad’s stories were fun and action-filled animal stories from Panchatantra – complete with sound effects.  The crow in the ‘Paati – vadai – kaka’ story always sang ‘chowdvi kaa chand ho’ when the cunning fox asked it to sing, to steal the vadai.

I have continued this with my kids.  I’ve told them stories – some made up, some read from books.  They both until very recently would ask me shamelessly to read or tell them stories at bed time J (seriously though, I don’t think one is ever too old for stories…)

I loved the beach – the Gandhi statue which was (is?)  the landmark of the Pondicherry beach, with the narrow steps leading down to the beach, the ‘pattani sundal’ with the tart mango pieces and chillies.  To this day, the ocean calms me down.   Whenever I’m stressed seriously, I crave the ocean – the salty air, the never-ending blue shimmering in the sun, the deafening roar of the crashing waves.  It’s a meditative experience – I always come back recharged, refreshed and my creative juices flowing.

Then once we moved to Chennai in my 9th grade, life was different.   I took a while to come into my own and went through some confusing and difficult times.  Then came my +2 years.  We were a group of 8 girls who hung out all the time together – Padma and Shanti who were almost like twins, Rajni and Chandra the quietest, sweetest and the nerdiest, Mythili and me who were best friends for those 2 years, and Rachel, and Usha, a super tall, super skinny Telugu girl who brought really hot Andhra food for lunch. I loved her tomato rice and she would bring a whole separate box just for me on days she brought the tomato rice. Trying to get into the lunch boxes before the lunch hour was the greatest accomplishment we looked forward to every day.

We argued about everything – Who was a better music director (Ilayaraja or M S V), better director (Balachander or Bharathi Raja), sexier actor (Kamal or Rajni), everything under the sun. Debates with our Commerce teacher (Zeenat) would get pretty heated …I remember one particular one – is footwear a necessity? This one went on for a long time. Ms Zeenat, vivacious and young, encouraged us to be open about everything.

I remember reading (and crying over) ‘Love Story’ by Erich Segal at school under the tree we used to hang out at, during a free period.  ( I watched it recently – and kinda surprised – it did nothing for me…)

 And of course, guys. There were 2 handsome guys who came to audit the accounts at our all girls, Christian missionary school – one short and handsome, and the other tall and handsome. They had close to a mob worship going on considering it was an all-girls school.  Nothing happened – just a lot of ogling.  But that was our big thrill back in those days. Of course, we were all seriously obsessed with cricket. I was ‘in love’ with Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricketer (later married an English girl…sigh…)….Wonder what he’s up to now.

College was more subdued, but still fun. My best years were my 11th and 12th grades. I was close to Rachel, and kept in touch until a few years ago. Those were the carefree days. You could forget all your troubles when you’re with your friends. We could solve all the world’s problems – nothing was out of reach.  So idealistic, rebellious, impractical!

It was the best of times!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ssjayaraman
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 12:09:17

    hi latha

    i read ur younger days sories wherein u have very nicely recollected ur mother feeding u and giving stories what a nice recollection and grateful thinking from u aboout mom she is STILL




  2. Vijaya Ramaswami
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 20:33:12

    Very good flow of thoughts! Keep it up!
    But in my case I always enjoy life- the different periods had different types of happiness.



  3. Vijaya Ramaswami
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 20:54:05

    Pity, Couldn’t drag Rajagopal in this!



    • sri
      Apr 28, 2010 @ 21:05:02

      Dear maami,
      Thank you….I do agree with you that different periods had different emotions.
      I tried really hard to drag Rajagopal but very hard considering I hadn’t even met him or knew of him… maybe could have written a parallel universe story with Raj’s teenage years..



  4. Vidhya
    May 03, 2010 @ 23:41:06

    Definitely Ninaithalae Innikum……… I love Vikram stories too..and yes i was in love with him as Akbar and Birbal, Thenaliraman, Kurangu Kusala (a funny little cartoon story that comes in a tamil news paper)..Appusamy stories! I talk about them so much, my daugther started reading it and now we have a collection of Akbar Birbal and Thenaliraman at home…till date i don’t get bored reading them over and over again. When we lived in T.Veli, our next door athai subscribed Ambulimama and i was always the first one to read it even before her own kids would get to read it.

    and YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSs.. i fell in love when i saw Imran’s pic in a magazine for the first time. I was very disappointed and heartbroken when i read a gossip abt Imran’s affair with Mun-Mun-Sen.We didn’t have TV until I was in high school so didn’t get to watch cricket so much and even if we did, I don’t think i would have watched cricket since i am not that much into sports..needless to say if you ever see me watching a sport that means I am checking out the hot ones!!!!!!!!!!!!LOL! Really I just don’t have the passion for sports..and don’t understand why players get paid sooo much. On the other hand I am married to a sports maniac!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh! those stories from my paternal can I ever forget those .I would pester her for stories so late at night that her version of Ramayana somehow mingled with Mahabarata. Knowing the mixup, I would laugh so hard that next morning neighbors would stop and ask what made me laugh so much at such late hour. And pretty please add me and my daughter to your list shameless people who beg for stories!

    My childhood friend Kamini and I were really popular in the street. We got away with every mischief we did. Till date I wonder where she is at and what she looks like..hope i get to see her sometime..somewhere !!!!!!!!!!We played cricket with her brother (Srikanth anna) and his friends. They hated us playing with them…since we had the whole street supporting us they had no choice but to put up with our tantrums!
    Mini and I played “pretend teacher” on Sunday afternoons. We both had our mom’s saree (they finally gave us a play saree after figuring out that if they didn’t we would mess up their entire armoire looking for our fav saree) and a really long stick or ruler to beat up on the kids(of course kids were imaginary and we pretty much beat up the bare floor! and trust me..this behavior is pretty normal when you are student in an Convent!)….adding to that we wrote on the street wall too since we figured street wall = black board! We were threatened by a really old “thatha” who lived on the same street that the cops were going to arrest us for messing up the walls..and like we even cared…instead we prayed together that God should forgive him for his meanness and that he should go to heaven! Love reminiscing those innocent childhood days! Wish i could live them one more time! Just one more time!

    Ha! ha! Secretly starring at cute guys and giggle..been there done that!

    Oh yes! Gandhi statue still exists in Pondy.My chithappa lives in Pondy and his son said “Akka you know something…no Kaka will sit on this statue!’…i turned around and said “Yenda..intha statuela yethavathu chemical mix panirukangala that keeps the kaka away??” he stared at me for a moment and said “Athellam onum illai..Gandhi thatha kayila stick vechirukkaruilla..athanalathan oru bird kooda intha statue mela ukkarathu”….having said that he started rolling on the floor laughing..i was watching him helplessly! So yes….Gandhi statue still exists in Pondy!

    School days were pretty hectic in India..homework, weekly tests, monthly tests, quarterly exams….whew!!!! but truly those were the best of times! I tell P to enjoy it while it lasts!

    Sweet memories never fade! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to your next blog!
    BTW, flirting hasn’t changed a bit since Chozha period..has it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    • sri
      May 13, 2010 @ 20:38:37

      hi Vidya,
      don’t know how I missed this comment – just saw today!! Nice to hear about your childhood’s fun!!
      how’s it going with Ponniyin Selvan? Once I got past vol 1, I had to read all 5 immediately, without break!! Kalki is King!!



  5. Mythili
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 10:28:47

    Hi Srilatha,

    I am amazed at how u remember those things(esp the arguments with Zeenat…btw i had forgotten the topic, and what for those 2 guys had come…) we did in class xi and xii…those days were awesome, no doubt

    I clearly remember ur crush/infatuation for Imran, those 2 guys , we even liked an inane actor called Shankar…yuck !!! and those endless arguments..there was another SPB Vs KJ yesudas…remember!!

    We did a lot of crazy things…read a lot of James Hadley Chase books…really those days were great and so much of fun…can go on and on…

    Really…Facebook zindabad…u wont believe for the past two days, the memories are just flooding me..nonstop



  6. srilatha
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 10:40:46

    oh yeah Shankar!! the one film wonder hero of T Rajendar’s ‘Oru Thalai Ragam’….man!! did we all watch that movie together at Roxy theather?????



  7. Mythili
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 10:56:36

    yes, u all had parents did not let me 😦



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