By the time I finished 12 years of formal schooling, I had studied in 8 schools spread over 6 towns/cities of India. I did not attend nursery or kindergarten having been home-schooled by my mother, father, and older brothers till I joined Uttari Bharat Sabha’s (UBS) English High School in Bhandup, Mumbai. UBS was my first school and also the school that I studied for the maximum number of years in.
I was 5-and-a-half when joined UBS in the middle of first term after a painless admission process where neither I nor my parents were interviewed. I was asked for my name, date of birth, and home address, and once satisfied that I could communicate verbally, I was deemed admitted to the school and escorted to my class by the school principal. My parents were asked to take care of mundane formalities like paying the fees, getting my uniform, books, etc., etc.
An English class was in progress when we arrived. I must have been introduced to the class, the teacher, and shown to my seat, but I don’t remember any of this. All I remember now is the teacher’s warm welcoming smile. The teacher was Rachel Kurien. Even after all these years, when I think of Rachel Kurien or Rachel teacher as we kids called her, it is her smile that instantly comes to my mind.
Class I A. I am the pouty, sulky looking girl seated extreme left in the first row, all because I wasn't seated next to Rachel Kurien (centre) ;-)
(a) is primarily a travelogue,
(b) is also a concise literary, spiritual, religious, mythological, and political history of the region,
(c) is part autobiographical, and
(d) includes a description of taming wild elephants, a folk tale and a one-act play.
The cover illustration is by R.K. Laxman
The book that I am talking about here is R.K. Narayan’s (RKN) The Emerald Route, which is the outcome of the author’s travels along with R.K. Laxman, his brother and the famous cartoonist, through the length and breadth of Karnataka.
First published in 1977 by the Director of Information and Publicity, Government of Karnataka, and then by Penguin India in 1999, I recently bought the latter edition on the recommendation of Smeedha, a friend.
RKN chose to title his book “The Emerald Route” for one important reason—he did not encounter even a single dry patch during the first phase of his tour from Mysore through Hunsur and Hassan and back. He says:
There is political correctness and then there is political correctness, but of the absurd kind. Wishing people Happy Holidays, instead of Merry Christmas belongs to the latter category. In the mistaken spirit of secularising everything for fear of offending those not celebrating the festival, the whole idea of wishing someone has been trivialized.
Christmas at Covent Garden, London December 2008. I will always remember this Christmas for the lovely music played at street corners, for walks in brightly lit streets of London, and of course drinking mulled wine :-)
My parents and I visited the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, in December 2005. We couldn’t have chosen a worse time as it was raining heavily and there a flood alert as well. The upside was this had deterred a lot of tourists and we arrived to a practically deserted temple at around 8.30 in the morning. Needless to say, I was delighted at the lack of people around.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Brihadeeshwara Temple Complex is very well maintained and remains, to this day, one of the most beautiful and cleanest temples that I have seen. The temple, which celebrated in 1000th anniversary earlier this year, is huge and yet, very compact and intimate.
I took many photographs of the Temple, but the one featured here is my favourite as the wet temple ground as well as the perspective add a mysterious depth to this magnificent temple. Don’t you think so?
One morning in early November, about 2 years back, I decided to go for a walk. At that time, I was living in London. I didn’t have to go too far as Regent’s Park was next door to where I was staying.
I took my camera with me as I intended to photograph some of the beautiful trees in the park, particularly those trees, which had exposed a stunningly symmetrical structure after shedding all their leaves (see photo on the left).
After a leisurely stroll through the Park, I arrived at the place where I had noticed these trees. There was no one else nearby, save an elderly man who was well wrapped up against the cold. As I overtook him, I murmured a “Good Morning” to which I received a acknowledging nod.
I moved towards the trees and was soon clicking away. After a few minutes, I sensed someone close by watching me. I turned around to see that the elderly man, I had just greeted, had walked up to see what I was photographing.
He asked me gruffly, “Young lady, why are you photographing that tree? It’s bare !”
I was introduced to board games as a child by my maternal paati (grandmother in Tamil), Meenakshi R. She loved them and could spend the whole day playing different games with her grandchildren or whoever was free and willing. I wasn’t always free, but I was always willing :-)
We played games like pallankuzhi (a traditional game played with shells and cowries), ludo, snakes and ladders, etc. If I ever got bored playing the same games, she would quickly improvise games on the floor with some pieces of chalk, some string, and other odds and ends that would magically appear from her cupboard. The games were never just games—they were also stories, anecdotes, strategies, wins and losses, all delivered while playing.
Paati died when I was 8, and after her death, playing board games was never the same again—none of my family members or friends could match her enthusiasm and delight for the games. Besides, with school and other growing up activities, playing board games took a back seat.
I resumed my love affair with board games some years back after a chance visit to The Design Store in Bangalore. Tucked away amongst all their furniture and furnishings and knickknacks, was a shelf displaying traditional games from Kreeda. One of the games was Parama Pada Sopanam. Intrigued by the name, I opened the display pack.
Top: The "boxed" game. Bottom: The box opens to reveal a little cloth pouch containing little wooden counters, two elongated metal dies, and an information booklet (not in picture)