Of feathers and caps

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost two months now. I haven’t posted it because…well…it felt a bit like blowing my own trumpet and I am not a big fan of doing that. I actually feel quite uncomfortable when I am in the limelight and turning the spotlight on myself is very out of character. But, it seems that I have done something I should be proud of so, here goes nothing.

But perhaps a little background before I get on with it: There was a time when I thought if I failed to have a successful conventional career by the time I hit the mid forties, I would be a writer. So, in the early 2000’s, I compiled all the pieces of poetry and short essays I had written since I was a young school girl, typed and printed them out and had them spiral bound – to keep for eternity. Like many other things, over the next decade, it lay collecting dust until one day during a bout of spring cleaning, I chanced upon it and carried it to the husband’s place to read. But, I left the book unattended and I suppose with a bright blue cover and a title that reads “The Literary Works of Preeti Farias – Part I“, I can’t really blame the mother-in-law for taking a look. The in-laws read all those little bits of me and declared their daughter-in-law had talent. (If I could translate the degree of embarrassment I felt as they read that spiral bound book of mine into words I would be a stellar writer…but I can’t yet. So you will have to imagine it for me.)

Flash forward now, to a couple of months ago: The father-in-law is the principal of a degree college here in Mangalore, but it’s new; and in all its shiny newness, no one had written a college anthem for it. Remembering my little collection of poems, guess who he suggested write the lyrics? That’s right…little-ol’-hardly-the-right-person-for-the-job me! I, of course, flatly refused a bunch of times. I mean an anthem has to have a forever quality about it. It has to be special and while I am hoping to one day be otherwise, at present, I am an average poet/lyricist/story-teller/writer/blogger at best! But with their unwavering faith in my ability (which I think could be deeper than my belief in myself), they wouldn’t let up. Finally, realizing that there was no way out, I agreed and typed up a couple of verses one morning.

I sent the email to the in-laws almost sure that they would be disappointed and hopefully find a real lyricist never asking me to do something like that again when my phone buzzed. I’d received a message from the mother-in-law. They really liked it. They were going to use it!! Needless to say, I sat gaping at my phone doing an absolutely brilliant goldfish impression for a good long while…

With hardly any editing, the verses which I thought extremely silly were converted into a chorus and stanzas and at the college annual day at the end of February, the anthem was sung.

Since I couldn’t attend the function in person, the in-laws brought a scroll with the anthem lyrics embroidered on it for me to keep, all gushing with pride while I turned as red and hot in the face as I did when the husband kissed me in public for the very first time!

Like I said, being the lyricist to a college anthem is something I should be proud of. Everyone else certainly seems to think it’s some sort of achievement. So here’s a picture of the feather in my otherwise bare cap! (I know it isn’t the greatest picture…but if I am an average everything else; I suppose I am a below average photographer.)

Anthem

 

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UBC1: And it rained!

I am at my parents house in Mangalore, in the middle of major packing. Major because I’m moving to Manama on Friday and can’t believe I have so many things, especially when I never seem to have anything to wear!! But, just when I was getting nice and comfortable in Bangalore, I’ve had to say goodbye and walk down a new path. However, that’s another story…maybe for tomorrow.

Packing, for those of you who don’t know, is tiring work and I don’t mean just physically. It is mentally exhausting. The sorting and the deciding –  things to take, things to leave, things to give away and things I can’t believe I actually bought! I did so much clearing and cleaning up that I saw the back and bottom of my cupboard for the first time in over a decade and it was not a pretty sight!

Mangalore has also been unkind to me. There have been regular annoying power-cuts, the heat and humidity have been almost unbearable and to top the list there were no rains!!! I was hoping to enjoy the monsoons this year and the cool weather it brings. But, the weatherman said that the rains had been delayed till Saturday, the 5th, and wouldn’t you know it…for once, he seemed to be right! Till yesterday, there was not a cloud in the sky. But today…today, look at what rolled in!?!

Clouds!!!! View outside my house at about 2 in the afternoon!!

They are my favourite kind too! Dense, grey and water laden. It has been raining almost all day and the weather is finally pleasant.

Thank you God for giving me one last beautiful rainy day to enjoy before I go to the desert on Friday.

Time to curl up with some hot tea, fried munchies and a good book….mmmm….
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Our furry friends

When we moved back to India from the U.A.E, one of the things my brother and I insisted on was having a pet. We were moving into an IMG_20120604_130153apartment and so didn’t think it would be fair on a dog if we were to get one and we didn’t really want to keep fish so, we decided to get a cat….and a black one at that! We were thrilled when we heard a family friend of ours had a cat that had just had two black ones among her larger litter of kittens. My mother, for some reason, wanted a female kitten. So, when we went to pick our newest addition to the family, the guy who had the cats picked up one of two little black kittens, turned it upside down and said, “Here, this one is female.” So we christened our little one Buffy (after the vampire slayer 😉 ) and brought home our new pet…

It was a couple of weeks later when we learnt that she was indeed a he. But, by then, he was Buffy and to this day, ten years later, Buffy he remains. We, my husband and I don’t have a pet here because we travel back and forth from Bangalore to Mangalore so much but, if we could….I would love to have a cat or a dog…and I’ll tell you some of the reasons why:

1. A pet loves you unconditionally. You can yell at them and ignore them for a while and even discipline them when they do something you don’t like but they will never hold a grudge. They will still come to you to be petted. I remember that every time I’ve been sick at home, Buffy would come and lie at the foot of my bed to keep me company…he is a cat, and he still worries about me…. 🙂

2. He is the ultimate stress-buster. There aren’t many things more de-stressing than playing with a pet. There is just something about them which helps ebb away all the tension you feel after a hard day. I’ve cried to Buffy when I’ve been sad and he has allowed me to squish him and cry on him without protest until I felt better.

3. You can sound off your most ridiculous ideas to your pet and he or she will NEVER laugh at you…just look at you and listen to you patiently. It’s a confidence booster to have someone listen to you like that…really!

4. There are studies that say that children who grow up with pets, grow into more responsible adults because they learn how to take care of another living being and other studies that say they are less likely to develop allergies too.

5.  They force you to get outdoors and take in some fresh air…okay…maybe not so much cats as dogs. Dogs will beg and plead till you take them outside and in today’s world where we spend most of our time in our air-conditioned offices, thanks to your pet you get the fresh air and vitamin D your body needs!

6. People who have pets are happier than those who don’t…I’m not making it up. There is research to back me up! 🙂

7. Finally, they protect you! And I don’t mean just dogs for this one. Cats will protect you…or at least try to protect you too! Buffy, our cat, bites the ankles of anybody he doesn’t know if he sees them moving things around our house. He is like our little watch-cat. We literally have to keep an eye on him if we have workers in our house otherwise one of them is bound to end up a little injured.

Thanks to this post…I now really miss Buffy….sigh… 😦

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I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013.

Write Tribe

That smells like home

aeroplane-164663_640Growing up, I remember that during the summer holidays every year, the four of us would pack a very large number of suitcases with goodies from “the Gulf” for our relatives in India and travel from our little town of Al Ain, (which was so little, it didn’t have its own airport for the longest time) to Dubai to make the journey to Mangalore. I remember the never-ending queues we waited in to get into the air plane and then fighting with my brother to get the window seat. (One of the many perks of being the younger child was that he usually had to give it to me…. 🙂 ) The aeroplane had a distinct smell. A mixture of your run-of-the-mill bug spray and the essence of some wild exotic flower. The scent was so strong that it used to make my father and I sneeze and sneeze until our eyes watered but, there was no getting around it. Through the years, I’ve made many journeys by air and the air plane smell still never fails to set me on a sneezing bout and remind me of all those trips to India I made growing up.

By the time we reached Mangalore, we were all tired but, I remember that I always knew we had reached because as soon as I stepped out of the plane, half asleep though I was, the humidity would hit me like a solid wall and fog up my brothers spectacles.But, that happened only if we landed when there was a break in usually constant monsoon rains. If it was raining, we were greeted by the delicious smell of clean wet mud. It was something that I didn’t get to breathe in too often since I lived in the dry dry desert. To this day, the smell of the earth just after the rain has tenderly caressed it reminds me of holidays spent in my grandmother’s house.

Speaking of my grandmother’s house, I guess, that’s where memories my nose has made seems to be the strongest. I remember that there was a lady who had a herd of cows in the plot of land behind our house. Every morning, I would wake

Way back when! My cousin and brother with me outside our house

Way back when! My cousin and brother with me outside our house in Mangalore

to the sound of cows mooing and the smell of cow dung. Even though I’m more scared of cows than I could possibly explain to you, funnily enough, the smell of their poop generates a good feeling deep inside my being. 🙂

My grandmother drank a glass of hot milk in a tall steel tumbler every morning at about 11 I think and I remember the smell of boiling milk permeating every room of the house…so strong there was almost no getting away from it until a strong gust of wind would blow through the open windows in the hall and bring with it, the tantalizing fragrance of ripening jack-fruit and a wonderful confluence of the sweet scents of all the flowers on plants that my mother had planted when she had first entered that house as a bride.

Come afternoon and the house would fill with the aroma of fish being fried in piping hot coconut oil…a smell that would linger on much after the last bits of the fish had been licked off my fingers. My own mother never used coconut oil to cook, so after my grandmother’s house, I only smelt that smell at my in-laws and the memories came rushing back….

Once dusk had arrived, Ratna, the girl who stayed with my grandmother to look after her, would light one of those old tortoise coils to keep the mosquitoes away. The smell was so strong, it’s no wonder the mosquitoes couldn’t survive it! Although no one lights them any more, when I see them in the store, I think of my holidays in Mangalore.

Eventually, tired out doing nothing in particular, I would fall asleep to the sound of crickets chirping and frogs croaking only to be awoken the next day again to the sound of cows waiting to be milked in the next compound in all their smelly goodness….

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To get your home to smell exactly the way you want, try Ambi Pur. Check out their page at www.facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia.