Show the finger

Anatomically, the human hand is such an interesting blessing, a thumb and 4 fingers. Some childhood granny's tale has it that the thumb is Lord Shiva, the index belongs to Lord Yama, the middle finger is Lord Varuna, the ring finger is Lord Vishnu and the little finger is Lord Brahma. When taking or giving bibhuti/sindoor or any form of tikka, I was advised to use the thumb and the ring finger to collect and the ring finger to smear and apply. Pointing at someone with the index finger more than being impolite, it is also inauspicious.

Often, during childhood I used to wonder why that huge statue of Indira Gandhi almost like a Trojan horse in the State Library showed her hand as if stopping the onslaught of humanity. Turns out, it is symbolic of Congress (I). Yes, when I studied polity in high school and forms of government in college, I learned another, more original meaning of Congress. The dictionary,too.

Anyway, Hindi cinema encashed on the hand a lot. In the 80s, spines shivered when Gabbar menacingly demands, "yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur!" and all the other hand stories. Emotions went rife when someone was shown the hand precisely for whatever reason. The last that I remember is Dil Chahta Hai, when Aamir in the end shows his palm/hand (burning with rage) to Ayub Khan, Preity's childhood betrothed. You must have got the message, back off and don't mess with me!

Come to the fingers and the thumb. Kids love to hold someone's else'shand, index finger and the blah. They also love sucking the thumb. What pleasure, whew! Let's not get Freudian. A thumb-up (yes, I refuse to say thumbs-up) means so many things. A thumb-down means :'(  . If the thumb with a closed fist motions outward (ok, I am patchy here) means asking for a lift, hitchhiker style. 

Showing just the index finger means one, the counting style. The same goes for all, similarly. But, caution. If one were going to flash just the middle finger in whatever state of mind, yes. That's trouble. It is outrageous and at the same time has a huge fan following. Whatever it means, I know many friends who got caned in school for flashing it and also, for not knowing what it meant.One should not finger around so much, the puritans say.

Showing the little finger means one needs a pee-break. Just an excuse.

Anyway, elections are on, results are due. Yes, yes, my vote,your vote and every vote counts. I could not vote because my name was missing in the rolls but I have a voter's card. Sad. Digressing again, come back. Alright, all the fuss here is -- the Bachchans also went to vote like any Indian. Don't know why our leading dailies take great pride indulging in yellow journalism. At least 2 leading dailies featured the Big B parivaar in pristine white doing their bit for India. All is ok, except showing the inked middle finger -- Big B, small yo B and Bahu B, Jaya B just grinned ear to ear for her happy family. One could have flashed a V-sign, the middle finger would not have been so apparent. Sigh!

Check today's TOI, page 7 -- an imbecile Karunanidhi in his trademark gogs (sorry GTM, I know you won a 1st prize for fancy-dressing up like him on Halloween's two years ago) exercising his adult franchise so immaturely in full public view (I thought it was supposed to be secret ballot) using his index finger, the camera angle is interesting.

My audience with Lord Balaji from Chilkur

I remember Surekha tying a sacred red thread on my wrist and telling me not to ever remove it, it is from Chilkur. I didn’t know or research much into it. The sacred thread was there on my left wrist for many months and a day came when it wore off. I have it at the altar of my prayer table. Aunty has been asking me to come there since last year, it’s especially auspicious before exams, for visa purposes, yada yada and the Lord, I am told is a generous deity. I finally went there last Saturday. Life is not full of strife, but there is always a time to meet and do some heart-to-heart. I slept at some 11:30 pm on Friday. Woke up at 4:30 am, bathed and got ready. The drive was peaceful. We thought we lost our way, no that part of the city has changed in the last six months. Lot of high rises, expansion of roads and development in the urban sense -- forgotten farm houses, the sleepy roads, dust picking up and as we entered Chilkur, the village folk woke up to sacred chants, courtyards being cleaned, broomed and watered.

Beyond the makeshift car park on the right, one can see the pristine and calm Osmansagar. Barefeet, chappals and sandals in the car, we walk towards the temple.Ouch, there are broken coconut shell splinters everywhere. The road to the temple is lined with small stalls selling puja ka samagri, a means of livelihood for the locals. It is indeed, a small fair. The temple is overflowing with humanity. A patient bunch wait in the inner precincts of the temple. There is a labyrinthine queue outside, waiting for the darshan of the prabhu. Hundreds trying to complete their pradaksham, 108 in total with a lil’ chart and pen in hand. I almost fainted seeing that. There is a starting point, smeared in red vermillion. People are not supposed to break coconuts there or light incense. But yeh toh public hai, they just do what the rules ask them not to do.

Chilkur is different because there is no hundi or donation-box, there is no VIP treatment or special fee to meet the Lord and the Lord loves flowers. The priests are different, truly. Aunty asked me to do 3 pradaksham, 3 is auspicious and then stand in the queue. I did that like everyone else – fathers, mothers, children, students, grand-parents, young people, married and unmarried, employed and unemployed. It is a different feeling altogether. This toddler and I make faces in between chants of “Govinda, Govinda”. After my 3 revolutions, I stand in the queue, Aunty chided us for starting late. She is worried we will not get to see the Lord in the inner sanctum, until the last gopuram. Yes, even I felt a lil’ guilty. The entry is restricted after 6:30 am. The priest kept us updated. We followed him in the many prayers in between. He told us interesting facts that hundi means hawala, illegal money collection. The temple trust however accepts donation from the devout in some bank account. The priest spoke in three languages- English, Hindi (apparently for the Tamils) and in Telugu. He was fluent and very eloquent in all three languages. Being a Saturday, the temple visits and hits are double than normal times. It was also a special day per the panjika, I found out later it was Buddha Purnima. He requested the pilgrims to stop the pradaksham because there was no place to stand and assured that the Lord is very generous and will not be furious and, that one can always come and complete them another day. No, yeh toh public hai – they will do what they want. Our exasperated priest then announced that even if a devotee completed 108 pradaksham going against his request, his/her prayers would not be answered and he would make sure he/she is punished for his disobedience. All we did was laugh. There are conspicuous signboards telling us to pray to God with our eyes open. I am a social pariah for not closing my eyes in prayer, closing eyes is for people who need to concentrate and are not attentive. My turn came and yes, in total filmi style before the clock struck 6:25 am, we were in the inner recesses of the temple in time to pay our obeisance. Very relieved, we retreated with prasadam (ghee laddoo) to the Siva shrine next door.

Peepal trees with a very soothing courtyard, the Siva temple was a temporary resting place for the teeming devotees. Aunty asked me if I want to be part of the Siva abhishekham – one hour inside the small almost underground cave-like temple. That was rhetorical, she smiled and her smile asked rather triumphantly, “how will you escape this?” There were others waiting, only 9 will be allowed to take part in it – 4 women and 5 women. The priest made us stand around in a semi-circle around the giant black lingam. Yes, pleasing this Lord is elaborate – giving him a bath starting with water, then followed by milk, curd, pure honey with ghee, bibhuti, then a turmeric facial coupled with rose water, tender coconut water amidst chants of “om namah shiva”. The small fan in the background was of small relief. I began sweating profusely, at one point I was worried and panicked I won’t complete the puja. But then, until the call happens you or I can’t decide anything. The world moves because of God. I will complete the puja if the Lord wants. I did. A young boy priest came by to break coconuts and there was more laughter than somberness. The puja lasted more than an hour and I was happy at the end of it. It has been many years since I did some service to my favourite Siva.

Aunty stayed back for some service and prayer and we rested in the courtyard and saw people and monkeys in clothes and human form breaking coconuts and in the process, I nearly lost my eyes. We were mobbed by beggars and members of the third sex. We ate a lot of ripe guavas and took a short drive to Osmansagar. Thank you, Aunty for taking me to Chilkur.

A love story

An old story from the closet--

Many months ago in some neighbourhood, there was a little boy who loved to watch the stars. He met a sweet someone in a faraway land. The day his prayers were answered, he shared his happiness with everyone and all prayed to their gods too, please take care of both of them, they love each other and their beautiful love story should be protected with the all enduring love of loved ones and well-wishers. Their world changed forever. Love does that. You become more responsible. Priorities change and perspectives differ. From ‘I’ and ‘me/mine’, things level to ‘our’ and ‘us’.

Days passed, the precious princess of my young friend just grew beautiful and more beautiful in his thought and spirit, and in my imagination. I waited for the day to meet her, I met her. She is truly beautiful in heart and spirit. She will always remain so, my friend.

They say everything comes flawed. Ah...

Things fell apart out of nothingness. When things seem ok and good, the ordinary things of life should not affect the zeal of love. Each in his and her corner longed/craved for that extra something- for one, it was time, for the other –space, small things matter, they do? They don’t? I am clueless.

With space and distance, and silence come indifference -that spoken word, that hurtful tone, that unspoken but apparent indifferent casualness or whatever…

Sometimes, we get so absorbed and ‘lost’ in matter-of-fact things and doing the usual stuff. The angst and the ego fight hard, nobody wins. It’s a losing battle anyway. Sad but true, power makes you ruthless. The power that comes to you when someone loves you immensely; it does unnerve you and things get scary. Too many people give you advice that it’s too early to predict anything, take your time but not forever. Love enslaves you but for a greater but beautiful journey. Sometimes we miss the point. We indulge in trivial things and those trivial things gain importance so much to the extent of fuelling things apart.

In retrospect, I don’t know what to say, both of them are exceptional human beings, very lovable.

The love story just ended (?), so I presume, personal yet individual needs are of greater importance.

Only, if you knew that there is no room for ifs and buts…

Charlie with PMS

PMS is an excitingly spicy fodder and gossip for many males that I know. If Freud wondered what is it that women want, the new generation man thinks most of the hidden answers to most of the difficult questions are trapped and embedded in PMS! Yeah, the smart Adam of the species wishes to be understood as understanding and sensitive that the Eves have those glum days and they care, some do actually.  So much for the Martian understanding and well, ahem!

For us, it is not a big deal! We just want you to be a lil' sensitive, sometimes we act funny (the urban male dictionary has so many alternative and bizarre meanings) and are unusual. But that does not have to beat your rocket science for you to figure out. Like you just don't get it, we also don't feel up to it sometimes. You call it mood swings, we call it PMS.It is another thing that this syndrome need not necessarily strike you before, during or after the "shudho dhara" (like one of my friends nomenclatured it). What happens during this period is a lil' difficult to predict --boring pimples to taken-for-granted irritable behaviour and, unusual cravings and weight nightmares.Do I look good?Why do I dislike this food? The list is long.

Met dozens of male PMS cases and I'm sure you did too. Most, I have observed revolve around food, they get a lot of food for thought that way-- to cud-chew,to complain,to reflect, to savour, to criticise. Some have a compulsive i-hate-my-boss bout which gets intensified during those mood swings.Some have this i-am-angry-with-you-but-dont-know-why thing.Some have this i-need-to-be-alone chant.Why do I have to wake up at all, early (forget it)? And, all that jazz. 

I shrug and really fail to understand this pattern of consistent and inconsistent irrationality. You don't have those glum uncomfortable moments of having to check and change.Imagine if you had to, you would have been undoubtedly so clumsy! 

Whatever you had for dinner and went to sleep. Gosh, your tantrum was intolerable this morning.I meet this Charlie who apparently moves around with a clipped accent. Getting up early is a compulsive problem but the evil empire beckoneth you. So, I see those smoked swollen eyes.Almost breathless and an indifferent did-you have-to wait-for-long apology?No, it was not an apology, it was a F-O-R-M-A-L-I-T-Y.Whatever. 

I was away from the maddening crowd trying to be a good Bathsheba to my books and studies. Sorry, my bad. I didn't warn you I'm back in the madhouse. But then, a mad person will never admit he or she is one. They are normal [sic]. Time is frozen by chunks of minutes. The world their father's heirloom of an oyster. To be different in the madhouse is a big ambition. So, to break rules of every written order is fashionable.Ok.

Man comes and yells at me, what is wrong with me?Why do you have to reach work early?Me? I am fine,are you alright? Which side of the bed did you have to jump off? No, there is only one side, the other side is against the wall, back against the wall, did you say? If you claim you are not a lunatic and even coming late and hijacking the rest of the world is normal, then you have PMS. I can't whisper anything to you to keep you quiet. You decided to tell the world that it is one of those days.Well. Women never had to apologise for anything during one of those days.Truly speaking, they pamper themselves without hurting and offending others and also, get pampered. This Charlie had to and did say sorry.I would have skinned him and fed him to the crows if he did not. Lack of education. Charlie, you must not do things to feel sorry during one of those days. We understand. We are brethren.

So much halla gulla that Charlie has PMS.