Thursday, October 28, 2010

The UK Files: Henley-on-Thames

The first couple of weeks in the UK were cold. We didn't go out much, except for a few drives, and some trips to the town, and Sainsbury's.

It was on April 8th, that I had my first taste of the English sun. We - my aunt, cousin, Puttachi and I - planned a trip to Henley-on-Thames, of course, after a lot of consultation of weather forecasts. True to the prediction, it was a lovely day. The sun was out, the sky was blue and cloudless, with aeroplane contrails streaking it white.

The riverside was magnificent. Bare trees were fuzzy, with a suggestion of the lovely green that would become obvious in the coming weeks. Weeping willows drooped gracefully. The river was blue, and the grass was green and inviting.

We walked on one bank of the river, and on the other bank stood pretty little cottages, with boat garages. Big boats sailing down the river were moored on the side of the bank on which we walked, and I peered shamelessly through the little windows, into the dim interiors, trying to imagine what it would be like - a life in a houseboat, sailing the length of the river.

We played football on the greens, that are such a luxury for us, and we had some really lovely, sparkling moments. It was still much too cold, and we shivered when the wind blew, but smiled when the sun did.

On the way back, we visited The Maharajah's Well at Stoke Row, and got back home.

There's something about rivers and its banks that appeal to me, and walking is one of my passions - so the combination is, well, deadly.

We had many more lovely times in England and Scotland, but this day will stand out as one of the most beautiful, brilliant days I've experienced.

Posted by Picasa

The UK Files: Walsall and Stratford-upon-Avon

My father's cousin N Kaka lives in Walsall with his family. He and his wife are a wonderful doctor couple, and they have three very nice, and I mean really very nice sons. The hospitality in their home is that excellent blend that makes you feel welcome and wanted, yet doesn't suffocate you with it. We visited them twice, once with my aunt and her family, and the second time, after S~ joined us, on our way to Scotland.

Music and conversation with a liberal dose of laughter and comfort - that is what I remember from both the visits, along with a hilarious encounter with the police. N Kaka shares both his name and some distinct personality traits with my father, and Puttachi, who dotes upon my father, took to N Kaka as if she'd known him all her life.

We visited Stratford-upon-Avon from there. It is a beautiful, but ordinary town, by English standards. The Avon river is lovely, and the town is all about Shakespeare. But of course.

My cousin V and I went into Shakespeare's house. It is like stepping into a book. The house has been furnished just like it was in Shakespeare's time, with some original furniture, and some replicas. A man dressed as Shakespeare's father talked to the visitors, giving us trivia and laughter. When we stood in the room in which Shakespeare was born, this man told us that people are very often overwhelmed there. Some weep, some hug, and many of them drop down on their knees and kiss the floor. Wow.

Another interesting thing in the house is a glass window where distinguished visitors have signed their names. There is a guide next to it, pointing to the interesting ones.

Excavations are happening at New Place, where Shakespeare lived later. They hope to find something nice - a lock of his hair or a handwritten manuscript.

A walk through the town, a small picnic on the banks of Avon, and we were ready to get back home.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've heard lots about a child's power of imagination, but it is wonderful to witness it first hand in Puttachi. It amuses me. It turns me momentarily into a child myself as I suspend all reality, and journey with her and her fancy. It stuns me with its potential. It worries me that adulthood will suck it out of her.

I've learned that a child's imagination has just one characteristic - it has no limits. And I'm talking about any child - its just that I get to observe it closely with my child.

Puttachi is deeply into drawing and colouring. It borders on an obsession. I bought her colouring books, but she doesn't like them. She wants me to draw what she sees is in her head, so that she can colour it. The latest was a Rakshasa with a skin-sleeve on his arm which held his horned baby's waterbottle.

When she colours, nothing holds her back. She colours the sky green, the river yellow, and the tree black. I don't try to correct her. Besides, she also explains her choices to me. "Amma," she says. "Apples are red, yes, but this apple is blue, because it is a magic apple. Amma, I know that rivers are blue, but this river is yellow because a big box of turmeric fell into it."

Whenever she eats something crunchy, she tells me that the treat is singing a song.. "Do you know, Amma, that these groundnuts are singing "Wheels on the bus?""
"Amma, I can make this puffed rice sing any song. I bite on it and think of a song, and the puffed rice sings it with me. Do you know how? It looks into my mind, and learns it immediately."

Today she listened to the strains of a Shehnai and said, "Amma, this song is crying." Where does she get such ideas?

We'd been to somebody's house to see the Dasara Dolls, and there was one baby doll with two big parent dolls. When the hostess insisted that Puttachi could take the baby doll home, she went up to the parent dolls and told them, "Don't worry, don't be sad, I'll bring your baby up very well."

Personification is a strong passion in her. She sees two cushions leaning against each other and decides that they are friends and are hugging, or telling each other a secret. She sees me cutting a vegetable and sometimes nearly tears up, asking me if the carrot is getting hurt.

She never tires of stories and makes me narrate some all day long. Sometimes, she takes over the storyteller mantle, and if I take the trouble to concentrate, I encounter fanciful, highly imaginative stories that have no beginning, no end, but are connected with a fine thread that somehow makes sense. If I react suitably with a "a tailed ant who is a firefighter? well, I never!" she promptly says, "Oh it's just a story Amma, listen further."

Anyway, half the stories I tell her are products of my imagination, but they are all rooted in logic and sense. This weekend, I decided to try and tell her a story in her style. I freed my mind, abandoned all logic, and started. It was alright in the beginning, but soon, logic crept in. I desperately tried to drive it away, but it settled down and made itself nice and comfortable. I finished the story, neatly, all tied-up. Boring.

If I could store all her imagination in a pot and give it back to her if adulthood drains it out......
- -