Friday, March 21, 2014

A walk at night

I couldn't have said it better.

Going for a walk at night - alone - such a simple desire.  But it really is just a dream.

As a child, and as a teen, I loved going for after-dinner walks with my father.  The roads were quiet.  Traffic, which wasn't much to begin with, was sparse.  My father and I walked, and we talked.  And I came back refreshed.

S and I went for a few after-dinner walks after we got married.  Not as many as I would've liked, but they were lovely anyway.  These became non-existent after Puttachi was born.  I sometimes look out of the window at night, and I look at the moon, and feel the breeze and I wonder how lovely it might be to go for a walk.  

But what if I did go out?  Let me tell you what happened a few months ago.  This was after we moved into our new house.  Our apartment complex has a fair amount of walking space.    Late one night, at about 11 30, just before going to bed, I looked around for a missing water bottle, and I realized that Puttachi must have left it in the children's play area.  I wanted that water bottle right away, for some reason, and so I told S that I was going to the play area to see if it was there.

I walked out without a second thought, but the moment I got out of our block, and hit the walking path, I froze.  I looked over my shoulder.  I crossed my arms across my chest.  I looked all around me.  I frowned at dark corners, and stared suspiciously at shadows.  And I nearly ran.  I ran past the mango trees, the cycas, the tamarind trees, past the  pool.  I passed a night queen plant, and was only vaguely aware of its beautiful fragrance. I reached the play area, and there sat the water bottle, glinting in the moonlight.  I grabbed it, turned around, and ran back.  I got back home, and S said, "Must have been beautiful outside, right?"  And the only thing I could say is, "I didn't notice."

I know that our complex is secure.  I don't believe in the supernatural, and I am not afraid of the dark.  I was on the walking path, and it was fairly well-lit, so I wasn't afraid of creepy-crawlies in my path.  So what was it?

It was the utter unfamiliarity of being alone, outside, when it was dark.  My mind, and my body are conditioned to feel unsafe and scared and suspicious in such a situation.  And all I could think of was to get back to the safety of my house.

And I hate that feeling.

I want to feel safe. I want to reclaim the freedom that rightfully belongs to every human.  But I don't see that happening in the near future.

And that makes me immensely sad.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Little Mermaid

Deep in the big blue ocean, there lived Meena, a Little Mermaid.  Meena loved listening to her Grandma's  stories of the world beyond the ocean, where humans live.  She spent hours in the public library, reading about humans, and looked forward to turning eighteen, when she'd be allowed to swim up to the surface of the ocean and see a little of that world herself.

On her eighteenth birthday, even as she was dashing around in excitement, raring to set off on the adventure she'd been waiting for all her life, Grandma called Meena to her, and started affixing oyster shells to her tail, in honour of her becoming an adult.

"Ouch!  It hurts!" said Meena.

"One has to suffer to be beautiful," said Grandma.

"Beautiful?  And who said oysters on tails are beautiful?  And I want to be happy, not beautiful!"  said Meena with a laugh, and wriggled away from her surprised Grandma's grasp.  She swam to the surface, sat on the rocks and spent all day looking at the vast, blue sky, the fluffy white clouds and the ships sailing by.  She was particularly fascinated by the seagulls, and wished she had wings like them, so that she could fly in the sky and see what her beloved ocean looked like from above.

Towards evening, the clouds darkened, and a storm gathered.  A passing ship lurched in the gale, and a man fell off it.  Nobody on the ship seemed to notice.  Meena swam up to him.  He was unconscious.  She held his head above water, knowing that humans cannot breathe underwater, and steered him to the nearest island.  She waited to make sure he was fine, and tried hard not to stare at his legs.  She noticed that there was something in his jacket pocket - it was a book. 

"Hmmm," she thought, picking it up.  "He's a reader.  Must be an interesting man.  I'd like to be friends with him!"  

But there was a merpeople rule – humans and merpeople weren't allowed to be friends!  Meena sighed.  Just as the man regained consciousness, Meena plopped into the ocean. 

After she got back, she realized that she'd brought the book with her.   She opened it, and  found the man's name - Manav, and his address in it.  Her eyes gleamed.  She'd go to return the book - what an excellent pretext to explore the human world! To hell with rules!

But how would she walk on land?  She went to The Witch who lived in the dark depths of the ocean.  She knew several spells.

"I'll make you legs to walk with," said The Witch, "only if you lend me your beautiful voice for as long as you're away."

It didn't seem like Meena had much of a choice.  She parted with her voice, lost her tail, and got two legs in return.  

She surfaced at the beach nearest to the address in Manav's book.

It wasn't easy.  Walking hurt.  She felt heavy.  Besides, she couldn't talk, and she noted with disappointment that humans weren't so kind to fellow-humans who were a little different.  But Meena was a determined, resilient young merlady.  With the help of pencil and paper, and with a little sign language, she asked for directions.  It took her a few days, but she finally found Manav.  She gave him his book, and explained how she had come by it.  He was quite sceptical at first, naturally, and then intrigued.  And thankful to her, of course for having saved his life.  They hung out for a bit, and really enjoyed each others' company.

But Meena missed home.  Her feet hurt.  And she'd had enough of stealing food (tasteless at that – hardly anybody used sea salt) to fill her stomach.  And she was tired of spending the nights in chlorinated swimming pools. Besides, the course in reef biology she'd enrolled in was due to start in a week.

She left, with an understanding with Manav that they'd meet frequently.   She retrieved her lovely tail and her voice from The Witch.

So, every weekend, when she can get away from her coursework, she and Manav meet  at the beach and talk, she in the water, and he on a rock.  Though she's not exactly head over fishtail in love with him, she likes him.  Manav is learning scuba-diving.

And we leave them here.  Whether Meena marries Manav or not, she's the kind who'll ensure that she'll live happily ever after.


This story is written as part of the Twist-A-Tale contest on Tell-A-Tale – reading and writing stories for this age.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Which came first, the tree or the seed?

Puttachi is eating a tasty fruit, and she says:  Amma, this is so tasty! Thank you for giving it to me!  But wait, who bought it? 

Me: Papa.

She: Ok, I'll thank him.  But wait.  He did not make the fruit.  The tree made it.  So I'll thank the tree.  But wait!  Where did the tree come from?  The seed.  So I've to thank the seed.  But wait.  Where did the seed come from?  From another tree...

She pauses, looks confused.

She: Amma, which came first, the tree or the seed?

Me: Aha, you've hit upon the chicken-egg question.  (I explain)

She: This is so strange... let me think...

She's been thinking about this for the last one week, and suddenly out of the blue, she'll come up with an answer and an explanation.

Amma!  I think it is the tree.  The seed perhaps just formed, just like that.  But how can it form just like that?  No no... wait... (Thinks some more) Or it dropped from somewhere.  But from where?  There has to be a tree somewhere ......  Or maybe atoms just got together and formed the seed.  But wait....! 

And it goes on and on.

I'm loving it.
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