Thursday, 4 January 2018

To Dance or not to Dance?

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Anybody can dance, they say.
Not everybody should dance, I say.

A peculiar childhood affliction that refuses to go away or palliate with age - The insubordination of limbs, especially under the influence of music. Yes, these are the confessions of a born non-dancer.

One remembers with a shudder those traumatizing moments of the wonder years when called upon by the elders of the family (a.k.a monster ragging committee) to take center stage and entertain the populace with one's accomplishments. Sadly for me and even sadder for my parents, I could neither sing nor dance, the mandated traits of a south-Indian upbringing. Well, to be fair the parents tried enrolling me for singing lessons but I couldn't make sense of learning the 'swararas', 'raagas' and 'taals'. Why would I want to learn them when I could sing 'Ek, do, teen..chaar panch, ....' perfectly? Of course, it wouldn't go down well with the stiff upper lip audiences to sing that number or 'Choli ke peeche kya he...', however tunefully! 

Dance on the other hand, I was very keen about and eager to learn. I gazed at beautiful femme fatales dancing in movies and knew I had dance in me, I could feel it in my bones, though they didn't exactly know it - the bones I mean. 
If I wanted to move my legs in a particular direction, they went the other way and if the arms came into the picture, it was even worse. And how on earth does the waist operate? Add music, and the situation becomes direr, not one step in sync with a beat! 
It's like this, I cannot comprehend what part of the body to move or how to move it to make a particular dance step happen! 
You can't get what I am saying? Watching me dance is like watching a remote operated dancing doll with a serious malfunction, yeah totally weird! Something to do with basic motor skills or muscular co-ordination, I would say. 
People just had to utter the word dance and the little me would set off in full steam. Arms, legs, head and whatever else moving in gay abandon! The parents seeing their offspring hopelessly gyrate thus, kindly refrained from encouraging me to dance for the said family gatherings. 

When a neighborhood aunty volunteered to conduct free kathak lessons, I jumped at the opportunity. But the ta-thai-thai, tat-a-thai-thai was too slow for me. Man, I wanted to groove to Bollywood and western numbers. Anyway by the end of three free classes, the danseuse aunty gave up the venture under the pretext of a bad back. And that was also the last of my formal dance training. Still my mom, the ever enthusiastic parent garbed me in her own version of a bharatnatyam costume and set me up on the fancy dress stage to perform my profound learning of 1.5 kathak steps. Till date I haven't forgotten the chuckles and sniggers in the audiences at my appearance and performance. Childhood scars take long to heal they say. 

Fast forward to college days. I felt terribly deprived and let down when the entire class went up on stage for a group dance leaving me to handle the music and backstage operations. Yeah, yeah I had auditioned, humphh!

Time and age mellow down old habits. Says who? My insubordinate limbs continued their way of life and I continued deluding myself that it was just that I hadn't found the right frame of mind to learn the trick of the twirl! 
I decided to observe and learn. Yes, I learned quite a bit then. See, it was nothing to do with grace and agility, one needed the right facial expressions while dancing. I observed that you had to lip sync all that the DJ played whether or not you knew the song, it looked so cool! You had to scrunch your eyes and bite your lips for certain raunchy numbers. Then of course you closed your eyes and lolled your head for trance numbers. Armed with this new ammunition I launched my new dance avatar at the next party. I tell you, I totally let myself go, emotionally connecting with the music. My face spewing a million expressions in tandem with the numbers being belted out. And what happens? A gentleman comes up to me with genuine concern and asks if I am alright. Another hurries to fetch me a glass of water and a third calls up the ambulance. Arghhh!

Dance like no one's watching.
Dance when no one's watching.

After that incident, I avoided all events which required me to dance. Of course if the event was held in dim light or even better flickering disco lights which make even a PT exercise session look like a terrific dance sequence, I took full advantage of the moment!

Years passed and I found a better half who was actually that, better, no, an amazing dancer! You can't imagine my apprehension at seeing my babies toddle and totter awkwardly to music or the profound relief when I see them today effortlessly glide and gracefully pirouette to any music. Yeah! The kind of relief that a deaf-dumb couple has when they see their child is perfect in every sense! Remember the movie Koshish, featuring Sanjeev Kumar-Jaya Bhaduri? The difference here being, only one parent (me) was dance-challenged!

Several years down the line, I am still on a self-imposed dance abstinence. I stoically hold on to a brimming mocktail glass or a loaded snack platter, merely tapping my feet to the music, off sync of course but still way more dignified than going on my dancepage (dance+rampage)! 
The spouse, the children, friends, every one implores me to dance but in vain. The more I refuse, the more folks pine to see me dance. They want the demure/timid me to let my hair down (little knowing of the tandav I am capable of unleashing). They drag me center stage and urge me to do just a wee shake, pretty please! At events, people start betting on whether I will shake a leg or not. It seems to be everyone's one point agenda and aim in life - to see me dance. 
Aha! Life has come a full circle. When you are free and willing to do something, no one values it and when you play hard to get, somehow you become all the more enticing!

So now at any event where dancing is involved, all eyes are riveted on me, waiting, watching and craving for the improbable to happen. Sometimes I relent graciously, doing a gentle body sway (mastered after hours of diligent practice) and on very rare occasions, a bit of foot tapping accompanied by a hip move (I figured this one by repeatedly pushing heavy sofas around the house) and whaddya know? The party erupts in convulsive happiness at having witnessed this incredible sight. 
I've found the solution to my dancepitude (dance+ineptitude), create demand by restricted supply!

Sharing a much loved ad from the 90's of this gal's dance of joy and total abandonment!

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Exam Fever - Part 2

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Read Exam Fever - Part 1 - Burning the midnight oil

I Promise 

3.00 a.m.
The rains seem to be abating a little I notice with alarm. ‘How can you, ye Gods? This is the first time I am asking something of you. I have faith in you; maybe it’s still raining heavily in Sector-9. Please let it keep raining. I’ll study day and night henceforth. 10 hours a day, nay, 20 hours a day shall I study and walk all the way to Siddhi Vinayak wearing only one chappal,’ I vow.
With this fervent appeal, I attack with renewed vigor the dreaded mounds of knowledge. I pick out a slim stapled bunch and look at the theorem in front of me. They expect me to comprehend and reproduce this gargantuan piece? How come I don’t have the faintest recollection of having come across this stuff? I peer more intensely at the notes. The handwriting is not that of any of my usual notes-sources. I am smart that way! At the bottom right hand corner of the last page, I spy the name of the notes-creator. Hmm, the name doesn’t ring a bell…yes something is wrong. I finally deduce that these must belong to my brother, two years my senior. Cursing him under my breath for messing up my notes, I segregate the treacherous set of notes; mentally marveling that my brother has bigger horrors to deal with.
Ahh, the next bunch seemed promising, I know everything! My hands flick one page after another with amazing speed; my deflated ego, bolsters a mite at having studied something so well. A doubt niggles. I look at the date on the notes, they are dated a year ago. Who on earth mixed trashed, last year’s notes with my carefully sorted current study bundles? My mind wanders to last evening’s fight with my brother. But even by his standards, this kind of sabotage is too devious! Arghhh…just my kind of luck!
3.34 a.m.
A trip to the balcony informs me that the rain Gods haven’t heeded my prayers. The sky that had been pregnant with possibilities has aborted the mission and crushed my hopes.
I return to my study table. Anxiety and despair at rebuttal from the rain Gods, fuel me with a new kind of energy, one determined to even out the odds against me! I decide on a new course of action. In fact I wonder why I hadn’t thought of this earlier.
The Question Bank! I will simply go through this treasure trove which carries question papers and their solutions from the last five years. Why pore over countless pages of useless information, simply concentrate on the questions that are regurgitated year after year! Brainwave, this!!
I breeze through one set. It is rather easy to answer questions when they are accompanied by the solutions. My effortless run makes me itch for a challenge. I decide to attempt the next question set without looking at the answers. This attempt reminds me of a scene from my favorite Bollywood movie, ‘Lagey Raho Munnabhai’. I seem to have been afflicted by some kind of a ‘chemical locha’ wherein my brain responds to questions only when the answers are known or accessible. Without access to the answers, I know nada! I am well and truly in a soup!
4.15 a.m.
I need some cheering, like desperately. Food usually comforts me but tucking into another bowlful of curd isn’t appealing. I contemplate between waking mom for a cup of tea and making one myself. A bit of diversion will no doubt refresh me and of course the tea will keep me awake. So I potter around the kitchen and in a jiffy produce a brew much more fragrant than anything my mother concocts. I must tell her to make this…ermm…yes, Chamomile tea, it really is exotic! I take the cup upto my room and make myself comfortable on the bed. It doesn’t taste as good as it smells but still nothing beats the feeling of a warm cuppa on a lonely, rainy night. My eyes are red and itchy after poring over the mountains of notes. The rains have started pelting once again and their steady beat soothes my jangled, tensed nerves, slowly and steadily as formulas, diagrams, equations fly past me at a dizzying rate.
8.01 a.m.
The sudden, jarring grate of the mixer from the kitchen has me waking with a jerk and a palpitating heart! I snatch up the blasted bedside clock, knocking over the tea cup and staring at the time in horror! The day outside looks bright and sunny. So much for my prayers, no dawa nor dua can save me now! 
‘God, help me through this one,’ I chant desperately, jumping out of bed, hurrying through my toilette and grabbing my exam paraphernalia.
Mom is in the kitchen as usual, busy with breakfast, while dad and big bro are arguing over the newspapers. I can’t believe that these people are having a routine day oblivious to the trials I’ve been through the previous night or the disaster looming ahead of me.
I ignore the tantalizing smells of Aloo paratha wafting from the breakfast table and avoid meeting mom’s eyes that are following me. With the courage of a soldier off on a “Mission Impossible”, I hurriedly mutter a goodbye and make my way to the door, muting out mom’s plaintive calls asking me to sit down for breakfast. Such civilian niceties were not for me; I am off on a battle I can’t hope to win.
As I am about to slam the door shut, I hear dad asking mom, ‘Isn’t it a holiday for everyone today?’
‘No one tells me anything these days,’ Mom starts off. ‘Who’s been having my Dream Sleep tea and leaving the box open?’
I stop dead on my tracks. HOLIDAY?? I snatch up my bag and pull out the exam time table.
Who makes these absurd, NO, thoughtful exam timetables?
All I understood is I can die another day! Today Aloo Paratha beckons.
‘I promise, I promise, I promise God, I'll be better prepared, next time around!’

Phew!! Nina sure has some wacky experiences and memories tucked away in her diaries! 


Read other stories from Nina's World:  

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Exam Fever - Part 1

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Nina was on her decluttering mission when she spied her old diary at the back of a shelf. Yes, she'd kept one with random entries. This was one entry she definitely wanted to keep away from Neel and Varun. Ahh, exam times, how traumatic they had been! But atleast those were the times when life had fewer distractions. No full day television or even worse the internet and mobile phones. But still she'd had challenges of her own during those nightmarish exams! She'd recorded one such experience in some detail, hoping to scare herself into working harder in future before things got too out of hand.....

Burning the mid-night oil

12.45 a.m.
I have finally sorted out the study material (basically Xeroxed notes of studious class-mates) into four different bundles based on my familiarity with them. This big task accomplished, now all I have to do is, memorize the stuff. I dispassionately observe that there isn’t a scrap of my handwriting anywhere. Didn't I make any notes myself?
Bundle 1 (the largest) - Never laid eyes before today
Bundle 2 - Looks familiar
Bundle 3 - Definitely attempted but still not confident
Bundle 4 - Done and dusted, to the best of my understanding
I note with distaste that Bundle 4 is the slimmest one and I need to improve its prospects.
I need a plan. Much like the Indian cricket team's required run rate based on Target score Vs. No. of overs / balls remaining, I calculate my required study rate based on the Total no. of pages Vs. Available time. This complex calculation takes some time since I can't find my calculator.
1.40 a.m.
At least now I know how deep the waters are that I am to wade through. I am astounded to see that the required study page rate is 5 pages/minute! Holy cow! Is that even possible? I mean just reading through a page takes me more than a minute, leave alone deciphering and memorizing its complexities!
Sagely, I decide to re-evaluate the bundles. Bundle 1 is relegated to the deepest recesses of my study cupboard. The required page rate still shows 3 pages/minute. Hmm, this is not good. More sacrifice is called for. With trepidation, I stuff Bundle 2 inside the cupboard. I decide to stick with only Bundle 3 and 4, the known devils. The stats have improved! I am down to 1 page/minute! That is the best I can do, isn't it?
2.10 a.m.
The house is so quiet, it feels almost eerie. I wander from my room on the first floor to the adjoining balcony overlooking the courtyard. From the corner of my eye, I notice a light pop in the house adjacent ours. Ahh…Shyam’s awake, finally! I have been inadvertently looking out for that light to come on. Good I will have some company in my misery. But the light goes off in a minute, most likely someone answering nature’s call. Morosely, I go back to my room. Didn’t he have to study too? During the long chat we’d had yesterday comparing study statuses, he had moaned and groaned about the pending study much more than me…humph!! That liar! He’d deceived and lulled me in to believing that he was worse off than me. What is this world coming to, when people lie about something like this! I browse through a few pages; there is still loads to study and most of it beyond my comprehension.
A wave of self-pity engulfs me. Poor me, awake, all alone and wretched at this unearthly hour while the rest of the world is sleeping in peace.
2.32 a.m.
It has started raining again, a gentle pitter-patter that progresses to a steady downpour. I pray to the rain Gods, ‘Hey Indra, Lord of the skies, pray continue with this downpour, if possible increase its intensity. Let it not lessen, please, please, please let it rain non-stop till at least 9.00 a.m. tomorrow.’ I have never prayed with so much fervor. I hasten to add, ‘You can send in extra heavy rains, enough to flood the exam center, located in Modern School, Sector-9.’ I don’t want my plea to be lost in tracking the right address for delivery or the Gods to waste their resources upon irrelevant areas.
I pick up the notes and plough through them steadily for the next 15 minutes. The stomach rumbles in protest. How can I be expected to maintain my concentration on an empty stomach? It is ages since dinner. Slipping on my noisy flip-flops I plod to the kitchen downstairs. I rifle through the contents of the large orange plastic container in which mom usually keeps snacks and biscuits for the unexpected guest. Guess she’s decided to discontinue that practice since the box now contains only empty wrappers. No one cares if I starve, studying my way all through the night. The fridge doesn’t seem very promising either. Finally I help myself to a large bowl of curd, add five scoops of sugar, throw in some chopped bananas and nuts and settle down to appease the rumbling demon in my stomach. 

READ NEXT >> Exam Fever - Part 2 - I Promise

Read other stories from Nina's World:  

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Monday, 25 December 2017

#UnwrapChristmas My way!

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Hey there folks, I am celebrating the spirit of Christmas with the #UnwrapChristmas blogpost chain.
I am thankful to the lovely Manisha Garg for passing on the baton of spreading Christmas joy and spirit to me.

Of the many things I've been upto through all these years of celebrating Christmas is, learning the longer version of Jingle Bells, yes, I really did learn it! And what d'you know? I even directed a Christmas play starring kids from 5-10 years old! Here you go,

Now about Christmas this year.
My maid (the new one, probably the 25th one - if you haven't read my Bai Saga series, you should!) walks through the living room into the kitchen with a puzzled look. She goes back to the living room to check if Hanumanji is still on the console table and next looks at the decked up Christmas tree alongside. I am chuckling away quietly, working on my laptop and surreptitiously observing her confusion. Finally she cannot hold back her curiosity. "Didi, aap Christmas manate ho (you celebrate Christmas)?" 

Nodding my head, I look up from the laptop, "Haan, mai Christmas manati hoon aur har saal Ganpati bappa mere ghar bhi aate hain (Yes, I celebrate Christmas and every year Lord Ganesha visits my home too)!"
Some people find it puzzling and unthinkable that those of one faith celebrate the festival of another faith. 
Having studied in a convent school, Christmas celebrations are probably ingrained in me. Christmas at my home is more of a festive, year-end, feel good celebration, with playing Santa being the major draw for me when the kids were younger. 

So here I am, chopping and mixing in the dryfruits and nuts for the Christmas cake, swapping the traditional recipe for an eggless version, and beside it simmers a pan of 'Vatha kozhambu' (a ubiquitously south-Indian recipe). Yeah, a confusing clash of aromas and tastes you will agree! What to do, we are like that wonly!

As I look back at the year that went by, I am glad that I didn't totally mess it up! I am thankful to the blogging world through which I have made some really lovely friends and this Christmas it feels all the more special, thanks to the lovely gifts from my Secret Santas!
Gifts from my lovely Secret Santas!

A sad realization dawns on me that Christmas may not hold the same attraction for me in the coming year as one of my chicks leaves the nest for studies abroad. 
All the same, I am glad that we are here together today, unwrapping gifts, rejoicing over the surprises, beaming proudly at the DIY Christmas tree with its handmade ornaments, the lovely table setting that we did together, while munching on a nearly perfect Christmas cake!  

Wishing all my dear friends a very happy festive season. 
Peace, joy and good health be with you and yours!

I now invite the good doctor Roshan Radhakrishnan to carry forth the Christmas cheer.

You can read posts by my blogger friends on the#UnwrapChristmas blogchain here:

An InLinkz Link-up

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Holiday at Shiny Valley - Chapter 3

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Chapter 3: Things get exciting

The four decided to keep up the sinister appointment, wondering wildly who they would be meeting. They rushed through lunch, whispering all the while. Grandma thought it was curious that none of them asked for second helpings of anything. The children could hardly wait to go out!

At 3.30 they went to Grandpa to ask him for permission to go on a hike. Grandpa was half asleep and waved them away. They went to Grandma next and she was relieved that they would be out of the house. She packed them a little basket with sandwiches and cold lemonade, idly musing, ‘I wonder what they are plotting? Ahh, kids!’ “Don’t be too late children and be careful, will you? It looks like it might rain. Neel you are the eldest, so take care of everyone, alright?” 
Grandma wasn’t too worried; they lived in such a quiet and peaceful place. Shiny Valley had no scope for adventure or any kind of danger.

Soon the children were off on their mysterious rendezvous. They excitedly discussed all possible theories on who could have written the postcard. Hiking up the hillock, they reached their destination. It looked a bit different from the picture, but the girls insisted that this was the place. 
They waited with bathed breath a little way from the cave entrance peering through the tangled thorn bushes. They could see through the dark tunnel-like cave, the semi-circular archway of light at the other end. It was 4.10 and they were getting restless. Suddenly they saw a hazy figure at the arch; the figure waved. It felt weird but they waved back too. Goosebumps all over, they crept out and stood erect, waiting cautiously for the stranger to appear fully in front of them. 

The stranger disappeared into the dark cave and eventually reappeared with a wide smile and surprise on his face. 

It was Uncle Ray! He was puzzled to see the children here, and suddenly Mili and Reya burst out laughing! They were doubled up and clutching their tummies! Their father and the boys thought they had gone crazy. Finally Mili managed to control her laughter and explained that they had successfully pulled a prank on the uppity boys!

They had found the blank postcard on their last visit to the grandparents. The image had been painted by Grandma long ago and reminded them of this place where their father, botanist Dr Ray, came every day just about this time to collect samples of rare plants at the other end of the cave. They had successfully forged the shaky old handwriting on the card and placed it in between the comics, where the boys were bound to find it! Served the boys right for acting so snobbish with them all the time!

The boys were still rather stunned! But they soon came around, sheepishly apologizing to the girls for their behaviour. Everyone had a good laugh, the girls especially, and they all turned to go back to go home. 

Suddenly someone called out, "I am here." 
The boys turned to see who was calling. There was someone at the end of the cave waving to them.
"Girls! Who is it now?" Neel and Varun chorused. The girls and their father who were walking ahead looked puzzled, they hadn't heard anything, nor could they see anything when the boys pointed frantically to the cave!

“Come on boys, stop fooling around. It has started to drizzle and we’ll be drenched if we don’t hurry,” called out Uncle Ray.
The drizzle was becoming stronger, blurring their view and the sudden chill in the air, made the boys shiver. Frozen in horror, they watched as the figure continued to come nearer, waving all the while. Neel and Varun couldn’t believe that no one else could see it!

It was exactly 4.30 p.m.!!


Chapter 1: Cozy Nest >> Chapter 2: The Den >> Chapter 3: Things get exciting

Read other stories from Nina's World:  

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2017 KALA RAVI