Bed Time Stories…

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When my brother and I were children, bed-time stories were a must-have ritual every night. During school days, we used to fall asleep listening to our father’s voice droning in the dark about Rama, The Pandavas or Alibaba.. 

And during the holidays, my grandfather used to read Brer Rabbit from an Enid Blyton book, when we fell asleep on a cot out-doors, staring at the starry sky.

Apart from this teeny bit of English stories, all others were home-grown. Tales from Rmayana, Mahabharata or some other mythologies were regulars and sometimes peppered with local stories of a greedy mother in law, or a shy, but gluttonous son-in-law, and such.

Now of course the stories I read to my son are stright from glossy books we find in upmarket book stores – Bob the builder, Mickey Mouse, Franklin the turtle, Thomas the Tank Engine, to name a few.

I was horrified last week, when he told me that Prince Ram from Raamaayaan – The Legend of  Prince Raam,  Phhawan Phuthrrr Haanuman are all American boys. (Thanks to Cartoon Network) He refused to believe they had their origins in India.

Mortified, I vowed to set it right. Maybe I’ll recount the stories of my childhood. 

That night he was all excited that I was going to tell him the story of Ramayan. I started off with King Dasaratha pining for a child and he got four sons…

But then, even the tamest of our epics is full of blood and gore…

Lakshmana cutting off Surpananka’s nose, Ravana slayiing Jatayu, Rama killing Vali with his bow & arrow and the finale, the bloody battle itself…

All the stuff which are  normally taboo for him on TV was all rolled in one story.

Mahabharatha is equally violent. 

So I tried some of the home grown stories. Each one was more violent than the other.

Here’s an example.

A mother-in-law tries to kill her daughter-in-law by asking her son to bundle her up in a sack and set fire on her… Why? Because the Daughter-in-law had eaten all of her favourite ennai kathrikka (an eggplant dish) The clever daughter-in-law escapes and replaces the sack with firewood. And when the sticks start to explode, the Mother-in-Law rubs her hands in glee that her Daughter-in-Law’s bones are breaking.

The younger woman escapes into the forests and gets on a tree for the night. She hears some dacoits dividing their loot under the same tree. She jumps on them. They run for their lives misaking her for a ghost and she happily gathers all the gold and comes back home. Her mother-in-law is shocked to see her alive. The daughter-in-law convinces her that she went to heaven and her father in law is rolling in money and gold and gave her just a bit. So the mother-in-law orders her son to set fire on her so she can join her husband and his riches in heaven. He obliges and the young couple live happily ever after…

How am I supposed to narrate this to my soon-to-be five year old?! What morals does it teach him? That killing someone for petty reason is ok? Living off stolen money is commendable? Its even worse than all the violent good Vs evil stories he watches on TV.

More importantly how did my own father and his kith and kin tell us this story when we were about the same age?

Actually speaking, it didn’t do us any damage emotionally. Both me and my brother were never aggressive as kids.

Am I over-analysing the effects of stories on young minds?

But still I hate it when my son’s favourite pastime is slaying imaginary enemies with a Ben 10 sword. Now most of his sentences are peppered wih the word ‘kill’.

Only yesterday, we had a power-cut which lasted about ten minutes (thanks to the upcoming elections!)

He was so annoyed and afterwards told me, “Amma, a bad god came and took the electricity away. Then a good god came, killed the bad god and gave me the electricity.”

Deivame!!

tea times…

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A swank new tea lounge had opened up in the neighborhood. A small place, looked cosy from outside.

A friend called me. She was back in town for a holiday and wanted to meet up with the gang for tea. I suggested the new place.

A few days later, I walked in with my pals.

All of us collapsed on the comfy sofas and looked around appreciatively.

“This place is  so much like the Central Perk in ‘Friends’, I said.

“Wow!” S said. “Why didn’t we have places like these when we were in college?”

“Like we would have been able to afford it!” quipped N. “Dei, you still owe me money for your college binges!” he laughed.

The afternoon saw us relaxed and catching-up on each others’ lives. The ones returning home sat reminiscing with the rest of us who were definitely not going anywhere outside our charmed city.

The ambience of the place added to to our sense of  bonhomie. Dim lights, tastefully done interiors, a book shelf crammed with a wide variety of books, a lone waiter who was in no hurry…

…it was bliss.

A few weeks later, I wanted to go there again. So I dragged a cousin to the place and told her this is a must-see place for her if she wants a cool hang-out for her friends.

She was in college and was reluctantly plodding through a course in, lets just say more scintifically oriented.

“I’m just waiting to complete college, so I  never have to look at a science book in my life again!” she told me on our way. “You know, I’m so much more interested in Arts.”

“Then why did you take this up?” I asked.

“Oh Akka! I thought this was my calling in life when I was in school,  and Arts was only a hobby. But now I realise there are so many avenues open to Arts..” She said.

Her jaw dropped opened when she saw the place.

“Oh wow!” She gushed. “What a place!”

She was alll charged up by the time we were seated. 

“Once I go back home after my college, I am going to start a place, just like this in my city!” She enthused.

“I’ll speak to mom and we can look for a place closeby…” 

As she was plotting the opening of her own restaurant, I lazily looked around.

Not many people on a Sunday afternoon, I mused.

The place was empty, but for a table on the other end.

The door opened and a couple walked in. They were holding hands and she was leaning on his shoulder. They took the table directly in front of us.

She was a PYT, pencil thin, in a tight-fitting lime-green Tee and tight denims. He was more the studious type, with a book in hand.

She looked vaguely familiar. But I just couldn’t place her.

After we placed our orders, I was still trying to place the PYT. “I think I know her..” I told my cousin, trying not stare.

I thought I was getting somewhere. Just when my brain found the last piece of the puzzle, I heard a pretty loud click.

My cousin just had to show the place to her mom. So she had clicked a pictuere on her mobile phone.

“She’s my friend’s cousin’s wife!” I said. I had been to his wedding last year.

The lovey-dovey couple, looked in our direction, startled.

“Is that her husband?” my cousin asked, not aware of the little storm she had created in their cuppa.

“No..” I replied as the girl hurriedly packed her things.

Then she walked to the door as fast as possible and let herself out.

“What have you done?!” I asked my cousin.

“That girl thinks we were spying on her and have taken a picture of them together to show her folks!”

“My god! Akka, I’m so sorry!”

But then the situation was so unreal, I burst out laughing.

The man still sat at the table, unmindful of anything, as he slowly sipped his coffee and read his book.

“Will you tell your friend?” my cousin wanted to know.

“No way!” I replied. “This is strictly none of our business. If this woman wants to cheat on her husband, its her prerogative. I hate meddling with other people’s marriages.”

“But you know Akka, these things happen in my college all the time,” She said.

“In my own class there are 2 or 3 cases. But if you’d rather not know, the righteous type you are, we’ll talk about something else.” She added cautiously.

“No, no! I”m ever ready for gossip!” I reassured her and I was greatly enlightened about a married professor living with a student and girls two-timing their class boys and so on and so forth.

And true to my words, I never mentioned my friend’s cousin’s wife to anyone at all.

And thank god I didn’t! Imagine my shock when I bumped into them in a wedding the following week. My frind’s cousin was just the same, but his wife was triple her size. I think she was definitely pregnant!!!