quixotic: Fandom | Ava's Demon (Two sides of destruction)
[personal profile] quixotic
Ganesh Chaturti is celebrated during August and September of the month. It is Ganesh's holiday, sometimes referred to as Ganesh's birthday. I wasn't a Hindu, but everyone else was (or a good chunk. Secularism in India is oddly skewed) and everywhere you went, people were making their idols. The newspaper would report the unusual as well as the beautiful ones. There was a Ganesh carved on a grain of rice. There were Ganeshs that towered over people. Different colours, different textures, bright, his eyes curved serenely. I had a Ganesh at home, a bronze image made by an old bronzemaker in Orissa, a rare piece and hard to find. I wish I knew more of its history as it knows more of mine, being in my family for as long as I can remember. For me, the story of Ganesh, is the story my grandmother told me before I slept. There was a craftsman who built idols for a living and made a Ganesh one out of clay. Satisfied, he left it to dry but when he checked it the next morning, the trunk had broken. He tried again and again, the trunk was destroyed. Finally, he decided to wait in the night to catch the culprit. In the moonlight, slinking in the dark, was a cat, who approached the idol with wide eyes and leapt on its nose. And it broke! I can't remember how it ended for the craftsman, but I remember being infinitely amused by the cat.

The person who wrote that story was my grandfather.

Mumbai is the city of flats, of grey and concrete, of smog and dirt. We were lucky because our building had a garden, a playhouse, a luxury. Claiming I had a garden was like claiming I had my own swimming pool. The green was fading and fading fast. Living near the sea was the second perk, though I suppose if I visited it now, I would hardly call it that. The sea was grey, dark and absolutely filthy. I could see cloths, objects, trash crash against the rocks. It was sickening. But people had to use it because where else would they get water to wash their clothes? Often, I would see people from the slums gather when the tide was low and rows of slip shorn clothes were spread over the rocks. There was even a small house right at the sea, on a hill, a tiny network of slums who suffered floods whenever the waves rose to crash inbetween the pathways. And every day, I would set out into the balcony and watch. Not for long. It always bothered me to look too long.

At the end of Ganesh Chaturti, the worshippers took their idols to the sea. Clay, metal, stone, it didn't matter what the idols were made of, they were immersed. And the sea grew filthier, year after year. But who can stop religion, especially in India? Religion was the way of the world, religion was how men got rich, or children earned respect. Religion was following the rules to a T, or building own communities that shelter you from the rest of the world.

I didn't rightly understand it until I studied it and continued to do so. I do appreciate it. But in India, I wish it was gone. Though, now, it probably is. Money is the new religion now.
quixotic: Fandom | Ava's Demon (I defeated the god of death)
[personal profile] quixotic
For [personal profile] fantastic 

I had what most people would really long for and it took me a long time to realize it. I had very loving grandparents and my life with them was perfectly and utterly idyllic. It's what I think people often expect when they hear they're visiting their grandparents for a visit, something out of Anne of the Green Gables or Emily of New Moon. As a child, of course, I didn't quite understand that seeing the clash of the newly growing modern age pulling me closer so natural things didn't have an impact on me. Thank god I have a good memory.

On my mother's side, I had Ammachi and Appachi (Grandmother and Grandfather respectively). They owned a cottage (bungalow? similar right?) in a small road in Cochin. What's Cochin like? Well, when you fly over by plane and Cochin (or Kerala, the state) opens up before you, all you can see is palm trees. That's what I remember. Palms trees stretching as far as the eye can see. I don't know if it is still like that, though I hope so. I truly do. Anyway, we would drive back home from the airport in a hot black car with no air-con and the windows wide open, so the smells of the roadside, of dust would filter the air. Then we'd arrive in a small house with a huge green gate. My grandmother's dog, a black daschund would bark at us from the house as we would try to help my grandfather with the suitcases. My grandfather was a private man. He liked his TV in the mornings and in the nights. He had a large armchair that me and my brother adored to pieces and often fought over. A man of fair average and large white-grey bushy whiskers and a pair of glasses that made him seem owlish and learned, he had a deep fondness for golf and chocolate. I remember looking over a small table full of golden golf trophies and thinking, "wow he's a champion." We went a few times to the golf groups where he used to play. A tiny island away from the city, filled with sand and palm trees, like most of Cochin. I remember ice-creams and peanuts and thinking of what American ballgames were to Americans were just like golf to us.

I wasn't that close to my grandfather. I didn't cry when he died. I was a lot closer to my grandmother. She was... the epitome of grandmothers to me. Exactly like the picture books where grandmothers were plump and when they smiled, their dimples showed. She was a genius in baking and cooking. Every evening, I would have a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of lemonade. Then, in the evenings, the lights would go out (remember. Not every place in the world has electricity all the time). Then we would take our tiny glasses, filled with white wine and sit at the entrance of the house, watching the fireflies flit about. It seems too magical to be true, too perfect now that I reflect on it. Of course, when I was a child, all I could think was, "Damn the power is out, now I can't watch TV". It's a saddening thought. She would manage the gardens. We had two, the front lawn decorated with floral hedges. The butterflies would come often and my brother and I would dare each other to catch one with our fingers. We rarely succeeded. Behind the house, were many things. The deep well, covered with the net that always frightened me to look into, the mulberry bush where we would pluck out the ripe ones and nibble on them happily, getting juice on our hands.  Then, there was the hibiscus plant, where we would pick out the petals and add them to our lemonade (it changed the colour and the taste... but only slightly on the taste front). And of course, there were the trees. We have huge fruit trees. Coconut, banana, mango, jackfruit... often my grandmother would hire someone to cut the fruits down and we'd have them for breakfast. And in the nights, with our mosquito nets and creams, my grandmother would come inside our room and ask us if we had done our prayers. It was weird. We never really prayed, but it wasn't a bad thing. It just struck us as odd.

How is it now that these things only gain value with age? The simple things a child would do, in nature's light and in the beauty of an indian summer. It seems... ironic, but at least I have them. I haven't forgotten them. And I do possess the gift of gab and the written word, so anyone else who reads this can remember it too.


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