adventure, College, description, travel

Footwear, Kitchen and Ropes 

Somewhere in the middle of the 30 feet descent, I walked backwards, araam se, like I do every once in a while. Only I was hanging on a rope. My legs stood firm like they had never been – for once they decided to listen to me. But only a few minutes ago, they had been quite an oxymoron – on vibrate mode.

Outbound Training Programme it was called, and true to its name, it was outside bounds. From rock climbing and rappelling, to crawling under rocks, it was as exciting as it was scary – one slip of the foot, and you could end up in an AC room for a decided amount of time – in a hospital.

The climb left me quite breathless – I don’t even bother to climb stairs. Sheeet, how it made me wish I had climbed all those floors in my apartment. The beauty of the place — right in the lap of nature – was that if you stayed still, everything around you came alive. Everything that you had assumed to be still, is not so anymore.

But at the top, everything around me was still, except for my own body, with my heart gasping for breath. So loudly that I could hear it everywhere– including my arms and legs. Here, one of the instructors divided the eight teams into two large ones: Spartans and Warriors. After a few breathing exercises, and a few games out there, we decided to return.

Games ©NM

Now if anybody ever thought that climbing down was easier, I urge you to think again. The hill, combined with the Earth’ gravitational force, has only and only one aim in their lives – to pull you down; literally. At one point, we had to slide down a bit. How I wish they had actually made a semi cylindrical depression, with bars to hold on to. But this was more of strategic sliding. You had to slowly almost sit and crawl, sitting in the tiny craters so as to not slip. But unfortunately, my body weight easily pulled me down, and if those two guys had not been standing at the end of it, I am sure I would have effortlessly made it to my destination in lightning speed.

This was followed by walking on a slope — through it. The only thing around were bundles of lemon grass; comfortably rooted, sitting like fountains, laughing at us while we struggled to get a grip. And right after this, was a big rock – and we were to go under it. I began contemplating whether I will fit in there at all. Finally I did manage to fit in — barely. I crawled out of it as fast as I could, during which I wondered if anybody would know if something or somebody had died in there. Once out, one of my teammates apologised for having scrapped my bag a little – the only two girls in our seven member team decided they wanted to carry their bags; and we all took turns carrying them (only two bags were allowed per team). That poor guy did not realise I was too happy that we all had managed to get out of that tiny cave in one piece.

In spite of having such co-operative and supportive classmates, as well instructors, I had been carrying all this while the one most uncooperative thing with me — or rather I should say wearing them: my shoes. The soulless creature’s soles were coming off. Sadly, irrespective of whether the footwear I am wearing belongs to me or not, they are most rebellious – this definitely was not the first time this had happened.

Three years ago, in the last year of schooling, I was on a study tour with my class. A hosteller at that time, for some reason that I don’t remember now, I ended up borrowing somebody’s chappal. We had stopped somewhere near a beach, in the nattucha veil (burning hot afternoon). The chappal decided to die on me; and since the only support in it had fallen apart, I had no option but to walk barefoot. On the sand. Till the bus.

At a point in the descent, he asked us to stand with fellow Spartans and Warriors. He then asked us to find our way back to the kitchen. A beta version of human GPS managed to find another stone underpass. Thankfully, it was more spacious than the previous one. It did not really matter to me, as long as it took me to the kitchen.

The kitchen. (http://gurufreddyacademy.org)

After a satisfying meal, we all chatted for a while. None of us really had any idea what they had planned for us. All I wanted was a nice spot under a tree and a good nap. An instrumental version of the All India Radio whistled away, while we relaxed. And then two instructors, went into a room for equipment. Equipment??

I dragged myself, following others to another part of the campus, where military and police recruits trained. While others ran and jumped through the first obstacle, which looked like stepping stones on land, I preferred walking through it. Then there was one where slabs of stone projected off a wall: you had to climb through a side and get down the other. I don’t really recall how, but I managed to climb up, after which I was stuck. The instructor suggested I watch somebody else do it, and I agreed. I called out to a girl and warned her that I was already up there — hence it was not a good idea to climb up. I did manage to turn around and keep my foot on one of the projections, but after that I could not see anything except for the huge slab I was holding on to. I climbed down a little, and then jumped. The instructor said I was lucky to not have been hurt by a pointy slab.

It seemed wiser for me to simply stare at the rest of the obstacle course, while a few others tried some out. From there, we were taken to the cliff, or rather a 30 feet rock, where the Spartans were climbing down, with ropes and harnesses. Warriors had barely begun, when it started raining, and we were asked to return. I walked around in my Sherlock Holmes raincoat, even though the rain stopped the moment I had put it on. I had to consider the effort I had taken to put it on. Five minutes later, we were called back, as the weather seemed to have improved.

Heights of cracking jokes. ©NM

I sat down, looking at others climb down, and another who stood at the bottom to help them. Though, I was extremely tempted to try it, I did not trust my shoes at all. My classmates encouraged me to try it out nevertheless, and one of the instructors (who was sitting with us) reassured me the shoes were not a problem. Since the shoe was still in one piece – somewhat, I decided to go ahead anyways. One of my other classmates, also changed her decision: she decided to give it a try.

I knew that walking down backwards was not the challenge, it was to begin smoothly from the edge of the cliff. And that was the only thing that worried me. I collected the harness and gloves, and climbed up. Here, I almost lost my way— which I had suspected I would — but managed to climb up. It was then that I realised that it was less spacious than it seemed from down there. Three of us were waiting for our turn, two instructors were giving a fourth instructions, and there was another who clicked pictures.

I tried to stand still, so I would not tumble down. Looking around, or looking down was not a good idea, because this cliff was on top of a highly elevated landmass. As I waited for my turn, one of my classmates started thinking out loud, “What if I leave this hand?” I begged him to shut up. As he climbed two steps down, he paused to ask, “Are you not clicking pictures?” The other girl decided to go back, but nevertheless she did not move. And then, one of the instructors told her, “There is only one way down from here.”

I was initially standing so still, that I could barely move. I walked towards the edge, and one of the instructors spoke to me in Malayalam, while the other tightened the straps of the harness. For the first time, my knees were dancing — even though I didn’t ask them to. As if to show one last sign of rebellion, my shoelace came apart. I thought it could go die, I was not going to tie it.

Just hanging in there. ©NM

I managed to begin smoothly, holding on to the ropes real tight. As I climbed down, I felt as if I were riding my office chair in reverse, back home – which I do when I am too lazy to get up and open my door.

 

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Life in a Graveyard and Fates that come in Autos

The sky, the earth and the wind were full of rain that Saturday night, when I sat around the steel table with Sithu and Irene in the study hall. It was movie night, and most of them were in the mess watching TV. But we had other, better things to do. It was here that the story was born. The story of a ghost that slept many feet below the ground, right under Sithu’s bed.

Read the rest at : http://www.opendosa.in/life-graveyard-fates-come-autos/

Illustration by Sitara VS

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Grilled

NM©

The moment the prayer had finished, a voice shattered the speaker. The Giant – he suffers from a surplus of growth hormone among many other phenomena, and thus the name – was shouting at the mike.

“Regular Boys Batch, second bench, the second boy. No, the red t-shirt. Come down to the office.” He announced.

That was when I, or rather we, realised that the tiny cameras in our rooms actually do work – CCTV cameras. At least the ones that are not broken.

That Thursday evening, the air around me was like drinking water after eating amla. and perhaps for that same reason, my head too reciprocated that feeling. Or maybe it was also because it was a Thursday – when I had Zoology at the coaching class (CC). I wondered if I would ever write about that particular phase of my life, those two years ; and if I did, then how would it be?
I looked out the window, staring at all the dirt on the slant sheets of roof that had accumulated for the last so many years. So much that I could not decide if it was mud, or just dust. The window, at least that is what I call it, had no glass. You could not close that thing, it was made of tiny green squares, and spread across -as if it were a graph sheet- two walls of the room, in an L.
I liked when it rained heavily, there was no way anybody could stop it from racing into the class. The green cubes were irritating, it had a green house effect. All sorts of annoying creatures were let in, and they never left. On the other hand you were trapped – you could throw pencils, or even tiny stones out the net, but you could never throw yourself out of it. No matter how tiny you were, no matter how hard you wished. A decomposing rat was the perfect example of this ultimate truth.

I wish, I wish – but you simply couldn’t. You were not allowed to, to wish,  to think, to dream. They locked our brains away, and one by one would roast , fry and grill our brains. I am convinced the Giant does eat brains – after all he had told students staying at CC’s hostel that they should not be bothered by the food made available to them, or even the worm they had discovered in it. Only think of  studying, but then he had already kidnapped that ability of ours.
The weather, to me, was perfect for writing. Cold. Cloudy but not rainy. Such that you could take a walk without fearing the Sun, who had lost complete voltage. But I was not sure what I should write , nor did I imagine that I would end up writing all the time those two years later. Writing , was and maybe even is, perhaps the only way I had my revenge at everything that tortured me.  And the CC was no less than a concentration camp. A mental holocaust.
My best friend was in another class – she had Math while I had Biology. And therefore, I could not look at her across the room, exchange glances, or mean jokes on all noises the teachers made in class. There was one who always asked us to behave by narrating stories about himself – when he was our age – just to tell us how misbehaved he was. Just because he ended up in a good position, doesn’t mean we will – is what he intended to imply; but perhaps it got lost amidst the air molecules. My class only had girls, and it was supposed to be a warning for us. But for the all-boys class perhaps it was a sort of encouragement to remain directionless. But I always wondered, was he truly happy with what he was doing?
Then there was the botany sir, whom we called H2O, because he made us drink water in the middle of the class. His mechanical voice came out like the branches of a tree. He event went on to do Bharatanatyam on the platform, to explain the arrangement of leaves in plants. One day, half way into the first year of higher secondary, and the coaching class, I realised that one of our chemistry sirs whom we called Apoopan (grandfather) rarely said anything out of text; and that rare occasion would be an example equation. But in general, all of them hated our school, ignoring the fact that the species constituted 98% of the evening batch.

NM©
description

A Sinister Set of Stories

Five years ago, while cutting triangles and circled for my math records, I tried using the scissors with my right hand since my left hand had fallen numb. But I ended up with hexagons, octagons and pentagons instead of circles, thanks to the sharp edged devil with a disproportionate handle. I also remember reading as a kid, that left-handers had a shorter life span and that it was due to having to use things designed for right handers.

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Read the rest : http://www.opendosa.in/left-handsa/


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Lost and Found

As a kid, I used to be so lost in another world, that there were moments where I could not figure out where (and how) I’d lost my stuff back here on Earth. There were a few things I kept losing, but otherwise I was a pretty careful child.

One of them was the back of my tiny gold earrings – the tiny screws. I do have the habit of playing with my earring when I talk or think. Now that I think of it, I could have’unscrewed’ them unknowingly. I used to lose one almost every week. I’m not sure how this tradition stopped – probably my mom stopped making me wear gold at all. It saved her a lot of energy.

Then there were handkerchiefs. When I was really small, it used to be pinned to my uniform. But as I grew older, I started carrying it in my hand. Many a times, in spite of having a pocket, I misplace it. I often forget that I’m carrying something, and drop it – a hanky in my hand restricts my hand movements. I often find it lying on the ground, after a sudden realisation that my hands no longer carry the handkerchief .

Another one would be bindis. As a kid, I would wipe my forehead, forgetting that fact that I’ve worn a bindi – completely displacing the bindi. And for this reason, I avoided bindis for a long time until a few years ago. And now, I wear it everytime I wear Indian. A red bindi for a red Kurti, a blue one for a blue churidar.

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Uniform Default Detectors

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A black frock with red, grey, sky blue and even thin green checks on it. That was my uniform for kindergarten, along with a white uniform I wore with tiny white shoes. Wednesday was when you got to wear colour dress of your choice. Colour dress was always such a special occasion, bigger than the actual occasion at times, when it doesn’t matter why you get to wear it, but just that you get to wear it. Normal colour dress can make so much of a difference in school.
But something one cannot escape is that irritating uniform checking. As a kid, they were like monsters to me, trying to decide whom to punish – but I used to be extremely careful. I remember how betrayed I felt when my classmate ‘chose me’ for I had miraculously forgotten to cut a nail on just one of my finger. Extremely betrayed.

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During my tenth, I had not yet got my belt. So nobody could actually catch me, since it was the school’s fault. The detector was usually our library teacher with ‘mercy’ somewhere in her name, but nowhere near how she was at school. There were other checks in class itself too, occasionally. The uniform was a brown sack that they called pinafore, light brown shirt with dark brown vertical stripes, and a dark brown tie with light brown stripes, and a belt with the school emblem. But I had joined a little late, and by then they had run out of belts. And I went there every Friday, and the guy always asked me to come check next Friday – they only had stock for the primary school kids, and I was never really skinny. This happened for around one or two months, until one day, I finally got it. I went to tuition after school, and boarded a bus home after that – my home being just two stops away. That was also, unfortunately the day the school decided they had to get rid of their new batch of record books. If you think you have been in asphyxiating-ly filled public transport, then this was my experience in the category. It was not a KSRTC, but a private bus – nothing uncommon in Kochi. I got into it, thinking it was only two stops away. But what I didn’t think was that so many women would climb in after I had – I was already near the door. I struggled with my extremely heavy school bag, and made faces at unpleasant aunties who frowned at me and my bag. I cursed that their kids will suffer the same fate, only then will they sympathise. Seeing me stuck in a whirlpool of confusion, two aunties sitting to the left of the driver, decided to catch my bag. They sympathised as I passed my bag: oh, why so heavy child? I just smiled gratefully at them. I got down around 15 minutes later, and ran my way home. I was all excited to show my belt to my mom, and stood proud in front of her. But my mom found herself staring at my empty pinafore waist.

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I changed my school again in standard eleven, and was in the school hostel. My life was in fact acting like me – all of a sudden it wakes up realising that it had perhaps fallen asleep a bit, and was horrified that there were only two years of schooling left. The deadline was near, and hence such varied long experiences in the last two years of school for me. The very first day, the uniform detector walked up to me in the corridor assembly, flashed her evil smile that I had been thus cursed to see for the next two years,  and swiftly removed my ring, put it in her pocket and wandered off in search of her next prey. I stood there bewildered. The ring had been in my finger for so long that I didn’t realise it. It was one among a set of three, the other two with my two best friends. Those two years were when I was in such close contact with my uniform – I had to see its stupid face every day, iron it, wash it, and make sure that somebody else didn’t flick it because the laundry never returned their uniform. They even made us wear ribbons, and I had the tiniest you would find. That way, I was quite satisfied, and they couldn’t complain.
The detector had the audacity to disrupt your line of thought during exams. Being somebody who gets lost in my brain during exams, if somebody disturbs me in between, my reaction would be to keep blinking at you till I returned to earth. So she walks in while I write my physics, or perhaps my chemistry exam. These subjects require me to search my brain for some sort of clue, using which I can make up the rest of the answer. At such a delicate moment, she touches one of my ponytail, and I jump in my seat. Thankfully I didn’t shriek or throw my pen. I made a what-is-it-now face at her. She smiled slightly, and I rolled my eyes. She waited till I had taken out my ribbons from my pocket, and tied it.

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Onnekil ketta, alenkil vetta. She threatened one fine day.
My hair was not long enough to plait, so I decided on the other option she gave me: cut my hair. It was my last year, and I was quite fed up of her. A few days later, I tied my newly cut hair into a high pony, so it looks like it’s too short for two ponies

description, school

Uniforms and Dysfunctional Laundry

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The school was a big quadrilateral, and the assembly ground in between. During monsoon, the corners would be filled with water where student made paper boats. All this before they filled the ground with interlocks. This was where I had to spend the last two years of my schooling. My best friend and I, we used stand right at the beginning of one side, near the corner, and look down at the ground. We commented on the patterns they were making with interlocks, and the colours they’d used. How we both liked the smell of polish. How we cursed every time others occupied our place. How we laughed at people who tried to be like us.
My uniforms were like these big lohas. It was salwar kameez, but just the kameez was like a nighty only as long as below the knee. No slits, they said in the piece of paper which explained how to stitch your uniform. On top of the light blue and white checked kameez was the blue waistcoat. The same grayish blue as the salwar. The waistcoat could do a lot of repair to the kameez, but mine only enhanced the weird look. It was short, and lacked the pockets it was supposed to have. It looked, weirdly enough, at least a size larger than required. All this because the tailor who stitched my uniform didn’t know to stitch waistcoats. Thankfully, I had a pocket in my kameez – I cannot live without pockets.

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My best friend’s tailor on the other hand, knew stitching. Her waistcoat was long, had pockets, and had a straight line at the end. While mine had 2 triangles facing down – the only thing my tailor had copied from the uniform diagram. We had to wear the white uniform not once, but twice a week. Extremely irritating especially when you’re in the school hostel, with a dysfunctional laundry service. But as if they cared, we were still held responsible if we were in the blue uniform due to shortage of the white uniform. I thankfully had 2 blue uniforms and 2 white ones, my mother was very farsighted you see. I had to wear blue shawl (my house colour) on Wednesdays and white shawl on Fridays, with the white set. More like the brown shawl, since it gets dirty so easily. Thankfully, they changed the Friday uniform to blue waistcoat with the white set, in my second year. Only, we then had to wash the waistcoat twice. Still better than washing that stupid white shawl.