Monday, March 06, 2017

The Apple Faced Girl

The apple faced girl, was the youngest born, into a happy Malayalee family. Her father was an army officer, who got transferred into non-family stations very often. Non-family stations mean those locations in India which have the highest terrorist activity. Officers were not allowed to bring families to these places as they would naturally become the soft target for terrorists. The apple faced girl, her elder brother and her mother made several trips to their hometown in Trivandrum, each time the father was stationed in these non-family locations.

On one of those trips back home, the apple faced girl made acquaintance with her grandmother's elder brother. He was an unmarried, bubbly old man who loved children. He pampered the little girl silly and forbade her mother to tonsure her hair. 

"Mole, please don't cut her hair. She will lose all her cuteness", he would plead to the child's mother.

The little girl spent most of her time playing and fighting with her grandfather. Everyday by about 7 in the evening, the grandfather would become very tired of chasing her around. So he would give the baby back to her mother and focus his energies on watching the evening news on DD Malayalam. The little girl hated the news and the annoying jingle that preluded the news. She knew she would lose her grandfather's attention, the minute she heard the jingle on the television screen. Every evening she would dance in front of the television screen and try to imitate the jingle, just to get her grandfather's attention. 

One morning, the little girl woke up earlier than usual. She ran to sit on her plastic mobile potty. Just as she began doing her morning chore, she noticed that her grandfather was sitting cheerily on his favorite chair, gazing at her lovingly. She immediately pushed herself and her potty closer to him and began mimicking the DD jingle.

Mid-way through her song, her mother called out to her, "What are you doing baby? Who are you singing to?"
"I'm singing to Baapappa, amma. Tell him to play with me, I don't want him to watch the news", replied the little girl.
The mother froze upon hearing the child's words because her grandfather had died at 3am that morning. The entire family had rushed to the hospital leaving only the little girl and the mother behind.


Author's Note : The apple faced girl was me. I have no recollection of this grandfather or of this incident, because I was only 1 or 2 years old at the time. This story has been passed down to me by my mother and now from me to you. This only re-affirms my faith that the love of a grandfather has no bounds. They will always watch over you, like guardian angels.

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Jacobinte Swargarajyam

Jacobinte Swargarajyam has two Mallu favorites which would naturally make it a blockbuster hit - Nivin Pauly and Dubai. After Bangalore Days, this is another Malayalam movie that made me stop and smell the roses. It is a movie that every Malayalee can relate to. A story of a happy Christian family settled in Dubai. All is well until the global recession hits and the head of the household, Mr Jacob Zachariah gets cheated by a Pakistani colleague. Overnight, the business tycoon has to flee the country leaving his wife and four children behind. 

What follows is threats from Mr Jacob's investors and a never-ending struggle to make ends meet by the eldest son, Jerry and Mrs Sherly, wife of Mr Jacob. Being the eldest, Jerry always tailed his father for his various business dealings. However, when his father bids hims a tearful adieu and hands over the responsibility of the family to him, Jerry crumbles.

He seeks refuge in his father's close confidante and friend, Philip Ichayan. He breaks down in front of him and says he has no idea how to overcome the financial mess his father had created. Ichayan drives him on the streets outside his home and points out to a cafeteria in the corner of the street, run by a man named Sherif. He narrates the story of how Sherif started the cafeteria by falling on the feet of many money lenders, how his family had to sleep inside a house without a roof and the many hardships he had to endure to become a successful restaurateur both in Dubai and Kochi. 

Ichyan further went on to add that to learn the formula of success, one doesn't have to travel the whole world. You merely need to take a stroll on the streets of Dubai to look at the face of every hardworking Malayalee who does back breaking labour in the scorching sun. He went on to say that there is a popular joke among people, that you will find a Malayalee in the most obscure corners of the globe, starting with the moon, the sea and deserted mountains. This is true, Ichyan tells Jerry, because only a Malayalee has the guts to set up shop in the most strangest of places and transform it into a business empire. 

I felt a strange sense of pride in being a Malayalee after watching this scene. I took a moment to think about all my mallu bretheren in Dubai and elsewhere. I also thanked the lord for giving me this carefree life. I could only empathize with what the Zachariah family and innumerable families like theirs had to undergo during the recession.

Jacobinte Swargarajyam is an absolute gem and I pray that if it gets re-made into Hindi, it manages to capture the essence of the movie - the hardships faced and overcome by a God-fearing, close knit malayalee Christian family in Dubai. 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Dinner Date

Mayrah was the prettiest girl in her batch. She was also the brightest. The first to get campus placed, into Google that too. She was in her final year of M.S. Computer Science at Stanford University. The class pet of all her professors and the heartthrob of many of her male classmates. Yohan was one among them. He had also gotten into Google a month after Mayrah received her appointment letter. 

Yohan, the only other Indian student from Mayrah's batch who had all eyes for Mayrah. He was very shy. The popular kids in their batch called him a nerd. He was always found in libraries, knee deep in books. He was a quite a looker though. An Indian Clark Kent. Tall, dark, thick wavy hair and bespectacled. 

"C'mon Yohan, just ask her out man. What do you have to lose?", asked Brian, Yohan's closest friend and classmate.
"I can't", replied Yohan.
"And, why not?", relented Brian.
"Because she is too pretty and might already have a boyfriend", replied Yohan.
"How do you know that? Have you ever spoken to her? Does she even know of your existence?", persisted Brian.
"Well.. no", replied Yohan lamely.
"Then ask her out! This Sunday, at Graduation", encouraged Brian.

A week later, the most important day of their lives dawned on the final year students of M.S. Computer Science - graduation day. It was a proud moment for the students, their parents and all their professors. Yohan's mother had flown in from Mumbai and Mayrah's entire family starting with her parents, two sisters and brothers in law had arrived from Delhi.

It was a beautiful ceremony, one that would be remembered by the students for years to come. As Mayrah walked towards her proud family with her degree in hand, Brian gave Yohan a sharp nudge on his back, to remind him to go and speak with her. He excused himself from the conversation he was having with his mother and walked nervously towards Mayrah.

Just as she sat down with her parents, a nervous Yohan sauntered towards her. 
"Mayrah?", squeaked Yohan.
"Oh hello Yohan" replied a surprised Mayrah. "Maa, dad, this is my classmate Yohan. He has also been placed into Google along with me"
Yohan's heart skipped a beat as he realized that Mayrah knew his name. 
"Acha acha! Excellent beta. I'm sure your parents are very proud of you", said Mayrah's dad
"Thank you uncle", said Yohan with a nervous handshake.
"May I speak with you for a minute?", asked Yohan addressing Mayrah
"Sure", she replied
"In private...", said Yohan his cheeks flushing
"Oh", she replied

After a few more minutes of pleasantries exchanged with Mayrah's parents, Yohan finally managed to get a moment alone with Mayrah.
"Mayrah..", said Yohan, clearing his throat nervously
"The thing is..", he continued
"What is it Yohan? Is everything alright?", asked Mayrah.
"You know Mayrah, I've been thinking.. We've never spoken to each in the past 2 years that we've been classmates and now we've gotten into the same company. We're going to a see lot more of each other.. So, I was thinking.. er.." Yohan left the sentence dangling and went back to clearing his throat.
".. that we should get to know each other a little better?", replied Mayrah with a shy look in her eyes.
"Right", said Yohan.
"You know Yohan, I've been wanting to ask you out ever since you bumped into me at the library corridor and almost gave me a foot dislocation thanks to your stack of books", said Mayrah
"Whaat?!", replied a stunned Yohan. "So why didn't you?", he asked.
"I didn't want to appear too forward and you never gave me the impression that you were interested in anything other than books" chuckled Mayrah
"So 8pm tomorrow at Pizza Bay?" continued Mayrah
"Perfect. I'll see you there" replied a blushing Yohan

Yohan donned his best pair of trousers and shirt the next day for his date with Mayrah. He spent an extra half hour in front of the mirror, grooming himself. He even squirted on his most expensive Giorgio Armani perfume which he usually reserved only for job interviews.

As he approached the restaurant, he caught sight of Mayrah. She was a vision in red. His face automatically light up with a slow smile. Just as he was about to cross the road he realized that it would be nice to pick her a small trinket to celebrate their first date. So he rushed into a local jewellery store right opposite the restaurant that sold tribal jewellery. He picked up a butterfly shaped ring, got it gift wrapped and began crossing the road, his eyes lost on Mayrah's beauty.

Just as he was nearing the restaurant, he felt something ramming into him very hard. He heard the sound of an ambulance and people chattering around him. He even saw a teary eyed Mayrah through his half opened eyes.

10 years later..

Yohan stood outside the restaurant he and Mayrah had picked for their first date. He watched Mayrah lovingly from the glass windows and just as he was about to enter the restaurant he saw another man sitting opposite Mayrah. They were engrossed in deep conversation. He suddenly noticed a baby on a pram sitting between Mayrah and the man. Mayrah was feeding the child.

Puzzled, Yohan walked inside the restaurant and just as he began to approach Mayrah, an elderly gentleman blocked his path.

"Hey you! This is my restaurant and I don't like sharing it with anybody", said the gentleman.
"Okay. I just came to talk to an old friend of mine", said Yohan pointing to Mayrah.
The old man chuckled, "They can't hear you my friend"
"Eh?", replied Yohan. "Of course they can. Please move out of my way sir"
"Young man, they can't hear you because you and me don't belong in their world. We're dead son!", said the man
"I'm sorry sir, I really don't have time for this. I need to speak to my friend", replied an annoyed Yohan.

He walked past the old man and approached Mayrah's table. "Hi Mayrah!", said Yohan with a forced smile.
Mayrah looked up at Yohan and caught her breath.
"What is it honey? You look a little lost", said the man who was seated on Mayrah's table.
"Nothing, I just got a whiff of an old perfume which a friend of mine used to love wearing", said Mayrah with a sad look on her face.
"Must be somebody in the restaurant", said the man
"Perhaps", replied Mayrah and resumed feeding the baby.

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