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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

rain in Al ain

Rains are no big deal in Kerala specially in this time of the year ,but to me in Al Ain it was a rare occurence .
In the past one year I had been here I had glimpsed a tiny drizzle once which piffled before it started so It was a delightful surpise to me when I heard distant thunder rumble today evening ,I ran down from the hospital cloistered in claustrophobic central AC to watch it as it is !
and what a sight it was ,cloudy and dark the skies broke into a heavy downpour on the parched grounds with thunder and lightening the works !

my mobile was out for the rare shots .
this summer had been exhaustingly hot touching 50 degrees centigrade and scorching like a furnace ,Al Ain luckily was not on the coast so there was no sweating as humidity was low but it compensated that with heat more than Dubai or Abudhabi,

so it is in winter too for it could get really cold .

Summer in the UAE is when people escape for thier holidays back to thier hometowns and all flights are overbooked and overcharged .workers are given compulsory rest for three hours in the noon or else they would fall down like overgrown dates !

For many of us living in ac capsules of buildings and cars the heat was felt only in transit from these points but it was really felt then .
the dates were bountiful in the many palm trees that lined the roads in neat lines ,they hung ripe and colourful .Some were angry red some burnished and some golden yellow .
The government which owns most of the palm trees encourage people to pluck them if they wanted being careful not to spoil the trees .

As one bit into a golden yellow date and its sweetness spread its honey like taste into the buds and bliss filled one .
some gave a rancid after taste some were gritty ,some smooth and velvetty.
there are more than 40 million palm trees in the UAE whcih is one the worlds lagest producers and exporters .
In august the Liwa festival is a great auction centre for dates .
dates are nutritious as they give more than 3000 calories /kg whicle a banana has only 920 and an orange around 420

Palm trees line all roads and they are planted in prescision ,full grown trees are brought from nursery and planted in new areas and in days they bloom !
Dates are free from cholesterol and have very low level of fats(0.2%) and sodium .

Quran mentions the birth of Jesus in Chapter 19, verses 23 - 26.
"And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said: "Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!"
Then [the babe Jesus or Gabriel] cried unto her from below her, saying: "Grieve not! Your Lord has provided a water stream under you;
"And shake the trunk of date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe-dates upon you."
"So eat and drink and be glad, and if you see any human being, say: 'Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent (Allah) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.'"

and so the hot days will linger till late september when it becomes cooler and then it is six months of cool times ( my favourite )............

Friday, July 18, 2008

kalyana rathri

The early eighties in Kerala villages had darkness falling on it by dusk,
with the rare few low voltage bulbs hardly dispelling them ,
but a marriage house stood out like a sore thumb lit by bright hissing petromaxes .
The evening before the marriage was importnat in Nair families as close relatives and friends would come with thier gifts to eat pazham ,mixture ,chayya combo ,
there was singing of old hindi songs late into the night ,
the youngsters of the house were all in thier own mood of enjoyment as they quickly downed thier long saved pegs in dark corners
It was one such evening in Tanalur before my cousin got married and we were a bunchful of bachanalians looking for adventure ,
Krishnettan from the gulf had arrived the previous day and was bountiful with his gifts of the best scotch for the occcasion .
Suddenly somebody asked
"has kuttan come ? "
"no he will come by the executive at 9pm and we will pick him up in the station ,
"who said so ?
he hasnt made any promise in his letter "
lets go to kocholikara and pick him up, it would be fun ."
Telephones were also rare those days leave alone mobiles
It was also another regular happening during marriage eves ,while elders were busy like ants the youngsters found some excuse to go on small trips , as there always was a car with driver available and it wasnt so all the time .
so we trooped in into the rickety ambassador the car was packed like sardines as the news spread we were going on a trip .
"chandretta let us go to otappalam to pick up kuttan "
" Entha makkale ee samayatho ? "( at this time ? )
" of course it will just take 2 hrs and another 2 hrs to return we could be back by midnight and nobody would be wiser "this from Unni doing his predegree and who never wore anything but a mundu
Gulfetan gave the go ahead "chandra varu poga kutiyalku oru rasmayirikkam "( let us go chandra it will be fun for these guys )
so chandran drove the car into the darkeness ,soon we reached the town and the railway station ,one of us said
"say why dont we wait for the executive what if kuttan comes in ? "
"if he does we shall come back so whats the problem '
this was universally accepted
the trip was a must and kuttan was just an excuse
"chandretta vitto "( right ahead chandretta )
soon rumbustous songs lifted the mood as we cruised along in the pleasant night within half an hour some had slept off and snores punctuated the converstaions the scotch was having its effect .
The outskirts of ottapalam came and a sober chandrettan woke us up
"now what where do i go ? "he asked
"chandreta kuttans house is in panamana south ask someone "
chandretan went into a tea shop and asked for directions
we had to go another 10km and turn left if it is south panamana or right if it is north panamana
nobody knew the correct way ,so we just tossed a coin and asked him to go to south panamana !
These were really remote village areas with vast paddy fields and it was rare to find anyone even at daytime and at night it was like the moon .
The junction was marked by a salooon and a teashop both tightly closed and we turned to south pananama
The road petered out after a few kilometres into a dirt raod and finally it was unmotorable
Chandretan called it a day "I am stopping here ,I feel sleepy so Iam sleeping for some time in the car ,you guys go and find out the house and bring him and we shall go back "he declared in a tone that didnt expect any arguments
"but chandretta where ?"
go ahead on the other side of paddy field there are a few lights ask someone "
By now we were all sober and a little apprehensive ,
the fields stretched into eternity and the narrow embankment we walked was thick with grass and weeds it started drizzling and we became wet and miserable ,
the lights were in the distance as pinpoints and were just glowing and later fading funny indeed ,but with no alternative we walked ahead ,
" we shouldnt have come i told let us wait for the executive didnt I "
this from the youngest in our group ,
"come baby dont be afraid it is another adventure "this from gulfetan
and we walked on and on with wary steps worried of slithering objects and snakes ,frogs were croaking and it was deathly dark ,
slowly the lights were coming closer it was from a large space with trees and looked like bonfires .
maybe someone was burning thier rubbish ,we thought but there was also a strange booming sound ,montonous and weird ,and this was increasing in intensity ,rumbling and machine like drones ,it was unearthly and we all shivered a bit ,
And then we knew ,
oh God !this was a cremation ground and it was the pyres we were heading for
we were spellbound and shocked
suddenly someone called !!!
"arathu ivide ,aradda !( who is it here ? )
nengala nengalu kocholikaraka kuttana thedi (it is us in search of kuttan of kocholikara house )
ethu kocholikara evide oru veedum illa smasanamanu po po ( no houses here get lost this is the cremation ground )
and then the voice came out of the darkeness with a chootu in his hand he was dark with an unruly beard the watchman cum dom
" get away from here those are wild pigs you hear and they kill remember "
so that was the booming sound what a place
we just turned back and walked with no aim in the rain after seemingly hours we saw some houses and managed to rouse the locals and asked for our house
we were told to go in the same direction and in 10 minutes we reached the house ,only to find kuttan had left long back in the executive and to be tiraded to have made a foolish trip to such a place in midnight .
we trudged back to a much relaxed chandretan who drove us back we reached at dawn and quitely slept for some time to wake up and attend the marriage with red eyes
"where were you idiots last night why you didnt come to station to pick me in the station ? "
this from kuttan !!!!
( This anecedote was recounted by my cousin recently I wasnt there at all )

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

shilpa is twelve years

Thirteen years have rolled away ,it seems it was just yesterday that our daughter Shilpa slipped away ,
She lived for eleven years in a world of silence bearing her problems with a patience unexplainable ,a benign smile on her face sullened by her recurrent problems .
For us it was eleven years of mixed emotions ,
devastating the day we knew that she would be a different child ,
eleven years of hope and despair in turns .
We chased specialists and superspecialists many of whom who were ignorant and unhelpful and at times blatantly cruel in thier predictions ,
From nonchalance to ridicule we faced all as it came on and off ,but in the midst of all this her smile ,innocence ,charm and patience gave us joy .
Her small achievements gave us immense pleasure .
There were many who made the day for us ,
the rare few who had empathy and understood us ,
Even the few who avoided us in silence ,as they felt we would be hurt ,

We can never forget the day we took her to a special school in Cochin for the first time and the special educator told us what could be achieved by training ,so temple visits gave way to intervention meausres and its differences

And then one fine day

( no not fine at all )

she who opened the world of special children to us left us in vacum ,

In the year that followed Shilpas school was born though she died

It required commitment and missionary zeal and only a mother could have it

Today with more than 140 disabled attending its training centre and special school in a well equipped building from 6months to 42 years ,it is an achievement indeed .

Some have come and gone like Shilpa did ,but many have grown in our school ,they come in the morning from thier homes in the bus and van from different places and spend the day as per thier need in special education ,early intervention ,vocational rehab and physiotherapy .

the parents are given a special place with thier association taking several responsibilities in running the shool ,the society members contribute thier mite and comitted volunteers are an integral part of the Shilpa family .

shilpa school is known for its annual days in the presence of celebrities

our children perform with joy trained by thier teachers ( music teacher is visually handicapped ) .It is an eyeopener to the public to know that such children with broken bodies and minds can be creative though differently

The school remembers Shilpas love for travel by its frequent picnics and day tours

the stories are many........

when Tony was brught by his mother for the first time she wanted some poison for her and her son as he was getting constantly beat by the neighbours for his naughy acts and the angry welts on his back was the proof ,after coming to shcool he mellowed into a calm & polite lad

and stunned his neighbours ,just goes to show how much attention and love could do for these children ,
some parents have more than one child who are disabled ,
Sadiq ( name changed ) working hard carrying water jars up tall flats in hot UAE remembers his children and his poor family as he does his work and hoping to see them in the once in a two year leave he has ,

Reddy a student works hard in sticking covers ( the bigger children get payed for thier work ) as he wants to earn more to buy a frock for his niece like any other uncle

jill is split from her husband and with a special child to add to her burden ,the school sponsors her to do an one year course and she is absorbed as a teacher ,

parents and siblings are motivated to do courses and join the school ,some of the poorer parents join as helpers

and in this this twelve years Shilpa is looking to its next dream of a bigger centre in its new land ,a building which would have a parent training ,resisdential and respite centre and bigger vocational centres

shilpa left at eleven years but was instrumental in leaving behind a memory which would last for ever

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