Friday, August 6, 2010

Remembering James

Many a time I wondered what would happen of me after 200 years. Sure enough I would have been long gone, but what exactly would have happened of me? Would I be remembered? How much?

When I was in my 11th and 12th standard I knew a person by name James. Gosh! I even forgot his last name. He was 87 years young and was living in Home for Aged. I was in a residential convent and as part of community service; we were required to do something good to the community every weekend for 3 hours (every Sunday for 2 years). I was assigned to Home for the Aged, to James. All which was required of me was talk to him, that’s all.
His wife passed away 35 years ago then, I wasn’t even born when she was long gone. His children were well settled overseas and James had no one to come to visit him on Sundays. Initially I was apprehensive, what would I talk to someone who is decades older to me? I was in teens and he was nearing 90. What could we possibly have in common?

To my surprise, we did have quite a lot in common. We spoke about books; I should say he spoke about books. He used to miss them but hoped that they found a worthy home. He also used to speak a lot about his wife. Since 35 long years have passed, he only remembered a few bits and pieces of her; the colors she liked, the coffee she made, the beautiful voice of her’s…and then he used to fade. I just used to sit there wondering what he must be going through. But he did mention one thing; he wasn’t sad any more that she was gone. Memories have become so much a part of him that he doesn’t need her in person anymore. Memories would do just fine.

Since he had bad eye sight I used to read news paper to him. He didn’t quite enjoy that. He always said that his nurse could read that for him and that I talk.
Hindsight I think James was actually listening most of the time while I was happily yapping away. It should have been other way round (that’s what my role required me to do), but never did he stop me. I should have been more sensitive.
He had a very small room and all his worldly possessions would fit in a small trunk; snugly put away under his tidy bed. He also had a small backyard where we grew seasonal vegetables.

On one Christmas we shared, he gave me a small powder box. He said that it was all he had and I was so happy that he actually has something to give, even though he himself has hardly any.

More than a decade has gone by since I had last seen him or heard from him. I wonder what happened to him. I wonder who was assigned to him after I left school. I wonder if they had been kind to him.
I wonder if he joined his wife or still at Home for the Aged. I made a mental note that I go check with the Home for the Aged about him, next time when I go to that city again.

Now, why did I suddenly remember him? I don’t know. I just remembered…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Significance of Kolam (Rangoli)

I was having a rather interesting conversation with my grand mom (over 80 years), a few days ago and thought I should share this here. She asked me if I do a kolam (rangoli) everyday at my home here. No, I do not. And then she started explaining why kolam is important and its significance and why I should resume putting a kolam everyday even in Canada.

In her days, people used to get married at a very young age. My grand mom herself was 13 when she got married. People expected that daughter in laws are experts in home-managing-skills at such a tender age. They have to do all the work; cooking, cleaning, attending to never ending demands of in-laws/guests, taking care of kids (if any) etc. You might argue even now people do same things. The point is that in those days people used to live in joint-families and in big homes. So, taking care of home itself is a full-time job and more. All the chores take a physical toll.
Drawing a kolam apparently is like warm-up exercise before the long day ahead. How?
You need to first sweep the entrance of the home, mix cow dung in water and sprinkle on the entrance (which acts as a disinfectant and prevents the dust to enter the home); grind the soaked/dried rice into a fine powder (kolam) and then bend over and draw intricate design is a big task. It takes energy, but just enough to give a head start.

Second reason why kolam is important is the positive effect/energy it brings inside. We use Maakolam for this. Here is the image. The red design around this maakolam is believed to prevent the negative forces to enter the home. The intricate designs are believed to bring concentration (I guess that’s true).

Third reason is that, our elders believed (like we do) that everyone (humans and animals) co-exist peacefully in this world. Since the kolam is made of rice flour, ants come and eat the kolam as the day progresses.

Kolam is drawn at the time of sun rise, the time at which sun helps you to produce vitamin D in our body.

P.S: Picture taken from online.