The many shades of RED

It was like any other night. Amma oiled my hair, tied it into two plaits and pulled it three times. ‘It will make it long.’ She said. I went off to sleep, like any other thirteen year old. But when I woke up, I felt unusual. I looked at the thin sheet on the mat on which I slept. That moment, I could just see the colour red, under me, above me and around me. I screamed in horror thinking I was going to die. Amma came and hushed me up. I knew my world was about to change. In a matter of few hours, the house looked like a bride. Out of the many memories of that day, I distinctly remember the elaborate oil bath, the scent of sandalwood and being decked up in bright green saree with the new palakka necklace. I remember a lot of people coming home with different kinds of sweets, jewellery and money. In between, Achan threw quick glances. ‘You have grown up, my little girl’, he spoke through those glances.

The months after that were confusing. Amma would send me off to a different room, a separate one. I would have to be there for four days. I would take bath in the adjacent bathroom. My mother would keep fresh set of clothes for me with sumptuous food. It was like a mini festival every month. Some months, my elder sister would join too. We would talk till the wee hours of the morning about the men we would marry and whether they will have a thin moustache or a huge one like our neighbour who was a policeman.

And then just like that, I was married off a day after I turned fourteen. From a small family of four, I entered into a large one. I was one of the six daughters in law. All between the age of fourteen and twenty-five. I was the youngest. My day started at four thirty in the morning. It was considered a luxury. I guess I was lucky because I was the youngest.  I sometimes wondered how the work in the house never ceased. Someone would get pregnant, or give birth to a child or there would be clothes to wash, the sprawling farms had to be taken care of, the cattle had to be fed or huge quantities of rice flour had to be pounded.

Each one of us waited for that special day. The day our period came. Our mother in law would immediately ask us to disposition ourselves in the small room in the backyard. There would be no instance of loneliness in the room, for there were enough women in the family. The list of things we did were endless. We talked… a lot… about everything and anything. About the way our husbands touched us to the way the jackfruit seller Vasu looked at us. We would laugh like little girls. We were no more the wives with family responsibilities. I learnt to wrap the saree around my slim waist and also learnt how not to be loud during love-making. We could wake up at five-thirty so that we take bath only after everyone else in the family took a bath. We did not have to cook, or clean or wash or even take care of children! Every month, we would wait for our period to come. It was almost cathartic.

But those days are gone. I watched my daughters being born and then my grand daughters and even my great grand daughters.  Today, I hear them crib about their period and talk about how backward the ancient customs were. I smile inwardly and think what do they know about the little pleasures of life? How will I ever be able to explain to them the bitter sweet pain our period brought us back in those days? Will they ever understand if I say I can still close my eyes and smell the small room, the lingering smell of small joys, smaller complaints and dirty little secrets. These new girls…they will never know.


PS: This little perspective writing stems from a thought that we do not know all the stories and the moments behind traditions, rituals and customs. We do not know the simple joys, the inspiration and the moments of sheer strength behind those days and ways.  


The sun was down and the sky had enveloped herself in an orange layer. Soft as marshmallows, the clouds were in a jiffy to get back home. Every one seemed in a hurry. Some bickered over auto rickshaw charges and some argued about the country’s state of politics. A dog looked bored and tried to doze, but he was rudely kicked at by a boy dressed in tattered clothes which were a tad big for his size.

But they were not in a hurry. They walked, hands entwined and shoulders barely touching each other. She looked at the board. Her train was on time and would arrive in another fifteen minutes. She sighed as softly as she could, she did not want him to notice. But he noticed not just the sigh but the turbulent waves within her…and him. He held her hand a little more tightly. He knows…she knew.

She was leaving today. Far from Chennai and its sweltering heat. The day he had entered her life, the heat had stopped bothering her. The sweat was not as awful and the breeze had a certain comfort.

He on the other hand had started exploring food other than idli-sambhar, music other than Lalgudi Jayaraman, and known the warmth of a woman in ways he had imagined he never would.

In a few moments, it would all change. To what, they could not imagine or rather did not want to decipher. Silence had taken over them.

The train arrived. Was that a slight twinge, almost a pain they both felt? Or was this the emptiness that lovers spoke about? What was that numbness in the throat, the wetness or the lack of it in the eyes? The throat seemed stuck somewhere between a million words and muteness.

She was the first one to let go of the grip and board the train. Someone pushed her as people made their way in. Someone was gesticulating angrily at her. A dog barked viciously at the train. The sun and the clouds did not want to be witness to this moment and had chosen to let go of the brightness. She stood at the threshold, looked at her watch and back at him. Two minutes for the train to go.

Two minutes of nothing and everything. Their eyes locked tight just like their bodies last night.

I love you.

I love you more.

I will be back.

I know you will.

I want to spend my life with you. 

I want to spend all my lives with you.

Wait for me.  

Needless to say.

They smiled. Words are after all a facade. Silence can speak, scream and put raging thoughts to rest.

Two minutes of silence.


Big Wolf & Little Wolf: A saga of friendship

2017 is about to end. If I look back and introspect, one aspect stood out for me: FRIENDSHIP.

Some friendships have made me ponder…a lot. Some friendships have accepted new terms and some friendships have become dope for me. As some are making an exit, some are arriving. Choosing family is way easier, well you don’t do much about it, do you? But friends are your choice, or is it? Is it a conscious choice? Or is does it just happen, like love? Is it a happily ever-after? Or is it a book of accounts, too many additions and subtractions, so bugged that you just give up and accept.

Let me lead you through a story.

Once upon a time was a tree. Under the tree lived a Big Wolf. Once upon a time lived you in your own sweet life. Days passed by and one day, (not an ordinary day) a Little Wolf appeared. (Tiny, but bright blue, unavoidable and distinct) And then one day, you meet Alpha. Someone you thought was insignificant, but soon you released she is not. Alpha is unavoidable and distinct. The Big Wolf was terrified by the possibility of the newcomer being bigger than him. You are skeptical about Alpha. Alpha is a stranger, what if Alpha is better than who you are. Without we realizing, there is that little boss called ego in all of us. But as the little wolf comes near, the Big Wolf is relieved. He is smaller than him. He is no competition. He is reassured. You are reassured. Alpha is warm. She  is no competition. At first, the two wolves weigh each other silently and slowly the timidness of the Little Wolf makes the big wolf secure. At first, you and Alpha weigh each other, share stories and slowly you feel Alpha also is twisted in her own way. You are comforted. The ego is at rest. Days pass by and the Big Wolf observes (to his surprise) that the Little Wolf is following him everywhere. He had assumed the Little Wolf will walk away. You assume Alpha will be like the others, she will be on her won soon. But no, she is right there everyday. The Big Wolf watches as the little wolf struggles to climb the tree. He feels non-threatened and awestruck to see the Little Wolf’s courage. You watch Alpha face her own struggles and you feel one with her. Non-threatened and inspired. Well, you also have your own struggles. She is no different. The Little Wolf accepts the small morsels of food offered by the Big Wolf. The Big Wolf watches in satisfaction as the Little Wolf gobbles the morsel given to him. Alpha seeks out for help from you in non-favourable situations, vents out and looks up to your opinions. And you feel satisfied. You are important. 

One day, the Big Wolf went far from the tree, through the fields, probably in search of food. He comes back in the evening to find the tiny blue dot, the Little Wolf gone. He is no where to be found. And one day, Alpha is not her usual self. She seems distant, aloof. The Big Wolf feels uneasy for the first time in his life. You feel uneasy for the first time. This little blue dot was after all not that insignificant; the Big Wolf realizes as he feels sad and empty. What he had thought was tiny had fulfilled his blankness, but he never felt grateful about it. You realize Alpha was not just another person. She has taken up a place n your silently silently but strongly. A lot of space.

The next morning painfully arrives. The Big Wolf promises himself that if the Little Wolf comes back, he will value him, give him more food than the tiny morsel, give him more space to sleep than the corner of the tree. You understand that Alpha is not just an ordinary person. She actually completes that black hole inside you. And you promise yourself when Alpha is back to normal, you will treasure her, for now you know she is your equal.

And just like that, one day the Little Wolf comes back. And just like that one day Alpha is back. She seems normal and your heart dances again at her being your friend. 

The Big Wolf did not think twice before saying, ‘Where were you? I missed you. Without you I was sad.’ The ego is no more to be found.

You don’t bat an eyelid before saying, ‘Alpha, you are important to me. I don’t want to lose you. You are a very dear friend.’

The Little Wolf said, ‘Me too.’ The Big Wolf is relieved.

Alpha says, ‘Me too.’ You are relieved. 

And so it was decided, the Little Wolf will stay. Just that he is not little anymore.

And so it was decided, Alpha will stay. She is not the insignificant other anymore. 


You can read this beautiful, heart warming story of loneliness, ego, solidarity and acceptance here.