28 March, 2012


I love books and reading. But I’m no bookworm. I wish I could be one; I really wish I could spend all day lost in a book. For now, I’m just thankful to myself for being able to steal a few minutes off everyday to read a few pages at bedtime.  That said, let me tell you that I was one of those people who would never let the thought of switching to an e-reader ever cross their minds. I remember the first time I heard of e-readers and seeing pictures of the device and I remember saying that there’s nothing quite like holding a physical (paper)book and turning its pages. Apart from that, the musty smell of old yellowing books is something I love and always will.

Over the years, things have changed. I’ve had a kindle for over a year-and-a-half and I love it. I still read paperbacks and hardcovers. They are a class apart but e-books are more convenient these days. It is easier to carry an e-reader than a 600 page book to fill in those spaces of my life as I wait outside the dentist’s office or sit through 20-odd hours of air travel. The last time I made my trip home, I remember having to take out my copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom from my ‘hand bag’ because it had gotten too bulky; I couldn’t remove the diaper pouch and sippers instead. So in went my 8-ounce Amazon Kindle and while waiting to board the flight, I downloaded a Sparks’ novel for the flight.

Now if only Franzen would come this way and read what I just wrote. It’s ironic that I once replaced a heavy book of the very author who would -- a year later -- condemn e-readers and people who use e-readers.

I repeat, I still read paperbacks and hardcovers but every time I read one after finishing a book on the e-reader, I get a little irked. When I come across one of those words I’m not familiar with, it is a bump in the flow as I will have to pick up a dictionary, look up the meaning and then pick up my reading again. A lot of the time, I make do with the contextual meaning and carry on with my reading, hoping to look up the word after I was done with that sitting. But then, sometimes there are several words I think I should look up and when I finally get down to doing it, I remember only half the words. On the contrary if I’m on an e-reader I just have to click on the word and voila! I have the explanation.

So what, if the Kindle isn’t back-lit? The e-ink makes sure my eyes don’t hurt and it is the closest thing to reading print on paper. What are book-lights for, anyway. If your mommy switches off the light at 9:00 pm or your spouse can’t sleep because your bed-lamp is on, believe me: an e-reader paired with a book-light is far better than a heavy book and a flashlight beneath that blanket.

I admit: I love the Kindle. I love the fact that I can mark my favourite lines. I love the fact that I can click on an insightful paragraph and instantly share it on Twitter. I love the fact that it can hold over 2000 books in it. I love almost everything about it.
I admit: I am Kindled!

01 March, 2012

Growing up in nature's playground

A few nights ago, we were just finishing dinner when all of a sudden my world went colourless. We were engulfed in complete darkness as the power had just walked out on us. Now, power-cuts are like strangers to us ever since we moved to what while growing up was ‘the other side of the world.’ Until then, it was the days without the power-cuts were that were strange to us.

My pitch black surrounding, the faint glow of candle light and a walk to the balcony to see what the outside world looked like, brought back a barrage of memories. I was transported back to the holidays I spent in Kerala, where daily half hour load-shedding was a part of everyday life. Every week this power cut would move to the next half hour slot till it hit 9 or 9:30 pm and then it would start all over again from 7 in the evening. I was taken back to the many evenings when amma, ettan (older brother) and I spent ‘power-cut time’ sitting outside our ancestral home and having our daily chit chats. The house was surrounded by plantations on three sides and paddy fields on the other. So nightfall meant crickets coming out and announcing the end of the day, birds noisily rushing back to their nests and probably shouting out good nights, and blood thirsty mosquitoes buzzing around our ears. The mosquitoes in the cities go about their evening chores quite quietly, don’t they? These were of a different kind. They were bigger too.

Then there were the fireflies. What a beautiful sight it was to see these little creatures fly around the branches of certain trees and light them up, making them look like Christmas trees, whatever the season might be. Might I add that those pretty insects seemed biased to some trees? That was quite obvious to me.

Now let me tell you about something I had been oblivious of for a very long time. On most days we would hear the hooting of an owl that had gotten comfortable in one of the trees near there. Where exactly the nocturnal bird sat, nobody knew and that added an air of mystery. The hoots came from somewhere close by yet it was never close enough to give away the wise bird’s hiding place. One evening achan (dad) made me listen very closely to the hoots and I heard a far away owl respond to the owl that had become our neighbour. Honestly -- there would be one hoot and then from afar -- two faint hoots. That was some communication!

I also remember hearing foxes' cries. They were so eerie; they sounded like distress calls in the quiet of the night but I got used to it. We don't hear them anymore. I wonder what happened to those foxes.

There's another side of life at the plantation -- the creatures that horrified me. There would be days when our pet dogs barked like they had seen something from outer space, and almost always it was a snake slipping into the grassy area that bordered the front yard. Sometimes these reptiles would play uninvited guest and creep through the rafters of the outer rooms of the house. Many a time, during my strolls, I’d see one working its way around a tree trunk or slithering across the path just a few feet ahead of me. Those were the days I found it difficult to fall asleep.

Yet another living thing that liked calling upon us was the mighty elephant. Now is that difficult to believe? I’m not making that up. Around our place, most estates seem to have jack-fruit trees in the midst of the coffee shrubs. In summer, these fruits lure the pachyderms out of the jungle and into the plantations. It is anybody's guess that there would be some damage if one came by but thankfully no human being has met his fate with one, as far as my knowledge goes. Word goes round if somebody sees one or spots signs that an elephant has come a-visiting. On those days every one who cares for dear life makes sure to get home before dark because its after sunset that these huge creatures feel free to walk about; after all they are in human territory.

If it’s coffee season, we saw monkeys have a gala time chewing on coffee berries. I could tell you stories of boars and rabbits that roam the area, of storks in the paddy fields, of the fish in the river that flows nearby.  I’ve even been lucky with the occasional peacock sightings. I’m not kidding. I could go on but stop I must. And take you back to power-cuts, from where I digressed. Wayanad is a plantation district in north Kerala. Due to its abundance of trees and heavy rainfall in the monsoons, strong winds that accompany the rains often bring down trees and a lot of the time, they fall on electricity lines. And when this takes place it usually happens in more places than one and so it just means you have to manage without power for a day or two. That’s nothing out of the ordinary there. People survive.

[100% real. 100% true. Written for The Kissan 100% Real Blogger Contest]