ഹമാം പുളി

പ്രത്യേകിച്ച് ഒന്നും ചെയ്യാനില്ലാത്ത ഒരു വൈകുന്നേരം. കുസൃതി ചോദ്യങ്ങൾ ചോദിച്ചു സ്റ്റോക്ക്‌ തീര്ന്നു. Dumb charades കളിച്ചു മടുത്തു. ചക്കി അമ്മൂമ്മയോട് എന്തേലും പഴയ കാര്യം പറയാൻ പറഞ്ഞു. അമ്മൂമ്മക്ക് ആദ്യം മടി. എല്ലാം പറഞ്ഞു കഴിഞ്ഞത് ആണത്രേ. ഈ ഇടയ്ക്കു നടന്ന എന്തോ ഒന്ന് പറയാൻ തുടങ്ങി. "81 വയസ്സിലതു പോരാ, പഴയതു വേണം" എന്നായി. 5-6 വയസ്സ് വരെ നടന്നത് ഒന്നും ഓർമ ഇല്ല എന്ന് അമ്മൂമ്മ. ഇവിടെ 5-6 ദിവസത്തിന് മുൻപ് നടന്നത് ഓർമ ഇല്ല അപ്പോഴാ. എന്നാൽ പിന്നെ ആറര വയസ്സിലെ വിശേഷം ആയിക്കോട്ടേ എന്നായി ഞങ്ങൾ.

അമ്മൂമ്മ തുടങ്ങി. "ആ പ്രായത്തിൽ എന്റെ അച്ഛന് മങ്കൊമ്പിൽ ആയിരുന്നു ജോലി..".
ഞാൻ - "അതെന്താ പ്ലാക്കൊമ്പ് ഇല്ലായിരുന്നോ ". ചളു അടിക്കാനുള്ള ഒരു ശ്രമം.
ചക്കി ഉടനെ - "Pause, Pause.." ഒരു marker എടുത്ത് board ഇൽ പോയി എഴുതി ഇട്ടു - "He is trying to win 1st prize for Comedy" ചളു അടിക്കാൻ പഠിപ്പിച്ചത് ഞാൻ ആണെന്നും അതിനു എനിക്ക് ഗുരു ദക്ഷിണ പോലും തന്നിട്ടില്ല എന്നു പരാതി പറഞ്ഞിതിനുള്ള reaction.

"ഒരു ആറിൻറെ അപ്പുറത്തായിരുന്നു സ്കൂൾ. ഒരു തോണിയിൽ കയറി വേണം പോകാൻ. പെരിയാർ ആയിരുന്നു എന്ന് തോന്നുന്നു അത്"
ഭാരതപുഴ ആണോ എന്ന് ഞാൻ ഒന്ന് ചോദിച്ചു, ചുമ്മാ.
"ഏയ്, അതങ്ങ് വടക്കല്ലെ" എന്ന് അമ്മൂമ്മ. അതെങ്ങനാ, തെക്കേതാ വടക്കേതാ എന്നറിയാത്ത നമ്മളോടാ കളി. ഭാരതപുഴ കേരളത്തിലേ അല്ല എന്നായി ചക്കി.

"മഴ പെയ്യുമ്പോ അവിടെല്ലാം അങ്ങ് വെള്ളം നിറയും. തോണി ഇല്ലാതെ എങ്ങോട്ടും പോകാൻ പറ്റില്ല. മഴയത്തു അങ്ങ് മലയിൽ നിന്ന് ഒടിഞ്ഞ മരങ്ങളും കമ്പുകളും ഒക്കെ ഇങ്ങു ഒഴുകി വരും. കൂടെ ചത്ത മൃഗങ്ങളും. ആ വെള്ളമാ എല്ലാവരും കുടിക്കാനും ഒക്കെ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നത്. ഒരു ദിവസം സ്കൂളിൽ ഉച്ചക്ക് കഴിച്ചിട്ട് എല്ലാവരും കൂടെ ആ ആറിൽ നിന്ന് വെള്ളം കുടിക്കുകയായിരുന്നു. അതിനു അടുത്തു പൊട്ടക്കൊട്ട എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു പട്ടന്മാരു താമസിക്കുന്ന കുറെ വീടുകൾ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. പേര് കേട്ട ഒരു കൂട്ടരാ. എന്റെ അച്ഛൻ അതിലെ ഒരാളുമായി സംസാരിച്ചു കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അയാള് വിളിച്ചു കാണിച്ചു കൊടുത്തു അച്ഛനെ. ദേ അത് നിങ്ങളുടെ മോളല്ലെ. ഇനി മേലിൽ വെള്ളം വേണമെങ്കിൽ ഇവിടെ വന്നു ചോദിയ്ക്കാൻ പറയണം എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞു വിട്ടു. അതിനു ഞാൻ വഴക്ക് കേട്ടു."

"അന്ന് ഞാൻ അധികം ഒന്നും സംസാരിക്കാറില്ലായിരുന്നു. തൊട്ടാവാടി എന്നായിരുന്നു എന്നെ പിള്ളേര് വിളിച്ചിരുന്നത്."
"പിന്നെ എന്നാ സംസാരിച്ചു തുടങ്ങിയത്?" - അങ്ങനെ അങ്ങ് വിടാൻ പറ്റുമോ.
"ഒന്നും സംസാരിക്കാറേ ഇല്ലാത്ത ഒരാള്" - ചക്കി.
"നിന്റെ വലിയ വായിലെ സംസാരം ഒന്ന് നിർത്തിക്കാനാ പാട്". ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ പിള്ളേരേ.

"അന്ന് എനിക്ക് ഒരു കൂട്ടുകാരി ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഇന്ദിര എന്നായിരുന്നു പേര്. ഒരു ഡോക്ടരുടെ മോളാ. സ്കൂളിൽ ഒരു പുളി മരം ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു, നിറയെ പുളി പിടിച്ചു നിക്കും അതില്, താഴെയും വീണു കിടക്കും. ഇന്ദിര ആ പുളി പെറുക്കി എടുക്കും തിന്നാൻ. ഹമാം എന്ന് പറയുന്ന സോപ്പ് മൂന്നെണ്ണം വാങ്ങിക്കുമ്പോ ഒരു പെട്ടി കിട്ടും. അവൾ അതിൽ പെൻസിൽ ഒക്കെ ഇട്ടു കൊണ്ട് വരും. ഒരു ദിവസം അവൾ അതിൽ പുളി ശേഖരിച്ചു വച്ചു. ക്ലാസ്സിൽ ആരോ തട്ടി ആ പെട്ടി താഴെ വീണു, എല്ലാവരും കണ്ടു അതിൽ എന്താന്ന്. അന്ന് മുതൽ അവളെ "ഹമാം പുളി" എന്നാ വിളിക്കുന്നത്."

അങ്ങനെ പോയി കഥകൾ. സ്കൂളിലെ ഓട്ട മത്സരത്തിൽ ലാസ്റ്റ് വന്നതും, ഹിന്ദി സാർ വളരെ വർഷങ്ങൾ കഴിഞ്ഞു കണ്ടപ്പോഴും ഒര്ത്തതും ഒക്കെ.. കഴിക്കാൻ നേരം ആകുന്നതു വരെ. 

Recent reads

Recent reads

-         Unsolicited Advice for My Three Sons, In No Particular Order – enjoyed this article. Starting from lactating cow that need to be pumped about swelling up with advice.

I never begin conversation with strangers, I have to search hard in my memory when I did that last, if at all. Maybe need to do that more often.

Green tea – I remember the horrible taste still and never mastered it, didn’t try it enough though. Same with many other habits that I tried to form, even though I know the theory very well. Good reminder there.

Think for oneself – infact, I always use 2 mins in microwave to make a black tea. Other day made a tea 5 mins before I was supposed to go somewhere, drank it and burnt my tongue – this was a reminder to say that 2 mins is not a rule, could have been 1.5 mins.

Negotiations – big need in life, poorly practiced. “You win not when you get the best price, but when you do so while building a strong relationship.” – absolutely true. I have seen a master negotiator who first build relationship and even after a tough deal, maintain that relationship. Admirable. Both parties should win, but I usually approach it as the other guy is out to get me.

Final one is the big truth. I read one article where someone said they decided not to have kids. But seriously they would miss a whole chapter or volume of life. Only baby I have ever played with is my own. Like not talking to strangers rule, I can’t talk to a baby (even though a baby can’t talk or judge, I treat it just the same as a stranger). I have always envied the natural guys who have the knack to play with a baby spontaneously and I never could imagine myself as a father. But I adored mine – the memories, the cuteness, little fingers, button eyes, soft cheeks, the love you feel and the love you get, the whole experience is indescribable. There is a condition when heart swells up with a flood of love, which is something you get to experience. Absolutely recommend that advice.

-         A protocol for Dying
I like to stay away from things like “Last Lecture” since while it may be inspiring, but it is sad. This one is a similar article, but short one. Coincidentally, this article also talks about talking to strangers.

Another major one is Euthanasia. “And everyone needs to learn what it means to die. It is a core part of being a full human, the embrace of one's mortality. We fight to live, of course. And when it's over, we embrace the end.”. In Belgium it is legal. It is a very tricky point to even discuss – about ending one’s life by choice than wither way in ill health, being burden to everyone and wasting money in futile medical treatments. When Healthcare reform was being talked about in US (Obamacare), there was a huge outcry about doctor’s discussing end of life – Republican’s used it as saying “Granny killer”. It was not even about euthanasia, but on what medical options are available and chances of it extending life. I also listened to a podcast in Radiolab where a doctor was talking about his end of life instructions – don’t put him in ventilator because there is no use other than to put someone in vegetative state for some more time, which other treatments in common lingo which actually doesn’t have that much effectiveness as such. It is not defeatism, but when the fight it over, we need to let it go. When there is no quality of life to be had, let it end.

Inevitable changes, we are not too far away in implementing the same.

“When we’re faced with stressful choices at times of uncertainty, we need to remind ourselves to be open to new experiences and embrace the pain; it won’t last, and many others have seen past it.” Dealing with ambiguity is such a big skill that is needed in today’s environment. I know the theory here, but still gets stressed out and lash out once in a while to get out from the fog, but this is something to think more about.


Similar to an advice I got from a friend when we had the baby, to not get stressed out when small things happen (baby doesn’t gurgle, less time for sleep, fights on chores, cleaning), that it is not the first time and you are not unique – this has happened millions of times and people were okay at the end, so just go on with the flow. He just gave this unsolicited advice on the call to say congrats, but it was prescient. 

recent reads

Got to finish a saved reading list, one of many. We got an old easy chair and saved couple of such old but gold furniture which is crowding up our balcony. When it is windy, even in this hellish heat, I could sit there for hours. Especially if there is tea - I am experimenting lot more with tea now – lemon, ginger, green, masala, with spices, honey and pepper – not all at once, but trying the combinations.

Few of the recent reads:-

-          Inside Mark Zuckerberg's Bold Plan For The Future Of Facebook:- it is interesting to see what they are doing with Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality, Connectivity using drones. Such articles always gives me a pang of guilt too that being part of a technology company (services though, which is a big difference), we are doing almost nothing original whereas likes of Facebook are leading Artificial Intelligence revolution. I access FB very rarely now and not active on any social media platform much, it being a time sink as well as source of unhappiness. But it will be interesting if FB improves over time to deliver valid information to even likes of me.
-          Love of Life: Albert Camus on Happiness, Despair, the Art of Awareness, and Why We Travel:- Brain Pickings is like a highly concentrated nectar of good things. She is reading so much and extracting the best for the world and such wisdom is hard to digest at times, without going through the whole experience and context leading to such wisdom. Nevertheless, it is always good food for thought. This one, mostly caught my attention due to the observation on travel – I had wondered why does it feel like our eyes are seeing more when we travel, how will it feel to see my own city through an eyes of a stranger, why does small things take on philosophical meaning when we travel compared to our familiar surroundings. Good insight for those questions from here.
-          90:9:1 – the odd ratio that technology keeps creating:- interesting to see one player dominating the field. Is it that people are lazy to try out, afraid of failure – on both sides, from creators and consumers perspective.
-          We're Not as Open-Minded As We Think We Are:- we know it, but good to keep ourselves reminded of this. I feel it is especially true in current times when people make up their mind based on 2 minute videos in social media, shared memes in whatsapp, than sit down and read a long article, listen to a whole speech or interview than react violently about an incident based on third hand information. Good example was the JNU incident recently. Few would have actually listened to Kanhaiya Kumar’s speeches, understood where they are coming from, before reacting to it with definitive statements. I could still be closed minded about it since I am naturally left leaning – I came to that realization that I am left leaning (not that I support any party, none are good enough now) since I saw that few of my good friends are natural righties – for them, nothing could convince to move towards even center. More about it later sometime..
-          Intelligent. Modest. Soft-Spoken. Philosophical:- a good speech, a good person.
-          We Do Not Dream:- story of Leicester football club, which is at the verge of winning English Premier League. Once in a lifetime kind of event, 5000 – 1 odds, true sports fairytale which is seen in few movies. I am more interested in how they pulled it off, how does it happen that someone obscure like that comes up and delivers an extraordinary performance. This one is not one off victory since they are winning after fighting an entire season. Such underdog stories gives the masses hope that winning is possible, even against the rich and famous. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea – all are still there with their stars. How did they build such a team, inspire them to come together, win game after game – entire world is beating on their doors now to know that secret.

Veg Biryani

Made Veg Biryani today, following recipe from here. I prefer to pickup recipes from blogs than professional sites, just thinking that blogs are real experiences of real people cooking for themselves. Hope to get some real tips.

After making it this time, I wanted to note down some things I did differently to remember later, but then writing a recipe is a big job, so just doing ditto to original recipe and adding on a few observations as a note to self.

-          2 tumbler rice is usually enough for a family, with some leftover too. Then the proportion becomes 3 potatoes, 3 or 4 tomatoes (I like more tomato in anything, but then it is just me), 1 capsicum, 3-4 carrots, 10-12 beans, 3 onions, quarter cup green peas, 2 green chilies (more spicy), few curry leaves, ginger garlic paste. I got tired of taking part of the Gobi and it gets so messy to cleanup, so replaced it with capsicum. Tried Brinjal as add on once.
-          Wash the rice at the very beginning and soak. That way by the time the vegetables are ready, rice is soaked well.
-          Talking about time, I don’t know how these folks finish cooking in 40 mins. For me, start to finish, including washing up dishes, takes nearly 2 hours. I am extra slow, getting the vegetables to an even size and shape, doing one thing at a time, but still.
-          Spices – good for the smell and garnishing, but family hate it when they bite on a clove or cardamom by mistake, so started avoiding it altogether.  When I get more adventurous, started adding some cashews. Need to try out adding mint and coriander leaves.
-          Pressure cooker method had higher chances of success, in terms of getting the biryani with right amount of consistency. But it tastes less like biryani and more like pulao. Tried cooking in the pot once, but didn’t really get that much of a difference. More experimentation to do to get it right.

don't let emotions cool down


Reading Vaikom Mohammed Basheer’s Collected Works. Came across this quote in the introduction, Basheer telling someone to write down in the heat of the emotion, but don’t publish:- “In this occasion, while your heart is full of happiness, you write stories and poems too. Don’t waste such occasions. Don’t let emotions cool down. Before that, put it on paper. Remember that always.. Don’t be in a hurry to send the stories for publishing. Write down, a lot. There is time. Just don’t waste the occasions to write”. Basheer is known to polish his writing so much that original writing to publishing might take years and the material shrinks considerably by then. What would be his reaction to this age when everyone is publishing their thought streams – to blogs, social media, emails. There is less rewrite, less editing.

In college, I read mostly pulp fiction. Gorged on the “thrillers”, any kind. It was an easy way to kill time. But last week, when I was in a used book exhibition in office, didn’t feel like picking up any of them – maybe I am growing up finally. I used to get chided by a few purists in college about reading pulp fiction compared to Malayalam or literary fiction, the real deal. But the thrillers presented a way to escape reality, live in alternate universes – not troubled by tales of poverty, real emotions and stories that don’t end well most of the times. I had read of lot of Malayalam – but still chose translations (our communist govts meant translations of Russian authors in public library). But maybe it is time to go back to the roots. There is rich fiction in Malayalam, stalwarts who has written enough for generations – even though Malayalis of today maybe mostly expatriates, the stories with the smell of the earth is the thread which can bring back the memories, keep us grounded. Hope to read more. 

listen

“You should go home and sleep.” “I am listening to these guys talking.” “From this far away?’ “I am not sure what they are saying,...