A day from Chutki’s summer holidays

Last year, my friend Enakshi was on her terrace, watching her beautiful garden, when she saw her neighbours. That inspired this story, to render imaginary prose to the beautiful interaction of a grand-daughter and her grandma.

Chutki has no school!


Summer holidays are here and she drags her grandma to the rooftop to play.

Grandma says let us sing a prayer. It is your prayer time at school and my prayer time at home. And they sing the school song standing exactly like in the school assembly.


Then Chutki says, “grandma, let’s dance!”

“But I have never danced” says grandma.


“Never, ever? How come?

Let me show you. In school there is a new teacher who said everyone can dance!” Just look at me and do as I do, grandma.”


Now hold my hand and look up at the sky. Think of rain lashing on your face, the sound is like music, washing away the summer sweat,

You forget everything and dance in joy.

IMG-20190508-WA0024Jump to the left then jump to the right

One step back and hold my hands tight

IMG-20190508-WA0023Pretend we are a train…

Swaying to the music of the train and the rain…

chhuk chhuk chhuk chhuk….tip tip tip tip…


And circle and circle and circle

…and “all fall down…!!!”

A Rumour Sir?

Dear Mathrubootham Sir,

I am deeply hurt. Let me not go around asking you how is Singapore, and how much kaya have you eaten so far. Whether you have taken the metro to the Botanical garden and bird park or whether you are only visiting in the Little India area and seeing more and more Indians and wondering why you ever thought of going to Singapore and not to Mars. I believe we still do not have Unnikrishnan Chai Kada there. Not yet.

Ok, so here I am, writing to you feeling very hurt. After waiting every Sunday, when I make alu paratha or appam for breakfast, listening to Rangoli, and waiting to read your section, first thing, every sunday. It is not very good anymore, this Rangoli, but we are all creatures of habit. And we live with hope that it will get better, like our country, someday.


How could you, dear Sir, call my land, my mathrubhoomi a rumour (though in Odia we do not have that ‘h’ and the ‘oo’, we say and write matrubhumi)? But I never made fun of your spelling or pronunciation. Pronunciation again, is another raw spot. For us Odias and our fellow neighbour Bengalis. As if all other states speak English as spoken by God. I mean if God spoke English. That topic has not come up yet in #SayItLikeRevolution).

You said once earlier as well. On January 18, in the New Year, you wrote about Sambalpur. And you mentioned Vicks Action 500. That was not nice. But I ignored it. I was overjoyed that you know there is a place called Sambalpur. And you had the spelling right. Not Sambhalpur.

But this time, I am very offended. And sad. That you would think of Orissa as a rumour on the map? (by the way, changing names, when there is so much more that needs to be changing, is what our politicians and political parties spend a lot of time on. Orissa is now Odisha. Does it make any difference? To anyone? No, but we the naïve and the gullible can argue for your entire train journey from Alleppey to Bokaro about how relevant the change from ‘r’ to‘d’ is! The country may go to hell, there may or may not be a school or hospital or toilet or rice from PDS, but we must say Odisha and not Orissa. You please make sense of all this during your holiday. You may get some bright bulb come out from inside your brain).

Rumour on map, Sir? What kind of an expression is that? Maps are maps and rumours are rumours. So and so’s daughter is dating so and so’s son, so and so is already married or divorced, are rumour worthy subjects Sir. Not a map. Why only last week, a big company selling everything online got a map incorrect. How is that possible? And anyway, the upper part of our matrubhumi and its lines are always inviting some controversy or other. May be you can write on that and put a stop to all rumours.

Sir, we are humble, Sir, we may not have a lot to show off. We are affectionate, simple and soft spoken. By and large.  Our food does not have twenty two ingredients and spices, Sir. But you will like our chenna poda pitha, chakuli, guguni, pakhala, badi churra and alu-chatka. Since you have never written about any non-vegetarian food, I would not give you that list. I do not want you to have to take Vicks Action 500.

We are often told that we are laid-back. That we do not have aspiration for growth. Tell me Sir; is it a crime to be content with less? Is it a crime to nap in the afternoon? You must have heard that story of a man sleeping under a tree when a gentleman, Mr. Shatrubootham, comes and asks him why he is not working? He says he has finished work for the day. Mr. Shatrubootham advises, if he worked some more, earned some more, bought some more things, would he not be happier? To which, our sleepy man replies “what do you think I am now?”

You live in Madras, no Sir? Sorry, Chennai. When next time you are having dinner invitation from Dr. Shankaramenon and Masterchef Gummidipoondi, please ask if you can meet the cook. You will realise, that many of the cooks in Chennai are fellow Odias, Sir. They may not have studied a lot, but they will put a stop to all rumours of where Orissa is on the map Sir. And if you are travelling to Bangalore Sir, and you are at Majestic bus stop, you will recognise our language. You will wonder whether you are in Bangalore or Sambalpur or Bhubaneswar. And if you are staying with a relative in Bangalore, ask the security guards of the housing complex. You will find Odias there as well.

We don’t have many jobs. So the young people leave reluctantly. If only we are recognised for our love for the forests, for the woven wonders, for the crafts, for being the caretakers of a land that changed the violent king Ashoka, we would not be a rumour, Sir.

I still wish you good time in Singapore.

A humble Odia, living away from Odisha.








Whatsapp groups: The agony and the ecstasy

You get a message “+91………. added you”. Followed by a flurry of welcomes. And then you slowly, very slowly realise what have you gotten into. You mute, you stop it from blinking, but there is no stopping. More or less, everything gets discussed, everything happening around us, in the world that is, in every group! if its a Rajnikant joke, you are doomed. not just the groups, every contact may just send you that. Jokes, videos, election, wildlife, selfies, selfies at meetings, selfies at exotic locations, selfies with famous personalities at airports. Food, roads, signboards, flowers, pets, clothes, after all, all cameras have a phone and have internet and have whatsapp, and pictures speak a thousand words, so why not?

I am currently part of about eight whatsapp groups. I successfully, without guilt, left three.

I believe there were questions, hurt, sentiments expressed. Like when someone leaves the groups am still in (+91…….has left the group messages pops up, followed by: who left? Why? Get her/him back? We are having so much fun?). Sometimes there is also “is she the only one so busy?”

The day begins with “good morning”, a most unreal looking electric blue rose wishing you a wonderful day. A namaste. Or a quote “every day is an experience. This is life…enjoy your day”. Right. We begin as early as sunrise and morning tea. We talk about who likes which tea. Then we discuss when would we have tea together, when is so and so inviting everyone to tea. Followed by smiley faces.

Some of the groups I left (sigh), even though I was advised “just clear the messages, you don’t have to read them all. Stay in the group.” Those were early days of whatsapp grouping and I either felt bad that am not reading and responding, or annoyed, even after muting the group, keeping mobile data off and seeing 42 messages when you switch it on, bothered me. So I left. But looks like that should not have been a big deal. You don’t miss much if you did not read. It’s something like our saas-bahu serials, you can stop watching anytime and when you resume, you would still understand the story. Easy. they are made to accommodate, you see.

A simple statement like “I have a little cold so skipping office today. At home watching cricket match.” Results in “please take care bhai”, “drink ginger tea”, “go see a doctor”. “am praying for you”. And am like, he is well enough to watch the match, ask for the score buddy!

One group that I was excited when it started was the primary school group; we were all 12-13 years of age in that school. Changes happened after that, schools, places, no education, such changes were made and decided mostly after that crucial class seventh since it meant going to another (high) school. Someone started that group. And then the nightmare, I was trying to put faces to names and names to faces! On my defence, we were a class of 60+ students in one section, at least 4 sections and I was only 12 then. I left.

Groups with a purpose. The groups that am still in:

My apartment group, leaking pipes, common facilities, maintenance, parking space all gets discussed. No choice. They may just decide to paint the campus the new 2000 rupees pink, so I better stay in if I don’t want that.

A group that discusses access to organic food/ grocery. All exciting people (some may say eccentric, hippies) each following their passion.

A large group of people who are recipients of a specific fellowship. Very large. Some may know each other if they were together for that fellowship. Most don’t know most. But it’s assumed that the fellowship has tied us together like a multi coloured beaded necklace of the Queen. People are tapped from remote corners and added to the group. Flurry of welcomes everyday. Followed by flurry of thank yous. The purpose is to share ideas and enable each other, the brilliant people, chosen few of the prestigious fellowship. We could together change the world.

One common challenge. To focus on the PURPOSE. Political issues come in, right or wrong or left or centre comes in, views and opinions on what is happiness (or something as challenging as that) and then begins the yes and no. Most of us in these groups do not know each other, at all, and we expect to connect on very difficult or very trivial topics. We don’t even know whether something trivial for one is most challenging for the other or vice versa!

I have been termed class monitor in some of these. Am not proud of it. But I don’t want to exit. I want to stay and listen and contribute. Yes I do.

My post-graduation group. That time when you finished formal education and hopefully got a job after that. Shared hostels, shared food, shared campus, many love life blossomed, many heart breaks, many close friendships. Every now and then someone shares a sexist or racist joke and gets butchered. We never agreed then, we do not agree now. But that’s understood.

Work group, good gossip, some work some general, some debates, plans for movies, restaurants etc. Nobody takes up any serious argument. All contentious topics are posted. You may choose to respond or not.

Few small groups of friends. Either because we did a fellowship together and got to know each other over a period of time, travelling, laughing, walking cooking, planning visits together, discussing the course and found ourselves honest with each other, and have stayed in touch, even without whatsapp.

Another group where we have worked together, typically first jobs. We share the experiences of first job, a common place, shared nostalgia. We have stayed in touch from a time when computers were making their debut, followed by mobile phones, and even though everyone is now scattered all over the world. We would tease and annoy and love and care, the same way!

Whatsapp just happened to happen here!

Let me stop at that, the agony and the ecstasy. And post good night to all those eight groups with the picture of a bright sunrise.

And quickly switch-off the phone 🙂