Wisdom Is An Elephant


So the Science Fiction aficionado goes ahead and wins a  student writing contest. She is also invited to attend the conference of all similarly inclined souls and read out her winning entry.

When I gape at the wonder of it all, my daughter laughs. Her heroine is called Sofia and she has a cat called Davetta. Sofia reads Werner Heisenberg’s Physics and Philosophy in the dead of night. And she hates authoritarian figures. By the way, her cat is bionic.


Her sister gifts her a  cute pink baby elephant- yeah, a stuffed toy. The elder one  takes it by the tail and twirls it around with amusement.

‘Why is it pink, eh? It creeps me out,’ she opines.

‘It is adorable and small and pink. You better treat it respectfully,’the little girl is firm.

‘It looks rather ominous,’ laughs the elder one.

‘What is ominous?’

‘This elephant.’

‘Meaning of ominous?’

‘Er, not very auspicious, let us say.’

The younger one casts a baleful glance at me. I am all for getting the elephant back from such an  irreverent  new owner.

But finally, the sisters strike a compromise. They christen the elephant Sofia.

As I wonder on its fate, the elder one says consolingly, ‘Amma, it means wisdom. I will make it befriend Electra, the startled cat toy. Besides, we will make them  unofficial mascots of our Physics lounge.’


With all the wise ones around, I ask one question. What are interstitial spaces?

Sofia’s leap of victory had been in the  sci-fiction writing contest with that  peculiar theme. Her  story title was ‘Knowledge beyond Logic’. Heisenberg was an adored Ancient in its weave.

Does a pink elephant befriend a cat?  Would such friendship occur in interstitial spaces? As my mind puzzles over the uncertainty of it all, I remember Heisenberg in a most  happy, weird way.

‘Revere those things beyond science which really matter and about which it is so difficult to speak.’

Sofia or Electra, pink or black, young or old, elephant or cat, Physics or Spirituality, we are bound by infinite reams of love and laughter. And my story, if I ever were to write on interstitial spaces would be on that. And two laughing sisters.

The Gods at the bottom of my glass always have their faces.




Roasted Pigeon and a Prayer

” My girl…”, I grin as I get a photo of my teenager , next to me. The younger one, the photographer, expressed her heart felt appreciation for both the pose and the affection, with a single pertinent comment:

” Ugghh!”

It was neither short nor long,

Neither too petulant nor too syrupy,

It was a simple emotion

Emerging from within the heart’s depths.

My elder one laughs:” Amma, as perfect as Satyajit Ray’ s  PatolBabu Film star: Remember that “Oh” of PatolBabu when he knocked against the hero. That same anguish and pain,   with a good dose of disgust and exasperation.”

” By the way, you remind me of a purple squab,” she says.

Neither I nor my little one know the meaning.

” Roast pigeon Mom…having toasted herself in front of the heater the whole day…”

Suddenly I sympathise with the ” Ugghh!”

My little girl declares suddenly, ” I will pray.”

” For what?” I ask, astonished.

” That she gets her University and leaves soon. Ugghh…”

And that, I conclude , is how certain kids get into Universities. On the wings of prayers of many loving souls!!!




The Mathematics of Blue Moon

“Once in a blue moon,”she asks, “Amma, what does it mean?”

I cast a bemused glance at the curious cat. She has a grin on her face, a la Alice’s Cheshire Cat itself.

“A very rare event,” I explain.

Little girl starts grinning wider and wider. The grin almost eclipses her face.

“What is up?” I ask.

This one smiling over an explanation,  with such a sunshine glimmer,  happens once in a blue moon. Usually she ponders deep, over explanations. Presumably filtering it through her own special eight year old truth filter.

“I wrote in my note book that I was a very good girl.”

I cough politely. I have certain other  distinct view points about the interpretation of Good. Especially when good girls seem to be fascinated by the looking glass, to uneven time proportions. Ignoring homework.

“Chechy wrote next to it- once in a blue moon!”

This time, I grin. Ah, there  are other eyes too that see the truth, eh?

“Do you agree with what your sister wrote?” I ask, mildly.

My little one laughs. Shaking all over in her mirth. Happens once in a….


“Ma,  never let this brat study Law! She will switch sides to suit her interest easily! The client would be in a very bad position!” warns the elder one.

We were discussing possible career options for the little girl. Considering her outstanding ability to cry at a moment’s notice, for example. And to stop crying instantaneously, as soon as she concluded, that no one was interested in the whole scene. A more remarkable ability.

My little Turncoat, sniffs with elegance.

“What is Law?” She ventures, after some time.

Before any one could explain, she speaks. ” I want to study fashion!”

“You have to do addition and subtraction  for that” , advises her sister. ” Pass class four Mathematics, next! And then continue to do Math  for years,” she grins with sheer vindictive joy.

A shudder of horror passes over the young one. Maths and she are not friends.


A very poignant question over the injustice of it all. A sentiment I could very well relate to, since I have a love- hate relationship with Maths too.

“You have to measure clothes, right?” Laughs her sister, getting into her groove.

A look of concentration comes into the small face.

“I will do addition and subtraction then,” she says, to no one in particular.

For the first time in her summer vacation, she reaches out to her Math text book.

“The crow will fly upside down today,” chortles my elder daughter.

“May be it is you , who should take up Law,” I mutter, ” because you have accomplished something next to impossible.”

The scene ends with the elder one patiently explaining   Class Four mathematics problems in terms of a pretty actress’s choice of lipsticks and blushes.Her sibling has an awed look at her face, as light dawns on the application of Maths in life and death issues.

I praise the Heavens, wholeheartedly.  The peace in the house is as rare as a blue moon.


The Sounds of Diwali

Picture 103

It is Bhai-Dooj. And my brother is far away from me. Yet in my thoughts, in my memories, he is just a touch away. This is for you, anna, the best brother any girl can ever have.

I hate sounds that burst unexpectedly. In my childhood, I would never pray before the Gods of the temples, preferring to cover my ears with my hands instead; and earn many mutterings that went unheard, literally.

” Fold your hands before the Devi,” mother would hiss, and try to pull mine down. One cracker would burst from the temple premises, and I would jump in terror, covering my ears again.I would curse the devotees who thought of paying hard earned money to shock the birds and the children, by paying for the cracker-rite.

It became a family lore- my fear of fire crackers. And when someone knows your weakness, the enemy plots his strategies around that. You don’t have to read Sun Tzu’s Art of War to realise that.

Every single penny my brother earned in pocket money,was offered for the cracker-rite. And he would warn me about Diwali, with an evil grin.

” Spent a couple of days and nights with ears covered, ok?”

And finally, evading all my desperate pleas for Diwali to avoid our neighbourhood, it would appear- regularly every year.

The Blair Witch of the next house, would light a lamp and announce to the world one eventide, ” Wind come hither, Rain come hither, Carry away all remnants of sorrow from this place.” We would hoot at her, seeing her wave the lamp around every coconut tree and mango tree in the neighbourhood. Diwali had arrived.

Small clay elephant lamps would be lighted up. Red seeds of the majestic Manjady tree woud decorate the lamps. Father would give pocket money to buy crackers and sparklers.

I remember the Pink Dot with the spot of brown in it. Potas, we called it: came in packets of ten and twenty, miniature crackers that had to be hammered to burst. The sophisticated guns to fire those came later. We were in the Stone Age, of course.

My brother delighted in cracking potas all over the place, hitting them with a fat shining stone. I would hide behind curtains, get under cots, cover my ears and pray that he would disappear along with those pink panthers who tore at my ear drums. He would discover me, patiently and gleefully, and would make sure that those exploded -right behind me.

” The best is yet to be,” he promised me with an evil grin, much before  Robert Browning, as I screamed the house down.Yes, the grand night of crackers was yet to arrive- the Potas was just a prelude, playing its mellifluous tones.

The sparklers would be lighted up first. My brother would harrumph around like an impatient bull, and try to light up three or four at the same time, to proceed to the coveted cracker packet. I would again try my best to manipulate the environments, pleading for a snake pill, a fire-tree, anything that would only light up, and not shock. By that time, from the neighbour’s house, loud atom-bombs would burst and my brother would declare war.” The mala-padakkam,” he would announce the start of the ritual- and the chain crackers would start bursting merrily. By that time I would have disappeared, safe under the cot in the aunts’ room, cowering beneath, ears tightly shut. I would still jump as the tremors reached me. I must have fallen asleep a lot of times, in that dark hideout of mine.

Until one Diwali, my brother, you taught me to face my fear.

” What do you want to be when you grow up?”

You had used subtle psychological intervention, even without knowing it. We were children.

” An officer as Ship Uncle wants me to be,” I grinned. Ship Uncle was God. Even then, even now.

” Do officers cover their ears if someone fires a cracker? Would you not look silly?”

Question worth pondering about, deeply.

” Actually , yes!” I muttered, eyes widening at what he was hinting at.

I would not be able to make Ship Uncle happy, if I covered my ears.

And what is life, when God was not happy with you?

” What should I do?” I asked, steeling myself for the inevitable.

” Crush a potas with this rock,” said my brother.

It changed my life, that challenge of his.

” You will soon enjoy it. Come on..,” anna cajoled. ” Besides, I will give you that Tiger Sticker if you do that!”

Oh Lordie! The Tiger Sticker, which he guarded with his very life- and at the other end, a pink , evil bit of round cracker that waited to be burst.

Gathering all my courage, I picked up the stone.

The potas did not burst the first time. I shuddered in the anticipatory horror.

” I hate it when it does not burst when I strike,” tears started flowing down  my cheeks.

” One more time,” said my brother, with a rare intensity. He was on a holy mission, I realise that now.

The potas burst when I hammered it a second time.

I jumped, but it was not that scary.

” Tiger sticker?”

” One more time,” anna grinned, moving another near me.

I ended up bursting twenty odd potas. With ears uncovered.

I still shudder when crackers burst, but I never covered my ears after that.

My brother had taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life: To face my fears and to handle them.And the promise that I could earn Tiger Stickers from life, if I overcame them. That one has served me well.

Brother mine, it will make you proud that I did not cover my ears, this Diwali too.

I also face my worst fears on the face, because of you.

Know that you are loved, very deeply.

Happy Bhai Dooj.