Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Chronicles of Bubbles and Buttons


CHAPTER 3 – A Day with the Birthday Party

Bubbles and Buttons had been very excited since they got the invite yesterday to the birthday celebrations of their classmate and bestie Aaradhana via WhatsApp school group. They also got a personal invite from Aaradhana, whom they fondly call Aari. Aari has been their classmate since kindergarten and a dear neighbour, living just two blocks away. Bubbles and Buttons referred to her home as their “second” home and they had first sleepover during last Christmas holidays. They had lot of fun playing video games and sharing stories they have been fond of. Aari had brother too, Aarav, who was two years younger to her. He was obsessed with Lego toys and if he was in the right mood, he shared them with Bubbles and Buttons. Else, he would become all cranky when they touched it. However, when he went to sleep, Aari, Bubbles and Buttons played with them and had a lot of fun. Also, Aari is the oldest in their class, with her birthday on May 29th. And every first academic day at school would begin with her chocolate distribution.

But this year was different. No one knew when the school would reopen and strangely, they missed the routine of waking up early, uniforms, classrooms, homework and teachers, including their ever strict Rehmath teacher. She was their Mathematics teacher, always scolding and giving imposition. “So strange! Look at her name. Reh-MATH. As if her parents knew she will be a maths teacher from the day she was born”, they used to crib.

“Amma, can you help us get our uniforms”, Bubbles requested immediately after the phone conversation with Aari. “We have a theme for the birthday party this year”, Aari had announced with exhilaration. “Really! What’s that?” Bubbles and Buttons asked in unison. “Back to School”, Aari said. She explained that the party will be hosted by her mother via zoom call and all her friends should attend it in their school uniforms.

“Why would you need them? We don’t even know when the schools will open”, said their mother. So, Bubbles had to explain about the ‘Back to School’ party theme. Their mother, who has obsession with orderliness and categorisation, had neatly folded their uniforms, wrapped in  a brown cover and stashed at the loft.

“I am not even sure if you fit into it. Its been 3 months since you have worn it and with all the sitting at home and the age you are in, I highly doubt”, amma said as a matter of fact.
“Come on amma, don’t give excuses. We need our uniforms”, reasoned Buttons. So amma delegated the work of retrieving the uniforms from the loft to appa. Appa murmured about the autocratic approach taken by amma in delegating such a physically demanding task to him. Bubbles and Buttons just supressed a giggle because they couldn’t control the excitement anymore.

“Did you realise that we have grown taller”, said Bubbles. Uniform was shorter by few inches. Buttons shrugged as he also observed that the shirt was a little too tight than he expected it to be. “This is too uncomfortable”, he complained. “I can’t agree more”, Bubbles said. “Anyways its virtual and only for an hour”, she added.

Their grandmother braided Bubble’s hair on both sides. She applied some kajal and a bindi too. She looked at herself in the mirror and felt happy. Meanwhile. Buttons came with the school identity card and Bubbles’ “Class leader” batch. “I think we should also wear these to complete the look”, he said.

Bubbles and Buttons borrowed their grandmother’s mobile phone, downloaded and set up the Zoom app. They contemplated about the ideal username. Bubbles said it should be B&B. “No one in school knows what B&B means. We should keep it A&A”, said Bubbles - their name being Adwaita and Aditya. “Alright, let’s keep it ‘ADz’?” asked Buttons. And they instantly fell in love with the username. “Short and sweet”, they agreed.

As planned, at the stroke of 5PM, they clicked the zoom meeting link and they saw Aari already waiting with a broad smile. In five minutes, most of their classmates had joined the meeting. They waved at each other and smiled endlessly. None of them knew what to say or how to behave. Thankfully, their discomfort didn’t last long. Aari’s mother pointed the camera towards the cake and Aari cut the cake as their mother sang, “Happy Birthday Aari”. Bubbles and Buttons sang too. But they couldn’t hear anyone else. That confused them. “They have muted all the attendees”, said Bubbles pointing to the mute button and Bubbles shook her head in disapproval. Aari’s mother fed her some cake, then her father fed her a piece. Soon her brother came into the screen, picked a piece and started eating on his own.

“Thank you everyone”, said Aari’s mother. Aari smiled and waved once again, feeling excited and uncertain at the same time. “Let’s take a groupie”, said her mother to the utter shock of everyone. Then she asked everyone to smile and said that the screenshot has been taken and she will share in the WhatsApp group. Bubbles and Buttons looked at each other once again in disbelief. It was only 15 minutes into the party and the kids were bored already. So Aari’s mother nudged Aari to say thank you and said we could disconnect!

“What a stupid party. What a stupid idea. What a waste of time”, Bubbles and Buttons complained. They unbuttoned most of their shirts because it felt too tight. They went downstairs and found everyone sitting in the living room and sipping coffee. Bubbles and Buttons gave the phone back to their grandmother. “How did the party go?”, she asked.

“It was very boring thathi. Only Aari’s mother spoke – let’s cut the cake. Let’s smile. Let’s log off. Let’s this. Let’s that”, Bubbles went on ranting. “She had even muted all of us. So, we didn’t even hear each other”, Buttons added. Their grandparents looked at them as if they were speaking Greek and Latin yet nodded in agreement.

“We really like Aari’s mother and all that okay. But I think people are so different in person and online. This is not how she usually talks”, Bubbles said. “Is this how your office meetings be? Talk only when spoken to and only if required. Else, stay on mute. And what not!” she asked her parents. Their parents looked at each other and smiled.

“Tell us… amma-appa”, they shouted in unison.

“Yes baby. This is how office meetings are. We should stay on mute and speak only if absolutely required. And only if another person has finished talking. Else it could be very confusing”, amma said.

“Are you kidding us? That’s so boring. How do you manage to sit through it for hours and hours in a day?” cried Bubbles. “We couldn’t handle for even 15 minutes”, Buttons echoed.

Their mother sighed and got up from the couch. “How about some mango milkshake”, asked their mother cheerfully as she walked towards the kitchen.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”, Bubble and Buttons sang in unison as they frog jumped behind her.

To be continued…

Monday, 11 May 2020

The Chronicles of Bubbles and Buttons


CHAPTER 2 – A Day Spent on Celebrating the Mother's Day

Bubbles and Buttons were locked in their rooms and were very busy throughout the day. The day didn’t turn out to be the same as they had initially planned. In weekends, they prefer to sit at the living room and be close to their parents. Since the lockdown due to global pandemic, their parents have been at home. But they were very busy doing their office work during weekdays. Weekends were the only time when Bubbles and Buttons got undivided attention from their parents. Bubbles and Buttons have never been the ones who threw tantrums. They often understood the priorities and were mostly happy to be engaged in doing what they like. Of course, their grandparents never missed a moment to pamper them whenever possible.

Across the lunch they heard their dad saying, “I completely forgot – Its International Mother’s Day. Most of my friends and colleagues have posted pictures of their mothers in WhatsApp and Instagram wishing them and thanking them”. Their mother added, “oh right, I also saw them”. That’s how Bubbles and Buttons were introduced to the concept of the International Mother’s Day.

“What exactly is that appa” asked Bubbles curiously.
“Second Sunday of every May is celebrated as the International Mothers’ Day. Children seize this opportunity to thank their mothers”, appa said.  

Bubbles and Buttons looked at each other as if sharing some notes through telepathy. They almost became restless by the time they finished their lunch. Their grandparents were napping by then. Appa was planning to watch some movie and amma was complaining that she is bored, as usual. Bubbles and Buttons excused themselves lying that they are feeling sleepy and rushed to their room.

“We should do something special to celebrate Mother’s Day”, declared Buttons.
“I can’t agree more. We should thank amma for just being amma. Isn’t she a superhero?” echoed Bubbles. “How about a greeting card?” she added.
“That is so blah. Come on, you could think better”, said Buttons.
“Why don’t you suggest something amazing if my idea is soooooooo BLAH”, said Bubbles.
“Come on Bubbles, let’s not fight. Greeting card is a good idea. But we should do something unique. Something different. That’s what I meant”, Buttons clarified.
“Alright, how about infinity greeting card?” Bubbles declared with a glint in her eyes after few moments of serious thoughts.
“A what?” Buttons sounded confused.
“Basically, it’s a card within a card within a card. Its so cool. I learned to make it from a YouTube video. All we need is a colour paper…”
“Which we have”, Buttons interrupted as if he is checking some list in his mind already. “How about yellow? Or can we paste one colour paper over other”
“Of course. That’s a great idea. But could become too complicated. We could always try”, continued Bubbles. “Then we need to doodle something, write something and tada! We will have this amazing card”
“While presenting, we could tell amma that we made infinity greeting card to celebrate her infinite love”, said Buttons.
“Great! Looks like you are good with words today. You come up with ideas that we could write in the card. I will make the card. Then we both could write and maybe draw something. That’s it. Simple!”, Bubble said.

Bubbles effectively made the infinity card. They doodled little flowers, books, dresses, paint brushes, and sticky figures of their family in the card - everything that their mother is fond of. Then they added ‘We Love You Amma’, ‘You are the Best’ and ‘Our Cute Angel’ in the card. They decided to write a little poem too. They agreed that the last words of each line should rhyme. And the struggle began. If Bubbles liked something, Buttons did not. Until then, they worked as a team. With the poem idea, the teamwork seemed to have become a truth of yesterday. They fought so much that they almost decided to give up the Mother’s Day gift. They went to distant corners of the room and sulked for some time.
“Don’t you think we could be better behaved than this”, Bubbles broke the silence.
“I agree. We are wasting time. We should complete this. Otherwise it will be too late for this Mother’s Day”, said Buttons
“And too early for next!” Bubbles said and they both high-fived.
“Let’s do this, you write first 4 lines. And I will write the next four”, Buttons declared with a proud yet authoritative tone. “And let’s give each other fifteen minutes.”
“Sounds like a plan”, smiled Bubbles and they resigned to her study desk. Buttons continued to sit on the floor in one of the corners. They both gazed up at the ceiling for some time. Then at each other. And slowly let the words make their entry to their mind. It took one hour, but in the end they felt satisfied.

“Okay, here are my first four line”, said Bubbles
Our dear mother,
You are tender like a feather.
Your love is wide as river
And forever you are our pillar.

“Not bad,” said Buttons. “And you managed to rhyme. Though I am not sure if ‘tender like a feather’ makes sense. Anyways… here goes mine”, he quickly changed the subject when he saw noticed that Bubbles is not happy with that line.
Dear-Dear Mother,
Your energy levels never wither
And we would never rather
Wish for another mother!

“Those last two lines are just perfect. I think we could make these two poems into one… Give me the paper”, Bubbles said. And she read one of the perfect poems they have ever heard

Dear-Dear Mother,
Your love is wide as river
And forever you are our pillar.
Your energy levels never wither.
And we would never rather;
Wish for another mother!

“Yay! This is so-so perfect. We are better as team, I think”, Buttons chimed, and they quickly copied it into a fresh sheet of paper and filled it with lots of doodles and colours. It was late evening already and their mother had already called them a dozen times. They rushed to their mother and presented their most precious creation and waited for their mother’s reaction. She was puzzled to see the infinity greeting card going in circles and was awestruck with the sheer beauty of it. She was elated when they carefully opened the rolled paper which was tied with a red satin ribbon and read the poem. She hugged them while she was speechless. This was her first Mother’s Day gift and she knew she will cherish it forever.  

She rushed to their father and showed him the gift. He appreciated Bubbles and Buttons and joked that this time they could get away from the punishment for lying that they were sleeping in their rooms.

“Amma and appa, what did you gift to grannies?” Bubbles asked.
“Gift granny? Why baby?” asked appa with a confused look.
“Its Mother’s Day and you didn’t gift anything to granny? Amma did you?”, Buttons enquired. She shook her heads.
“You did not? Really!!!” Buttons asked sounding rather disappointed.
“But we shared their photos as our WhatsApp status. Amma also did. Didn’t you?” said appa.
“Oh, come on appa! You know that our grannies don’t even use WhatsApp!!! You better make something!” said Buttons.
“Yes, we could help you. Let’s lie to them that you are going to clean our room or something and we could work on this. Don’t worry. We still have time!” said Bubbles.

Their parents looked at each other with a smile.

To be continued…

Saturday, 25 April 2020

முன்னோக்கு - Perspectives

சில மாதங்கள் முன்பு 
உலகம் சுற்றவேண்டும் என்றிப்பேன் இன்றோ -
உடல்நலத்தோடு வாழ்ந்தால் போதும் என்கிறேன் 

பணமும் பொருளும் போதுமா?
பண்பும் பாசமும் தான் மிகந்தது என்றுணர்கிறேன்!

ஆதலால் -
வீழ்ச்சியிலிருந்து எழுகிறேன்!
சுயநலத்தை கொன்று...
பொதுநலத்தை கருதுகிறேன் 

மனிதநேயம் மேலோங்கட்டுமே! 
மதமும் பிறவேறுபாடுகளும் ஓழியட்டுமே!
மனதாலும் நல்லெண்ணத்தாலும் ஒன்றிணைவோம்! 
அன்பெனும் செல்வதை செர்ப்போமே!

Loose Translation:

Few months before, 
I wanted to travel the world
Today -
Health and wellness only matters the most!

What's there in wealth and luxurious?
Only compassion and love matters!

Therefore -
I rise from the fall
And kill the selfishness
Only to nurture empathy

May humanity prevail!
May religious and other differences vanish!
Let us unite by compassion and kindness
And enrich ourselves with love!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

The Chronicles of Bubbles and Buttons


CHAPTER 1 – A DAY SPENT AS PER MAMMA’S ORDER
“Listen to me, Bubble and Buttons”, their mother said during the breakfast. Like most of the South Indian homes, they were having hot and crispy dosa with coconut and mint chutney. It was their favourite. Strangely, they never got bored of it. Although the dosa batter was made using the same ingredients with same proportions, the taste was different depending upon who made it. Sometimes it was mother, sometimes father. And when they were busy at work, their paternal and maternal grandmothers took turns to make the breakfast. Once they tried to make dosa too. But it was mostly burnt and got stubbornly stuck to the pan.

“I have to say that you both are being very good and well-behaved children during these time of lockdown”, the mother said with a smile. “Tell me, what is your plan for today”.

Since the lockdown, breakfast has become the time to chalk down the to-do list for the day. Their mother always insisted that it is important to have a healthy routine. She has always been a meticulous planner, a stickler for punctuality and very effective in time management.

“Maybe read”, said Bubbles.
“Maybe draw”, said Buttons.

Adwaita aka Bubbles and Aditya aka Buttons are nine-year-old twins who lived in a two storeyed home with their parents and grandparents (both maternal and paternal). The house had six bedrooms, three on each level, with an airy living room on both the floors. While each couple had a bedroom of their own, Bubbles and Buttons shared their space. There was a spare room for guests and the other room was maintained as a recreation space with a home theatre which used to be their aunt’s room. She had moved out of the house last year after getting married to her childhood friend. Although there was enough room for all, the house cannot be called palatial or spacious. It was just right to accommodate eight people!

“That’s a good idea. What else?” their mother continued. Both Bubbles and Buttons looked at each other. By now they understood that their mother had some other plans for them.

“How about cleaning your cupboard? There are lot of stuffs which we have not really looked at for a while. Some needs to be thrown away, some categorized, some rearranged and some, trashed”, she said.

Their mother had this obsessive-compulsive disorder to categorise and label almost everything. She always said, “there is a right place for everything, and everything must be at the right place”. The emphasis was on MUST and they knew that there was no way to escape the orderliness.

After spending their morning by reading and sketching, they reluctantly started pulling one thing after another from their cupboard. Mostly, it included academic books and stationeries. They neatly segregated them from their story books and drawing books.

Bubbles was an avid reader and Buttons was always sketching something or the other. Sometimes, they swap - Bubbles use Buttons’ s Sketch books and colour pencils to draw and Buttons would borrow Bubbles books. It was an unsaid rule, they will not use each other’s’ things without seeking permission. They do not remember when and how that rule was formed. Or who made it.

Although they were twins, Bubbles was a few inches taller than Buttons. She reached out to the attic by stepping onto a chair and pulled a carton. They started rummaging through it.

“See what I found”, exclaimed Bubbles. It was their first journal. At the age of five, their father gifted them a journal and asked them to write about their day. Since they were still learning words, they often took the help of their parents or grandparents to update. Soon showing the journal to their father on Sundays and discussing on what they learnt in school or in their other classes became a routine.

January 01, 2015
Bubbles: Pappa gifted us this diary. We are excited to write every day.
Buttons: Pappa gifted us this diary. We are excited to write every day.

They both giggled at their handwriting and how silly it looked now. They were sure that their parents would have told them what to write although they didn’t really remember much about the day anymore.

“But I don’t understand why we have written the say sentence”, said Buttons thoughtfully. “Funny right”, said Bubbles.

They shuffled through the pages. Day after day, it looked mostly the same.
We went to school. Or we played in the garden. Or we learnt a new poem. And so on. They observed that everyday they both wrote separately in the same page, but always the same thing.

March 15, 2015
Bubbles: Yay! Summer holidays have started. We promise to be good children and we will not fight with each other
Buttons: Yay! Summer holidays have started. We promise to be good children and we will not fight with each other

“At last something different”, remarked Buttons.
“But I don’t remember much of our fights. Do you?” asked Bubbles.
“I am not sure either. I was looking forward to reading our tantrums in the journal. But these are very generic”, said Buttons sounding disheartened.
“Oh, come on, we were kids. I don’t think we knew enough words to write on our own. Let’s be fair”, said Bubbles as a matter of fact. She was always like that. Very practical and often sounded like their mother.
“Hmm… Lets find last year’s diary then?” asked Buttons
“I think we should still read this one”, said Bubble.
“I agree. But I am curious to know when we started calling our journal as The Chronicles of Bubbles and Buttons?” remarked Buttons and they drifted in their trail of thoughts while they rummaged their brains to remember.  

To be continued…

Monday, 13 April 2020

Changing Tides


“This world seems awfully quite", remarked the phoenix. His eyes, dark as night, piercing from the tip of mountain top far into the mountains, his vantage point! It had become a habit to venture out when the night lights blind the stars into oblivion and the night owls hoots in the streets. With the lights dimmed out, even our friend was confined to his abode, unable to take flight without risking humans’ sight!

"Ahhh humans!" remarked the magnificent bird, "peculiar lot I must say! Mammals they are indeed, but do they really fit the bill? For the only thing they bring with them is Carnage and destruction! They storm a location, green and lovely, teething with life, but by the time they leave, all that's left is a grey hue of death! They fight amongst themselves for the resources and kill their own kind for want of control! Greed infests the very fabric of their being! For it is only a fool would believe that the mother nature could be controlled - a virus none the less, no mammal I tell you!"

A few steps behind in his aviary, there appeared to be movement. Alarmed by the intruder, the phoenix exclaimed "Halt who goes there!". His voice piercing the silence left behind by the absence of screeching jets.

'Forgive me, oh mighty bird" requested a squeaky voice. "I am just a mouse in search of food. The humans that I rely on are nowhere to be found."

"Help yourself, oh little one", remarked the phoenix, "I too couldn't make sense of this sudden silence. With this haunting silence and dark nights everywhere, I miss the flights atop human cities, gawking at those misers spend their lives bickering behind money and spoiling their lands. Don't know what has gotten into those genius imbeciles!"

"I heard they are held up in their homes for fear of death doth surround them!"  Squeaked the mouse.

"Death!" exclaimed the phoenix, "Isn't that humans trade in, use to fill their reserves, exploit as a weapon and barter for coppers nevertheless?"

"Yes, my Lord! But this time it's a unknown threat, something the monkeys cannot comprehend." replied the mouse

"What could be so intriguing that eludes the mind of one who has tamed the oceans, controlled fire; split the very atom to its core" asked the bird.

"It's a virus sir, a silent killer that is on the loose, and the only way humans could avoid it is to shut their lives and stay packed in their houses" replied the mouse

"Oh, sweet mother nature! You did strike where it hurt the most", remarked the phoenix. "Those wretched creatures deserve this! I don't realize these plains anymore, having roamed them for eons, never have I seen an animal so destructive and so devoid of empathy as the human monkey! They have made a joke of our mother and this is what they deserve. I am sure not even in this state is despair would they learn to come together, to be one against the common enemy, but find bits and pieces to conjure up a sense of insecurity to fight amongst each other, only to lose and burn in eternal fire."

"But sire how do you emerge from the fire unharmed? Is it some dark magic?" probed the mouse.

"A flower at its prime never thinks it will one day turn to dust", answered the phoenix, a smile running down his face. "I only burn and crash when I know this body has had enough and I accept it's end is near; the cycle of life and death is something even I cannot elude. The magic is in acceptance, to see that my ways need to be corrected and to change myself into a new form, a new being - a new me! That is when I surrender to my fate, burn like the eternal flame, only to emerge from the ashes with a newfound purpose! If that's what the humans do, introspect on their ways, on their hate, maybe someday they too can rise like I do.

“But the question is - will it be a new beginning or is the end for this vile creature? Or is it just another passing phase? Time should tell".

Note: Locomente collaborates with a friend, who prefers to be identified with his pen name ‘ace’. One of the discoveries of these lockdown days is that he writes. Looking forward for more collaborations in future Arun!