Once upon a time, there lived a little girl with sunshine in her eyes & laughter in her voice. It was a Christmas Eve & the little girl Anna was busy making a handmade Christmas card for her best friend. Crayons & coloured bits of paper lay scattered around her. She drew a cheerful, colourful Santa Claus on the card & sloppily sprawled “Merry Christmas” across it…. From where she sat , she could hear the clutter of vessels from the kitchen, where her mother was baking her favourite fruit cake. She sneaked in there to check out the status-quo of the cakes. To her disappointment, her mom was still mixing the batter & the cakes were yet to be baked. Unnoticed by her mom, she dipped her fingers into the creamy batter & licked it gleefully…

Then she ran off towards the window, impatiently waiting for the local church group to visit her home. Outside in the chilly night, she could feel the magic of Christmas in the air. The glowing red star & bunch of balloons that hung on the branches of the gulmohar, wavered in a cold gush of gale. She wished it would snow in India, like it did in those European post cards she admired so much. Waiting on the window sill, she must have dozed off somewhere in between. She could see herself making a real snow man & having snowball fights with her friends. She could hear the jingling of sleigh bells, and the clatter of reindeer hooves on snow…. The strains of carol woke her up. At last the church group had arrived, singing carols & frolicking away. Anna was on cloud nine seeing the bulky Santa dancing, with his wobbling stomach, funny long beard & masked face. She was utterly delighted when he took her hand & made her dance with him. Then he gave her toffees & went away…………

That was years back. Little Anna has grown up. Sending xmas cards is no longer in her busy agenda, let alone a hand made one. Neither does she write any long personal letters. Sitting in her cubicle, the only letters she write are the brisk, professional emails she send to her colleagues seated just yonder her . Cakes are no longer a Christmas extravagance for her. She devours yummy pastries often at parties and then ends up dieting the rest of the week. She shrugs and then laughs off seeing the funny Santa, with that silly looking plastic mask. Anna still religiously attends the midnight mass & celebrates Christmas. But the magic has been lost, somewhere along those years of growing up .

I woke up to the terrible feeling of cramps in my legs. I was still in the bus, on my way home to attend a friend’s betrothal. I was not sure of making it there on time. The bus was already late by 2 hrs, thanks to the tense situations at the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border, all in the name of some Mullaperiyar issue. After being immobilized for 2 hrs at the border, the bus finally took off from the Walayar checkpost…Suddenly you could feel & sense Kerala ; the enchanting greenery, the imposing Western Ghats & the refreshing morning air. Never had all this been so alluring ,until I started staying away from home. No longer is anything taken for granted. I particularly love traveling when it’s drizzling. If it’s a heavy downpour, you have to close your window and just sit there sulking & watching the fog developing on the glass panes. But if it’s a slight drizzle, you can leisurely keep your windows open and bask in cool air and enjoy the sight of glistening leaves & the rain drenched tiled roofs of kerala

The last 3 yrs I had been living in 3 different states..A year back, I was in Tanjore in TN.. The first thing you notice there, is the feeling of “ghee on sacrificial fire”. It used to be too damn hoooooot. And we had to walk a long way through the treeless campus to reach our class. We used to literally race to the class to sit inside the a/c. It must be one of the reasons we never bunked any classes:) There was nothing to do out under the scroching sun.My attendance level was too high to suit my character .We were too happy to sit inside the class & doze off

Another thing you notice in the campus is the ease with which you can locate fellow mallus inside the campus. They are the only ones who walk under the fiery sun with an umbrella. I guess the Tamilians & Northies are used to these environmental conditions. So as I walk around with a red poppy umbrella, if I come across anyone with a blue/green/red poppy umbrella, I can confidently walk up to them & ask “enthokkeyundu visesham”( how are you)

But the nights in Tanjore are quite in contrast with the days. Nights are heavily windy, especially during the ‘aadi season’ . They are crispy cool with clear, star studded skies. At hostel, we used to take our mattresses up to the terrace, and lie down there under those heavenly skies ,chatting all the way into the night. We used to try figuring out the constellations and the non-existent comets, that fire away in the night sky (comets will usually be a figment of somebody’s flourishing imagination)..

Then, there was this farmland behind our hostel with rose farms, paddy fields & sugarcane fields. The swaying paddy fields are a rendezvous for the peacocks. If you are shrewd & careful enough to stand like a statue/scare crow, the suspicious peacocks will sometimes allow you watch them. But the moment you take out the camera, some sixth sense makes them to flee away, cackling its horrible cry.(it’s cry is similar to a cat’s cry with a little more volume & bass) . And for some unknown reasons, we gals used to derive much pleasure, by sneaking into the rose farms & taking away some of those pretty flowers.

Then I miss the fun we had in the hostel, the hanging-outs after each exam, watching tamil movies, breaking bday eggs on friends’s heads, sitting late in college in the name of projects & seminars(but browsing most of the time)

The place is famous for the big Brahadeeswara rock temple, with its mind blowing architectural beauty,built during the reign of Chola King, Raja Chola. The tall architecture is designed such that it’s shadow never cast upon the ground , at any time of the day