I will be honest. I learned about sex and the female form when I was 12 years old. A guy who joined my school and my class in 7th grade and who was about a year older than me and most of my other friends, showed us how to smoke and while we were smoking during the recess period, he also showed us a nudie magazine that he had brought to school with him.
That was the first time that I can ever remember ever seeing images of a woman naked. This was new territory for me to explore. I learned about the wonderful world of breasts and asses and sexy looking women with their vaginas on display. This was exciting and what was that weird feeling growing hard between my legs? A few of us ogled over the images and discussed what we saw and knew (which was very little) and in our minds we dreamed. I would never look at women the same way again.
This would lead to me watching my first few soft porn films with some friends and also getting my first nude film. This was pre-internet ofcourse so it was hard to sneak it in. But yeah the fascnination still continues to this day all these years later.
When was the last time you received a handwritten letter?
A handwritten letter? Whaat? Using a pen (or a pencil if you are a small kid) and writing on a paper, getting hand cramps and then taking an envelope, folding the paper and sticking the letter into it, sealing the envelope and then finding the appropriate stamp to stick on the right hand corner and then going to a letter box or the post office and then putting it there so a postal worker can sort it out and then deliver it to the person you want to read it? Why waste all that time when you can just email them?
I guess it was sometime during the late 1999 or 2000. I don’t remember ever sending a handwritten letter since then. I had a bunch of penpals that I got from a rock magazine in India as well as from chatting online. Internet connections were quite expensive back then, so I only went online for a few hours a week at an internet cafe and chatted a lot on IRC. I made a bunch of friends – none of whom lasted for more than a couple of years – and as I didn’t have internet at home, I exchanged letters. I usually got a few from the Phillippines, Malaysia, Canada, The US, this one chick in the Azores and one hot girl in Finland.
I exchanged letters with the latter two, more so with the Portuguese chick who became very demanding and that I make myself available online at certain times. Which was difficult as I had to make sure I was free and got to a cafe ontime. The Finn was cool and free with me and she sent me some very tasty photos along with her letters. I shall leave it at that.
Let me first say, like I have said before, that until about 15 years ago we had a lot of schools in India that finished high school at the 10th grade (so age 15 or 16 for some) and you did your 11th & 12th, called pre-degree, in a college before you went for a degree. In the central syllabus schools they did 11th & 12th in a school itself. Later that model would be adopted across the nation. So my summer after high school was a full 3 months (maybe a little more) in the year 1992 after my 10th grade.
After saying bye to my friends, I wanted to stay in at home or go out with my cousins. But I started missing my buddies really badly in a few days. I joined a 2 month basic computer course in DataPro. I was restless and needed something to keep me occupied and make new friends as well. Besides it was only a couple of hours a day, 4 days a week. So this 2 month course at DataPro seemed like a good option and I had fun there. I got fascinated by computers as well and during my lab hours I would try to make colourful images on MsPaint. Remember that this was back in the Windows 3.x years. I even remember on seeing my designs, a manager of the institute asked me to try designing for sarees!
I remember these two very gorgeous girls who were in my classes at Datapro. Their names were Zeena and Geena D’Couto and they were fraternal twins. And my eye was on Zeena but Geena was hot too. I spent much time with them and in the afternoons I would go to the record store nearby and go through the various album releases and check out some of the music at the store. Ofcourse I also went to various places visiting relatives. Those were good times.
When I was 15 years old I had to beg my parents to let me go on the class X two day trip. The reason they didn’t want me to go was that the trip was to Kodaikannal and it being a cold hill station and during the peak season when it was the coldest in that area, they were afraid that I would have an asthma problem. I was able to convince them that it would be alright and as that was my last year in the school, I really wanted to have these memories with my school buddies and my teachers.
So I finally was given the go ahead and the next day I went and registered for the trip and paid my charges for the trip. The best thing was that all my classmates were going on the trip and we had two of our favourite teachers with us. We left on a Friday evening and reached Kodaikannal by the next day morning. We had a blast taking in the scenery, buying the small knick-knacks and knock off cheap touristy souvenirs and stuff. We had some fun riding boats and riding horses and I took a lot of photos.
The evening before we were to leave we had a bunch of singing and mimicry and all fun stuff and though I did have a bit of an asthma problem, it went by quickly and didn’t cause me much comfort. It was one of the best weekends I can ever remember having.The down side – we came back on Sunday night, the next day was a holiday for us kids from our school to give us time to rest. My family was waiting for me and we went out for dinner with a few of my relatives. I ate some good Chinese food but the trip took it’s toll on me and late at night I woke up and puked my guts out. Whew! I remember being so tired after that.
Street of Dreams is the first single from the band Rainbow’s Bent Out of Shape album released in 1983 and was a big hit and a long time favourite for fans. I was about 12 in 1988 when a friend of my sister from her college gave me a compilation/biggest hits of Rainbow songs. I don’t remember if this was an official release or one of those tapes we used to get from Hong Kong or Japan.
Anyways, this song was a big favourite of mine from the time I heard it. My sister’s friend was a rocker chick who had a ton of great albums from really cool 70s & 80s bands and even had some VHS tapes filled with rock band music videos. I can’t remember her name though. But I remember I got introduced to bands like Rainbow, Deep Purple and a few others through her collection.
Back to the song, in 1988 I met this girl named Sofia who had just moved to my school. She was a class ahead of me but about 2 years older. She had fair skin, curly brown hair and she was tall. Taller than me too! But I had this magnificent crush on her. Probably my first real crush. I remember all those feelings I had for this girl. And I would play this song and imagine it was me singing to her, while she danced around me in a white sweater and a grey skirt! I remember it so well even it was almost 30 years ago!!!
This song is special for me. When the album Yield came out in 1998, I was going through a rough personal time. When was the last time I had a fine personal time? Anyways, I was about 21 not yet 22, and I saw that the album was out in record stores here in Kochi, India. I bought my tape and went home. Post dinner and it must have been around 10pm when I finally settled down in my bedroom. Sometime later I put the cassette in my stereo system and listened to the album for the first time.
Just before In Hiding came on, I fell asleep and woke up at around 2 am, I woke up again. I decided to play the album again at this song and the lyrics hit me deep. According to Eddie Vedder, the song lyrically was inspired by the work of Charles Bukowski, who often locked himself way for long periods of time so he could work in absolute solitude. “It’s about taking a fast from life,” Eddie Vedder has said. “Doing anything to get yourself back in touch with something real.”
I felt that the lyrics meant that the protagonist was in hiding from society, from family, from friends because he wasn’t happy with several things about life and therefore he decided to become a recluse for a bit. I felt really sad at that time and started tearing up listening to the song, which I ended up playing several times over the next few days. It has remained a strong favourite since then.
The main time that I remember having been the new kid was in grade 6. I had moved with my family from Kuwait to India and we settled in Cochin. A whole different country – well since I and my family are Indian it should not matter at all. But then I was born and raised in Kuwait till the age of 11 and it was a different experience for me – not as different as say a Western nation and then coming to India – but still it was a change.
I was in a new school and country and I stood out for a while. I was the only one who could not read & right the local language, Malayalam. So I was put in a different class for the second language as the school system has “Special English” for out of state students. You studied English & Hindi with everyone else and then the four to five of us who couldn’t read or write Malayalam went to sit in a smaller class room with a teacher who took additional classes for us but they were in English. And it was fun.
But I made friends quickly and within a few weeks I was fast friends with a bunch of guys and girls who I still keep in touch with even now (30 years later) albeit on Facebook.
What Old, Worn Out Thing Can You Just Not Part With?
I do have a problem in throwing out stuff. Just look at the keyboard drawer of my desk (where I do not have a keyboard since I use a laptop) where I have a bunch of old, used batteries. For no reason that I can think off, I just haven’t gotten around to get rid of these. Not that I like them or have a connection with them. I just procrastinate or am plain lazy.
But some thing or some things that I just cannot part with? Some old diaries/journals. In a physical form. For a sentimental reason I just cannot bring myself to get rid of them. Even if some of them are torn and worn out. Even if there is a musty smell from some of them. Even if it has been 25 years in one case or 18 years in others. Geeze! I have kept journals/diaries since I was 15-16. Though I didn’t write in it everyday.
Just looking back at my thoughts and ideas and what I considered to be important back then is a rush of nostalgia for me. In some cases I have a few photos as well. At one point when I was 21, back in 1997, I was at home for 5 weeks recovering post a surgery and all I posted in my journal at the time was the songs and albums that I listened to each day as I was mostly resting in my bedroom and couldn’t go out much and the tv was downstairs. But I find it fun to go through those pages.
Do you remember your first sip of alcohol? Of any kind? This is irrespective of whether you are a drinker now or if you don’t indulge at all.
When I was 15 I drank some whiskey by accident. I had just come back from school and I had changed my clothes as I was going out with an uncle to pick up by dad at the railway station. So I got ready and came down and just before we left, I rushed to the fridge and grabbed a bottle to drink some cold water, opened it and poured some down my throat – only to spit it out!
You see it wasn’t water but whiskey! I felt the burning sensation as it hit my tongue and throat and out came everything. The reason I took that bottle by mistake was we had this rather looking whiskey bottle which had a cork instead of a regular bottle cap. Once the bottle was empty of whiskey my mother had rinsed it out and washed it thoroughly and we used to keep it our fridge filled with water. It was my favourite bottle to drink water from as I rather liked the cork style bottles.
The culprit was my uncle who had come in my home that morning with a brand new bottle of the same distillery. He meant to keep it for my dad but also had a little himself in the afternoon while he was visiting with my mom, his sister. The rest he meant to keep it for dad. And I hadn’t noticed that there were two same bottles in the fridge and picked the one that I saw and got a nasty surprise. And that’s how I had my first taste of alcohol!
It used to be the place where I loved to go as a child. When I moved with my family to India back in 1987, 11 year old me needed a place to hang out for a little while and check out books and comics and get something for home. That place of choice was PaiCo. PaiCo, short for Pai & Company, or Paico Books was a book store and later included toys, greeting cards, novelty items, gift items, cassettes and cds and other stuff. And I loved to go to the main one on MG Road.
They also had one on Broadway and another one in Mattancherry which were more books and stuff but the one on MG Road was the coolest one. I remember buying many of my now nostalgic favourite albums and cds from this store. I bought many books and comics like TinTin & Asterix as well as many gifts and stuff from here. This was a happy place for many years. Then I stopped going there too often by the time I turned 22-23. Once in a while I would still go in but I had better choices. Still it was a landmark store on MG Road and for Cochin as a whole. In 2007 I moved to Kacheripady from our house in Thrikkakara and since I lived nearby every Sunday I would pass by that area. Often during 2006-2010 I would go get coffee on my day off and then walk by to Paico and browse through books there as well as the used book stall nearby.
I realize that sometime around 2010 I stopped going in there altogether. I didn’t have to get new books anymore as I barely read anymore. And then they closed down. Not sure exactly when but I guess it happened during the last 2 years though I only noticed it last year towards the end of November. It feels sad that an icon had closed. I am not sure about the one on Broadway or the one in Mattancherry. I doubt they survived though in Mattancherry they have a better chance. I will always hold them dear to my heart.
Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.
I don’t think there was anything like that. I stopped being interested in toys by the time I was 11 and before that I don’t remember having any one toy that was out of my reach. I got all the toys I ever needed when I was a kid because my parents bought me a bunch and they knew when too much was too much.
I loved my toy cars and they were the ones I always enjoyed playing with. Maybe there were one or two toys that my parents didn’t get for me when I asked them (can’t remember any though) and who cares! I had plenty to play with.
In a major move, the Kerala government on Thursday approved the new liquor policy under which all closed down bars in three and four -star hotels would be allowed to reopen. The timing of the bars has been changed from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., while in tourist places it will get an hour’s extension, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. The minimum age to drink liquor has also been raised from 21 years to 23. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, announcing the new policy, said he has full regard for the anti-liquor campaigners but “this is not a feasible and practical solution” and hence they were forced to come out with the new policy. He said toddy will be allowed to be served in star hotels, which was not allowed earlier.
These bars were closed two years ago during the previous Congress-led government, which sought to make Kerala a “dry” state with total prohibition on alcoholic drinks by 2023. Only five-star hotels were permitted to serve liquor. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said prohibition has been ineffective around the world because the record shows people go to any extent to get high, even narcotics. His government would rather give priority to abstinence than a blanket ban. “The previous government’s liquor policy was a flop, statistics show. There was no let-up in consumption. Besides, we have to consider the plight of 40,000 employees working in the sector,” he said.
The Congress, which is in the opposition now, rejected the chief minister’s remarks. “Our government closed the outlets in view of the alarming consumption rate. This government removed all restrictions. It is suicidal,” party leader Ramesh Chennithala said. Church organisations too criticised the government’s move, saying it is chasing money at the expense of people’s health. Liquor revenue accounts for around 25% of the Rs 40,000 crore the state earns from various taxes and services.
We all have songs that remind us of specific periods and events in our lives. Twenty years from now, which song will remind you of today?
I guess I haven’t really found songs for just today but if you ask me about the past month, I guess it will have to be the song “Drifting” by Andy McKee. It’s because of me changing processes at the job, attending an interview process and getting through and looking forward to the new challenge. Also a friend at work, who I am close with, is moving from this industry, the only one she has ever worked in, and moving to another. In a sense we are drifting a little bit.
Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).
For sure my childhood from the age of 1 to 11. Those were great times and the good ole days for sure. No care in the world, with plenty to do and lots of friends to play with. I was in a great school with lots of friends and in my building as well I had a lot of good folks. We had some wonderful though cheesy tv shows which are still great like the A-Team, Knight Rider and V. And whatever advantages and better toys kids these days have, their cartoons suck! Ours were so much better.
We had fun at school and after school we played games and maybe football whenever we could. Board games and cartoons on tv were the best part of a holiday. I also remember family dinners (with my sister, parents, an uncle and aunt and my cousin who also lived in Kuwait) of either shawarmas, kuboos n hummus and fallafels or KFC! I will always associate those foods with my childhood. Good times!