MatadorU Assignments

I have enrolled in a travel writing course at the Matador University. As a part of our course work we have to publish articles on our blog. All posts which are written as a part of the assignments will be published under this category.

A walk among the dead

[The Matador University has revamped its course content and I just could not pass up on an opportunity to do the MatU assignments again. Those of you in the know are aware that I have already graduated the course, the others should  check out the Matador University site.This photo essay  is part of the eleventh assignment. The objective of this essay is to tell a story/present information using photographs.]

The Paigah tombs is an old neglected heritage monument on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The work on the tombs and the walls are so intricate and detailed so much so that it makes you wonder how glorified death truly is. The architecture draws from a lot of influences of that time and merges them so beautifully and nothing seems out-of-place or out of time.

Without much ado here is my photo essay: -

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Getting to know

[The Matador University has revamped its course content and I just could not pass up on an opportunity to do the MatU assignments again. Those of you in the know are aware that I have already graduated the course, the others should  check out the Matador University site.The following assignment is revealing the place by showing and not telling.]

” I have no income”, he says.

He displays no emotions. He could have been telling me  the time of day.

I cannot let it pass. I pry further , ” But is it not dangerous?” and illegal I think in my mind.

“Yes, it is dangerous but if I collect honey then I can make some money.If I do not go into the forest my children will not have food”.

Ananth Bhyaa although not much of a conversationalist is a very accommodating  boat man. He does not mind when we asked him to stop or deviate from our path in order to photograph the scenery.

We pass by a meander, where a man is pulling in a fishing net. On seeing us he leaves his net and takes cover within thick mangroves.

” Is he fishing illegally?” Preeti asks the obvious.

He does not answer, instead he calls out in Bengali and the man hesitantly steps out from the shadows of the trees.

“The forest people say do not fish here, do not fish there. But there are no fish where they allow us to fish”.

He stands,  pierces  a long log of wood into the water. The make shift oar propels  the dinghy forward. With the ease of a trapeze artist he walks  the narrow outer edge of the dinghy guiding it  into a small islet, one of the many  that are reborn with every low tide. Ananth Bhyaa  walks to the rear of the boat away from the two of us.  He   squats at the tapering end. Without a word he told us that we were going to spend some time here.

Sunderbans consists of hundreds of islets formed by the criss – crossing of rivers. Most of the islands are not inhabited  due to the impenetrable Mangrove  trees.

All around us there is a stillness. Even the calls of the birds are distant. Every now and then there are ripples   formed when a leaf dances its way down to the water.

The calmness is broken by the striking of a match.

He still squats at the end of the boat.He catches my eye and smiles. It’s a first.

” Do you bring a lot of people here?”

” People care only about the tiger? ”  His disinterest in the one thing that puts Sunderbans in the tourist map is not hard to miss.

” Have you seen one?”

He nods. Although I do not believe it  I do my part and  widen my eyes and fake fear and respect.

That seems to bring down invisible but solid barriers. He immediately starts talking.

” I do not care about the tiger. In name of tigers government has taken our land.  The have even killed us when we refused to give up our land. “

“Marichjhapi” I say  silently.

The statement unsettles him. He inhales from his cigarette and tilts his head. Th curls of smoke  go up losing shape the higher they go.

Preeti and I exchange glances.  We had asked  about the infamous Marichjhapi massacre to the locals yesterday. No body seemed to know about it.  That unsettled me. How can a government evict an entire island by raining bullets on the residents barely some thirty odd years ago and no one seem to remember it?

Ananth Bhyya seems like the last person alive to remember it. I am full of questions. I need to know everything about it.

“Were you there?”

“My father was there”, he said with a finality. He stands up picks up the oar and turns his back to us as he gets ready to make our way back.

Did I stir some unpleasant memories?

I try to re ignite the conversation . ” You know smoking is not healthy”.

” I am old, I am dying.”

“How old are you?”

“I never asked my mother  when I was born”.

 

Categories: India, MatadorU Assignments, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Napoleon’s gender

[ The Matador University has revamped its course content and I just could not pass up on an opportunity to do the MatU assignments again. Those of you in the know are aware that I have already graduated the course, the others should  check out the Matador University site.The following assignment is on exercise on dialogue writing]

I hear them before I see them. There are about ten students all dressed in yellow jumpers. The lady in the red jumper sticking out like a sore thumb must be the instructor. The students walked behind her as though they were being dragged from painting to painting.

” This here is the consecration of Napoleon. Come closer everybody.”
“Mark, Andy step aside and let the lady pass please.”
Mark and Andy contemplate the move when “Today,if possible!”
The instructor seems unruffled by their lack of interest. Instead she continues explaining the painting.
Mark and Andy sit on a bench beside mine.
“Dude the Mona Lisa sucked, Dude”.
“Yeah she is not even pretty!”
“That painting is so damn tiny. Can’t believe we came all the way to see that.”
“Sucks man. I am hungry.”
With that they plug their earphones to their ears and shake their heads to music loud enough for me to hear.

Meanwhile the instructor explains to the remaining students how Napoleon considered himself to be too great to be even crowned by a Pope.

” And that is why in the painting you see only Josephine kneeling for the consecration of Napoleon”, finishes the instructor.
With that the group gets ready to move on to the next painting.

The instructor snaps her fingers in the direction of the two boys with ” Andy, Mark, would you like to join us?”

The two get up. Andy walks over to the painting, hands tucked into his jumper pocket.

He reads the title ” The consecration of Napoleon”.
Mark comes over and stands beside him and in a sudden flash of revelation
“Dude, I thought Napoleon was a guy!”

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Outside an open door

[ The Matador University has revamped its course content and I just could not pass up on an opportunity to do the MatU assignments again. Those of you in the know are aware that I have already graduated the course, the others should  check out the Matador University site.
The following assignment is about everyday details. In this I have captured  the sights, scents and smells outside my front door one morning.]
 

The door opens  to let in the low hum of the diesel generator. A pitch above is the chirping of the birds  drowned at intervals by puja bells from my neighbor’s apartment. The road in front is wet from last night’s rain. My watchman walks out barefoot to the black gates of our apartment. He stands leaning against it for a while before turning and walking back to the shelter of the parking lot.  From the balcony of one of the apartments on the building on the opposite side of the road a lady in blue pajamas is reading the morning paper.

A yellow school bus passes by. There is a little girl with blue pinafore peering out of the window. In the distance I can hear a truck splashing water as it passes the junction near my house. A pair of red vented Bulbuls fly from across the street and perch on the black telephone lines loosely running semi-parallel to the road. They  turn their  heads at right angles while tweeting enthusiastically. They are frightened away by a pale green scooter passing on the street.  The leaves on the trees near the black gate are bright green. They rustle with a ‘swoosh swoosh’ sound as a gust of wind blows.

The lady with the blue pajamas is joined by an elderly lady who is eating biscuits dipped in  a hot beverage in a tea cup. Outside the gates of the opposite building a child with pigtails tied with red ribbons is talking to no one in particular. There is a freshly drawn kollam on the ground.

A man on  a bicycle enters the street yelling,”Apple Apple!”. He has a brown basket attached to the back of his cycle. The contents of the basket are covered by a brown sack cloth. A black sedan leaving the parking lot of the opposite building splashes water on the vendor.

The two ladies on the balcony are joined now by a man with a ‘Deccan Chargers’  tee. They are all looking towards my apartment.  They are looking at me – with book and pen, early in the morning. They must be surprised since the door to my apartment is rarely opened before 9 am most days.

Categories: MatadorU Assignments, Writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

24 hours in Mallikassery

[ The Matador University has revamped its course content and I just could not pass up on an opportunity to do the MatU assignments again. Those of you in the know are aware that I have already graduated the course, the others should  check out the Matador University site.
The following assignment is a narrative on my hometown.In this I have detailed a picture of a typical 24 hours in Mallikaserry.]
 

Mallikassery is a quaint farming village deep in the south of India where the time of the day is ascertained by whether one has had or not had one’s meals.

Pre Morning Coffee :  Wake up to your neighbor’s cock crowing outside your bedroom window. Sleepily search for your phone to check the time. Find your phone  only to realise that the power had gone the previous night and your phone has charged out. Decide that it’s too early to wake up and go right back to sleep. The minute you drift off wake up to the sound of your neighbor’s wife beating her clothes on a stone.

Try unsuccessfully to drown out the morning before actually getting out of bed.

Morning Coffee:  Follow the scent of fresh filter coffee and arrive at the kitchen. Wait till the neighbor is done milking his cow to take yours with milk.

Take a  sip of the coffee to know that the cow has had  jackfruit for her meals the previous day. But you decide that jackfruit flavored milk is alright with you.  Take your coffee and walk to the verandah to read the morning paper.  Once you are done with your coffee your morning routine kicks in. You rush to the loo with just enough time to grab an old copy of the Mad magazine.

Breakfast :  Just as you are done with the magazine and ( of course your routine) your mom calls for breakfast. More coffee is served with the Appam and Stew.

 Post Breakfast/ Pre Lunch :After breakfast you help the cook with the most important decision of the day – Should the fish be fried or cooked in gravy. Once this day altering decision is out of the way you walk out into the plantation to supervise the coconut collection. You stand with an umbrella in the hot sun at a safe distance and watch as an estate helper hugs the tree with his hands and legs and slowly makes his way up the tree. When the helper cuts the nuts from the branches and sends them flying down you move farther away thinking “Money does grow on trees!”.

Lunch: You come back from the field and help yourself with another cup of coffee. This time you forgo the milk.  Lunch is served. There is fish of course, and plenty of meat and coffee.

After lunch you grab a P.G Woodhouse and get comfortable in the deep seated arm chair. Before you get to the end of the first page you are fast asleep.

Pre Evening tea : Your sister wakes you up to go for a swim in the pond in the estate. You grab a towel and walk into the woods.On your way you pass a rose apple tree in fruit. You pluck a bunch , wipe them on your tee and eat them spitting out the seeds. Before you reach the pond you pass by solitary rose apple trees that grew out of seeds discarded by earlier generations.

Once you reach the pond you hang the towel on a tree and jump into the inviting water.

Evening tea: You get back home in time for evening tea which is served with banana fritters and coffee. ( Sorry no tea!).  You sit by the table talking till it’s time for the cook to clear the table before dinner. At this point you  grab your refilled cup of coffee and make your way to the front verandah without breaking the conversation.

Dinner: After the table has been set for dinner you make your way back to the table with your empty coffee mug. On the table you get to pick from the leftovers of the morning, afternoon and evening.

Post dinner: After your last cup of coffee for the day, you shower,  dust the sheets for any moths or bugs that have mistaken your bed for a home. Before the power goes out you are fast asleep blissfully unaware of the croaks of the mating frogs competing with the  constant high pitched cry  of the crickets.

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