Monday, April 25, 2005

The Art of Creation

The foamy surf laps gently on the shores of Mahabalipuram. I visited there when I was a little girl just as so many tourists visit there. The rock sculptures were beautiful and expressive but that was all they were to me. Beautiful sculptures cut in rock by the sea side. Till I read Sivagamiyin Sabatham by Kalki. A story of romance, art, valor all woven together like strands in a beautiful cloth, it captured my imagination like few other things have. In that immortal classic, Sivagami is a dancer non pareil and Narasimha, the heir to a powerful throne. Narasimha Pallava invades Vathapi, capital of the Chalukyas, and razes it to the ground primarily for the sake of love for Sivagami and her unequalled prowess in dance. I thought it pretty silly at that time. I’ve changed my mind since then about love and art.

Art seems to have a mysterious, irrational and irresistible sway over people. The striking chords of a song, an energetic dance executed gracefully, a life-like painting all have a way of arresting one’s attention and transforming moods like nothing else can.

5000 BC. Cave men returning from a day of perils and sheer terror draw stick figures on the walls of a cave depicting the day’s events. Time passes by. The rudiments of an agrarian, river-based civilization begin to appear. The ancients slave under the hot sun and fight nature’s vagaries in the sheer will to survive. Yet, they find the time to paint pots with bright colors depicting scenes from daily life and expressing their feelings. Time continues its unrelenting march. And today, we find an explosion of art forms, a variety of ways to express our innermost thoughts and feelings.

It is not very remarkable that today, we devote more time to music, art or literature. We have the leisure, the assurance of a long life and the technology to aid us. But in the Darwinian struggle for existence, what relevance did painting a pot or carving stones have to daily survival? Of what use was decorating cave walls with bright colors when your very life is in question everyday? Yet humans have from time unknown devoted time to such things. Perhaps the human eye innately craves symmetry, balance and aesthetic sense? I don’t know.

I happened to watch Chandramukhi on Saturday. In the movie, there’s a painting of Chandramukhi. I am no art connoisseur or judge of great art, but that painting attracted me irresistibly. There was a glow to the face, a grace to the mudra struck, a speaking quality to the eyes that imprinted itself on my mind. As I write this post, I can still see the painting in my mind’s eye. That day, I found myself wishing that I had learnt to dance!

The foamy surf laps gently on the shores of Mahabalipuram. I visited them again on a moonlit night after a gap of many years and this time, I had a strange appreciation for the Pallava’s art and Sivagami’s dance. I do not know if Sivagami’s father was indeed a sculptor or if he modeled those incomparable statuettes on his daughter or if Narasimha Pallava did indeed love Sivagami or even if Sivagami was real or not. But I do know this: that night as I roamed around the beach amongst the rock-cut sculptures, I felt that they were talking to me, telling me stories of the days when Narasimha Pallava enjoyed Sivagami’s timeless dance; of their creators; of romances and tragedies; of mortal desires and immortal creations. How many people who go there know of the history that lies behind them?
I am still mesmerized when I think of that day. The Pallavas are long gone and so is their kingdom but art lives on.

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. “

I think I understand why Narasimha Pallava reduced Vathapi to cinders.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Of late, I have this uncomfortable feeling that I haven't laughed in quite a while. By laughing, I don't mean the stingy smile that is forced to one's lips when demanded by social etiquette or the quiet chuckle one has when listening to a fond friend recounting youthful misdemeanours or the subdued laughter when amongst people you don't know that well and are afraid of seeming too forward. I mean the kind of racuous, rib-tickling, stomach-cramp-causing, hearty laughter that bubbles up from the wells of one's soul and clears the mind of all heaviness!

Having stomach cramps from laughing is one of my most desired sensations these days. Seems to me like I used to laugh a lot before. I used to be looked at with dread by the pranksters in my class because off I'd go gurgling and bubbling with laughter at the slightest sign of mischief. And tears used to well up in my eyes from the sheer physical effort. There are people for every occassion but the ones that can pep me up in a moment and turn what promises to be a bleary, gray day into a shining, bright one are those that can make me smile and laugh. Raghavan is one such person amongst my close friends. His carefree, witty and sharp comments always used to bring a twinkle in my eyes and a smile on my face! Of course there are others and some might not be too happy with me thursting a comedian's role on them...So I won't mention their names here (People concerned, I hope you know!):) :)

I miss those days. Hope I hear or see something soon enough to burst into carefree laughter soon enough!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Swing Down Memory Lane...

Movies are a walk down memory lane for me these days. As conversation turns to a movie, I remember the time when I watched it, the people I watched it with, feelings associated with it,the fun we had after it. So many friendships and associations were formed at movies during undergrad years; So many funny and outrageous incidents that in retrospect, none of us would ever dare do again or can even imagine that we did during those years; Memories of the cheerful camaraderie that existed between us all come back to me as I listen to the strains of some song or scraps of a dialogue. I guess I watched countless movies during undergrad years with my friends but some are always more memorable than others:


First Year of college. We were all newbies and stressed out with Model exams. Semester exams were just a week away. It was a hot May afternoon and the unforgiving South Indian sun was scorching the dry lands of Trichy. S suggested that we go for a movie bunking class that afternoon. I was rather loathe to watch a movie with two newcomers and that too the second show on the first day. But I was dragged against my wishes and soon we were a gang of some 15 guys and girls. We went to the theatre and there was this huge mad rush of people waiting for tickets. I gave up and told everyone that we all better head home. S was more resourceful. She managed to get us tickets (Don't ask me how because that is another big story!) and we got in. And man what a movie it turned out to be! V and D were talking nonsense during the climax and when Maddy was crying over Shalini in the hospital bed, these two started giggling about something else..The entire theatre roared in disapproval of their giggling during the serious scene and what a roar it was...:)
By the time we left the theatre, our heads were replete with movie dialogues and scenes. For the next 3 or 4 months, it was all "ava enna parthu sirichittaaa....." and "un logic sagikkalai" in the corridors...:) That was the first time that our friends, as a gang, watched the movie and it was unforgettable.

Another Saturday afternoon. We were heading home when some friends invited us for this movie. I got very enthusiastic and we went to the theatre. But then, after having built up too many expectations, some of the guys came back and told us, girls, that the environment was not exactly conducive to girls inside the theatre and asked us to go home. We said we'd all go home and watch it together later. V and other guys refused because they wanted to see it on the first day itself. Can't remember when I was more angry. Got into an argument with V and the poor guy got an earful from me...:)As an apology, he gave me a treat at Banana Leaf later. I was so angry that I swore I'd never watch this movie and I didn't till a couple of months ago...:)


Movie was okay. Some 5 or 6 of us watched it together. But the songs became a hit. K sang "Sollaamal Thottu Sellum Thendral.." at our college day function. One of the other performers didn't turn up and we had a mini-crisis on our hands. We had to somehow fill some 5 minutes without losing the audience. B went on stage and started an impromptu talk to engage the audience. Suddenly he called out my name and told the crowd that we were going to sing "Nee Illai endral" from Deena. I panicked and B was sweating but we managed to sing the song without missing a beat ( I still can't help but wonder how the hell we managed without lyrics, without practice, without any kind of co-ordination..!)and it was an instant hit! (Of course, we got a LOT of help from the crowd..they roared in response to a line in the second stanza of the song and we couldn't help but relax after that..!).

Invisible Man-

Super movie. Romba nenappoda ponen. Ulla poi ukkandha, title pops up on the screen with DTS sound effect: "Maaya Manithan". It was such a shocker that if someone had seen our faces at that moment, it would've been ridiculous. And the dialogues were so out of place and contrived that I got stomach cramps from laughing! You'd think I had learnt my lesson, but unfortunately not; after that, it was "Alaikadal Arakkan" (Godzilla Vs..something).

Again first day first show. Got dragged out of bed by R and S and I was made to sit in front of the theatre at 8.30 AM! But some others were late and I had to wait outside the theatre with tickets after the movie had started. The "Vaada Machaan.." song had started off and everyone was dancing in the aisles. To top it all, S and I were the only girls in the entire theatre and we had seats in the front of the theatre. The standing ovation we got for 5 minutes as S and I walked to our seats is still etched in memory today...:)


Watched it pretty late. The movie was enjoyable but there was no pep in the audience as the college crowd had long finished watching the movie. So it was just middle aged people in the theatre when we saw it. The audience was quiet till Paravai Muniamma started "Madurai Veeran dhaane..." and to our surprise, the audience burst into enthusiastic applause and dance! Didn't realize that the song carried such an earthiness to it till that moment!


Again an unforgettable experience. I am a thayirsaadham and maavadu fan and that used to be my staple lunch on hot summer days. After that movie, I was the butt of jokes for the next 2 to 3 months (In the movie, Trisha romances Vikram over a box full of thayirsaadham and maavadu).

Kaaka Kaaka-

The movie was one of the best I've watched. The ending was heart wrenching for us all because Surya loses the love of his life. But just as Anbuchelvan's love life came to a gut wrenching halt, so did our college life. Yup, it was the last movie I watched with all my friends before I came to the US. After the movie, I still remember, we all walked back silently to our vehicles and without a word went home. I guess the movie made us think of loss and pain in a way we hadn't expected.

Since this is turning out to be a really long post, I am going to stop here. There are more movies and more incidents than I can fit in one post....:)

Senthamizh Nadennum...

I was driving back home for lunch this afternoon. It is a glorious day here at Lexington with azure blue skies and trees and flowers in full bloom! Anyways, I was listening to Maharajapuram Santhanam's rendition of "Senthamizh Nadennum.." in Mohana Kalyani. The hot, sunny weather reminding me of days spent in Srirangam coupled with Bharathiyar's timeless words, the mellifluous raaga and Maharajapuram's voice transported me to another world for some five minutes! When I got out of the car, I had an indescribable tranquil feeling. I was moved enough to devote one post to it..:)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The gift of peace...

I had a Distributed Computing course in my final year. Unfortunately, I had an extremely boring teacher. He was a nice man, of course but just that he rambled on with his sentences so much that I lost track of the beginning of the sentence by the time he was done with it (Kind of like the way you may feel about this last sentence..). Many used to listen to him because he used to get all upset and start lecturing about life which was even worse than him lecturing about Distributed Computing. Anyways, I never did listen to him. As punishment (that too in the final year!), he sent me to the last bench aka "Maaplai bench" (I don't know what his logic was. Perhaps he thought I'd be so ashamed of sitting in the "maaplai bench"?! I sure wasn't because I had a lot more fun there). Which was just fine and dandy with me because it was more conducive to sleeping. He stopped short of sending me out of the class because I think he knew I would gladly trade the canteen for one of his afternoon classes.

Anyways, the point of writing this is that this guy really got me started on something. I had a book called Mental Fitness. In that, there was a chapter on making things interesting. So when I was bored, I used to put myself in his shoes and look at the class. It woke me up and man, was it interesting!! I tried looking at the class through the eyes of a person who didn't know the language, the eyes of a 4-year old etc...and it was very good mental exercise!!

I guess when you put yourself in another person's shoes, it is REALLY hard to get mad at that person or judge them or be obnoxious. Sometimes it annoys me that people judge so quickly without ever thinking that perhaps the person in front of them is more complex than can be fathomed in a short span of time. A silly joke, a small mistake and wham! There goes your reputation forever. And the worst thing about some is that they can remember such stuff forever.

For good or for worse, I can't hold grudges against anyone for more than 24 hours! I just tend to forgive and forget. And I can't remember all the silly things that people do because I guess I do them too. And finally, it is impossible for me to be angry with anyone for a long time because I put myself in their shoes and it feels like what they did was right at that point of time. There evaporates my irritation. Sometimes, I wish I could just hold it right there just to teach the other person a lesson. But maybe it is just a god-given gift that I don't carry all this unwanted baggage in life's journey. When I go to bed at night, I have the gift of peace and dreamless slumber.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Writing a Tamil Blog

Since a lot of people have been asking me about writing in Tamil, I thought I'd post a blog on it. I got this inspiration from another blog,
Here's what you do:
1. Download the e-Kalappai editor. It is free and if you google, you will hit it quite easily.
2. Once you have it running, you can use notepad to type in Tamil. Just type the English sounds for the Tamil word and voila!
3. e-Kalappai uses a Tamil font called TSC. In order for the blog to be readable in browsers without having the special font installed, the TSC font has to be converted into Unicode. Here's the link for that:
Just paste your tamil blog into the top text box. Choose the font you used (TSC, in this case) and you get your Unicode version in the textbox below.
4. Now, just paste your blog into blogger and you're done!

Hope all this makes sense. Makkale, hoping to see a lot more Tamil blogs. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Caffeine Shocks

Whoever thought that Daylight Savings Time is good must rethink. I, for one, am not a fan of this thing. I've been real sleepy the past week. So I go to get my customary caffeine every morning. I go and do the regular stuff to make coffee and carry my life-giving brew back in a styrofoam cup. Then the moment the cup touches my lips, I get electrocuted! Yup, for some reason, the styrofoam cup discharges (painfully) through my teeth and I feel like someone just rattled all my teeth. I thought it was a one-time thing but it is happening almost daily these days. So now I look at the cup with respect. Whether caffeine revs up my system or not, this cup is substituting pretty well...

(idhukku oru blog-a nu ninaikkiravanga, styrofoam cup-lerndhu shock vaangi paarunga; adhuvum aasaiya coffee kudikkalaam nu ninaikkum podhu, shock vaangi paarunga; apram apdi solla mateenga...:))

Submental mutterings

Muttering 1: It is hard to make a decision knowing all facets of a problem. The more you know, the more you are aware of the consequences and decision making becomes painful; especially more so, when those around don't see it on the same level. Knowledge is said to aid decisions. But I think that whatever decision one takes with full cognizance of the situation always involves painful sacrifices (either short-term or long-term). Whoever said "Ignorance is bliss" was a genius.

Muttering 2: Blogger performance on Firefox is pathetic or maybe I should phrase it the other way around.

Muttering 3: Invariably, why does the driver in front of me on the road have to perform automotive acrobatics intended to make my heart stop (and spill my early morning coffee all over my clothes)????

Other mutterings on their way..I better get to work now..