Monday, January 31, 2005


I went to get my new employee ID tag today. I was given a thingamajiggy to wear the ID around my neck. It has this breakable plastic connector on the cord. If someone is hellbent on strangling me with my ID cord, then this plastic connector will break and prevent me from choking. It also has this comfortable neck rest so the cord doesn't cut into the skin at the back of the neck. I was totally fascinated by the thought someone had put into designing this neck cord! Just goes to show how much innovation is possible even in the simplest of things if only we put our minds to it.....

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bad Times of India

Mumbai's primary news supplier is Times of India. The Hindu, believe it or not, doesn't have a publishing office in Mumbai. The paper is delivered only in the afternoon. For those who've grown up reading The Hindu, waking up to the Times of India is not a pleasant experience. The paper is almost tabloid-like in its choice of headlines and format. I don't know how you all like your news but I prefer to read my news item at one go. I hate being directed to P8 or P3 for the rest of the piece. It gives me the feeling of a mega-serial. Even NY Times and Washington Post employ this format but at least the quality of their news excuses the format. But given that TOI features Parveen Babi's death and the controversy surrounding her legacy as the headlines, I don't exactly feel like forgiving the paper. Yesterday, the headline was whether Liz Hurley's trousers had a tear on the seam or not. And they had this big photograph of Hurley in her trousers splashed all over the page. I mean, is this what I am supposed to wake up to???? And today, I read a great ode to the Nightie and how it represents the liberated Indian woman (??!!!??). The author had explored why the nightie has become popular, why women wear it to the marketplace, the reasons for its popularity, the peculiar comfort of its design and how it fits the female form.....I really wonder why this piece has to feature in the main sheafs of the paper and I am even more amazed that a writer has the capacity to wax eloquent on a nightie!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bhuleshwar Market and Phanaswadi Mandir

We were trying to get to Kalbadevi Road but since Mumbai is a maze of one-ways and strange by-lanes, my driver had to take a circuitous route through a very crowded, crooked and narrow street. I had accidentally discovered Bhuleshwar Market. It is like our very own Ranganathan Street, Chennai. Imitation jewelry items, accessories, bindis are piled high on the platforms and shops. Went chudda-hunting at all the glittering, inviting stores. Mumbai Kangan has the best varieties in bangles and bindis. I forget all the other stores I browsed. The saree varieties are quite beautiful out here-typical North Indian fare with lots of chemki and embroidery works. Georgette seems to be the material of the fashion season. Bright colors- yellow, fluorescent green, magenta, aqua blue- are in and the sober colors (brown, gray, beige...) are out. Bold and striking seems to be the fashion trend.
My poor father got carted all over the place and most of the times, he was sitting outside some shop I had entered into. He must've been wondering how he got talked into this. I enjoyed the crowds and the festive atmosphere of the place. I rather enjoy shopping in such areas than prim, proper fashion houses.
Anyways, after three hours of shopping, we decided to go to the nearby Phanaswadi Mandir of Lord Venkateswara. It is quite a pretty temple amidst a bustling marketplace. Then came back home after a good 4 hours of outing. Thus ends another day in Mumbai.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Fashion Street

Fashion street in Mumbai has the hottest deals in clothes anywhere in the city. T-shirts, kurtis, tops, you name it and they've got it. And the maal is quite pretty and nice too. Only thing is that we have to be bargain masters. If they quote a price, we have to start bargaining from 1/3 of the quoted price. I bought a jeans top that was initially quoted as Rs.450 but was given away finally at Rs.100...Anyways, it was quite an instructive affair for me because frankly, I suck at bargaining. I am learning now.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Malaikottai (The Rockfort)

The gates of Mainguard gate are closed for renovation. Chennai silks has opened a branch just opposite Mainguard gate. Two brightly lit, artificial coconut trees advertise the new store. Browsed around their collections. The churidhar and short tops collection is ordinary. Nothing tempted me to undo my purse strings. Other than the novelty of escalators for Trichy residents, it is going to be yet another store. In view of competition, Sarada Stores in Chinna Kadai veethi has expanded his shop to nearly the entire block before malaivasal. The front of the store has undergone a huge makeover intended to convey size as well as splendor. But everything else remains the same.

Had good darshan of Manickavinayagar. Renovation work is going on around the sannidhi. Vinayagar Agaval which was inscribed on the walls around the sanctum sanctorum have now disappeared and given way to marbled walls. New sculptures and paintings adorn the walls above. I preferred the old, authentic temple. Went upto Thayumanavar Sannidhi. As usual, the climb had me huffing and puffing. The temple is as serene and inviting as it has always been. Then visited Uchi Pillaiyar. The view of Trichy atop the Malaikottai is worth having. Looking across the Kaveri, one can see the Srirangam temple tower. The white eastern tower can also be seen. Tiruvanaikkoil is also visible. To the east, one can see the paddy fields near Ariyamangalam. Chathiram bus stand bustles as usual.

Took some pictures with the temple elephant: a playful, young animal. Roamed around Chinnai kadai veethi and Theradi veethi. The unique flavour of Malaivasal mixed in with the smell of jasmine flowers, santhanam, javvadhu, camphor and agarbatthis still lingers in my nostrils. So long till my next visit!

Meendum Srirangam

Srirangam has not changed much in these past 1.5 years. The roads have become more pothole ridden thanks to the development of underwater drainage schemes. The ride from Srirangam station to home was like a ride on a maattu vandi (bullock cart). Apparently, the copious rain of the past year also contributed to road woes. The crowds have increased considerably. I was told that even Srirangam temple regulars couldn't go to the temple on Vaikunda Ekadasi because of unprecedented crowds! The temple is as it has always been. New paintings depicting the history of the Sriranga Vimanam have been added near the Garudazhwar Sannidhi. And a new Devasthanam stall has sprung up selling calendars and books about the temple. Other than that, even the bhattars in the sannidhis have not changed. As usual, I got very good sevai (helps to know all the bhattars around the temple. A simple "Enna maama, sowkiyama irukkela? Ungalai parka dhaan US-lerndhu vandhen..." will do wonders!)
Visited Nachimuthu Stores near the southern entrance and a couple of other well known faces. A new Vasan Medicals store has opened in Subha Complex in Srirangam. This will alleviate the pain of going to Malaivasal for rare medicines, especially for the plentiful octogenerians in Srirangam.
Thirumanjana Kaveri has water flowing plentifully. Usually, this is a small stream with a trickle of water. In my four years there, I've never seen this much water flowing through the stream. Lends a greenish cover to the surroundings. Looks really pretty.
The familiar flower vendor near Mangamma Nagar remembered me and offered me 2 mozhams of jaathi poo at a discounted price for me (Rs. 6 for 2 mozhams. Apparently, it is Rs. 10 otherwise). She even remembered my favorite flower. It was quite gratifying and satisfying to be remembered affectionately by these simple people.
It was just a whirlwind trip around Srirangam in the brief 2 days I had there. In a world of change, it was reassuring to see that my old town had not really changed much. Tenuous though it may be, it gave me a sense of security and belonging.
Watch out for pictures of Trichy in forthcoming posts. More on Trichy coming up....

Friday, January 14, 2005

Journey to the heart of Tamilnadu

Flying is an impersonal business. Only meteorologists or a few other experts can fathom the skies and its myriad hues. For me, it is just flying through miles and miles of unchanging blue/white space without any kind of feeling of familiarity or attachment. My time in India is short and many friends and relatives advised me to make my trip to Trichy/Chennai via air. Somehow, the idea did not gel with me. The pulse of a country can be felt only by travel via land with its smells, tastes, sights. And a country like India literally attacks all the five senses with its multiple offerings.
Anyways, to make a long story short, I took the 1.5 day journey via Dadar express from Mumbai to Chennai and from then onto Trichy by Rockfort Express. And I truly enjoyed my ride. I passed through many types/kinds of cities, landscapes. It is quite strange but nothing struck a chord with me till I neared TN borders. I enjoyed all the passing landscapes but they were just that: a passing and objective enjoyment of the different hues of my country. After crossing Renigunta, I began to feel that I am home at last. The billboard advertisements rang familiar. The noises, songs from temples and even the smell of the land seemed quite familiar and enjoyable. Gopal Palpodi still rules the roost as far as wall ads go. And the familiar Mariamma songs in the month of Margazhi rang loud and clear from most temples.
The other curious thing I found this time around is that the multitude of marathadi Pillaiyars increases by leaps and bounds once we reach TN! Andhra and Karnataka didn't seem to have that many roadside temples.
Finally, I boarded Rockfort Express from Chennai Egmore. A contented feeling came over me that I had arrived at last. Kollidam had some water this time around (finally, at least to justify its name!). The familiar Southern Tower of the Srirangam temple rose high from amongst coconut trees as the train rumbled across the Kollidam.
Srirangam had just partially awoken to the call of dawn as yet another day began its relentless rhythm.
More on Srirangam experiences in my next post...

Tsunami Trivia

Tragedy apart, the Tsunami has triggered some rather funny and interesting conversations in these parts. Overheard in the general compartment of Vaigai Express: A not so well educated village woman was holding court to her fellow travelers about the reason for the Tsunami. The entire group, composed mostly of village women, was listening in rapt attention chin in their hands. Some things are best heard in the native language:
Tsunami vandhadhukku karanam intha Chargu Pushu-dhaan (read George Bush). Avanukku Tamizh naattoda sezhippum valamum kandu porukkala...Namma amma nalla aatchi panraanga illai..enga naama romba nalla vandhura poromo nnu avanukku ore vayiru erichal..adhanala, avan kadal-la poi gundu vechittaan..adhu dhaan nammala vandhu thaakkiduchu..avan naasama poga!

Yet another theory, this one coming from an educated office going middle aged man:
Jayendrar arrest panninaaanga illai..adhaan kadal pongiruchi.....siva poojai ninnu pona sarva naasam dhaan aagum..adhaan rudra thaandavam aadittan avan.

Whoever said that life is most enjoyed only in the upper class carriages??!! The most interesting people and conversations are in the general compartment!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Flight to India

It is amazing what kind of royal treatment you get in Business class. It is as if you are in a whole new world. I got upgraded to Business class because my flight was canceled. I got to board first. Immediately, you get a nice fortifying drink. They serve meals waiting hand and foot on you. And the seats are the best! Man, I got the best sleep of my life in a flight. Anyways, that made up for the horrendous wait I had to endure in Cincinnati and NY.
Calvin and Hobbes collection gave me company in Cinci and NY airports. At NY, we boarded the flight on time. But then, the flight was grounded for 1.5 hours because of some suspicious baggage on board with no corresponding passengers..that was probably the most boring wait of my life.
Finally took off for Frankfurt. We had to reboard the flight at Frankfurt. But the stupid lady at NY had given me a boarding pass till Frankfurt only. The person at the gate was trying to tell me that I couldn't board the flight to Mumbai because of that!! After much arguing with the thick German accent, I managed to convince the person that I had indeed purchased a ticket to Mumbai...Anyways, finally after a lengthy flight, landed in Mumbai. Picked up my baggage (which took forever) and cleared customs...
Home at last!
Some funny incidents on my next post...