Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Handshakes are becoming my current worst social embarassment. A couple of months ago, at the temple Diwali festival, we met up with some acquaintances -- C & J -- who had come with their parents. The old man started a conversation with S and shook his hand. When he started talking to me, I raised my hand for a handshake. Oops. An embarassed pause followed. He smiled uncomfortably and just folded his hands in salutation. Maybe I should have just said 'Namaskaram'?!

A month later, I met a desi in his 30s at Kroger. This time, fresh from my handshaking faux pas last time, I just said 'Hi'. Oops again. The guy had already extended his hand for a handshake and my 'Hi' sounded like a snub! Ughh. Of course, in my embarassment, I hurriedly took his hand which made it seem like I was desperate to shake his hand (Thankfully, I am not single or this could've been construed as something else). The same thing happened with an American at work when I forgot to shake hands with him!

When Dr. Kalaam visited Lexington in March 2008, it was confusion galore for me! An American I had just met hugged me like I had known him for years. Another one shook my hand very enthusiastically. Young Indian guys shook hands with girls. Older Indian guys refrained from it. Middle-aged guys were in as much confusion as myself.  Dr. Kalaam himself, I noticed, didn't shake women's hands. He just folded his hands. 

Anyways, the point is, being caught in a social 'Trisanku sorgam' in the US, its difficult to keep all these various cultural permutations and combinations clear in my head. Until then, I guess I'll continue to be embarassed..

Monday, December 15, 2008

Psstt..we went to Jared's..

Those of you in the US might have seen the ad for the jewelry store "Jared's". It has a whole bunch of people whispering "He went to Jared's" at a table when a couple announce their engagement and the bride-to-be flashes her ring exuberantly. About a year and a half back, S decided to get me a wedding present. On a whim, we both landed up at the nearest Jared's.

After 15 minutes of looking around, we realized that the designs were plain as can be and there was nothing attractive enough to capture our GRT-Thangamaligai-sensitized imaginations. Just as we were about to make a silent exit from the shop, a sales-guy captured us red-handed.

"May I help you with your purchase today?", he asked smilingly.

We could have said "No, thanks" and walked out. But something got into S and he said,

"Yes..we are actually looking for a ring."

"Would diamond interest you?"


I glanced at S desperately to ask him why he wanted to see those boring, old rings again.

The sales guy flourishingly displayed a set of about 30 diamond rings set in platinum. All of them had a plain band with a single stone of varying sizes set on top.

I was about to say, "okay, I am not interested" when S suddenly chimed in,

"Do these diamonds have doshas?"

"Do they have what?"

"D-o-s-h-a-s. Doshas. Meaning -- are these diamonds fit to be worn?"

Sales guy: "These are of the finest quality made by the best jewelers in the world"

The poor sales guy thought we were questioning the quality of the products. How wrong he was..:-)

S, nodding sagely, said, "Ah, yes. But they will not affect the wearer?"

Sales Guy: "You mean allergies? We have the best ---"

Hubby Dear: "No, no, see, in India, people say that some diamonds will cause the wearer harm or bring bad-luck..."

Sales Guy: "Oh..okay. How do you know that?"

Hubby Dear: "We don't know that..our parents do."

Sales Guy: "You want to come with your parents another day?"

Hubby Dear: "No..that's difficult"

Sales Guy: "Can I interest you in some other stones then?"

I was already giggling and struggling to compose myself. S was in full form that day.

Hubby Dear: "Umm..we're not sure if we can wear any stone."

Salesguy: (Dumb-founded, confused silence)

I thought I would alleviate some of the awkwardness and said,

"Only some stones can be worn by some people depending on their birth star.."

"Birth star?", the sales guy asked incredulously.

"We are all born under a star at the time of our birth.."

"You mean sun signs?", he asked doggedly.

"No, no..there are 27 stars..and some stones don't go well with some stars.."


"One of my aunts wore an emerald stone ring against advice and a thief broke into their house within a week."

"So...that's because of the emerald and your Aunt's birth star?"


After 5 minutes, we left the store, our heads held high leaving behind an extremely aggravated sales person. Both of us burst into uncontrollable laughter. The incident still evokes laughter!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The coverage of the Mumbai attacks in the US has been intense. I am angry and outraged at the partisan politics India's parties seem to be waging amidst this tragedy. But I am also annoyed at the western media's consistent referral of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a "Hindu Nationalist Party".

If the BJP is termed so, can the Republican Party in the US be henceforth referred to as the Christian Fundamentalist Party"? Honestly, I don't see much of a difference between the values these two parties espouse vis-a-vis religion. So , why not? Would this be a mis-representation?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Healing Mohanam..

I read in Hindu sometime back that Apollo Hospitals, Chennai has a music therapy center. A call-center employee had recurring migraines and associated health problems. She was asked to listen to the Raga Mohanam 6 times a day whenever she felt a migraine come on. The lady reported 4 months down the line that she rarely ever had headaches now!

I was feeling super-stressed this morning. For lack of anything else to distract me, I started playing a Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Mohanam by TV Sankaranarayanan. I can swear that the moment I heard the initial notes of Mohanam, I could feel the stress draining out of me, literally. My neck muscles loosened up and I was feeling much more peaceful in a few minutes.

I have felt that hard-core music enthusiasts discount Mohanam as a Ragam. They extol the virtues of Bhairavi, Todi, Kharaharapriya et al. because of the scope offered for manodharma. But if you ask me, I'll take a beautifully sung Mohanam over any other Raga in Carnatic music! :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holy Cow!

Way back in the 1960s, my grandparents suffered a series of tragedies. A row of children died as soon as they were born or a few months after. When my mother was born, she was quite sickly as well. She had some kind of a liver problem which prevented her from ingesting food. They took her to Dr. Jemmi, then the most famous Liver specialist in Chennai. Unlike so many doctors today, he prescribed a simple home remedy: Buy a cow, raise it organically with good fodder and feed the children with milk from the cow. Apparently, he challenged my grandfather, "Let's see how your children don't become healthy in two years' time!"

So my grandfather bought a jersey cow, Rani, and he raised her dutifully. And true to prediction, my mom and her elder brother improved steadily and became quite healthy! I've heard this story told so many times over and over. But I've always thought: why bother raise a cow when you can buy milk?

I got my answer recently. A year or so back, I started reading about going organic. That's when I discovered the horror stories about milk in the US. Cows are never allowed to see the daylight, cooped up in huge factories, fed anti-biotics and milked using machines. There is much more information about this torture if you google for it. I am pretty sure part of this is going on in India as well. Anyways, I was so upset that I thought of swearing off milk for a while.

I don't mean to sound very superstitious but if you extract a product out of an animal/plant that gives it great agony physically and mentally (think fear), does it not affect the person consuming it? All the evil karma probably goes into our lives. Anyways, that's when I started thinking about solutions. Going organic and supporting local farms definitely helps. However, these are not long-term solutions. When anything becomes a business, there are certain compromises that have to be made for profits.

Personally, I feel like the right thing is to have a cow per household. A household pet will never be treated harshly and can provide enough milk to sustain the family. And we would know the source of the milk and rest assured that it won't have some scary chemical in it. Definitely not a simple solution because maintenance of another living being is complex. Given our lazy lifestyles and apartment living today, it seems near impossible. And I am no exception.

But the hope is that some day, I might see light. If we are convinced and set our minds to it, I believe this is possible at least in India. The exercise involved in cow maintenance might just get us IT-types a workout and maybe, people will learn to respect all animal life? Or we find a different solution to the milk situation?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recent events in life have proved to me that self is a very good leader. I know that sounds very ego-maniacal and presumptuous. Happenings in the past 6-7 months have shown that 95% of people

a) don't know what they're supposed to do next
b) don't bother to do it even if they know what the next step is,

Given that even people in supposed leadership roles fumble around in either a) or b), think self is much, much better off. Even if I don't know whether the next thing I propose to do is "correct" or not, I have some idea of what I can do next. People seem to crave leadership and decisions -- good or bad doesn't matter. Maybe this is how Hitler and all other tyrants of the world had such huge followings. The trick is to just do something or pretend to do something..:)

PS: I know that is a weird mixture of "self" and "I" in this post. Effects of reading Bridget Jones. Please excuse..:)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


For the first time in my five years in the US, I took the day of Deepavali off from work. This year, I was having we-are-not-celebrating-ANY-festivals-fatigue. I got tired of spending all festive occasions in my grey cube in drab jeans & an unironed T-shirt under the harsh glare of the computer screens and fluorescent lights. I desperately wanted to feel the festive season of my childhood -- making sweets at home, watching special programs on TV, visiting friends and family, wearing new clothes and bursting crackers. So we did what we could here. We lolled around home, called India, watched looooots of Sun TV and K TV and ate quite sumptuously.

S attempted cashew cake yesterday. It turned out like a gooey halwa instead of the perfect, mysore pa-like consistency he was hoping for. But the taste was just decadently rich and yummy!

The evening was spent at a potluck with about 20 people. And needless to say, we ate our fill, watched snatches of "Annamalai" and chatted away. Now, after being immersed in festive mood for more than 3 days, I am having trouble coming back to my "regular" life. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Ha" moments..

The best pieces of writing are those that touch your heart before your mind has even fathomed the meaning of what you just read! At those moments, my heart exclaims "Ha!" with pleasant surprise and admiration. I had one of those this morning when I read these lines from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet":
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The cult of guardian deities or "kaaval deivams" in Tamilnadu is something I've been trying to fathom for a while. It is not that I don't believe in it but I cannot relate to it. Our guardian deity is in a village called Thandalai, about 5 kms from Tiruvarur. It houses a very small temple to Shashtha or Ayyappan, Badrakali and the more famous "Eetty Manickam" (The Manickam with a Javelin). Anyone in the surrounding regions of that village will be able to point you to the temple of "Eetty Manickam". All vehicles, especially buses and lorries, passing via that temple will stop, drop a coin toward "Eetty Manickam" and then proceed on their way. Legend has it that if they do not do that, they will meet with a fatal calamity. For many years, the temple drew a sustenance based on the charity of these passers-by and still does even though it now has other sources of funds as well.

Until the 1990s, our family had no idea of this temple. Somewhere along the way, many generations past, we'd lost the memory of this place. In the early 1990s, my eldest Uncle was looking to marry off his eldest daughter. Try as they might, they couldn't find a satisfactory alliance for my cousin. One day my Uncle had a very vivid dream of a temple in an isolated village. He dreamt about a Badrakali in that temple and was told that because we had neglected this deity, the marriage of his daughter was being delayed. He could accurately describe the temple, its surroundings and the way to the Badrakali sanctum. But no one in our family knew what this temple was. Finally, my grandmother had some vague recollection of a place near Tiruvarur that was supposed to be our guardian deity. So my uncle hunted around that area for a while and figured out that there was a little-known village called Thandalai.

The entire family consisting of my Uncle, his three younger brothers including my father, their spouses and children made the visit to this place. We worshipped there and when we went to the Badrakali sanctum, my Uncle swore that it was exactly as it was in his dream. "Eetty Manickam" came as a surprise to me. The image was of an English-looking guy in khaki trousers and shirt, with a gun and a white horse. The statue was huge and stood on the outside of the temple. Here's where the drivers threw their coins. "Eetty Manickam" was supposed to guard the village at night and many villagers swore to hearing horse hoof sounds in that area. Anyways, after propitiating the gods there and promising to go back every year, we returned. Soon enough, my cousin got married and we attributed it to the temple.

To go back to the beginning of this post, I have trouble relating to these "kaaval deivams" because of their punishing nature. I've never believed in fear-induced worship and many of the Ayyanars, Karuppannasaamis,Ellai Kaalis, Badrakalis seem to be very punishing. But I suppose their very nature makes people feel protected if they offer the right worship.

S & I just started watching "Marma Desam - Vidadhu Karuppu" and that prompted me to write this post..:-)

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Sometimes, it is good if life deals you a couple of crushing blows when you are young. You are bruised, hurt and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Life is all dark. But youth has a way of overcoming all hurdles. You pull through and maybe the experience leaves you accustomed with failure. You know what it is like to fail, be a failure and you know how to get through it. If the first taste of hardship one faces is in adulthood, it becomes hard to digest. It is impossible to say what drives humans to death but maybe, it won't lead to this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How Women Hate..

This has got to be one of the most succinct and hard-hitting articles written on how women "feel"! :) Yes, the "feel factor" that men have so much trouble understanding. I can't recall the number of times in a week that I've said to S,

"Did you feel the vibe there?"
"Did someone say something?"
" one said anything. But did you feel it?"
[Greeted by confused look]
" If nothing was actually said or nothing happened, how can I "feel" anything?"
"You know, you should not spend so much energy on such things! "

This article had me chuckling and nodding through-out!:) All ye women , do read and enjoy..

Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Monarchy Vs Democracy

I've often heard my grandfather lament,

"வெள்ளைக்காரன் ஆட்சில எவ்வளவோ சுகமா இருந்தது நம்ம ஊரு !"

To which, my grandmother would retort,

"அரம்பிசுட்டேளா, உங்க வெள்ளைக்காரன் புராணத்த! சாயங்கால நேரமும் அதுவுமா ! வாயை மூடுங்கோ!"

And they would get into a rip-roaring fight that provided great amusement to all by-standers. Sometimes I've old-timers say the same about "Raja kaalathu" reigns. And they would point to all the great temples and works of art that were executed under monarchs and ask, "What has democracy done?"

Monarchy affords high-handed rule. If the lucky draw happens to be good, a nation gets a good monarch and uses high-handedness to do good things. Eg. Akbar, Chandragupta Maurya, Narasimha Pallavan, Raja Raja Cholan, Queen Eizabeth. On the other hand, if the Royal brood is a bunch of maniacs, God save the poor nation! However useless, this latter category definitely yields more interesting characters -- Louis XIV of France who reveled in his courtiers watching him use the toilet, Aurangzeb who was a nut-case etc...

I think no matter what the merits of monarchy are, Democracy is the greatest gift to the people of this world. If 10000 fools vote to elect one fool, we, the fools, know that we brought it on ourselves. Besides, the one fool that got elected is a fool of our own making. We get a chance to try again later.

All this brings me to another question I've been pondering awhile: Does the 'Karma theory' apply to nations? If the ruling class brings misery because of actions they take on behalf of their country, where does this 'paavam' go? To the individual who committed those actions? Or the populace that elected him?

If the population that elected him gets all the bad karma of the elected representatives, that would explain why Indians suffer so much! :) What do you think?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Marie Antoinette

Inspired by the magnificent Versailles palace and a desire to get a different angle on the infamous Queen, I ordered 'Marie Antoinette' from Netflix. I suppose I was thinking this would be a la Shekar Kapur's 'Elizabeth'. Alas, was I mistaken! This Marie Antoinette (played by Kirsten Dunst) speaks English with an American accent, uses American slang (Example: "That is soooooooooooooooo du Barry"),doesn't utter a single word of French or German and is a pathetic,shallow puppet.

It would be too much to expect documentary-like precision in a commercial movie. However,is it too much to expect that the French Queen at least utter a couple of dialogues in French or speak in accented English? One of the worst performances I've seen from Dunst. Besides, what in the world did this movie want to convey? They finish the movie right when the French mobs move in to capture the Royalty. Isn't that the time to really show Marie as the misunderstood figure that she was? Surely the French Queen has enough character depth for a 2 hour portrayal?

Anyway, this movie is nothing but a director's whim to see and visit Versailles at the producer's cost. Please don't see it. Basically, producer mouth-la halwa! :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Engeyo Ketta Kural

On a slow afternoon, I switched on Sun TV . "Engeyo Ketta Kural" starring Rajini, Ambika & Radha had just started playing. Sun TV is famous for "good-for-nothing" movies during day times. I'd never heard of such a Rajini starrer and I was wondering if this was another god forsaken movie from the 80s. Tamil movies from the 80s tend to broad caricatures rather than intricate character portrayals. The villain is usually a comic-book definition of evil. The hero, a by-the-book version of goodness. There are standard plots, turning points, endings. Not that they are any less entertaining but they don't evoke a "hmmm" reaction from the audience.

To my pleasant surprise, this one turned out to be a pretty riveting, well-made movie! It tackles the prickly subject of a troubled marriage very maturely without overt typecasting of anyone as "bad" or "good". Ambika and Radha are sisters with very different temperaments. Ambika is a well-read, educated girl who aspires to things other than tending to cows and fields. She's betrothed to her "Murai maama" Rajini at birth. Rajini is head over heels in love with Ambika but she's indifferent. Radha in love with Rajini completes the triangle. However, due to familial constraints and an inability to make up her mind, Ambika ends up marrying Rajini. The couple have lots of skirmishes and fights because of their differing ambitions and goals in life. Ambika, unable to bear this unhappy marriage, leaves town with her early love -- the village zamindar's son -- who is more suited to her temperament. The consequences of this action are explored in the second half of the movie.

Rajini has given a very sensible, balanced portrayal. He forgives Ambika her desertion of him and their daughter. In fact, he tries to reconcile Ambika with her family toward the end. For a change, it was refreshing to see a cinema husband act "normal" instead of throwing fits and temper tantrums. Director S.P. Muthuraman has explored a lot of grey areas in complex relationships between sister-sister, mom-sister, husband-wife etc... Some scenes are a commentary on how people react because that's how they're "expected" to react. For instance, Ambika's parents' reactions when they learn their daughter has run away. There are some scenes which are brilliant in their highlighting of some issues with marriages. The scene where Ambika tries to make up her mind whether to marry Rajini is perfect -- "I neither like him or hate him. I am indifferent. It is difficult for me to make up my mind because of this!I guess I have to marry him for family reasons because I don't dislike him."

There are some obviously masala things that could've been avoided at the end but all-in-all, a very feministic, forward-looking movie for its era. Definitely worth watching for its novel value..:)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I've never had much luck taking pictures in aquariums. My previous 4-year-old Kodak camera had very primitive settings that did not work out for an amateur photographer like me.

Recently, we bought a Canon SureShot 1100 and I've loved it so far. It has very sophisticated image stabilization and different pre-set modes to help in various environments. When we visited the Newport Aquarium yesterday, I thought I'd try out the "Aquarium" mode. The results were pretty good. I took some very random, point-and-shoot pictures and they turned out better than I could've ever expected!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC -- History is made!

Barack Obama was nominated by acclamation as the candidate of the Democratic Party for Election 2008, the first African-American to ever lead a major part ticket. It was an emotional moment for African-Americans. Tears were rolling down their cheeks. Many of them were crying outright as they raised their heads proudly. An African-American party official said he wanted to dedicate this moment to his late father who lived through segregation and racial discrimination in the 50s. Finally, finally, vindication that they could aspire to the highest office in the USA and officially represent a major party!

It was a historic moment and I can now say that I watched it live.


I've been following the race for the President of the US since January this year through the
grueling primaries, Hillary's defeat and the melodrama that followed afterward. I, for one, thought that Bill Clinton, after his wife's defeat, was a shadow of his former self, acting like a baby denied candy. I thought I'd see more of his wordplay yesterday night and a wishy-washy approval of Obama.

Instead, he came out swinging with his GOP slamming and outright approval of Obama. In the process, he showed everyone how its done..:) The thing with Clinton is that you forget all his faults when he shows up and starts talking nice. He sounds so sincere, eloquent and coherent that you want to believe him. Thus far, I thought no one, including the candidate, made a case for himself so strongly as Bill did for Obama! Definitely, one of the best talks of the convention.

S & I were wondering how in the world the country managed to listen to George W. Bush for 8 years after hearing someone like Bill.


Tonight is Obama's acceptance speech. I am a sucker for good speeches and am looking forward to hearing this guy speak! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

India Post

India is still new to the Internet. A lot of established trading houses, merchants and even the Indian Embassy don't have good, usable websites. But I was pleasantly surprised by the India Post website. The website is usable, information is easy to find and most important actions are up-front in the home page. Way to go! :) The postal service has had the sense to hire a good developer who knows his bread and butter to do their website.

If you want an example of a badly done website, you should look at the Indian Embassy (Washington D.C) website. S had to fill an online application form to renew his passport and they had a big disclaimer saying they would ONLY accept online apps. So we dutifully tried it and ended up being their QE team. The 'Submit" button on the application threw a JavaScript error. We couldn't print or save the application because of some other exceptions. Some developer had forgotten the basic rule of coding -- HANDLE EXCEPTIONS!

I can't tell you how annoyed I was -- both as an end user as well as a software professional. As an end user, when I am sending confidential information, it is scary to see some strange exception. Do you take it that your operation failed? Succeeded? As a software professional, I intensely dislike people who can't do their basic homework and follow good practices. Is the Indian Embassy so poor that it can't hire a decent company to do their website? Or is it yet another example of the "chalta hai" attitude we see so much?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brain dump..

The people in the house behind ours put up a fence yesterday. Our next door neighbor did the same 2 months back. Our house had a fence when we bought it. I feel boxed-in when I see a bunch of fences around me instead of a clear view. Besides, the neighborhood children were playing in the backyards this summer. They were using the undivided space between the houses to play softball and to run around screaming. I guess now they're confined to limited space which must suck! Bah!


I watched three movies this weekend. 'Thedi Vandha Mappillai' starring MGR, Jayalalitha has to be the worst movie made in that era. Horrendous dialogues and acting. Jayalalitha looked very pretty though! 'Enga Veetu Ramayanam' was a laugh riot. S.Ve. Shekar cracked me up. 'Jab We Met' was alright. Shahid Kapoor looked really cute! It was a feel-good movie but I thought the "crazy, simple girl does whatever her heart tells her to" routine is getting old these days. Recently, Genelia did that in 'Santosh Subramaniam' and now, it is Kareena. Honestly, I've not met one girl like that in all these years. So not sure whether to believe such people exist..:-)


Belated Independence Day Wishes! This blog has been in draft mode for two days. I've not managed to publish it.


One of my college friends sent me a link to Amitabh Bachchan's blog -- . It is interesting in its own way. I am surprised he finds the time to post regularly (and he insists it is he that's writing, not some ghostwriter) despite his busy schedule. It is quite nauseating to read the comments section of his posts --- all fawning, servile and irrelevant. I wonder if Indians have lost all sensibility. If someone is pouring his heart out about his mother, the only thing someone can find to say is, "You are awesome!" or something like it?? What's wrong with people!

Saturday, August 02, 2008


On the highway from Kumbakonam to Mayiladuthurai (Mayavaram), near Kadiramangalam, lies a quaint little village on the banks of the Cauvery. It has been my grandmother's dream that I visit this place, her native village, at least once in her lifetime. Last year, after years of talking and dreaming about it, I did just that.

Our driver almost missed Sivaramapuram. He had never heard of it and he had been driving in those parts for quite some time. We managed to find it and our car couldn't get into the one-street village. We went on foot. It wasn't a big deal because the entire village consists of just one street.. :) The entrance to the village was dotted with a Siva temple.We were accosted by an old maami in madisaar clearly excited at the prospect of some new comers! I left my parents to banter with the madisaar maami and walked down the length of the street to the Cauvery.

It was an intensely personal journey for me filled with memories of my grandmother and her childhood tales. Narrated over afternoon siestas or lazy evenings in the thinnai of her house, her stories were always colorful and entertaining. To me, she and her village stories belonged to a magical, idyllic world that I could never personally experience! She is a good storyteller, that one..:)

Most of the houses in Sivaramapuram are dilapidated.I heard the madisaar maami say that most of the owners are in the US with their sons/daughters. Ha! The reach of the US even in these old parts. I reached the Rama temple at the end of the street on the banks of the Cauvery. It was always as my grandmother had told me! The padithurai where she and her siblings bathed every day was now dilapidated. I was a bit disappointed. People don't use rivers when there are bathrooms, I told myself. A couple of ancient banyan trees were hanging over the river, their branches lazily touching the Cauvery. My grandmother had told me that her boisterous brothers would swing from Banyan trees and jump with a splash into the river while the women were going about their chores. Could these trees be the one from her stories?!

We visited the erstwhile house of my grandmother. It had now become a Raghavendra Madam. The person next door was a distant-relative of my grandmother and she was maintaining the madam. She showed us inside the madam and gave us a tour. This place was once a 4-kattu house..This was where my grandmother grew up..I was lost in imagination until the maami invited us home to coffee. And what a coffee it was! The cow in the backyard had just been freshly milked. The smell of fresh boiling milk and decoction in the filter was simply intoxicating. I have to say that coffee was from Heaven! No Starbucks can beat that taste ever.

Some of these old places in the Tanjore district still maintain their old lifestyle. They are self-sufficient. Almost every house has a cow that feeds the family. Some of these families still manage agricultural lands and live off that produce like my grandmother's family once used to. They know where their food comes from and how it was grown. They know that their milk doesn't have anti-biotics, pesticides and artificial growth hormones. It is not that they do not know the joys of city life. A lot of them have well to-do sons/daughters in Chennai or abroad. But they choose to live there..

Today, there is talk of world famine and food shortage and everyone is encouraged to go "local". In the US, there's talk of encouraging people to have their own farms. That's how India used to be! That's the lifestyle we so vigorously rejected a few decades back! Now, its back in fashion but I am not sure that the knowledge still exists...Life's a Circle.

As Sivaramapuram faded away into the distance, I found myself thinking, "What have we done..God, what have we done?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Outpourings on a Tuesday night..

I went to Starbucks with a long-time friend this evening. It was just the two of us and I was all tingly with anticipation because she'd told me she had "special news" to share! Outings with girl friends are just so much more fun in some ways! You get to bond about a lot of things a guy is never, ever, ever going to get (even if it is one's husband). Back in college, Shailu and I used to regularly do this -- just hang out and do "girly" things. I miss that so much in the US! I had an awesome time just catching up on old times, talking about her guy, wedding plans, moving plans, the whole works.


Some questions just become difficult to ask as we get older. Especially, topics about marriage and salary packages even with good friends. People get defensive about their choices and even if you were just asking most innocently, the conversation goes all awkward. Can words really mean so many things? I wouldn't mind if someone I know well asks me a similar question but different people come with different baggages, experiences and responsibilities. So these days I've drawn an invisible lakshman rekha with most people (Of course, there's still the few people I take that liberty with!). Does it bode well for those relationships? Do we need to risk asking hard questions sometimes? Or does not asking very personal questions somehow strengthen the relationship? I guess the answer to most of these questions is "It depends"..:)


Speaking of relationships, I've agonized over a lot of friendships that "could have been". You really like a person and you want to get to know them well. But sometimes expectations aren't always balanced on both ends. Sometimes, people want more or they want less. Or maybe one blurts something that'd have been better left unsaid! The situation gets awkward and a once promising friendship fades away into obscurity. I've had my fair share of these and I've spent a lot of mental energy wondering if it could've turned out differently.

But these days I've had a lot of perfectly normal, conflict-less, amicable friendships fade into oblivion as well! These are due to the more practical demands of physical distance, work, school, family etc..

I've reconciled myself to the fact that if long-time friendships can fade into nothing, losing a few budding-friendships isn't so bad.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Acham Enbadhu Madamaiyada..!

The 1960's in Tamilnadu must have been a time of revolutionary ideas, fiery leaders and pumped-up "I-can-do-it" attitude. It was the time when the DK was rising to power rapidly (There was no DMK-ADMK split yet) with its Tamizh-pride and anti-Hindi stances. I am not sure if the DK had already formulated its "Thani Tamizhnadu" (separate Tamilnadu) philosophy but to reach out to the masses and inspire them, the DK found a hero in Maruthur Gopala Ramachandra Menon (MGR).

MGR teamed up with Kavichakravarthy Kannadasan (lyricist), Mellisai Mannar MS Viswanathan and singer non-pareil, T.M. Soundararajan to deliver some of the most memorable songs of yesteryears. The simple lyrics were calculated to send a message to the masses while inspiring them with Tamil pride and courage. And of course, the foot-tapping melodies made sure that the songs would become a favourite in rural outposts! I am ambiguous about the MGR-DK agenda but one can't but appreciate the creativity that spawned such wonderful songs!

As I was driving to work, I was listening to "Acham Enbadhu Madamaiyada" from the film "Mannadhi Mannan". Even today, as I listen to it, I feel uplifted and enthusiastic. The lyrics go something like this:

அச்சம் என்பது மடமையடா!
அஞ்சாமை திராவிடர் உடமையடா!
ஆறிலும் சாவு, நூறிலும் சாவு,
தாயகம் காப்பது கடமையடா!

கனகவிசயரின் முடிதலை நெறித்து
கல்லினை வைத்தான் சேர மன்னன்!
இமய வரம்பினில் மீன் கொடியேற்றி
இசைபட வாழ்ந்தான் பாண்டியனே!

கருவினில் வளரும் மழலையின் உடலில்
தைரியம் வளர்ப்பாள் தமிழன்னை!
களங்கம் எழுந்தால் பெற்றவள் மானம்,
காத்திட எழுவான் அவள் பிள்ளை!

வாழ்ந்தவர் கோடி, மறைந்தவர் கோடி!
மக்களின் மனதில் நிற்பவர் யார்?
மாபெரும் வீரர், மானம் காத்தவர்
சரித்திரம் தனிலே நிற்கின்றார்!

Listen to the song here!

These days, every Tom, Dick and Harry actor gets a "cool" nick-name whether its applicable/desirable or not. But in those days, I really think MGR deserved his title "Puratchi Thalaivar"! The genius of these artists has always been largely under-appreciated. They didn't have the luxury of media exposure and the Internet that people have these days. But their art lives on and will continue for decades....

Friday, June 20, 2008

There are many perks to an adult working life. But more than anything else, I L.O.V.E it because it confers on me three fundamental freedoms --

- freedom to use the restroom whenever I want (oh yeah, this is Numero Uno on the list!)
- freedom to eat when I am hungry
- freedom to drink water without being at the mercy of some eccentric teacher

With respect to the above three things, I am not sure how your experiences have been in schools. Mine have been rather, erm, interesting.

Asan Memorial in Chennai was good. We used to eat under the desks in between classes or even during a class (of course, without the knowledge of the teacher!). I was a kid and had limited inhibitions. I've asked to use the restroom in the middle of a class and teachers were usually accomodating. Restrooms were in good condition and had plenty of water. Of course, there were those kids who'd do it for a chance to just get away from the boring classes and teachers would deal rather sternly in those cases.

When I entered my teens, it became a bit complicated. In TVS Lakshmi, Madurai, you had rules for girls to use the rest room. I don't know if its just conservative mofussil towns or what, but boys would stare if a girl asked to use the toilet. The entire class would come to a grinding halt and all heads would be turned in the boys section toward the Girl Who Asked To Go. It was ridiculous! Sometimes teachers would refuse. What person in their normal senses would refuse a request for a basic need?!!?

Coming from cosmopolitan Chennai, I was unaware of all the "toilet" rules but I was enlightened soon. I outraged the modesty of all girls in the class by asking to use the restroom in front of a male teacher.

1. Don't ask to go before a male teacher. Heights of immodesty! Even if you are desperate, you have to preserve your modesty and die in your seat.
2. You have to secretly whisper it in the teacher's ears. You can't just raise your hand and speak from your place. That's for boys!
3. Don't use the dreaded "Toilet" word. That's yucky! Say "Please excuse me for a few minutes". That's more ladylike!
4. Don't look at the boys section when you get back. Lower your eyes and sit down.

It seems kinda stupid now but back then, I followed it because that's what everyone did. A lot of girls wouldn't drink water during class hours because of this problem. Girls restrooms weren't always clean at TVS Lakshmi. During peak summer, there wouldn't be water in the restrooms.

Things were similar in Trichy where I did my college. Girls were not supposed to go in the middle of class hours. But I was older, wiser and bolder for my high school experience in Canada. Once, a stupid Civil Engineering professor refused permission. I walked out of the class. That raised a huge uproar and I was summoned to the Staff Room. It just goes to show how ridiculous people can sometimes be!

It was a similar story with drinking water. You have to ask "permission". If guys do it without permission, that's understandable because "boys will be boys". But girls?! Oh no, we're supposed to be prim and proper even at the cost of our health.

I understand the need for teachers to maintain order in the class and all that jazz. But I think teachers sometimes take it to inhuman extents. I know of hundreds of girls who were dehydrating themselves because of this stupid rule. Is that good for our women in the long run?

Hopefully things have improved now in the schools of TN!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Working in the Summer

Everyone in the US is talking about sky-high gas prices, cutting energy costs, going green etc..Awareness amongst people is definitely growing. Grocery chains like Whole Foods & Kroger have eschewed the use of plastic bags and are promoting re-usable cloth bags. Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see Kroger & Walmart doing away with plastic bags!

We got these huge 'Naidu Hall', 'Pothys' cloth bags as remnants of my wedding saree shopping. I don't know why we decided to cart them to the US but they seem to be the wonder of the world here :) The Whole Foods cashier girl stops for a second to admire them every time we go. They also give me wooden nickels for every bag that I re-use. For every wooden nickel that customers donate, Whole Foods gives 10 cents to various charitable causes. S gets a kick out of deciding which cause he's going to donate to.

While all this is good, I wish they would do something about buildings in the US. These buildings have been designed to work only with artificial lighting. Even in the blazing summer when the Sun God decides to shine till 9.30 PM, we have lights on in the office buildings and shopping malls! For instance, Lowe's near my house is huge, big warehouse with zero windows. If they had skylights or huge windows every 10 feet, there wouldn't be a need for electrical lighting.

Besides, sitting in dark cubicles with harsh white lights on makes everyone sick. I get headaches in the office which vanish when I take a walk in the sun for 15 minutes! My tropical body is not designed for 60 F A/c either! Sigh. So I walk around with a sweater in the office all day. What's the point of wearing nice clothes to work if you have to drape a sweater over them anyway? I go to work looking like a hobo with faded jeans, wrinkled T-shirts etc..You get the picture.

Well-dressed people are important for eye-candy and give you something interesting to chew about (at least women) --

'That red top looks good. I need to get it!'
'Maybe I should get the capris that go with it too...she looks good in it!'

Therefore, the overall productivity of the US workforce will increase if more natural light is allowed in offices. You can tell I am desperate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dasavataram Experience...

400-500 of us were packed into Danbarry theaters in Cincinnati on Sunday evening. The A/c was not turned on. It was sweltering hot inside. Tickets were oversold for 'Dasavataram'. People who had arrived 20 minutes earlier before showtime couldn't find seats. The person next to me had "reserved" seats for his friends/family with empty coke bottles, kerchiefs, napkins, popcorn boxes etc..There were many like him in the audience. There were shouts of "Alwarpettai Andavaaa..thalaivaa!" in the enthusiastic audience. A lot of people were standing in the back row because of the tickets confusion. Some people had to refund their tickets and return disappointed.

It was a typical Indian cinema experience! :) For a minute, I wondered if I was back in Chennai.

I wouldn't call this movie a total disappointment. The racy screenplay was engaging and the fast pace of the movie left little time to ruminate. However, Kamalhassan could definitely have avoided these overt make-up gimmicks. Some of the roles would've been better if played by others.

What I liked:

1. Screenplay

2. Intelligent weaving of chaos theory concepts

3. Boovarahan, Balram Naidu, Paatti. The portrayal of Boovarahan was particulary touching and authentic. I was moved by this character. The Paatti was funny because she used language that reminded me of my own grandmother..:)

4. No stupid duets in unnecessary places. Even the songs were effectively used to move the screenplay on. Good job!

5. The first out-and-out thriller/chase Tamil movie I've seen with biotech terrorists and what-not.

6. Questions about the existence/non-existence of God. Beautifully portrayed! Makes the audience question co-incidences.

7. The Tsunami scene. What I didn't realize through 4 years of articles and media coverage, I realized in those 5 minutes of the movie -- the scale of disaster, the impact on the average person etc...Very poignant, touching scene!

8. Napoleon looked the part as the Chola king. Was pleasantly surprised! His Tamil sucked though. I was thinking that he'd make a good Periya Pazhuvettarayar if 'Ponniyin Selvan' is ever made.

What I didn't like:

1. The deliberately inflammatory Rangarajan Nambi episode. I am not an exclusive Saivite nor am I an anti-Vaishnavite. But I was offended by this portrayal of Saivism. The lines from the song "Kallai Mattum Kandaal.." --

"Ettukkul Aindhu adangividum Aanal
Aindhukkul ettu adangaadhu.."

(Meaning: The eight-lettered Namo Narayanaya can encompass the five-lettered Nama Shivaya. But five letters cannot contain 8)

particularly inflamed me. If we're talking about Vaishnavites being victimized in the 12th century, let's talk about what's happening today in Srirangam and other Vaishnavite-dominated places. I've personally been discriminated against in Srirangam many, many times (within and without the temple).

2. Music. Himesh Reshamaiyya has single-handedly delivered a mortal blow to this movie.

3. The feet-licking sycophancy in the last scene -- what relation has Karunanidhi to this movie?!

4. Make-up overkill. Could've easily avoided 5-6 roles. Many of the characters didn't have depth and weren't developed well.

5. The Rangarajan Nambi episode didn't tie in with the rest of the story. If any of you knows how it relates, please do comment.

6. The title 'Dasavataram' has very minimal relation to the storyline. And that leads me to..

7. The movie is about Kamalhassan, the man and not about the story/characters/roles. This, according to me, is THE biggest drawback. Even the title is about the man doing 10 roles.

Definitely watchable once or twice!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Young Men in Spats - Page 123

In response to IBH's book tag: "The tag is about the book that you are currently reading, turn to page 123, count till line 5 and write down the lines after that!"

"But listen..."
"Good night, Mr. Widgeon."

The aunts said good night, too, and so did the butler. The girl Dahlia preserved a revolted silence.

From " Young Men in Spats" -- P.G. Wodehouse

I was looking for Jeeves-Wooster stories at the public library. Couldn't find a single one, darn it! So I settled for "Young Men in Spats".

Friday, June 13, 2008

'Dasavatharam', Cholas and Racism...

S is dead-stubborn that we should watch 'Dasavatharam' playing in Cincinnati this Sunday. We got the tickets yesterday. I wasn't (am) not very excited about it because I have my own personal grudge against this movie.

In one of the roles, Kamal plays Rangarajan Nambi of Srirangam. Rangarajan Nambi gets persecuted (in the movie) by Kulothunga Chozha I for his Vaishnavite faith. Kanniks told me that this role was based on Sri Ramanujar's life. Now, I have my own soft corner for the Cholas and I refuse to vilify these kings who nurtured Saivism/Vaishanvism alike and endowed millions to Vaishnavite temples (including Srirangam. There's an inscription in the temple to support this).

Personally, I've always felt that the Tamilnadu government glorified the Pandyas and the Pallavas while ignoring the Chozha heritage of TN. We hear of Narasimha Pallava of Mahabalipuram fame and the Tamil Sangam nurturing Pandyas of Madurai often in the history books. Why are Chozhas not given as much prominence? What about Raja Raja Chozha who retrieved the Tamizh devarams from ruin? I've never read more than 2 lines dedicated to Raja Raja Chozha or Rajendra Chozha.

Coming from the heart of Chozha countries, some of these things strike close to heart. Assuming that Kulothunga Chozha indeed was a religious fanatic, why single out Chozhas for religious persecution?! What about the Pandyan who massacred the Jains near Madurai? What about Narasimha Pallava/Mahendra Pallava who did the same?

I'll reserve final judgement after I see the movie. Watch out for more rants on this space..:)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Telephone guilt

The Mr. is gone to a traffic class all evening today, the result of getting a speeding ticket about 3 months back. You get to escape the hefty dollar fine by signing up for a 3.5 hour class. PB told me once that this lecture was actually quite engrossing. I'll find out from S tonight..:)

I hate cooking alone without conversational company. So I dialed a few friends I haven't called in ages. I always dread calling people after a looooong time. I can never tell what the opening gambit will be:

a) a gushing "Wow! How are you? I have so much to tell you...!" OR
b) a sarcastic "Oooh, you actually remember me?!! Glad you could spare a few minutes from your schedule!"

With a), the conversation just flows and you never feel the long gap in communication. With b), everything goes downhill from the first moment. This happened today. My friend tried to make me feel very guilty for not calling. I spent time justifying myself and explaining in detail my busy, daily schedule. In the end, I was exhausted and he was frustrated and neither of us got to really catch-up on our respective lives.

I've played this game myself sometimes. But that lasts for 30 seconds. This lasted 30 minutes. I think that sometimes it pays to take some things for granted -- like friendship. If a person's commitment/trust is continually called into question and one has to prove oneself almost daily, it becomes annoying. This is precisely the reason I don't call relatives as well!

Sometimes, when you have face-time with a person, all these guilt-games fade into inconsequence. Do telephonic conversations play-up insecurities and maybe, hasten the end of some relationships?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brands of 10 things I currently can't live without..

1. Internet

E-mail, photos, feed reader, blog, maps -- Google rules my life while I surf the web!

2. Yogurt & Buttermilk -- Organic Stone Valley Whole Milk Yogurt with Cream on Top & buttermilk

I have a tendency to put yogurt on anything I eat as a finishing
course -- curry, rotis, it really doesn't matter! :) I can't survive
without yogurt/buttermilk for a week!

3. Toothbrush -- Colgate

Honestly, I am not consciously inspired/loyal to Colgate. I've been using it since I was a kid and I don't see any reason to complain. So I stick with it. It is one of those things I take for granted.

4. Coffee -- Bru

For while I tried Nescafe. But nothing beats our good, old Bru!

5. People

I guess I don't have a brand for this one but the ones that are fun, lively and kind would make the cut..:) I can't survive without some kind of human contact everyday..

6. Cellphone -- Samsung T509

My first cellphone in the US was a Samsung which I absolutely loved. It was easy to use and the battery life was amazing. It didn't switch off randomly and the software was pretty intuitive. The next phone was the disastrous Moto RaZr which I bought in a fit of aattu mandhai mentality. Boy, did I regret it! After 2 years of it, I drove S crazy by insisting that I'll buy ONLY Samsung. This is one brand I am very loyal to!

7. Laptop -- Lenovo (nee IBM) Thinkpad

I am a huge fan of Thinkpads. I love their light-weight feel and the cooling system is the best I've seen. I own two Thinkpads..:)

8. Music --

iPod, iTunes, my car's mp3 player and my hardy laptop -- these things provide my daily fix of music. I guess there's no one brand I go to for my music.

9. Shoes -- Reebok

I am not a brand name junkie, in general. But when it comes to shoes, it makes a difference what you wear. Especially if you run/walk a lot. I like my current Reebok sneakers.

10. Videocam -- Sony

I use this to capture most of the memorable moments in my life. What'll I do without thee?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Carnatic musicians and the music lovers of today..

I cannot claim great theoretical knowledge of Carnatic music nor can I identify 200 different ragas in the bat of an eyelash. Expert musicians may frown at me because I can't tell Huseni apart from Nayaki. But I listen to lots of music and have strong opinions on music/musicians. I think D.K. Patammal's rendition of "Mamava Pattabhirama" is THE best. I might not like Sanjay's Abhogi as much as I like his Darbar. I like to listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam's Raga Dwijavanthi when I want to be soothed but I'd listen to the same Raga by Sudha Ragunathan if I want to feel hyper. It is my pet peeve that most artists sing "Anandamritakarshinim.." in Raga Amritavarshini like an express train and lose the beauty of Raga Amritavarshini. And I believe next to Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar, Ilayaraja is the king of Amritavarshini (Thoongadha Vizhigal Rendu from Agni Nakshathiram)!

I am sure there are millions of other novices like me who have similar ideas. Meet the new generation of armchair music philosophers. I am sure this clan existed as long as music has but this generation is more empowered. Technological profileration in the form of iPods, portable mp3/CD/Cassette players have helped this on. But the attitude of the music-listening public has changed as well. I don't have to wait until December season to buy expensive concert tickets to listen to T.M. Krishna or Sanjay or Nithyasree in full form. I can listen to music in the privacy of my own home/car when and where I choose to. Thanks to the Internet, I can listen to thousands of songs from lots of different artists. I form opinions & expectations even before I go to a concert.

I am stating the obvious here. So what does this new generation audience mean to performing artists? Familiarity breeds contempt. If a musician falls into a pattern of singing songs from his/her CDs all the time and does it in the exact same style, will the audience enjoy it? No more than once or twice. This is precisely what happened with me at the Aruna Sairam concert last week.

I like Aruna Sairam but this concert was like listening to one of her CDs. She sang Nannu Vidachi in Reetigowlai the exact same way as I've heard her in iTunes. Most songs didn't have raga alapana or neraval. They were just renditions of flat, straight-up krithis. Besides, the audience asked for 4-5 tukkadas which've been sung by her a thousand times before! I could almost guess even before she started --

Enna kavi padinalum in Nilamani
Baje Mrudunga in Darbari Kanada
Madu Meikkum Kanne -- Folk

I was looking for something new/refreshing and I was disappointed! How much can an artist afford to satisfy the audience?! Wouldn't it be like getting into a rut? In today's world where music is so freely available, I don't think artists can afford to get into a predictable pattern of songs.

I am very much a fan of Aruna Sairam. I believe the bhavam she brings to songs is quite hair-raising. But I would definitely like to see her improvise, sing new songs and startle the audience once in a while.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

T.M. Krishna Concert

I am writing this post in a pleasant, food-induced stupor (Vegetable pulao + raitha). I have to say that I've surpassed myself this time with the pulao! Yummmm..Of course, my pulao has nothing to do with T.M. Krishna's brilliant concert last week in Cincinnati..:-)

Frankly, I didn't go to the concert expecting too much. I like T.M. Krishna and own a couple of his CDs but I've never been raving fan of his. But he managed to convert me into a believer in the span of 3 hours and 45 minutes! It was a classic, traditional Carnatic concert replete with Ragam Tanam Pallavi. W
hat really attracted me in this concert was the refreshingly off-beat krithis that were chosen in very common Ragas. The ragas he chose for the evening were quite crowd-friendly -- Ananda Bhairavi, Kamas, Sankarabharanam, Atana, Riti Gowlai, Hamsanandi and Salaga Bhairavi. When he started on Atana, I thought he'd sing Tyagaraja's "Yela Nee Dayaradu" or Sivan's "Nee Iranga Enil". Surprisingly, he embarked on "Kumaralaya Nagara.." by Swathi Thirunal. For the main piece of the evening in Sankarabharanam, he chose "Dakshinamurthe.." in Misra Jhampa talam.

The Ragam Tanam pallavi was also quite an interesting piece demonstrating his mastery over intricate talams and ragas. He started off in Ritigowlai in a 10-beat cycle. In the pallavi section ("Dasaratha Bala Rama Chandraiyya"), he cascaded onto Mohanam, Dhanyasi, Kalyani before coming back to Riti Gowlai.

I think T.M. Krishna is half-way there on his way to greatness. I'd have loved to seen a bit more bhavam in his singing along with technical flourishes. This week its Aruna Sairam in Cincinnati. More on that concert next week....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Random rant to vent and make me feel better

Yesterday morning, I found out that a first cousin of mine has cancer. It was diagnosed recently and she had to go through surgery. I am quite fond of this cousin and it hurt me that she had to go through this trauma. We share a lot of similarities of personality and I see part of myself in her. That's why it hit home.

If she can get it, I can too (someday) because we share the same genes.

The worst thing is that she came to my wedding and she was already silently suffering.

News like this sends me into the "Why us, Dear God?" mode first. As I drive to work, all failures/frustrations in the extended family flash through my mind's eye -- failed marriages, cases of black magic, illnesses, heartbroken parents, fatherless children, shattered dreams. I don't talk with all my family members all the time but I think about them often. And each time some tragedy strikes, its like a wound in the collective consciousness. I feel it as much as the affected people do.

And of course, on days such as these, the universe tests one's patience by sending other irritants. I almost got hit by stupid drivers twice on my way to work -- once on the freeway and once on the exit from the freeway. Both these drivers decided to cut across lanes without indicators. For the first time in my life, I gave vent to road rage. Then, I had to end up reading about the Congo war and that caused even more misery.

Anyways, end of rant. Hopefully the sun will smile from the clouds soon enough..:)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In my random afternoon browsing , I ran across this article about the war in Congo. Incidentally, NPR ran a feature about the same war yesterday in their "All Things Considered" program. I suppose I should be used to these kinds of brutalities now after hearing about Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan etc...But I am not and I felt an overwhelming physical urge to just throw up after reading this article..:( Having to hang your own baby with your hands?! Jeez.

But the maturity of this woman is stunning. Hats off to her!

Zawadi has one big wish. She wants the Interahamwe, the Rwandan Hutu
militia, driven from the forests of Congo. "Do you also," I ask her,
"want these men, the ones who destroyed your family, to be punished,
tracked down and killed for what they did?"
Her answer is the same as a year ago: "No I don't. I still feel
that I don't want those people to be killed. I know that God will judge

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can we really ignore where we're from?

I watched Jodhaa Akbar. I loved it mainly because of Hrithik's performance as a dignified yet vulnerable emperor who's trying to woo a proud woman. This might never have happened in history but I loved the performance anyway (The scene where Maham Anga is briefing a sheepish Hrithik who gets distracted by his beautiful wife is class)!

Fueled by this movie, I began a frenzy of reading about the Mughals. All the Mughals except Akbar were well-read and they're surprisingly candid in their memoirs. I've read bits and pieces of Babur's writings, Jahangir's memoir, Aurangzeb's letters and the Ain-i-Akbari. History books have always emphasized that the Mughals after Babur were quintessentially Indian having been born and raised in Hindustan. I had also come to think of the Mughals as Indians and the British rule as an unjust "foreign" rule.

However, what really shocked me was how most of these Mughal emperors (except Akbar) viewed themselves as "outsiders" and "superior" beings to the local populace. Babur openly writes that he hates the clime and the "infidel" people of "Hindoostan". He viewed himself as a "ghazi" or holy warrior. Jahangir was openly a religious zealot and believed that his was the superior clan. Shah Jahan seems to have followed the pattern. Aurangzeb was perhaps the worst of them all. In one of his letters to his sons, he tells him to hold "firm to his faith" and to persecute the "infidels" mercilessly by torturing them. I can understand the "hold firm to your faith" part but torture your own subjects just because their non-believers? That too, 150 years after your ancestors entered Hindustan and adopted the country?

History books also seem to have mislead us by parroting that everyone was happy under Mughal rule and that the Britishers were the "bad guys" who fostered dissessions. Based on all these memoirs, it sure feels like the Hindu-Muslim discord was always there festering under the calm veneer of society. The flames were fanned higher by Aurangzeb who made it a point to destroy Hindu temples to build his palaces and places of pleasure. I don't think the resentment felt by the Hindu population chafing under Mughal rule was ever resolved. Before it reached a healthy conclusion, the Britishers took root in the land but it was always there, lurking. Godhra, Babri Masjid et al.. are just occasional outbursts of that resentment.

To some extent, I feel cheated. I know it sounds silly after 500 years. But here we are, preening our Mughal heritage to the world, crowing about Mughal paintings, music and the Taj Mahal as examples of beautiful, "Indian" art while the king who created it really felt like he was a Persian and not really part of Hindustan! :(

Being immigrants to the US, a lot of us face the same conundrum the Mughals faced. We want to hold onto our faith, our beliefs, our culture but we also try to blend in. How much blending in is acceptable? How much will make us just "one of them"-- a betrayer of our faith and values? Can we ever ignore the fact that we're Indian and make decisions excluding that fact? At least for first-generation NRIs, I don't think it is possible. No matter how many years you've lived in your adopted country, the call of the homeland will always be in the blood and it will always resound stronger than any other call.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The My-Five Tag

Umm..err..the thing that has come out of trying to write this tag is this re-discovery of how crappy some (most?) of my previous posts have been. Bad English, bad usage, could've rephrased some sentences etc.. The list goes on. But here they are..


My forays into personal, familial stuff on this blog has always been cautious and limited. Lots of relatives, friends and extended family read this blog and that's always a deterrent..:) I've been flirting for a while with starting an anonymous blog where I can say anything I want. But I've been stumped by what to call it.

Anyhoo, in what little glimpses I've given of my family in this blog, my baby brother, dad and this rant make an appearance.

Me, me, me!

If you just surf through the archives, you'll find that's what this blog is all about: ME. There's a lot of useless info here including what I like, what I don't like, what drives me nuts, who I like etc..:) If you don't know me much, here's two posts you can read to acquaint yourself -- here and here.


One of the best trips I had in the US was to the Niagara. I went with Priya and Venky back in 2005 and it was quite a memorable trip. Apart from the usual sight-seeing stuff, there were some, umm..err, very funny incidents on the trip. Since Venky might not agree with me, I dare not post them here..:) But this is what I wrote after we came back from Niagara. Here's a post I wrote with fond memories about my childhood friend Gunpun here.

I daresay there have been lots of posts here about friends. Surf around if you want to find more..:)

My love

Of course, it is marathamizhan..:) Then come the beautiful temples of TN and Tamizh!

What I like

Music, Pets, Indian handicrafts and arts and writing in this space.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In which I manage to successfully throw garbage on a bitter cold, ice-rain day

I am watching Friends ("In which they play touch football on Thanksgiving day") as I write this. So you can tell where my title inspiration came from. Tomorrow is garbage day in the area where we live. When we were dividing household responsibilities, I'd sneakily managed to push off putting out garbage onto S's list. I claimed the delicacy of the fairer sex and my perpetual cold hands/feet in winter. Anyone who has had to do garbage in the winter will vouch that it requires physical endurance. You have to attire yourself for the cold and brave the icy, whipping winds. You see, I really do have valid reasons for getting S to do it. So this can't really be categorized as sneaky.

Anyhoo, we usually only remember garbage day when we notice our punctual neighbors' garbage cans outside as we drive to work. By then, of course, it would be too late to go back home. We'd solemnly tell each other that next time, we would definitely remember to do the garbage on time instead of letting it hibernate in our garage for one more week. You all know how that story would've carried on.

S is out of town for some days. So this glorious responsibility of throwing garbage fell on me this week and wonder of wonders, I actually remembered! On this horrible ice-rain, sleet and slush-rain day, the brave trooper decided to do her duty. She knew it would be cold and bundled herself up in two sweatshirts, gloves, hat and a scarf. What the brave trooper didn't know was that the driveway would be all covered by ice. As I moved my car to wheel the garbage cans out, the car started slipping. Brakes and handbrake didn't work. So I just let the car slowly slip down to the curb and then parked it. Now, I put one foot on the driveway and fell with a resounding thud. No worries, I thought, I've got to put the garbage out. I managed to crawl my way up to the house and rolled out the garbage. Mission accomplished with two more falls, a few grazes and some ungraceful, waltzing on the ice. Whew.

Now, I wanted to park the car back in the garage. This was seeming like an Olympian task to me at this point. The car refused to get any traction on the icy driveway. It slipped, twisted and waltzed its way back to the curb each time I tried. So, after a ten minute fight, I gave up and managed to decently park the car on the curb.

So, here I am, sitting on the couch with hot badam milk, watching "Friends", nursing my sore body but feeling proud about my garbage accomplishment! Go girl power! Now you know why I had to write this. So much adventure for nothing? Naah. Can't let it go without a post! :)

PS: Arun, I've not forgotten your tag. It follows tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yoga Craze

I've become a Yoga freak. Initially, I tried a couple of Ayurvedic home remedies and they worked like a charm. Then, one day, I came home with a tension headache and read somewhere that Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose) cures tension headaches. I tried it and in a couple of minutes, I was feeling much better! So, I am officially now a Yoga fan. We got this BKS Iyengar book about Yoga yesterday and I am planning to religiously follow a Yoga regimen.

Of course, as with all fads that hit me, let's see if I actually follow this through to completion. But, this one, I really, really, really, really want to do be consistent!:)

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snakes in Dreams...

I read "Queen of Dreams" by Chita Divakaruni Banerjee in the 10 days before my wedding. Originally, I'd borrowed it from a friend when he went to India. But somehow, it ended up sitting on my shelf for a year without me turning a single page of it. I think I had a pre-conceived notion that the book would put me to sleep (maybe because of the "Dreams" reference in the title..?) and never read it. So, this was my in-flight reading for the trip home for the wedding and if it put me to sleep on the flight, good for me! In between shopping trips, chatting with relatives and mad dashes to the tailor, I finished reading the book.

Honestly, I can't say I was very impressed. The plot was initially very intriguing and definitely seemed to go somewhere. Rakhee is a confused ABCD with a very strange mom. The mom sleeps apart from her daughter and husband. She takes to sudden bouts of illnesses and has strange people visit her. Rakhee stumbles across her mom's diary after her death and reads about her past in snatches. It is a tale of caves, dream-tellers, of time travel and the "Elders" etc..Anyways, I was looking for some clarity and closure toward the end of it all. But there was none. Instead I started wondering if Rakhee's mom was perhaps just, you know, mental and living in two realities.

Anyhoo, the opening passages of the book say that if snakes appear in dreams, they foretell change. When I was between 5 - 15 years old, I would regularly have creepy dreams about snakes. One repetitive dream I had was a five-headed snake slithering down our street calling out my name and when I came out, it would start conversing with me in Sanskrit. Another one was when we'd be playing cricket on our terrace and the ball would fall into the sunshade. I'd climb into the sunshade to get the ball and suddenly find myself mired in a snake pit. None of the snakes in my dream would ever bite me or hurt me. But they'd slither around in their yucky fashion and make me extremely upset. Not that these dreams prevented me from sleeping or anything. But they were just mildly annoying and fatiguing.

My parents consulted some astrologers about this. They said that Mars was very weak in my horoscope and I had to wear a topaz ring to offset the weakness of Mars. I was also told to pray to Lord Muruga every day as he was the commander of all the planets. Well, honestly, I can't say all this helped. Nonetheless, the topaz ring was pretty and I still wear it today..:) I continued having horrible dreams until I was about 17. Then, one fine day, they suddenly ceased.

I don't know if in some Freudian way I'd come to terms with life and therefore, my subconscious stopped surfacing these dreams. Or maybe I'd just gotten used to snakes in some way. Anyways, it was a relief in some ways. Almost everyone I know has some recurring dream or other. What's yours?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Wuthering Heights..

I had this book for non-detailed study in Grade 9. I can confidently say that I never really GOT the book. Oh, I understood what was happening but I couldn't really connect to the spirit of the book at that age. The emotional motivations of the characters were just too complex for me to fathom --- especially the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. Why did Heathcliff torture Catherine if he loved her? And why would she lead him on if she liked him and then not marry him?!! In the end, I couldn't really figure out if Heathcliff was a good guy or an utter villain or why he did what he did. I disliked the book.

Last week, a friend forwarded me a short story with a protagonist called Heathcliff. That reminded me of Wuthering Heights and on a whim, I decided to actually read a synopsis of Wuthering Heights. Wonder of wonders, it made a lot more sense to me now than 13 years ago! I think it takes some emotional maturity to understand how intense love can turn into an intense love-hate emotion. By the way, I still believe that if love turns to hate, it was not really love in the first place. But I've seen it happen and I guess I can accept it now.

So, my advice to the designers of school syllabi is: Don't introduce novels just because they're high sounding and have good titles. You're killing the spirit of the literary work by introducing it prematurely to a young audience when they're not capable of appreciating the different shades of the novel. It gives them a dislike of such works.

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Friday, January 25, 2008


I was chatting with a colleague at work about a problem in our code. When I mentioned it, his immediate reaction was,

"So, what's the workaround?"

It surprised me because I was expecting more like, "So how do we solve this?"

I guess it is indicative of the times we live in. We are the generation that always wants "workarounds" instead of figuring out why something is happening. This seems to be especially true with health concerns. An acquaintance of mine has severe stomach ulcers. During a phone conversation, I asked him why he'd ended up like this. He just chuckled and said:

"Who cares why? I just want to know how to deal with it!"

Sometimes, I wish God had just made our body transparent; you know, like glass, so you can see through to the internal systems. That way, we'd be more aware of how smoking chokes our lungs in soot; Or how that pizza we're wolfing down is lining our arteries with fat; Or how that sweet donut we reach for every morning is just tiring out our pancreas; Or how our refusal to exercise is just over-working our heart.

I succumb to some unhealthy temptations too (my sweet tooth is one such) but I try to keep it balanced by working out and eating right most of the time. The human body is just an amazing piece of engineering and aesthetics. It is time some of us realized to give it some respect and admiration instead of working around it.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Don't Blink..It is Pink, Pink, Pink All the Way!

You know how, when you commit to something publicly, you're made to bite the dust immediately? Like the time you turned down dinner invites from friends proclaiming that you're going to the gym that evening and wouldn't miss working out for the world. Then, it turned out that you had a very bad day at work and all you want to do is sit moping on the couch. Of course, it would so happen that the friend in question would call and snicker,

"Hey, I thought you were at the gym??! What're you doing at home? So much for your resolution! You missed a good dinner! Ha!"

It is indeed true, dears, that the Universe loves to mess with your head. It loves embarassing you in front of other people.

I've shouted to the world from rooftops that I don't like the color
pink. When my mother-in-law asked me what color
sarees I would like for the wedding, I had just one condition: No hot
pink or nearby shades. Anything else is fine. I was doing just fine until hubby dear got so attracted to a pink saree with kundan work at Pothy's. While I gulped and swallowed looking for alternatives, my mom and MIL swooped down with admiring cries of "Ooohs" and "aaahs". Umm..err. And so it was, dears, that I added the first-est, pink attire to my wardrobe. Anyways, I think that was an omen -- a sign from the Gods -- to mend my pink-hating ways. By the time I returned to the US after the wedding, I had added 3 more items in pink --

1. 1 gorgeous lehnga in pink courtesy Mum.
2. Kundan set to match the lehnga, also in pink courtesy Mum.
3. One more pink saree courtesy MIL.

Sigh. Honestly, I can't really say I hate those dresses. I mean, they're so gorgeous despite the color! Like I said, these were all signs of what was about to happen to me.

Anyways, not to bore you with all my personal make-over stories. I started off writing this post because I just finished reading "Can you keep a secret?" by Sophie Kinsella. And, dears, I am simply hooked! The story, like the cover, is a hot pink, cutesy, girly-girly plot. I never thought I'd become addicted to chick-lit but I am. The protagonist is simply too funny and preposterous. She gets into all sorts of weird situations but manages to wriggle out in the end! All-in-all, too good to pass up and I had to finish the book in one sitting (4 hours)!

Oh, dears, this doesn't mean that only girls should read this book. If you just want some mindless fun served with a sprinkling of human drama, you should read it! :) And umm..if you want some more of this, you should read the Shopaholic series by the same author. I did. And although I might never, ever get to the point where I love hot pink clothes, I think I've grown to appreciate those who wear it..:)

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Monday, January 14, 2008

I think Gunpun was my first "best friend". Whatever "best friend" means these days. Sometimes you find yourself confiding personal things to colleagues, neighbors or just acquaintances because they're available to listen! S, one of my closest friends, is in India and I hardly get to talk to her these days. So last week, my colleague poured out his kids' illness woes to me and I found myself telling him about my visa problems, green card etc...Anyways, but I do think that Gunpun & I would've grown up together as fast friends if we'd been in the same town.

He moved to Stuart school a few kilometers away from home since Bhagavanlu school was only a nursery school with classes only till Preparatory. I was disconsolate for a week and even cried in class. Besides, I was in Preparatory now (next to UKG) and I had a horrible class monitor called Likki. She was a really thin girl and kept calling me "moti" in class. I even believe she secretly made fun of my plump cheeks. To make things worse, she always made first rank beating me by a couple of marks. Suffice to say, we didn't see eye to eye.

But serendipitously, I got double promoted as well after a couple of months in Prep! So I got to skip 1st grade and go to the 2nd grade. And I was to join Gunpun at Stuart school. Yippeee! I threw tantrums and got into the same section as he was in. I think he was also elated to see me. Mrs. Das, the class teacher, made me sit next to some weird girl. I got all upset because I wanted to sit next to Gunpun. My father told me to be a "good girl" and articulate my request to Mrs. Das myself. But I was terrified of being denied. So I complained loudly to my parents and cried so much that my Dad came down to school one day and told Mrs. Das that I had to sit next to Gunpun. I think he was very annoyed at having to leave work and rush to school mid-day because of his temperamental kid. But it turned out that Mrs. Das was my father's colleague's wife and they had a nice chit-chat about me and everything else under the sun.

Everything turned out OK. Gunpun and I remained best friends. I spent a lot of time at their house. His younger brother, Tathu, was a particularly fun kid to be around with! For a change, Gunpun & I could boss him around because he was younger to us by 2 years. Hehe. He was eager to please us both and he'd do anything we asked him to. Apart from all that, Tathu & I had a bond. I felt all protective about him and he was very affectionate to me (called me his elder sister and all that!). He was a bit naughty though and used to get in trouble with the colony dog -- Balu.

Balu Dog was none's dog in particular but everyone in the colony loved him. He was kinda common property and ate at whosever place he wished to. He was also the protector of the colony. He'd bark and chase down any strangers at night and I think, once, he even caught a thief. Tathu, being the boisterous kid he was, would throw stones at Balu or tie tin cans to his tail. Balu was a very, very patient dog and put up with troublesome kids better than most. Once, my brother put one of his building blocks into Balu's mouth and stuck his hand in to retrieve it. Poor Balu still had his mouth wide open when my Mom rushed out to find my brother happily fishing in his mouth. But Tathu drove Balu nuts. He'd harangue the poor thing so much that Balu would bark loudly and chase him madly down the street. Anyways, none would believe Tathu when he complained against Balu. Such was Balu Dog's standing in Acharya Vihar!

The night before we left Bhubaneswar for good, Balu came to our house and slept in our verandah with a sad face. Somehow, he knew we were leaving. My dad gave him food but he refused to eat. He stayed with us until the last minute when we got in a car to leave. As hard as this is to believe, my parents thought he had tears in his eyes as he watched us go..:(

I don't know if Gunpun & I would've been good friends if we'd grown up together. One never knows about these things. But I'd definitely love to at least know where he is and what he's doing right now. So, Devidutta Panda, if you ever land up on this blog and remember me, do drop me a line! I'd love to catch up on life with you!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Gunpun, Tathu And Balu Dog

'Tis the cold,miserable weather outside that's making me turn to warm memories for comfort. Hence this nostalgic post.

As a child, I'd like to think I was quite independently minded although, Lily Madam -- my LKG teacher -- phrased it a bit unflatteringly as "stubborn and sometimes moody". I don't think I liked my initial school years very much. Mom had taught me alphabets, numbers, colors, animals, nursery rhymes and what-not even before I went to school. And I found it very boring to sing "A B C D" all day in LKG when I knew how to do it quite well. And what was with all the classwork and homework stuff?

"Write A B CD 10 times"
"Write 1 to 100 10 times"

If I could write 1 to 100 correctly 1 time, what sense does it make to write it 10 times? So I refused to do this absolutely boring homework. I was very logical even when I was 3 and my teacher didn't see my genius. She made us write our homework in the calendar book so parents could monitor them. Because I was refusing to note it down in my calendar, Lily Madam did it herself. The next morning when my Dad came to drop me off at school, she promptly complained to him:

"Your daughter refuses to write her homework down in the calendar. So I do it for her now. And if I ask her to write the alphabets 5 times, she does it just one time! Please check her calendar at home and make sure she does it right."

Hmph. None listens to a 3 year old, anyway. So I was forced to actually do my homework with my mom watching me while I did it. She wouldn't let me play if I didn't finish HW right after school. So, I came up with an ingenious plan. If I had to write numbers from 1 to 100, I'd write 1 to 50 correctly. Then, I'd skip numbers in between. Like, I'd skip 53-59 and 71 to 75 etc...This way, no one could find out and everyone would be happy with their stupid homeworks. Hehehehe. Mom and Lily Madam would scan through the first few rows of numbers and the last few rows (I wouldn't blame them. It must be sooo boring to look at the same numbers in 30 different notebooks). And I'd make sure I wrote them perfectly. In between, I had my freedom to do as I choose!

This actually worked for sometime. But then, one day, mom got suspicious about how fast I was completing my homework and she started scanning everything. She was furious when she found out my little scheme of cheating! I whined to her that she knew I knew how to write 1 to 100 but to no avail. She notified Lily Madam of this trick the next day. Of course, I was out of sorts and hated Lily Madam for the rest of the day. I was sulking, didn't pay attention to her and I kept asking for bathroom breaks. So she unfairly commented that I was a "moody child". Duh.

Here's where Gunpun came in. His real name is Devidutta Panda and he lived down the street from us in Acharya Vihar. My mom decided she needed someone to monitor me at school. She made Gunpun sit next to me in class. I didn't like him at first. After all, what kid likes an overseer? I kept pinching or scratching him so he'd go away to some other desk. But he just put his metal, school box in between us so I couldn't do anything without making a lot of noise and the teacher noticing.

I've forgotten the details of how we came to be best friends or how he managed to win my heart. But I do remember that we'd both do our homeworks in the free period at school. We made it a game -- whoever finished last would have to be the seeker in Hide-n-seek that evening. So both of us would scramble to finish first. And then, he would arrange my notebooks neatly in my school box, sharpen my pencils, make sure I'd not forgotten anything in my desk and escort me to my mom or dad after school. I just loved him! :)

After a point, it became so that I'd listen only to him. If Lily Madam wanted me to practice cursive writing between the 2 lines of the 4 line notebook, she'd tell him. And if he promised to write along with me, I'd do it. We would play in the evenings on the street with his little brother. So it was all wonderful until he got double promoted and moved to a different school.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Who has the charisma?

I've been following the US Presidential race. I've been interested in the race just because of two people -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary, if she wins the Democractic nomination, will be the first female candidate for presidence. Obama, if he wins, will be the first colored presidential candidate. Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses last week in a major setback to Mrs. Clinton. Now she's on the aggressive determined to win New Hampshire this week.

I favor Obama because he also has that indefinable charisma that Bill Clinton effortlessly exudes. When Obama talks, you feel that he's speaking to you personally straight from his heart. There's a very tantalizing honesty to his body language too. I think that being more aggressive, Hillary will reinforce the legend of the cold, calculating, ruthless woman bent on limitless power. As much as I am a supporter of feminist ideals, I do feel the coldness in Hillary's demeanour when she meets people. It's like she's somehow holding back a part of her; Like she's talking to people because she has to but not because she enjoys it.

Anyways, I tip Obama to win the ticket and I like him too! We'll see what happens in New Hampshire.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

On the topic of New Year celebrations...

We threw a huge party for my brother's first birthday. I really cannot include myself in the "we" as in "We threw the party" because I was only 5 years old back then. My parents did most of the work. All I had to do was flaunt my baby brother to everyone and smile for pictures. I have a very misty recollection about it but I do think it was a grand bash. We were in Bhubaneshwar then and all the kids in Acharya Vihar were invited. We even had gifts for all my friends like crayons, pencils, pencil cases, balloons etc...I used to love pencil boxes back then! My mom used to get me one with various Disney characters each time we went to the local superstore.

Of course, people tell me that my first birthday party was an even grander affair because I was the first child and all and Dad had invited all his office colleagues. Fancy that. I hope all of them got me nice presents but since I can't remember any of it, I am willing to forgive them even if they didn't.

Anyways, that is the only party I can recall that our family threw for a birthday. We were never a party family, you know. No cake-cutting or shouts of "Surprise" at midnight or gifts wrapped with shiny silver paper or parents fawning over how wonderful we were or any of those things. In fact, my dad hates to blow out candles on birthdays. He thinks that it should be a day when we light candles, not snuff them out. I agree with him on that point. Birthdays meant that Mom would cook an awesome meal and make nice payasam or some other exotic sweet (This year, when I happened to be in India for my birthday, she made badam cake and pakoras). We would wear our new clothes, go to a nearby temple and perform archanai. And that was that.

The logic extended to New Year also. As kids, I don't think my brother and I were ever awake till midnight on New Year's eve. It was just like any other day. But we'd visit family and friends, watch some special programs on TV, go to a fair or a movie and maybe eat out. But nothing compared to the hoopla we see these days about the "New Year". S & I spent the last moments of 2007 at a friend's place. We played "Sequence" until midnight, broke the bubbly, wished each other with lots of hand pumping et al, ate amazing home-made layered chocolate cake and posed for funny pictures. It was good fun because hanging out with friends is fun. But I wouldn't ascribe any of my joyfulness or levity to the fact that it was New Year's eve. I sometimes don't know what all the fuss is about.

Do people party on New Year's eve because they are celebrating the end of a strenuous year? Or are they celebrating a psychological watershed and decide to grow as a person in the coming year? Or is New Year's just an empty excuse to party? It really does make me wonder because I get these calls on January 1st and everyone asks me, "Soooooooo what did you do yesterday?Please don't tell me you spent it at someone's home? Come on, girl, didn't you hit the clubs?" Personally, I think that it is great to spend New Year's at home or at a friend's place celebrating the things that are important -- companionship, friends and of course, good food..:) I don't think its my cup of tea to go clubbing on New Year's eve with the mad, mad crowds and dance to wild music. I might try it once in a while but certainly not every year.

All that said, Happy New Year to all of you! Hope this year turns out to be a great year for all of you. As far as this blog goes, I think I have to make two solemn promises for this year:

1. I'll try to post more frequently.
2. I'll reply to all comments..:) I know I've been a laggard as far as this goes. I'll promise to be a good girl. There.

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