Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Two things..

Avatar 3D:

It has been many years since I gaped slack-jawed and open mouthed at a movie. Those "awed" moments were in my childhood when I was stunned by anything novel. Not many things can jolt me today. But, I came out of Avatar feeling like I was 10 again -- awed, amused, entertained and contented. Thanks to James Cameron for that.. :)

T.M. Krishna in Margazhi Mahotsavam:

After listening to Kalyani, Sankarabharanam, Thodi and Bhairavi over a thousand times in many different concerts, it takes something quite extra-ordinary in a singer to make an audience appreciate a ragam as if new. T.M. Krishna managed that. His Kalyani was truly most sublime. The "Chinnanjiru Kiliye" rendition in Chala Nattai, Hamir Kalyani, Huseni & Subhapanthuvarali was a breath of fresh mountain air. He brought out the beauty of the vivaadhi swarams in Chala Nattai stunningly! Bliss. Thanks to Jaya TV for broadcasting this.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What ifs...

My man has a problem with hypothetical questions. I think many men do. Its like God has turned off the "What if.." switch in men's brains. Which is just fine with me because I don't think it would be fun to have another person in the house come up with crazy scenarios all the time. But it sure would be nice if he answers my hypotheticals..:)

One of our first fights was -- believe it or not -- about Angelina Jolie. I was browsing "People" magazine at a supermarket checkout line.

"Angelina Jolie seems to have such a fun life with lots of travel! How cool is that. Would you like to be Angelina Jolie?"

S gave me a blank stare.

"What? What would you do if you were Angelina Jolie?"

"But I am not Jolie."

"Yeah, I know. But imagine: what if you could live Angelina Jolie's life for one day. What would you do?"

S decided to be mulishly stubborn.

"But I am not Angelina Jolie. I don't want to be."

"Ack. Just imagine you are..I know you're not."

"I can't imagine something like this."

"Why not?"


"What do you mean 'why'? Can you imagine being someone else -- like maybe Gandhi?"

"No. I am S. I don't want to be anyone else. I can't imagine being anyone else."

Okay. I thought that was a very conceited answer. So you can imagine the conversation went south after that point. I accused him of being unimaginative and he told me I was crazy. This was 4 years ago.

Yesterday, we were watching "Monsters Vs. Aliens" featuring a 50 ft woman called "Gynormica". Her boyfriend dumps her because she becomes a 50 ft freak. So I turned to Sujan and said,

"Will you dump me if I become 50 ft tall?"

"I refuse to answer that question."

"Why? Its a simple question. All you have to do say is 'No, honey, I'll never, ever dump you'."

"I refuse to answer that question because its improbably stupid and its not funny."

"But why? What if I get hit by a meteorite tomorrow and become radioactive or something?"


Why do I even try? Grrr. Ack. Thbbbtt.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gallery Hop..

A friend has been telling me for quite some time about "Gallery Hop" nights in downtown Lexington. On these select nights, Lexington's downtown art galleries are all free to the public for viewing. As my friend said, it is the one night in Lex "where you feel like you're in a cool big city". My social life being rather abysmal right now, I decided it wouldn't hurt to be "hip" and see some faces. So off we went yesterday night to downtown Lexington.

We first walked into a gallery right off the public library in downtown. They had a series of pictures of people working in different professions in Ecuador. S and I had a "Kadhala Kadhala"-esque moment. We stared at all the different pictures pretending to see some deeper meaning all the while wondering why this was "artsy". Finally, as we exited the gallery, we caught the title of the display -- "Vanishing professions of Ecuador". Ah, ok. Made much more sense.

The next stop was the Lexington Downtown Arts Center. They had a few cute wooden doll exhibits and more modernistic art which I failed to grasp. It was only when we walked into the "Alfa Alfa " restaurant that we could finally relate something.. :p The food was home-made, hot and delicious! We had a sumptuous dinner and returned back home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last night, on Jaya TV, I was watching Actor Sarangapani in the v.v.old movie "Penn" sing "Pennai nambaadhe" rather loudly. The song was pretty funny and Sarangapani even did a Vadivelu-esque dance step that had me howling with laughter. It was only when he got to the line, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே" that all my feminist instincts were roused. I've heard this saying many times and absorbed it without question. I never had paused to actually contemplate the meaning behind it until yesterday night.

When Parimalam of Big Street woefully reported that her elder brother had eloped with a mechanic's daughter and her father was up to his neck in gambling debts, people were quick to point fingers at her mom and her supposed ineptitude in holding the house together. After all, they said, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே." When my father's cousins drove out their parents, frittered away all their wealth on movies/racing and were reduced to penury, everyone in my father's family blamed the extravagance of their cousins' wives. My father shook his head and said you-know-what.

Now, onto the actual saying itself. In mythology, Chandiran (the moon god) and Indiran (God of the devas) are notorious for often falling into stupid escapades, getting cursed by an irate rishi/powerful demi-god and spending centuries waiting for redemption. In fact, without these two characters, Indian mythology would have a dearth of colorful stories. But the kicker is this. If Indiran decides to fall in love with an innocent rishi patni (Rishi's wife) who happened to be minding her own business, how, pray, is it the fault of the woman?! Note that Indiran is supposed to have a harem of thousands and thousands of women. Similarly, if Chandiran can't keep his roving eye under control and gets cursed by some irate husband, how fair is it to blame the woman? It seems to me that Indiran and Chandiran brought about their own downfall.

The reason it irked me so much is that even today, we see cases where a woman gets blamed for dressing "provocatively" and thereby inviting harassment. The offender gets away with a slap on the wrist whereas the woman gets a big lecture on being a "bharatiya naari". I've heard of similar dispensations in cases of eve-teasing in Chennai. Colleges advise that women shouldn't wear salwar kameez or churidhars lest they "provoke" lust in men. I am sure those rishi patnis and other virtuous women of yore wore extremely modest clothing but that didn't prevent Indiran/Chandiran from indulging their libido, did it?

I think its funny how the "blame-it-on-the-woman" game has been on-going since god-knows-when. From families falling into financial ruin to dysfunctional families to men having affairs, everything gets blamed on the woman. And we continue to propagate it with all these seemingly innocuous sayings like, "இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் பெண்ணாலே." Maybe, we should encourage men to take responsibility for their own actions by saying,

இந்திரன் கெட்டதும் தன்னாலே, சந்திரன் கெட்டதும் தன்னாலே.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Real me Vs. Blog me..

My husband tells me that I have a personality that invites weird questions/observations from people. Everything's fine and dandy in my world when my virtual life and my "real" life don't intersect. But when there's some overlap, it gets a bit zany. People feel like they know me real well because of my blog. I suppose people get a bit disappointed when they find that "real" me is not as fun as "blog" me.

"I thought you would be really gregarious. But you're not."

"Ummm..I am always like this. It takes time for me to warm up to people. "


The "why" always gets me. Would anyone ask the same question of S? No. Hmph.

"I guess I am a reserved person. I don't talk much in person until I know them real well.."

"No, you're not. I've read all your blogs and you are very out going."

Oh boy.

"Erm..yeah, I am. But I've met you in person for only 5 minutes.."

Hehe. Weak laugh. Now I feel like I am Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Full of conceit and disdain.

"So..what's up?"


When under pressure to talk, I can barely think of anything meaningful. Has this ever happened to anyone? For god's sake, I can't even make some comment about the weather! Ugh.

"Hmph. You put out all these personal things on your blog but you won't talk to me in person? I think you're being very rude to me."

Mental head-thunk. How do I get into these conversations?

"NO! I am not being rude..."

"So your blogs are not the true you?"

"Well, they are...but I get to selectively post what I want there..which may have misled you.."

"You're a false woman."

That does it. What does a "false woman" even mean? Is it like "false teeth" or something?

I start talking weird gibberish because I am under pressure to talk. Which only goes to re-inforce the opinion that I've lost my marbles. No way to build a good readership.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Guilty pleasures..

Not sure if anyone out there is wondering why I've been absent from blogosphere for quite sometime. But if you are, then here's the answer:

It has been an early winter in Lexington. I've been huddling inside with good books and movies. Having exhausted good chick-lit reads quite some time back, I strolled into the library for something new. "Finger Lickin' Fifteen" seemed to be a rather interesting title. Plus the cover was a beautiful, bright orange and I needed something bright to offset the gloom of winter. I fell so in love with the book, I started backtracking to the first 14 books in the Stephanie Plum series by Evanovich!

This series will not win any prizes for literary excellence. Nor will it wring your heart with moving stories set in war-torn nations. It most definitely will not rock your world with beautiful prose or poetry. But if you are like me and love a feisty heroine who muddles through life as a bounty hunter bouncing from one humorous adventure to another, this is the book for you! I am on #6 of the series now and I still have 9 more to go. Perfect to cuddle up on the couch with on cold, wintry evenings. Yummmm.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Female dumpers..

I was recently at a gathering where I ran into an old acquaintance. Back when I got to know her, she was living with her boyfriend and they were going steady. Both of them are now happily married to other people. The nub happens to be in the fact that she dumped her boyfriend who was well-liked by most of their common friends. So as the dumper, she became the villainess of the piece in their friends' eyes.

So, at this party I went to, the air was rife with awkwardness. Everyone was trying to avoid talking of her ex, her recent wedding, her husband etc.. I tried to initiate conversation but she was very guarded in her replies. She obviously thought (so would I) that I was judging her for her past actions. I wasn't but I generally get very awkward in a generally awkward atmosphere. I am not one of those people who can break the ice by saying something hilarious.

Anyway, I felt really, really sorry for her. I think it takes great courage to walk out of a relationship. The longer the relationship, the harder it becomes. But I respect her for the fact that she knew her own mind, decided that something wasn't working and was bold enough to find someone else.

It got me thinking if society treats female dumpers a bit more harshly. If a man dumps a woman, most people regret the fact, feel sorry for the woman and then move on. People might think the guy is an #@$ but they give him the benefit of the doubt. But if the woman is the dumper, then there are all these whispers of, "What kind of a woman is she to dump a guy after x years? What kind of morals does she have?"

Totally unfair but then, women get the wrong end of the stick most of the time anyway..

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Little Miss Sunshine

I am the Queen of the Netflix queue in our house. Since S doesn't bother to create/manage online accounts and suggest movies, I get to have all the fun. To his credit, he rarely ever protests about any movie I get. God-given tremendous patience stands him in good stead while watching movies and it is I that usually ends up walking away from a boring movie mid-way through.

I marketed "Little Miss Sunshine" as a comedy movie. It got two Oscars and I saw some good reviews online. Figured it would be a nice evening watch. 20 minutes into the movie, S and J were staring me down asking me what in the world made this a "comedy" movie?!! S said that he only found the movie pathetic, not funny. I turned around for support and found my father staring very intently at the TV screen, hands crossed, brows drawn in concentration.

"Appa, don't you find this funny?"

"I haven't understood a single dialogue in this movie for the past 20 minutes.I am staring at the screen in the hopes I'll get at least a single dialogue before I go to bed."

Doh. Okay. No luck there. Soon S and J bailed out too.

I finally managed to finish the movie yesterday. I have to admit that it wasn't an out-and-out, laugh-out-loud funny movie. It is dark humor all the way through. But watching the antics of the characters on screen, I couldn't help chuckling a couple of times. But toward the end, I was more disturbed and shocked than anything else.

The story revolves around little Olive Hoover. She has a dysfunctional family with a foul-mouthed grandpa, an aggressive father who wants to win at any cost, a homosexual uncle who is recovering from a suicide attempt and a Nietzche-reading brother who has sworn a vow of silence until he becomes a pilot. Olive herself dreams of becoming a beauty queen and the entire family drives her to one such contest called "Little Miss Sunshine".

The final few scenes showed how beauty contests for young children work. It was awful to watch 7 year old kids made up like adults, doing adult-like moves and even looking like them! One of the contestant girls had exactly a doll face (I swear. No exaggeration. It was like watching the doll in "Child's Play" come alive!). And I positively squirmed when Olive decides to do a pseudo strip-tease dance on stage. Ugh.

So, anyway, if you're just looking for a fun movie to watch, please don't pick "Little Miss Sunshine". If you want to get a good dose of reality, then watch this movie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I don't get terribly excited about birthdays. But this year was special because, after a gap of nearly 8 years, my parents and my brother were all around in-person for my birthday. S baked a lovely upside-down pineapple cake which came out totally fluffy and yummy. And he gave me an exquisite, hand-carved gift that took him many hours to finish! This is the most creative gift yet that I've received from him. Thanks, S ! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chithi, serials and the like..

"Chithi" -- the mega-serial -- marked a watershed moment in Tamil TV serials going from good to tolerable to absolutely nonsensical. There was much hullabaloo in Srirangam when this serial started airing in 1999 (?). The ads had been showing for a good month before the launch and everyone was terribly excited seeing the Srirangam temple elephant in the title song. Folks living in Mainguard gate were enthralled with the shots of Malaikottai and Cauvery. All-in-all, many people in Trichy were going to be glued to the TV come premiere-night.

Rumors floated around that the entire serial was set in Srirangam. My cousin came home with news that her friend's house in East Chithirai Street had been used for filming the first few episodes. Both of us made a slight detour to the said house during one of our shopping trips. We were terribly excited!

Anyway, the serial was good enough for the first few episodes. After that, CJ Bhaskar or someone else decided that the public had no brains and started dishing out crap. Of course, many more crappy serials followed.

The reason for this post is not weepy Tamil soaps but rather, another class of TV serials that seem to be extinct now. I had long ago given up hope on serials until S suggested watching "Rudhra Veenai". I was sceptical initially but started watching anyway. I was totally thrilled with the direction, screenplay and the story! "Marma Desam" and "Vidaadhu Karuppu" followed on my list. Director Naga has done such an excellent job with the lighting, plot, casting and dialogues!

Watching the series made me wonder how we made the descent from the likes of "Marma Desam" into crappy serials like "Selvi". When I was growing up, we used to watch "Kaiyalavu Manasu.." and "Vanna Kolangal" regularly. There were many more classy serials the names of which I can't remember right now. Why are comedy/mystery stories not a main course in the serial fare today? Where have all the good directors gone? Where are all the good stories? Just like they have competitions these days for singing, dancing etc.., someone ought to come up with a forum that'll let directors with innovative story ideas showcase their wares. There's no telling but what in 20 years, I might be sitting at home during the day and I definitely demand better entertainment than weepy soaps! :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


There was a phase during my adolescence when I was on a steady diet of Regency novels. Long before I had even heard the term "chick-lit", I devoured novels by the Queen of 19th century chick-lit -- Georgette Heyer. Set in London or its surroundings, Heyer's heroines are always stylish, witty, adventurous and defiant of 19th century notions of female propriety. One of the ultimate acts of defiance that a stylish 19th century female could conceive of was to drive a perch Phaeton. Considered highly unsuitable for women, it was considered an act of ultimate skill to be able to drive one without overturning it. Not having Google at my disposal then, it was left to my imagination to conjure up what a phaeton might look like and how daring someone might look driving it! Over the course of years, my imagination had built this up to Herculean proportions and I started to believe that someone driving a Phaeton had attained janma sabalyam.

I finally found a real phaeton last week at the Kentucky Horse Park. I was a teeny tiny bit disappointed because it looked so timid and normal -- nothing compared to my wild conjectures. I suppose this is what you get when you hit stark reality as opposed to the luxury of imagination :-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At Tweet's end..

I created a Twitter account 3 years ago when I was in one of these "Sign up now!" frenzies. I posted exactly two messages on Twitter when I joined --- "Hi" and "sdfsdf" (or some garbage of that sort). Then I promptly forgot about Twitter. Recently, I have been getting a spate of e-mails about people following me on Twitter. My curiosity piqued, I decided to actually login to Twitter and see how many followers I had. And lo behold, I found that my Twitter account was suspended for wrongful use.

Dutifully, I sent an e-mail to Twitter's support desk telling them that seeing as how I had entered only two messages in the span of two years, I couldn't have really "abused" the system. I got this back:

Twitter suspends accounts for Terms of Service violations or spam investigation. Please review our policies for more detailed information:

If you are suspended, it's most likely for one or more of these reasons::

User Abuse
* a large number of people block the profile or write in with spam complaints
* aggressive following
* imbalanced ratio: the number of followers is small compared to number of people following
* misuse of the reply feature
* updates consist of duplicate links and/or text
* updates consist mainly of links and not personal updates
* updates consist of updates poached from others' timelines, passed off as one's own

Technical Abuse
* updates consist of links pointing to phishing sites, malware, or other harmful material
* a large number of accounts is created in a short amount of time
* an account is identified as belonging to a spam cluster

Huh. Okay. I e-mailed them back saying none of the above would apply to me because I've barely used the account. Haven't heard back. I am righteously miffed now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the four corners of the sky

For the first time in my life, I had to race to finish a book before the library due date. I have had an awesome two weeks now with my parents visiting. Between eating hearty meals, weekend visits to nearby attractions and hectic work schedules, it was quite a challenge to finish the 14-day book loan.

The book revolves around Anne P. Goode's troubled relationship with her father. Everything in her life is defined by that one relationship. So when her father calls out of the blue with a dying wish, Annie is left in a dilemma. The story moves at a thrilling pace after that. But more than the story itself, I enjoyed the author's stylish writing. His character sketches are so lively, rich in detail and endearing that they will linger in my memory for quite some time.

An extremely good read if you are looking for something funny and charming. I am moving onto "Farm City" by Novella Carpenter now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random question

In India, I don't have technology addiction -- the need to constantly have a cell phone near me, to check Facebook every 10 minutes, refresh my Gmail inbox every 5 minutes and read every single blog I am subscribed to. It seems easy to switch off, stay off and I don't miss it so much. But, here in the US, it feels like a part of my life is missing if I don't do these things. Why?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Twenties Girl

I finished reading "Twenties Girl" by Sophie Kinsella last week. As is usual with Kinsella books, I wolfed it down giggling and laughing throughout. As I finished the book, I was reminded of another "twenties girl" in my life.

This time, during my India trip, I managed to find this picture of my paatti ensconced within the folds of an ancient album. My grandma showed this to me when I was about 7 during a summer visit. I can still remember the shine in her eyes, face agog with excitement wreathed in a wide grin as she recalled this triumphant moment from her youth. Her eldest brother had returned from South Africa with a novel "thing" that could take still pictures. She was one of the first people in Sivaramapuram to be photographed much to the envy of her neighbors. Most people had not seen or even heard of a camera in the 1920s!

So there she is, my grandma, when she was around 18 standing in the thaazhvaaram of her family home. Old age has gotten to her these days and she can't move about much. But she still happens to be one of the most colorful, feisty and cheerful people I know. When I showed her this picture, her face softened as she went back in time and I think for a few minutes, she became 18 years old again -- shy, expectant and ready to take on life. If you ask her, she'll say she never feels older than 18. Ever. I believe her.

Friday, July 31, 2009

There and back again

Another India trip has gone by. On the flight back home, as I was trying to ease my cramped legs, I wondered how many years I was going to do this -- the months of planning ahead for the 3-week trip, weeks just looking forward to the moment I would board the flight back home and the insane cramming of all things possible into the 3 short weeks at home. There's family and friends to visit, festive occassions, weddings to attend (if you go in the months of June/July), shopping for esoteric Indian supplies to last you the next year in the US, packing all manners of podis, oorugais within the allotted 100 lbs per person and of course, if you get lucky, some personal time to do the things you really, really want to do.

Someone wrote in a blog that US desis seem to live only during weekends. We wait the entire week for the weekend to have "fun". Add the 3-week India trip to that list, and I seem to come truly alive only for these short moments! I can hear the naysayers out there sniggering, "Maybe you live on the weekends. We know how to have fun throughout the year!". Perhaps.

Tamilnadu is where I feel completely at home, at ease. It is where I can eat thayir sadham with my hands, wear colorful, fragrant flowers in my hair every single day, don bright sarees and not have to explain anything to anyone. When I landed in Chennai airport after a 30 hour journey, I felt light. Along with the heat wave that washed over me as soon as I stepped out, there was also this wave of relief! Not even Mumbai evokes this feeling for me.

I was trying to explain this feeling to one of my father's friends and I blurted out, "Ermm.. Chennai is my natural habitat!" like I was some primordial being. But it is true -- the heat, sweat, humidity just didn't bother me after a week. I was home.

There are a lot of NRIs out there contemplating R2I. Everyone discusses the merits of schooling in India, the amount of pollution in the air, the time it takes to commute, the interminable traffic and crowds etc.. I confess I do as well. But it finally has dawned on me that R2I means I can stop living a dual life -- trying to fit into the American life by day and being desi by evenings -- and be my harmonious own self. That, I think, would be priceless and beats every other consideration hands down. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Half-Blood Prince

Warning: If you have not read the books and seen this movie yet, spoilers ahead.

I actually liked this 6th installment movie better than some of the earlier ones. It is still not as good as the books but passable. Other aspects of the movie aside, my bouquets and brickbats have to be directed chiefly against the casting director --

-- Alan Rickman as Professor Snape is a brilliant choice! I have loved him from the first movie. Toward the end of the movie, he could have shown a bit more emotion on his face especially when he reveals to Harry that he is the Half-Blood prince. Instead, I thought it was a singularly emotionless, passionless dialogue delivery.

--Dumbledore is/has been one of my biggest disappointments in this movie. Back when I started reading the series, Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey in LOTR, was my mental image for Dumbledore. He still seems like the perfect person to have played the role. The actor playing Dumbledore currently seems singularly wooden and uninspiring. What a pity that the director missed McKellen!

-- Daniel Radcliffe is mediocre. He seems to do good in the funny sequences but when it comes to showing other emotions, he seems to get his expressions wrong. Disappointing.

-- I don't know why but the movie Ron Weasley annoyed me. He looked so wooden that I wanted to just bonk him on the head. Same goes for Ginny whom I expected to have a little more fire and mischief.

--Emma Watson as Hermione was good!

Anyways, if this series had managed the acting coup that Lord of the Rings pulled off, maybe it would be on a totally different plane.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mango season..

After 6 long years, I finally made it to India during the summer mango season! The highlight of this trip so far has been the mouthwatering, yummy mangoes I have been enjoying. Banganapalli, Imampasand & Alfonso are available at almost every house I visit. If anyone offers me the customary coffee,I unashamedly settle for mangoes instead..:)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

Okay, I have to admit -- it has been a very long time since I absolutely relished a book like this. I lingered over this book enjoying the author's writing style and the beautiful, vivid imagery she conjured up! A story about one girl's longing for her mother, it is about the strength of sisterhood, the ability to heal and move on in life.

Some of my favorite quotes --

“You know, Lily, people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different.”
This one made me laugh. I remember, when we were kids, people used to ask my brother and I this question all the time. I came up with cluelessly staid answers ("Doctor", "Engineer" etc..) while my brother would say something startling like "Motorbike" or "Race car".

You think you want to know something, and then once you do, all you can think about is erasing it from your mind. From now on when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I planned to say Amnesiac.”
This one resonated with me.
“There is nothing perfect,” August said from the doorway. “There is only life.”
“For starters, everything was blue. Bedspread, curtains, rug, chair cushion, lamps. Don’t get the idea it was boring, though. She had ten different shades of it. Sky blue, lake blue, sailor blue, aqua blue -- you name a blue. I had the feeling of scuba diving through the ocean.”
“A breeze moved through the room from the open window. I walked to it and stared out at the dark fringe of trees by the edge of the woods, a half moon wedged like a gold coin into a slot, about to drop through the sky with a clink”
This one is so true that I found myself nodding in assent.
“People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said in plain language, “I’m giving you a choice, forgive or die,”, a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.”
“The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”

“There will be a few hundred bees doing laps around the hive boxes, just warming up, but mostly taking their bathroom break, as bees are so clean they will not soil the inside of their hives. From a distance it will look like a big painting you might see in a museum, but museums can’t capture the sound. Fifty feet away you will hear it, a humming that sounds like it came from another planet. At thirty feet your skin will start to vibrate. The hair will lift on your neck. Your head will say, Don’t go any farther, but your heart will send you straight into the hum, where you will be swallowed by it. You will stand there and think, I am in the center of the universe, where everything is sung to life.”

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I like to play with babies. They are pretty irresistible, charming little things with tremendous social skills (which they lose as they grow into a "functional" adult). I never had a second thought about reaching out for a smiling child that had its arms outstretched from his mother's lap. During college days, the bus home was always crowded. Sometimes, standing moms would hand over their children to the person sitting close to them. My friends and I would amuse the baby (and ourselves) by making funny faces to get a laugh out of them. In trains, buses, temples, super-markets, there was no barriers to playing with babies with the parents close by to watch.

All that has changed since I came to the US. The meaning of "touch" has taken on an almost exclusively sexual connotation. And mothers in the US are more fiercely protective of their kids' personal space. I got frowned upon once when I made eye contact with a baby at the mall and smiled at her. The mother almost was about to report me as a sexual predator! The other day, at the supermarket, I saw this really pretty, bouncy baby. I said out loud to the mom, "She is so cute!" and that the mother glared me down! I was so shocked that I just walked away.

I guess everyone is trying to just watch out for their child's well-being and in today's world, with all its perversities, I can relate to that. However, there is something as taking it too far. Interpreting every touch/glance with a baby that happens in full view of the parents as a "sexual" one is terrible, in my opinion. It feels like we are imposing adult-ish notions on a very innocent relationship. These days, if I see a baby, I just give a curt smile or look away for fear of being reported to the police.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


I cried when I saw Maniratnam's 'Nayagan' way back in the early 90s. After that, in 2009, I had tears in my eyes in the initial 20 minutes of Pixar's 'Up'. I expected nothing more than a mindless, fun movie in the true style of animated movies. However, it turned out to be a little more than that offering a peek into human love, dreams and failings. Touching, humorous and fantastic at the same time, I had a great time watching this movie.

Maybe I was feeling hormonal when I watched 'Up' and that is why I am raving about it.. :-) Hormonal or not, go see 'Up' if you get a chance!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Incredible India Ad..

I saw this ad for the first time yesterday on Sun TV. The voice-over for Aamir in Tamil is pretty awful but I liked the content of the ad a lot. If our celebrities put their star-power to use for causes like these, it does go a long way...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Vices and People..

Some of the most entertaining and likeable people I know smoke and drink. Interestingly, all of them are men. They belong to different generations and some of them have quite a number of other vices as well -- women, gambling etc.. But they're charming rascals all the same! A lot of my strait-laced friends are quite interesting in their own way. But they lack that dare-devil, happy-go-lucky, crowd-pleasing charm of the former category.

Do entertaining/interesting people have vices because they're very open to new experiences and sometimes, these new experiences turn out to be addictive? Or does having vices generally gives you a certain perspective about human life that you become extremely tolerant and well-loved by other people?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Spare the rod and join anger management..

This child died because a teacher decided to punish her for not knowing the alphabet properly. Punishment in Indian schools is not new. I've been through it and so have many others. But I've never liked it and I count myself lucky that I survived. The principal of a government school in this article claims:

"Most children in my school are criminal-minded," says Dr. S.C. Sharma, the principal of a government school in South Delhi. "We have caught them stealing fans from classrooms and even the iron grills from the windows. How do you discipline such kids?" In Sharma's school the teacher-student ratio is 1:63, compared with a recommended ratio of 1:35.
Okay. Maybe government school teachers have it harder than most. And a child that steals should be disciplined. But why is punishment necessary in private schools? And that too, for silly things like not turning in homework or talking during class or drinking water in class or being late after recess. I've been "punished" for all the above reasons.

The concept of public humiliation as a means of correcting "unwanted" behavior stinks. It kills a child's self-confidence, makes him/her diffident and creates all kinds of insecurities and fears in an impressionable mind.

I think a harder line should be taken toward India's teachers in public or private schools alike. Most of the time, they are just venting their anger against a helpless section. If you had a fight with your wife, take it out on the kids. Sure, they can't hit back. They'll take it silently.

I am sorry to say this but I was never lucky to have great teachers at school. Sure, there were the rare exceptions once in a while. But I had a healthy disrespect for most of my teachers. I don't feel sorry for this teacher who killed a child. I think the case should be handed over to the police and let justice take its own course.

Monday, April 13, 2009


We were at the opening weekend of the 32nd Tyagaraja Aradhanai in Cleveland, Ohio. And what a feast it was for the eyes and ears!

The 'Pancharatna' rendition started early on Saturday morning. The stage of the "Waetjen Auditorium" erupted in festive colors as all the gathered vidwans and vidushis -- about 150 of them -- gathered on stage. Dr. Ramani and Haridwaramangalam Pazhanivel took the lead in co-ordinating the performers. Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan on mridangam gave a rousing finale to "Endaro Mahanubhavulu"!

MS Gopalakrishnan performed Saturday evening with his son and daughter. Even though a RTP in Todi was the main piece, "Siva siva" in Panthuvarali was easily the best! I heard later that MSG's school is famous for their Panthuvarali. They render it with a Hindustani touch which adds beauty to the Ragam. My next personal favourite was Nalinakanthi. MSG's delicate handling of the Ragam is sure to have melted hearts in the audience! Dr. Narmada's violin literally speaks. She easily won the most applause even topping her father.

Wesleyan University students performed Sunday morning. I was amazed and moved by the dedication these Americans had toward Carnatic music. To be able to relate to songs composed in an unknown language about things far removed from their daily life/culture is no mean feat! It was a treat to watch them sing.

'Nrityacharya' Dhananjayan suggested to Sudha on the morning of her concert to have a Tambura. "Tambura irundha dhaan kalaiya irukkum!" were his words. They looked for a Tambura player minutes before the concert was due to begin. Dhananjayan himself volunteered to play the Tambura for Sudha! It was one great talent saluting another graciously. I think this pic of mine might be worth millions in another 100 years..:p

Nisha Rajagopal has one of the most commanding voices I've heard in recent times. Slightly remniscient of Sowmya's voice, it is quite arresting to hear her sing. I wouldn't be surprised to see her star rise in the coming years!

Gopalakrishna Bharathi's "Nandanar Charithram"
was the highlight of the entire trip. With all all-star team comprising the vocal and instrumental support, it was a treat to watch Dhananjayan speak with just his abhinaya and bhavam. Even if there was no music in the background, I think I'd have understood what he communicated! Prof V. Balasubramaniam has a very pleasing "Othuvar"-like rendition of Tamizh songs. Subhasree Thanigachalam, the anchor, did a very good job of presenting the opera.

All-in-all, a very satisfying weekend!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday scribbles...

For the longest time, to the Lexington Aunty-Uncle community, I was a "student". Never mind that I'd finished my Masters degree and transitioned to a full-time working life for a while now. I could cry myself hoarse reminding them that I was no more a student now but it never stuck. Besides, they were mostly really well-meaning and kind. Why bother correcting them? I gave up.

Last weekend, our Lexington temple had a "Sita kalyanam" festival for Rama Navami. And I got tapped by an Aunty to make sambhar for the festivities! Really? Me? I guess that means that I've now graduated from being a "student" in the minds of the community. Which is good and bad.


We watched "Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu" last week. I really enjoyed the movie. No ultra-glam heroines in skimpy dresses. No drop-dead gorgeous heroes in hi-fi, colorful houses. Just regular people -- people I could relate to -- filled the movie. The simple pleasures of going to a local "thiruvizha", eating "panju mittai" (cotton candy) and the joy of going on the super-simple "raattinam" were beautifully portrayed. I was that person once! And of course, the Madurai twang brought smiles to my face all through the movie..:-)

Speaking of movies, it is heartening to see good movies (aside from the usual romance story-line) being made. Also, what's up with Surya? He seems to be growing younger by the day. In the latest trailers of "Ayan", I wouldn't put him past 22! No fair! Grr.


I've been itching to read good Tamizh books for a while now. I've exhausted my store at home. So I ordered a few new ones and they arrived yesterday. I've got enough to keep me going for a month. Super-excited about it!


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wake up sunshine!

Back in high school, Mr. Esralson -- my chemistry teacher -- often used to say, "Wake up Sunshine!" A friend explained to me later that because the Canadian Sun is usually so slow to come up and the sunshine quite hazy, the phrase basically means that someone is a slow top! Coming from a place where the Sun God is very diligent to come up and even more diligent when it comes to blazing down, this phrase never sat comfortably with me.

Today is one of those blindingly beautiful Spring days. The sky is an azure blue and the sun's shining. I feel more alive and more motivated to work on days like these. Rainy days just make me feel bleaaargh. Maybe I am just imagining all this but feels like I am truly a creature of the sun!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I stink at negotiations especially ones concerned with money. Being an Indian, it shames me to say that I don't know how to haggle. My mother is an expert negotiator when it comes to vegetable vendors, servant-maids, plumbers, auto-rickshaw wallahs and every other person you deal with in everyday situations. What makes her particularly deadly is that she is a walking database of the "correct" prices for the day. Her view of the "correct" price is not just what the service is worth. It factors in practical realities such as the cost of running a family, "fair" profit the person can expect to make etc.. Most of the time, she gets whatever price she wants.

Unfortunately, I've not inherited this trait from her. Not that I am particularly sensitive but I hate, hate, hate confrontations even when they are absolutely necessary. Yesterday, at a car dealership, I sat squirming in my chair as S negotiated with the dealer. The dealer came back with horrifically low trade-in prices for S's car. S refused to accept anything below a certain amount and stuck to his guns. He even feigned outrage, anger and helplessness. The dealer mounted attack after attack coming back with very firm refusals and counter-offers. Just hearing the harsh tone in which these two men argued made me cringe. Left to myself, I would have just succumbed to a ridiculous price and bolted from there. I tried to help S but I was more of a hindrance than anything else blurting out unnecessary information to the dealer.

"I think the right price for your old car is $1000"

S, keeping a poker face, said, "No, I saw on the internet that it is $6000"

"Didn't you have a print-out of it? It said $1000"

S: "No no. This might not be accurate but I think it was around $6000"

Me, thinking that S couldn't really remember and trying to help: "Erm..S, wasn't it really like $4000?"

S glared me down of course. So I shut up after that.

Anyways, after 3 hours worth of hard negotiations, S got what he wanted.

After spending close to 4 hours there and completing the paperwork, we dutifully told the dealer we couldn't take delivery that day because of "Marana Yogam". As usual, we left him confounded and walked away.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The month of goodbyes

February has been the month of endings for me. Faced with the economic slump, my company let go of some employees. My teammate, someone I’ve worked with for the past two years, bid farewell to work last Thursday. It was sad for me to watch him go.

February was also the month when my periappa bade farewell to this world forever. He passed away on Feb 12 suddenly due to cardiac arrest. For many years, our families had been estranged due to various reasons. I had my own resentments toward him. But that’s not how I want to remember him. Life’s all about editing out the bad parts and retaining the good ones. 20 years from now, I know I’d like to remember my periappa fondly.

He was a man of many excellent qualities. Proud and determined, he along with his brothers, rose up in life through sheer hardwork and dedication. My father used to say that he had vowed to either get into the IAS or do nothing else at all. Of course, he got through and was extremely successful at work. He made as many friends as he did enemies and he did both with passion.

He liked his arguments. Equally at ease with politics, religion or current trends, he would argue with Mani periappa for hours on end. It was very entertaining for the younger members of the family to watch them fight passionately about something totally unrelated to their daily lives. Personally, I used to wonder at his oratory, eloquence and stamina in holding onto his position. My love for English literature was definitely fueled by his oratory and command of the language! 

During one of his visits to Trichy, he asked me if I wanted to go eat “good rava dosai and godhumai halwa”.  I thought we would go to some nearby restaurant. At exactly around 4.30 in the evening, we both set out to the “best place to eat evening tiffin”. We ended up at the junction of Big Street and Gandhi Market at a small hole in the wall called “Rama’s Cafe”. And sure enough, the home-style rava dosai and halwa served there were the best in the entire town! He loved his food. During family get-togethers, as we all sat down to eat in the traditional banana-leaf, he would pick the “right” banana leaf that would let him have his fill of payasam. Too narrow and you can’t pour too much liquid in it. Too flimsy and the food will fall out of the leaf. He would have the rich payasam toward the end of the meal (instead of in between courses as is the tradition) so nothing else would taint its taste! :)

He was a towering figure in the family in many respects. He raised my father, educated him and helped him make it in life. He helped countless family numbers financially, morally and in other ways. Ultimately, the qualities that made him formidable at work -- pride and stubbornness-- also contributed to his estrangement from the family. He came to my wedding and the last few words he spoke to me were words of blessing. 

My grandmother used to say that my brother was the exact replica of how Pasupathy periappa used to look in his childhood. B definitely has periappa in his make-up somewhere. He sleeps like periappa -- one leg crossed over the other knee. He loves sweets as much as periappa did and he has the same streak of stubborn-ness in him. Maybe that’s why periappa loved him so much. 

I am glad I didn’t see periappa’s body in the end. I find it very hard to imagine a man of his vitality lying very cold and still. Farewell, periappa, rest in peace.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I am Pablo

Facebook's "Who were you in your past life?" quiz says --

In your past life you were Pablo Picasso. In this life you continue to be revolutionary, stubborn, an active lover, enjoy breaking the rules, and react poorly to heartbreak.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sunshine State, Weather Gods, Cabin Fever & "42"

* Made a trip down to Orlando last week. Stayed at the Walt Disney Swan. Wherever you go, its Disneyland. Disney owns the place! But I liked it. Of course, I bought a bunch of Disney stuff -- most of them silly but what the heck!

* When I left Lexington, I was gloating over the fact that I was going to warm, sunny, tropical Florida. Lexington was freezing. Ah, freedom for a week! Alas, I didn't pray to the Weather Gods. The temperatures in Orlando were in the mid-twenties for most of my stay there. Sigh. So much for escaping freezing weather. Nonetheless, it didn't deter a bunch of us from going to Universal Studios one very cold evening. "The Simpsons" ride was easily the highlight of the trip!

* The minute I landed in Orlando, my cell phone died. No life. Zilch. Zip. Nada. I tried many different avenues of getting it to work. Finally, I abandoned it and decided to have fun without it. It wasn't that difficult to manage without a cell phone. I actually enjoyed the freedom conferred on me.

* When I got back to Lex, of course, the wrath of the weather gods pursued me. We had an ice-snow storm two days back. Driveways were iced up and the roads were slick. We couldn't get out of the house. Our satellite dish couldn't pick up any signals. No TV. No cell phone. Sitting at home for three days without seeing anyone else other than S gave me cabin fever.

* Which brings me to my last point -- "42". The combination of not being able to venture out + no TV + no cell phone gave me tons of time to do some reading. I've been devouring "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy"! And I am becoming a cult fan! Currently reading the fourth book of the series -- "So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish!". If you want to know what "42" means, go read the book.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Whenever I see a cat or a dog running around the streets without any visible owner, I just go, "Look, there's a dog crossing the campus." To me, its just part of the scenery. Nothing special or notice-worthy. A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that this is not how everyone in the world reacts. My friend went, "Oh my God! Look, there's a stray dog! I am going to call the pound."

I am used to seeing stray dogs, cows, cats on the street everywhere in India. In residential colonies, if they happen to wander around, people give them left-over food. Cows, especially, have a field time during Pongal. They are in demand everywhere. Of course, these animals cause traffic problems and irritate some people who dislike having their picture-perfect neighborhood "dis-figured". But they manage to survive, procreate and have a life on the streets. I am not saying that it is a great life. But they manage to be alive.

I know people who run shelters and pounds are trying to save the stray animals from pain, cruelty and starvation. But if no one adopts an animal from the pound, they are euthanized. Is it fair to kill an animal because we want our streets to be picture perfect?

I think humans have developed this exaggerated sense of entitlement to Planet Earth. Like it belongs only to us and we can do what we want with it and all its other inhabitants. Everyone makes fun of President Bush's statement, "I know the human and fish can co-exist". But maybe one day, all the fish in the seas will get sick of being caught. Then, we'll have a fish uprising in history. Maybe, the fish and the rest of the animal kingdom will decide to euthanize us all because we are ruining their environment. And Bush will seem like a messiah. I know I am blaboring. So I'll shut up. :-)

Friday, January 02, 2009

A new beginning...

My first post of the year is going to be just an assemblage (is that a word?) of random things in my head. I tried to go for an emotional and meaningful post but it backfired on me.

--I wanted to write a New year's eve post commemorating the fact that I had 44 posts last year compared to the 35 in 2007. It would have been nice to make it a round 50 but I am not complaining. I think I kept up a steady stream of posts in 2008 every month instead of the spasmodic pattern of 2007. Enough gloating.

--Have been on a reading spree lately. Managed to devour four books in the span of 1.5 weeks! Started reading the Stephanie Meyer "Twilight" series. I am sure series-lovers will want to crucify me for this but the first book -- "Twilight" -- really sucked. It felt like I was trapped between the pages of a very badly written Mills and Boon romance. Too touchy-feely for me. Stephanie Meyer redeemed herself with the second one, "New Moon". The third, "Eclipse",was positively engaging. I guess it gets better as it progresses. Two more books to go in this series.

I also struggled through "The Gatecrasher" by Madeline Wickham (alias Sophie Kinsella). Extremely meandering story with no concrete plot. Ugh. Didn't expect this from the creator of the "Shopaholic" series!

Finished the "The Lost Army of Cambyses" by Paul Sussman. Masala thriller story in the mould of Dan Brown (though not close enough). Worth reading on a flight or a train!

I am about to start on "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini.

-- 2009 has started out very promisingly with lots of cleaning getting done @ home. We managed to buy things we had been putting off, clean things that were pending and re-organized our home. I finally managed to hang up some photographs on the walls. I even got a rolodex so we can be better organized about phone numbers/addresses. Yippeee to that!

-- Some people have this gaping dichotomy between what they want to be and what they are. They insist that they are just suffering a lack of will-power and they really, really "want" to do something. But no matter how much you help or how hard you try, their actions point in a different direction. Makes me wonder if people have no idea what they want or what is good for them. I've also realized that spending energy trying to alter the course of someone's behavior is EXHAUSTING! :-)

Okay, for this largely trivial post, I am going to write something a bit more deep. I have been thinking about this for a while and want to get it off my chest. There have been times when I wondered if it was just freakish chance that I was on this earth, that maybe there was no rhyme or rhythm to the universe, that there was no 'karma" guiding the paths of our lives. I had my first taste of intense grief last year and with that grief came a tiny glimmer of intense appreciation of human life. A realization of truly how magical life and a living being is. It is difficult to explain that feeling. I think everyone has to feel it to really know it.

Farewell 2008 and welcome 2009! Belated new year wishes to all! :-)