Sunday, December 04, 2011

God Save My Shoes Too!

While I was in the UAE this time, a film festival was held in Abu Dhabi and I happened to read reviews of several movies to be showcased in the event. One title that caught my attention was Julie Benasra’s ‘God Save My Shoes’ which is the first documentary film to explore the intimate relationship women have with their shoes.

“To understand how shoes have come to hold such a pivotal place in pop culture, sexuality and women’s lives, God Save my Shoes turned to many of those who play a role in the global shoe phenomenon: Extreme shoe lovers, fashion historians and editors, psychologists, sex experts, shoe fetishists, and star designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Walter Steiger, Pierre Hardy, Bruno Frisoni, and Robert Clergerie, along with celebrities such as Fergie, Kelly Rowland and Dita Von Teese.” said a review. The movie was to be screened exclusively for women first, and two days later, for men. Understandable, as there are so many outlets in the malls selling shoes of all kinds, designer to desi, to the distaff side of the Middle East populace!
I am partly intrigued and partly amused by this obsession in women. I do not look down upon such an activity as compulsive shopping is a vice I indulge in myself, buying books with a speed that outruns my reading… ‘It makes all kinds to make this world’ my Dad used to quote when I was young, ‘de todo ha de haber en el mundo’ as Cervantes put it in Don Quixote Volume 2 Chapter V… and I have learnt to adopt this philosophy in my life and dealings with people I come across. If I am an obsessive collector of books, a certified bibliophile, others are quite welcome to pander to their primal urge for buying as many pairs of shoes as their purses could afford.
A decade or so back, when there was a raid in the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha’s home, police found 750 pairs of shoes. Wow! I thought at the time. She would not repeat a shoe for one year. Such a fetish for shoes was not news for me. Way back in 1986, when the Marcos regime in Philippines was overthrown by a people’s revolt, the First Lady, Imelda Marcos fled to Hawaii in a pair of espadrilles, leaving behind 2699 pairs behind. When the world media went berserk on her collection of shoes, I was, like many ordinary human beings, flabbergast. 2700 pairs of shoes for a single person? It was an unimaginably mindless waste of good money as far as I was concerned.
This was a time when I was the part of a lifestyle where one bought a new pair of shoes/ slippers/ sandals only when one could prove to one’s parents that the one you owned was fully worn out and beyond any surgical procedure at the ‘able’ hands of the local ‘cheruppukuththi’ / mochchi/ cobbler. Getting a new pair was no child’s play. It was a diplomatic mission and involved seeking a plenipotentiary – usually mom or sometimes grandmother - to place our case before the High Commission - Dad/ Grandfather. Once the demarche has been made, one waited with bated breath for the envoy to reach an entente … and a modus vivendi reached… so long as the new pair is durable for the next three years, so long as it drains the purse minimally and so long as the buying is limited to the person whose slippers have brought this unforeseen expenses… Oh it took a lot of protocol to get a new pair.
Next came the ratification - the trip to Bata. In my wonder years such a trip to Bata used to be a combination of pleasure and embarrassment. The pleasure came out of eyeing the new pairs of footwear in various shapes and styles, and whiffing subtly, the smell of new, unused leather. The sensual pleasure and satisfaction on getting a new pair would soon be obliterated by the acute embarrassment when a skirmish would take place at the billing counter between Dad and the establishment called Bata. I used to think Dad did it on purpose to embarrass me, but I realized the rationale behind his adamancy after I became an adult and shopped at Bata. You see, Bata has this funny ( funny- peculiar, not funny – ha ha) way of pricing their ware. Whatever the type, colour or size, the price would never be a round figure. There would be 95 paise appended at the end of the billed amount. And invariably Bata retailers would not return the 5 paise when you paid the bill. This would get Dad’s goat and there would follow an altercation between him and the shopkeeper, reddening my cheeks and ears as I used to feel it was so ‘uncool’ of Dad to haggle for 5 paise. I never knew at the time he was fighting the establishment… the one that took customers for a ride. Now I realize the con. There were around 200 million Indians at the time. Bata was ruling supreme as shoe sellers. Even if one fourth of the population bought their footwear at Bata and had to forego 5 paise on each pair, just imagine the money they fleeced!
Anyway, this is not about Bata… this is about my liaison or lack thereof with shoes. Maybe these ordeals of shoe shopping killed any fascination for shoes in me. For me slippers / shoes became utility items. To ensure that my feet were covered and protected as I walked. So I went for comfort rather than fashion.
And shopping for shoes was a spoof of the Cinderella story. Here, instead of feminine feet parading to get a royal chance to fit into the shoe, shoes parade before me to get fitted on my feet. The moment I get the feeling that the one I have tried on and I are made for each other, a new relationship is born. I use that shoe/ slippers for ages till it wears out and cries ‘Uncle!’ I could never pay more than a couple of hundred rupees for what I put on my feet. My logic was simple. ‘Who’ll notice what you wear on your feet?’ My friends and acquaintances have always been well mannered folk and never commented on the lack of variety when it came to my footwear. But even I have become a bit more flamboyant and now own at least 3 pairs plus a couple of walking shoes, now- a -days. So how can I cast stones at the Imelda Marcoses and Jayalalithas of this world?
So God Save My Shoes caught my attention. As usual I googled and youtubed info about the movie.

Here’s an extract from its review : “God Save My Shoes” is the first documentary film to explore the intimate relationship women have with their shoes.
To understand how shoes have come to hold such a pivotal place in pop culture, sexuality and women’s lives, God Save my Shoes turned to many of those who play a role in the global shoe phenomenon: Extreme shoe lovers, fashion historians and editors, psychologists, sex experts, shoe fetishists, and star designers Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Walter Steiger, Pierre Hardy, Bruno Frisoni, and Robert Clergerie, along with such celebrities as Fergie, Kelly Rowland and Dita Von Teese.
With its psychological, sociocultural, and erotic take—from ancient elevated soles to today’s skyscraping stilettos,from Marilyn Monroe to Sex & the City—God Save my Shoes brings an offbeat and captivating answer to theuniversally puzzling relationship between women and their shoes.”

The Wall Street Journal review: The film peeks into several legendary shoe closets, including that of Vogue magazine, and the 900-pair collection of professional poker player Beth Shak, who shows off hot pink heels emblazoned with black spades.The featured women, including singers Kelly Rowland and Fergie, explain their various reasons for accumulating shoes – from the emotional comfort derived from purchases, to the need to accessorize not only an outfit, but a state of mind.”
Elle USA : “What We Learned from ‘God Save My Shoes” 9/8/2011“Last night’s premiere of the long-awaited documentary, God Save my Shoes, shed some light on women’s inexplicable addiction to footwear, especially the most impractical.”
There are a lot of trailers on the youtube for those who want to know more about this movie.
I have wandered away from my topic. Let me amble back on my comfortable pair of loafers to where I was. I don’t have anything against shoes and obsession for shoes. Cinderella is still my favourite fairytale… Of course, the Elves and the Shoe Maker is another favourite. Recently I saw a Hindi movie for children ‘Bumm Bumm Bole’ which revolves around two poor kids and a pair of shoes. I found the little girl’s expression on hearing that her friend had thrown her old pair off, so endearing.
I own 3 or 4 stiletto heels… only they are on the covers of Lauren Weisberger’s ( of The Devil Wears Prada fame) bestsellers. During this trip to Dubai I was a bit extravagant. I ambled into the Shoe Mart in the Deira City Centre and tried some slippers on. And I found one called ‘Cozy’ which felt snug on my feet. After walking a couple of days on it, I made RP drive me back to Deira City Centre and I put my best foot forward to Shoe Mart and bought another pair of the same thing. Now they will last me for a decade!
Recently, I got the shoes that I have coveted for a long, long time. A dear uncle gifted me the DVD of a very favourite movie of mine… ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman’ starring Antony Quinn, based on the novel by Australian author, Morris West. I have watched this movie 4 to 5 times on TCM channel and RP downloaded it for me from Torrentz…but when Uncle DVC handed it over to me I was in the seventh heaven of delight. He’s promised to get me the book too…another pair of shoes to covet and cherish!
Final word: The title of Julie Benasra’s movie ‘God Save my Shoes’ did amuse me a lot. It is a statement most South Indians use whenever they enter a temple. We are expected to leave our footwear outside temples. Often, the less blessed of us are punished by God by inducing some covetous feet to pilfer our slippers. That’s why we chant ‘ God save my shoes’ as we enter a temple… as we stand with folded hands… as we circumrotate the deity… as we come out after praying… God I hope you have saved my shoes and it is still there! Hmmm…. ‘de todo ha de haber en el mundo’… it does take all kinds to make this world.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mum's the Word

The October issue of the Reader’s Digest had an interesting snippet on de-stressing by talking to one’s mother. It was about a new US study in which girls aged between 7 and 12 years had to make a speech and solve Math problems in front of a panel of strangers, which sent their levels of Cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, soaring. Immediately afterwards, 1/3 was comforted by their mothers in person, another 1/3 got phone calls from their mothers while the remaining was made to watch an ‘emotionally neutral’ video. It was found that the Cortisol levels of those who interacted with their mothers , either in person or on phone, came down to normal levels while the levels of Oxytocin, or ‘love hormone’ increased significantly.
I read this snippet at a time when I was in an extremely vulnerable, emotional phase. Two or three days back, I had rung my Mom up just to know how she was. She had had a left ventricular failure recently. I, like all my siblings, was very concerned about her health and kept checking her out frequently. I think I caught her on one of her rare ‘bad hair days’ and was informed by my nephew that she did not wish to talk to me. This meant either she was in pain or she had fought with my Dad. My panicky self immediately concluded on the former and I insisted to my nephew that he hand the phone over to her so that I could find out what was distressing her. Then my nephew told me that she had refused breakfast and her medicines. This upset me. I made him hand the phone over to her and started blitzing her about why she was refusing to eat and take medicines. She listened for a minute and then said in a cold voice, “ Stop boring me!” It was like a cold slap on my face. In a state of shock I cut the call.
Now, I really don’t remember when I had last fought with my mother. I must have. I used to…when I was a child. I remember being pinched by her for transgressions unacceptable to her. But that was way back like in my pre-teen years. In my teens may be she might have yelled at me for being lazy or sloppy, nothing worth registering in my brain or altering my psyche. In fact, as far back as I can remember, we had great rapport. Though I was Daddy’s girl, as I grew up, I started feeling closer to Mom, relating better to her than to my stentorian Dad. The closeness increased after I married, became a mother to twins and as both of us advanced in years. We giggled, laughed, tut- tutted and ranted on common issues… we read and discussed books, solved crossword puzzles and enjoyed the same genres of movies and serials… Naturally her words were like a bolt from the blue and it struck me down emotionally.
The words by themselves were not significant…’Don’t bore me!’ Nothing offensive or abusive there, right? Then why was I devastated? I just could not forget that icy tone. It was like emptying a bucket of cold slush on my head… it kept dripping all around me…”Don’t bore me”, “ Don’t bore me”, “Don’t bore me” it went on and on, making me go crazy and cranky. Crankier I got as hours lapsed into days. Mutinously, I refused to call her again. The next move had to come from her, I kept telling myself. She has to extend the olive branch, I told my better sense which kept chiding me for being childish and churlish.

A couple of days later, my brother called me to know if all’s well with me. When I affirmed, he asked me then why I had not called in 48 hours. I hemmed and hawed not wanting to disclose anything. Then my sister called and asked point blank if anything had happened between me and Mom. I asked her why she should ask me such a thing. She said she got a call from Mom asking if I had called. Was anything wrong between the two of us? I categorically denied that anything was wrong. Should have known better. She is my sister and knows how to read between the lines. Soon I had to make a clean breast of it all and at the end of it I felt silly even to my own ears. Sensible Sis said, “ Come on… she had obviously had a spat with Dad and was sulking. You just caught her at one of her rare bad moods… Now don’t you sulk!” I told her I was not sulking. Nor was I paying her back. I just was in limbo surrounded by echoing pings of “ Don’t bore me!” as bubbles burst around my ears constantly.
Three days… for three days, I brooded, hugging my hurt close to my heart and letting Misery envelope me in a bearhug suffocating me. No one around me had any inkling about what I was going through and all my daily chores were carried on mechanically. All? Well! All except my daily calls to Mom who had literally become ‘mum’ to me! I had surprisingly lost weight. well… my weight loss may not have been caused by the turn of events, but I chose that day to gather courage to stand on that contraption called weighing scale and glance down diffidently… Yahoo! I really had reduced. The fact that it might have been the daily brisk one hour walk that had caused this change never occurred to me then. I thought it was caused by mental trauma.
“Mental trauma? Poppycock!” scoffed my better sense. Nothing dramatic had happened. I had just caught my Mom in a bad mood. Why was I making a bloody mountain out of a mere molehill? Wasn’t I acting petty and childish? Not wanting to agree to my conscience, I flipped through the latest issue of Reader’s Digest. “ Connecting to mother love- any way you can” said the heading and I read the snippet. Tears filled my eyes. I remembered all those times she had soothed and shushed my fears and tears away… when I had used to her shoulders to cry, to rest my head and sigh… the hugs that uncoiled my tensed up muscles… and she has one bad moment and I hold her at emotional gunpoint! Talk about selfishness!
I remembered that in geometry every theorem had a corollary… so if mother’s love could reduce the levels of Cortisol in a child, shouldn’t a child’s love for her mom relieve the mother’s stress in return?
The syllogism was so lucid. Everything fell into place in my head, heart and mind. Feeling small, I reached for my cellphone and dialed her number.
“ Hello?” came her voice. I could feel tension and anticipation, dread and anxiety in her voice. At that moment I would have given anything to undo the trauma I realized I might have put her through in the last three or four days. “ How are you Mom?” I said. “ Missed you,” she said. “Me too,” I said. “ Do you know that a phone call from one’s Mom can de-stress a child? It is in the latest issue of Readers’ Digest, and do you know I have lost weight?” Words tumbled out as did Cortisol and I felt calmer and happier than I had been for some time.
“In the last three days?” she said, laughing. And I laughed too… at the absurdity of my logic. Things were fine between us. No reproachful words…no apologies…
“ God’s in his Heaven and all’s right with the world” my heart sang. Right Here, Right Now… Reader’s Digest, I agree with the findings of the US study. Should I write to Mohan Sivanand endorsing the news or should I find out the research group in the US and congratulate them? Well, before I could, things started happening and I forgot all about it. This morning I was flipping through the RD October edition and came across the snippet and everything came rushing back… Instead I decided to blog. Must call Mum and ask her to read this …so that we can laugh over this as well!

Friday, November 06, 2009

We Are Like That Only

A month back, Uncle G was visiting with us. Uncle G is Appa’s ( late FIL) brother, who has settled down in the US. He had flown down on hearing about his elder brother’s demise. He is the same uncle whom I have referred to in my ‘Kick-starting on Self Motivation’ blog. Yes, the one who derisively hooted with laughter when I claimed to cover 3 laps of the park in 45 minutes; he did 7 rounds in an hour.

Uncle G has settled down in the US and I don’t think he will ever return to India except on brief visits. His family is there, they have all become American citizens and Indian roots are slowly being snipped off. In fact, though there are still a few helixes and coils of ‘Indian-ness’ (politically, he is a staunch conservative) in his DNA, it is pure ‘American-ness’ that courses freely through his blood.

While we were talking about the people who frequent the park, he remarked that people in BDVT are so unfriendly… they do not smile at strangers, they do not greet ‘fellow –walkers’… why they hardly recognize the regulars or acknowledge their presence.

“ Why can’t they smile at one another or greet a person whom they have seen frequenting the park’s pathway, every day?” he asked. Back home (Virginia) perfect strangers smile at you and greet you with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Evening’ as you meet them on the way.

He had a point there. Folks at Bhadravathi can hardly be termed overly friendly. Their way of saying Good Morning is, “Coffee Aayitha?” or Thindi Aayithaa? Or Ootta Aayitha? ( Have you had coffee? Have you had breakfast/ Have you had lunch?)

I have noticed this too. Very few people smile at you when you smile at them. Even ladies look at you with a suspicious stare when you smile at them. In my 2 months of morning walks only 3 or 4 people acknowledge my existence. One, an old gentleman, Appa’s (Late FIL) acquaintance, another, a student of S. Aunty (S Aunty teaches music ), and then a lady who thought I was some officer in some govt. office or private institution who asked me to get her a job as an ayah…( whose smiles are waning after not getting the right response from me!) That was about all. And to think the park teems with 2 to 3 dozens of the denizens of Bhadravathi.

It is not that bonhomie and camaraderie are extinct hereabouts. There are coteries and twosomes who exchange gossip and debate issues even as they pant and palpitate their way around the park’s worn path. But I guess it as difficult to enter their fold as it is to get a membership in the country club.

Somehow, Uncle G’s words mad me feel that I live in the outbacks where civilization is yet to dawn and I decided to do my bit to bring about a sea-change. I am going to be the quintessential jovial walker who is going to flash friendly smiles at all those compatriots of the early hours, till it becomes second nature to everyone to smile at everyone else, I told myself.

So the next morning, I fitted some billion dollar smiles ( like all those genial Americans in Virginia who smile at Uncle G) inside my cheeks and got ready to flash it at the unsuspecting multitudes in the park.

First, I smiled at the short lady in pink sweater and red scarf who stared dourly at me. One billion wasted. Next I smiled at two gentlemen who were walking towards me very busily talking about somebody in some office…who ignored my beaming face - another billion dollar smile wasted.

There was that tall gentleman with the Vodafone pooch that stakes his claim of every tree by peeing religiously at their stumps… Since I would have to crane my neck up skywards to smile at the guy, I smiled at the pooch instead… (Perfect logic, for when you smile at a baby, the mother will smile back at you…) but I need not have wasted another of my precious smiles. The man ignored me and pooch the snootily hoisted its hind leg and went about its business. I hurried along.

A man and his wife were hurtling towards me… I smiled at them and the man smiled back, but as soon as I passed them, I heard her hiss, “Who is she? Do you know her?” I suppose they were still arguing about me by the time I passed them the next time, because he looked the other way.

Then came a tallish gentleman…around my age. I was, by now toting just a million dollar smile, having lost millions in futile investments earlier. So at eye contact, I gave a half a million dollar smile and got one big smile in return. Aaaaah! Welcome Civilization! I thought. Then I realized that it takes patience to cut through the tough veneer of people. Like Robert Bruce, I had to try, try, try again, if at first I didn’t succeed. During my third lap, (817mx3) I saw the same gentleman approach me. Before I could radiate my countenance with a smile he flashed a set of 32 at me and murmured something… “Good morning to you too,” I muttered as an after thought after he had passed by. One friendly soul, I thought.

During my last lap ( 817m x 4) , I saw the guy walk towards me and I was poised to smile at him again… when…


I quickly swallowed the leftover millions of dollars worth smiles. “Idiot!” I muttered to myself.So much for my attempts at being friendly! Did I get across some wrong message to him? Did I actually see what I saw? Did he actually wink? And that smile… it was definitely not the kind of friendly smile I expected… How do I know? Come on… a woman knows… And this woman certainly doesn’t like such business.

Now, I whenever I see the man approach me ( I walk in the clockwise direction and he in the anticlockwise), I stare stonily ahead…carefully wiping any trace of smile from my face.

I am just like all the other residents of BDVT now, minding my own business as I walk briskly, not even smiling at the cows and dogs who loll about, watching the mad humans go round and round, huffing and puffing.

Next time Uncle G asks me why we don’t walk an’ talk… or smile or greet one another, I’ll tell him, “ We are like that only!”

Kick Starting On Self Motivation

I am one of those rare creatures whom God created without certain genes… like, those genes for being enterprising, for taking initiative and for self motivation. When He created me, he filled my blood with a lot of ambition but forgot to supplement that with drive. He fitted my eyelids with a microscopic ‘dream machine’ that churns out dream after dream after dream whenever I blink but he forgot to connect that machine to that part of my brain which will activate the right enzyme that will help me realize those dreams. So I have lived on this earth for almost half a century with lots of ideas and thoughts and plans that die a premature death inside me and leaving a graveyard of dead ‘what could have been’s inside me.

The death in the family and my subsequent relocation to ‘nowhere-land’ has forced me to at least rebel against His grand scheme for me on this earth! I decided to connect my dream machine to my brain and realize my dreams one by one…

Project one is whittling away all those layers of adipose that have gathered around me in a ‘waistful’ manner! Unwarranted and unintentionally unkind observations of kith and kin may have induced me to take this drastic step…. May be subconsciously I am trying to pay homage to the memory of my Appa who always, rather kindly, used to tell me ‘reduce or you will face the music’… maybe I am trying to just pass Time which crawls like a snail that has undergone knee replacement surgery…. Whatever the ignoble reason, I have started walking…

Whoever invented the euphemism ‘kickstart’ had me in mind, I suppose. Every morning I kick myself mentally out of bed, kick myself into donning my walking shoes and kick myself into climbing down the steps and out of the house towards the park in Bhadravathi which has a worn out walker’s pathway which is 817m long. Initially I trudged along half asleep while men and women decades older, briskly overtook me. After a couple of days, shame started coursing through my veins and I made my steps brisker to at least keep up with all those geriatric folk who seemed to throw scornful sidelong glances at my sedate pace as they overtook me.

With each round, I’d mentally calculate 817m X 2 = Enough For the Day…. And then it became, one fine day, 817m X3 in ½ hour = A lot of sweat , stiff calf muscles, a little palpitation and a lot of satisfaction.

But my arch enemy at home continued to jeer at me…The weighing Scale refused to acknowledge the buckets of sweat that flowed off my body, or minus it from my (colossal) weight. My BMI ( Bloody Massive Index) remained loyal to me. A very frank uncle hooted with derisive laughter when I told him I walk 3 laps of the park. He did 7 rounds in an hour… Just like all those oldies in the park…I consoled myself … retired… with nothing to do… So what are you? My conscience asked me. You don’t work… You have nothing to do… I had to concede defeat to such logic that slapped me on the face! I decided to add more laps to my morning rounds.

Easier said than done! The day after I decided that, I went for my customary walk. Waking up and donning the shoes have become robotic and routine, but the moment the third lap got over the legs automatically turned towards the turnstile at the entrance of the park. I could not even coax it back to another lap. The next day, I was armed to teeth ( to my throat) to fight this urge to quit. I had to forget my loser legs and the whimpering they do when I finish my third round. I decided to drown that whimper in music.

Now I can imagine the shock the public would get if I broke into a song while palpitating and panting. So I decided to have a mental Anthakshari session. When I started the third round, I’d start thinking of a song and then challenge myself to continue the game… Voila! Success… at the end of the third 817meters, my legs forgot all about exhaustion and Hurray! I did a 4th round. I didn’t want to push my luck and called it quits after 4.

The next day, I started chanting all the prayers instead of musing on the gait and mannerisms of fellow walkers from the first lap itself. But by the third lap, I was out of stock, in addition to being out of breath. I also realized then that my steps had quickened with the speed of my renditions. Now one can not dawdle while reciting ‘Aiyigiri Nandini’. Probably, it made me march brisker than normal. I hadn’t noticed the change in my pace due to my concentrating on getting the verses in the correct order. The same with Vishnu Sahasranamam…a la M.S. mode ( is there any other kind for a Tam-Brahm???) The problem with Sahasranamam is, I need a cue at certain points or I would end up chanting some verse that I have already chanted…. Or skip a few dozen namams here and there… my version ending up with a ‘satam’ or ‘dvisatam’ less than ‘sahasram’!

I decided to brush up again at home to jog ( no pun intended) my memory… But my prayers would come for only 2 and ½ rounds and in order to keep my legs entertained and preoccupied, I returned to my Anthakshari games… when the reservoir of slokas ran dry.

But I noticed one thing, Everyday, I would start with an old Raj Kapoor -Vyjayanthimala song “ Bikhraake Zulfein Chaman me na jaana”. I have not yet analyzed why.

When ordinary anthakshari became monotonous, I started with a tougher version. Instead of sounds, I had to start with the last word of the ending line…. This kept me active for a week. Next I started singing ( in my mind) duets. First a Raj Kapoor – Vyjayanthimala number ( you guessed right…Bhikhraake Zulfein…) then a song pictured on either R K or Vyjayanthimala with others … say, RK and Mala Sinha…then Mala Sinha- Manoj Kumar… so on and so forth!

Soon I tired of that I tried playing in vernacular, but I got stuck even before I did 50 meters… I am terribly out of touch with Malayalam and Tamil film songs…

I started thinking of my blogs and tried to think of and store ideas that would inspire me to return to active blogging…. But no….Bhikhraka Zulfein would intrude and there would be nothing but static when I tried to tune in to ‘Vividh Blogathi’ …

Though I am far…far… far from slim waist and hourglass figure….and still sport a ‘family pack’….and am still mad at my weighing scale for being uncharacteristically stubborn with me… and frown at my Mirror as it makes me look XXX large… and though my BMI is still stuck between ‘Overweight’ and ‘Obese’… I see a silver lining in this particular dark cloud!
I have started enjoying my morning walk!

Now all I have to do is persuade my brain to send the right signals to my legs when I increase my duration of morning walk! When? Soon…Soon… Let me memorize my Vishnu Sahasranamam once more and recall all the old Yesudas, P. Susheela and S. Janaki numbers I used to sing when I was young… and thin!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Well…Well…Well! If It Isn’t A Coincidence!

Last week, I picked up a book at the biggest bookshop I have seen in the UAE, the Kinokuniya book shop at Dubai Mall. I had felt guilty picking up a book exactly after a week of having blown 2Cs at the newly opened Borders in Sharjah City Centre. When I read the synopsis, I was intrigued by the background of the story – a publishing house. ‘Lost For Words’ by Loreiei Mathias promised to be a routine chicklit romance…yet I paid a good Dhs. 25 for it…And I must say, it was worth every fil of that quarter C. It was humourous, had human, normal characters and gave me great insight into what goes on inside publishing houses…

But what intrigued me most was that the book introduced me to a new word – ‘Moleskine’… I didn’t look up the word as there was sufficient explanation in the book as to what a Moleskine is and of course, reference to Chatwin, Hemmingway and Van Gogh… The book kept me engrossed till the last paragraph and only after I had closed it with a satiated sigh, did I let that word start nibbling at my curiosity. Funnily though, my 2000 edition of Oxford Dictionary did not have the word (though it had Molotov Cocktail) and as usual I had to turn to Google for help. Google is my Agony Aunt cum Jeeves cum Man Friday… and like all the million times in the past two years, Google didn’t fail me. There it was - 6,680,000 sites on all kinds of Moleskines and their connection to Chatwin, Hemmingway and Van Gogh… Wish I had one, I murmured to myself as I read through a good half a dozen sites.

I wallow neck deep sometimes in delusions… Like the time we visited St. Marguerite’s Beach in Dover and Sai Prasad showed us the beach where Ian Fleming used to sit and write… And I fancied myself doing the same… may be near Bhadra river or Shankhumukham Beach… Like Mungerilaal I saw my haseen sapna that like Hemmingway or Chatwin, I’ll carry a Moleskine and jot down all flashes of inspiration and recollect them like Wordsworth in moments of creative tranquility!

Then… three days back we went to Borders to pick up some gift for someone, and lo! Near the payment counter I saw a whole shelf displaying Moleskines of various sizes! I gasped in surprise! I touched them… fondled them… inspected them…wondered when I would be able to buy one. The basest of them cost a good Dhs. 45, and what with the palling gloom of recession and the noble cause of cutting down expenses, I wondered whether I should give in to such fancy… all the time marveling at the wonderful coincidence of it all…

Coincidences! When I was in my teens, my dad had once told me about what he calls the Theory of Coincidence. He told a disbelieving budding reader like me that if I come across a new word, chances are that, within 48 hours, I shall come across the word again. To prove that his theory was cockeyed I started keeping watch on all the new words I came across and was amazed to see that it was true. In fact, I hadn’t even been sure of the word ‘coincidence’ at that time and I remember coming across the word in a Barbara Cartland I was reading secretly!

Later in life, I had told this to my class of Grade 9 students and sure enough a couple of them came back to me saying that it had worked for them too…

And this afternoon, as I was surfing the channels I zeroed in on Star Movies which was about to start a Russel Crowe movie called ‘a good season’ and as I saw the first scene a sense of déjà vu blanketed me… I have seen this movie before, I told myself… Where and when I did not remember… It is about a street smart stock broker Max Skinner who inherits his uncle’s vineyard in France and it is my kind of movie…

As I watched it, it dawned on me… I had watched it last year during our flight from France to Rome. I had seen only the first half of it…and I think in French or with French subtitles interrupting my understanding of the conversations… and as I watched with wonder and delight, I got another jolt of surprise. There’s this scene where Russel Crowe goes through his uncle’s Moleskine recording his memoirs… A slim black bound Moleskine, with a black ribbon bookmark and an elastic band around it, filled with closely written italic hand…

Well…Well…Well! I said to myself… If it isn’t a coincidence…a ruddy coincidence!
Now, recession or no recession, I must buy myself one from Borders…It is something beyond coincidence….it is destiny! Sigh! And fill its pages with creative inputs…like Chatwin, Hemmingway, Van Gogh…and soon…Yours Truly!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


A woman needn’t be taught how to hold a baby… an instinct tells her what to do. There’s another thing all women do. Sing their babies to sleep. A woman may not claim to be musically accomplished… She may never dare to sing (even in bathrooms) but when she carries her baby in her arms and rocks him/her to sleep, she starts singing lullabies. No one teaches her before marriage or during confinement about how to sing her baby to sleep. Yet, she gets this magical power to mesmerize, soothe and comfort her baby.

There is something so magical and beautiful about these lullabies. The crankiest of babies will settle down to crooning. The most beautiful lullaby I have heard is one without any words. I heard it as a child when my Mom used to rock my baby brother or sister in their ‘dooli’ or ‘thooli’ cradle made by folding and tying an old cotton saree. The tying of the ‘dooli’ itself is an art…perfected by generations of grandmothers and mothers. I used to feel scared seeing the baby in the cloth cradle… What if the knots come undone? What if the baby crawls out ( heh…heh….paranoia about one’s infants is another legacy of mothers ) What if the baby falls out when people rock it to and fro? Mere fears… the baby oblivious to all my fears would be transported to the land of Somnolence thanks to the rhythmic movement and the soft crooning.

The simplest of these magical songs that calms a cranky and sleepy baby is a wordless humming. It is a monotonous series of humming… Every unit of humming has 4 parts to it. One for when you swing it away with the flick of the wrist, one for the inward flick which swings the baby towards the mother , the third when it swings away again and the fourth when it swings back.
The first humming ascends in tone, the second, descends, the third is like the the first and the fourth has a tone of finality… so it goes, mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmm ! mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmm ! mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmmmm- mmmm ! The ‘thooli’ swinging to and fro the soothing tone of the mother almost hynotising the baby to sleep.

There is a famous folklore in Malayalam about a king who was playing a chess game finds himself in a tricky position and the queen who sits behind the curtains sings and gives him a clue in the form of a lullaby… She sings ‘undundoo… undundoo… undundoo….undundoo….undundooo…undundoo… AaLe undu! Roughly translated it means “move your pawn”…

For the Malayalees all over the world the most popular lullaby is ‘Omana Thingal Kidaavo’ composed by Irayimman Thampi as a lullaby for the royal prince Swathi Thirunal… I read in a blog sometime back that in Tamil all the lullabies are addressed to boys and not girls… Well… never paid attention to that. I normally associate lullabies with infants or babies- terms which are not gender-bound or sexist. But come to think of it, a good many ( can any one think of any sung for a girl-baby specifically?) ones are religious in tone…

I have listened to English lullabies like “Sleep Baby Sleep” and “Hush Little Baby” but more with academic interest than with any intention of using them…

I love the Bollywood lullabies… They have such soothing effect on me… and calm me down… bring tears to the eyes and lumps to the throat…

Remember the priceless gems Hindi films have given us… Like “ Nanhi Kalee Sone Chalee Hawa Dheere Aana...”
“ Dheere se aajare akhiyan mein nindiya aajaare aaja”, “Mein gaoo thum so jao…” and more recent ones like “ Yashoda ka Nandlaala….” and “ Surmayi akhiyon mein nanha munna ek sapnaa dekha hai” …

A Telugu movie song starting “ Vadapatra Sai ki varahala lali” is a beautiful rendition. The Priya sisters sing a special trademark song “ Laalee” in their concerts which also clogs the throat and moistens the eyes whenever I listen… My husband used to sing Something in Kannada for my twins…” Jo…Jo… Balakrishna…which I could never learn because I feel moved when I hear it…

I love the old lullabies from Malayalam films like “ P. Susheela’s “Paattupaadi uRakkaam njyan thaamarappoompaidale” , “Omana thingalil onam pirakkumbol…”, Kannum Pootiyurangu ga neeyen” by P.Leela, “ Oonjalaa…OOonjala” , “ Omana thingal Pakshi”, malar Kodi pole… and Omanathingal Kidavo (S. Janaki in Ithiri Poove Chuvanna Poove)…

But in spite of knowing all these songs, I used to sing old Hindi filmy hits and some favourite Classical Carnatic songs to croon my babies to sleep. They used to listen to my rendition of “Karpagavalli nin porpadangal” , a long ragamalika and “Naanoru Vilayaattu Bommayaa”. At the end of both the songs, they will open an eye and say “Kappalli” and I’d start off again… It will go on and on till some days, I fall asleep… Otherwise it ued to be a long medley of songs starting with “Pyaar hua Ikraar Hua… Aaja sanam Madhur Chandini mein hum…. Yeh Raat bheegi Bheegi….Ramaya Vastaavayya… Dam Bhar jo udhar Moo … and go on to Devanand hits and then Dilip Kumar songs… all songs from old AL Mansoor Video Casettes we used to borrow from the club while living in an Indian Project Camp in Iraq… All …Dard Bhare Geet, Bhoole Bisre Geet and whatnot! But they needed songs to sleep… Now a days, they stuff the ear phones into their ears for falling asleep listen to noisy stuff which I can hardly comprehend or enjoy... but each to his own, I guess!

I thought humming and crooning to put your baby to sleep is passé. But surprisingly, I found RP’s cousin in UK ( with whom we stayed) who is the youngest of our generation was humming away gloriously…like only mothers can, while soothing her baby to sleep.

Some things will never change…
Thank God for that!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


‘Dey, Sriram… Naan Shaththenna neenga vaikunda samaaraadhanai annikku vera onnum pannavendaam… ellarumaa shendu cards velayaadinaale podum, naan sorgathukku poyiduven!’

Rukku Athai’s words made me burst into laughter. That was typical of her! She wants me to organize a card session on the thirteenth day of her death instead of performing the religious rites?

I knew the words had tumbled out of her loose dentures in a fit of frustration. In the past fortnight we had been playing rummy whenever we found free time. Rummy was a passion in our family. Probably generations of kids picked it up from their mothers’ wombs… and cut their teeth on frayed playing cards… Whoever generated the joke about the cardshark’s child counting ….8,9,10,J,Q,K,A… must have done a research on our family’s addiction to the game. Not for us, the grandiosity of Bridge… Nor for us, the speculative suspense of ‘Flash’… We didn’t ever want to lose our tempers with the thrilling ‘Trumps’…or ‘Twenty-eight’… We were not hardcore gamblers… for our soul’s satisfaction sessions after sessions of Rummy sufficed.

That doesn’t mean we played for fun only… we did have stakes… very nominal ones so that the womenfolk of the family need not drain their ‘Swiss Accounts’ if they lost out on a day’s session…Well… I need not worry about that because the womenfolk were very shrewd players especially my mother and my aunts…And, I must say that the real maestro in the field …er…at the table… was my grandmother. Her expertise at playing used to baffle me initially and I used to think that she was a cardshark… till I started watching and studying her game. She took risks, she had phenomenal memory about who took what card and which cards were in demand… All she had to do was call a card, say a joker, and it would come to her! She had what we others never had - Lady Luck dancing to her tunes!

Grandma’s luck was Rukku Athai’s nemesis. Rukku Athai, grandma’s naathanar
( sister in law) too had a passion for the game, but her matches were hampered by over-ambition…Also, She could never manage to hold cards in one hand… Each sequence or set she would tuck inside the folds of her saree; cards would often fall from her stiff arthritic fingers and she is famous for throwing away jokers… In short, she almost never won! Sometimes out of frustration I have caught her cheat while counting the points… but somehow, I never ratted on her… She, as the regular loser, earned my sympathy rather than ire.

She would try desperate measures like changing places with the winner… Starting a new account…I even suspected that she prayed to her Gods to give her a winning streak… What can poor Gods do? She never believed in scooting a game. Insisted on playing every single hand she got, however ‘unplayable’ it was… and ended up giving full hands!

I could understand her frustration… “ Adukkennaa Athe, Jamaaichchuppudarom!” I consoled her and was glared at by my Mom who was dealing the cards. I mean, I didn’t mean to insult her… But my mom is like that. Initially she used to frown at me if I joined their sessions. “No kids allowed” she’d say in a voice that brooked no resistance. I’d meekly retire behind Paati (grandma) and imbibe her techniques. It was only after my graduation and that too when I confessed to mom that many study holidays at the hostel had been spent in honing my Rummy skills rather than in Error Coding or Optical Systems Design, that she had resigned to the fact that Genes meant business in this family and gave in. Thus,my initiation as the youngest member of card player had happened. Maybe, Rukku Athai thought, she’d have better prospects of winning with a greenhorn like me around, but she soon found out that I did justice to my stock… she carried on as the resident loser.

Well, what astuteness Athai lacked in Rummy, she used in concocting perfect meals, especially the traditional dishes that I am so fond of. After the session when I tucked into her ‘piece de resistance’ Kollau Rasam and Usili, I remarked like a satiated gourmand, “Athai, for this kollu rasam and usili only, I’ll hold a marathon card session from your Paththu* ( Tenth day ceremonies) to Vaikunda samaaraadhanai’*!
(Thirteenth Day rites) I got a ‘kizhukku’* ( knock) on my head from my mother’s knuckles for that, something she had not dealt since my Primary School days and I howled in anger rubbing the spot that throbbed, thanks to her knuckles landing in such an ‘unmotherly’ manner! But I didn’t leave the table like I would have fifteen years ago… I meant to enjoy another course of those patented dishes…


I entered the house that teemed with silent people. Rukku Atahi had passed away. When I saw my sister’s SMS, I had immediately applied for a week’s leave. My project leader wasn’t too pleased, but I cared two hoots for his displeasure. Family came first…job was secondary! But when the TL told me my job would not be secondary but non existent when I returned, I had to resort to second thoughts. Finally, negotiations ended in the offer of a week’s holiday provided I completed my bit of the project in 48 hours. Folks back home turned out to be more understanding … naturally… they didn’t have deadlines…er…pardon the pun…to hold on to.

Thus I reached home two days after Rukku Athai left for her Heavenly Abode as Thatha ( Grandpa) had put in the Hindu obituary section. I found all family members going about their duties like poker players… not revealing their grief and waxing philosophical about how she had had a peaceful end.

“ I hope she doesn’t rope in Yamadharma raja and Chithraguptan to play rummy with her,” I said invoking my sister’s guffaw and was shushed by my mother.

“ Don’t speak ill of the poor departed soul,” she admonished me, as she handed me the customary tumbler of coffee, though I could see laughter sparkling in her eyes.

Around mid day, there was discussion about the obsequies. One thing I must admit, the Tam Brahm penchant for long drawn rituals start right when one is in the womb
( Seemantham) and is extended till he is safely sent to his Heavenly abode ( Vaikunta Samaradhanai). All rites must be performed under the guidance of a priest, and families like ours have their resident priest or ‘Aathu Vadhyar’ who decides the Whats, Whens and the Hows.

It is unheard of for pipsqueaks to speak up when the adults in the family discuss grave matters (again, no pun intended) but as usual I blurted out my proposal when Kadukkai Vadhyar, our archbishop, presided over the quorum that assembled to discuss the strategy and campaign for turning Late Rukku Athai from ‘pretha to pitru’( ghost to ancestor). My words shattered the babel of proposers and there was deathly silence.

“Go inside!” whispered mom urgently, on seeing my father’s face, prodding me none too gently on my ribs. “Don’t talk rubbish in front of elders.”

“That’s okay, Gayathri,” said Thatha. He has always been my advocate in my tussles with my ironfisted (I rub my head as I say this) mom. I place my proposal in front of Kadukkai Vadhyar. Now, don’t laugh at the nickname of the priest. It was my Chithappa ( paternal uncle) who had given him that monicker. As a three year old he had been fascinated by the ear rings sported by the vadhyar – the ones called ‘kadukkan’ but he had said ‘kadukkai’ instead- the Tamil word for Galnut - and the misnomer had stuck in the family circles.

I stray… I explained to Kadukkai Vadhyar how Rukku Athai had instructed me to ensure that she will be properly mourned by her kith and kin.
“ But it is unheard of… Our shastras will not condone such heretic acts,” said Vadhyar. I stood my ground. I had had 32 hours on board the Rajdhani Express to Google out on my laptop excerpts from Garuda Purana and instances vindicating my plans to Requiescat In Pace, my grand Athai. Oh, I forgot to tell you, she’s not really my Athai…but my father’s.

Reluctantly Kadukkai Shastrigal acceded, provided he was there to witness the rituals. ‘He did not intend to be cheated out of his fees,’ I told my sister later. My father was visibly upset by the turn of events, but surprisingly, my Thatha was calm and so daddy-mine had to keep his anger in leash. After all, we were going to help Thatha’s only sister reunite with his ancestors. My father then demanded that these idiosyncrasies be carried out away from our hometown where tongues would wag and we decided on Gokarnam as our venue.

“Athai, darling! I am going to fulfill your last wishes” I whispered to her garlanded portrait as I held it on our way to Gokarnam.

x x x x x x

Everything went ritualistically till Kadukkai declared “Now I need someone on whom I will do the ‘aavaahanam’ of the late soul.” Everyone looked at me. I was a bit reluctant. Fulfilling the last desire of a person was gung-ho but invoking that person’s soul into me was something I hadn’t reckoned with. But backing out meant losing the battle of will I was waging with my parents, so I volunteered, albeit a slight tremor inside me somewhere.
“But I won’t wear any sari,” I attempted to be flippant and didn’t like that glint in my sister’s eyes.

With great solemnity we all gathered in a circle. I sat there at the head of the invisible card table, with Rukku Athai’s favourite mustard and red checked Kanjeevaram draped around me like a cape. Surprisingly, Kadukkai had joined the players ( it seems, the performer of tharpanams and aayushhomams rode on his hobby horse called Rummy, occasionally!)

Well… the guy must have really invoked Rukku Athai into me, for I kept losing every hand. In great alarm, I realized that I was playing like her, taking risks… dropping jokers… doing faulty shows, while others were winning and grinning at my discomfiture. After the fourth full hand, I just glanced at her portrait and found that she was glaring at me.
“Ayyo! I can’t do this!” I yelled and flinging away the sari, got to my feet!


“Ennadaa? Ennaachchu? ( What happened? ) Someone was shaking me. I opened my eyes. Rukku Athai stood in front of me holding out a cup of tea.

“Ayyo! Athai neenga sethupogallayaa?” ( You didn’t die?) I blurted out, stupefied.

“ Appane! I won’t die so soon… I must at least win a few sessions before I will give up ghost. Drink your tea and come to my room. We are starting a new session till evening tiffin time, “she said laughingly, ruffling my hair.

Gulping down my tea, I followed the octagenarian with a sheepish grin, three packs of cards in my hands. I hope I can rest in peace after everyone pulls my leg about this dream! I blame it all on that overdose of that Kollu rasam and Usili! My greed will be the death of me, pardon my pun!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


People who look at me hardly believe it when I tell them I go walking every morning… Understandable, when I hardly leave the confines of my home. But, I do go along a familiar route every day. I stop like Robert frost, by the woods ( every morning , though ) and tell myself, I know whose woods are these…

I enter each one’s gates and savour the refreshing air in their garden… sometimes there are new blossoms… sometimes, the garden is in neglect… but the ritual has become a compulsive habit for me.

My route in blogspot takes me first to Ammani’s home… Ammani, who is the most creative writer of quick tales I have ever come across… I stumbled into her foodblog while googling for a recipe and unearthed a treasure chest of inspiration, talent and creativity. Her blog is my raison d’etre as a blogger. I started writing in her various interesting contests in her comments section … Ammani still remains my favourite…

My next trot is to Shoefiend’s. She is a close friend of Ammani’s and another great creator of tales. I was fascinated by her handle: ‘ my other shoes are manolos’… Ammani and Shoefiend are creative complementaries to each other…

From there I trot fast to ‘Ageless Bonding’ Usha. Usha is one intelligent woman and she writes beautifully on contemporary issues and of course personal rambles… I need to check in on her daily and enjoy the fragrance of her latest blog, which rejuvenates me, before dashing away to Anitha Murthy.

Anitha Murthy, another Bangalore blogger ( like Usha ) is a dedicated writer of fiction. Her short stories and novelettes are fascinating… but what I enjoyed the most in her garden were her Nonsense Rhymes and Six Degrees… Though I could do justice to Six Degrees, I could not create anything like her nonsense verses… They are sparkling gems… Her handle ‘Thought Raker’ is just apt for her!

From her place, I visit Hiphop Grandma… who is just that…. Very hip-hop. I can identify with her, as she is a teacher… a lecturer… whose blogs on her students and her own son are real life experiences…

Then I look in on shyam, a spunky young girl who speaks her mind and whose comments on current issues are so refreshingly candid that it is a pleasure to go through… I find myself nodding fiercely as I read her.

Now I peep into the garden of ponnarasi to see if anything has sprouted there… But she is also becoming an erratic blogger…

My next stopovers are quick ones… short soujorns to Chitraiyer, Boo’s Baby Talk and Madmomma… then a peep into Mahadevan’s compound, ganagjal’s , Mumbai girl’s, phoenix’s and Pisasu’s… Like Wee Willy Winkie… I go peeping in to as many gardens as possible…

I used to trespass, I guess, into some gardens like Akkare’s and Flotsam Jetsam’s enjoying all their orchids… but recently they have erected electric fences around their gardens, and access is denied to the occasional visitor like me… I need to get a Gate Pass …but I have not got around to that…

Sometimes, again like Robert Frost, I stand at the fork of Ammani’s or Usha’s blogsite and ponder…” Should I take a road not taken and explore new lovely new paths that lead from theirs…or should I stick to the familiarity of my regular blog-route? Like him I know the new path will lead me away from my normal route…each new diversion created by intriguing handles beckoning me to explore them…till I never return…
Yet, like Frost, I decide to take the road not taken and am delighted by new discoveries of talented writers…with amazing creativity and expression… and I sigh at the end of such a trek realizing what Frost meant when he wrote,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

I rarely let any of these people except Ammani know that I have visited them. Does that make me a tresspasser? I don’t know… I don’t trample on the beds, I don’t pluck their flowers to adorn my own home, I don’t leave foot marks behind… I enjoy their intellect… their creativity… There was a time when I was a resident in their neighbourhood… but it was as though someone had thrown an invisibility cloak on me which I just could not throw off… Not many knew that I even existed in that part of the blogosphere… May be my pseudonym put them off… I was random a4isms…
( concocted just after a brief liaison with Dan Brown… all codes… which fizzled out!) So I struggled like a larva inside the chrysalis, I struggled to break free and find my wings and flutter into freedom of expression where I will find admirers…

And I did… I shifted to a new neighbourhood called Sulekha and the rest is history… sorry… ‘Her Story’ – of recognition, instant gratification, of short term celebrityhood on getting featured, of fan mails and communication with the friendly neighbourhood boys and girls…

It is like a botanical garden with a wide variety of Flora and Fauna… Only, there’s no way I can pick a regular route. I peep, I peer…. I wander… I loiter… I stop by a small wood… stoop to smell a couple of roses.. I walk on in a haphazard manner… I can not chart a course… regular route? Not Possible. This is a democratic public garden… Anyone has access… and you can access anywhere…too many sightseers for your comfort. Till recently, even tresspassers were rampant in this garden of Eden - those poachers with their Copy Paste Electric saws. Felling and carrying away trees so painstakingly nurtured by others… compulsive kleptomaniacs with fingers itching to pluck flowers that blossom in someone’s corner…

The caretakers of the garden do let the visitors know of new blossoms, of their favourite kind… But it would be nice if residents like me can decide to stop by a cedar or a cherryblossom, a daffodil or a mighty oak, every morning and since I am allowed to, leave a couple of footprints around the beds and the soft earth that nourishes creative life!
That may involve more renovation inside the Botanical Garden… Anyway, the winds of change have been blowing inside the garden… Who knows? May be my words will be carried by these winds to the greenhouse where it will get preferential treatment and germinate as new facilities in individual dashboards… like the April Showers that bring May flowers…

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Reading Suffers Due to Blogical Interference

I have become a very erratic and undisciplined reader… Earlier I used to take a book and finish it… Today, I am reading 4 to 5 books at a time… absurd, isn’t it? Impossible? No!

I am currently reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘Like a Flowing River’, Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Bookless in Baghdad’ and ‘The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone’, Bill Bryson’s ‘Thunderbolt Kid’ and the ‘Chicken Soup for the African American Soul.’

And I am equally involved in all the books, enjoying every word that I read… At times I wonder why I have become like this. In the past, I used to finish books in single sittings. Or in straight shifts… in a week or less depending on the ‘unputdownableness’ of the book concerned. Like a Dan Brown… or the book by Sydney Sheldon called ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ which I finished in a reading marathon of six hours…. Or any of the Rowling sagas…

There was a time in my teen years when I used to devour book after book by Mills & Boons publications… But today, I start on a romance and within a few minutes with snorts of disgust and impatience toss it away and reach for a more serious read.

Obviously, I have changed… I can’t blame the books… books are eternal… humans and their whims and fancies ephimeral… Has age killed the romantic in me? No… because I read an Irish best seller by Sarah Webb. It was romantic… but it was also humourous, about people with whom I could identify… So obviously I enjoyed it.

So what is it about Paulo Coelho that I can identify myself with? My aunt is a fan of Coelho. I have access to his books in my favourite secondhand book shop… but I had never bothered to pick him off the shelf… But suddenly I get myself a copy of his reflections on life and his writings… like a compilation of his blogs… and I savour every word of his…including his fervent catholic sentiments…

Tharoor is a favourite… but both the books I have mentioned above are collections of essays published in newspapers and magazines…The diplomat and the writer in him are equally impressive. Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid is more interesting than his other books, I feel…as I perceive in this book, an America of the 50’s… that seems to be full of genuine people… a country that has not yet started masquerading as world police…

I have half a dozen books untouched, still smelling brand new a V. S Naipaul, another Tharoor, a set of Richard Gordons, Musn’t Grumble by Joe Bennett, Marley and Me and Hills of Angheri by Kaveri Nambeesan. I don’t know when I will get round to finishing all these… for these days I seem to be buying books faster than reading them.

I miss reading books in Malayalam and Tamil. For these, I have to wait till I join my Mom. She is my reservoire of vernacular reads. Every year, when I visit her, she’ll have saved for me a few good books in Malayalam and Tamil which I finish during my visit of carry away with me… to be savoured at leisure. Only, my Tamil reading speed is pathetic. I finished a novel she had torn out of Ananda Vikatan or Kumudam and bound for me called ‘ Enge En Kannan’ in fifteen days… Absurd! When in that time I would have read five books in English or Malayalam.

My handicap with Tamil is mainly because I never read the language when I was young. I knew the Tamil alphabet but that was that. I was exposed to Malayalam books at school and college libraries. In fact, the maximum number of Malayalam books, I have read were during the two years I spent in Thiruvananthapuram for my post graduation… I was put up in YWCA while pursuing my Masters in English Language and Literature at the Institute of English and my friends were pursuing their Masters in Malayalam … Those two years exposed me to the best in Malayalam literature… Besides, a class-fellow of mine was the son of an eminent Malayalam writer and this sparked off a curiosity in me about him and I borrowed volumes from the university library…. though much of his kind of writing was not my cup of tea at the time.
I can read Kannada fairly well…. Though I have not bothered to read short stories or novels in the language… again, due to lack of self-motivation!

Tamil, Malayalam or English, reading is like breathing for me. I feel I shall die the day I am unable to read…

When I analyze why my reading has become erratic, I can find only one scapegoat… Blogging! I keep straying to the PC to check status quos and latest posts and comments, tossing my book aside. In fact, blogging has created in me an ‘attention deficit disorder syndrome’… Am metamorphosing into a butterfly, flitting from blog to blog… It is immature to pass the buck like this… but my behavioural changes seem to have occurred in the last couple of years… and it needs no psychiatrist to confirm my obsessive behaviour when it comes to blogging!

The counter-argument is that blogging is also reading of another kind… and when I read works of the same blogger, it is like reading chapters of a book… Some consolation eh?

But then, I hate e-books. I don’t enjoy staring onto the monitor screen while reading a book. Scrolling the page is a nightmare compared a fluid motion like turning a page. And flipping back a few pages to re read some point or some passage is more satisfying than manipulating the pages on monitor screen!

No! Books shall never be replaced by e-books… or blogs… Of course, blog posts may get compiled into books…
So… my problem is caused by blogical interference… But there’s hope… I know that blogs are just for instant gratification… Books, long spells in paradise!

Sunday, October 07, 2007


A few days back, we went to the Burjuman Centre. Actually we had an appointment elsewhere at about 11.30 and not wanting take any risk with the traffic, we left home early….and ended up too early for the appointment. Since Burjuman was nearby, we decided to drop in.

We entered the Nike shop and I as usual got curious glances from the Philippino salesgirls. What would a sari clad middle aged dame want in a Nike showroom? I asked for football jerseys. Without batting an eyelid ( very professional of her…) she asked me , “ For gents or ladies, Madame?” I couldn’t help giggling. Obviously I didn’t look the football jersey kind at all. For gents, of course, I said…for my sons. She smiled , apparently relieved, and led me to the area where Barcelona jerseys vied with the Juventus ones.

I didn’t find the kind my son wanted, thanked her and walked out. Next at the Adidas shop, they had every other club but Manchester United. Disappointed, we both walked on. Then I saw it… the Virgin Mega Store. I remembered that the twins had asked for original DVDs of Prison Break. A very reluctant RP followed me into the shop. He knows I go haywire inside that shop. Virgin Mega Store personnel in the Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre are familiar with me… But this was the first time in Burjuman. As I waltzed alone towards the English DVD section a red uniform clad youth started trailing me. First, he told me, ‘Ma’am, No Hindi titles here.’ As I looked at him surprised, he added condescendingly, ‘This is the English Section, Ma’am.’

I took a look at his name tag before saying, “I know, Adrian. Can you help me locate the first season of Prison Break?” I could see him mentally shrug as he told me, Sorry, we are sold out. Then as the salesman in him surfaced, he said, we have the second season, though. I said okay and picked up the second season. I felt like telling him I have already watched the complete first season with my twin sons and half of the second, but why should I bother, I thought.

The suddenly my eyes fell on the seventh and eighth seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond. Now… I am an avid fan of the series and own all the 6 seasons. With a whoop of joy, I picked up both. I could see my poor better half wince right behind me. I handed all the three collections to Adrian and asked him if he could check out at their branches in the M o E and Deira if they have the first season of Prison Break so that I could pick it up from there. He disappeared for a while and brought back the news that it was available in Mercato Mall and he could get us a copy in two or three days. I gave him RP’s mobile number and name and told him to give a ring as soon as he got it.
As I was about to turn back, he told me Ma’am we have the latest Hindi hits and pointed and enunciated with a heavy accent ‘ Jhoom Barabar Jhoom…and…’ I said serenely, sorry I am not hooked to Hindi movies. Then, as we both moved towards the counter, I said, “Adrian, appearances can be deceptive, right?” he had the decency to look ashamed.
At the counter, there was another youth, an African by birth obviously, who saw my collection and said, “Good choice, maa’m…And I smiled at him, “Yeah, I know.” I hope Adrian learnt a lesson today. You cannot stereotype people or take an arrogant attitude. My wearing sari had nothing to do with his duty as a salesman. Where is it said that only jeans-clad people can enjoy American sitcoms? He was young… and I was ready to forgive him… But, if he acts snooty the next time I am in the shop… I’ll give him a piece of my mind!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


The heart of the compulsive bibliophile in me skipped a couple of beats when I saw a branch of Borders (the bookshop in Mof E, supposedly inaugurated by Jeffrey Archer last year) in Deira City Centre...
Layers of dust can escape my eyes but you can never hide a bookshop from me... In fact, my bibliomania goes to incredible lengths... Even when my eyes glance at the word 'book' in the advertisements in the Freehold section of the Gulf News calling potential customers to book their flats in some exotic upcoming skyscraper... I doubleback to the word, only to retreat in defeat... God knows I can't afford to book an apartment... but I definitely can buy a book or two (or even three) if my fancy catches them...

Like I said, it is joyous tidings for me that Borders have opened a branch in Deira City. For one, Mall of the Emirates is far, far away for a Sharjah resident and I have to depend on a reluctant spouse to drive me there... There's no fun being in a bookshop with a husband who reads nothing but the newspaper and other people's minds... He'll just dog you with impatient looks and serve volleys of " Are we done?" s , "How long will it take"s.... and an assortment of grunts and groans... at you which you can not dodge or ignore anymore...and exasperated, you follow him out of the shop promising never to repeat that mistake ever...

Perhaps I am being a shade too harsh on the man. Once or twice a year he takes me to House of Prose, my favourite secondhand bookshop in Jumeira. Since the jewel of a shop is ensconced in a mini mall, he'll happily wander out of the bookshop and amble in after giving me enough time to browse, choose and generally enjoy the smell and sight of books...

This time, I bought a lot of obscure ( to me) writers... Women writers... about women main characters... in those brightly coloured papaerbacks... For a change... Actually I have picked up almost all Michael Palmers, Crichtons and Follets there...

It was only last year that I started enjoying women writers... Like my friend says, I am all for what is called in Kerala ' Pennezhuthu' - Female Writing- I feel women are better at humour these days... Then I read two books by Karen Quinn and enjoyed it without going through the rollercoaster rides I had with Dan Brown... Quin's books were about the upper middle class American women, so different from me... but I enjoyed the books...Somewhere in my forages I picked up a few Erma Bombecks and have become an ardent fan of hers...

After reading A couple of Shashi Tharoors, a Mitch Albom and of course, the last J.K. Rowling, I wanted a change. I picked up Tasmina Perry's Daddy's Girls. Initially, I kicked myself for paying good money for what seemed to be the a lurid account of the lives of the rich and restless British gentry... the book turned out to be good... the spoilt, ambitious and beautiful women showed some spunk and character at the end...

This time, at the House of Prose, I piced up more women writers, like Diana Appleyard and Sarah Webb... Let me see how they measure up...

I have half a dozen books to finish before getting new ones... But will I be able to restrict myself from exploring Borders? I shall have to go all the way to Dubai... It is a pity we don't have really bookshops here in Sharjah like in Bangalore... We do have the Book Gallery and the Book Plus in Malls... But we need a Magrudy's or a Borders here too... May be even a branch of House of Prose. They have two branches in Dubai and one in AbuDhabi... and Sharjah is supposed to be cultural capital of the emirates... If books are not 'culture'... what is? But seeing they cost so much... it is but natural that book shops thrive in Dubai- the commercial capital...

Maybe once RP buys his MRV, I'll get the Nissan and I can explore the bookshops in Dubai at will.... may be that's why he's delaying ... right? OH MY! Sigh!

Friday, April 06, 2007


Seems a pity to start a travelogue like this…But this incident has been the pebble in my shoes ever since it happened that after returning home I was waiting impatiently for the pictures to get downloaded so that I can give vent to my irritation.

We had a brief trip to Milan on the third day of our Europe tour. The tour director gave us 3 hours to visit the Milan Duomo and the surroundings. He told us we would not be able to see the The Last Supper, Da Vinci’s fresco in Santa Maria Delle Grazie since booking had to be done well in advance…like 3 to 4 months prior to visit. They are overbooked thanks to Dan Brown!
Well, we were not disappointed much, for the Duomo di Milano is in itself a magnificent piece of 16th century architecture with its majestic pillars and stained glass windows.

Piazza del Duomo, the central square of Milan is a place where visitors, Italians and pigeons congregate. We were typical tourists wielding cameras and clicked away happily at the base of the imposing statue of Vittorio Emmanuele II.

The thousands of pigeons were a sight to behold and we could see tourists feeding the friendly birds who didn’t baulk at perching on the heads and hands to peck at the corn doled around by some good Samaritans.

My sister Rat, on a whim, went right in their midst and extended her hand…A curious pigeon hovered in the air near her. Soon, Matsy, my niece joined her…More pigeons flocked towards them…A young man approached them and dropped a few kernels into their palms and the birds started eating from their hands…Soon I too joined them. The man now put a few kernels on my sister’s head and the birds flew up and perched on her head.

She started shrieking and shooed them away…The birds flew away…but the young man did not. He demanded money. We gave him 2 euros…he started off menacingly in Italian and demanded 5 Euros. We refused…but soon he was joined by three more youngsters who surrounded us threateningly. We had to shell out 5 euros.
Later on we came to know from others that actually for 2 Euros, they take your picture feeding the birds…and we, we were victims of an Italian con…er…corn…job!


Should we eat to live or live to eat? My husband asked me before our Europe trip when I expressed my doubt about the food we might…or might not…get there. We are going to visit places….food should not be a stumbling block in this great trip. Fine, I decided. I shall not crib. I am not very fussy about food. In fact, in my pre-marriage days I was famous for eating anything served without any comment. But, I am a strict vegetarian and hence my apprehensions about the food facilities on tour.

Well, I must say it was not unpleasant at all. Though I do feel that I have eaten my lifetime quota of Pizza Margueritas in the 3 days we stayed in Rome.
We used to have a very filling continental breakfast in the hotels we were put up and one Indian meal a day.
In Lucerne we dined at La Alpine, an Indian restaurant. We were exhausted by the 3 flights we had taken in 24 hours and didn’t notice much the first night there. On the second night, I noticed some Swiss customers. I came to know that there was a good Swiss clientele for Indian food. The place had a very ethnic Indian touch. Food was good.
At Mt. Titlis, we were given a buffet lunch at the restaurant on top. There was hot soup to thaw your frozen body that had been exposed to the -15 degrees temp. and the snow fall outside! There was a funny combination of Indian dishes…but hot, steaming food was welcome and they even had ice creams and fruits for the adventurous!

In Dijon, we went to a Taiwanese restaurant. As Girish Agraval, the tour director, put it, it was a new experience for both the restaurant and for us! For the first time, they were serving Chinese vegetarian dishes. Well… I found the boiled ( without salt) string beans and bean sprouts edible only after dousing it with some chilli flakes and mixing it with some ready made yoghurt they had given. The spring rolls were too oily. I liked their noodles, though.

At Milan, eating in the Autogrill was a disturbing experience. For one, the place was crowded and no one had time to confirm to us that what they had slapped onto our tray was actually vegetarian stuff. It looked quite doubtful. I ended up eating just the French fries and salad.
In Paris, we were taken to a restaurant called Rama, run by a gujju family who are residents of Paris since 23 years. The proprietress Sheetal ‘behn’ was an energetic woman hurrying from table to table serving home made rotis and daal. Her Aloo Muttar simply melted in the mouth. Only one problem- she gave only one katori per person which didn’t go very well with our North Indian tour-mates who wanted another each for raita…which was flatly and loudly refused. The next evening, her no- nonsense daughter Deepa was helping around. With her British accent and high heeled boots, she gave an exotic touch to the traditional settings inside ‘Rama’.

We had pizzas Marguerita throughout our stay in Rome. On the first evening, we decided to look up a restaurant called Maharajah suggested by Girish. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t open till 7.30 and we were in a hurry. We got into another place run by a Kashmiri Indian with a Nepalese waiter. The ambience was grand…food was minimal in helpings and the bill was atrociously high. We paid 60 Euros for the meal and the ambience. This is what happens when you don’t remember to be Roman when in Rome!
Then there was the in-flight food… well…nothing to write home about. It seems we have to specify that we want ‘Indian Vegetarian’ to get something that we will find edible… ‘Asian Vegetarian’ may not be of much help!
We had the most heavenly experience in Mumbai…We had our connecting flight to Dubai only in the evening, so we spent the day with RP’s cousin Raja. Hmmm! The day started with filter coffee. That put life back into me. Then followed a breakfast that warmed the cockles of my vegetarian heart! Steaming idlis with Sambhar and ‘gun powder’! Do you know what idlis smell like while being steamed? They smell like heaven…Believe me…I know.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Am back
After six take-offs
After seven touchdowns,
After literally living in a coach,
With three dozen strangers,
With a heart full of memories,
Some good, some bad and some,
'Abso-blooming-lutely' ugly!

Am back
With baggage filled with knickknacks,
And loads and loads of dirty clothes,
With a body and mind
Frantically trying to adjust to
Vagaries of time zones and cultures,
With fingers itching to record all,
That the mind has stored …
In its random memory!

Ten days
Ten times twenty four hours,
Of check-ins, check outs, check posts,
Flight crew, announcements,
Immigration, filling forms, scanners,
Trolleys, officials, green channels,
Ahlans, dankens, bon jours, mercis,
Grazies, ciaos and arrivedercis…
And most amazingly,
Smiles- the proxy interpreters!

A Jigsaw
Of thousand and some pieces
That lay scattered in my heart,
Of people, places, memories,
Of attitudes, alien habits,
Of curios, and the curious,
Of fear and anxiety,
Of joy when dreams come true,
And the keystone that held it all together,
The longing for a land familiar and…
Of unconditional safety!

Oh… UAE!
Try as I might, I cannot but exult
That I have returned home safe and sound!
I never thought, as an expatriate,
I’d say so openly…so gratefully,
But, as the two wheels touched your soil,
Loyalty to my homeland notwithstanding,
My heart murmured…in all sincerity,

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I suppose it is general knowledge that the human heart has four chambers…2 atria and 2 ventricles. All with specific duties to perform. But what with the multitasking capacities commonly found in all human beings, I have put the 4 chambers of my heart to good use. Well… for the benefit of laypersons like me, let me tell you what we are dealing with here. The 2 atria are smaller than the 2 ventricles in size, and between the 2 ventricles, the left ventricle is the larger chamber.

Okay now that the size is established…let me tell you how I use these chambers.

Obviously, the left ventricle houses my family…It is rather overcrowded there what with a husband, twin sons, two sets of parents, brothers, sisters( both in-law and consanguineous) , cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts occupying it and expecting all my love. Doctors comment that 70% of myocardial infarctions occur in the left ventricle. Possible, as it is flooded with all that much love. The right ventricle has to balance, to prevent me from looking lopsided, so I have put all my friends there. All my friends, ex-colleagues and students whom I cherish and value…who enrich my life by their undemanding affection and loyalty to me. Separated from the left ventricle by a mere septum, the crowd inside these chambers, often cross over on visits…!

Since the right atrium effects the cardiac rhythm, what we call heartbeats, that’s where I store my love for music…rhythm, beats…you got it! Whether it is brought in by the inferior or superior vena cava , old Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil songs are stored in there as are carnatic renditions of great maestros and upcoming artistes. An odd collection of western numbers clamour for attention as well! So taking my music away from me is going for my jugular!

My left atrium is only slightly larger than my right one…for it has to store my love for books in its archives. Starting with Tintins and Asterixes, Enid Blytons, Harry Potters and Eragons , westerns, romances, thrillers, adventures, to plain inane trash… everything finds a place here…in fact, there’re times when a raging battle of the books takes place there. Especially when I am inside a bookshop and my heart palpitates with excitement…

Now I come to my present predicament. With these 4 chambers full and overflowing, I need a new place, a new chamber, to ensconce my latest love…my love for blogging. I need professional help. Is there a doctor in the house?


A cricket Blog had run a contest on writing cricket limericks…As usual I stumbled on it a day or two too late. Yet, I felt intrigued enough to try my hand at it. The opening lines for 1 and 2 were given. The last one is totally mine. I have posted this entry in another blogsite where I frequent these days. Thought I’d put it here too….just in case A4isms is in someone’s blogroll…heh heh…wishful thinking!

West Indies are hosting the cup,
For Team India, it’s time to wake up,
Will they win tosses,
Make good old losses,
Or will India be sold again a pup?

They say the world cup is wide open,
Even for Johnston, Romaine and Davison,
Wright, Basher and Tikolo,
Can beat the stars hollow,
So, root the teams with new batsmen!

West Indies are hosting the cup
All fans, kids and grown up
Glued to Fox sports
And media hyped reports
Watching even replays and follow- up!

They say it is a lazy man’s game,
All just for money an’ fame,
Winning the matches,
With runs, extras an’ catches,
Is sure to shift all such trivial blame!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


As far back as I can remember, our household has always woken up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. This is common in all Tamilian homes. The Keralites and the North Indians start their days with chai. For us, Tam- brams, chai is a beverage to be consumed around 3 pm after a siesta. The wheel of action for the day is set rolling only with a cup of…sorry… a glass of …or more traditionally speaking, a tumbler of coffee.
Our coffee is not the glamourous brew aired on the TV … where one finds young couples or maidens sipping from bright red or green mugs and uttering punchlines. We feel the satisfaction of having drunk coffee only when it is served in a ‘davara and tumbler’. And mind you, not for us, the instant variety. We expect coffee to be made with the decoction prepared in a coffee filter (what the Kamath and Saravanabhavan menus refer to as filter coffee.) The steaming hot coffee has to be alternately transferred to and from the tumbler and davara and sipped at a temperature agreeable to your tongue.

It is always beneficial to be an early bird ... Nope, you don’t catch the worm… but you get to taste the coffee made with the freshly boiled milk and the first thick decoction. As the day progresses, the decoction is rendered thinner by the addition of boiling water a second time… and a third time ( for the poor unfortunate maid servant!) They say the cooks in wealthy homes drink the best coffees.
The quality of the coffee served to the guests decides the reputation of the house. The right ratio of the decoction and the milk is the acid test for a good coffee. Many a marriage function has faced crisis because the sammandees did not get ‘degree Kaapi, a situation which results in Sammandi Shandai!’ I have always wondered what this degree kaapi is… May be it is the one that results in words like “Ida…ida … Idathaan naan edirpaarthen!” And normally the cooks are forewarned to ensure degree coffee for the ‘boy’s side’.

The roadside teashops serve coffee in small thick glasses. You can see the residue of the coffee powder settling at the bottom as they don’t use filters, but strain coffee in cloth and I have never drunk such coffees to the last drop. Before I reach the settled dregs, I stop, thus not getting my money’s worth. Yet, holding a hot glass of coffee with both your hands and taking sips off it after blowing into it is an experience in itself!

I first heard the term ‘Peaberry’ in my maternal grandmother’s house. She used to buy coffee beans, fry them ceremoniously and powder the crisp black beans in a manual powdering machine. The smell of freshly ground coffee powder as it falls into the receptacle, used to transport me to some heaven of delight! I thought peaberry was a kind of berry, a substitute for coffee bean and as far as I remember grandmother used to use it in combination with some other coffee beans, hence my misunderstanding!

The size of the glass in which coffee is served varies from house to house. The elders in the family have their traditional ottu ( bronze) glasses or at least big steel glasses that can hold ¼ litre of coffee and they have matching davaras. Others generally have the steel tumblers half the size. It was a cultural shock for me when in my in-laws’ home coffee was served in miniscule glasses the contents of which would hardly suffice to wet my throat in the mornings. Generally, I have noticed that in Karnataka, the size of the coffee tumblers are much smaller than in those in the Tamil Nadu homes and the Palghat Iyers’ kitchens. After a few agonizing days, I found out why. The frequency of drinking coffee is more, so the servings are small. Though I have accepted this general practice, my mornings in Bhadravathi still start on a note of discontent. I know no one would refuse me a larger quantity of coffee in the morning if I choose to have one, but I believe in being a Roman in Rome, so I can always wait till I get back to my own kingdom, where we guzzle a large tankard full of coffee every morning…to the accompaniment of the newspaper.

The North Indian practice of making coffee is rather funny. I mean funny- peculiar …not funny –ha ha! May be I should rephrase this statement. The coffee made by my UP and Punjabi friends taste good, but when I see the traumatic method of preparation, I really feel sorry for them. First my friend spoons out sugar into a cup. She adds coffee powder to it. Next she adds a few drops of … yes, DROPS… of milk into the cup and with a spoon starts beating it like you whisk eggs for a cake. This she does for 10 to 15 minutes, non stop, till the whole thing is a frothy mixture. It is then added to the milk boiling on the stove and the coffee is served. It all seems like futile exercise prior to adding calories ! And I can not cotton to their practice of drinking coffee after a meal, especially at night. Coffee at night is meant to keep you awake.

Coffee is no longer a pick me up on a sleepy morning. Coffee joints have added new dimensions to our youth culture. These days, one can see stylish coffee bars where, hip crowds of the young and the restless hang around. People sit with a cup of coffee for hours together… If you do that in an Udupi restaurant or a Mallu’s tea-kkada, the waiter will come and whisk the glass away and wipe the table with a dirty rag literally telling you to get out or order something else! Initially I was appalled at the price of coffee in such places… Rs. 60 for an ordinary coffee…100 to 150 if it is laced with chocolate and / or other flavors. I realize the youngsters today have that kind of money to burn. Well… to each his own! I personally used to feel it was daylight robbery in Bangalore Barista till I had the Starbucks and Costa experience in the UAE. They seem to be the natural place to enter when you are an hour too early at the airport or in a mall…but afterwards you feel guilty about the amount of calories you have sipped in and the amount of cash you have shelled out!

Whether in my earthen mug with the words ‘Coffee Addict’ or in the steel tumbler and ‘davara’, coffee continues to be the first thing on the agenda every morning in my life. I don’t mind doing without either tea or coffee for the rest of the day, but my cup that cheers is a must for me to get me going. There are thousands of us who are compulsive- coffee- drinkers- in- the- morning, and I dedicate this piece to them all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


It’s that time of the year again!
Yes…since New Year the familiar comments heard in the corridors of schools will be “ Exams are round the corner…start getting serious!” And by mid February the feverish pitch has set in. Worried parents of underachievers will start visiting the school regularly, suddenly concerned about their wards’ progress. Teachers often wonder how they manage to hibernate from June to Jan.
The scenario is grimmer if your child is in the so-called ‘Board Class’ ie, appearing for the crucial grade X or XII exams. The two or sometimes three pre-board exams normally get dismal results leaving, students dejected and anxious, parents worried and demanding and the teachers frustrated and helpless. The whole year one has been teaching… testing, revising…yet there seems to be a cul de sac ahead you.
The arrival of the Hall Tickets somehow brings a flurry of activity all around. Now the kids know there is no way out. Time to pull the proverbial socks up, burn the midnight oil and seek help from all quarters…
Suddenly God seems to be the right counselor. The next fortnight is spent not eating enough…not sleeping enough…walking around with a book in the hand… and calling up friends and empathetic teachers for clearing doubts…
Once, the first paper is done, a sigh of relief is let out. Not as bad as I thought… is the reaction. CBSE gives enough gap between papers for some of those ‘indolent –throughout- the- year’ students to cram in at the last minute and end up scoring well… so that the parents can thumb their noses at the teachers who had been sending warning letters home or calling up parents about their kids’ performance all rendered cruel and insensitive… ‘See my child has done so well… All the time you people were demoralizing her/ him…!’
What they don’t know or care to know is the effort put in by those who teach these classes. The teachers have accountability too. No one chooses the thankless job of teaching for the monetary benefit it offers (which is peanuts for all the strain they go through) nor for the glamour. They are teachers because they choose to be. They are responsible for the good result of the school and ultimately the image of the school. But generally, they are accountable to their own conscience! I know teachers who force underachievers’ parents to drop their kids home so that they can revise at the teacher’s residence till 9 or 10 pm. They don’t get overtime for such acts…if anything, they get dark looks from their family! There are teachers who wake their students up at 4 or 5 a m and coax them to study. But no one, including the student who passes with decent marks, cares to remember these efforts.

For the student, it is newer, greener pastures… for the teacher, it is the same scene…with a different set of students. Who will remember that they wield the four expedients, Sama ( conciliation) Dhana ( gifts) Bheda ( separation) and Dhanda, the last resort ( punishment) for the sheer benefit of the students?

I am sure all kids will do well, ultimately. My best wishes to them. Yet, having been one, I would like to express my best wishes to the teachers, for they really deserve it!

Monday, February 19, 2007


Two decades and some years back…
When I followed you during Saptapadi,
When you committed yourself to me,
For better or for worse,
In health and in illness
Before seeing all my idiosyncrasies,
When you said ‘kubool’…
I forgot to ask you,
Will you be my Valentine?

Two scores of years…
When the gynec snipped off the umbilical cord,
I quietly took it back and tied it
Well and tight …
Around You, Me and the Twins…
Secure, snug and strong…!
Never asking you…
If you were my Valentine!

We stayed tied…
Through colic, teething, insomnia,
Homework, competitions, tests, exams,
Bruises, braces, admissions, performance,
License, heartbreak…dreams of future
Since you were always with me
During my fears, doubts and occasional tears,
I forgot to ask you
Are you my Valentine?

Sands of time…strands of grey…
We watched our fledglings
Poised for flight
Each like a Jonathan Livingston Seagull,
Stretching his wings to hug his destiny,
Comfortable silences, shared smiles,
Warm togetherness,
Sans overtness…
Just the deep understanding that
Together, we have journeyed
Life’s long trek…Still I haven’t
Asked you if you’re my Valentine!

When you say…
This is what I’ve done for you,
In case I am not there…
A sharp jolt in my heart hurts me a lot!
I say, what if I am not there?
And when you look crestfallen,
At the possibility,
I realize….
You are my Valentine- my very own Valentine!


Every morning, I sit at my computer, going my regular blog-reading route, exploring new by-lanes and side routes, adding more stopovers to my list. All the while, the FM radio is on… (have become quite good at multitasking…I even answer a few phone calls, have my breakfast and exercise my neck too…while blogrolling!) Once in a while I make an effort at listening to the RJs instead of hearing them. The result? I feel exasperated by the inane chatter most of them indulge in. The monotony of the singsong monologues is grating…whether it is in Hindi or Malayalam. The jokes render me blasé and the ridiculous and sometimes crude and biased remarks leave me disgusted enough to switch the radio off. Since I can’t stand the silence or the click-clack of my keyboard, I tune in again and start whining…

This has set me thinking, am I not doing the same thing? I write on and on and on about myself, my views, my opinions in my blog and expect others to enjoy it!
Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander eh? Perhaps now I know why I don’t feature in many Blogrolls…. Heh…heh…That's another story! Anyway, it is only February…Still resolution- making time of the year. So I make up my mind to be more tolerant to the RJs… Hope this resolution stays put!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


* A story written on behalf of my husband! keep a pinch of salt ready!

The clock strikes 9 sending me to fresh waves of panic. I gobble the last piece of the paratha before lobbing the plate like a Frisbee into the kitchen sink. I grab the car keys and hurriedly snatch the haversack packed by wifey. Before I can hurry out of the house, she manages to grab hold of my neck and plant a worried kiss on my cheek! I wonder when I shall see her again.
I reach my destination. I had thought I’d be decently early. Ahem! Apparently not! There are already around a hundred in the queue. I quickly join the tail end of the line… Furrows of worry are beginning to appear on my forehead. Am I too late?

Ahem! I need not have worried. Within half an hour there are 300 men and women lined up behind me. I avoid eye contact with the women lest I fall prey to their pleading looks to exchange places with me. ( I have strict orders from wifey regarding this as she knows that my Achilles heel is my chivalrous nature!) I look at my watch.
Ahem! It is only 11.30 pm. The queue seems to lengthen non- stop!

I look around. New coteries are being formed. Old acquaintances are not acknowledged for fear of favours sought. Some are beginning to settle down for the day. Some enterprising ones take out the foldable chairs, they have brought and relax. I curse myself for not having thought of that. Now I’ll have to squat on the road for the rest of the night.

Past midnight. All is silent. People have retired for the day. Ahem! I can’t seem to sleep. Good thinking on the part of wifey to have made me take a valium 5 the previous noon and made me sleep for 8 hours. Now I am as wide-eyed as when both Wifey and I were struggling with post- natal depression! I keep a sharp eye on the sly ones who try to worm their way up the queue surreptitiously!
Ahem! I say aloud, alerting the intruder that he was being watched.

3.30 a.m. Wish I had brought a hooded jacket. These February nights are c..c..cold! I hug myself, hoping that the sacrifice I am making will be worthwhile in the long run!

5 a.m. People are getting up… getting ready. A mallu thumbi appears out of nowhere vending tea that is welcome… oh so welcome!

7 a.m. The long queue is causing traffic snarl-ups. It is peaktime and tempers fray and pop out! Soon the police come, trying to control the crowd. Ahem! They don’t seem to succeed much!

7.30 a.m. The gates open. Instantly pandemonium breaks out. All those people who have been waiting patiently all night have changed into panic stricken beasts stampeding for life.
The security guards can hardly handle the avalanche of parents tumbling into the school.
I am propelled by unseen hands to the counter when my turn comes. ‘Sorry, only one application form per parent says the indifferent shadow on the other side of the bullet proof sheet of glass. ‘I have twins’, I yell into the hole in the glass too low and tiny for me to put my head into. I whip out my wallet and thrust it in showing her my twin sons’ photograph. Luckily she believes me and gives me 2 application forms for the kindergarten section of the school.
As I step out of the queue jubilantly, an irate parent shouts, ‘They are going back on their word. They are issuing more than one form per parent. This’s black marketing!’ Like angry bees they swarm towards me. Someone tries to grab the forms from my hand. I dodge, trying to escape. Soon I am grappling with a man twice my size. My yelling, ‘I have twins, you idiot!’ falls on deaf ears. I struggle hard to free myself. THUD! I fall down. Even as I fall, I am…ahem!...clutching my two forms!

‘Are you okay?’ screams Wife. ‘THE FORMS….the kindergarten application forms for the kids…’I mumble desperately!
‘What! Your kids will be completing their B.Tech in three months… what’s wrong with you?’ She yells!
Ahem! I pick myself up from the floor and glance at today’s newspaper in which I was reading about kindergarten admissions in the emirates when I had fallen asleep… What a nightmare at…ahem…!!