Thursday, March 30, 2006


Husband on strike

This is the weirdest strike I have heard of! The husband goes on a strike because his wife makes their children share their bedroom. Take a look at this.

If Indian parents took to his way, at least, 900 million fathers would have to sleep on roofs!:)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


'If' in my life

It was when Mowgli hit the screen in India that I was first introduced to the name, Rudyard Kipling. However, I did not know, nor felt the need to know anything more about this writer than the fact that Jungle Book was his branichild. One day, in the CSR magazine, I came across an essay which ended with the lines of this Nobel Laureate -

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings, nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds of distance run -
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling.

Poetry always inspires me. Since, music and I were never related, poetry, the cousin of music, to me, became an enjoyable substitute for music. So, I was instantly inspired by those lines and kept repeating them in my head at every chance I got - in the shower, while tying the shoe lays, while walking to/from the school, during the History teacher's class, experiencing the little moments of joy in unravelling the power hidden beneath those words. In the coming week, I spoke about it to all those who, I thought, shared my love for poetry and literature. In one of these discussions, a tennis enthusiast told me that there was more to the poem than the lines I knew. He recounted a couplet from the same poem which was adopted as a motto of the Wimbledon. He said that the verses flashed on the display board before the players entered the court. He recalled the lines effortlessly -

If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same.

My curiosity increased multifold. There was no Google, nor the internet to search for the poem at the click of a mouse. Even if internet existed, to me it would have sounded like an impractical solution as in the early '90s, all I knew of the computer was a lesson on Dos, Logo and a game of Prince and Pacman. So, I resorted to single most successful technique I was fond of - Pestering. I implored, begged and pestered my dad to take me to a library. With his accedence, my search for the poem ended in the library.

It took me more than a couple of readings to appreciate the importance of the use of certain phrases like 'worn out', 'unforgiving minute' etc. and with the help of Oxford dictionary, I figured out the meaning of the words like 'imposter', ‘knaves', etc.

When day after day, I breathed those lines, I discovered new meanings and messages with every recitation. This poem suited every mood of mine. It inspired, mellowed, strengthened, lightened and heartened. Then, when I entered the 'information world' of the web, I read many other poems of the writer, and also criticisms around his racial attitude.

My obsession for poetry sometimes showed even in the most unlikely of places. For example, in my +2, Business Studies exam, I described 'Planning' in the words of Rudyard Kipling -

"I have six honest serving men,
they taught me all I knew.
They are - What, Where and When,
How, why and Who"

Several years later, I was browsing through books in Landmark, and I found the poster which had 'If' poem on it. I couldn't have asked more out of that visit to the book store. I bought it and pinned it at a place I could see every day, just above my desk. The poster is now faded but their lines in my mind remain vivid and bold!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Karadaiyan Nombu and its myth

One person’s truth is another’s fiction. Similarly, one person’s myth is another’s religious belief.

The religious belief of ‘Karadaiyan Nombu’, has its roots in the myth of Satyavan & Savitri, which is about love, devotion, death and life, in the same order. Savitri, daughter of a king, was wise and beautiful. She was granted permission to find her own groom and she selected Satyavan, who was destined to die in a year. But, Savitri did not want to marry anyone except him and entered into the wedlock with courage and confidence. When Satyavan’s impending death arrived, she observed an austere fast to seek the blessing of Gods and Goddesses. Finally, when the God of Death, Yama arrived to perform his duty, she won the life of Satyavan with her devotion and intellect.

Based on this legend, South Indian women observe fast and pray for the well-being of their husband, in the culmination of Masi(a month in Tamil calendar, approximately Feb 14th- March 14th). ‘Kara Adai’ is a delicious recipe, made with rice flour and black peas (Sidenote1: My mom makes excellent karadais). It has no particular nexus with the story, but its preparation has been a custom. When the auspicious time arrives, a banana leaf is placed in front of the lady with karadais and butter, along with a yellow thread, called saradu. The women, then take a vow (referred to as ‘nombu’) uttering the words "Urugada vennaiyum, oradaiyum naan thanden, orunaalum en kanavar piriyadirukka vendum." A crude translation would mean, I make this offer of Adai and butter; May my husband stay with me always. (Sidenote 2: I have never taken the vow without a giggle, at the equation of adai and husband and not a single nombu has passed without a lecture from my mom. A fragment of the lecture in the next paragraph). After the vow, the women tie the saradu around their neck and break the fast with the karadai and vennai, with prayers for their husband’s/future husband’s longevity.

"There will always be myths we are unable to understand or appreciate, or that has been distorted in translation or retelling. A few myths survived the tests of time, a few others changed with time and many have vanished leaving behind only traces of their existence. Perhaps, the obscure remains are the reason for the lack of complete understanding of such myths. But, in its essence, there is a wise lesson to learn, notwithstanding its void appearance. A nonbelieiver will not be able to fathom the depth of the myth by explaining them away, while a believer experiences the joy of its true meaning by acceptance and practice."

I have successfully recalled my mother’s lecture about the obscurity of the connection between husband and Adai. It is left to be seen if I can successfully recall her recipe of Karadai, which seems to be more important after the daylong fast, than its connection with my husband!:P

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Recall value

When I read Thennavan's view about how 'pulli raja' campaign has a great recall value, I was reminded about this incident which was an obvious result of the 'recall value' of such advertisements.

It must have been December of 1990, when I was about nine years of age. My grandmother swathed herself in woollies, even before the temperature dropped to the thirties. She gets to sport her Kashmiri shawls only during the Margazhi get-together in Chennai. So, no matter what the temperature was, she would carry them on her throughout the month. It was also that time of the year when the market felt the extra need to advertise on the importance of protected sex which invariably had popular jingles and slogans that refused to lose power on the mind. Singing the jingles along with the TV was a favourite routine for all of us. One odd advertisement was one in which a couple in a boat with satisfactory experience looked at us and smiled in an intriguing manner, when a sudden silence fell in the room. Then, gradually the singing along restarted with "Valarum Payyan ivan, uyara uyarave Thullubavan...I am a complan boy." Apart from Tiruppavai, ven pongal, carnatic music, winter holidays, Kashmiri shawls and captivating advertisements another main occurrence marked the onset of Margazhi ... my grandmother's cold!

One afternoon when my cousins and I were playing a game of scrabble, grand mom called out for us. She said - "chamathono?" Whenever she started her sentence with this endearing Tamil word, we knew she was bribing us for some impending work. As predicted, she continued "could you get me that sachet of herbal cough syrup . . .?" Since it was a regular phenomenon, we knew what she wanted when she had cold. So, we whisked the Five rupee note and sped to the medical shop right around the corner.

On the way, we held serious debates about how to put the excess of rupees two and fifty np to best use to derive maximum benefits. At an undecided state, we reached the shop. The others were lost in looking at the Eclairs and gems in expectation, while I hit the counter with a loud bang and spurt out - "5 Nirodh 90"...

The two pharmacists looked at each other and exchanged an uncontrollable sarcastic chuckle. "Yaar paapa kettaanga?" enquired one of them, when my answer "ennoda paatti" put them in fits of laughter. I had no clue why they were laughing until I scrutinized the pack of herbal cough syrup on my way back, which read in big bold letters - Nivaran 90! The couple in the boat looked at me with the same sly smile in my memory and said - "Sukhi aur vaivahik jeevan ke liye - Nirodh." Damn! I got difference, albeit a little late.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Blank Noise Project

Blog-a-thon 2006

I am sure many remember the case of Pratibha, an employee of HP who was raped and killed by a cab driver in December last year.

Although I do not know her personally, being an employee of HP ties me with her identity. I am given to think that if could happen to her, it could well, happen to any of us who are in her position, as vulnerable and as unsuspecting as she was.

It is definitely not the company’s fault. I know how much care goes into selecting a cab driver. The newly appointed cab drivers are watched for a period of a few months until the company is assured of his credibility. Is it right to blame the victim, right from her choice of shift to clothes? No. No one else is to be blamed other than the perpetrator of crime in such cases. But, enough has been spoken and heard about the cruelty of certain men who indulge in such brutal actions.

Instead of trying to indulge in fault finding, we can create a better world by finding solutions to the problems. The western world is aware of defense products like stun guns, pepper sprays etc., but we are totally incompatible with such ideas. A training in martial arts is not every woman’s cup of tea. So, that leaves us with just one weapon - COURAGE!

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Malgudi Days

You don't need a reason to be happy about Sunday morning. But, unexpectedly when you find one, your happiness is multiplied. My Sunday morning brightened up when, by chance, I saw an episode of Malgudi Days on TV. The simplicity, classicism and unalloyed truth which lies beneath R.K.Narayan's stories are unparalleled, entertaining readers young and old alike.

I have read many books and essays written by him, including Swami and his friends, Malgudi Days, The financial Expert, Next Sunday etc. There are many more stories that, I am sure, I have read but do not quite remember their titles now, although the characters like postman Thanappa, timid Meenakshi, honest Siddha, intelligent Margayya, guide Raju, young Swami and his strict dad will never be forgotten for their modesty and originality.

As is the case with many other works like Lord of the rings and Harry Potter there are many opulent things that one skips while watching the movie than while reading the book. In Malgudi Days too, the serenity of the riverside, liveliness of the town, discipline in the school are all better read than watched. While the video offers ready-made screenplay, reading allows imagination, which activates the right brain, enabling creative panorama of Malgudi and its characters in accordance with the author's description. We also tend to personalize the stories while reading, relating it to the characters we have known, making the experience a lot richer.

Comparing two works unrelated by time and genre is not just. However, when I draw a comparison with what I liked as a kid, ten years ago and what children of this day prefer, the result seems to mark the onset of a new generation. I do applaud the magical fantasy of Harry Potter and the fictitious characters like hooded Dementors, Penseive and Horcrux, but I feel they lack candour and clarity that is so essential to a child's mind.

When at times one feels trapped in the complex ways of modern life, it feels good to slow down and treat yourself with a jaunt through the narrow lanes of Malgudi walking past unassuming structures constituting bank, salon, cinema theatre, railway station and post office. At every place in the Malgudi landscapes, you will find, no more than ordinary yet interesting people, like the guide, a talkative man, a bachelor of Arts and Mr. Sampath, the printer of Malgudi along with a few extraordinary people like the reluctant guru, the finanial expert and occasionally a man-eater from Malgudi or a tiger from Malgudi. A toothsome sweet from a vendor of sweets will add taste to the grandmother's tales about Gods, demons and others, under the banyan tree along with Swami and friends.

At the end of this heart rending journey you will have made a world of discoveries about humanity, without traveling too far from Madras and Mysore. When that happens, you will be lured into believing that Malgudi is home, just like it has been to thousands of readers over six decades!

Friday, March 03, 2006


Mango deal

Imagine walking through the fruits section in Walmart and finding the varieties of Banganpally, Malgova, Neelam and Kesar lined up next to the alien Mexican counterpart!
I am sure, those who are following Bush's visit closely would have come to know that the ban on import of Indian mangoes has been lifted after being assured about the pest-free harvest methods.

I read here that,
"Waiters in red tunics and red-and-white turbans scurried to serve broccoli-almond soup, seafood and peach ice cream after toasts of mango juice by the two heads of state."

India seems to have clinched the mango deal by serving a glass of mango juice to President Bush. Perhaps, he felt too shy to request a second serving and decided to import the yummy mangoes instead!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Budget blurb

As I read through FM’s budget speech, I found the concluding words of his speech, powerful and commendable -

The young people of India are building castles, it may appear that those castles are in the air, but as Henry David Thoreau said: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." It is our duty to put the foundations on which the young can build their castles.

Every year, on the last day of February, we have a standard procedure of the Finance Minister walking into the Parliament with a briefcase in hand, ready to present the Union Budget. The following week is loaded with media reports, debating the effectiveness of the budget. Then, we hear septuagenarians talking about the proposed hike in interest rates and then, a week later, all about it is forgotten by youngsters like us. Other than those in the Finance profession, many don’t even give the Headlines a closer look.

But, we would probably be more interested if only we knew how a budget affects us in daily life, from the price of fuel to ready-made dosa mix! We don’t necessarily need to be a Finance whiz-kid to understand and appreciate the effects of a budget. A person of average prudence can easily derive benefits out of following certain aspects of it. For example, this year, if you have an idea of buying a car, you could choose to buy a small car, because the excise duty on the same is reduced. Similarly, instead of buying packaged software over the counter, it could be downloaded from the net, so that you could save 8% excise duty levied on packaged software. These are trivial examples to highlight the importance of understanding a budget. Wider benefits could be drawn out of analysis, which of course, comes with practice. For example, on the higher end, investing in fixed deposits could prove beneficial because it is being qualified for tax exemption. Similarly, there was a time when Indians signed up for insurance policies only to please a relative who is an insurance agent. But, if you survey the budget, you could come up with a gainful mix of insurance products, mutual funds and investments to reduce your tax base considerably.

So the next time, when you flip through the front pages of newspaper, sipping the morning coffee, thinking it is yet another budget, take a second look to see what’s in it for you. With two finance geniuses - Dr.Manmohan Singh and Mr. P.Chidambaram at the helm, it is not surprising that we all have something to rejoice about the budget, except if you are a smoker! Well, alternatively, you might still find a reason to rejoice. The excise duty on cigarettes has gone up by just 5% this year instead of the 10% last year.

Disclaimer:- This post is not intended to display political affiliation:)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?