Thursday, August 04, 2011

Of kaimurukku days and ambulimama nights
It was a lottery day.It certainly was. Just as I thought there was nothing interesting enough in the frazzled bamboo dug out from the attic, a bunch of old editions of Ambulimama, a children's mag, appeared from nowhere.
Thoughts whizzed back to my school years when my paati (she was my mother's paati. so we call her 'Periya paati') had distinctive ways to handle us during our summer stay at Thanjavur.
She had the knack of pulling us into the house when we were playing out unmindful of the harsh sun blasting down upon us. A strong whiff of boiling oil would draw us straight into the kitchen. We would watch open-mouthed as she would expertly roll white flour and twist it into tiny swiggles. By the time the oil splutter with the crispy golden-brown murukku, we would faithfully sit down near her to nibble the first few hot murukkus.
Before we gobble up a dozen murukkus, our gang of friends would disappear, following angry calls from their respective houses. We would then settle for a dhaya-kattai (ludo) with paati, who would invariably lose every game.
It would be a near-similar story at nights. Hours of conspiracy to escape from house to join the kids playing hide-and-seek on the streets would prove futile. Paati would instinctively guess our plans. Post-dinner hours would have her sitting with a new edition of Ambulimama, reading it with a murmur.
It wouldn't take a lot of time for us to crawl beside her and beg for stories. As the night unfolds, we would be blissfully walking along Sarayu river and sitting on the shoulder of Vikramaditya.
A decade has passed since she left us. But the homey feel of her cotton madisar and the endearing smell of Eau-De-Cologne refuses to get off my heart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From Cadburys to Kraft
So, Cadburys throws in the towel. But how does it really matter to us? Facebook and twitter are snowed under with anxious Indian voices that say the chocolates wouldn't just be the same without Cadbury. Ah, well.. true in a sense that we've grown up savouring dairy milks and gifting bournvilles. Diwali means 'celebrations' and a lavish treat for someone would be 'fruit and nut.'
The centuries-old chocolate maker did have a marked impact on all of us. But is it just because we have been so used to the chocolates? That being a part of the reason, it might also be that the 'Brit' thing that turned our attentions.
For all we know, a U.S. comp with as much popularity if taken over by a British one would have been dismissed with a news item buried in corner of a page. Call it the colonial hangover, but the Brit bonding is still going strong, so much so that we crib for their defeat.
But the good thing about plush supermarkets overfed with imported foods is that Hersheys or Kraft are no more exotic to us. If Kraft decides to root out all the flavours of Cadburys and introduce its signature looks, we might, in all probability, miss the good-ol' chocolate bars wrapped in deep-violet glossy papers.
But then, there is so much of never-tried-before chocs waiting to be picked. Let's mourn for bournville for sometime and quench our craving by digging into these exotic bars.
Cheers to Kraft and to chocoholics!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A note of thanks to prof. Sugantha
On a bright, glass-clear day, I got ready with half-saree on and hair plaited. It was that period of time when the idea of attending college and staying away from parents for three whole years was yet to sink in.
Just before lunch, when my hunger pangs ticked off and I stooped over the desk to have a better look of my new college-mates, prof. Sugantha made a nonchalant entry carelessly slinging her pallu that hitherto precariously clung to her shoulders.
"A very quick introduction and then let's get on with the lessons" is how she set off her English lessons For the next two years, I sat amazed by the way she slipped out new words that I used to feverishly jot down.
Physics classes turned dreary and I began to look forward for her gyans. But advices are not something that would easily slip out of her tongue. Her sarcasm-laden one-liners will do the job of hour-long sermons instead.
Classes, to her, meant business. There had never been time when she slumped on the chair, asking us to "revise the lessons." From the chain of teachers who peeped out every half an hour as if to give that stern look at the sleepy watchman who, they hoped, will get his acts together and ring the bell much ahead of the time, she clearly stood apart.
For us, her classes meant pure fun. We were grouped in fours but every time we were asked to do an activity, I would whet my ears to eavesdrop her conversation with other students. There had been instances where I had gone green with envy whenever she shared something funny with my British-English-speaking friend.
For someone who was eyeing on M.B.A. and a masters in astrophysics as my postgraduate options, I became so much fascinated with English that the rest soon walked out of my mind. Prof.Sugantha once lent me a tattered P.G.Wodehouse book and asked me to try that instead of R.K.N. Soon after that, his books became my staple diet.
When English became a priority, journalism was seen as the best option. ACJ then happened and it has taken me to where I am now.
But if it was not for prof.Sugantha and if it were some other professor whose mind gets occupied with thoughts of chronically ill mother-in-law at home and highly spoilt teen-daughter, I might probably be relapsing into a state of coma - perturbed by the heart-wrenching story of the heroine in that popular tele serial.
Not that I mind watching them. But I prefer watching film stars real. And get paid for it too ;)
Thanks mam, for all that you have taught me and for all that I have learnt from you (there is a difference, mind you!)
With great respects,

Sunday, June 07, 2009

When my mother-in-law retold what the doctor had said, I can't help but think of professor Trelawney in Harry Potter and her life-at-danger predictions. The doctor was no different. Bile salts accumulation in Gal bladder, Biliary tract disease, stones in kidney... his guessing list was a lot longer this when she visited him with a complaint of ulcer pain. She was advised to take scans to diagnose the problem.
So it wasn't surprising when my MiL came back, visibly shaken by his frightening prophecies. After a day of silent prayers and mental agony, she reluctantly went to the testing centre, which was overfed with deadpan-looking people.
An hour or two later, she returned back and thank God, with a relieved smile. "The results are normal. I wonder why the doctor asked me to go for a scan?" Before I got time to ponder over her question, a call from my sister-in-law brought back the gloomy ambience at home. Apparently, another doctor had suggested to her to get her five-year-old daughter's digestive system scanned.
Prayers resumed, grim mood was set again and we all waited to know what was in store for her. Results were normal for her too. Thank God again! Mentally drained SiL was frustrated and cursed all the medicos she knew under sun.
Good to know their biological system function perfectly. But who is to take responsibility for their undue mental stress? Okay, the doctors can't assure the patients before knowing what went wrong. But isn't it only human to resist blurting out probable diseases?
For obvious reasons, scans are only to be taken at a centre suggested by them. Scan reports that are printed in any other letter head will not enjoy as much attention as the one that the docs suggest.
Being journo doesn't really help you at this point of time. In fact, they make matters worse and the frustration level shoots up to dangerous heights. These are tagged as sensitive issues and we need solid evidence before putting them on paper. So all I could do was to sigh (twice!). And yeah, vent it out in my hardly read blog :p

Saturday, October 04, 2008

"New avatar"
Finally!! after days of running-behind-sources, the baby is born.. the Metroplus Weekend, quite fortunately, seem to pull the readers who hitherto didn't find the broadsheet Metroplus interesting.. but wt marked the day was the unpretentious, yet pleasant launch party.. bigwig from ad dept, after unveiling the new avatar of metro, led the way to the pool side, as we joined him for the dinner.. the evening was balmy n trash talks that continued well after mid-night did some good for me.. at least, something to think beyond interviews, columns and stories..
new features, i sincerely hope, will allure the younger lot.. i personally find its new look classy and compact..
do look into the stuff n let me know..

Thursday, July 24, 2008

French-ish land makes a perfect holiday destination
“Are you going to Chennai?” the three-year-old smartly dressed kid asked. When I answered in negative, her smile faded by few millimetres, as she ran into the arms of her mom, seemingly an NRI. With Outlook in hand and idlis to munch, the three-hour journey in Pallavan Express moved quite rapidly; so much so that I had to be reminded by my co-passenger to detrain when the express halted at Villupuram.
The station was cleanly kept but for the lack of any sign boards to indicate the way out. For me though, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee at a shop outside the station showed me the way. Just when I stepped out of the station, a bus to Pondi, apparently less packed, stopped. But quite unfortunately, the 45-minute-journey could not provide me a seat inside the bus, which filled in people at dizzying rate.
Though the journey time was short, it was anything but enjoyable. Fish in hampers irked my nostrils, while heavily drunk commuters shoved my luggage at the fag end of the bus. Finally when I got down at the bus stand of Pondi, it was a welcome let-up.
Couple of my friends joined me as we headed to our first destination – ‘Manakulai’ Vinayakar. Sunday is certainly not a day to visit the tourist spots in Pondi. The temple had never-ending queue that thankfully moved at fast-pace. Perpendicular cement roads led us to Aurobindo Ashram, which again was overfed with visitors on Sunday. But as ever, the serenity and calmness are kept up.
When we walked out of the Ashram in inexplicably high spirits, Chunnambar beckoned us. The boating place has gained its popularity in recent times. A 15-minute ride in auto is all needed to reach the backwaters.
The sprawling sand-borne area in Chunnambar has been sparsely filled with play things for kids. A locked boat house, broken swings and rusted steels precariously hanging loose from slides are dampeners. Tickets, moderately priced, to reach the ‘Paradise beach’ are available only till the evening. Large boats, ferries and pedalling ones take the tourists to the shore of Paradise beach.
When we hopped into the boat, the person who mans the boat was singing in shrieking pitch. The music died on his lips when he saw us getting in. “Sit on either side of the boat. You don’t want it to topple,” he said. Petrified, I elbowed my way through my co-passengers to find a seat next to him.
For Chennaites or Mumbaikars, it’s a welcome break from mucky Marina and teeming Juhu. Fewer tourists meant less litters on the shore. Currents are stronger and even few metres into the sea are sure to scare you off with their dynamic pull.
Checking-in at the Seaside Guest House of the Ashram, we decided to visit the recently popularised ‘Panchavati,’ a Hanuman temple on the road leading to Dindivam. But travelling in autos would cost you a fortune. As it did for us. The auto-wallah halted near the Tamil Nadu border and made us jump into other auto of Tamil Nadu to avoid paying tariff at check post (yeah, you have to pay for the other auto separately).
The temple, on Sunday, was moderately crowded. Facade of it is under construction. The aisles let out an overwhelming smell of cement and paint, notifying you about the embryonic stage of the temple. But the newly done up temple’s sanctorum has as much soothing vibes as that of its centuries-old counterparts.
When we walked out, we all slid the Hanuman, shrunk into pocket-sized picture, in our handbags.
By the time we reached Pondi, its much-famed Sunday market was teeming with shoppers. From cotton capris to sand-blasted jeans, you get chic western wears on the platform shops. But before you swing into action, gear up for some post-shopping disappointments. Not all materials are colour-fast and long-lasting. If Lady Luck smiles upon you, you can get things at perfect bargain.
Bumpy rides in auto took toll on our energy levels. None of us were in mood for long walks through the Nehru street, where the market is spread over a kilometre. We walked into India Coffee House, yet another landmark of Pondi. The flavour of coffee at the hotel is said to linger in tongue for days together. With coffee being the least favourite among us, we opted for sambar-bonda. The bondas are really huge, so make sure you stomach craves enough before plunging into them. The taste, as ever, is deliciously distinctive.
We went straight down to Fab India, which, people say, has a unique collection in Pondi, with an eye on French population. It does, but the collection is minimal.
A drive in an auto took us to Sri Krishna Restaurant, which served awfully sour ‘thayir sadham.’ Invariably, all hotels in Pondi stop making idlis by dusk. Sigh. To satiate the badly treated tongue by the curd rice, we rounded off our night’s trip by heading to nearby ice cream parlour. The parlour was nestled between bakeries and very unassuming. But appearance is purely deceptive. The combos that they offer are absolutely lip-smacking. My chocolate-American nuts dessert was the best among all.
“Are we heading back to the sea?” one of my frens asked when we crashed on bed, with the bags strewn all over. “Yes. We are. Refresh yourself and be back,” I told her, as I unbolted the French window of the balcony to have a better look at the sea.
Grudgingly, she got ready and we set out to de-stress ourselves with the sharp smell of sea and salt. The smell was sharp, yeah, but it was the sound of waves that caught our fancy. Sometimes the waves hit the shore in a tuneful fashion, with note-perfect intervals. Suddenly, they get fierce and crash on the rocks with creepy thud.
We retreated to our rooms at 11, as the heavy eye-lids beckoned us back to bed.
Six-thirty in the morning seemed like well past dawn at Pondi. The clouds were cleared and sun shone brightly on the weather-beaten rocks bordering the sea. Cycles in Pondi, which were once ubiquitous, made their appearance only in the morning. We hired a couple of them and came round the park before it became too hot to loiter. As we sat at a cafe that night in Chennai, I couldn’t help think of what the person who collect shoes at Ashram said: “people still relate Pondi to France. The French-ness of it is long gone. Now all you find here can be got elsewhere and cheaper too. Ashram is the only unique thing about the city.” A land, despite losing all its serenity lost in the holiday bustle of tourists, remains to attract more of them. And surprisingly, people who revisit outnumber the newcomers. It may be the uniqueness of Ashram or the alluring beach or just the clean roads, Pondi succeeds in lingering in the hearts of visitors long after its welcome board fade away from our eyes.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Soulful music? but not before a pinch in our wallet

The lecture demonstration of 'guitarist' Prasanna was more than what I expected from the popular instrumentalist. Carnatic buff though I'm, technical details had always been Greek and Latin too me. More so, when it comes to other schools of music. Since Prasanna's forte was western, I expected some high-voltage music in unheard lingo. Liberal doses of music from his electric guitar were always there. But what made the demonstration interesting of music was his impromptu wits.
To my relief, the event was organised by a ladies' club. Homemakers, who were religiously taking down every word he uttered, pelted carnatic questions. "Music doesn't belong to anyone. No one can own music. It should accessible to all," was his philosophy. I was thoroughly impressed with his learn-music-as-it-is theory at the end of the concert. Bidding adieu to the high-spirited homemakers, all in shimmering silk, I browsed few CDs of his that were displayed at the reception counter. Electric Ganesha, one of his bestsellers and a tribute to world fame guitarist Jimi Hendrix, attracted my attention.
Though I neither knew rock guitar nor Jimi Hendrix, I decided to plunge into the world of fusion music. With high-soaring excitement, I picked up with sonic speed and dropped it with equal pace. It cost half a thousand!
I re-checked with the shopper to know whether it was a printing error. She gave a sharp frown and said that's how the musical CDs are charged nowadays. So music isn't as accessible as Prasanna presumed. Or perhaps money can own music. Good music, I mean.
With thoughts widely on my mind, I meandered there to check out the sales of the CDs. Not surprisingly, business was brisk.
phew.. anyways, Happy listening junta.
P.S: Well, I'm too shameless to resist some self-promotion. Here is the link to my article on Prasanna's concert. Check out and let me know.