Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sun, Raj, Jaya, Makkal, Win, Podhigai

Blogeswari has a hilarious quiz going on here. This is strictly for the tamil channel viewers. So be warned.

Enjoy thangamani!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In praise of...8

Cooking from instinct

That's the trouble with recipes. They can never tell you everything. And that's also the reason why some of the best cooks I know never refer to a recipe that's been written down. I cannot imagine Pattu mami taking her eyes of the kothavarangai paruppu usili for one moment for a quick glance into her cook book to clarify how much kariveppilai to add to the pan. I agree, if you're baking something, you need to get your measurements right. And a recipe is a great aide-memoire in that regard. But a good recipe does not a good cook make.

I've seen aunts of mine ask Gomathy mami how she made the perfect mullu-murukku. They'd never ask her how long she soaked this or how many portions of that she added. More crucially, they'd want to know where she bought her butter from. They'd watch her as she squeezed the dough ribbons from the mould into boiling hot oil. They'd go away admiring her absolute mastery of the skill and be inspired to try something of their own. Watching, observing and then improvising. A recipe is a good indicator of the direction you need to take. Where you arrive, is entirely upto you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Water drowns noise

I don't know you. But I've met you before. I recognised you the minute your ugly desi eyes clapped on to my body this morning when I stepped into the swimming pool. You kept staring at me as I showered and slipped into the tepid waters of the swimming pool. I felt a shiver going up my spine. No, the water was fine. But it was the thought of you still watching me unblinking half-a-pool away. As I continued doing my laps, I sensed your eyes boring into me - stripping away every last shred of confidence I had. Reducing me to the traumatised 12-year old who had been felt up on a PTC bus. The bewildered 10-year old who watched as a familiar stranger put his hand up her skirt. The terrified 17-year old who had her breasts pinched by an auto rickshaw driver. I was no longer the 30-something mother of two who somehow had deluded herself that her child-bearing hips and layers of fat would immunise her against lecherous stares and ugly gropes. How wrong I was!

Each time I came up for air, I caught sight of you. Your eyes still fixated on me. To my horror, I saw you move a lane closer to me. I swam a lane away. You moved into the bubble pool looking down on the larger pool. I had no where to go. I wanted to yell and shout. I didn't even manage to confront you. Instead I swam and swam. Raging and whimpering silently. Wishing you a hundred misfortunes on your way out. I waited until you were well gone before I emerged from the pool. I showered, changed and rushed home. Where I knew I would be safe.

From the shameless plug dept

A feature on me under the 'One To Watch' section of 4Talent magazine - a bi-annual publication from Channel 4.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A cracker for Deepavali

With Deepavali just round the corner, I thought it'd be a good idea to spare a thought (and some change) to those who are perhaps not as fortunate as you and me.

So here's the idea. I have two fundraising initiatives. Take part in either (or both) and then send a donation off to your favourite charity. Mine is Projectwhy and I would greatly appreciate if you could send your contributions to the same.

Now for the fundraisers:

1. Life Updated. All you have to do is take an old picture of you from your past (don't matter how long ago) and recreate the photo. If it's a photo from your teen-years, even better! Strike the same pose as in the old photo and then post the old and recent photos side-by-side. Once you've done that, send a contribution to your chosen charity.


2. Never tried kale : For those of you who are not keen on sharing your photos, here's an alternative. A week long attempt at trying something new every day. And then blogging about it. It doesn't have to be anything dramatic. It could be something as simple as trying a new vegetable or sleeping on a different side of the bed or reading a new author or attempting the crossword. Who know? You just might discover how much you love kale! And at the end of the week (or during or before), send your donation off to a charity of your choice.

Please send me a link to or leave a comment.

Thank you and happy Deepavali!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'm sorry I haven't a bloody clue 2

I do not know how to correctly use the phrase 'benefit of doubt' (or is it 'the benefit...' or 'benefit of the...'?).

I also don't know what paradigm means. But I use it anyway.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm sorry I haven't a bloody clue

This whole blogging business can be quite grim. Constantly having to appear knowledgable about everything from Bob Dylan to Bruce Willis is rather exhausting. Hence this new series. Where I parade my ignorance. Join me if you can. Let's show off our not-knowingness. Revel in it. Celebrate it even. But certainly not be ashamed of it.

Here's the my first.

I have honestly no clue what investment bankers do. They are fabulously rich and all that. But what exactly do they do during office hours?

Ha! Great to get that off the chest. Next!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Six Already!

It definitely wasn't love at first sight for me. There was none of the maternal gushing that is usually associated with such moments. I thought you were quite red and wrinkly and now that you were out, I simply wanted to go to sleep. The first few months of your life were tumultous for us and looking back, I remember very little from that period. Perhaps I just wanted to block it all out.

You were a needy child who left me utterly exhausted most of the time. I couldn't wait to get away from you and gather what little was left of my earlier life. Back then, I saw you as someone who changed my life irrevocably - and not necessarily in a good way. Added to that was the pressure of having to enjoy motherhood constantly. When all I wanted was to bottle motherhood and throw it somewhere deep into the Atlantic. Frankly, I didn't know how on earth I was going to continue being a mother for the rest of my life.

But gradually, without my ever noticing it, things started to change. You began to communicate and what a difference that made! By the time you were three, you had come into your own as a person and for the first time, I was able to enjoy your company. I saw you as an individual - a bright, funny and extraordinarily generous little person. And despite continued mealtime struggles, how I've come to love you!

I now realise that the years are sliding by quickly. I see your clothes, I note the size on your trainers and they tell me that you're not the toddler I still think of you as. But when did that happen? And how did I miss those years? Soon, you won't be needing your old mother to comfort you when your graze your knee. Or bite your tongue. Or lose your car. And when that happens, guess who'll be wishing she was needed more?

Happy 6th birthday, Jikku! What a blessing you are.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A quick tale 216

A little girl like you

Remember when you were young and your mother used to give you a rupee and ask you to buy cashew nuts from the corner store? The payasam would be ready. The cardamoms would have been pounded. The ghee would be smoking in a small pan on the stove. Hurry, she would urge you, Appa is about to sit down for lunch. I can't make him wait for the payasam. And you would run down to the store, slide the coin across the counter and ask Chettiar for cashew nuts. He would take the coin, slip it into his cash box and nod to the errand boy to carry out the task. The boy would tip a handful of cashews onto the scales, weigh them under the watchful eyes of his employer, wrap them in a newspaper cone and tie them with a small string of coir.

No sooner had you turned the corner, than the string would come undone. You would slip a few of the buttery nuts into your palm. And toss them all straight into your mouth. Then it'd become a struggle to finish them without a trace before you reached home. Amma would have been waiting impatiently. You'd wipe your mouth with the back of your palm and hand over the hastily re-wrapped bundle to her. You'd smile when you heard her complain how much Chettiar charged for such a small handful of nuts. You thought you'd pulled the wool over her eyes. But you forgot, she too was a little girl once. And she remembers well what the little ones get up to.

A quick tale 215

345 friends and counting

She does not know how the other woman managed it. She had only been in office since Monday and already she was calling Vasant 'Vasu', going out for coffee with Sri (Sridhar, until yesterday) and was telling Sue (Sumana) how lovely her new hairstyle was. Heck the two women had only met 72 hours ago!

She wonders how the new arrival had so seamlessly enmeshed herself into the complex jigsaw of office life while she had been working at the same place since February 2002. And to date had not snared a single invitation for coffee and on most days, ate lunch on her own. She must try harder, she resolves. She would remember birthdays, throw dinner parties and be whole lot more gregarious. For a start, she signs up to facebook and pokes her boss.

A quick tale 214


She sits here on her sofa, this 29-year old mother-of-one, about to tell her son off for leaving muddy footprints all over the floor. She is looking down on her stained carpet with mounting horror. How many times does she have to tell him to leave his shoes outside? Has she not told him a million times already? Does she have to write a note and hang it around his neck so he'd remember it next time? Like her father would threaten to do every time she failed to do something he'd asked her to. Funny how she is thinking about her father's threats. From all those years ago. When she was a little girl who was easily bullied. Here she is, a grown woman looking, sitting, raging in the middle of her living room and still remembering empty threats from a lifetime ago. She sighs and gets up to clean the stains. She decides to give her son one more chance.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A very public attempt 5

At Understanding Poetry

I've run out of steam on this series. I leave you with this one. My nearly-six year old's gift to his father on his birthday.

I know. It runs in the family.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A very public attempt 4

At Understanding Poetry

When I was younger poetry was easy to identify. It was something that rhymed and had been written by someone long dead. Then I stumbled upon free verse. Everything changed.

I give you a sample. It's really nice. But why is it poetry? And why isn't it just broken up lines? As ever, resist googling for the poet.

Drawing the Line

What could be simpler than this?
To distinguish past from future,
old from new.

To turn the year like a page,
rediscover our taste for happy endings,
our need for regret.

“You have to draw the line somewhere”
you say.

But always the hand trembles,
the eye fails,
and the heart cannot keep
its memories straight.

Life, like poetry,
is never drawn to scale.

How strange that the shortest distance between two points
should be our most fundamental of separations –

the line,
that can both emphasise and cancel –

so that you draw a margin on the blank page
not only to underline the emptiness,
but also to make it yours.

We exist in a world of shapes and parallels,
imagining lines everywhere –
stencils of states we partition our maps with,
checkerboards of calendars,
and the diagonal of God,
dividing eternity from oblivion –

we are like children
cutting their food into squares,
inventing definition
to make the world easier.

You could say this is make-believe:
that the border between what was and what will be
is too absently crossed;
that the songbirds cannot tell night from day,
past from possibility.

Yet how could we live
without the parentheses of beginning and end?
How could we hope
without Time’s punctuation?

We exist in the hair’s-breadth
of the immediate,
creasing the stationery of our years
with birth, death and festival
to mark our place in it.

Let it be so:
to believe in the trivial
is to have a faith
that cannot be shaken.

Let us celebrate this day
not in the illusion that things will change,
or that the spilling over of time’s circle
means something,

but in the knowledge
that this day is special
because we share it
with each other.

Your turn.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tere mere sapne...

It seems silly. To have something called 'our song'. We're not that kind of people. Not you, not me. Still, you know this one is special. And I don't have to tell you why. Happy birthday!

p.s. sorry I'm two days late.

A very public attempt 3

At Understanding Poetry

I loved Tulips. You do not need to know about the tragic life of Plath to be moved by it. It is not decorous. It is not trying too hard. There is an honesty in the poet's 'voice' and the words just fall gracefully in place.

Which brings me to my next offering. Try this one.

Being Boring
If you ask me 'What's new?', I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion-I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.
- Wendy Cope

I bet most of you would have liked it. But it may not be in the realms of grand, classical poetry for some. Why? Because its subject matter is not some obscure thought but the crushingly mundane? Which leads me to wonder if can you write about dog shit and still call it poetry.