Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Planetary motion

Astrology... an interesting topic - especially when it comes to debating whether astrological predictions are to be believed or not to be believed. Before I go on to say if I believe in astrology on not, let me give a note on how I got interested in astrology. There have been instances where predictions of astrologers, whom I know personally, came true. And there was this famous astrologer - Lion Parthasarathy, who's lecture I had a chance of attending to when he was the chief guest for one of our school functions. Later another programme of his featured on TV for which Radhika was the host. He says that astrology is a science - not something related to intuition. Further, if a horoscope is correct and if the person analyzing it has got good knowledge about it, then its just like reading what is in the horoscope and nothing based on intuition. He added that in the past horoscopes were used to predict a person's health conditions and therefore the royal doctors (vaidhiyars) were also astrologers. Mr.Parthasarathy, as he himself quoted, was a English lecturer in Presidency college and then took interest in astrology, studied about it (I think he even did a doctorate thesis on the same) and became a full fluedged astrologer.

The Naadi josiyam is another sect of astrology which interests me. Its astounding to learn how few sages in the past had written predictions for almost every human in this world - or more to say for those who are 'destined' to see their Naadi josiyam predictions. The serial Chidambara Ragasiyam on Sun TV every Wednesday at 8.30 pm provides some interesting insights into the various aspects of Naadi josiyam.

What I argue with most people on astrology is that - I do not contemplate on whether astrology is true or false. Infact I have known many cases where the predictions have come true and I have read and heared that there is no 'predicting' but only reading thru' one's horoscope. There have also been miscalculations by astrologers - I guess more to do with the astrologer's shortcomings than astrology's.

I can favour astrology if its going to give a positive ray of hope to someone who has been draped in misery. If his stars say he is going to have a bright future and if this is going to make him live in hope, then good for him. But mostly I have seen people restricting themselves from taking a step in a new venture owing to unfavourable predictions. Well, if man could control his destiny, wouldn't life be all the more easier for all of us?

Life definitely gives us shocks and surprises and I feel its these that make a person more stronger and give him the energy to face the turbulences. Ofcourse, many remain steadfast and see themselves out while few do not. In such situations, when relying on astrology, we either tend to dwell on the future and restrict ourselves or worry about the future and spoil our present. As I've quoted in my blog subject, the real greatness in life lies in 'living' it with both the pluses and minuses added with momentary surprises too. Knowing what the future holds for you is like knowing the end of a mystery movie before hand. Ofcourse the choice is yours, but as most people would agree, the excitement and thrill is in watching the movie without knowing the story or its end - isnt it?!!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Made up!

I find it very funny when people wear make up. Ofcourse its one's very own prerogative to do so but I can't understand why, when the beholder can very well make out that the face is 'made up', take all pains to make it look more artificial?

Dark or fair, smooth or wrinkled, clear face or pimpled, I like faces as they are. I mean, it makes the person look all the more natural and pleasing. You know that when a person wears make up, the seemingly impressive face is not original and what's the point in showing up a false image? I can understand people using cosmetics for health reasons like maybe oil, sun screens, moisturisers and the likes but those garish coloured lipsticks with a one-inch thick pancake, added with thick eye liners, mascara, bleached hair, waxed face, threaded eyebrows - hmmm.. at times these people are no different than mannequins. And can't understand why that more than men, women are obsessed with cosmetics.

Looks like marriage is the occasion of a lifetime for a girl - the time when she could literally try out all beautifying(?) techniques with a whooping bill! I remember how my cousin had cashed out about 5000 Rs. for her wedding make up! And since the wedding took place in a small town, she also arranged for the beautician to come down from Madras - so boarding, lodging, travel costs exta. All this just makes me wonder - is this fuss worth it at all? And in all the snaps, you only see the bride as a pale while ghost - too much painting to make her appear as her original self! Do these girls realise that their close ones love them not more or less for the extra powder dabbed onto their skins?

Considering the thriving businesses of foreign cosmetic industries here, its sad to note that all the traditional, home-made beautifying techniques are being shunned. The traditional ones are not only good but do not have side effects either. The effects of oil, shiyakkai, turmeric (anti-fungant, natural bleach, hair remover, what not!), kadalai maavu and the likes can be replaced in lieu of the artifical, highly chemical-based modern cosmetics. I think its more 'hep' and fashionable to say that "I use XYZ shampoo" rather than the more safer and effective shiyakkaai.

I continue keeping my hopes alive for people to realize and appreciate our own native treasures rather than filling the foreigners' coffers and that too at our own cost?

Priorities displaced

During college days, we had a "gang" and it seemed then that we would be inseparable. 'Inseparable' - in literal sense, which is to talk to each other everyday, meet atleast once in two days, get together in Adyar Bakery's Shakes & Creams - as usual - for the birthdays. And we always pooh-poohed when people said that practically, things wouldn't be the same in the future. "Just wait and see - we would prove we are different" - would be our retaliation. But whatever said and done, things *did* change. Now its only contacts thru' e-mails and meeting once in a year itself seems a distant reality.

I was fortunate to have a bigger gang during my post-graduation days when I moved to a different city! During first year, we used to long for the weekends but things changed upside down during second and third years where we used to hate the weekends since that meant 2 days without classes and all the fun associated with them. Again post-college, people got used with their routine and days together of not catching up with their once-upon-a-time "thick" brethern seemed absolutely fine. How many plans we devised then that we would decide upon a day every year and no matter where people are and how busy people are, we shall all re-unite. All those plans, sentimental talk seemed to have gone down the drain. A mail to the yahoogroup once in a blue moon brings so much happiness and considered a rarity!

Friends have got good jobs, handsome pays, some got married, children but yet when people talk about college life, a sense of nostalgia sinks in and everyone is so elated to talk about it, reminiscence those 'good old days' and long to get back there! Would I want to go back to those college days - having the same kind of fun with friends? ofcourse I would! So what is stopping me from doing it? Though everyone whom I speak to, longs for the same, no one wants to literally do it.

No love is lost amongst friends even today. Friendship is still at its best but the companionship...? the time spared for friends...? Even a trivial occasion during college days would've brought all of us together. Infact we just needed some silly reason to congregate. But now it seems tough to make it to even big occasions like marriages. Reason aplenty - tight deadlines, can't take off, have a kid at home - and maybe valid too and it also makes you relate more to the fact that "Change is the law of life"!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Snail Mail

Many times I can't stop myself from wondering if the attribute 'Snail' for the conventional mail is fair enough. But when comparing the regular mail with the electronic-mail, the former does seem to traverse in a snail's pace. But inspite of the time it takes, with a possibility of the letter getting damaged or not reaching the intended recepient at all or getting delayed due to strikes or rains, I still love the snail-mail mode the best!!

A handwritten note from a friend, relative, loved one is a treasure worth to be preserved. The very sight of the handwriting makes the writer's face pop up in front of your eyes (just like those movie scenes when the actor/actress' face shows up on the letter).

I still have a huge collection of letters from my friends, parents (when I was in hostel), relatives and even teachers. Each letter definitely seems to me like a priceless antique which I would not want to part with for anything in this world.

During my 'infant' stages of letter writing, I used to be pretty concerned about not to make any grammatical mistakes when writing in English and consciously tried to induce novel words to display my vocabulary skills :-) and with age letters were meant to be more "hep" and "youthful" with lots of jargons, smileys, hanging sentences, more colloquial and wrong spellings.

I used to like it best when I get letters in covers - esp the 1Re stamped ones in bright yellow colour. When receiving one, I felt the person had lots to say. The old inland letters which used to be sealed only on 2 sides added to our challenges. As adolescent kids, we never missed a chance to read those letters (ofcourse meant for others) without opening them.

The postcards were for the not-so-secretive matters. How I remember the origin of "if you do not send this to 15 people within 10 days..." in postcards then and it seems to continue till date thru' e-mails. My dad would showcase his skills on a card by squeezing as much contents as possible on that little space (ofcourse my friends in hostel then would translate that as stinginess). The postcard was and is the cheapest mode of letter even today. By just spending 10 or 15 paise then, you could send a postcard from Kanyakumari till Kashmir.

'Air-mail' letters were of different kind. The neat letter pad sheets - often in striking yellow or sparkling white colours - were trademarks of the 'phoren' letters. The foreign letter was also a stamp-collector's delight. I remember doing this then - carefully tearing off the envelope part which had the stamps, soaking them in water for the stamps to detach themselves from the cover and placing them between book pages to dry.

Grandmothers' letters were another lot. The words were hard to decipher in that they had no comas, punctuations and the spaces between letters and words would be the same. I remember going to the aid of my neighbour paatti for whom I was the draftsman! It used to be a typical stenographer act - fun-filled and feeling the joy of how well your reading/writing knowledge can be put to use. Ofcourse, I would have to re-phrase her words to be more "letter-compatible".

I wonder if in today's era of e-mails, the letter-writing exercise (in English subject) would ever make sense to the students. The neat drawing of an envelope with a little box at the top right corner for a stamp, instructions flowing down mentally : 'From' address on the top right corner for personal letters and left corner for business letters, 'sub:' is a must for official letters, No apostrophe in "yours", the date should figure on the top right corner, no coma or colon after "To" - the letter writing section carrying 10 marks was like a cake-walk.

Just like those numerous little joys which the future generation sadly miss out - should I say because of techological advancement? - the "Snail mail" is another one in that list.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Whatever you earn is all for your stomach (ellaam indha arai chaan vaithukku dhaan). I do not know about other countries, but in India, especially the south, food holds an important part of any occasion. In India, serving food is held high as a ritual. Ofcourse, this is beyond any religion or creed. And I really enjoy in awe to see this kind of significance being attributed to food - especially the old traditional way which specifies norms on how food is to be served.

Since my knowledge is wider with respect to the food culture in Tamilnadu, I'll dwell more on that. I have experienced myself when I go to a normal household where when a person enters the house, s/he is offered water and requesting the guest to have food is considered a "dont-miss" formality. Well, formality or not, I feel many households ask that in full earnest.

A typical Tamilnadu meal (be it from any region) is complete, well-balanced and heart-filling. I cannot but wonder how our ancestors were so knowledged (like many other things) about the balancing act in food. And adding to it is serving the food on a banana leaf - our very own native disposable, non-stick plate! Usage of banana leaves makes you assert that our fore-fathers were very hygiene conscious. Won't you agree with me when I say that eating food on a banana leaf enhances the taste of the food itself? I am sure you would.

There's also a procedure as to what is to be served where and when on a banana leaf. I initially thought this procedure was for some superstitious reason but later realised it was for a practical purpose. Like, the broader side of a leaf is to be placed on the right since most of us use our right hands to eat and it would be easy to have the wider part for eating. Salt, pickle, fruit, paruppu (dal/lentils) all have their own places reserved on the banana leaf. I read some interesting stuff here about the banana leaf.

A traditional meal starts off by serving water, sweet, salt, vegetables, appalam other crispies like vadai and finally rice (to be served only after the guest takes his/her seat). Salt is served as an add-on incase any dish lacks salt (don't ask me what if its the other way round). First would be paruppu (dhaal/lentils) and nei (ghee/clarified butter). This is a source of protein and fat. Sambhar, again a source of protein and vegetable, follows. Sambhar is substituted or partnered with similar items like mor kuzhambu, puli/vatral kuzhambu and the likes. Too much protein is too heavy on the stomach. So for digestion, you have rasam made from tamarind extract and tomatoes (occasionally with garlic and lemon juice too) - all these ingredients help in digestion and to "disperse" the gas formed by the lentils. Again, tamarind extract is acidic in nature. So to cool the effect of this, you end your meal with curds. Just before curds you have payasam (calcium from milk added with raisins and cashews). Your skills on eating from a banana leaf are best known while having rasam saadham and payasam (The rasam or payasam should not drain down your leaf). But inspite of the intricacy of this ordeal, the taste of payasam on a banana leaf just after rasam is just awesome. You should experience it in order to enjoy it.

And to add to these, you have the vegetables for vitamins, nutrients and fibre (roughage) content, crispies for 'accomplice' , the seasonings - mustard seeds and curry leaves (source of iron too) and banana for digestion and the final betel leaves with betel nuts and lime (chunnambu) to give you that extra punch ;-) (not sure about betel nuts but betel leaves are definitely good for health - esp throat).

I can rest assure that of all the places in India (or probably the world), its only in Tamilnadu that you would find an eating place (good or not) in almost every corner and also catering to the hungry mouths almost round the clock (more so in places around Madurai).

I feel the "allergic" or "dosen't suit my health" factor is purely psycological. Given the number of people who cannot afford even one course meal a day, I would only request people not to be too choosy about food and be thankful for whatever we get. If being choosy over food is bad, wasting food is worse. I am sure each one of us can do our little best to avoid wasting food. Like it is said "Take all you like and eat all you take". Some thoughts...
  • Pack leaftovers from the hotel and give them to the deprieved lot on your way back home or use them for your next meal.
  • Serve leftovers at home to people in need, if not, atleast to dogs, cows, cats or birds.
  • During big functions like marriages, intimate orphanages or old age homes who would be ready to take un-served, leftover food. (Ofcourse, make sure to intimate them well in advance). The food left over on plates can be given to animal shelters for serving animals (I have heard that some establishments dry the leftover food in sun and use them as plant manure).

"Every grain has the eater's name written on it" so says Kabir in his doha. So be thankful to God for all the grains that have your own name on them and make sure you consume them in the best possible way i.e., by sharing!