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.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
With the situation today that wearing a saree itself has become a rarity, I wonder what would happen to the other styles. Is it not sad that a whole tradition in saree wearing is slowly fading away?
I have known a couple of maamis in my own street who used to wear the madisaar as a daily norm, whereas the rest confine themselves to madisaar only during sumangali poojais, weddings and such other rituals. In a way I am happy that the tradition is still being carried forward atleast on such occasions.
Women of today lament about not being comfortable in a saree and what if they have to do their regular household tasks in a saree? But imagine a woman in madisaar, who drapes a 9 yard saree (as against a 7 yard normal saree) and do all the household work in it. I bet it would be considered as an almost impossible feat by today's women.
And then the kandaangi selai. I esp like the lovely kosuvam (pleat) which is tucked behind. It gives a nice fancy look - something like a peacock's tuft on its head or a little pony tail. If you notice, both the kandaagi and the madisaar styles have the saree tied a few inches above the feet - which is rather understandable, else it would be tough to manage the saree with a floor kissing length and that too for the kind of work the womenhood are indulged in.
I know it might appear strange for a guy to write about sarees but remember a saree is one of the true reflections of our culture and these styles are specific to our own region. For me, saree means elegance, dignity, richness in simplicity. Ofcourse, more importantly, the dignity lies in the way it is draped as well. Sadly, maybe due to convenience, wearing saree is on the decline these days - even among the rural youth folk. For more on a saree's pride, listen to the Chingunchaan song from the Tamil movie Porkaalam.
I still pass a second look seeing a maami in madisaar or an aachi in kandaangi. Hey, don't get me wrong, its because I wonder if I would be able to see women in such styles again in the future. [For some pictures of differet saree styles in India, click here]
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Whatever said and done its always "Sorgamae endraalum....". Initially I used to laugh at the lyrics of this song and the backdrop of this song is Singapore - one of the cleanest cities. One ofthe lines goes as "Vethalaiya madichu, maaman adhai kadichu thuppa oru vazhi illaiye" (Rough translation :There is no way you can chew betel and spit it on the roads). Hats off to Gangai Amaran / Ilayaraja for penning the song - it has almost become a trademark song for all foreign travellers.
That's the truth - so what if the city is clean? so what if the traffic is amazing? so what if the transport is fantastic? so what if people mind their own business? More importantly a city should have LIFE and I can see such "live" cities only in India! If you don't get what I mean, visualise a Ranganathan street, area surrounding Mylapore temple and compare it with a place abroad - maybe US or UK or Singapore. See the difference?
Maybe this is what many say as the "essence" of India!! JAI HIND!
26-Sep-06, As I was reading "The Hindu" online yesterday, I was surprised to see an article on similar lines. Crazy Sir, I fully agree with you. You can read the article here.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Ammi polayalayo (or whatever that is!) : The lady with a hammer and chisel. The eye-catching attire is when she bundles the hammer and chisel onto her head and carries her baby in her saree. She is the one who chisels the often used ammi and kozhavi (mortar/pestel). When the mortar-pestel are used often, the rough surface becomes smooth, thereby taking more time for the ingredients to get ground. More and more people turning towards mixies and motor grinders, seemed to have had a big effect on these poor people.
Krishnaaaaa...aayil : This was how the kerosene vendor went about marketing his 'krishna oil'. I wonder if the blue tint given to kerosene (to prevent illegal trading) gave this common name. The vendor used to pull a bright yellow coloured cylindrical steel tin mounted on two tyres.
Uppu thatha : The frail thatha with a contrasting white moush and hair was a friend of the kids. The only dress we saw him in was a cotton cloth wrapped around his waist. He used to tirelessly go about selling his uppu (salt) from street to street. I hardly see him these days.
Saana(m) pidikaradhe... : The man carrying a cycle wheel structure attached to a wooden structure with a pedal and a sharpening stone used for sharpening blunt knives, aruvaals and importantly arugamanais. I am sure the whole 'machine' was his own design and self-made. Sad that many of our conventional inventions have either gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
Jodrippair : Maybe it was 'Jot repair'. I know people refer to shoes as jot (as in 'jottala adippen'), but don't know if its the same. I used to go ga-ga over the cobbler's tool bag. Almost all of his tools are made from a used product. The needle would be nicely packed in a rubber stamp handle, the scrapper would be a shoe polish tin lid and the way he makes the stitches - wow! For me, its a treat to watch anyday!
Kulfikaaran : Though I do see them in the beach, their daily rounds in the streets seem to have reduced a lot. The bell was the kulfikaaran's trademark sound with a petro-max light hanging on his tri-cycle. In our street, our family was probably the only one buying kulfi from him but nevertheless he was popular in many areas. What is reminiscent of the kulfikaaran is his sweat clad face seeming very ghost-like when seen above his petro-max light. I used to watch in awe the way he takes out the kulfi from the metal/plastic-rimmed containers with a knife and slice it up. He would place it on a dry leaf (forgot the name of that leaf). The taste used to be awesome though I used to get odd tastes in between. Some of my friends have warned that the water/way of making might not be very hygenic but the kulfis haven't troubled me so far!
Soan papadi wala : Just like the kulfikaaran, the soan papadi wala is confined to the beaches these days. When I think about the son papadi boy, I am amazed when I realise that I have not spoken a word with him nor have I heard his voice. His arrival was signalled by his bell and the huge bell jar would be tied firmly with a rope to the wheeled cart.
Kadalai vandi : Very similar traits as the soan papadi boy. His trademark sound was the roasting sound of sand and groundnuts on an iron wok with an iron spatula. He would bang the spatula on the wok to announce his prescence. I still remember the words 'MINIMAM 25 paisa' written in a very bad handwriting and bad spelling in front of his cart. It was 10p earlier, then it became 25, later 50 and now I think its 1 Re minimam, sorry minimum! Whenever I got groundnuts from him, my eyes would fall upon the books which he probably got from the old paper mart for selling his groundbuts. Most often, there used to be some kind of text books like Chemistry, Maths and I used to wonder then "aah! what is this guy doing? This guy doesn't know its worth"
Kaikari paatti : Though the tri-cycle cart vendors still visit our streets, the paattis (grandmother) carrying the vegetable basket are not to be seen these days. One should see how the different varities of vegies are neatly arranged in that one round basket. A cloth bundled as a bun on her head would act as a support for the basket and she would sit in the verandah for hours chatting with the ladies of the house. I remember helping the paatti lift the basket and place it on her head when she is about to leave and boy! that is some weight! Imagine having to carry such weight in the scorching sun across many streets. Hmm... what grit!
Paal cover, buddi, papaaar : The old newspaper man is still prominent but the number of them has drastically reduced. In those days, scent bottles, plastics were his best buys and so was iron. During our childhood days, we always used to mimic his tone and the nice paperkaaran used to smile back - not minding our childish mocks. One of the paperkaarans of our street who has been around for a long time has his son studying in one of the good schools in our locality. Isn't that great news?
One thing which is common among these people is their sincerity to earn money instead of resorting to cheap tactics like begging, stealing and other means. I can't imagine myself in their shoes. I can afford to be lazy on a day and forgo going to work but to them each day counts. Its not a question of wanting to become rich but to ensure their family gets their next course meal. My salutations to their grit, determination, hard work and endurance. They do teach us some lesson - don't they?
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Okay, enough of the brickbats - whatever said and done, the TV seems to be a very good companion - at times, the ONLY companion. I have had a stint with this kind of experience during my days away from home. Though I had my roomies, having had to work on shifts, loneliness was inevitable at times and loneliness to me - more than causing boredom and frustration - is haunting! And it was during these times that my friendly companion came to my rescue - who else? my little 14" Videocon TV. Believe it or not, I would just switch on the TV, tune into some song channel or to some insane soap and leave it as is and carry on with my brushing, attending nature's call, cooking, dressing, cleaning and so on - having just a faint idea as to what's going on the TV.
And when I was even farther away from home, getting very little chance to rub shoulders with my native tongue or culture, TV again was my solace. Of course, there were other arenas too - like friends, internet, gazing around, roaming the city, getting to know the other culture, but still, during my times of solitude, I could rely on TV! Even the most irritable song, a disgusting actor, a lousy heroine all seem to have descended from heaven then. I am sure many folks who are staying/have stayed alone (especially the ones living abroad) would be able to relate to this state of mind.
Agreed TV has taken many a quality time but to me, many a time, it has helped me maintain my mental quality :-)
Friday, July 07, 2006
Rasam is one of the seemingly simple recipes but it definitely requires some kind of kai manam to induce that real taste and flavour in it; and to add to it are the vast number of the variations... I had always envied the paruppu rasam of my mom's. The aroma would fill the whole house. How much ever I tried, I could never get that taste when I made it myself. There is also this sharp distinction between rasam made at a vegetarian home and a non-vegetarian home. I love both though! Rasam with paruppu usili is my favorite combo and so are rasam-potato fry and rasam-potato chips.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Sarasu, the lady doing our household chores has 3 daughters. She is a single parent as her husband, who was a bit mentally challenged, left them one day. Not that his presence helped things any better but it seemed they had no 'male support' (as the neighbourhood would put it). She took great pains to marry off her first daughter. The dowry thing was not much of a problem as Sarasu got her daughter married to Sarasu's own brother. The second daughter did her schooling (in a corporation school ofcourse) till 9th and then joined a fancy store as a sales girl and would also do house hold chores in the evenings. She also managed to go for typing classes in her spare time.
The third daughter - Ambika, was also quite inclined to studies. She too was in the same corporation school as her sister. She also worked in the houses in the day and evening times. Many considerate landladies did their little best to help the girl - like buying notebooks (books and school fees were waived off - being a Corpn. school). Seeing a little girl in her early teens, rush to school after the household chores in the day and then seen in the evenings sweeping the front yard in her green school uniform was definitely a heart-kindling sight. How many of us are really lucky and blessed - we never realise until we see people like Ambika.
With the meagre money that the whole family manages to earn, the girl could not think of any other luxuries like a study table, guides or even tuitions. So she would approach me or my mom for any doubts in Maths and English. Inspite of all this, she managed to score close to 70% in her 12th standard board exams this year!
Now would this 70% be comparable to 80% which I would score given the fact that I have access to all the luxuries that I can afford which the girl cannot. Above all there lies the simple fact that I can choose to just study study study whereas Ambika would first think of ensuring that her family gets atleast 2 meals a day and then comes studies, degree and whatever!
Okay - but should I be deprieved of a seat inspite of getting 80% and Ambika be given the seat inspite of getting just 70%. That definitely seems unfair but what is the repurcussion of me not getting the seat and Ambika getting it? A degree, a job, a better salary would do great wonders for Ambika - probably change their whole lifestyle whereas me not getting a seat is kind of okay, I can manage to get into a private college or a payment seat or worst case try for an improvement and get into the same college next year.
But one thing which I fail to agree is caste cannot be an assessment factor here because though many downtrodden families have made advancements, there are many many really worthy candidates who are left out. I remember, during my PG days, a candidate who got about 5000 Rs. as SC/ST scholarship, would be seen on a shopping spree every Sunday - so now you know how the scholarship money is spent? At the same time I have also known a boy belonging to SC/ST category not knowing about scholarship but still has a dream to study and also another who made good use of the scholarship and got a plump job and thereby uplifted his family to a better level. There is also the son of a poor temple priest I know who was left behind - just because he belonged to the forward community. He had to settle for something other than his desired course because he missed the bus by a narrow edge!
The main drawback in our country is that the government has failed miserably on the primary and secondary education front. A student studying in a corporation school is absolutely no match for a student in a private school that too with the same sylabi. Instead, the government is all bent to give reservation at top level education, which is definitely not a welcome decision. The credibility of instituitions and the candidates would go for a toss if merit is comprised at *that* level. Instead primary and secondary level education should be upgraded and improved to higher standards - at par with good private institutions. Reservations could be given to children of hapless families - their fees waived off, all amenities provided and enough encouragement given upto say school and under-grad level but beyond that it seems meaningless.
So my take? Reservation is definitely necessary but where, for whom, till when is something to be debated upon!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Okay, let me think... urbanisation or development would probably mean better roads, better transport, better access to heathcare, better sanitation and better availability of basic goods and services. But why is that such urbanisation always comes with a tinge (maybe a little more than a tinge) of moderness? I don't say being modern is wrong but our perception of moderness seems to dwell in the west. Anything western is modern! For heaven's sake NO! Eventually we tend to lose out on our very own, special, unique traditions and practices which even the westerners awe and at times emulate.
Yesterday, as I was returning home, I passed by a quiet alley with lots of trees, vast open lands. I saw people in most houses place a cot in the open area adjacent to their houses, with the FM radio mellowing some songs and the members lazily lying on the cots gazing the sky with little chit-chats. With the IT revolution catching up in the area, wonder if the trees, vast land and probably even the house would cease to exist!
I don't know if my thoughts have become like an old timer but I strongly feel we are losing out on something BIG in the name of urbanisation (read IT revolution!). Is there a way out?
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
But at times when I take pride for being outspoken and point-blank, I wonder if it has really hurt someone bad. May be it did! So where do I draw the line between being outspoken and hurting somebody? Or is it that people have gotten used to so much of flattery and praises that they just can't seem to digest criticism or straight-from-the-heart talks?!
In my case, as far as I can remember, though the appreciations have made me happy, given my 'moments to cherish', what had made me really grow and mature are the constructive criticisms (I learnt to make them constructive even if they weren't meant to be). Importantly, over a period of time, I got to realise that criticisms and timely outbursts are not necessarily reflections of any feelings of hatred but only momentary or contextual reactions; and have strongly inferred that if one is able to get this realisation, relationships would hardly turn sour.
Today, when I have developed the guts to speak from my heart, I know that my intention is not to hurt the person but an attempt to be honest, to be true to the relationship I hold with that person!
Friday, April 07, 2006
The fun filled, systematic school days or the more carefree and less-restricted college days and those many little little, probably trivial incidents, thinking of which produces a smile and lightens up your face - I am sure everyone has a bit of these.
It happens often when we share past memoirs with our college/school/other friends yahoogroups and the oft repeated Mudhalvan dialogue keeps cropping up "If only life had a rewind button"!
But practically speaking, would life be all that interesting if life really had that rewind button? Mmm... I doubt! For, life is to be lived for every moment. Every moment is special, and if you had an option of re-living it again, over and over again, we might probably miss out on the fun and sentiment attached to it. "Wanna have that fun again? no probs - just press the Rewind button" - doesn't seem all that exciting huh? even though it does! (am I sounding like an oxymoron here?)
Its like watching a suspense filled movie or a catchy song or a colourful song sequence. Watching it over and over again might give you the kick but never will it be same as watching it the first time!
Yes I would love to re-live the moments when we had birthday bashes at hostel, throwing eggs on the birthday boy, when we made fun in the classrooms - pulling the 'pairs' of the class, long walks on the beach, winning a prize at school, the fun-filled outing, the great time at a cousin's marriage, eleventh hour preps and I do re-live these and many more - in my thoughts. Maybe the interest to re-live the past would tend to cease had life had a rewind button but till I do have that option, I'll rely on the rewind button in my mind!
Monday, March 20, 2006
So what does caste has to offer? I see a rich tradition and a whole plethora of different lifestyles associated with the different castes and there is nothing better or worse here - each is unique and special in its own way. Even in the customs and traditions, I do not see exhibition of any hatred or ill-feelings towards other people or castes.
Why are we targetting castes when caste is not that bad at all? What is bad and which needs to be condemned is the hatred and apartheid arising out of casteism and not casteism itself. What we have today even otherwise is segregation based on education, social status, money - how are these better than casteism? If not caste, humans would have come up with something else to differentiate and show superiority over other.
When I visit the agraharam like setup in Mylapore or Srirangam, I wish they continue to uphold their authencity inspite of modernisation. I wish the theru koothus, thiruvizhas, the peasant livelihood, the potters - all continue to exist irrespective of the radical changes in the world. I admire the skills of the sculptor, cobbler, barber - all alike. I get inspired by the little saving techniques of the down trodden and equally get amazed by the architectural beauty of the Chettinadu houses. So which caste is bad? which caste promotes hatred? or apartheid? none! Its us who cultivate these.
Maybe we should start appreciating casteism - not for the differences - but for the rich culture and heritage it holds and instead shun the hatred and differences arising out of it!
Thursday, February 23, 2006
From time I can remember, summer meant long vacation and those planned trips where we try to revive the 'lost links' between long forgotten relatives, friends and places. A typical summer vacation, even otherwise without the trips was 'Sleeeeeep-eat-play-eat-play-play-eat-play-sleep'. The indoor games would resurface after its hiberation (owing to exams) - Trade, Monopoly, scrabble, cards, carrom. And ofcourse the routine 'never-miss' evening visits to the beach! En-route home, we would visit the library and try to grab the Archies, Tinkles, Tintins and Asterixs before someone would.
Other pictures which flash to my mind about summer :
The mushrooming thanneer pandals (water sheds?) where enthusiastic party men prove their might and even distribute butter milk and rasna at times! and then those many many hand-carts and heaps you see all the way on the roads with water melons, cucumbers, musk melons and my ever favourite mangoes and maavadu! Nature's bounty is best seen during summer. Then comes my another favourite - icecream! Though I have no distinction between icecreams, I have a special liking for the kuchi icecreams - tangy orange, semiya, paal ice but I had to give up on those owing to the unhygienic water/methodology adopted these days.
Inspite of people lamenting over the heat, humidity, sweat and the likes, I find they are at their active-best during summer. Every one is busy doing something or the other. You would hardly see anyone laid back. People are either travelling, shopping and our folks at home are busy making either vathals, karuvadams, maavadu, pickles or squashes, jams and the likes and the kiddies keeping up with summer camps, tennis or swimming . In short, there is some kind of 'festive mood' in the air during summer.
One notable sight (which is sadly on the decline these days due to apartment culture) is people placing water pots outside their homes. This is for the thirsty traveller! Hmm... what a noble gesture!!
Another important event generally making its appearance during summer is the election! Somehow I feel that during this time, everything else goes un-noticed. So even if you were to commit a petty offence, it seems to be absolutely fine ;-)
The evenings are fun too. Long chats on the beach sands, which obviously gets continued at homes with lots of star gazing and then the group dinner with cousins (generally kai urundai).
The best reason I would attribute to summer is the flexibility of going out unlike the rainy and cold seasons (well not applicable for Madras though).
Traditionalists say that the winter's exodus starts soon after Mahasivarathiri and now that Mahasivarathiri was celebrated last Sunday, summer is not far behind (I am reminded of Shelly's lines : If winter comes, can spring be far behind?). Did I hear a sigh? Well don't worry. With the right clothing, right food, lots of water, summer is definitely an enjoyable season. So let's welcome summer with arms wide open and a 'warm' hug! :-)
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
I was very disturbed by this video, the link for which I got thru' e-mail today. It shows the video recording of a house maid ill-treating a little boy of the house in the absence of his parents. The camera was secretly fitted in the drawing hall. Being in the state I am, I thought the best way I could alleviate my grief would be to share my feeling with my fellow bloggers.
For the rest of the day, my thoughts were revolving around the little boy. Being subject to such toture at a little age, what impact would it have on his psyche? The agony when he sees his parents leave and the unsaid joy when he sees them back and the turmoil in between. Still worse, the child would not be able to express this agony! As a little solace, I read in the comments section that the mother quit her job and is taking care of her child now though the maid gave the slip. But how long would it take before the child recovers from the mental perturbation? I just hope he does soon.
This brings yet again to the topic on plight of a child with both parents working. There might be reasons aplenty but in the end, all that matters is not the luxury/comfort which parents provide but the love and care which they are able to shower upon their kids and the kids acknowledging this love in return.
Parents would obviously want their kids to have the best but its also necessary that the child understands hardships and also realises the trouble which parents undergo and know that everything doesn't come served on a silver plate. If luxury would be the yardstick to measure a kid's lifestyle, then would it imply that all less-affordable parents do not do justice to their kids?
In my case, I wasn't the 'born-with-a-silver-spoon' kind but my parents definitely showed us what troubles are, what joys are, that happiness is a state of mind, to be content, to share what you have, to give the best inorder to get the best, to see those less-previleged and feel how blessed we are and finally these virtues are what have stood steadfast in the long run - not materialistic pleasures, which we also did enjoy wherever we could afford them.
I know parents, both of them working, still doing justice to their kids and also mothers, inspite of being at home, not giving the required attention. But in cases like these (both parents working for better quality of life), what luxury/comfort would it matter to that little one when it is being deprieved of what it needs most - love, care, a soothing touch, a lullaby, a cuddle...?
You may be deprieved of a house, food, luxuries but to be deprieved of love is something I cannot imagine or rather wouldn't want to imagine. You get love - you feel the whole world is with you but you get no love, no matter even if you buy the world, you are lifeless!
Some are lucky to have good mothers, grand parents, aunts and even loving care takers but for many most part of their day seems to pass in that wait... the wait while looking at the gate in creche, waiting for the door bell to ring, waiting for the sound of that pick-up van, dad's bike, the clock stricking 6! And when they seem to get what they were yearning for all those years, its all too late for now they've become stone-hearted having got used to all those vain waits!
For all those parents and parents-to-be, please... please.... don't get carried away by that comfort/luxury tag. I am sure you can provide much much more than those materialistic comforts by being what you are, by your presence, by your love. You lose your job, you lose your high-profile job - its just another employee gone for the company but remember your kid has only one mom!
Thursday, January 05, 2006
People have been very innovative in moustaches too : from the handlebar, pencil drawn, Hitler types to the very trendy goatee.
But sadly in the recent era, moustache is losing its prominence. Not sporting a mousch seems to be more fancier than having one. Infact I hardly remember any 'uncle' from my previous generation who did not have a mousch. Well, the situation was different with the generation one step up from my uncles (the grandfathers era that is) - hardly anyone sported a mousch then.
In those days, one obvious criterion which distinguished a North Indian and a South Indian hero was the moustache - the heroes of the North almost never had one while is south, they were never devoid of one. But now looks like the South heroes have taken a clue from their northern counterparts - almost all heroes these days have shunned their mousches!
Another familiar trend is seen amongst people going abroad. Most foreign 'returnees' have their moustaches removed (if they had one earlier!) for reasons best known to them. Even stauch 'upholders' of moustaches give up their precious asset.
Some feel a clean shaven face gives a young look but I beg to differ. Kamalhassan (one of my favorite stars) looks more younger with a mousch than without one.
And another question doing the rounds often is : do women fancy men who don a mousch over men who don't? Hmm... opinions apart, there's definitely 'something' in a mousch huh?