Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tale of two idlies and much sambar

This is the second time I'm writing about idlies.
Considering I started off hating those steamed rice cakes, I've come a long way.
Now I no longer hate them, instead, I have swung to the other side of the spectrum, or to put things simply, I can fantasise about piping hot 'maligaipoo' idlies and their honourable consorts- sambar and chutney.
Not all idlies. My morning fantasies are about Ratna Cafe's idlies and sambar. For those of you who are not fortunate enough to know, idlies and sambar are the brand image of that idle cafe in crowded Triplicane, or if you fancy the original, then Thiruvallikeni for you.
In Triplicane, streets are about three feet where they are wide and about 1/2 a feet wide where they are not. It is a wonder how light and heavy motor vehicles, including buses and water lorries, ply on this narrow stretch, which is further constricted by vehicles parked on both sides of the street. It's no surprise that there are constant traffic jams on the road, but it's a miracle that suddenly, even as you look they all melt away and the road clears up, only to have yet another pile up.
But the pile up I'm fantasising about is the one that comes on a steel plate and swimming in patented sambar. Hot, soft, white idlies, the steam rising off them and the sambar. Along with a small cup full of fresh white coconut chutney! And as if to remind you how to eat it, there are two stainless steel spoons sitting gingerly on the side of the plate, drenched with sambar the waiter carelessly splashes out of a steel mug. Yes, MUG. And replinshes everytime he sees a minor fall in SLIP, short for Sambar Level in Plate, though you might not notice it yourself.
You are not expected to notice it though. Because in Ratna Cafe, everyone knows you are so busy slurrrrping, you notice the dirty/smoky roof has collapsed on you when you find particles of it swimming in the sambar. Or maybe not even then. Because you are experiencing the mild heaven two pancakes of rice and much lentil soup can surprisingly provide.
Like this....Sluuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrpppppppppppppp....

* * *

This plate of idlies is a dedication to Vanitha who I'm trying to appease because I missed her birthday on February 21. Will grovelling with a plate of Ratna Cafe idlies erase the past, Van?
Happy birthday, hope you have a great year!


Monday, February 21, 2005


I did it! Not that I imagined I could do about 5 kms on the Chennai Marathon, considering my life has been for the last er... years quite the life sedentary. No exercise, no sirrah, nothing but my infrequent walks for yes, tea in the evening.
Not a patch on my rather jumpy childhood.But I guess the enthusiasm and sprightliness of my salad days stood me in good stead today as one negotiated the Marathon. Plus, it helped that I was running for a cause: Mohan Foundation, that campaigns for organ donation.
But then, maybe I just rode on the spirits of those running, those cheering, those walking and those, just standing by the footpath and looking.
Which probably explains why I wasn't so tired afterwards. No sleep, no rice for a week, a family wedding and a five km marathon, and I'm here banging away at 11-30 p.m.

Sometimes, I amaze myself. Sometimes, I'm footloose and fancy free...

* * *

Again, I finally got my photoblog up, after several aborted attempts! Check it out at http://ramyaspix.blogspot.com

* * *

I did one week without rice. No big deal for some, but for me, HUGE. Still, I wanted to see if I could, and well, it turns out, I can. I din't die of rice-deprivation, though people around me were gorging everyday.

Hatrick, you see!

* * *

I could go on and want to... but I can see black circles creeping up my eyes, right over the rather deep tan I accquired this morning on the Marina... Now, that aint too good, is it? It threatens to spoil a day posterity will recognise as 'My' day of achievements!

Au voir then, it has been a great day. Life is beautiful, indeed. Amen.


An experiment in black and white...

My home. But bascially, an experiment with black and white... Posted by Hello


Friday, February 18, 2005

A different game...

Just when I was wondering what to blog about, I bumped into Jonty Rhodes.
And it nearly turned out to be what Suderman most appropriately describes as a "just miss" situation, with minor confusion happening about who should be where. But nevermind that. It only matters that I met the friendliest celebrity I've ever met, and hmmm... perhaps the shortest, if you don't count Ustad Bismillah Khan, but that's his age.
Jonty Rhodes stands just a head above me, which naturally causes a steep increase in the " likeability factor" as far as I'm concerned. Plus, he's friendly - about signing autographs (Not for me), putting his arm around your shoulder (for me, for me!) and allowing the photographers to go crazy (aye, aye).
He has an Achiles heel though. On his head. Try to get him remove the baseball cap he's wearing and you'll see his other side. If you don't you still get to see his other side: canvassing for the African safari .
Those animals sure have a great catch in Jonty.

* * *

I watched Polar Express last night. A well-made flick with amazing animation telling the touching tale of "belief." At the end of it, you want to believe that Santa Claus is real. Better still, at the end of it, you believe it's X-mas time, and hey, a WHITE CHRISTMAS at that!

* * *

I've discovered this AWESOME (thiruttu) DVD rental near my house. With door delivery. :))Tra-la-la-la-la... Hakuna Matada...


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The death of dowry

If you don't think I'm on tsunami overkill, read on.
This story appeared in the Thanjavur-Nagapattinam edition of The Hindu on February 12, 2005. When I wrote it, I thought the story's significance stretched beyond the assuarance of life after death. Life goes on, indeed, but not as a cliche.
But then my thoughts are mine; you don't have to listen to me. Go on, read it and come to the same conclusion all by yourself.

* * *

Unbeknown to herself, Valarmathi of Samanthanpettai in tsunami-ravaged Nagapattinam district, has led a renaissance. By merely getting married.
It is the circumstance of her current position that makes her act a trail blazer. Valarmathi approached the district administration with a unique problem: Her wedding, fixed with Kalaimani of Kallar, in the auspicious month of ‘thai’ could not take place, for obvious reasons. Her mother, whose body was the first to be recovered in the village, had been swept away by the sea, along with the dowry of Rs. 30,000 and 15 gms of gold jewellery.
Kalaimani, a fisherman, too lost his belongings in the incident of December 26. Marriage, therefore, was not on top of his mind.
However, for Valarmathi, it was. Which is why she met District Collector, J.Radhakrishnan with a plea: to facilitate her wedding in the auspicious month of "Thai" itself. "Since a wedding is another symbol of return to normality and a new beginning, we were also keen that this wedding take place," Dr.Radhakrishnan said. However, Kalaimani, unshaven and unkempt, mourning the loss of his boats had to be convinced to forget the dowry amount and encouraged to go ahead with the wedding. Convinced, he turned up the next day, shaven and clean, expressing his desire to marry his betrothed and forget all about the dowry.
And today, on an auspicious Friday, in the Tamil month of Thai, Kalaimani knotted the ‘thali’ thrice around the neck of an ecstatic Valarmathi. Word got around and seven other couples, from the tsunami-hit villages of Nagapattinam -- Akkaraipettai, Nagore Pattinachery, Seruthur, Aryanattutheru -- solemnised, in the presence of the district officials, their marriage vows in a simple ceremony that symbolised hope, and in the strangest of ways, the death of dowry.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Pics, again.

I guess I fixed this all right this time. The pictures, from the last trip to Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, I mean. Next time, I'll just try Flickr late Sunday night! :)
Check these out, then.

P.S. Anand and Ferrari, thanks! You got yours coming! :)


Friday, February 11, 2005


Gotcha! No, it is not what you are thinking about!
This is not about Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black, much as I would like it to be. But since the movie is still on my "MUST WATCH" list, this one's going to prove 99 per cent of you, who came here expecting it, wrong.
But then, it's not merely a red herring. This is also about movies, it is also about Black- my abiding passion for the last decade or so. A genre of literature and movies that has consumed me rapaciously for five years and warmly for the next five: Black American history. As much as The Third Reich has attracted and kept my attention over the same period.
I have been fascinated by the history of the black movement, right from its origins in Africa, through the slave boats onto the cotton fields of America, the Civil War, Ku Klux Klan, Malcolm X, modern Black messiahs, blues and jazz...
There are popular movies chronicling each aspect of this journey, like Gone with the Wind, Amistad, even Roots, all great works, but the works of Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Tennessee Williams, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison have kept me awake several nights. It was a bad idea to start listing names, because I cannot really stop. I stop now, because the purpose of this post has not yet been served. It will now be served...

What excites me now is the Black History Month Film festival in Chennai. the visible line between February 14 and 19 at the Film Chamber Theatre, Gemini Circle. Schedule is as follows:
February 14 - Once upon a time... When we Were Colored. Starring Al Freeman Jr., Phylicia Rashad and Leon, 7 p.m.
February 15 - Ghosts of Mississippi. Starring Alec Baldwin, James Woods, Whoopi Goldberg, 6-30 p.m.
February 16 - Greased Lightning. Starring Richard Prior, Beau Ridges, Pam Grier, 6-30 p.m.
February 17 - Separate but Equal. Starring Sidney Poitier, Bert Lancaster, 6-30 p.m.
February 18 -The Color Purple. Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, 6-30 p.m.
February 19: Malcolm X. Starring Spike Lee, Angela Basset, 3 p.m.
I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Starring Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee. 7 p.m.

Watchem! I certainly intend to!


Thursday, February 10, 2005


Allright, let me admit it. This is the successful result of a failed experiment to use Picasa-Hello to put my 64 pics on the blog. Only one picture was sent. This.
"This" is Kizamoovarakarai in Sirkazhi, Nagapattinam. The village has more or less been levelled out by the tsunami. When I was there, all I could see was miles of sand, once white, now death-black and one lone boat on the beach.

P.S.: Anyone offering a solution to my problem will be offered an e-bacardi breezer! :) Go ahead, let that tempt you! :)
Posted by Hello


Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Aww, gosh, now, I sound like that abominable serial on Sun TV- Chithi!
But, truly, my intention was to explain the sense of joy the right side of my cerebrum registered irrationally today, when some one called me "Akka!" Not "Aunty," not "Madam", not "Amma," but that one syllable of hope: "Akka!"
I don't know what it is with us Ramyas, with or without caps, but all I can say is we are going through a phase when we are considering the geriatrics of living, advancing age and such. We ponder over the transition between the states of being "Akka" and "Aunty," reminiscing about the days when aunties were other people. Not us. There is a certain stage in life when you shift saddle from Akka to Aunty, and believe me you don't ask kids whose head reaches your knees to call you 'aunty.' They do it all by themselves.
Now that you know how it is, I guess you have figured out the existential nature of the questions that plague us. And why I am happy when someone actually called me "Akka," spontaneously!
The sequence of events of that miracle are as follows:
I decided to walk today, from my office, to Hotel Taj Connemara, which is about 2 kms away, at about 4 p.m. to attend a press conference. Usually I take my bike/ an auto/ hitch a ride with someone/ the bus/ in that order. But today, since the auto driver demanded 35 bucks, I decided to walk.
Was it hot or what?!
But I felt the heat only until I crossed the subway at LIC to the Arts College side of the road. I was walking close to the stage, that they call the pavement hereabouts, in readiness to pole vault onto it, when this voice happened: "Akka!" A boy on his Hercules MTB was pedalling on the wrong side of the road and wanted me to give way to him. Ordinarily these types would have got a mouthful or two eyes full from me, but this time, I just smiled.
No, its more like a grin. A wide grin. Like a cheshire cat, from ear to ear! Like Garfield, my favourite cat.
Which is why, after the press conference, I decided to walk back to office! You never know, eh?!


Sunday, February 06, 2005

The small pleasures of my life.

Over the last couple of days, I have not been able to write a word. I've felt choked, cut off, asphyxiated. In fact, I was turning blue for lack of words.
Mercifully, this morning I had a lifeline. Intubated, words slowly crept up my veins through to my head, giving me a fresh breath. I cannot really say much about that here, because I'm writing about my morning experience in the paper. Let it suffice to say that I met a baby the size of my palm, with a hole in her heart and a faulty heart valve who had fought so hard to survive, that you wondered if her parents had named her Krishna because she was an avatar of the Lord himself.
As she lay there, on the warmer, breathing hard after her feed, I looked at her and she looked at me for what seemed ages and then, smiled a small smile at me. At that moment, a small pleasure curved up my spine washing a path through my lethargy, my sluggishness, my ennui; arching itself in my in my head; leaving a shimmering trail that felt good where it touched and it touched everywhere.
A flood of words gushes from me now. I can write again.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Ghannan... Ghannan..."

Dark fiends in the sky
Chasing needles earthwards: Splash!
Birthing cold rain smells.