Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Coming back after Aadi

It has been quite some time since I have passed by this way. I have been busy of late; trying to fix the travel arrangements for the U.S. and the U.K. and still a long way from tying them up; taking the widening corners of my eternally hot, growing city on Minnal everyday; scrambling to finish my Panos Fellowship on time, handling my chartered accountant and tax; playing Stickcricket and getting good at it; and a million other things that could not really bear elaboration here.
But something happens that forces me to pick up the stylus again. In the Tamil month of Aadi we have just passed, given to wanton religious fervour, some parts of Chennai go crazy. I have nothing against people who practise their faith personally, quietly and even fervently: I do not try to understand their belief or what drives them. Yet, when they spill their religious sentiments on the streets like they do during Aadi, then I'm forced to take notice.
I mean, can you ignore a young girl who turns the bend in the road to appear suddenly in front of you, a sharp instrument going in through one end of her turmeric-yellow cheek to appear out of the other. Just beyond the bend she had just turned, there is a bed of smouldering coals, right in the middle of the road, cordonned off until the fervent are ready to walk across it.
Can you even fathom what goes into this kind of self-inflicted torture? They tell me the devotees hardly feel a thing. Maybe that is true. Maybe it is not. I surely know that when I see them traipsing across the burning coals, I feel my feet burning and that little one-third trident seems lodged painfully in my cheek.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

What is the boiling point of sambhar and other minor questions

Yes, what is the boiling point of sambhar (the lip-smacking lentil soup that is the most honourable consort to a South Indian meal) ? Well, do you at least know if the tamarind (essential component) that you throw into the sambhar raises or lowers its boiling point?
If you want to seek refuge in the obscure fact that you are/were not a science student, but a dyed-in-the-wool commerce student, like me, then tell me, do you know the history of idly? Yeah, idly.
OR, have you even asked these questions, though you did not set off on a Holy Grail search for the answers?
This time, I have not even a sliver of excuse to hide behind. I cannot ever remember having asked these questions. However, to absolve myself, I could say, I did ask the questions and merely cannot remember. That way, my crime is my memory, rather than a lack of curiosity, which is worse.
I remember how I used to sneak into the zoology and chemistry labs after class to see my friends in the science group cut up frogs or boil up colourful potions. I even had my sister bring a couple of frogs home that I could 'anatomise!' No mean streak, that was truly curiosity.
But, why am I asking these questions now? Truth to tell, I din't ask them. I just happened to be in a meeting yesterday when Dr.Ramanujam of the Institute of Matscience asked these questions to Corporation school teachers, just to tell them that learning can be great fun outside the text books and syllabus.
Not unpredictably, it was check and mate. The women were mildly curious, yes, but after some brief excitement, they knew they had no answers. That, like me, they could only hazard wild guesses that we will not even bother to prove.


Monday, August 08, 2005

A digital species

"We must embrace both signal and noise in all its forms."

I have come to believe that man has evolved into a very digital species.

There are some very persuasive arguments to support this argument, but I shall not go into any of them. Just this...

The other day I was trying to get past a rather well-built colleague who was standing at the doorway. I said "excuse me" and "Hello" and "hey" and other such things as might have grabbed the attention of any gent/ lady in the pre-technology days. But we are in the A.D. of technology and the tall, well-built gent remained rooted to his spot at the doorway. And then, I had a this really inspirational thought bubble and I said "Beep Beep." You will just have to believe me when I say the gent quickly jumped out of the way, apologetically and it did seem as if he had just seen me.

Ta DA.

And there, digitised ladies and gentlemen of the blog world, I rest my case!


Friday, August 05, 2005

Where did I come from? Where did I go?

KATHMANDU! (Like the song says!)

30638063_896f6870ce_m, originally uploaded by errum.

Yes, this is belated I know, but surprise! (to and I have been busy with many things other than work.

However, now that we are here, Kathmandu was indeed intriguing - beautiful, peaceful (after a fashion), full of myths, pagodas, an autocratic king and protests. I did not say mountains, because well, hmmm... they are all over. The advantage of being in a valley is that you can see mountains from anywhere, blue, in the distance, soft wispy clouds floating atop. Even for a land lubber like me who derives much satisfaction from well, flat land and the sea.

I have much to say for Deepak, fellow blogger, presently in Nepal and my tour guide! He is a great host and has read up about the fantastic myths of the country. I couldn't not have had a better guide... Merci beaucoup mon ami!


Nepalis in Kathmandu belong to the Newari tribe, a heavy meat-eating community. So you have the most fancy food in the restaurants for non vegetarians and that includes wild boars, buffaloes, wild pigs etc... However, since the kingdom has a substantial Hindu-vegetarian population, they very courteously ask you every time if you are vegetarian before they serve you.


There is something about Nepalis and T-shirt slogans. I saw many men and women walking around with t-shirts that said the following gems: "I'm Sorry", "I'm a Virgin", "No Dates", "I only sleep with the best." Thereby provoking me to retort with the following inanities: "For what?!", "REally?!" "Some Arab blood in you?" "How interessting! But how do you figure the best?"

They say a repressed society finds its own ways of expressing itself!


And if you are wondering, like my seven-year old cousin, why this picture is up on a post on Kathmandu, it is because the skyscapes are stunning. For the other pics, more representative of the city-town, click here!