Friday, June 30, 2006

The Kamarkat Elegy

If you salivate at the thought of that rather self-effacing stick of caramellised jaggery and sugar and just a hint of coconut, then, Friends, South Indians and Country people, lend me your senses.

The Kamarkat (ka-mar-cut and NOT to be pronounced like meer-kat), to my mind, cannot be defined for someone who has no clue. But this is for my fellow-kamarkat lovers...

The professional ones that we got at the school tuck shop were dark brown, wrapped in a transparent plastic paper so you could pick and choose the darkest,vilest brown turning to black. You could tell these were the tastiest and would last longest. And those were the days when you could produce a princely rupee and walk away with enough kamarkat to feed a kingdom.

I remember we had to time the purchase well. Because, the kamarkat would last a really long while and you simply could not get caught with a sweet in your mouth in class. So preparations would be to finish lunch in a jiffy, skip over to the tuck shop and buy an armfull of kamarkat and run before the nun vending it can ask you 'what-are-you-going-to-do-with-so-many-sweets-that-can-spoil-your-teeth-and- give-you-four-kinds-of-stomach-worms?!'. You don't want to be answering those kind of questions, do you?

Anyways, this is not so much about the nun as it is about sinking your teeth into that gooey 'goli', and letting the slow effusion of sweet-yet-a-little-bitter jaggery take over. It kind of lets the juice out like a drug eluting heart stent. Image in bad taste (!) but truly, there is no perfect-er metaphor: it's like the kamarkat knows exactly when to release the juices, just like the stent lets out the drug to keep your artery unblocked!

The best treat was to be able to suck on it forever and a little more and then push around a few slivers of coconut in your mouth,when forever ended and so did the kamarkat. Ah! The pleasure of that!

But then, the kamarkat died. After a while, they simply stopped making it anymore.
:( Which is when you tried to make do with the 'poornam' used to make the sweet kozhukattai, but no siree, we're just not there at all! :( It's not as rock solid as the 'pro' ones we could buy off the push carts, 'Naadar kadais' or oddly, convent tuck shops. Nay.

O, and did I add? If you have not had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into that gooey piece of heaven, walk away please, your tail between your legs...

P.S. And now, when the only sliver of the kamarkat I have left is a memory wedged in the deepest recesses of my brain, someone peeps over my shoulder at blogger and says Kamarcut is still available in Vysarpadi! I just turn back and say, "Buy me some!"


Saturday, June 24, 2006


I wonder why I've never done this before. Possibly, I've never had the time, most certainly, I was caught up in trying to fathom the random emotions of an unfamiliar community.

But this time, when I was in Nagapattinam, I had time to stand and stare at the greying sea. The sky was overcast and the waves, a belligerent grey too. As I stood on the truncated shore, staring out into that vast greyness, I wondered how it might have been.

And then, I could see, in my mind, a kinetic wall of grey, muddied ocean hurling itself towards me. I turned back to see if I could escape - the shore seemed long, deserted and full of clumps of wet sand, discouraging speed. In that one moment, I seemed to know just how it might have been, not quite and yet, just there.

When I shuddered then, it was not because of the chill wind blowing in from a sea that was waiting for rain.


Monday, June 12, 2006

The Fact of the Matter is...

Child Labour indeed exists.
However, to acknowledge the silver lining, THIS also exists.

Apologise for the poor quality of pictures. Shot through my mobile phone, so there are inherent limitations. Often, I had to shoot in near complete darkness where the children sat on the ground, stacking match sticks.

For the rest of the pictures, click here!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Parable of the butterfly.

When she was about 12, it turned out she could catch butterflies well. That, in her all-girls convent, made her a temporary icon.

While the rest of the girls could admire butterflies from a distance, she was the only one that could stealthily creep up on a rhodendron bush and grab the butterfly by his silver-scaly wings. To the other girls, she seemed like a professional, like the tiger they watched on Discovery Channel, crouching to leap.

It seemed to come naturally to her. Of course she had a natural female aversion to creepy crawlies, but butterflies were different. She'd hold them by their wings, notice their sudden surprise, feel the throbbing body between her forefinger and thumb and then let them go. Then she'd look at the silver dust on her thumb and rub it against her cheek before washing her hands.

Sometimes, to amuse herself, she would pick up the butterflies, run up and wave it in front of the faces of the girls standing a mile away. And watch with a laugh as they went scattering away, screaming. She enjoyed it yes. And she thought the butterflies enjoyed it too.

She would also hunt for pupas on the bushes, young caterpillars getting ready for adulthood.That involved much patience and much turning up of leaves.

And then, one day, she found a pupa, under a leaf. Golden from the caterpillar's fresh secretion, shining as the sun's rays hit it at a slant. She found an old matchbox in the janitor's room and put the pupa in it. That evening, in school, she was so excited, the nuns were forced to punish her. She held the matchbox cocooned in her sweaty palms, outside the class, with a grin on her face.

At home, she found an old shoe box, filled it with leaves from the neighbour's badam tree and placed the pupa gently on the green bed. For good measure, she threw some leaves on top of it, punched some holes on the lid of the box and put it on her side of the shelf she shared with her sister.

Every morning she would open the box, look inside, just to see if the caterpillar had become the beautiful butterfly it was meant to be. She wondered if the worm would have to eat to do so and just in case it had to, she saved some apple peel and put it inside the box.

After some time, she forgot about the box. Until a faint smell began to leak out from her side of the shelf and her sister complained.

She opened the lid eagerly, it was time for a butterfly, anyway. Turning up the mess of the leaves inside the box, she saw the cocoon, split open, a red-black-yellow butterfly, its wings broken lying on his side on the leaves, legs sticking out awkward, stiff with death.

She never caught a single butterfly again.

I guess you could say she had 'turned a new leaf.' :)


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lachmi Paati!

A student topper being interviewed on Sun Tv after her success in the tenth board exams...

Enga schoolukku nandri, enga principalukku nandri, enga teachersku nandri, enga parentsuku nandri, enga sisterku nandri, enga relativesku nandri, enga Lachmi Pattiku nandri!



Saturday, June 03, 2006

Gaptainudan Oru siriya sandibu

Photo Courtesy: The Hindu

WARNING: IF you cannot understand this, don't complain. It speaks of your magnificient ignorance of the aggzent of the kingpin of Kollywood, the chief minister aspirant, the wun and wunly VIJAYAK(g)ANTH!

Intha post damila ezhuthina than, adhai ezhuthinavalukum madhippu, athoda insbirasunukkum madhippu. Andha madiri oru insbirasun!
Oru Periya Kalyana Mandapam, athu moolaila oru chinna vellai kattidam. Ulla Periya uruvam, contrasta vellai vetti, vellai sattai. Namma Gaptain ukkandhititukaaru! Antha bose ramana mathiriya, vallarasu mathiriya-nu galgulate pannarathukulla, antha Simha kural olikuthu, "Vaanga, ugaarunga, vanagam!"
Approm, "Sollunga..."
Ethukum oru mariyathaiku chair-e konjam binaadi bush banittu ukararen. IRunthanlum romba glose quarders la Gaptain-e baakara dairiyam yaarukkum vara koodathu... Apadiye 29" TV screenla glose-up la paakara madhiri irukku. Athukappram night muzhukka athe nenaichu dhookam varama ghastapadanum! Make-up illatha face vera!
Seri, thalaivar, appadiye kaalala fight panni asathuvaarnu paatha, avaru kaiyala kumbudu pottaru. Ore dissabointment ba. :(
Firstu Da Vinghi GODU enna cinemanu theriyalenu sonnalum appram ushar aayitu, adhai dhadai pannarathula thappe illai nu sonnaru parunga, appa than light-a feelings aayiruchu enakku! Appadiye heart-e pudichutu oru vanagam onnu vechitu velliyila thalladinde vandhuten ba.
Annikku naightu vera dhookame varale ba. Yennu dhan buriyale...:)


Friday, June 02, 2006

Jogger's Spark!!

I've discovered this thing about fitness: It's addictive.

Allright, it's an addiction that waxes and wanes, but definitely it has something to do with that chemical in the brain that's supposed to make you an alcoholic, a drug user and a sex maniac!

And if you take a recent fitness freak like me, then there are stages that we have to pass to get where we are now.

At the very beginning is the WMiRaB stage, short for 'WILLING MIND in a RELUCTANT BODY.' After years of getting as much brisk exercise as is required to scratch the back (It could be tough!), the body is rather reluctant to stumble out of its lethargy onto the cobbled walking track of a Chennai Corporation Park.

Now, depending on how much you've lived in the lap of luxury, how many times you've scratched your back and consequently how badly behaved the muscles and corpuscles are, it begins by screaming out loud.

And if you don't have the good sense to quit then (if that chemical's begun working already), the body, thenceforth it speaketh through the legs and the hips. Strangely, they are all saying the same thing: STOP! You turn up the volume on the iPod Nano so loud it cuts out any other sound. Eventually, with sweat dripping over you eyes, several stitches in what seems like several sides, panting and puffing, you stop when it seems like you are going to have a heart attack any moment NOW.

You don't have a heart attack after all.

The truth of that gives you the courage to live through stage 2,simply known as P.Body., also PROTESTING BODY. When the body's finally figured the chemical side of things, it realises the only way to beat organics is with physics. Hey presto! the answer is immobility. Total and complete. As in, cease entirely, movement of limbs, torso and head.

Try and avoid dusty places then or allergens, because a sneeze THEN is third degree. And if the odd leg or hand doesn't creak when you attempt to lift it, the mouth will. Croak, did we say?

But the neo-fitness freak will not let this come in the way of his/her early morning ritual and jump rather enthusiastically albeit painfully into stage 3 : DON'T MIND THE AWFUL PAIN, WALK ON. That means flexing a bit more, stretching, doing it faster and by now, the bod's got the message the damn chemical's been trying to communicate all along. OR it appreciates your sheer persistence, endeavour etc and bows down. Ouch! Well, not THAT down.

When one enters the I'M THERE stage, you can see it. Expensive (Nike/Reebok/Addidas) footwear (bought at a 50 per cent discount store), brand new tracks, matching tees.

Most of all you can see it in the stride, its confidence, and the nose, by it's position in the air. Now if you listen to all the talk your body's doing, you'll likely hear it delivering a graduation day speech. Somewhere in the middle of this stage, you begin tucking in your abs as you walk/jog, looking condescendingly at stragglers at the park, overtaking them without effort, catching the kitten playing in the park in the corner of your eye before he trips you, mouthing all the lyrics of ALL the songs on the 4 GB iPod Nano.

And when you're there, my friends, you know you've just cast aside the neo out of fitness freak. Then,you've arrived!

P.S. In the last stage, when the urge comes upon you to run on the road at night (since the park is shut) leave the iPod Nano behind unless you want to be give it all up, musically, biologically, chemically and physically!