Monday, August 27, 2007

A few of my favourite smells

There is a smell to boiling greens, faintly reminiscent of a rainy earth.

And good fresh cooked drumsticks hot from the stove...

The smell of cotton fabric fiercely sun-dried


Furious raindrops on a dry earth

Lawn grass being watered

Frying potatoes...

Seasoning sizzzzzling into rasam

Buttered Corn popping in a machine

Sharp fresh betel leaf with its stem broken off...


Hot mango pickle...

Petrol filling in a tank

Wood shavings fresh off a block

Spilt varnish

The smell of hot rice, 'paruppu' and ghee... slurp!

These are a few of my favourite smells... Huh, strange how most of them are to do with food eh?! Wonder how that happened! :P
Tell me, what tickles your nose...or your tongue!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If it is Pulav, it must be Thursday!

The flip side of working in an organisation for a decade and a wee-bit more is the way in which your life has blended almost seamlessly with the rhythms of that body. And you feel so much like furniture, you are afraid someone is going to sit on you. It could happen to anyone, but if you have a fixed menu at the office canteen, its likely you be hit bad.

It is somewhat disconcerting that these days I make out what day it is by the lunch that is served in the canteen. I mean, sometimes when a colleague says, "What day is it..." randomly, as colleagues are only wont to, I say, "Pongal-Oily Bonda - that is a Wednesday." When I remember there is idly vada in the canteen its a bad Tuesday or Saturday (worse with the most misshapen bondas). If its masala dosa and mixture then it is a good alternate Friday. Pongal and oily bajjis/veg bondas means it is a Wednesday and sometimes a nice mixed rice means it is Monday. I'd technically not be able to remember Sundays, because I don't work Sunday, but I think I can identify a Sunday by the lack of canteen food in my life! Of course the 1st of the month and the 16th means you get a sweet, which I don't eat.

Well, it's not as if I'm actually eating regularly at the canteen. Indeed I carry my own food these days mostly, but that is what conditioning is about.It is about doing it when you are young, I guess. Especially if you've spent the better part of your er...formative years... eating salted food! :) As they'd say in Tamil.

It doesnt even stop there. The conditioning I mean. With great effort I kicked a habit to have a coffee at 11-30 a.m. at the canteen. In the days when they measured the success of a journalist by the number of cups of coffee/tea consumed in a day, I thought I'd paint my name in the hall of fame if it were so easy. It was also the easiest way to get acidity and heart burn. Not to mention the two spoons of sugar for every cup that really greased a well-rounded hip. Boy, and was that hard to kick!

Now I'm trying to leave behind a habit to drink coffee at 4p.m. Not that an evening coffee is bad for health, especially if it is without sugar. Instead, the point is that my entire work schedule depends on that cuppa. Even if it is delayed for a bit, I have cold turkey. Now that is serious. I've decided to ease that habit slowly and I'm looking for a good day to begin. Hmmm... It was pongal at the canteen, so it must be Wednesday. It's also four now... I think I'll leave it until the Pulav day! On Thursday, I'm going to turn a new leaf. Anything but a tea leaf!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some good old fashioned Jana Gana Mana

I try to keep the confessional mode out of this blog, mostly, but slip up every once in a while. I've also tried to keep the confusion mode out generally, but this post, am afraid is going to be a bit of both. I'll try to keep sentimentality out of it, but I'm not sure I can.

Anyway, without much further ado, I've been reared patriotic, yes, I still spring to attention when the national anthem is playing. However, for some years now I've succumbed to the embarassed coolness of the youth that would burn their tongue before they acknowledge that Jana Gana Mana goosepimples them up.

It sure does me. It is calculated to, I suppose, as it's genius composer wished it to be. Yes, when I hear the faintest strain of the anthem, it sets my hair on edge apart from causing me to involuntarily raise myself to my feet. I've often tried to explain it to myself - my 'patriotism', I'm not particularly jingoistic usually, in ways others would expect someone of my generation to be, people who learnt their history before it was unsullied by hindutva's deconstruction.

I think, probably, I belong to the very last generation, who come from the old school of patriotism, just a wee bit removed from the jingoism, and yet, not unmoved enough to be on the other side. But perhaps the jingoism is coming back, it is an "in" thing once again to be patriotic and again you just have to watch the movies, which have always been a great indication of pulse of the people in this country.

Look, for instance, at Lage Raho Munna Bhai, which brings back Gandhi much more succesfully than any other dyed-in-the-khadi Gandhian could. Or Rang de Basanti, where the past sits heavily on a bunch of youngsters and a spark of misfortune spurs a group of misguided youth to indignation and eventually to assasinate a corrupt Defence Minister. My response has been to the logic of the movies, though I've enjoyed other elements of the films. In their absurd jingoism, there is much impracticality - murder in RDB and ahimsaic submission in LRMB - and there the charm fades. Yes, I hear willing suspension of disbelief, I'm willing to concede that while watching a film, but it can be dangerous when the illogic spills over from the screens, as it must do with cult films.

But I know a lot of youngsters who are riled when I mention the flaws of LRMB of RDB. The film has swept them with a passion they are unused to...nationalism. Or maybe I should say some 21st century construct of nationalism. My cousin, young, just at the brink of finishing college, is my measure. She belongs to the generation that believes it is insulting for Mandira BEdi to drape a tricolour around herself. Me, I'm not so sure you must pay Mandira all that much attention.

Incidentally, Cousin P goosepimples too, perhaps more than me, not with Rabindranath Tagore, but with A.R.Rahman's Jana Gana Mana.

This is not to say Rahman's version does not stir me up. It does... quite a bit, every time I listen to it and watch it. Not just for Pattammal and Hariprasad Chaurasia, in it, but for the strange emotion Tagore whipped up in me the first time I heard the song. A warm, excited feeling, as if you are feeling hot under the collar. Oh bother, I din't mean for it to sound this way at all.

But I think unlike for Cousin P, for me the reaction is nearly Pavlovian. Bell-rings-dog-comes. Simple. Or maybe not so simple. After all, I cannot be guilty of denigrading my honourable notions of the nation, can I? Especially, since I've come to respect what I feel when I hear the haunting bars of Jana Gana Mana and not be ashamed of it.

I'll stop short of wishing you all a happy independence day though! That, is strictly, where I draw the line!

P.S. I've changed my mind about springing to attention on hearing the anthem. Cos if I were to, I'd have been standing these whole three days. Whoever gave Airtel that stupid idea of playing the anthem every 10 minutes on TV. There is such a thing as Patriotism Overkill!

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