Thursday, October 11, 2007

In Law, In Line - 4

When they found her body washed up on the shore, the sun was just rising in the Bay of Bengal. The orange orb was spilling gold on the sky, the sea and even the sands of the Bay; it seemed as if she was a bloated statuette of gold.
About the same time as the police picked her shimmering corpse from the shores,her husband woke up to an empty space beside him on the bed. A hand-written note weighed down by her blue comb sat smugly where she should have been. Her familiar scrawl in black staring as a death note at him:"I can never ask my father to give me a 50-sovereign gold chain so that your sister can get married." Her husband noticed that the last word was slightly blotched; the ink had spread a dull grey.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cable wars

If you ask my cable guy, he'd probably tell you that I'm a totally evil person. And if you ask me, even if you don't, I'd say he's the most odious vermin that ever suffered to crawl upon earth. In addition to being immeasurably evil.

He is rude, uncouth, abusive (verbally, of course), tells lies and has no idea of customer service. Probably why I told him to go away the last time when he started a quarrel in characteristic style right at the begining of the coversation. I felt extremely justified in telling him what I have wanted to - for a really long while- I told him to vanish cos I don't like the look of his face. I followed that up with the line, "Cut my connection, go on, do it.Don't ever come back here again."

And then I had the pleasure of seeing him blanche.

He's probably responsible for getting new connections and keeping old ones intact in the area. And what with the cable boat being steadily rocked by technology that is at least one light year ahead of it (DTH), the aforesaid rude, uncouth, unfriendly cable guys are all scrambling madly for business, to keep old customers if not make new.

Well, there's at least one he has lost, now. Truth to tell, I might not have followed up on the Tata Sky offer had the blighter not complained to my stouter half about how I was "shouting at him." That kind of sealed it. In what can be termed the fastest-ever market survey on television transmission technology, I analysed all options available and decided Tata Sky was the best for me. All other things being more or less equal, I think BBC Entertainment swung Tata Sky in my face.

When you can swing things, they really work fast. In about half a day, I had my Tata Sky running with a two-month compliment package, extendable to a month after.And as far as programming technology goes, Tata Sky is light years ahead of the CAS that we are used to.

So that changes a few things in my life. My cable guy probably still thinks I'm evil. But at least I don't have to look at his odious face anymore. And what's better, with Tata Sky, I dont have to meet any other possibly odious cable guy, because I can recharge on telephone or on the net. Yaaaay!


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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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Spring cleaning!

If I were not so abashed at being so prolific, I guess I'd write everyday. Maybe twice or thrice, even. Just to get things out of the system. You know, I've discovered that I'm not a clutterbug.

Actually, I'm a limited clutter-bug. As in, I can let things accumulate for a bit, unlike people who will throw a fit at new papers on the table. And THEN I'd throw a fit. And throw everything out as well. The dim point of all this is to say I'm not a person that gets tied down sentimentally to broken watches, leaking pens, worn belts and chipped china, and that when push comes to shove, I can shove pretty clean.

As I've been doing over the past week, thanks to some three painters who are turning my home and health upside down! Have you ever had to paint your house, while you were living in it? And you were stuck with three/four/five strange men throwing things around and raising noxious fumes in your little hovel?! Then you know what I've been through this past week. One thing I've learnt to do though, is to breathe through my mouth like a diver would; grasp mouthfuls of air outside of home and then try to use it inside! But that is totally beside the point.

The whole painting thingie has morphed into a springcleaning adventure of sorts, not that I arranged it, but these things tend to happen and you realise you are such a tiny wedge in the big cog of life! :) Sorry, couldn't resist that! Well, I've not been in the house for very long, so I din't find treasures from childhood like one of my favourite DD soap heros, Wagle of Wagle Ki Duniya, did in one serial. I can't remember very well, but I think he found some stuff that set him back to his childhood and growing up. His eyes went misty with all that heavy recollection.

My eyes too went misty, just mundanely, boringly, with all the dust the painter chaps were chasing around the house. I din't find old broken baby-cycles or my 1st standard report card. The latter at least would have been fun. Quite disappointingly from an emotional pirouette point of view, I found, left over from a wedding trousseau, a. A million wall clocks; b. 100 Portraits/idols/frames of Lord Ganesha; c. 35 'fancy' nightlamps; d. 10 casseroles; e: 45 sets of glassware; f:A few good paintings and folios that I can frame.Why do people buy such wedding gifts!!?!!

And, I decided to re-distribute stuff that I would never use, or gift anyone else for their wedding or naming ceremony or Poonal or 60th wedding anniversary. Being a re-cycling freak makes it difficult to allow the co-existence of the only-one-that-gets-rid-of-old-stuff-at-home personna. It requires more strategic planning and just a fractional delay in flipping the undesirable/unnecessary remnant into the charity bin. I've given away tonnes of clothes, lampshade, lamps, Ganesha frames, slippers and stuff that I'm quite aching with all this giving away.

BUT, despite everything - the trauma, the physical labour, the deep psychological scarring that resulted from the painting process, a lung that's probably full of Tractor Ivory white paint fumes - I'm sort of pleased. For, the house looks less cluttered now. The way it should be until its time again to throw out the bathwater.


Friday, July 27, 2007

A real letter

Just a couple of days ago. I wrote a real letter, you know-with pen on paper. I stuck a stamp on it and shoved it into the "Other than Tamil Nadu" slot in the Post Office. Right now, if I got the box right, an owl or a plane should be carrying it across the seas to its destination in Singapore.

And I'm pleased as punch!

In the days when I had just one e-mail account(good old Hotmail!)and orkut could
well have been a lean-meats store in Kampuchea, I used to love writing letters.

Really. I used to pack thick sheafs of papers filled with my large, right sloping cursive, mostly in black ink.I even had a stock of different types of paper, of course, to fit the personality type I'd be writing to, the flowery pages, some traditional auroville handmade paper, the cigar-banana thick sheets. Frequently,I'd buy coloured pens, ink ones, sometimes to make fancy illustrations on the margins, just in case the writing got colourless. And I'd walk to the General Post Office to buy just-released stamps to put on the envelopes.

I don't know if all the various people I was Pen-Pals with enjoyed these letters:To the firangi ones, I wrote about the rich history and culture of India and the south; to those in other states, it was unending accounts of the history of Chennai and its most famous locales! To read them now, you'd think I would have turned out a historian, albeit an immature one, or worse, fascist! Maybe, I have, actually. Historian, not fascist. I do chronicle stuff for a living. MAturity, I hope, was acquired over the years!

And then, I used to meander, just like this. Start with one thing and then run away with another...And leave my poor readers to make sense of the thing... I surely do hope they weathered the reams and went until the last when they'd be assaulted by an absurd amount of hand-drawn smileys and exclamation marks! Mercifully, I wouldn't end with love and kisses! Or would I?!

Anyway, Naveen my friend, the letter I wrote to you a couple of days ago is slimmer, on real good handmade-paper; with close packed right-sloping cursive, slimmer now; and has no smileys; some exclamations and certainly no history of the world! Thanks for writing to me, first, a proper letter. Somewhere, something told me, one good turn deserves a letter! And there you go!

I might waltz into Landmark tomorrow, not even look at Harry Potter, walk to the stationery section and pick up some of that strawberry-scented paper I've been hearing about. The next time, I can compensate for lack of reading material with exotic smelling material. But, that's the next time! Until then, I'll just go and check my Orkut scraps!

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