Thursday, September 30

Blast from the past..

When other children my age were busy trawling the neighborhood and indulging in games of hopskotch,“four corners” and “lock and key” on a gloriously sunny days,I amused myself with the books of every size and shape.My mother’s pleas to get out more and play with “normal” kids most often fell on deaf ears as I remained buried in my favorite books.There was never paucity of books to keep myself occupied with as dad is a book lover himself and our shelves always bulged with books which I lapped up with wide-eyed fascination.These were mostly books for grown-ups ,but that started a habit that I am thankful for. Books were my sanctuary -my private little secret garden I could escape into and be what I wanted.I could be a fairy,a princess or even a one-eyed monster if I wanted.

During summer holidays every year, dad used to take me to the Landmark book store and let me prowl the aisles of the shop.My heart almost always lept (still does) at the sight of all the books stacked neatly in front of me.During one of the trips to the store(this should have been at least 22 years back),I set my eyes upon a collection of Illustrated Classics.The compact pocket size books were neatly shrink-wrapped and sat alluringly on the shelves,beckoning me pick them up.As I ran my fingers over the shrink-wrap, I felt a strange feeling gripping me- I wanted to touch the books with my bare hands.

The titles that were in the collection: Little women,Black beauty,20,000 leagues under the sea,Kidnapped , The Wizard of oz, Around the world in eighty days,Heidi,The adventures of Robinson Crusoe,A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court,Three musketeers,Sherlock Holmes and the case of hound of Baskervilles and Treasure Island. But one look at the price got me misty eyed- it was way to expensive. An assistant caught me looking longingly at the books and whispered conspiratorially “ Every other page is an illustration. It is selling like hot cake-only three more left.”

I decided that minute that I had to have it and thus started a love affair.

As I gazed at books, the red, pink, blue, violet, yellow inks of the shiny book covers merged into a hazy cauldron of colors, leaving me week-kneed and breathless with anticipation. A messily executed tantrum later,I was the proud owner of 12 books.It was the first set of books that I can truly call my own and I was proud of my new acquisition.My folks tell me that I wiped the books clean every week with a dry cloth and even fiercely guarded it from my little brother,who was a toddler at that time.I remember not letting my cousins and friends if their hands were dirty .

In the years that followed, taking the book out of the glass cupboard and re-reading them with friends was almost a weekly ritual. I routinely escaped the mundaneness of school curriculum by secretly slipping the books between the covers of my science and maths textbooks.I got caught several times and that was probably when my parents realised that their daughter wasn’t going to grow up into the next Ramanujam.

Sometime later, a bunch of us at school decided to have a library and circulate our books.I don’t remember what made me sign up, but I did.Everything went smoothly for a few months and then I realised that some of my books had disappeared from circulation.I couldn’t trace the person that had borrowed the books because the entry register disappeared as well ,mysteriously. Five of the books from that collection disappeared into a blackhole and I remember crying over the loss for days. I went back to landmark to replace the books-but could never find another set again with all the books again.Over the years, I have acquired the titles I lost, but these were normal paperback versions. That day I made a decision never to part with the rest of the books EVER.I balk and refuse if someone asks me if they could borrow them.

Over the next 15 years, I moved 4 times for college and work and every time the books traveled with me, across land and seas, cloaked in my mother’s old sari. Whenever I missed my family, I whipped the books out and got lost in the worlds of Jules Verne or Louisa Mary Alcott or the other authors.I almost always cheered up after thumbing through the familiar pages filled with illustrations. And then there was that sweet ester-y smell that I loved burying my nose into.As the books get older,the sweeter they smell- like old wine tasting better then freshly made one.

Currently, the remaining seven books sit on my shelf, yellowing with dignity and age. Sometimes when I open a book, loose pages fall down and the paper crumbles at times in my hand, but I know that I’ll hold on to these pieces of my past as long as I can.I can’t think of lending them out to anyone, considering how fragile they are.I treat the books like some favorite great grand aunt who cant gallivant around the world with her aching knees and joints.

Someday, when I have children, the books will become part of their collection- a blast from their mother’s past, which I hope they will love and treasure as much as I do. Till then, I will amuse myself and re-read these books for the hundredth time.When I think about the five books I lost,I still feel guilty and sad.Sometimes I wonder where they are- in some raddi shop,rotting unloved or if they have been crushed into pulp and recycled into something new and shiny or if they are amidst book-lovers who treasure them. Where ever they are, I’ll miss them!. And this makes me hold on to the rest with fierce determination and resolve.

PS: The photo shows only 6 books,but there is another one safe with me that i missed out.(The wizard of Oz).My camera's conked off ,so i couldn't take another pic.

Friends of Books - Library that delivers and I connect with bloggers at

Tuesday, September 28


Effervescent clouds woven with silver threads
What Kanchivaram sari is this,i demand.
The sky,the canvas parts
Giving way for a lustrous, bejeweled stranger
The stranger plays hide and seek with the senses
Eyes inhale the streaks of light
The skin ogles at the lush peachy hues
Nostrils prickle with pleasure
Ears smile and shriek in joy
Making me want to leap,reach out,grab
the clouds,
the streaks of light,
and the colours
And swallow them all in one gluttonous gulp
People mill about
joyously awaiting the stranger's arrival

Picture taken at Besant Nagar beach in Chennai.

Sunday, September 26

The poor wife chronicles...

I see a tortured being with a contorted face wrinkled with worry huddled near the computer.

"What's wrong?" I ask "It".

"A man has so many important things to worry about." It says in an open mother-hood statement.

Now motherhood statement is one of those random observations people make without any rhyme or reason.

"What things?" I ask,my interest piqued.

"You won't understand.I am trying to book my tickets for Enthiran-1st day 1st show." The "It" that also happens to be the husband replies.

For people who are clueless about the mention of this movie -Well,Enthiran is the latest sci-fi Rajinikant -Aishwarya starrer thats releasing next week.And Tamilnadu almost gets into a festival-like trance mood during the run-up to the release of Rajini's movies.Yeah,he has God status here.

Of course, i don't understand.I gape open mouthedly as "It" opens 20 different websites of cinema theaters in Chennai followed by a frenzied scribbling of phone numbers.

"Darn!.The buggers are not picking up the phone.What sadists!"."It" says banging the phone in misery.

I cant resist doing the most wifely thing i am capable of.

"Oh crap!.Am i married to a raving psycho who garlands cut outs and whistles madly at theaters?" I ask sanely with an almost Julie Roberts -type earnestness and innocence.

"See, i told you that you won't understand.It's a Thalaivar movie,for godsake.I am going to whistle,do aarti to the movie screen and fall down in reverence in the movie hall.Thaivalaaa..." "It" screams, almost prostrating to the poster of Rajinikanth thats presently appeared on one of the websites.

"Duh." I manage in my most communicative tone and disappear inside because i need a dose of fat to help me face life.

"You just proved that i am right."."It" says as i pile out.


" That you are an uncultured girl who can't appreciate the greatness of Thalaivar"."It" says.

"And you are the cultured epitome of entertainment?." I ask cuttingly.

"How can you not appreciate his movies. He is God!.Are you going to help me get a ticket or not?.""It" demands with almost tears in it's eyes,now that most theater guys have told "it' to take a walk as there are no tickets available for first 2 weeks anywhere.

We try to think of possible people who could potentially wrangle a ticket for the wretched being and come up with stupid,improbable suggestions.

"It" blitkriegs friends-family-relatives and random people over phone and regales them with the sob story of how "it" has lost it's purpose in life and that living another 50 years without having seen Enthiran 1st day- 1st show is akin to just existing soullessly.

I have a vague suspicion that most people have not taken this kindly and are going to go all out to avoid us in future.

My parents walk in to partake in the melodrama.

"See this thing you got me married to ?" I declare in exasperation.

Amma just rolls her eyes as if she can't comprehend either of us.Appa nods in acute embarrassment as if he didn't expect this from his almost ivy-league son-in-law.

I am happy because i know that my feelings have been vindicated.

A cousin pops in.Though he doesnt share "it's" enthusiasm for Rajini movies,but eggs "It" on.

"Dont lose hope,da.You can't give up now.We'll somehow get tickets." the cousin says in a scary Deepak Chopra-ish way.

"Freaks!" I mumble.

The air is heavy with the collective despair of 2 people(not mine,of course).A strange,disturbing silence shrouds us.We have no clue how we are going to make this miracle happen.

"I could call my classmate who is the son of xyx theatre.Should i ?" "It" asks suddenly.

"What are you waiting for?"The cousin and I demand incredulously.

"umm.. I haven't spoken to him in at least 10 years."

"oh...How about joining one of those Rajini fan clubs.Anyway you plan to do aarti and garland his cut out.Why not go join a fan club and get a ticket?."

That brilliant suggestion was from yours truly.

"It" rapidly googles "Rajinikant fan clubs" and finds random stuff.But no link that says Rajini fan,please come get your ticket for 1st day-1st show of Enthiran.

"Not working."

"Maybe you should go talk to the auto stand guys.Most auto guys are Rajini fans,right?" I ask.

"Yeah!.But thats a silly idea.""It" says.

I crinkle my face in annoyance.The world never appreciates my genius.

"I got it !.I know how i am going to watch Thalaivar's movie." "It" says with a loopy eureka-ish expression pasted on it's face.

"How?" I ask,eager to know the machinations of "It's " mind.

"I am going to drive down to Pondicherry and use my connections there."

"Great idea,da.I am game."The cousin chimes in.

"Duh." I say and walk out to get my fat-fix to regain my sanity.

What else can one say in desperate times like these.


Thursday, September 23

Parthiban's dream and my project

I technically have the ability to read Tamil.But even on my best days,i don't think i could manage a page of Tamil prose without making my brain go bonkers.Obviously, i am not proud of this as Tamil is my mother tongue and I have studied it as my second language for a decent period of time.My reading habit started courtesy random books available at home. It is a little surprising that i have to slave over a passage of Tamil when both my parents read quite a bit of Tamil literature and we had tonnes to Tamil novels at home.

I had bought an English translation of "Parthiban's Kanavu",a very famous Tamil historical novel sometime last year and promptly forgot about it.A few days back, i decided to read something different and picked up the book.I must say the book has opened several doors for me.For one,i realized that translations and transliterations cannot do complete justice to the original.The lushness of words and the original import gets lost in many ways.In the next one year ,i plan to teach myself to enjoy Tamil literature .And "Ponniyin selvan"(another very famous book by Kalki) is going to be my guinea pig !.It's a huge body of work and has 6 bulky parts to it.But everyone who has read the book tells me that its a masterpiece that has to be read in the original language.

Coming back to Parthiban's dream, the Tamil version was translated by a 15 year old girl,Nirupama Raghavan.Commendable effort,i must say.The translation is not lucious enough when it comes top the choice of words,but despite the simplistic writing,the plot keeps you immersed in it at all times.Ok,let me tell you more about what the book is all about...

Parthiban is a Chola king.His empire is heavily marginalized with the Pandiyas,Cheras and Pallavas pressing into his territory from all directions.Pallava ruler,Mamalla Narasimha Chakravarti is the most dominant king in the southern lands and makes all other rulers pay tax to him.Parthiban refuses to pay up and decides to go into a war against the Chakravarti ,knowing very well that his troops are nowhere comparable to the Pallava army.Before marching into the battle ground,Parthiban unveils his dream(Chola kingdom becoming the strongest in the region) to his son ,Vikraman.

Vikraman is but a boy at his stage ,but decides to make his father's dream a reality. Parthiban goes into war and is killed.However,before he dies ,a Shivanadiyar(Shaivite devotee) promises to help Vikraman realise his father's goal.The rest of the story is about how Vikraman realises Parthiban's dream.He is aided in his quest by several people like Ponna,a boatman,his wife,Valli ,Siruthondar and the mystery Shivanadiyar.

Vikrama has a love interest as well-Kuntavi,who is the daughter of the Chakravarti.And a bunch of villains to foil Vikraman's resolve.The main supense aspect is "supposed"to be the identity of Shivanadiyar.However,the narrative gives you enough clues early on to figure out who he is.So that is not exactly too surprising when at the end of 250 pages the Shivanadiyar reveals himself. I have no clue whether the subtelity got lost in the translation or whether Kalki's work is liberal with the clues too.

Its a highly entertaining read that rarely sags and almost every page has something wild and racy happening.People who like stories of kings and conquests will definitely like this.I am a history junkie,so i am not really surprised that i liked the book despite the very ordinary language.But one can't deny the fact that the abridged translation is neat and edited tautly.

I have also bought myself the blaft anthology of tamil pulp fiction and am super excited about reading it.. There is a whole world of popular writing in vernacular languages that i have never considered before and regret not having considered them before.My only brushes with translated writing has been a few Tagore novels and i wasn't too impressed with the quality.And oh,please do share your recommendations on good translated books.

Wish me luck on my quest.I wish i had a Shivanadiyar like Vikraman had to guide me through my project.

Wednesday, September 15

The Malalankey poem

For some strange reason,I have been belting out this silly limerick for the last few days.Sample the piece that has been tormenting me ..

I Willilish I Walalash in a malalankey Lalaland
The lalaland whelalare I walalash Bololon
The malalankey Kililish melalee on malalay cheelilick
And salalaid goodlalabye for lololong...

What it really means is...

I wish i was in monkey land
The land where i was born
The monkey kissed me on my cheek
And said goodbye for long..

It definitely is one of the most perplexing ,silly little poems i have heard..Why would a monkey want to kiss you on your cheek and say goodbye?..Still i keep humming it.And the best part is that it makes me grin every time i say it out loud..its the simplest forms of time travel for me..Takes me back in time into my childhood when at school we used to sing the poem and giggle uncontrollably in physics classes..Do you have some silly little piece that amuses you and makes you want to chuckle like a carefree three-year-old?

Tuesday, September 14

Grandcanyon Unplugged..

No prattle ..No aimless words.. Just a bunch of photographs to do the talking.. Because when it comes to the Grand daddy of Canyons ,no amount of words can do justice to the sheer beauty ! ... Taken during our trip early this year..Have a fabulous day!

PS :Click on the collage for a sharper image.. something is wrong with the resolution of the image and i am not able to fix it !

Monday, September 13

The judo kid..

I get a newsletter on positive thinking and entrepreneurship every week from an enterprising kid ,who in a way inspired me to start this blog .This week's installment has the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to learn judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm..Read on to know what happened to him..

Even after many months of training, he had only been taught one move. However, the boy kept his faith and soon he entered his first tournament.

To his surprise, he won every match with his one move and won the tournament.

On the way home, the boy summoned the courage to ask his master, 'How did I win the tournament with only one move?'

'You won for two reasons: first, you’ve mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.'

Maybe acceptance of our shortcomings and channeling our energies in the right direction can help us use our weaknesses to our advantage...

Wednesday, September 8

Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge

The pink coloured cover of this book with a picture of a woman in spaghetti top,stilettos and yoga pants sitting in a yoga pose clutching a handbag somehow almost screams "Don't take me seriously!."But Lucy Edge's travel memoir is not as flippant as you would think it would be.Lucy,a disenchanted Londoner,who works for a huge ad agency is tired of coming up with ideas to sell margarine.She decides to travel to India in search of enlightenment and a perfect headstand.I know what you are thinking..Sounds like a copy-cat version of Eat Pray Love ,right ?.In a lot of ways the premise seems to be the same but there is a huge difference in the journey.. And the book was published in 2004,a year before Elizabeth got hers published.

Lucy starts her journey from Mumbai and goes on a whirlwind tour of yoga ashrams in India.Along the way she falls for drop-dead gorgeous swami,has a blast with fellow-yoga students,stays in bug infested places,has trouble with her yoga postures,meets interesting people and has drunken binges.Her voice is self-deprecating and funny at the same time. She very candidly describes the state of affairs in ashrams across the country and how she struggles with finding a balance between wanting a cute top and finding the formula for inner peace.

The concept of covering almost 5-6 ashrams and trying to figure out one form of yoga that would finally take her closer to her goal of enlightenment in a period of 4-5 months is almost laughable.But whatever else Lucy lacks,it definitely isn't earnestness.As she flits from Amrita Ma's hugging marathons to Osho's ashram's five-star spa quality ashram where she experiments with attaining peace through sexual ways to Sri Aurobindo's utopian Auroville's,Lucy tells all. She doesn't hide behind lush words or nebulous concepts.Certain parts of the narrative might seem dense as Lucy describes certain yogic practices and asanas in detail. I have visited most of the cities Lucy goes to ,but was amused at the observations she makes.Something only a very involved traveler could make..Her descriptions of Rishikesh and Chennai stand out and would make you want to nod your head in agreement.

Overall,its an endearing read.Will definitely not give you earth shattering revelations about spirituality.But its a total joy-ride. 3.5/5 for this almost cutesy book.Perfect travel read.

Monday, September 6

Yin Yang ...

Around the same time the mobile decided to disappear,the tv decided that it needed to up its ante as well.It decided to sulk from all the non-attention it had been getting and refused to start like a moody teenager.The first few days my hand involuntarily kept going near the remote,itching to turn it on ,only to realize that the damn bugger was dead due to some strange reason..I missed Agent Rossi(criminal minds) and Alia Khan(Beg Borrow steal),Barney,Marshall,Ted and other folks from "How i met your mother" so intensely that apparently during the first few days i was sulking myself... I ate less and resembled a zombie(again hearsay,so don't totally believe it).

Then something strange happened..We decided not to repair the tv for a while to see how long we could hold out...And I am surprised and puzzled to report that it's Day 40 and I am fine without the idiot box ;-) ..If you ask me its a liberating feeling.. No more remote-control wars or cold wars resulting due to them.. no more setting alarm from the fear of missing shows.. No more aimless channel surfing..No more sulking spouses vying for more attention citing other spouse's disproportionately extra time spent with the box.. I didn't realize that one box not working could have so many benefits.. Yaaayyyyy!!!...I don't think we will get this thing repaired anytime soon..

We tried applying the same logic to our AC ..somehow that didn't work this well ;-)..On another note,i have a nagging feeling that maybe someone's Voodoo-ed our appliances ...they have all been acting strange and conking off...

Voodoo guy/girl.. whoever you are ..Lay off my Laptop!... Else all your hair will fall off and you will go bald in a day !..No ,i mean it..and lay off my dvd player also ,while you are at it !

Saturday, September 4


In continuation with the detox series :-),today's colour is yellow...This picture was taken enroute Wayanaad.As far as the eye could see,sunflowers bobbed in the air,smiling and beckoning us to come join them in their merry dance.Bees buzzed around the flowers awaiting their energy drink for the day...So much perfection!.How did a bunch of protons,neutrons and electrons turn into something so beautiful ?.All that yellow made us feel sunny and got us in great spirits !

Doesn't this colour revebrate with positive energy and optimism?.Apparently,according to colour studies,yellow colour promotes creativity and instills positivity and higher levels of energy...Elsewhere,i read that it is a colour of deceit and cowardice.. I think i will stick to the positivity bit because i don't quite feel anything negative when i see this colour..

Blissful Sunshine,gorgeous sun flowers,Ripe yellow lemons...Ooohh Laa Laaa...

But strangely i can't find too many natural yellow things around me !!!.My knowledge of things with this colour has regressed to some unknown fold of the brain.I remember when i was in school we used to play this game called Name,Place,Animal things where we would pick up a letter and list all the names,places,animals and things beginning with that letter... Would you like to play a modification of that game here ?

Do you have any special memories of objects with the colour yellow?Preferrably natural yellow objects !

I can hear people muttering..All is this fine ,but you wont catch me sporting clothes with this colour ;-)

Thursday, September 2


I have always maintained that i need chaos around me to keep me shipshape.Nothing like the sound of an auto or a bus hurtling along at monstrous speeds to drown out the inner monologue...And my tete-a-tetes with nature have been fairly short-lived and largely mood-driven detox cravings..Today, when i stepped out into my balcony,all i could see was huge boulders of concrete staring back at me. Questionnable pink.Dirty white.Murky grey.Slimy-moss covered yellow. Even the few trees that normally frame the balcony walls looked diseased and i found myself longing for lush green paddy fields,breathing in the green colour,dunking my feet into chilly,gurgling streams and breathing in the heady smell of water-soaked earth...Ah!...The picture you see is of a paddy field near a village in Tirunelveli in South Tamilnadu.