Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition, there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born.

-Dale Turner-

Wednesday, 29 October, 2008

Mad and Silly

There was no flowers, the stars didn't cross,
but giggle and gurgle, we whistled a tune,
madly, silily, madly-ho!

salt tasted sour, the bitter gourd sweet,
the sun went nuts and the moon stole treats,
but we were in love, madly, silily, madly-ho!

we lolled in the hay and lots and lots played,
sailed in the breeze and said go-ahead,
silily, madly, silily-so!

so one dozen people with two hundred heads,
said lets have fun, come lets fave hun,
silily, madly, silily-ho!

so clippity-cloppity, carefully tread,
with sandalwood paste on your forehead,
for there is a ring and lots and lots bling,
nitter-natter, in-laws chatter.

Mr. Footloose and Ms. Fancyfree
madly, madly, madly-ho,
will step into the typhoon to savour the brew,
silily, silily, silily-so!

so what is up is a storm in a teacup,
a raucous ruckus, a chaos insane,
call it fate or the engagement,
but the little devil found the perfect angel.

- all rights reversed to The Tenth Rasa - An Anthology of Indian Nonsense.

though I put it together, lines and phrases are borrowed from The Tenth Rasa. It is truly a book to keep. I can never write something poignant when it comes to sis and nonsense suits her best. Btw, this goes in my sis' engagement e-mail invite and she is Mad and the Devil.

Wednesday, 22 October, 2008

Stick, Kaliveli and I

Stick and I go back ages, okay at least back to first year of college and that is seven bloody years ago!

We are poles apart - she is a pole and I am a monstrous gothic column - but we still get along on green issues and make films together. Pitifully low-budget documentaries, but still, something of a cause.

Okay, now why the name? Obvious. Why even on our recent Kaliveli trip, she had me panicked yet again thinking that I had lost sight of her. Watching out for each is an unspoken code that we have on shoots and recces. And my B.P. kept shooting up in no-signal zone until I realised that one of the poles in the distance was her.

In the meanwhile, the road to the Kaliveli (Kalu-veli in Tamil) was a slushy delight though I could see how much the wetland has shrunk. Earlier, it used to be visible from the East Coast Road, now shrimp hatcheries and paddy fields are ruining its delicate fresh-brackish water mix.

Imagine these wetlands, estuaries, lagoons and lakes and ponds all at once on a map - don't they make a fascinating hydrological system? Someday, I want to make an illustration of these water bodies, at least the ones in Madras and Pondy.

Though the paddy fields are part of Kaliveli's problems, it looked beautifully green, and we spent ages talking to the locals. The fresh air did us passive smokers wonders - we have an editor who can work only with a tobacco I.V.

and I:
And I have realised that my kurta-trousers, socks-floaters, hat-sun glasses attire works against good conversation with these locals, many of them were wearing only a komanam. Next time, I am gonna do a Tamil-films village-teacher routine. Must-remember accessory - the umbrella.

Back home, we holed in at the editor's studio to fast-track some of our work and I had my first red-bull. It tasted like cough syrup and I gulped it down likewise. But nothing could stop me from sleeping like sloshed, and Stick and the editor slitting each other's throats. Sue, sue red bull.

And Stick's jaw drop at first encounter with the species Universitias professorius was hilarious. But that warrants a separate post.

Clearing space in the head

If the office felt like tundra earlier (Clean and I have always considered relocating polar bears and artic foxes here for conservation) it now feels like Pluto. Jelly legs, chattering teeth and raging viral fevers just added to our merry work atmosphere.

Adiga's magnum opus, which was lying unread at my desk for weeks is now in hot demand. Too many mixed reviews and reverse snobbery makes me stave it off. I am meditating on a book about cats.

At home, I am no longer the favourite grand-daughter, honestly when was I? But grand pa has been seething at me ever since I started telling him off to run his own errands around the house - like to the water filter.

It has been two-and-a-half years since his femur-joint bone surgery and high time that he is up and about the house. His paunch could also do without a few metres. I don't care if he laments loudly to the maid about lack of respect in today's generation or acts a bit stiff, I am gonna teach the Air Force man a trick or two of his own.

And the only good thing about my delirious fever this week is that it kept folks at home too busy with my temperatures and pills, so busy that they forgot the "you over-work" bhajan and "erratic schedules" polambal.

And at moments like these, when the sun sneaks out after the showers and bright light streams through the windows, I know I love my family the most.

Thursday, 16 October, 2008

This and That

This makes me want to stop all my nonsense about environmental writing and filmmaking and pick up a shovel to plant a tree. Okay, i'll start with a pot maybe.

and words, here and there:

Needles and pins, Needles and pins,
Sew me a sail to catch me the wind.
Sew me a sail strong as the gale,
Carpenter, bring out your hammers and nails.
Hammers and nails, hammers and nails,
Build me a boat to go chasing the whales.
Chasing the whales, sailing the blue
Find me a captain and sign me a crew.
Captain and crew, captain and crew,
Take me, oh take me to anywhere new.
- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, 15 October, 2008

Autumn leaves and siblings sensibilities

My sis is going to fly the nest. This realisation dawned on me stupidly late, just today morning - after many weeks of talking and preparation for her engagement - and it settled uneasily in my stomach as I woke up from one of my many dreams about her wedding.

In my dream, I was torn between taking pics of cousins singing together and decorating the hall. Should I get the hall ready and miss my cousins' singing together or catch the moment when it lasted and delay the decorations?

Some stupid dream like that and I woke up with the sick feeling that we may never get to share the same roof again. This time when she leaves, it wont be like one of her business trips around the world, when we get to know everyday, no matter whichever part of the world she is, what she ate for dinner and if she reached her hotel room safe.

There wont be any, "eM will be back in two weeks and then we will decide on the colours for the room". There wont be any e-mails about day-to-day affairs like rats found in her cupboard and brother's deploring marks. Will we then talk stuff like, "how are you?", "everyone is fine here"??.

oh my god, Oh My God, OH MY GOD!! Everything is gonna change forever and I don't want it one bit. I want her here and have become a sudden supporter of aunt's plans to get eM and Jeej to stay in our ground-floor.

Until yesterday, I was spouting all neutral comments like "Jeej needs his privacy" and "eM should be independent". No more of all that bull. I just want my sis at home.

With all this wonderful fraternal thoughts, I tried to snuggle up to her in the morning, but she almost pushes me down. Wait, what was I even thinking, she can get lost to Bangalore. Actually, Bangalore is too close to Madras, she can go to any Pallatur* and cut potlakaya** all by herself and I couldn't care less.

Pity, the wedding is six months far away.

Autumn musings

But with Diwali around the corner, some showers and a small depression in the bay, we have had some great weather, and it makes me feel all waxy, poetic and lyrical.

eM, who now has a season called autumn in her life, sends me beautiful pics - trees ablaze with yellows and oranges; a silent stream strewn and mellow yellows strewn all over her university town. Its looks like the trees have come alive just to add colour to the drab cement and concrete.

In the meanwhile, bougainvilleas are blazing pink all over my Madras, and the weather is perfect to perch by the window sill. But I am at office and I have to pretend to work. So I settled down to read Thekambattu and fell in love with their village. Wish Sunder and Sonati can write more.

Other nice reads today morning, as the boss thinks I am seriously at work, include one on writing via As I Please; and Shutter Sisters via eM.

For all in Madras, enjoy these rare bouts of gorgeous weather.

*&** are the telugu equivalents of Timbaktur and snake gourd

Thursday, 9 October, 2008

We are like this only

No backless cholis?? How can women be stopped from following the time-less traditions of India? This ban is pro-western and anti-Bharatiya nari. It is not suited for Indian culture. Saffron brigade, where art thou?

In the meanwhile I hope Egg, trousseau shopping at the moment in Rajkot, will get some back-less cholis to wear in Chennai. My Madras is very traditional you see, you can wear back-less cholis and low-waist ghagras, and that is why we will never let the Vagina Monologues perform in town.

Friday, 3 October, 2008

Book envy

The problem with me as a reader is that I get too involved with any book that I read - that is I cant put a book down - good, bad or cheap trash until I know what happened at the very end.

This irritating trait has forced me to read on shuddering PTC buses (Mango Coloured Fish); when I was having a bath - seriously, when I could'nt finish the The Order of the Phoenix after a sleepless night, I propped it on the washing machine; at my first shoot (Ponniyin Selvan) and at work (You are Here). So I simply avoid taking up a book if I can. Amazing excuse, right? right.

But really, when I start reading, I start living between the pages. And that is why I envy this best buddy of mine (eM), who can pick up a book at dinner time and put it down after her curd rice. Her reading list naturally is light years ahead of mine.

Anyways, here is the list that she sends, which has set my right hand itching towards that Ruskin Bond. Seventy-five books that a woman must read, and the roll call reads:

  • The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  • The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
  • Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  • Like Life, Lorrie Moore
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O'Connor
  • The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
  • You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  • Earthly Paradise, Colette
  • Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
  • Property, Valerie Martin
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot
  • Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  • Runaway, Alice Munro
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  • You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  • Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
  • The Liars' Club, Mary Karr
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  • Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
  • The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  • The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  • The Group, Mary McCarthy
  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  • The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  • The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  • Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  • Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
  • Three Junes, Julia Glass
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Sophie's Choice, William Styron
  • Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  • Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
  • Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather
  • Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
  • Spending, Mary Gordon
  • The Lover, Marguerite Duras
  • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  • Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
  • Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  • Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
  • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  • I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
  • Possession, A.S. Byatt
I can proudly tick off - The Namesake (still reading), Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, The Diary of Anne Frank, Frankenstein (I never realised it was was written by a woman) and The God of Small Things.

There is this list for men and it has some good ones like Haruki Murakami's books.

Thursday, 2 October, 2008

Expo spam

The Big Fat Indian Wedding - Update 1.1.

I was right in lying low about the wedding expo business. Mad, Jeej, thathaya and ammama dropped by at the organiser's office to be treated to an hour long lecture about Country Club Resorts. They got the dinner set but nothing more because the other gifts are for married people only. Pray tell me, why would married people come to a wedding expo? Oh, for their kids??

Am surprised that Mad didnt roast them alive or file a PIL. My sis is after all the fire-spitting dragon who managed to get an Apollo doc state in writing that he had utterly blundered. This was when the apollo doc performed the wrong surgery for my grandfather, which was followed by a long corrective surgery and treatment at Vijaya, but that is another story.

Anyways, I must pat myself for not having fallen to these Country Club guys. They are the only people who can compete with Airtel in calling me up every three hours.

Navaratri 2008

At my maternal grandmother's house, there was a navratri room. I simply called it so because there was nothing else that the room was used for. No one would use an asbestos-roofed room for anything else. The adjustable kolu stand would become an almirah for toys, unholy mills and boons that my younger aunts probably read on the sly and a lot of other junk.

The room had a nice view of the street and I used to play many an imaginary game there. I used to re-model it in my head to fit my dozen maternal cousins at least once together under one roof. Somehow, every time I scrounged this room, I would find a new old magazine or comic to while my time away with.

Once, many years after I was no longer scared or in awe of the room and simply went by force of habit and nothing to do, I picked up a small novel "the mysterious intruder" thinking it to be a detective story. I was disappointed because no murder or theft cropped up, just silly talking and walking and smiling all around. It was my first M&B. I read four or five of them later, but remember this plot so vividly. I was after all 12.

Later, when the family went through bad times and some rooms had to be rented, it was used for my uncle's business. As his employees deftly packed combs and pens, I would walk around the room trying to see if the old shelves had some corners and junk left for me. But then real estate was priceless.

Back to navratri. I never liked the room during navratri, it was no longer my secret garden. It was washed and scrubbed, the ten steps creaked under the dolls, you could'nt walk or run because there was too much rangoli powder all around; and it was curtained and filled with the lot of brightly coloured aunties and grandmothers who kept reminding my mum to send me for music lessons.

I must tell this for my youngest aunt, though there is a lot left to be desired in her, she was an ace in decoration. I still remember how she grew real grass on some damp soil and created a beautiful cricket pitch and garden with dolls.

But Navratri became interesting only when we moved near my high school and many of my other classmates. We girls would wear pattu pavadais and deck up with jewellery and go around looking at Kolus. When the singing rigmarole came, I started to nudge others and slink into the background.

By then, most of us had cycles and these evening tours became an independent social affair. There was no more tagging mums and aunts. The kolu at our school was of course priceless, with an entire hall filled with dolls of many themes and some kutcheri or programme in the background.

We continued the affair making it an annual get together during college years but now the tradition is broken. I dont remember the last kolu I saw, so today morning as I saw one at a friend's place where I was for some work, there is a wave of nostalgia. I am making it a point to visit a few other friends and my maternal grandmother's place.

It is no longer a grand affair, but my aunt, the wonderfully patient wife of my uncle, is sprucing it up each year to reach the old standards and maybe soon it will go upstairs and fill the entire navratri room.

The Big Fat Indian Wedding - Part 1

When I was twelve, painted film posters caught my eye. Amul ads at 18 and glossy models at 20. But now, all that catches my eye are wedding planners, bridal collections and flower decorators. No, I am not getting married, but my dahling sis (Mad) and best friend (Egg) are.

So naturally, even some cheap A3 sized, torn poster of a wedding expo at the Chennai Trade Centre, caught my eye right on. Vivaaha it said and featured a hennaed north Indian bride. Even before I could tell Mad, Egg buzzed me that she was going for the expo. But Mad cannot just do something about her wedding just like that. Even if you have all the 5Ws and 1H clearly written on the back of your hand for thathaya's cross questioning, you cant get past his big O - opinion.

He waved us away with a, "We are anyways going to do things our way, what is the point of all this expo business?" But Mad is a style conscious bride. She fought her way and I lobbied heavily - for the car and for her fiance (JJ) tag along.

Now, as Mad is dutifully following the wedding band, albeit her own way, she is the favourite grand daughter at home. And I become the villain, for putting evil ideas in her head.

So by the time Mad told me that the car had broken down on the way back - that is after seeing the bare three stalls and one stray mehendi designer; after having to wake JJ after a late night shift to act chauffeur, after forcing uncle to join the trail, after getting brother to tag along the party under the midday sun - I decided in my best interest not to get back home in a hurry that day.

This was the second time one of my bright ideas did not take off. The first was to have the engagement at the gorgeous Dakshin Chitra (actually Mad's, but you know the dahling vs. the rebel grandkid routine by now); it was dropped because imposing toll-gate fee on guests would'nt have been very polite. So as JJ came home for dinner and wedding plans abounded over the weekend at home, I avoided all talk like prickly cactus.

It was getting difficult, not to intervene when thathaya almost hired the local ruffian-temple swindler for a priest and fixed a photographer who used Word Art on albums and forced couples to bare their teeth. But I managed to hold on.

But yesterday at office, Mad calls me to tell that JJ has won three gifts from one of those three stalls at the expo - a dinner set, a goa luxury holiday and a family trip to VGP. Whoa! "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I bounded back home early to tell this to thathaya, but he was at puja and my better sense prevailed. Now I am waiting for my moment until JJ confirms its authenticity and tax details.

And until then, I have upped the ante against the idea of hiring traditional jewellery for the engagement from one of thathaya's entrepreneurial nieces.

Itching to write

One of my most frequent day dream is to sit by my window sill, knees up and a book on the lap.
And I can listen forever to the bells of those grazing cows and gaze forever outside the window.

And all my life - a doting family, special siblings, friends who are soul mates - their lives, our anecdotes, our issues, our ideas, arguments, neighbours, work, special moments, rebellious spirits and dreams hurl down my head as word bubbles.

This is my window sill.

- itching to write by the window sill


My nephew is a slothbear