Wednesday, February 27, 2008

she wonders 2

The villi (they are all villis, no villains) has lied to an old friend of hers who happens to be a married man, that she has blood cancer. The man marries her. Apparently he feels sorry for her. Fake blood cancer lady has a kalla kadhalan. When wife no 1 realises second wife has no cancer she tries to prove this. However blood cancer lady is romba ushaar and so suddenly claims her blood cancer has been cured and then proceeds to fake a pregnancy, thereby managing to maintain a hold over man. When wife 1 realises pregnancy is fake and finds proof of this, fake blood cancer and fake pregnancy lady fakes a miscarriage! And so on and so forth.. why wife 1 did not say tata to husband when he came home with fake blood cancer wife remains a mystery. Perhaps that is the tamizh kalacharam every one is talking about.

She wonders

Do schools still have Moral Science lessons? Is there still a Music hour? Are children forced to learn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram and write essays on Cleanliness is next to Godliness? Do canteens still sell vegetable puffs and bread channa so greasy the oil soaks right through the paper plate? Are uniforms still as unattractive as they were all those years ago? Is there still English I and English II? Do class seven students reading the unabridged version of Twelfth Night still giggle when Lady Olivia falls in love with Cesario? Do Book Depot Aunties still insist on being called Ma’am even though they don’t teach? Did teachers still yank at long oiled braids when homework hasn’t been done? Does ‘Fingers on your lips’ still echo through cobwebbed corridors? Do knees still carry the imprint of sand and gravel stone? Do dispensary sanitary napkins still look like balls of cotton wrapped in gauze? Do fingers still carry the stains of Royal Blue ink? Are Schaeffer pens still waved imperiously in the faces of Reynold bearing mortals? Do March Past and Mass Drill still strike terror in the hearts of the fairest of the fair? Do students still cheer as half days are announced when school correspondent’s die? Do notebooks still slide surreptitiously in to bags as the clock hands inch towards the end of a day? Is chapathi kurma still looked at longingly by children who are sent idli molagapodi?
Do all these things seem wonderful only because they are all so long ago in the past?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

sunday afternoons are for tags

Or at least that's what I tell myself before doing this tag, surnotes has handed over. Also, I have twenty minutes to go before bugging Amma for some more coffee.

A -Available?

B-Best friend:
Don’t have just one

C-Cake or Pie?
I’m greedy, so both

D-Drink of choice:
Leo Coffee

E-Essential thing used everyday:

F-Favourite colour:

G-Gummi bears or worms:
Gummi bears. The yellow ones


Blank note books

J-January or February:
February. One month closer to summer

K-Kids and names:


M-Marriage date:
June 7th

N-Number of siblings:

O-Oranges or apples:



R-Reason to smile:
Creature Comforts

Autumn. Crisp, fresh and filled with some of my favourite colours.

T-Tag three people:
Whoever wants to take this up?

U-Unknown fact about me:
I used to have a blanket addiction as a child

V-Vegetable you do not like:
I am very

W-Worst habit:
Hair fiddler

X-x-rays you have had:

Y-Your favorite food:
Vengaya aracha vitta sambhar, urulaikizhangu curry, avakkai sadam suttai appalam


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


See, there she is, at my daughter’s wedding. No, no not that one, this one. Dressed in the magenta sari. One side border. Was so friendly with everyone, even Periamma who is so hard to please had something nice to say about her. She seemed like such a nice girl you know. No trace of the arrogance and conceit that they later said she possessed. Or - and I tell you this only because I know you won’t tell anyone else – an abnormal sexual appetite. Who could tell by looking at her? Can you imagine? In a girl from such a good family too. But of course, one never knows what truth there is in rumours like this. People are always making things up. I am only telling you what I have heard. Her poor parents. 100 sovereigns gold! Even her anklets. Chitti says that that is why the marriage didn’t last…tying Goddess Lakshmi to one’s feet like that. The catering bill itself was Rs. 3 lakhs and her bridal makeup Rs. 40,000. She’s not the most photogenic girl as you can see. See, there she is at the reception. All that money spent and she was back in her parent’s home in two years. They say he came home one day and found all sorts of dirty things on the computer – pictures and all. Chee chee. And she would talk for long hours on the phone with his friends when he wasn’t there. But who knows the truth? I remember that even as a little boy he was prone to telling tales. Anyway he was the one who wanted the divorce. I met her mother at Swamiji’s Ashram a few months ago. Poor woman had become half of what she used to be. And who can blame her? She pretended like she hadn’t seen me, perhaps she felt bad, seeing that I’m related to him. But why should she feel bad? So I went right up to her and said hello. She was very vague, said the girl was in Bangalore working for a software company. Have another bonda. And some chutney. I didn’t tell Mami he had already remarried. She might feel bad. I’m sure the girl will get married again soon. And why not… so common these days. Best let her choose though. I called up his mother. She’s my cousin on my father's side. Well she listens to everything I had to say and then tells me ‘I don’t ever want to hear her name mentioned again’! Imagine! As though she couldn’t say that before I told her everything. Don’t mention her name! As though that will cancel out two years of marriage and erase the girl's very existence. But see, here she is in my daughter’s wedding album. Whether I say her name or not.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Telling tale

My companions giggled nervously as we approached The Music Academy. Its parking lot, usually overflowing with vehicles and people on performance evenings wore an uncharacteristically forlorn look. And we weren’t even that early for Attakalari’s evening performance of Purushartha, a multimedia dance production described as ‘a unique blend of Indian movement idioms and Japanese digital and sonic arts’. Where was the city’s enthusiastic dance audience? Did they know something we didn’t? As we handed over our tickets and stepped inside the auditorium, we looked around trying to see how many seats were filling up. ‘Give it another ten minutes’ a friend said, so we turned our attention to the performance bills that had been thrust in to our hands at the entrance. We needn’t have worried, for by 7:30 the lower circle of the hall was almost full, the air alive with the buzz of pre-performance anticipation, air kisses and ‘excuse me’s as tardy rasikas trod on feet.

Roughly translated in to ‘the meaning of being’, the hour long production explored the Hindu concept of ‘the objectives of human life – dharma, artha, kama and moksha’ through Attakalari’s unique blend of kalaripayattu, yoga, bharatanatyam mudras and other contemporary dance forms. Not that I would have necessarily known this had I not read about the show before hand. For though based on an ancient concept this Indo-Japanese venture made no obvious references to the underlying philosophy at all. Instead, Jayachandran Palazhy, Artistic Director and Choreographer and Kunihiko Matsuo, Music Director and Interactive Technology Director presented an abstract work, set against stark, often bewildering visuals and set to contemporary Japanese noise music.

‘Are those sperm?’ a friend whispered in to my ear at one point when the stark white background on to which everything from geometric shapes to mysterious blue ripples and scenes from popular cinema (Thillana Mohanambal? Helen!) to shots of desolate bus stops and even the performers on stage, was covered with small, wiggling commas. ‘Do you have any theories?’ another whispered ‘Mine have all been shot to pieces’. The guessing games soon came to an end though, as we became mesmerised by the dancers and their lithe, agile bodies that leapt and rolled across the stage. The female dancers, some so slender they looked like they might snap in half picked up their muscular male counterparts with effortless ease, wrapping them around their slender frames like pythons before setting them down again. In their minimalist white layered tunics the dancer’s were hypnotic. It didn’t really matter if they were telling a tale or not though some of the themes such as love, lust, separation and meditation were more apparent than others. The music ranged from a topsy turvy countdown to chants to strange high pitched noises. If anyone hoped for a finale that revealed some hidden secret or inner meaning, they were in for a disappointment as the show ended with an abrupt ‘Stop’ and lights out.

If Attakalari’s Purushartha was stark, abstract and at times puzzling then Anusham’s production Ganga was a dazzling 180 degree turn. Choreographed by L Narendrakumar the sixty minute performance staged at Bharath Kalachar was back by popular demand, and it was easy to see why the production was so successful with audiences.
A riot of colour, Ganga was a joyous and exuberant mix of bharatanatyam, folk dance, music and storytelling. The dance drama was a montage of life along the banks of the holy river, the festivals celebrated in her honour, Buddha’s enlightenment and scenes from the life of Shankara and Kabir. A sprightly boatman acted as narrator and led the audience by the hand from one enactment to another, singing and dancing along the way.

My favourite piece was the reenactment of Lord Shiva’s taming of the mighty river. The battle between the haughty Ganga - four dancers dressed in shimmering sequined shades of blue - and Lord Shiva was a thrill to watch, and even though I knew that the outcome was inevitable I couldn’t help but secretly root for the river to put a dampener on Shiva’s plans. Unlike the rest of the audience, perhaps too mature to openly ‘ooh and aah’, two little girls dressed in their best pavadai sattais sitting in the row before me had no compunction in showing their admiration. Completely enthralled by the costumes, smoke effects and infectious music they were on the edge of their seats for most of the performance. But no one could contain their admiration at the finale and Periyathambi of Koothu-p-pattarai’s acro-asanas.

It would be impossible and wrong to compare the two performances, as both were so varied in style, content and theme. While Purushartha let the audience interpret the piece for themselves, Ganga used more traditional storytelling techniques that left no room for doubt. What was common to both though was their ability to keep their audiences transfixed throughout and talking long after the curtains had come down.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thirunelveli halwa for my Valentine

Everyone's writing triolets at Ammani's, so I thought I'd join in. Mine, is quite bad, and the triolet took a turn for the worse when I couldn't think of many things that rhymed with halwa. Oh well. Happy Valentine's!

I made you Thirunelveli halwa
On our last Valentine
Singing songs from Jalwa
I made you Thirunelveli halwa
While you were out bonking Alpa
So I added a pint of turpentine
I made you Thirunelveli halwa
On our last Valentine

Thursday, February 07, 2008

yes yes of course

She wished she wasn’t so nice. Why was she so nice? From where did this need to please arise from? Good girl. If you’re a good girl I’ll give you this chocolate. This new dress, this new jewellery set, a good name in the family. The last was the most useless of all things she had been offered in return for her goodness. She hated the way her head nodded involuntarily in agreement to every request, statement and command. Of course I’ll make bajjis for everyone. Yes, yes I agree, she shouldn’t be wearing such revealing clothes at her age. She was a cow she decided. A boom boom maadu that shook its gaily painted horns at one and all.
She envied the women in the mega serials she watched every evening. Not the stupid innocent daughter-in-laws, fat and well fed on curd rice and naiveté, draped in printed nylon saris and round bindis who got duped and tricked by everyone. Oh no. While others tsked and gasped at their machinations, she secretly cheered on the mother-in-laws, sister-in laws and mistresses. The villis. The vamps. She yearned to be more like them in their garish embroidered saris, matching jewellery sets, barely there blouses and bindis that spread across their foreheads like poisonous trees. Yes yes, poison your husband. Push your sister over the edge of the balcony. Steal that baby. She spent her afternoons formulating cutting, witty repartees that she would throw in the faces of those who mocked her. She had plotted ways of wreaking revenge on the Periamma who called her fat and the cousin who won over others with her charming ways and flouncy hair. Yes, today would be the day she broke free of her need to please. She would do as she liked. She would leave her hair open after 6 in the evening, not wear a petticoat beneath her nightie and insist on having onion sambhar next ammavasya. Yes, as soon as she finished her niece’s science project she would learn to say no.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Food for arthropods, protective shields that ward off the evil eye, welcome mats or road side art?

They are often the first sounds of the day. Under the jamun coloured sky a gate opens, groaning and creaking, protesting at being woken up so early in the morning, Water is splashed from a chipped plastic bucket, not poured, not sprinkled but splashed. Handfuls scooped out and flung against the dusty earth before one’s home. And then a silence, punctuated by the shuffle of feet and the occasional jin-chuk of anklet bells. The length of this silence varies. It depends on the mood of anklet wearer, what day of the week it is, what month it is, auspiciousness levels and whether kaavi is to be added or not. During certain months, a subtle, unspoken rivalry comes in to play. Designs become more elaborate. Arabesques, curlicued flowers and chariots spill out on to the street. Adept hands turn bland rice powder in to menageries bursting with peacocks, butterflies, elephants and leaping fish. Without measuring aids pullis are spaced with military precision and then looped and joined together in an elaborate version of connect the dots. Like imperious rulers ordering about their court artisans, some women stand guard urging the hand that creates to go further, try harder and be more imaginative as though their glory is somehow reflected in these creations. But unlike monuments dedicated to lovers, portraits and poetry that are preserved for posterity, these works of art are ephemeral and will not live to see the next day.