Thursday, 5 December 2013

Surprising and sudden stillness

It's a normal day with everything going on as it ought to be and then all of a sudden the power goes off. Shhhh. The whirring of the fan is gone and the buzzing of the fridge has stopped. Before the sweat and the mosquitoes (if the time is after sunset), one can hear the heart beat softly and a distant train with its siren. The drip-drop of the bathroom tap that always gets lost in the humdrum of the fan, fridge and the exhaust fan, is loudly audible and one, if inclined can set it to rhythm -- drip-drop-drip-drop-drip-drop. The call of an unknown bird strikes the ear and the sound though familiar is at its shrillest. How lovely it sounds!

I have undergone the torture of scheduled power-cuts while living in Tamil Nadu but here there are seldom any power-cuts and so the times the power goes off for few minutes, one is treated to a variety of sounds. Sounds always thrill me and each sound is distinct and speaks to us in different ways. Sounds often synchronize with our own moods and emotional status. If one is angry, then the drip-drop of the water faucet is an irritating and annoying sound but if one is in a lighter bent of mind, then any sound is music to the ear. I hope you agree.

The sound of the distant train always spells journey and the journey is often to places where one finds comfort and joy but on peppier days the sound of the trains reminds one of the unseen and unexplored places that may or may not be seen and felt.

Life is strange, indeed.

What are your thoughts.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Before sunrise, Before sunset and everything in between

Just imagine, two strangers in a train decide to spend time together walking the streets in Vienna and getting to know each other! The very idea sends a tingle down my spine and fills my mind with a sense of being overwhelmed. And, the same strangers, of course not strangers any more decide to meet in the Vienna train station after six months, and in the interim not exchanging any phone calls, letters or visits. Well, they don't meet but connect after nine years in France. Well, more than the films, what really interested me was the conversation that transpired between the strangers during their first walk around Vienna which lasts until the wee hours of the morning - before sunrise, to be precise. To me the film is an ode to conversation - A conversation which is genuine, frank, occasionally punctuated by the gurgle of a stream, song of a street singer and by the different sights and sounds of the city. A conversation without mobiles, facebook and other usual suspects.

The strangers, okay the actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy converse on an assortment of topics ranging from feminism to climate change to love, sex, popular culture, media, animals and so on. Their discourse is peppered with anecdotes and in the process of sharing thoughts and ideas, they get to know the other quite well and also by the end of the meeting are attracted to one another. The film consists of only walking and talking and there aren't any more characters in the film than the two actors. Reading up on the film, I found that most of the dialogues are written by the actors themselves and that does not come as a surprise!

I wondered at the possibilities of me doing something similar - chatting up with a stranger on a long distance train and impulsively deciding to walk the town with that stranger. The thought did seem quite thrilling to me and I guess I would have done it, perhaps some years ago when I was in my turbulent twenties! Real conversations are definitely a turn on and as the talks go on, layers of our selves start peeling off and unwittingly we reveal our personalities in the intoxication of words. The same transpires between the two on that walk. I find that I miss that sort of real conversation sometimes. Books allow oneself to travel to unknown lands, mingle with exotic cultures and imagine surreal situations but it is a process that is done alone unlike conversation, and here I mean 'real' conversation where I can see into the eyes of the listener, catch the faint smirk, observe the change in the tone of the voice and take in the gestures of the speaker. You get the drift, don't you? And, if the person on the other end has an equally arresting face, body that fits the conversation then it is imperative that sparks will fly but don't get me wrong here. Conversations don't always have to lead to physical and emotional attraction in the form of love/lust. But I don't deny that there is a higher possibility of falling for someone who can hold an exciting and meaningful conversation for hours (This trait is fast dying because of the various gadgets that vye for one's attention throughout the day/night).

If this post on 'conversation' has made you curious, you must watch the films - there are three of them -- Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight

So, are you turned on by a heady conversation sans any distraction?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A kiss is just a kiss

This post has been itching to escape into the blog ever since it has been stifling in the crevices of my mindscape and I wonder why I have imprisoned it for so long. So, today, I've given a solace to the itch by applying a potion in the form of writing the post! I have always longed to devote a post to THE KISS and not the kiss that every one gives everyone but the special passionate ones that are employed to many forms of expressing love and extreme fondness in the name of lust. Well, a kiss definitely gets it started and suspends time and place. And for people like me growing up in the 90s, a kiss was as scandalous as sex itself and it was one of those forbidden pleasures that made us yearn for them on TV shows.

I remember awaiting those 'kisses' in the 'foreign' (read English) films when first Metro channel came about in the 90s. And, of course, the after kiss 'scenes' would also be eagerly anticipated but alas! they were denied to keen watchers by the censor boards who chose to not corrupt the young and fiery minds of productive youngsters like me. Well, we waited patiently for those passionate kisses and were rewarded by many during our growing up years. So much so that I even thought that a kiss is fatal enough to make one pregnant! I cannot digest my naiveté and today I wonder whether innocence of that sort was actually possibly imaginable!
I remember the famous TV program of those years, Guinness Book of World Records ended with a kiss and I would wait with bated breath to just watch that brief kiss. Ah, what thrill it gave me to imagine a kiss. I even shared the vital piece of information with a friend who also waited for that 'kissey' ending.

And it is for all the above mentioned reasons and more that the film, Cinema Paradiso is a film that is very close to my heart. For those who have seen the film, you will understand the connection between kisses and the film. For those who haven't seen it yet, here you go: The small boy Toto is fascinated by films and spends a lot of time at the cinema house  with Alfredo, the projectionist. But the films have many missing scenes - kissing and embracing scenes which are cut, following the instructions of the local priest. Many years pass by and  Toto is a successful director and comes to his village after a long time to attend the funeral of Alfredo. Alfredo's wife gives Toto something that Alfredo had left behind for him and it is a reel that is a montage made of all the deleted 'kiss' scenes and as Toto watches that he cannot stop thinking of his growing up years and Alfredo. That scene from the film is something that will never ever leave my mind. It is a wonderful mash of memories, desire and nostalgia. And every time I see Cinema Paradiso, I can't stop thinking about my tryst with kisses.
P. S. I still love kisses the same way as I used to then but no longer await those passionate kiss scenes like yore!

Images 1 & 2: Shutterstock
Image 3: Internet

Saturday, 16 November 2013

A heady concoction of cricket, politics, quantum physics sprinkled with an abundance of thrill

While the BB pins were doing the rounds in Facebook, another BB kept me engrossed on tenterhooks. The reference is to Suraj Clark Prasad's debut work of fiction, Baramulla Bomber. Starting to read the book, I thought that the figures and scientific explanations would impediment my interest in the flow of the narrative but I was proved wrong. Prasad's narrative is taut and keeps the reader's inquisitiveness alive as he guides us through the story. 
An illustration from the book

A map showing the location of action

Many readers have already written about the racy style of Prasad's resembling that of Dan Brown's and they cannot be truer. The story which is a heady concoction of politics, cricket, quantum physics added to a love story, involves many sub-plots which finally merge together in the main plot making the reader wonder and wander.
The cover page of the novel

What strikes me about the book is the additional information that is meticulously put together by Prasad at the end of the book. He provides links, articles and various trivia associated with names, incidents and places. The hungry reader who strives to dig deeper into some of the mentions in the book is greatly satiated by the information and being curious, I even looked up some links which enabled me to appreciate the research done by Prasad.

Kashmir, Pakistan and China are some of the places that have never ceased to intrigue the minds of discerning citizens of India and Prasad very tactfully spins his tale around these places alongside adding an exotic Sweden to the ring of operations. The development of the characters, the advancement of the plot and the minute details of various happenings capture the attention of the reader and ensure that the momentum remains the same throughout the course of the novel.

Clark mentions in his book that BB is the first in the Svastik trilogy and the readers who have gotten a taste of BB, I'm sure are awaiting his second and third books. 
Suraj Clark Prasad

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The lost beaches of Goa

Yesterday, I was quite pumped up with energy and general feel of goodness after I returned from an early morning visit to the beach. The beach is almost like a temperamental individual exhibiting different tempers at different times of the day and be warned, every beach is distinct and has its own shade of personality. I learned all this by visiting some beaches in Goa. I was literally in a hazy sea of thoughts when my domestic walked in for the day. She had her usual smile and charm and inquired me after the sand that she had spotted in the entrance. With an excited demeanour, I told her that we had gone to watch the sunrise in the nearby beach. She nonchalantly replied: "We have been living here for so many years but have never visited the famed beaches of Goa till date." Her reply stirred me. It rattled my thoughts. I wouldn't know how to react to her reply which was a tone mingled with part regret and part resignation to her life. Implicitly, I asked her when she came to Goa. "Just after getting married," she replied. She has been married and living in Goa for about 18 years but the beaches were lost to her and her family. There was a beach quite close to where she lived but the time and zest to go and visit that beach was lost on her family.

I wondered why should one go to the beach? Does one want to feel a sense of contentment that comes with living in one of the most sought after tourist spots or does one go there to marvel at the wonder of nature and take in the beauty that everyday existence cannot possibly provide? I realised that going to the beach is a privilege of time and leisure. A chasing after beauty that allows one's heart to be puffed up with gratitude and warmth. I also wonder whether by not visiting a beach in Goa, did I miss out on the essence of the place? Do I visit beaches just because it would be a shame to have lived in a place filled with beaches and not have visited them. Some of these questions could niggle me endlessly and chances are that I might not even arrive at a legitimate answer.

Till my mind rests, let's go to the beach and take pictures that make others yearn and drool simultaneously.

Have you thought why you do what you do.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Virtual friendship and broken promises - A tribute to a dear blogger-friend

The last time I met you, you promised to spend more time with me in December. You also promised that in the December trip you will stay with me. You cruel soul - you broke your promises. Why do you make them when you were to break them!

We meet in the world of blogs and bloggers. We both were relatively new to the whole game of blogging. I saw her blog in one of the blogs I frequented. I casually stopped by. I liked what I saw and read. I started stopping by more often. Then she started noticing me and returned the favour. This was in 2009! From then on, we stopped by each other's blogs and gradually started emailing one another. The mails were usually two or three liners in which we mutually complemented one another's words and thoughts. We were never obliged to visit each other's blogs. I only commented when I had something to say and vice-versa. A bond had been formed.

Then I got married. I sent her an invite. She didn't come but sent me her wishes. Then, she got married. I sent my wishes. Our blog entries became infrequent but we kept in touch. She drifted towards fiction and photography. My visits to her blog were intermittent. She still came over to my blog and logged in her insights. We started chatting through Facebook.

She then gave me the wonderful news of her visit to the city where I lived. We met briefly over some snacks. Her mom and her sister were there with her. We were quite excited and thrilled to finally meet one another. She promised to spend more time with me in December when she planned to visit my place again on a road-trip with her better half. I thought December was quite afar off.

Unexpectedly, I had a chance to stop in her city for a break of journey and she played host along with her parents-in-law, husband and her non-human companion, a Golden Retriever named Rocky. They were lovely people and stumped me with their hospitality. She drove me to the train station. I was glad to have met her the second time and we refreshed our December promise and plan.

But she would never see another December! She broke her promise and along with her husband passed on to another world leaving me with memories of her blog and two meetings. 

I am glad that we did meet each other and exchanged meaningful conversation, if only once. Her sudden passing, though left me shocked and devastated, enabled me to understand the transience of existence. She was a quiet and unassuming person who thought deeply and tenderly. On some mornings, I wake up with thoughts of her and feel quite sad but as I mentioned earlier, I am truly happy that I met her and spent some time with her.

RIP my dear Sameera Kesiraju (1987-2013)

A poem by Sam:

Every evening is a conversation,
Sun’s retiring talk with a dear tree
“I’ll come in the morn looking for you!
I’ll knock on the doors of darkness with a request  
To let my rays caress with love, your gentle leaves
As they swing with joy, with hope, to see another dawn
Waiting for me to bring that dawn to you
I’ll come, but promise, that you will not let...
The black dusk swallow it all up - every time I am gone.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Restroom Chronicles

One of my close friends loves to visit the restrooms in high-end hotels. The interiors, accessories like moisturizers, scented candles and super soft towels thrill her senses and she ends up spending a lot of time than she intends in the room. For the past month and a half, I have been trapezing across four states - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Kerala and like in every trip, restrooms are something that can make or mar a trip for me. It's the memory of the restrooms that linger longer in my mind and I always tend to judge a trip by the restrooms. I know that it does sound corny but then the matters of the nature calls are definitely important for all of us, I assume.

I was pleasantly surprised to find clean and well maintained toilets when I travelled in an overnight bus from Bangalore to Goa. The bus stopped at two places en-route and thankfully both the places were clean and the taps had running water in copious amounts.

This time while travelling in the Kerala Sampark Kuchuvelli Express (12218) from Goa to Kerala, I noticed that the toilets were brand new bio-toilets. Now I didn't know what bio-toilets were at that time but a little bit of googling gave me this answer:

The night soil from commode enters into the bio-tank, where the inoculums are stored and gets decomposed by the bacteria. The decomposed human soil will next enter into chlorine tank and to get purified. Finally, the out put will be water and gas . . .

Well, I was happy that some amends have been made by the railways to improve their toilets and this after how many years! I just hope that the people don't misuse this and wreck the well-intentioned efforts of the Indian Railways which has earned the nickname of being the world's largest open toilet. This trip saved my Indian Railways toilet anxiety. So as you have rightly imagined, I slept in peace and got up smiling.

 I often wonder why people taking the air-conditioned coaches do not think of keeping the toilets clean and flushing them after each use. There is a GREAT divide between treating personal and public space judiciously. While people ensure that their homes are well kept, they don't think the same of public spaces and especially places like the restrooms which are used for the most personal act - ridding the body of its toxins and waste!

Kalpana Sharma, an independent journalist, columnist and media consultant, in one of her articles "Educating India," says that, "The Annual Status of Education Report, 2009 points out yet again that what stands between rural girls and a good education is often basic facilities like transport and proper toilets." I wonder how many of our citizens take this point seriously. And clean toilets are always something that a woman traveller looks forward to when she travels as she cannot shamelessly pee wherever she wants like most of the men in this country do!
The Annual Status of Education Report, 2009 points out yet again that what stands between rural girls and a good education is often basic facilities like transport and proper toilets. - See more at:
The Annual Status of Education Report, 2009 points out yet again that what stands between rural girls and a good education is often basic facilities like transport and proper toilets. - See more at:

The Annual Status of Education Report, 2009 points out yet again that what stands between rural girls and a good education is often basic facilities like transport and proper toilets. - See more at:
So, what are your restroom chronicles, dear reader?

Image: Internet

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Has blogging become a tad jaded for me, I wonder

This post is supposedly my Blogoversary post, a fifth anniversary of  my Meandering in the whirling world of words and thoughts! But today instead of rejoicing at my journey and gloating over my posts, I choose to think aloud on some aspects of blogging. I see this post as a note to myself in which I strive to answer some questions that have been occupying my mind off late.

My writing has taken a lull in the past year and half, precisely after I got married. Though I choose not to blame marriage and the usual impediments of time, I cannot deny that my priorities have been mismanaged by me. I haven't figured how to devote a particular time of the day for blogging and commenting. Until I got married, time and space was in my control and I could blog whenever a thought struck me. I didn't have to record mundane but curious thoughts - I just wrote them and published a blog post. Alas! I had naively assumed that the scenario would be the same throughout and that I would be able to manage the same effortlessly. But then I realised that my meanderings were the most active when I was kneading dough or cutting veggies and I could not just take off to posting and publishing those thoughts just when they strike. And by the time, I completed my chores, the fleeting thoughts had passed. No matter how much I coaxed and cajoled, they never came back. And when I did find the time to sit down and open my blog, I would be at a loss for posts that I almost always end up closing the blank page and resort to reading other blogs and commenting.

But don't think that I have lost my interest for something that once was my main source of joy. Blogging's initial years were like those of a heady romance when the senses are in rapt attention and words gallivant about begging to be strung into sentences and meaningful phrases. Even commenting was done in gusto and reading blogs were something that I looked forward to with bated breath. The blogs were few and writing genuine. Today, I am bombarded with many bloggers who are fun and feisty with their words but alas! they are so many. How can a single me do justice to so many brilliant works! I try my best inspite of a gnawing thought that I have missed out on someone's writing for a long time. I guess that's precisely what happens when heady love blossoms into marriage! The initial years' pleasure come about quite spontaneously and as the years go on, the whole exercise becomes an effort because one is surrounded by so many aspects of life that are equally time-consuming and demanding. I guess one has to learn the fine art of balance be it marriage or blogging.

As I complete five years in the world of blogging, I look back and question myself and my priorities. I wonder whether I should tweak my schedules and try to be smart with setting deadlines and goals when it comes to doing some of my favourite tasks which help me unwind as well as rewind. I hope this post is a remainder of the beautiful world of blogging which has always thrilled and enthralled me.

All said and done, I raise a toast to Blogging and my fellow bloggers who have been patient with me and have not abandoned me inspite of me not posting as regularly as I used to. Thanks for the insightful comments. Reading your comments and thoughts has always invigorated me and brought a smile to my face. 

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Monday, 7 October 2013

And thus was born a Grammar Nazi . . .

Believe me, I was never someone who took exceptional care of grammar esp the apostrophe when I was jotting down in my wee journal or writing in my blog earlier. My its and yours followed their own mind and often my number and tense was havoc! I wonder how those changed. Did I become conscious after reading a few writing blogs or did Facebook's self-proclaimed grammar nazis trigger the urge to check and recheck my its and it's. No, no, it wasn't Facebook. I now remember. It was my Supervisor who drilled and coerced me in turns to refine my crude ways of writing. The rest was done by the writing blogs that I had (wisely) subscribed to while gallivanting the world of blogs and bloggers. But even then, I wasn't a grammar nazi. I was a learner who was relearning and unlearning few tricks of the trade. 

In case, I forget, I was also teaching. And while one imparts knowledge, one should be sure and right of certain things atleast, I reckon. I might not be the teacher who gets everything right but my students had to learn some fundamentals of the English language and there it became imperative that I train them in certain rules of the language and writing was one of them. I consciously started spelling out your and you're; its and it's, in my mind and double-checked whenever I wrote something on the board. Of course, writing in English is more than their and there but still these were some items which were always confusing and largely misspelt. Gradually, my writing started improving. When one's Supervisor drills plus one teaches plus one reads fantastic writing blogs plus one writes often, the end result is something good. Ah, how I did I forget to add voracious reading to the list. That too helped a lot.  And all the while, I was STILL not a grammar nazi.

Then Facebook started popping up these pictures and memes and all of a sudden, there was a gross turnover of self-proclaimed grammar nazis. Sadly, even I joined the tribe, I reckon. A was correcting status messages, S was lamenting the fact that poorly-written blogs are getting popular, D was posting grammar memes on her wall and finally here we are - A group of grammar nazis screaming loud and ranting out the fact that grammar is dying a slow but sure death. And there were few who even challenged the fact by replying 'k' and 'u' and other funny answers in response to the grammar nazi's frustrated pleas.

Facebook and blogging, along with showcasing our penchant for imagination and narrating events, also brings to light the habitual grammatical skirmishes which are often unknown to the writer him/herself thus giving a field day to the grammar nazis. And why is it that the grammar nazi is only passionate about its and it's and your and you're. Is that all that is there to grammar? Grammar is much more than misspelt words! No memes point out to awkward phrasing of words, tautological errors, long sentences, non sequitur lines and so on. There is much more than what meets the eye. But grammar nazis don't venture beyond a point. Why? Simple. No one understands the errors and thus begins the great argument - English is not my mother-tongue. If English is not your mother-tongue then why do you attempt to write in an alien language! Well, I can go on and on with this but I shall pause.

So, the conclusion: Without poor writers, a grammar nazi cannot exist. I still feel that I am not as competent a weaver of words as certain others are but I certainly take care of my you're and your when I write. This ensures that I am safe from the grammar nazi within and outside of me!

So, what say reader? Are you one of us or them?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

An update: It takes one to spot one and one of my favourite reader/commenter Govind pointed out a glaring error in the post. I thank him for being a discerning and sharp reader. Salute boss!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Birthday reflections and ruminations

When I was a dreamy teenager, 30 used to be a big number, that was still far far away. Imagination and things around led me to believe that at 30 one had a home, bubbly children plus a car and a fantastic husband! Well, I couldn't have blamed my teenage fanciful mind! And what did I wish for - the same aforementioned things. I was not one of those teenagers who had dreams to have a high-flying career or to explore an untrodden path - all I knew and wished was for a happy family complete with a dog and car! I didn't see beyond the usual. I wasn't even exposed to anything else.

And, today, standing at 34, I realise that life has so much to offer. A family and a dog are also happiness factors but there are other things that one can aspire for. I blame it on education. I was all sane and meek, but engaging minds and wise teachers shook my aspirations and beliefs. I can't be more thankful to them today. My paths slowly started walking in a slightly different trajectory. I learnt that there are other uncharted paths that are more interesting and adventurous and I chose to get lost. I am happy that those paths showed me sights and thoughts that were challenging and offbeat. I explored ideas that were safely hidden from me and was able to flirt with things that were hitherto unaccustomed to my small mind.

I learnt to lose myself in books and tread along the lines of the character in the tomes I read and loved. Thinking with the author, my mind opened to different worldviews. I was weaned out of prejudice, gender fixations, mainstream hogwash and media's appropriation of the mind. Education liberates and forces oneself to leave the comfort zone and walk out and that is what precisely happened to me. Inspite of that, there are some issues which I have not come to terms with!

I am also thankful and grateful to the wonderful virtual and offline friends that Providence enabled me to meet. They have enriched and educated me in ways that I cannot imagine. I have also realised that friends are friends, offline or online - They affect me the same way and teach me important lessons which I otherwise could be deprived of. And along the journey, I have come to know that each age has its own charm and inspite of growing old, I grow richer and bolder in experience.

Here's raising a toast to 34!

Thanks for the company, dear reader. I cherish and treasure you and the lessons that you have willingly imparted.

Image 1, 2 and 3: Internet

Saturday, 28 September 2013

City love

When you're happening to travel alone in an auto . . . oops, metered Chennai auto from Egmore to home, which is quite a distance of 16kms, your auto meanders through many flyovers and you get to see a wonderful city bathed in the lights of the numerous street lights that illuminate the roads. It was about 9. 45 pm and with no one to converse, brushed by the gentle breeze of the night, I fell in love with Chennai all over again. I craned my eyes to see beneath the flyovers if the auto was driving above a road and tried to look above and side ways if the auto travelled beneath a flyover. Cities look beautiful at night, especially Chennai with wide roads and multiple lights of different hues - I could soak in those sights like a love-lorn lover or a love-sick poet. The heat and dry humid wind of the day time does not evoke such love unless one is so stricken by the city that even the heat is exalted. I think I like to be a realist here. The gliding Government buses, bikes with couples, cars with hurrying families or singletons blasting radios while casting a stray lingering look at the passing by woman/man sitting in the pillion or auto-rickshaws getting back home after a tiring day -- everything presents a lovely sight. Parallel to these sights, I also imagine the Chennai when I was a regular on those roads, mindless of the heat and sweat and always walking purposefully and never once glanced a loving glance at the city.

This gush of love first began showing its streaks when I started reading the post, "Those girls on Mount Road" by Snigdha Manickavel which was shared recently on Facebook by Jothi Vel Moorthy. I could relate with that writer's perspective on Chennai and tender feelings of joy started taking wings within me and I wanted to reach out to all the places in Chennai that I have known and loved - The place where I went to school lazily walking about on the roads and sharing love notes and class gossips; the bus-stop where I drank Panneer soda; British Council of the early 2000s; WCC and MCC . . . There are many such places.

While reading Manickavel's post, I also remembered another article that I read a day ago in The Economic Times where a certain French writer, Bennet Voyles in his article, "Paris is not Paree anymore; outshined by London, New York" laments that Paris has lost all the seemingly French traits and that London is more French than Paris! He lists many points that were quintessentially French but now is no longer seen in Paris. Can a city every lose the traits that made it, I wondered. Can Chennai ever lose its peculiar traits. It might, otherwise there wouldn't be so many complaining that Chennai is not the same Madras anymore. Will a day come when the spirit of Chennai will be seen only in blog posts and Madras Muthiah's articles, I wonder. But what is this spirit of Chennai that so defines this city -- Is it the healthy idli-dosa-sambar-chutney or the magic tunes of December Festival or the safety factor that makes women fearless on the roads even at 11 pm or 12 pm or the balance between tradition and modernity or the connectivity of the city or just the feel of being in a relatively calm and secure place. I cannot put my finger on any one point.

Well, I just hope Chennai doesn't lose its peculiar Chennai flavour like Paris! Inspite of everything, every time I return to Chennai, I see so many additions to this place and those additions please and irritate me as and how my mood commands but last night while travelling home in that auto, every single sight was being taken in by me as aspects of that city which I have grown to love gradually and all those sights spelt - 'This is home!'

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Some ingenious ways to practice mindful eating

You have seen it splashed all over Facebook, Twitter and many interactive social media sites - That one has to be aware and practice mindfulness. Let's first dissect mindful eating in a few easy steps. I can completely relate with you when you have the urgent impulse to check your Facebook status or that beep in your mobile phone when you are enjoying rather involuntarily eating a meal. You can enjoy only when you are aware! So, here are some ways you can be conscious of what you're eating and savour every morsel of what goes inside.

1. Seek assistance from your sibling/child/ spouse or parent to box you on either your left or right cheek so that it is painful for you to eat fast.

2. If you're upto it, you can slap yourself hard in such a manner that you cannot open your mouth to the fullest possible thereby taking smaller shares of food and chewing them consciously such that you don't pain the jaw further.

3. If by any chance, you got a toothache and you are unable to multitask for the fear of upsetting your sore tooth, there are chances that you will learn the fine art of savouring each morsel that goes inside.

Jokes apart, I am a conscious practitioner of mindful eating since meal-times are a lovely fellowship time with family and also a fine way of nourishing the body and mind. But even without any urgent impulses like checking mobiles and Facebook, I tend to eat fast and thus finish my meal rather quickly. For the past two days, I'm having a severe toothache which has given me no choice but to eat very slowly and take in smaller shares of food. I find this exercise very useful and inspite of the pain, I'm learning some vital lessons in mindful slow eating and enjoying every single mouthful.

Do you eat mindfully?  Do you need any assistance with the hammer and boxing your cheek, you can count on me!

For a meaningful post on mindful eating, see Corinne's post titled, The 7 Practices of Mindful Eating or else you can choose to hammer your cheek!

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Call me by my name!

After a little while, say when you're 30 plus or so, you don't often get called by your name. The result is that you hear your name very less often than before. Your husband, mom and sister have their own favourite names to call you which does not remotely bear semblance to your given name! Today I was ecstatic when I went to the dentist's. I spelled my name for the receptionist and lingered on when I pronounced Deborah . . . I like the ring of De . . . bo . . . rah! It so happens that no one uses my second half name quite often except few, namely Aswathi Jerome, who uses the same to address me in chats and text messages. She also loves the name, as much as I do and more than once, she has reminded me that I have a lovely second half of my name!

More than the name, I like the wee history behind the real Deborah. She was a prophetess and a singer and led Israel to victory. She also happens to be the only female judge mentioned in the Bible. Now, isn't that wonderful. And being a judge, she would have been represented with the balancing scales which is incidentally the symbol of Libra, my sun-sign. I am acutely aware of different connections and somehow try to relate the same to me and my life. Well, let me get back to calling me by my name!

The calling of one's name brings many additional aspects to it - The sound: Not many can get the name right and the way it's pronounced. When someone calls the name in a lovely manner, I feel like asking them to call me once more. The sad part is that the name is not an Indian one but has been indianised by many and I cannot blame them. Names are great conversation starters and I just need an inkling to set me going on and on about my name. Sometimes I try to recreate Deborah of the Old Testament and imagine how she would have tackled the various challenges of her times. The name Deborah in Hebrew means a bee and my first name Susan, means a Lillie flower. I don't know whether my parents intentionally united the flower and the bee but still it works out well in unison.

So much so for my name. Will you call me Deborah? Do you like your name and do people call you by your name?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Of witches, japnis, power and chakras

They say, 'Don't judge a book by its cover' and yours truly has vehemently given her piece of mind to many who were guilty of the same but alas! yours truly was also guilty of committing that heinous crime.

Looking at the cover page of Chakra: Chronicles of the Witch Way, I had naively assumed that this would be another story of mysterious grey eyes and a lovesick man who is haunted by the grey eyes until he finds them, beds them and then finally marries them (here, "them" refers to the grey eyes which is synonymous with the woman who possesses them). And boy, was I pleasantly surprised when I started reading the book and was quite glad that I did  not go by the first impression of the cover page. Now, after having completed reading the book by Ritu Lalit, I can admire the cover page. Mind you, I just looked at the eyes while gazing at the cover page - the other details like the writing on the page was completely out of my vision range. Talk of selective vision!

Another reason I ordered the book is because it is authored by a sharp-witted, wickedly humourous and lovely Facebook friend, Ritu Lalit. I have known her for over a year now and hence was curious to read something written by her. And Chakra happens to be her third book. I can now proudly say that she has not disappointed me. If one has been familiar with the Indian writing trend that has been doled out in recent times, except for some, the majority of writers dish out tales that are often rehashes of the same old sappy romances, rebounds, divorces, coming-of-age and so on. In recent times, except for the Shiva trilogy, one cannot even remember any book that made it to the so called 'Best-seller lists.' And the Shiva trilogy is inspired from the stories of Shiva albeit in a different packaging that appeals to the lay man. No new idea there. In the backdrop of this scenario, Chakra comes across as a refreshing and captivating read. Ritu's writing style which is racy and awesome makes the chronicle compelling and gripping.

Ritu, though digs into the ancient concepts of chakras and kundalinis, packages the entire plot in a modern setting that can be connected to the present scenario. She weaves a tale of witches who live in the normal modern setup and seldom use their powers unless forced to. So the witches here don't fly on broomsticks and have hideous noses as popular tales represent them but are sleek, foul-mouthed, caring, cook and clean and also eke out a living for themselves. In all ways the witches lead perfectly normal lives but within them rest enormous powers - physical as well as mental and so in a heightened state they can mind-read, levitate, move objects, work up a storm and do many other supernatural things. And along with the witches, the story also has men (read wizards but Ritu refrains from calling them so and refers to them as japas) who equal the power of the witches and are jean-sporting, long-haired hunks who possess brawn and brain in ample amounts.

The story revolves around powerful clans who are named after the elements and possess powers according to their elements. What is alluring about the book is that it the chronicles of the Witch way - powerful women who are capable of astounding feats. Most of the children in India grow up listening to stories of magic, gurus, gods, devis and many other supernatural powers. But most of these stories are every male-centric and the role of the woman, though commendable is not often the main focus. Ritu's saga though resembles the stories of yore has powerful women in the central roles and the action revolves around their lives and adventures. Inspite of being crazy and powerful witches, the women characters try to shrewdly defend against attacks from male chauvinistic barbs and acts. It is these points which delight the discerning reader. If the characters weren't witches or japas, they would be people like you and me living their ordinary lives with the burden of everyday routine.

The word 'witch' always has a very negative colouring, as perceived by many. Paulo Coelho's The Witch of Portobello is a book whose theme revolves around the return to goddess religion and energies. Ritu's book also falls along similar lines where the age is of powerful women - The witches. Though the story flows seamlessly, there seems to be many questions at the end of the narrative but thankfully Ritu assures her readers that the book is a trilogy and I let out a sigh of relief as I await the sequel which I hope will answer the questions left unanswered.

Ritu Lalit

Post Script: And one question that was and is still niggling my mind is: How does one become a Witch?

So do you enjoy stories of witches, wizards and magic realism? Who are your favourite authors and can you recommend any specific works?

Images sourced from Facebook.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Seven: Day 7 - 7 Offerings of Gratitude to Write Tribe

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 7 and the last day.  

 Since today is the finale of the Festival of Words, I thought I will offer my gratitude to everyone who made this festival a beautiful one to cherish and treasure. So, here goes my Seven offerings of Gratitude.

1. To Write Tribe for organising this lovely festival which enabled me to dust the cobwebs of my blog and mind and charge ahead with the Sevens.

2. To my dear blogger buddy Corinne on whose wall I first saw the announcement for this Festival. I know that she and Write Tribe are synonymous but WT is a community and Corinne is an individual who also happens to be a good friend.

3. For all the kind souls who took time out from their routine to stop by my blog and jot down a few words on all the Seven days.

4. I came across some lovely blogs in this Festival and I'm glad to have stumbled across them in the Blogosphere.

5. To everyone who put together this Festival and slaved their grey cells to come up with ideas, suggestions and prepared the general guidelines of the Festival.

6. To my blogger pals who were not part of this Festival but showered their appreciation and encouragement on me.

7. And the cherry on the cake goes to my mind which did not play tantrums and decide to withdraw from the seven-day challenge. 

And so thus ends the swan song of Seven! Big hugs and lots of love to all of you who stopped by and dropped a line or two. I shall meet you by and by in the Blogland . . . until then, adieu and wellness.

Image: Internet

Friday, 6 September 2013

Seven: Day 6 - Seven dreams for India that I would like to see fulfilled in my life-time

Like any thinking citizen, there are some dreams that I have for India and I keep my fingers crossed hoping that the dreams will see fruition in my life-time. Hopefully. But then, it's a tall order. So here are seven, comprising of the base and sublime. 

1. A day when a woman can walk without fear in any part of the country and in any time of the day/night.

2. Cleanliness being followed by every single individual.

3. People who don't jump queues as if it was their birth-right.

4. The word 'corruption' to be completely wiped out of the dictionary of Government officials.

5. There should no discrimination based on caste, colour, creed or conditioning.

6. The local should get precedence over the global (read Mac, Starbucks, Cola, burger, clothes' brands and so on).

7. Academic selection should be based on merit and merit alone.

I bet you have many such dreams for your country. Do your dreams match with mine or do you have some more vital ones that can be added to the list?

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 6.

PostScript: I am already beginning to miss the interaction by way of Write Tribe because today is the sixth day and tomorrow the lovely festival ends :(

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Seven: Day 5 - Seven smells that transport me to another time and day

Smells are an important aspect of memory and without smells there would be no memories opine scientists and boy, they cannot be more correct. How much often I try to avoid sentimentalising my past, some smells never let me rest -- they coerce me into mentally shifting into another time and day when a particular smell happened.

1. Smell of moth balls are not quite to my liking but a whiff of them sends me into the trunks and cupboards of houses we lived in and clothes we transferred from cupboards to suitcases. Moth balls are emissaries of nostalgia!

2. The fragrance of jasmine flowers always remind me of a time when I fought for flowers on my aunt's head. They also remind of markets where there were many shops lined which sold strands of jasmine flowers.

3. Freshly painted walls force me into a mental journey of places that were part of my memory - school buildings, shops, houses and public libraries.

4. Smell of newspapers transport me but I still can't pinpoint any special place. It just transports me!

5. The smell while passing by a bakery - The assortment of diverse pastries and savouries combine to send out a wonderful smell that immediately reminds me of school get-togethers in small bakeries and shops.

6. While sauteing onions, there is a lovely smell that wafts through the kitchen and immediately the mind conjures images of lovely food and always food leads one to vibrant and beautiful and not-so-beautiful memories.

7. Nail polish smell brings to mind the memory of other similar smells like that of petrol, fresh paint alongside incidents which formed an integral part of our lives some time ago!

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 5.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Seven: Day 4 - Seven glowing stories that Blogging has given me

Every journey has a story or maybe sometimes stories and blogging is no different. The journey began in 2008 and since then there have been many wonderful stories that have made my blogging journey a treasure to cherish. I'm sure that all of you fellow bloggers also would have similar stories to share. Here are my favourite Seven.

1. Two bloggers who reached out from the virtual into the personal realm and have shared my agonies and accolades. I am yet to meet them but I already feel that I have known them forever. Aswathi and Corinne, thanks for being there.

2. They could have just gone without meeting me but they made it a point to call me and arrange a meeting even if it was for a brief time. I was happy to see the faces behind the names, comments and words. Janaki, Rachna and Sameera - words cannot express how wonderful it was meeting you for the first time. Talking of meeting bloggers, I was following the blog of a blogger based in Belfast and I did meet him when we went to Belfast, N. Ireland and before I left, he presented two beautiful books to me out of which one is about Seamus Heaney, the poet who recently passed on.

3. Some comment just to show that they were there in the blog, some comments say a hello but some are succinct and a blog post by themselves. Steveroni, Zuzana, Nevine and Dawn Sievers - how fortunate I am to read your words in my blog. Maybe you aren't as regular as you used to be but I fondly cherish those beautiful comments.

4. You followed my posts, fell in love with them and simultaneously fell in love with me as well. I cannot mention your name here but I did value your comments and ideas.

5. We started with blogs and carried on with hand-written letters. I treasure your words on the blog as well as on the lovely letters. Karishma, Aswathi, Brian, Prashanth, Sowmya, Aarti, Gitanjali, Bragadeesh, Sruti -- what beautiful stories you have sent me to be preserved. Thanks.

6. Once I was working on an academic paper, this was in 2009 when I was few months into blogging. I was working on some translated poems and the translation was done by a poet named Nirupama Dutt. Shortly after, I see a comment on my blog, from none other than Nirupama Dutt. After that comment, we corresponded through emails. Since it was my early days in the blog world, this incident excited me.

7. Once someone from a distant land wrote to me about the uncanny similarities between that individual's life and my posts. That note sent shivers through my spine because I couldn't imagine someone's life bearing similarities to my posts. That person wrote to me on the first day of the brand new year of 2013. Stories such as this one warm me but at the same time amuse and surprise me.

What are some of your blogging stories. Care to share?

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 4.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Seven: Day 3 - Seven Blogs that I like to Visit


I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 3.

There are some blogs which resonate with us but either those bloggers write rarely or we seldom find time to visit their space and relish the posts. So, here are seven such blogs that I recommend.

1. Nevine Sultan - Dreams, Deliriums, and other Mind Talk
Nevine is a deep and soulful writer (I say writer because she is one!) who probes the inner crevices of the mindscape and brings out the visceral feelings beautifully. A wordsmith who strings beautiful words effortlessly and seamlessly is currently pursuing her Ph. D. in Psychology, a subject that befits her personality and writings.

2. Sylvian Patrick - Sylvianism
A marketing professional, Sylvian is passionate about films, social affairs and any controversial topic. Though he writes rarely, his posts have a fiery quality that leaves one thinking on various levels.

3. Karishma Kulkarni - Why is Everything Four
Karishma is a doctor-to be and she writes posts which are inquiring, fresh and so very tender. Through her posts, basic emotions are shared with syrupy nostalgia, tangerine memories and beautiful lines. I could stay on her blog forever!

4. Karen Xavier-Fernandez - Contemplations and Ruminations
Karen is a blogger like me. Her blog is a show-case of almost everything albeit with an intimate coating. A fan of country music and cooking, most of her posts discuss her current favourite artists and recipes that engage her.

5. Bhumika Anand - Boumika's Boudoir
Bhumika is a sensual, passionate and vibrant writer. Her posts border around love, lust, memories and unbridled passion in either succinct prose or neat verse. She empties her heart and soul in her posts. After reading her posts, I'm almost always overcome with strong emotion - happiness, sadness or both.

6. Ravi Kunjwal - Yet Another Horizon
A young research student, Ravi infuses his quest for life through questions, nostalgia and songs. I especially like his nostalgia posts - they leave me with a smile and mellow thoughts.

7. Ashwathy Nair - Dreaming in Metaphors
Ash is a keen photographer who exhibits her pictures with apt quotes. I started following her blog because she had a lovely name for her blog, "Dreaming in Metaphors." I wish I stopped by her blog regularly so that I could read fantastic quotes accompanied by equally wonderful pictures.

So these are seven out of the many fabulous blogs that I follow and try to be regular. There are more but I will save them for another post. Hope you get time to look up these blogs and savour their content.

What are some of your favourite blogs? 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Seven: Day 2 - Seven memories with my father

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day! Today is Day 2.

It's quite rare that I mention my dad leave alone writing about him. I think this is the first time I've come close to writing something about him. He passed on when I was thirteen and since then it has been a long while. I have outgrown the memories that we shared but there are some that remain evergreen and those are the ones I am sharing today. Here you go:

1. I remember sitting with him on Saturday afternoons, sipping hot mutton soup made by my amma and listening to Biblical stories. He was the one who started me on with those interesting stories which held me in rapt attention.

2. Going hungry on a certain Sunday afternoon because I was yet to memorise Psalm 23. Eventually I did memorise that passage and till date I remember what I had learnt that day.

3. Going with him to his office and while returning we stood outside a house because we heard one of our favourite songs, 'Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder' playing in a record inside the house. We stood there till the song got over and then resumed our return journey.

4. Close to his office was a water body which had reeds growing around then borders of the water. Sometimes he brought some of those reeds neatly cut to our home. I would put them into a bottle of water. Those reeds with their deep maroon colour would look beautiful.

5. Being slapped hard when I interrupted him while he was conversing with a neighbour. The reason: We were in the middle of an interesting story-telling session when the neighbour came home. I was quite impatient to listen to the rest of the story and barged during the conversation. The response was a sharp slap. I had learnt what I had to that day!

6. Once when I got very low marks in my Geography exam, my father refused to sign the Report-card. Later he did sign it but left a note along with it with his name signed on that note. It read: "If your marks are like this, I will not sign your Report-card. All the best."

7. I never saw my father enter the kitchen but on those rare occasions when my amma went to visit her parents in Trichy, my dad would prepare delicious food. I still remember the taste of some items that he judiciously attempted to cook.

I must admit that his memories don't come without coercing but the above seven do come effortlessly. Those days were different. It has been 21 years since the day he left us. Life goes on.

It's strange how minds come up with similar topics. Here's Karan who writes at Scribble who has also written a post for his father for the Write Tribe's Festival of Words. Read here.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Seven Posts in Seven Days: Day 1

I am participating in Write Tribe's Festival of Words from 1st to 7th September where nearly 82 bloggers are writing on the theme of Seven for Seven days - a post a day!

In the forthcoming seven days, I will be writing on the Sevens that make my life and meanderings.

The word Seven has been a fixation in my life as it was the number that was most favoured by my Sunday school teachers and the pastors whose sermons I have grown up listening to. As much as the number Seven is favoured, 6 is dreaded as the number of the Anti-christ. No numerology and all that mumbo-jumbo but Seven always got a special nod and glow. And strangely, I have gotten used to the number Seven and almost always end up favouring the number, of course not out of the fetish for numerology and all that mumbo-jumbo but because it’s a comfort zone for me and may I add, many Christians who have gone to Sunday school and heard diligent sermons also give special preference to this number. So, I must admit that I was excited a wee bit when the Write Tribe had chosen Seven to be the key word for its Writing Festival! Well, here goes my first post of the inaugural day of the festival.

I thought that my first Seven would be the Seven characteristics that are an integral part of me but I choose to conveniently forget or perhaps pretend that I don’t have them. 

~ A bad procrastinator

~ Not valuing time

~ Wills to change some existing patterns but never does as a comfort zone has been formed

~ Swears quite a lot while having internal conversations which is quite alarming

~ Takes for granted that I am the best, which is a delusional thought

~ An extrovert who likes being alone but never portrays that 

~ An individual whose inner thoughts and outward actions don’t often match

The above Seven traits are something that need to be broken from my personality and this first post will strive as a remainder towards that goal. 

Hope to share more of my Sevens in the days to come. So, what are the Seven traits in you that you wish to change?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Stringing a beady tale with love

Personal stories of success always are a wonder to narrate and here I am with one such tale which I admire and choose to share with you.

When Sridevi in the film, English Vinglish informs the class that she makes laddus and sells them, by way of introducing herself, she is lauded as an Entrepreneur. That scene was an AHA moment in the film. I'm sure that scene touched many a chord and left one teary-eyed. 

This is a tale of one such entrepreneur, who left her job with a leading Luxury group when she had a soul call. Most often a soul call doesn't happen twice and Archana Avinash of Strings & Beads was wise enough to heed that call and follow its direction. Thus began the soulful and beautiful journey of Strings and Beads - Handmade precious and semi-precious jewellery using gemstones, Tibetan silver and silver. This was in Qatar, Middle-east in circa 2011!

Archana's love and attraction to jewellery especially heavy, chunky statement pieces naturally enabled her to begin Strings & Beads. Hailing from a family where all the women did some kind of hand work, Archana says that she genetically and naturally had to use her hands to create something that she enjoyed doing and also that fetched her money. Archana says, "My Grand-mom used to sketch, stitch and do lovely embroidery. My Mom went on her mom and till date stitches some of the most gorgeous clothes and bags. So Jewelry happened very naturally to me. I loved stones and started putting things together. I started with stretch bracelets, then I worked around simple necklaces and finally came earrings."

Like most personal ventures, Archana also faced disappointment and financial constraints in the initial days after starting S & B as she quit a job that paid handsomely. But she had her heart and soul into Strings & Beads. There were exhibitions she did in the Middle East (Qatar) where she didn't sell a piece. But thanks to her friends-- her only clients then who picked all that they liked and encouraged her. Having a supportive and wonderful husband also was her great pillar of strength. In Archana's own words, "A shoulder to cry and a crazy pal when we celebrated successes."

 Archana's medium of work in the beginning was limited to glass beads and metal. Eventually, her liking for Silver increased and also did her love for Gemstones. She came across tarot and Crystals about a year after she began S & B. She saw some amazing results for S & B with the crystals and that's when she went on to learn Tarot card reading and Crystal Healing. Now a practitioner and a designer, she is able to bring about an amazing balance with Aesthetics and Metaphysics.

She procures her beads from around the world from suppliers approved by GIA (Gemological institute of America) and her Silver are all handmade in India and Nepal.

The greatest challenge she faces are the copiers in the market. People come to her to learn the art and begin something by themselves and have even tried stealing her clients. But Archana is quite happy that she has many clients who have also become her friends and family standing by her.
 Archana has come a long way since she began her journey before 2.5 years and the sailing hasn't been quite smooth. But what she has understood is that inspite of many copiers out there, they really don't live long. And as Archana rightly mentions, "True creativity cannot be contained. It is something each one is born with and that which you end up nurturing."

And thus Archana nurtured her soul call and here we are with beautiful strings and beads! In early 2013 Archana shifted to Chennai and since then her journey has been functioning from the South of India to many countries in the world. One visit to her Facebook page leaves you sighing and wishing that you owned atleast one S & B piece of jewellery.

Archana has been showcasing her work in different venues in Chennai and recently exhibited her work entitled, Madras Memoirs in the 11th edition of By Hand, From the Heart, the market place for hand made stuff from South India.


Postscript: Written for the Indiblogeshwaris Ladies Independence Special Contest in association with Women Entrepreneurs in India

All images are from Strings & Beads Facebook page.


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