Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The ear rings

(Image courtesy: Google Images)

Little kids can be so amusing or annoying, especially the wailing types. The small crowd that was wandering around the church fair observed with some amusement at 6 year old Tina who was loudly asking her mother for some ear rings on display at the counter. After much discussion Tina’s father got her the ear rings despite the apparent exasperation of her mother.

The big smile on Tina’s face was so contagious that the other shoppers smiled and went back to their shopping. Tina was walking around with her new ear rings tightly clasped when she saw another girl sobbing profusely. Her parents were trying to console her but failing miserably. By now the other shoppers started showing signs of annoyance wagging their heads at the wailing child and her helpless parents who could not control her.

Tina looked at the little girl went up to her and gave her the ear rings, said “Merry Christmas!” and walked away. The crying girl looked at the ear rings in her hand and smiled in surprise. Soon she forgot why she was crying and looked at the gift in her hands, when she looked up Tina was not to be seen. As Tina got into the car her father asked her in surprise, “Do you not want the earrings anymore?”  Tina replied, “I wanted them but I saw that she needed them more.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The little things that seldom matter...

There is a team in Chennai that does a very commendable project in connecting blood donors and those in need.  Blood is a very precious donation that can be easily done by everyone subject to certain physical and health requirements but the mismatch between requirement and supply can be high and that is why Team Bleed and others like them are great and deserve every bit of support they get.

This topic is however not just about blood donation but about how blood must ideally be segregated in our country after donation. Today at present blood is segregated by O+/-, A+/-, B+/- and AB+/- (hope I got them all) but in doing so they are forgetting one important thing; the provenance of the blood. How can the blood not be tagged with the caste of the donor in this caste mad country? How can the sacrilegious act of transfusing the blood of a lower caste person to a pure higher class person be permitted? How can a doctor from a lower caste operate upon someone from a higher caste? When places of worship are purified because of the presence of someone from the lowest class, how can the defiling of an upper class body be permitted by impure lowest class blood or hands?

Hardly surprising that for small things like blood or organ donation, caste is ignored because when it comes to other things like entering a place of worship it is criminal forgetting that the place may have been built by the same people who are not permitted entry. It is not worth a second thought when the rice is grown by a lower caste but it cannot be cooked by the lower caste. It is hardly surprising because in our country we have our priorities right, the small things seldom matter.

(Image courtesy: Google Images)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Cashless in Chennai...

(Image Courtesy Google images article)

When the Prime Minister  threw that googly to the billions on unsuspecting people on November 8th I was as puzzled as many others but since we live in a highly polarized country where the crazed fanatics bully every other point of view other than their own I kept my peace.

Today after Chennai was left shaken but not stirred by the cyclone Vardah I think it is time to speak out against the way this demonitization has been done. One of the four metros in the country from a highly developed and progressive state is now on its knees not because of the cyclone but what its after effects combined with this bitter pill called demonitization has done. Since the floods of last year the citizens of Chennai have discovered that they are a better people and they care for each other. They are also resilient to face up to what has been thrown at them.

Vardah left behind a trail of destruction that included uprooted trees, fallen cables (power and others), out of service mobile towers. The last two ensured that the city was without power and mobile network for the better part of three days now. This has also ensured that the current goal post of this demonitization exercise namely a cashless economy has got one tight slap across its face. The growing number of people who do not have money to buy milk, food, fuel and other essentials despite having money in the bank and multiple cards on hand, not to mention e-wallets and banking apps is a telling comment on how the government has messed up.

We have read enough about the muddled pointers and the shifting goalposts for this demonitization exercise but this seems to be the tipping point. People have accepted and endured the endless wait in the queues to get their hard earned legitimately earned and often tax paid money in the false hope of a greater good only to be slapped again with stories of wedding extravagances by ministers and colleagues of the teary eyed PM. The now routine unearthing of the scarce new notes from people across the country without any details of their origins shows that the mess ups are piling on.

When I first heard of this demonitization after the initial incredulity I thought that this government deserved a fair chance as this was a radical and revolutionary step which if done well could be a game changer. The first obvious gain would be to widen the tax base, far too long the poor salaried class carry the tax burden disproportionately of the country while the informal segment hides under various escape routes. Having worked with the informal segment for a few years now, it is a gross understatement to say that many will be earning in six digit sums and paying paltry sums or no tax because their incomes were never captured. By tracking the bank transactions there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. By recognizing their incomes and thereby legitimately taxing them, the much taxed salaried class could have got a welcome break. With this idea I waited only to be cheated repeatedly by faulty execution of a good plan.

How long will a parent accept that his / her inability to buy food for his child despite having money for the greater good? As I was typing this post the heart breaking news of a mother killing her two kids because she could not bear to hear her starving kids cry anymore as they had no money after the father had lost his daily wage job due to demonitization. Today the brash PM ignoring the plight of the common man and pushing his digital initiatives by announcing lottery schemes only serve to rub salt in the wounds of people.

While the government kept shifting their objectives for this exercise the blind fans kept bullying the detractors online with the anti-national card, publicly shaming those who could not suffer a little for the nation. My question to these blind men is when did the nation get separated from its citizens? How will the nation improve by killing its people?

What worries me is that public memory is fickle and it only needs another gargantuan step by the PM with his usual theatrics to sweep this move under the carpet. The collateral damage that has come about will also then be forgotten. From what has already been unleashed on the poor unsuspecting people, I am really worried about what else is in store.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

I obey...

What makes a person obey someone?

The recent events in Chennai when we paid our last respects to the Chief Minister are fresh on all our minds.  The fact that the much feared violence and riots did not happen made me wonder if the riots of earlier were not the real expressions of grief no matter how incongruous it may seem to others. It also leads to a sneaky doubt that there was no requirement to give an order for these kind of actions. At this moment I wonder when we vilify a leader we find that many of the actions attributed to him or her are actually done by the followers. For instance Adolf Hitler;  we demonize him and accuse him of killing countless Jews in the Second World War but the persons who actually committed the acts were normal human beings like you and I. The use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima & Nagasaki was not an act of terror because it was done by the victors; even though it may have been sanctioned by the US President there was a long chain of command which obeyed this single act of mass destruction and ended with one pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Everybody simply obey the order.

When a ruler asks his people to wage war or kill his neighbour, ordinary people accept and obey. Why do we do that? Why does the need to obey supersede the need to do what is right? Why do we let our individual conscience become submissive to an outside call? Fundamentally what is about humans that they tend to obey a person at a higher level? Hitler would not have been Hitler if the people below him refused to accept his orders. Great warrior kings have been written about in history books but in reality they were successful due to the armies of foot soldiers who fought on their behalf following commands. The personal ideals and ideologies of the foot soldiers ceased to exist when confronted with an order. Can it be simple adulation for the leader or is fear of punishment or is it something deeper? The much feared Black Tigers, the suicide squad of the LTTE was known for their suicidal attacks ordered by their leader, young men and women gave up their lives for their leader or the cause.

One reason I can think of is our upbringing. From infancy children are taught to obey to listen to the elders and somehow the conditioning is restricted to doing what is being told rather than doing what is right. As the children grow they never forget that they must obey to the next person who is bigger than them. Have we denied our children and ourselves the right to question and decide if what has been told them is the right thing to do? Have we accepted that there is always someone bigger who will tell what is to be done and we will keep obeying? Have we accepted that life is all about obeying what has been told us?

I wonder…

Image Courtesy: Google Images

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Andavan Kattalai - my views on the movie

Went for a movie after some time. I am very selective of the movies I watch. I watch a movie where I can relax, suspend reality, have a good time, laugh a lot & forget the movie in a few days. I would like to watch Micheal Madan Kama Rajan over Nayagan any day so even I sound brain dead it is my personal choice.

Despite a title that gives you different ideas Andavan Kattalai is a simple film that would have worked well with any name and maybe it was the Director cocking a snook at conventional naming tradition.

There was a worrying disclaimer at the start and the titles itself reminded you of an old 70's/80's movie, after the initial doubts you settle down.

I was pleasantly surprised by the rapturous welcome for the hero Vijay Sethupathi who is now a confirmed, bankable star. The surprise increased when the audience hooted in delight for the name of Ritika Singh, apparently her debut movie has left a mark.

When you watch this movie you need to be alert unlike other masala movie where you can join anytime & still miss little. Here the wonderful writing has some delectable jokes thrown around & subtle references which can be easily missed. It is not the loud slapstick comedy that Tamil cinema is used to but light cerebral comedy where the dialogues shine.

There are so many characters who shine, but for me the junior lawyer Vinodhini & the main policeman stood out. Ritika Singh does a neat job and you can overlook the lip sync misses because she has put in the effort to gel and she shines when she does not speak. The conflict of emotions in the romantic scene & the flick of a tear were beautifully conceived & executed.

Vijay Sethupathi is a star & while the movie is hardly a challenge, that few seconds when he plays a king make you appreciate the actor in him. I suspect that line was written just for him to stretch himself a bit. You may leave the theatre with memories of the performances by the support cast starting from Yogi Babu. His final line in the movie cracked me up as it was least expected at that moment and that is how the movie delivers, making you laugh when you least expect to. The character of Nesan is hard hitting and tugs at the heart.

The movie was made to convey a simple message and it does that without being preachy. The director has made people smile at the despondency of the characters. The climax is expected but does not leave the viewer disappointed. The scene where the hero realises that it costs only 1300 to right a mistake the lesson is deeply planted in the viewers' minds.

The music by K is unobtrusive & unremarkable. The movie had no need for speed breaking songs and the background music was in the background. The subtle references made a mark with the audience & the scene where the hero berates his landlord brought many cheers in the theatre.

Go and watch the movie if you want to have fun. Be warned it will not be a masala movie with 4 songs, 3 fights, a scheming villain etc. There is a villain but you would not realize that he is one.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Facing a facial

The last time I went into a salon for something beyond a haircut was on the day of my wedding. I was literally bullied by my mum to get a facial done along with hair setting. The disaster that happened in the salon ensured that it would never happen again. Sadly lightning does strike at the same spot more than once.

This time I was bullied, cajoled and kind of marched to an unisex salon for my regular haircut and a facial. Now do not get me wrong but I am not a big fan of strange people doing funny things to my face and worse putting unknown concoctions on it. Married men will know that there are certain discussions that will have only one answer and it will be seldom your own. It seemed that I had black heads and they were an extremely bad thing and had to be removed. My query of a simple soap wash resulted in a very dirty look which meant that simple soap would not do for this face.

So after a decent haircut where I overheard some words between my wife and the cashier that sounded like chocolate, fruit and I wondered if they had a pastry shop inside. My wife accepted the charge and paid the bill and said that she would pick me up in some time and left the place.  I was taken to an inner room and made to lie down.  After a while the stylist came and applied something on my face, he used tissues to wipe it off. He repeated the process again and somewhere in between I smelt watermelon and realized the fruit part of it all. The process repeated at least few times and I was tempted to ask the stylist to replace the paper napkins with a towel, he was quite liberal and my guilt levels went up thinking of a poor tree somewhere that ended up on my face.

Then after some time I felt hot steam the best part of the entire exercise and then I felt the stylist trying to scrape my face off with a blunt instrument. Since my wife told me that this would happen earlier I let the stylist go about his work. I was still wondering if the same could not have been done with soap and tweezers but I let it go.

When I emerged with the new face or rather much scrubbed and apparently black head removed face I was surprised to see my wife with her classmate waiting for me! The classmate took a look at me and gave her approval saying that I looked good. Now, this made me wonder if the blackheads or the lack of them was the reason or were they trying to justify the process for a future outing?

Whatever be the reason it felt good to be pampered for a brief while but it typical fashion all the euphoria came down when I heard the cost of the fruit treatment.  My mind exploded with the possibilities of things that could have been accomplished with that money. Finally the clincher delivered by my wife “It may be your face, but it is I who see it. So...” sealed the deal.

P.S. Guys is there a better way for this black head thingy?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Of Iron woman, Olympics, sports and train heists...

(Disclaimer: After a long break I have used a style of some random incidents tied by a thin thread in a post again.  If you do not find any thread, then it is an unconnected random post.)

Irom Sharmila or the Iron Woman of Manipur is homeless and friendless now that she has decided to give up her fast of 16 years. Apparently the government which was force feeding her through that nasal tube is also no longer interested in looking after her.  For a lady who was deemed as an international icon it is shocking that she is now unwanted. Why did public opinion change so fast? Why can a lady who was selfless not choose to focus on herself? If she has conceded defeat in her fight is this the way losers are treated?

This constant focus on winning and disparaging the losers is now becoming the favourite armchair sport of the day especially since the Olympics is into its 5th day today. After all the expectations when we see India losing people are now trolling, abusing, mocking the Indian athletes, forgetting for a moment that they are still way better than the majority of the world for having qualified to go so far. Is not the Olympics all about the spirit of competition? These athletes who have qualified despite the abysmal facilities, horrible governing bodies and poor support systems make us proud every time they turn up on the field. There can be only 3 winners with the medals but every athlete or sportsperson is a winner the moment he / she steps into the field.

This Sunday yet another money spinner in the garb of a sporting event happened in the Nehru stadium. This was another edition of the Kidathon, which is a non-competitive race for kids. When you see the crowd that turned up you realize that people here like sports, no matter what their intentions are. A stand-up comic once commented that a marathon these days is probably the only event where people pay good money to make fools of themselves while the organizer laughs at them on the way to the bank. It appears that many more organizers are laughing these days when you say such endurance events happening almost every month. Ask a participant why he / she runs when he / she knows that there is no hope of winning, somewhere you will hear that it’s all about the spirit. Meaning: It’s not the Olympics is it?

I thought the Thiruda Thiruda was an underrated Mani Rathnam movie and a AR Rahman classic that did not get the reception it deserved. One of the highlights of the movie was a train heist where a chest contacting money from the mint will be targeted by some thieves in filmy style. Something similar has happened last night when a train carrying money was robbed by cutting the roof open. As per the last reports people are still clueless how such an audacious theft happened. With so many crimes these days getting inspired by movies, maybe the police must watch that movie among other rain heist movies to get a clue?

 Image Courtesy Google Images

P.S. Anu Agarwal was sensational in the movie.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kabali - Magizhchi??!!

I finally watched Kabali and left the theatre with mixed feelings and with a few “What if…” questions that can be answered by the sequel that is hinted in the ending of the movie.

So did I like the movie? Yes.

Was it the best thalaivar movie that I saw? Not sure. Since this is highly subjective and a matter of personal preference, this question is left unanswered.

Could the movie have been better? YES!!!! The movie could do with the following changes to be just that little bit better:
-       It was at least 20 minutes too long, for a movie that was not in the commercial template, it seemed to meander like a brook instead of a raging river since it is a gangster movie
-          It was too violent. If you smirk considering that it is a gangster movie, the big daddy Baasha, was violent but it was only fists turning baddies to pulp and some harmless explosions thrown in the background for emphasis. Here there were gruesome machete scenes that made my little daughter close her eyes. This in a movie certified U/A
-      Radhika Apte is a good actress and her credentials are beyond question, yet she seems too frail beside the towering personality of thalaivar. I would have felt that somebody like Gouthami would have done better in the role but that is a personal choice.
-      Dhansika’s role had so much promise but was underutilized and in the climax completely messed up
-       The narrative seemed a little jumpy at times and the flashbacks at times seemed to slow down a leisurely narrative and could have been avoided without any loss of impact
-         The climax is a big let-down, if you have seen that viral Whatsapp message about the mega serial scene with a bullet hole in the forehead, you will think that this may come a close third of fourth in the pecking order of climaxes
-          The absence of a comedy track, thalaivar has his own brand of comedy and while inserting a separate track would have been detrimental to the plot, sometimes it may not be a bad thing to insert some subtle humour.
-         The message of the plight of the Tamils seems to get lost in the movie, that part of the story seems muddled. Is he a trade union leader or a gangster? How did the transition happen? What kind of business does a gangster do then if he does not do the evils that the rivals do? Not completely in the realms of implausibility in the cinema world but still…
-         The director had to balance between his vision and the superstar’s aura and somewhere you feel he succumbed to the aura. There seems to be a lack of assurance in the movement.

What did I like?
-      A thalaivar movie without style is blasphemous and this is very stylish. Even the villain is stylish and rivals thalaivar at times
-       The tattoos of the characters are really cool and the bad guys despite the excessive bling of Kishore were all quite cool looking and different from the usual henchmen
-    Much has been said about Santhosh Narayanan and the music. The music director has changed the template of music for superstar movies on its head and the songs for one do not actually hinder the plot too much. The background score was also good.
-          The fights were underplayed and no cars tumbling upside type of stunts were there
-          The daughter played by Dhansika had a lot of swag
-          The visuals were good and seemed fresh
-       Thalaivar plays his age (actually he plays lesser, his age in the form says 60), but he drew tremendous applause for the flashback scenes and it did not look very CG aided.
-        Winston Chao  is a good villain and can be menacing but I felt he was restrained to not cramp thalaivar
-          Finally thalaivar, he is a good actor and is a trained actor. At times you see peeks of his talent creeping through especially when he emotes are different places, the subtle pauses, the restrained movements all makes you connect to the actor behind the super star. Though few they are memorable.

At the theatre the deafening welcome of a full house, despite it being a week after the release and the varied reviews going around shows that thalaivar still rocks. During the movie there was some unexpected humour when:
-      In the Free Life school scene supposedly in Malaysia, my daughter shouted that the classroom was her ballet class room in Russian Cultural Centre, Alwarpet. The training bars are quite conspicuous at the side of the room.
-     At the scene where thalaivar sees his wife after a long and tiresome sequence a viewer shouted out a line from Chandramukhi where thalaivar says, “Paaru Chandramukhiya maariya …”. The whole cinema burst out into laughter.
A little laughter never hurt.

So should you skip this movie? You must be joking! Go and watch it. You will see something new in a thalaivar movie that you may not get to see again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Food for thought...

These days I eat out a lot and my visits to various restaurants have taught me a few valuable lessons which I will share with you all:

-          Jack of all, Master of none: The bane of a restaurant today for purely commercial reason is aspiring to satisfy all and therefore offer a mindboggling variety of food items that usually end up getting classified into 4-5 cuisines. While it may satisfy the average person with the aptitude to ask for a Schezwan noodles in a Chettinad restaurant, it will fall short of satiating a true connoisseur  who will want to explore the depths of the Chettinad kitchens
-     Mediocrity is accepted: Mediocrity is accepted because it is the new average, when the average is low it slowly becomes acceptable to all. So you will find restaurants which may look different but all taste alike, all feel mediocre
-     There is a premium for exclusivity: The second learning leads to this, a true focussed exclusive cuisine restaurant is pricey and will rise above mediocrity to survive. If it will last depends on the patrons who need to appreciate what they are getting.

Extrapolating these three basic lessons to personal life can be quite eye opening.
Lesson 1:  The common man is a jack of all, master of none. While there is nothing wrong in being a jack of all since it is a game of survival. A typical person does so many things at home, work,  at leisure without being good at many. They will be what we call survival skills. The question that is deeper remains:  Are you surviving or living?
Lesson 2: Mediocrity is the average, if you look around the average person seldom stands out in a crowd and is one of many. Faces and physiques may be different, but abilities or rather the demonstrations of the abilities remain at the average level.  The more average you are the less you do not stick out and the average person seems to yearn for this anonymity, to go with the crowd, to be one of many. The question here: Are you one of hundred or one in hundred?
Lesson 3: I can run, you can run and Usain Bolt can also run. There is a price of exclusivity that gets attributed to those who focus on doing something well, they pursue excellence and excellence has its rewards. If nothing, people will pay their hard earned money to come and watch Usain Bolt do something as rudimentary as running which even the cave men did.  This exclusivity comes with dedication, long hours of extraordinary work, untold sacrifices and so much more but the end result makes the journey worthwhile for the person. The real winner is however the one who delights in the journey or process more than the victory or destination. Today we commemorate the first death anniversary of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam our beloved former President; he was someone who showed us that when we rise above the ordinary we are remembered. The question: Do you want to be remembered as a role model or as a mere statistic?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Those extra 15 minutes...

Today I started for work 15 minutes earlier and what a difference it made to my day!!!

On a Monday the usual commute of 10 odd kilometres takes a little more than 50 minutes if I hit the peak hour traffic after 9 AM.  Today I started just 15 minutes earlier since the newspaper came late and it was quite an interesting experience. The beautiful Chennai weather helped to elevate my mood and I started my commute. Since there was no rush I settled down and started to enjoy the ride.

Driving was always therapeutic to me and years ago I used to go for night drives in Chennai to just chill out. The cool breeze on the face with the windows down (no convertibles here!!), good music (if available), empty roads make a wonderful cocktail that is savoured leisurely. Drive where the heart rather than the road leads and come back refreshed. Office commute was however devoid of all these and was a chore that got unbearable at times due to the traffic jams, idiot motorists and silly jaywalkers.

Today I had a great drive that lasted only 30 minutes; there was traffic but not enough to hold up movement. The first track on the radio was “Rasali” and that made the lovely morning even better. An uncluttered mind, cool breeze ensured that even two or three idiot motorists did not dampen my spirits; since I was driving at a leisurely speed I noticed the pedestrians waiting to cross, I stopped a few times to let them cross and saw to my surprise that other motorists also followed my lead. For this a few pedestrians actually expressed their thanks with a smile which is contagious and made me smile back at them.

I reached my office early in a good mood and I am ready to eat the frog of the day which I may have postponed had I come in with a bad mood. It is a good start to the day.

To sum up, we are in control of probably 10-20% of the sum total of things / events that happen during the day. If we can control what we can control our day will be a better one than one where we go with the flow. We cannot control the idiot motorists, the silly jaywalker, the chaotic traffic but we can control our responses to all of them. 

We can do something simple as start 15 minutes early…

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Epilogue - 34 to 45

This is the epilogue for a story that is in the depths of my mind. If you have missed the prologue, you can read it here. If you want to know what happened in between the two keep watching this space.

August 22nd 2015

“Machan! You have not changed! Except for this funny accent Melbourne has not changed you, you are still the man from Mount” said Edwin as he disengaged from the affectionate hug. He gazed at Rajesh with mixed feelings. It was after all a meeting after over 15 years and the first since he heard the news.

“Come home man, I am still not sure why you want to meet here?” said Edwin. “Today would have been our 10th anniversary and I wanted to be here where it all started” said Rajesh.  They both paused as the Beach Tambaram local pulled into the station and people rushed to disembark or board the train. In a few minutes the train pulled out and Rajesh resumed, “Iniya said yes to me here at this soft drink shop when I proposed and I wanted to be here again today”.“I am sorry man, I really am. We never knew what happened. You completely disappeared ever since we heard the news. What happened?” asked Edwin with concern.
“Child birth complications…doctors battled to save one life…I would like you to meet Rajini” said Rajesh looking around to see the curly haired little girl reading a book on the platform bench. “Rajini meet Edwin uncle” he said.“Good morning uncle!” she said with a beaming smile and the resemblance was stunning. Edwin saw that she really was a mix of her parents Rajesh and Iniya. She had the face and eyes of her mother but the nose was unmistakably from her father. She really was RajIni.

“So what are you going to do now?” Edwin asked Rajesh after shaking hands with Rajini. “We are planning to take a train ride to Tambaram and then back to Mount” Rajesh replied. “Shall we go then?” asked Edwin. “I… er… we…” hesitated Rajesh. “I am sorry I just realized I have some work to do, tell you what you go together, I will wait for you when you return” said Edwin.

This was a ride for two persons only. It was only two persons then, it will be two persons today…

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lessons from the waters...

I was moving some things in my cupboard when I came upon some unused batteries still in their packaging and next to it this radio. For a moment I paused and in a flash the memories associated with both these things came back to mind from the deeper recesses of the brain. Some things cannot be forgotten and the Chennai floods will be one such.

So much has been said and written about the floods and the destruction that it brought along but there is also another dimension to the floods that is overlooked. The floods brought people closer to one another and we have seen it all in the spirit of Chennai but the floods also brought people closer to themselves. It helped people discover themselves and thereby discover each other in ways that had not happened before.

Our home was safe and relatively unscathed in the floods but we did have some of its effects; power shut down for over 3 days, lack of essentials and food items, complete shutdown of telecommunications and so much more. Was it a bad thing? Not really.
During the days of the flood at home:
-         We actually started speaking more to each other
-         We played indoor games and had a good time laughing over silly jokes
-         We conserved things that we would normally scoff at including candles that were rationed
-         We ate meals together, in the light of a single candle
-         We saw each other’s faces and had great conversations instead of staring at the idiot box
-         We read books, many books, in the old fashioned way (not on devices)
-         We did not get worried about calls not coming on the phone or trying to stay connected with the world through the World Wide Web. (Though the social media played a huge part in rescue and rehabilitation wherever it worked, for others its absence it worked in a different way)
-         We managed to purchase a radio despite the deluge thanks to a brave soul who opened his shop. We listened to the radio which was the only source of information and reassurance
-         We enjoyed the simple things of life that we usually ignore
-         We realized that it is possible to disconnect from all the phones, internet, television and other hindrances and still have a good time
-         We lived life simply and fully with each other

In a few days, the rains stopped, the city bounced back, the radio was hidden in a corner of the cupboard and normalcy resumed.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bon appetit

“How much is it for a day?” he asked. When he heard the amount he made some mental calculations and then handed over the crisp notes that would feed all the 20 inmates of that home for one day. He collected the receipt from the grateful lady at the desk and started his bike.

The next day he met his friends at their usual hangout and over their large pizzas and unlimited colas they were having a great time when he suddenly remembered the receipt. “Hey guys I have the receipt of the Helping Hands food payment with me. Let’s pool in the cash guys, I am running dry as I paid for all” he said. “Hold on, let us finish dinner and then we will discuss it” replied his friend.

“Guys I got the bill, its 2890, including taxes, split five ways it is 600 per person including the tip” he said after looking at the bill and making yet another mental calculation. He collected the money from his friends and placed it in the bill fold along with his share and signaled the waiter. Tummy full and feeling satisfied he said “lets finish the other collection also, we are paying for three meals for 20 inmates in Helping Hands for a day and the bill is 2000, split five ways …” his voice trailed off.

Suddenly he felt empty inside.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

தலைக்கு மேல வேலை

தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை, when you hear this then the usual understanding is that the person is working very hard. There are times when தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை for me means sitting and enjoying the labours of someone working on my head once every 40 odd days.

The humble saloons have been replaced by glitzy parlours and the barbers are called hair stylists these days. There were days when a visit to the saloon was a thrill because of the large turning chairs that for small kids was something close to an amusing ride. The barbers were patient when small kids after the hair cut merrily used their precious chairs as merry go rounds. The barber also was a veritable source of information usually having a few periodicals for his clients and also having his own share of gossips collected from the visitors.

Someone told me that you should give your head to one person only and for many years I had the same person cutting my hair and since he knew what I wanted he never waited for any inputs each time. I miss the good old days. These days things have changed with the advent of unisex parlours my visits are combined with the visits of the others in the family. The staff is also constantly changing so getting a familiar person may be tough unless an appointment is booked. I know one place that declined my appointment as they were fully booked. Another had three levels of trained stylists and their professional charges increased with every level of qualification to eye brow raising levels. My scale for my haircut is what I pay for the friendly neighbourhood hair stylist and how much more could be done to my head I always wonder.

Once I decided to try out a senior stylist in one such place and it was a pretty young woman who cut my hair. I understood why they were called stylists as I saw my hair being bunched up and clipped in all imaginable ways and the stylist wielded her scissors with so much flair swinging the scissors around that it looked more like a performance than a haircut. After the session my hair did look different and nice and I was able to convince myself that the eye brow raising bill complete with service tax was worth it. The stylist showed me how I should comb my hair and I left with a smile.

Alas the smile disappeared when I tried combing my hair later and found that it just did not work. No matter how I tried to replicate what she did my hair stubbornly went back to its old avatar. I went back to my old saloon and normal service resumed because the hair cut may not be as spectacular as the stylists but there is one thing the barber does that is simply unbeatable, the head massage.

Many of the older barbers have added the head massage as an upselling tool and it is something worth trying. I was introduced to the cooling hair oil by one barber earlier and I became a convert for life. The barber uses large amounts of this oil and then proceeds to massage or pummel or mistreat the head. Trained hands can actually give a very relaxing feeling; one barber actually eases out the knots in the back and almost puts me off to sleep. Off late he has added a mechanical device to his repertoire that creates a tingling sensation and makes you feel sleepy faster.

தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை may not be a bad thing at times.

P.S. A Gounder classic - a barber and his assistant

Sunday, June 12, 2016

After the floods - An anthology on the Chennai floods by the Chennai Bloggers Club

This is a special post; it is special because this is about a compilation of short stories. It is also special because I have also written one of the 21 stories in the compilation. Without much ado I will jump right in and focus on the other stories that are in the book.

I will refrain from focusing on the individual stories because they span various genres, styles and timelines. They are tied together by a few threads; the first being they are set in Chennai, this book was spurred by the Chennai floods and each of the authors had been affected by the flood in one way or the other, the majority of the authors are amateur bloggers and this is possibly their maiden published piece.

Let me first get the good things out of the way:
-          The compilation merited a publisher and this shows that the book has touched people even before it hit the stands
-          The beautiful foreword by RJ Balaji who has accepted the Award for The Indian of the year on behalf of the people of Chennai for the same floods. Enough has been said on Balaji and Chennai Micro so this is a boost to the book and the effort at large
-          The editor has done a decent job and it is no mean effort to get so many disparate woks together in one complete whole
-          The compilation work by Mahesh Lakshmanan who juggled so much to see the book come out
-          The admins of CBC who believed in the concept and worked tirelessly to get the book out
-          The authors who have all given their perspectives of the floods which takes the reader through a variety of emotions but ensure that there is a lump in the throat when the memories of the floods come back
-          The wonderful art work, cover design and the design in the book which makes the book stand out.
-          The stories: some stood out, some breezed past, and some tugged at the heart. Some of the stories brought smiles, some trepidation, some even memories of the losses that were suffered, most of them brought pride in the spirit of Chennai, the spirit we gloriously celebrated when the city rose as one from the deluge to reach out to the other.

Now let me come to the not so good things:
-          The typos, there were quite a few and at times mar the reading. I am sure that we will get a second print with these removed
-          The mismatch in the index page
-          The fluctuating genres and quality  tend to take the reader on a roller coaster and may throw off a few

What did I miss?
-          I really missed a group photo of the CBC that is the reason for this book. Maybe the names of the authors could have been sacrificed on the back cover for a great group photo?

Should you get the book?
Most definitely yes and here are some reasons why:
-          At 150 Rupees it is light on the pocket and at the book fair it is only 135
-          It is a compilation of 21 different authors with 21 different views
-          It tells the world what a wonderful city we live in
-          The stories may be fiction but they are from the heart
-          It is a debut for many of the story tellers so your support will be much appreciated
-          Part of the proceeds of this book are earmarked for the flood rehabilitation, there are some parts of the city that are still rebuilding and this little bit will be a drop in the pool

P.S. Words cannot be enough to express the gratitude and appreciation that is due to the admins of CBC, Mahesh Lakshmanan, Sindhu JP and Bragadeesh Prasanna for getting the book out and the entire support team of CBC that backed them.