Posted in Food For Soul

2019 was an exceptional year for me…

2019 was unlike any other.

In this one year,

I visited 38 ancient temples in Kumbakonam-Mayavaram belt with my school friends gang after some meticulous planning. In fact for Chitra Pournami that fell on a friday in April that year, I was sitting teary eyed in front of my ishta devta Mother Lalithambika in Thirumeeyachur for over 5 hrs reciting Lalitha Sahasranama at least for 3 times and then singing in chorus many bhajans along with my friends and other devotees. The temple was very crowded. We got our Mother Her favourite silver anklets. There is no way I can put into words the range of emotions that washed over me in those 5 hours. At that moment, I was ready to take leave of everyone and everything at the lotus feet of my Mother. From Brahadeshwara temple in Tanjore to Airawateshwara in Kumbakonam and rest, we covered vast grounds in mere 5 days in very hot April starting our days by 4 am and retiring to bed by 11 pm. All of us are middle aged women – friends from school days. We all have our health woes. Then what gave us the strength and will power to go on. I wonder whether I can ever repeat this feat in future.

Before embarking on Kumbakonam Mayavaram tour, I had already paid a visit to the temples of Kanchipuram. Of course, as Kanchi is stone’s throw away it is not a surprise still periodical darshan of Kamakshi and Ekambareshwara and Varadaraja temples is like tonic to me. This was with my Zumba gang.

Earlier with my school friends I had also visited the Chengleput temples – Eri Katha Ramar temple, Bhagavathy temple at Mel Malayanoor and Selva Lalithambika temple, which is not on tourist map.

Before it was time to leave for Doha, a short stop at Madurai on way to Kodai couldn’t be missed for a million dollars. Mother Meenakshi beckoned.

Of course, not before visiting our Kula Deivam in Arni, a must for us. We don’t do anything without getting Her approval.

Guess I flew in and out of India at least half a dozen times. There was still time to go on a short holiday to Azerbaijan with my hubby and then later on to Turkey. Both were different kind that I enjoyed maximum, unaware that Turkey could be our last vacation in a long time to come.

Before Turkey, my zumba gang booked me into Tirumala Tirupathi tour. I was still in Doha when arrangements were made. Within a couple of days on landing, it was time to leave for Balaji darshan on the last day of Purattasi. Believe me or not, it took us not more than 1.5 hours in queue for a glorious darshan of Venkateshwara, the lord of the seven hills. As I neared the sanctum, all prayers were forgotten; with eyes watering for no reason, all that my heart was filled of was Balaji. None else. You called me without my asking, why. I kept asking. Nothing else mattered. I was there.

Before the end of the year, it was time for a Karnataka round trip covering the Mangalore coastal belt with my Doha wives gang. My second visit to Mookambika temple in Kollur, first to Sharadamba temple in Sringeri among others.

With Mookambika, this is my life experience. From 2001 I am doing this Kuthuvilakku Puja assuming Mother resides in jyothi swarup in the flame reciting Lalitha Sahasranama (which I am reciting since 1993). First I was using my mother’s tall brass diya, now i have moved over to small and compact silver diya. I never believed I would be visiting these holy shrines at all shuttling between Qatar and India. My hubby wanted to just stay home whenever he visited. My friends and I weren’t bold enough to go on temple tours on our own. This we are doing in last 5-6 years only. But I always told Mother Goddess, even if i couldn’t visit Her, She was there in my thoughts and prayers always. Never made a conscious effort therefore for visiting Kollur but the train tickets were booked by a Doha friend of ours without even my knowledge for his wedding in Udipi. And that’s how I ended up at Mookambika unasked for.

During my first visit to Mookambika temple in 2010 i think along with my hubby, it was not very crowded. I stood with my eyes closed in front of my Mother. A priest walked to me and said, ‘hold this diya (a small size kuthuvilakku) and show the aarthi to Mother right from where you are.’ I couldn’t believe it. My hubby who stood with me understood in a moment what was happening to me, and the significance of the entire development. I lost sensation of my entire body right then and felt like floating. Felt extremely light like a feather, as the priest handed over to me a same 5 wick mini kuthuvilakku like I used in my Puja, encouraging me to do the aarthi. Mother was caressing me as I performed the aarthi in total stillness. I stood pretty close to Devi as much as it was allowed. At that moment I knew, my Mother heard me every single day, every single time. She honoured me the way unimaginable to human mind. I never once asked to visit Mookambika. She summoned me out of the blue to Her abode. I could be the smallest ant worthy of squashing, but She still got down to my level even if I could not lift myself up to Her level. I felt connected and only my husband knew and believed the same way I did. I related this to my closest friends who were stunned to hear this story.

This second time in Nov 2019, just as my foot touched on crossing over into the Mookambika temple doors in Kollur, I felt a shocking vibration course through my body. Like if you get a mild shock on touching a power point. Barely lasted for 30 seconds. I was here with my different gang of friends again. I wasn’t prepared for this welcome, but I knew at heart my Mother was waiting for my return. We had late night and morning darshans, double bonanza. Blessed to have a darshan of my Devi in Her golden chariot. Blessed to see Her in her golden lehenga. Just staying the night over very close to the temple was enough for me.

I kept asking Mother, why Ma. Kamakshi, Meenkashi, Lalithambika, Mookambika, Sharadhamba, Durga (Kateel and Patteeswaram), Abhirami, Garbarakshambika just to name a few avatars of Hers apart from Balaji darshan. Left out was Athivaradha and Arunachaleshwara temple at Thiruvannamalai (finished in fag end of 2018) and Chamundeshwari in Mysore (covered in January 2020). Why such an avalanche of blessed darshans.

So much has happened since. I flew back to India on Dec 1st, 2019. Never did I imagine that our life course was set to change forever and my return to Doha would become a big question mark. Not that I regret. I started 2020 too with a visit to my street Shiva temple for midnight zero hour darshan. Visit to Kapaleeshwara temple and Mundagakanni Amma temple very regular. Even Navashakthi Vinayaka temple in Luz. My favourite is Devastana Balaji temple run by TTD in T. Nagar.

A complete roller coaster of emotions since December end but all is well that ends well. I now understand the significance of the events of 2019. Life has since given me back to back promotions 😀

Sometimes when I pray only tears stream down my eyes. There is no way I can explain this to others. I just know that my Mother Raja Rajeshwari is hanging on to every single word of mine. All the more it is important for me now to be more responsible and cut down on the negative things. But then we are human. To err is human.

During this Navratri I only wish to record that, Mother listens to every heart. There are subtle ways She lets us know that She is listening. I got married as an orphan. Today if i am at least in this station in life, it is not without Her guidance and blessings. Before my wedding, everyday I would be before the Durga in Valleeshwara temple, Mylapore and Karpagambal in Mylapore. Mundagakanni Amma. Making jaggery pongal for Her for years, decades now. Used to make withing the temple precincts but age has caught up with me now. My energy level is low so I now make it at home and take Her the offering. Also for the local Devi temples here that are Kaval deivam for this locality.

In january, I don’t know why I rushed a visit to our Kuladeivam and then to make pongal for Mundagakkanni amma and our Kaval deivams. Normally I do it in Aadi and if i am there in Thai month, if time permits I do it. Yearly once, a ritual. But this year, I finished my annual ritual well in advance in Jan. After corona, there is hardly scope for the ritual now.

She is the Mother for the motherless. Just surrender. Without questioning. More accepting Her direction in total faith. That’s what I do.

Used to attend Varahi homams once upon a time for over 2 years every Amavasya. From then on, I tell myself, ‘Vaa endru azhaithaal vaaradhiruppalo Varahi.’ I take Her everywhere with me. She is my courage. She is my strength. I pray with Her to kill my self pity even after all these years. I am on my way to become a grandma. Mother has more than compensated me over years. I acknowledge Her direct hand in my life, yet as a lowly human form, all I can think of is about myself. My world is very small. How I wish I could break this jinx and become less self centered.

Navratri to me is awakening of these powerful emotions. I have a different kind of relationship with my Mother Goddess. I have arguments, I call Her ‘vadi podi’ – I don’t know if anyone will understand this equation between us.

To my Mother I pray for the gentlest heart that can understand others and bring happiness to everyone. To recite the Lalitha Sahasranama in every birth of mine and be able to visit Thirumeeyachur and Kapali temple in Mylapore in every janam of mine. I don’t think i will break the birth cycle in another 1000 years 😀 To have the same family every birth.

I think I prayed very much for same things in my previous janam. Just an intuition. In every single Devi temple I stepped into in 2019, i managed to recite Lalitha Sahasranama. I wish I could die with Mother’s name on my lips even as I chant Her nama.

Mother exists for those who believe in Her. Sometimes all I long for is to keep my head in Her lap and go to sleep forever and never wake up, in content and peace.

Posted in Political

Tanishq Ad

I have done posts earlier on Love Jehad. I do believe this is an unspoken agenda in India, no doubt. At the same time, there are quite a few interfaith weddings that are also happening for the sake of love. How do you know the difference.

Until now my take on interfaith weddings was severe. But with an interreligious or rather international marriage in family, I am looking at these things now through a different dimension. New perspectives emerge. Some convictions I thought that were deeply rooted, seem to have been shaken. Opinions change, we jig and rejig and reprioritize. Probably time for some of us to evolve.

So i am having a rethink on everything from love jehad to interfaith relationships. I do not know what is what honestly. I just know, until it happens to you it is easy to sit on the fence and comment. The love jehad brides were all over 18. Like our christian converts.

I am a new customer with Tanishq but as for jewelry watches, i have always been a Titan fan… my recent couple of buys were from Tanishq and Caratlane. I did wonder at the profusion of islamic style jewelry in their showroom. I could easily tell apart which design was traditionally Hindu and which was Muslim. I completely ruled out the islamic influenced jewelry. Not many women can do that! I mean, unless you are a regular jewelry shopper hahaha it is not easy to differentiate between the two. In some pieces, the islamic representation is subtle. I steered clear of anything resembling islamic in their gallery.

I was also surprised at their robust number of muslim staff. I have not seen this anywhere in jewelry business. Definitely not in Andhra garu showrooms or Gujju jewelry shops.

What i liked about Tanishq was their transparency. You have access to witnessing the gold smelting process, with gold quality and exact weight, system generated right before your eyes. There is no way you can be shortchanged as the gold purity is indisputable and the customer stands to benefit. Since Tanishq is a corporate company, the standard of jewelry and service are par excellence. My friends refrain from Tanishq because it is deemed expensive. They tease me, Tanishq is for NRIs like me.

In all honestly, my gold shopping is always in Doha. In Chennai it is GRT. But of late I am liking Tanishq. When the standard is best, you don’t care if it is Hindu or Muslim. By the way, Tata is Parsi.

(In Middle East, ever since Kalyan jewelers opened up, there is a big shift in consumer preferences. Most Hindu customers moved over from the Alukkas and Malabar to the Hindu owned showroom for the only reason they did not want to give business to christian and muslim owned enterprises. Until very recently, these two jewelry chains monopolized middle east gold and diamond markets as far as Indian customers were concerned. The profits were ploughed back for propagation of their own faith in Kerala, or so it is believed. Kalyan was very much the need of the hour. Huge tectonic shift in customer base for all the three jewelries in last 4 to 5 years to which I bore witness. So I can personally vouch how religious sentiments can influence and impact trade volumes. In a way it pleased me that the Hindus finally learnt to support their own tribe, but at the same time it hurt that we have grown to be this mean and calculative. My personal favourite in gulf: Damas, Arab owned).

If any jewelry retain chain in India measures upto international standard, I would say it is Tanishq. It is not just about the ambience. Tanishq is clearly a cut above the rest with their neat and precise gem cutting and art work, impeccable details and finishing, elegance, exquisite collection, the tasteful ensemble and class. After Tanishq I have a feeling that a sizeable chunk of our others jewelers are nothing but crude and junk.

I am only middle class but like any shrewd middle class housewife and also middle aged housewife, i am fascinated by jewelry and i possess a little (very little) that i dutifully stash away in bank lockers. Yet i cannot resist the temptation for gold shopping at least once an year. Ask any lady!

Just caught up with the supposedly controversial Tanishq ad. I have this to say: was there a deliberate mischief in the ad making. One cannot be sure. But factoring in the nationalistic wave sweeping India, the Tata group could have exercised caution.

On retrospect i do feel that we have regressed not progressed with time. We did get away with Alaigal Oivadhillai in 1980s. Nobody mentioned Love Jehad then. The picture ran to packed house. We have had a Julie in the 70s. And the way we portray Anglo Indian women in our pictures! ‘Nootrukku Nooru’ in Tamil even if under KB banner, always makes me flinch. And what about even Mani Ratnam’s Bombay.

Love wins over caste, community, language, religion, race. You will understand this when you transcend these barriers yourself, or still better your KID does that!!!

Finally some relief for Arnab Goswami and Republic tv, and why even Sushant Singh Rajput can heave a sigh of relief in the nether world. Let Tata take flak for a while 😀

Why should it always be about religion sigh. I am getting sick of this kind of pathetic mentality.

There could be another angle to this story.

Mostly gold business and diamond trade is in the hand of Gujjus. Or Naidus, Reddis. Ever since Tanishq gained predominance in gold jewelry retailing and diamond counter sales, there is a greater transparency with the real value of the jewelry and purity having to be declared to the consumer/customer without an element of doubt. Everything is legal, on paper, 100% accounted for and mainly no ground for tax evasion. 100% transparency. Procuring the precious metal to production and sales are for public eyes. This is where our old gold mafia might be feeling the pinch. My deduction that’s all. Tanishq does not share any bonhomie with any other jeweler to my knowledge and may not belong in the union of jewelry traders, for the chief reason it is a corporate business house. There is absolutely no compromise in value for price. No jeweler liked Tanishq in my estimate but didn’t know how to bring the Tata house down. Whether the top brass gave the nod for the commercial is not clear. Hierarchywise the men at the top need not have to keep themselves abreast with the nitty gritty of advertising and marketing at the grassroots level. This is managed by the men at the base of the pyramid.

Too many loose cannon tweets and comments on such a fine man as Tata. Where did these half baked and nut cases go during Mumbai 26/11. Did n’t the same loud mouths sing Tata’s praises for his handling of the hotel affairs and staff welfare on the aftermath of the terror attack. Public memory is pitifully short!

Ok the commercial is withdrawn now. What do we do next. Get one gujju bhai to match Tata’s quality and honesty in jewelry industry. How could they with men like Nirav Modi.

If caste and religion must be deciding everything and every judgment in this country, then this nation will only be going to dogs in very short time. There is a lot to learn from the Tatas. There is a lot for the nation to be grateful to the industrious Tata family. India is blessed to have Tata. Gold standard. Pun intended.

Posted in Food For Soul

Count Your Blessings

It is a blessing

To love more, hate less

To be always the sunshine of someone’s life

To be the sunshine of your family and friends

Never the party pooper

Never the naysayer

Never the heart breaker

Its a blessing

To be able to laugh aloud and shrug off situations

To have a short term memory of unpleasant days

To be bestowed with the gift of the ability to erase and rewrite

To learn and unlearn smart

To be able to simply move on

To not be able to carry grudges

To not be able to carry the burden of prolonged anger and resentment

To not overtly hate

To not breed lovelessness

To not make others lives miserable

To not alienate from ties easily

To not dig for a reason to pick trouble

To not become the prime reason for frictions

To not initiate unpleasantness

To not propagate animosity, enmity

To not find a scapegoap for our misgivings

To not find excuses for lapses

To not want to spoil things

But to be the healer,

The harbinger of better times

The usherer of happy tides,

To be able to build relationships and cordiality

Not break nests, break chains,

To be able to forgive and forget

To not be vengeful and brooding…

To focus on what really matters

To restore and maintain the precious precarious balance,

To ignore and consign garbage to where it belongs…

It is a blessing

To be able to see the black as well as the white

To be able to see the grains between black and white

To be able to see the pluses as also the minuses

To weigh both the good and bad

To be able to look at our mirror image and find horror there

To have the ability to laugh at ourselves,

To spread infectious laughter,

To come to terms with reality

To live in reality

To owe only good times and happy memories to all

To never be associated with ugly arguments and spats

To be never connected to bad vibes

To not court controversies,

To not be feared,

To be approachable,

To instill confidence in others,

To ooze with spirited confidence,

To build lives,

To do something wonderful to someone that cannot be repaid in cash or kind,

To be able to trust readily

To lead with actions

To be cheerful and in charge of situations

To strive to make your world happy

To make your circle smile than fret

To be that solid pillar of strength,

To be the support system to the vulnerable and weak

To become the agony aunt with handy solutions

To be the problem solver not the mischief maker

To become the shock absorber

To not shift responsibility

To not lie

To be reliable and trustworthy

To be the giver always, not the taker

To not play the victim card at drop of hat

To be free of apathy

To not blow things out of proportions,

To minimize damages/damage control,

To save relationships,

To owe up to one’s responsibilities and slips,

To be willing to rectify, correct

To not be just politically correct, on paper,

To be imperfect,

To make mistakes

To go back and redo,

To apologize

To love more than hurt

To give more than seek

To grin and bear pain

To not transfer our pain and sufferings to others knowingly or unknowingly

To not bring down everyone with our gloom and mood swing

To have this uncanny sense of justice

To have strong intuitions,

To be impulsive,

Still to know the right from wrong,

To reason and dig for truth

To not tarnish images

To not character assassinate

To not want to punish and revenge

To not want to teach a lesson

To not seek remedy to every situation

To resist playing the moral highground

To be aware of sensitivities

To put ourselves in others’ shoes

To respect sensitivities

To respect minor dominions and opinions

To include than divide

To put forth your point without hurting a soul

To have no hidden agenda,

To have real relationships not fake

To live by principle of trust and honesty

To underplay tensions and overplay joyfulness

To infuse the world with loads of positivity

To rise over pettiness

To be broadminded and generous

To not be calculative about every penny, every action

To not prioritize our self interest

To not give in to vanity of the mind,

To resist displaying the ‘holier than thou’ attitude

To talk less, do more

To prove by actions not words,

To not seek for approval in others,

To owe up to our deeds and actions,

To owe up to failures,

To take rejections in our stride,

To accept and agree and accede,

To not slow poison relationships

To not make your environment toxic

To not plunge your world into despair

To not be the reason for anyone’s unhappiness,

To not dull the otherwise cheerful world,

To be grateful and sincere

To instill hope and cheer,

To not overthink and overplay things

To not agonize over with jealousy and envy

To not magnify petty things for fault finding

To not be accusatory

To live and let live,

To want to step back and allow others take lead

To reciprocate affection and love and respect in equal measure

To value and respect the dignity of every living soul.

It is a blessing

To stay impartial, unbiased

To keep an open mind,

To be willing to change,

To be reasonable, logical

To be compassionate, helpful

To give without anticipating anything in return

To be not in haste to jump to conclusions and harsh judgments

To factor in the odd and the negligible

To be tolerant and nourish lives

To become the haven or sanctuary for the trusted

To be warm and receptive

To hold the gift of a soft heart

To be moved easily to tears

To not self portray oneself as Mother Theresa

To harbour self-doubts

To acknowledge we are the very devil incarnations

To think the best of others and worst of ourselves

To believe that to err is human,

To reflect, self introspect,

To ask for forgivance

To repent

To feel remorseful, regretful

To feel the shame and be killed with shame

To be strong and unflinching in character

To have that strength of character

To have the virtue of noble deeds

To be bold and beautiful in heart and mind,

To wear your integrity on sleeve

Yet to be flexible and adaptable wthout a compromise of virtues

To not be weak and petty

To lack the strength to say a big ‘no’ in face

To be naive and gullible at the same time,

To have a childlike innocence

To be taken for a ride

To never take anyone for a ride

To never be the smartalec primed on one-man-up-ship

To be free of crooked thinking

Not to have a manipulative mind

To not want to win every argument

To not want to prove anything to anyone

To resist to prove and disprove

To resist to construct and deconstruct

To extricate oneself from peoples and situations

To liberate oneself from narrow constrictions

To feel the power of goodness in everything you rub

The feel the grace of everything beautiful and profound

To remain neutral and calm

To remain subjective over objective

To be empathetic over sympathetic

To be spiritual over religious….

Posted in Mylapore Musings

Stone Elephant Ride To Elephant Safari

‘When the Elephants go extinct, they will take away the Trees with them….’

One of my best childhood memories is that of walking to Kapali temple every evening with my father until I was 8 or 10 and thereafter with my friends.

Never close to my father, partially because of the vacuum left by the early demise of my mother on which he withdrew into a cocoon severing communications with the outer world, the few happy times I spent with my father seem precious now.

My obsession with the Indian elephants probably started in those early years. Every single day, I had to go to Kabaleeshwara temple and sit on all the four stone elephants carved out there in the mandapam. Actually 8. The temple used to be almost haunted in those days except for during festive occasions. Even the evenings were breezy and uncrowded. I remember playing with my friends in the temple sands. Yes, where we have a roofed hall today, we used to have initially sands with pebbles that could burn your feet in hot sun. Later they cemented this part which itself did not go down well with me.

I and my sis and my neighbourhood girls even used to vie for our favourite elephant of all the four front ones!! Mine was the outermost to the right. We spent hours riding the elephants or simply running around playing there. A middle aged man who was deaf and dumb used to stand exactly where Golu mandapam is today and from there with his eyes closed, would be singing devotionals for Karpagambal. Or sometimes chanting some slokas. I used to watch him in amazement from my stone elephant throne. Yes, i felt like a queen whenever I would be lucky enough to latch on to the back of my No.1 elephant.

Fondest memory of my father is his patience in lifting me out of one elephant and depositing me on another one as and when I commanded. Since I was short and compact, it took me years to gain mastery over the act of climbing over the stone elephants on my own without a help. Throwing the legs over the sides of the elephant was another challenge!

Even today whenever I visit the Kapali temple I secretly long for climbing atop the stone elephants. How I wish the temple is empty so my dream comes true some day!

The very first picture I watched with friends was also ‘The king elephant’ screened in the auditorium of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, my primary school. I have been ever since searching the world wide web for this classic ancient flick without success. How old were I then. May be between second and fourth standard…

Wilbur Smith is my favourite author and I cried a river reading his ‘Elephant song.’ Even if fictional, his works based in Africa always moved me. My initial interest in Africa was roused by a school friend who introduced me to James Hadley Chase for totally a different reason. She said the author wrote ‘scenes (!)’ and in my 12th or 13th year in the 1980s, it was a big, big matter! My first book was ‘Vulture is a patient bird’ that introduced to me a totally different geographical landscape called Africa and to the tribals such as the Zulus and Bantus. My fascination for exotic species was stoked with this book. Wild Africa was a one book subject for Chase, but for me it became a life interest.

Not that i have not come across my share of temple elephants forced into begging during the Panguni festival of Kapali temple in the streets of Mylapore.

Much later when we lived in Malaysia, we happened to witness elephant mating in KL zoo. The trumpeting of the male tusker was unbelievable as it virtually demanded a companion which the zoo officials finally obliged with. Otherwise there could have been a rampage. At one point we even contemplated exiting the zoo for our own safety. Once the female consort entered the pen, the male elephant quietened down as if by magic. Until then I believed, domesticated elephants hardly mated and never ever did they in public. Imagine the horrible musth condition of the Indian elephant (a gift from India of course) that it wasn’t bothered about the hundred plus spectators hanging over the fence. I felt guilty watching this glorious union of two mammoths in front of my eyes, but it is something that will never leave me. At the same time, i felt such an anguish that this must happen to the mightiest beast to walk planet Earth today. Who says wildlife have no dignity. I have a couple of pictures dt. 1998.

A soft corner for the jumbos that was already there magnified within me in many proportions. I still had not ridden over a pachyderm, being principally against the concept of animal safaris, animal art everything that may indirectly harm the wildlife. But i did want to touch the elephant once at least and make contact. Somehow it seemed very important to me because I thought so much about elephants, read so much on them and watched elephant pictures. Took a ride finally in Munnar and then in Thekkady just for this purpose in the Elephant Park. The elephant hide was rough. The hair was thick and strong and long. Plucking it must be very painful so I wondered how the safari management so easily traded in elephant hair for ornamental purposes. My Munnar elephant was an old and serviced matron. I didn’t know whether she understood when I apologized to her ear that I was riding her and told her I loved her and she was very magnificent and beautiful. During the ride, I was constantly patting her as much as I could. The Thekkady one was a young male who was the verge of musth, with signs very much visible. It was very troubling to me.

I have done posts of Elephants earlier that I would link here. My love for Indian Elephant is sky high. I want our elephants to roam freely through our mountains and passes and valleys and plains UNCHAINED UNTAMED. Elephant deaths caused by train accidents, poaching etc., are very hurting to elephant lovers like me. I have made special requests to our PM Modi to safeguard the interests of Indian elephants so that they don’t go extinct in our very lifetime.

Domesticating wild elephants for religious, social, economic purposes is a heartless crime that has to be stopped with immediately by legal or whatever means.

https://vijiravindran.com/2017/02/12/stop-cruelty-to-elephants-in-the-name-of-religion-now/

https://vijiravindran.com/2019/09/02/say-a-big-no-to-family-planning-for-elephants/

https://vijiravindran.com/2020/01/02/elephants-at-crossroads/

Join me in condemning Temple Elephant customs and liberating the Indian elephants into the wild where they rightfully belong. Never miss a forum voicing your opinion because our wildlife cannot argue their own cases. They need us to defend them on their behalf. This is where animal lovers step in. I am much passionate about the Indian Elephant, more specifically over entire wild life. Not for NGOs but I wish there is a direct channel to fund elephant care/research. Many thanks to our late CM Jayalalitha Jayaram for the way she took care of the temple pachyderms declaring a month long rejuvenation vacation for them with free food and stay in Mudumalai wildlife camp. What a sensitivity in this iron lady!

Posted in Women & Family

Gender Specific Crimes

Watching ’47 Natkal’ once again on tv, i wondered whether crimes against women have in anyway gone down in our society. Made in 1981, directed by K Balachander, this is one more picture that I remember my mother discussing with our neighbours. The novel was published as episodes in a weekly. By the way, I love the way the picture ends, with Jayaprada telling Saritha, ‘at least marry me off in the film/story!’ It was Jayaprada’s debut film I guess before she became popular in Tamil films and then moved over to Bollywood. Chiranjeevi who went on to become another megastar in Andhra played a very convincing role with Delhi Ganesh lending him identical voice. Saritha’s naive tone for Jayapradha, another plus for the movie. This is one of the pictures that moved me to the core. Rare one that I got to catch up with very late in life although I’ve read and heard about it more often. Its exploration of depths of sadism in men always got me thinking. The cunningness, the sleaziness of it all. Remember this was an era before the arrival of mobile phones and computers.

It so happened that this picture also was somewhat a reflection of the lifestory of my mother’s neighbour and schoolmate in Mylapore from 1960s. The first time ever this friend went to the cinemas with her newly married beau was for watching ‘Palum Pazhamum’ in which Shivaji Ganesan played the lead. That night the young husband had burnt his post graduate wife with cigar butts because she admitted to ‘the mistake of adoring the hero Shivaji’ who was the heartthrob of many in those days. This friend of my mother was well qualified among their peers and was also working as a teacher. In 60s divorce was rarest and unheard of in Hindu community. But this woman won her independence from her physically and mentally abusive spouse and moved over to a hill station with another man who she fell in love with (someone who witnessed her tragedy in person). Someone inter-caste broadminded enough, or may be i must say progressive enough, to share his life with the unfortunate woman deserves applause (by 60s standards).

I saw this aunty for the first and last time in 1982 when she came visiting us on my mother’s demise. She last had seen my mother in 60s. My granny told me her traumatic story and how she braved through it even if she was ostracized by the very society and family she was part of. The picture had been released just an year before that refreshed memories for everyone. The lady was living life on her own terms which was considered heroic then. I admired her guts even though now I cannot even recall her face. Hardly she was there with us for one hour mostly holding my granny’s hand and crying over it. I believe the forward thinking couple had a son of my age. She had severed her roots but had sounded strong and contended to me. That was all that I retained of her. But her story got imprinted in my mind forever.

Many times I have wondered whether this friend of my mother could have been the influence behind Sivashankari’s ’47 natkal’ with appropriate additions and changes. The torture sequences match at least. Such a coincidence, especially given the timing.

It was a time when novels printed in weeklies as a series made a huge impact in our society. We were subscribing to a number of Tamil weeklies ourselves, Kumudham, Aananda Vikatan, Kalki just to name a few.

(I discovered a cache of bound books after my mother passed away in a zealously guarded wooden almirah locked and safeguarded from prying eyes. My mother from her teens tore the novel pages and got them bound into huge volumes. She thus had ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ to others, all in sepia tinted volumes from the pages of Tamil weeklies through ’50s and ’60s. She never shared them with anyone. It was a private collection.)

Another friend of my aunt in Mylapore was a teacher as well. Although she was not divorced, she was separated from her husband. She had a single hidden patch of leukoderma in her body that brought her marriage to an abrupt end even before it started, on her very first wedding night. She lived a lone matronly life ever since raising her siblings. Not a single paisa by way of alimony, because there was no legal separation on paper. The husband went on to remarry and have a family. Even as a teenager i felt indignant over her sad state of affairs. What bothered me more was how the poor lady resigned to her fate without putting up a fight.

If you were a teen upto 1980s, you could never have missed the ‘mottai pattis’ either. They were part and parcel of our landscape, a blot on our conscience even today. Sometimes I think our entire nation is drenched with their silent tears. Think of the Vrindavan widows. We had a similar patti in my husband’s side. Widowed even before she bloomed into womanhood. But she was blessed with slightly broadminded folks for her times who saw to that she was not confined to white saris but only to white blouse. No question of remarriage.

There was this lady married to a gay man. In those days, these things were never spoken of. The wife was a lifelong unpaid servant to her husband and his family without a word of protest. The husband, well, carried on in the sides (as it was rumoured). One more suffering in silence.

Women were denied rightful share in family estate. A widowed woman who i knew, worked as a housemaid to raise her children even as her affluent brothers split among themselves valuable inheritance.

It doesn’t always have to be gang rape or molestation. Women have been humiliated and abused far worse psychologically, emotionally in this country. The latter cases are life long inflictions. Life sentences.

KB was already into making pathbreaking films by 1970s with the heroines as protagonists against these very sophisticated and subtle social evils masquerading as passable or tolerable relations and situations. Well, they are not. I wouldn’t want to draw inspiration from films for everything but I guess it is easy to make my point clear this way.

For one thing, I noticed kind of rebel wave with the films, for starters. This gave me awareness that otherwise could have taken years.

I think, it was only in 1960s, 70s and 80s that the media behaved responsibly – be it the mass media such as film industry or the print media. Their influence on the public was enormous.

One more thing from those days was the very common symbol of inverted triangles that you found on every wall in the street. It was also there as tv commercials. Family planning, that only worked too very well. Even though if belatedly we realize, the targeted community was merely the Hindu. It goes on to show that if you relentlessly keep drumming up a message to the masses, it can have a far reaching effect after all. Look at our family sizes now. Media can learn a lesson or two here.

The bold streak that I found in KB women is much more pronounced in this generation women. But what is disturbing is that, there is no dearth of scheming men or crimes committed against women since. In all these intervening years one would like to think, we have evolved into a better society.

But here we are today justifying rape, alleging ‘selective enragement.’ How many crimes against women in last 2 to 4 weeks. Public apathy to crimes is shocking. Media overplaying the gruesome acts of violence is vulgar and irresponsible. Please just stop replaying the tapes. Its very disturbing.

Why is Sushant case hogging so much publicity anyway. Why is his lady secretary’s untimely and unnatural demise any surprise or reason for mystery when Jayalalitha’s was not? Sridevi’s was not? Sunanda’s was not. So easy getting away, doing away even women who wielded power in India, is it not. Where is hope for poor rural rape victims in the circumstances. They are far down the line, they just don’t matter.

If you are a woman, you are taken for ride by everyone for everything: from the men who take orders from you to the men who you have to take orders from. Sometimes this is sickening. We women grow up deep in this knowledge.

Men forever want to bind us into this moralistic windowless cocoon from where there can never be an escape without character assassination. We live in a society where yardstick for men and women is still different. I have never personally come across a man who thinks of a woman as 100% his equal. Somewhere we fall short in the eyes of men. There is simply no such perfect man.

I have honestly lost track and count of the number of rapes happening in this country. I am even more perturbed that men in social media politicize these crimes against humanity in a bid to gain mileage without an iota of sensitivity. Who really is bothered about the tortured body or soul. It is all finally a mudslinging blame game for vested interests with an agenda, with the victim shamelessly and heartlessly denied dignity even in death, for gaining an upperhand in the endless tussle for supremacy.

My request to media is to stop this relentless coverage on gruesome crimes. I understand truth needs to be exposed, but there is a limit to portrayal of negativity and gory details. Before the acid attacks on women in Pakistan was covered in a big way in India, there were hardly such crimes happening in India. Some crimes need no publicity, especially the horrific minute details for the sake of mere TRP ratings.

Here is a leaf we can take out of the Arab book as to how to under report crimes in media (only). This is good for the general welfare of the society. For our sanity and peace of mind.

Let law and order deal with crimes. Let the media not run the case delivering judgment. This is wrong, whatever be the nature of crime.

In today’s world, we need more stories on positivity, hope and happiness not frustration and despondency.

My heart goes out to the suffering women. Into my 50s, there is almost no injustice or inhumanity that i have not heard of concerning women: from female genital mutilation to female infanticide. The latter used to be the scourge of even rural Tamil Nadu. I think we need tougher laws to deal with this now and we need to educate masses. There is no single over-the-counter recipe to settle down with.

But then watching ’47 natkal’ brings me back to square one. What makes a man hit a woman. A silver line in the cloud is that, the closing dialogue at least proved to be harbinger of things. A lot has changed now. I have friends who are divorced, single (spinsters) and widowed living with dignity in our midst like never before, completely independent. Sometimes I feel like, why at all men when we have mastered cloning. May be for that extra spice we have the male sex, otherwise their very existence in universe now has been proved redundant! Don’t get me wrong: i am no feminist. Just a thought (shrug)!

Finally it is all up to the individual. How you respect women, how you treat women – these need no tutoring. What can literacy or economics have to do with one’s commonsense and sense of righteousness. You just have to know.

It angers me to think that we women have to even think of something absurd as ‘women’s safety.’ Why at all the pepper spray? Why not ‘men’s safety.’ Until we come to a point when we coin such a term/phrase, i guess we won’t be a mature society. Meanwhile let’s brace for more crimes against women…

Posted in Economic

Don’t Please Shrink The Indian Economy…

Covid 19 unleashed the worst in our midst: a deep sense of insecurity over anything.

For one thing, none of us can be sure who it would strike next and to what extent it would be damaging. The corona virus scare is vicious. It is tending to be more and more of a chain reaction since this March when for the first time we had lockdown nationwide and even worldwide. Economy is at its lowest ebb, wave of unemployment surging, crimes spiking, driving men and women alike to frustration and depression.

Natural reaction for the pandemic among us has been to shut ourselves in from shopping, eating out, socializing etc. Northern Indian labour forces have faced criticism down south for years, but this is for the first time that we see a reversal of situation. Now we want them back even after the shameless unorthodox way we packed them back into trains to their villages. As lockdown eases phase by phase, the labourers are not seen returning in a hurry.

Nobody is simply indispensable and nothing is too very important over our own life. Perhaps Assamese and Biharis have decided to subsist on rations of PDS rice bags for the next 1 to 2 years ignoring our invites. Tight slap on those who want checks on labour movements. Now is truly the moment for lazy Tamil buggers to cash in. So what are you waiting for. Why can’t you simply down the shutters of Tasmac outlets and go for packing banians and knickers in Tiruppur textile factories. Why cannot you double up as kitchen and serving staff of our restaurant businesses. What stops you from giving us a nice pedicure in salons or from working the construction sites. Tamil Nadu is reeling under non-generation of income because our Bihari bhaias have deserted us. But for them, our local economy is in total shambles. This is an eye opener to anyone who boasts about regionalism talking petty politics. India is one single entity. Rest of India is waiting for our North East and Bihari, Jharkhand labour force to return to work. I hope never will they be shown disrespect or paid unjustly. I miss the courteous service of our Nepali waiters and the corner shop Momos and Pau Bhajis. Never shy of street food. Born and brought up in good old Madras, immune from anything to everything.

Together we grow, or alone we perish. Businesses continue to stay closed in Chennai even after government allowed relaxations, as the outstate staff are reluctant to resume work at our beck and call. Call center employees were mocked for their listless careers but since these online services now shut shop by 6 pm, cyber crimes spike after business hours when reporting has to wait for until next morning. No service is thus trivial. We have all been part and parcel of the same machinery that was running smooth until very recently. We could be the ubiquitous tiny nail, yet if we fall out of place, our vacuum can be felt by one and all bringing us all to a grand standstill.

This is why, we have keep this machinery of ours lubricated and functioning. The more we idle our mechanism, the more rust will we heap with our inactivity which in turn will take an even longer timeframe to recover and realign.

Let us play our role to keep things flowing, big or small.

To all those who stay away from shopping or eating out, I would plead not to shrink the Indian economy which is slowly coming to a grinding halt. Go out wearing masks, sanitizing your hands and maintaining social distancing. Help the economy expand if you can, in whatever miniscule way you can.

Sheltering overtly can also lower our immunity levels to my layman knowledge. Going out now and then can give you exposure and who knows antibodies, making you immune to the pandemic. So far as I have seen, the least exposed are the first and worst effected by covid 19. Working people and regular shoppers have mild cases even if they catch infections.

In India, numbers are rising because we are 1.3 billion nation. For such a mammoth population, 7 lakh cases is still miniscule considering especially the density of our population. Under 1.6% casualty mostly because of negligence. Covid care is too very good in India as our doctors now have developed practice in treating the viral infection. Very well tackled by both government and private medical centers, if it comes to that. Excellent recovery rate of over 80%. Coronavirus probably has mutated in India and is now like any other common virus, yet I do not want to underplay how devious and vicious it can be to those unfortunate among us.

First of all, let us believe that even if the corona virus gets us, we will be safe. And most importantly, we are saved from this horror for the rest of our lives. That we passed our exams! I know someone in late 70s who is covid survivor after having had major surgeries for last 10 years. My cousins who recovered from covid 19 say, they are relieved that their turn got over! No, do not believe it can return. You are immune for a lifetime if you get it, believe me.

Still Novel Coronavirus is beleived to stay around for another 1 to 2 years with or without vaccines. So should we live this period in fear and foul mood, crushing occupations and lives? Or shall we try to make the world a better place to live in?

  • Call back your house maid if you have dispensed with her services at the onset of corona. Never cut back on the salaries of blue colour workers who make our lives easy.
  • Get your groceries/provisions in the street corner ‘kirana’ stores typically ‘Nadar Kadai’ or ‘Petti kadai’ in Tamil.
  • Wherever/whenever there is a shortfall due to unavailability, procure groceries/provisions online, as much as possible through desi apps. Small vendors are also listed in volumes in multinational online apps, no harm in going for them either. In today’s globalized economy, we cannot lead insulated lives by ourselves. But as much as possible opt for desi apps if you can.
  • If you cannot eat out, you can still get food parcels. Never hesitate. If you stop eating out, the restaurants will cut down on food preparation and serving and kitchen staff. It will take them all the more longer time to open up to full capacity. Your demand generates employment for interstate populations.
  • If you still harbour doubts, order food at least once a week online.
  • If you are hesitant to shop for clothes and other consumer durables etc., in person, order online. Don’t stop shopping because you are not stepping out much. Life will pretty soon return to normalcy. Believe, you will be well alive and kicking to preen in front of your friends in your latest designer clothes. Shoes, bags, watches, clothes, cosmetics or whatever, go for it if you have not had a pay cut.
  • Do not wait to change your tv or automobile. These are big industries that require your patronage. Without customers if they close, thousands will lose work.
  • Use the services of roadside and other tailors, dhobis, auto walas, drycleaners, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and others adopting safety precautions. Employ them as you would under normal conditions in nonpandemic situations. Pay them fair and never bargain. Small traders and service people are most affected due to Covid 19 restrictions, remember.
  • Regularly buy groceries from street vendors. Remember they got food to your table when rest of the world ceased to function.
  • Patronize small professions like that of even temple priests. Every single life is important in our society needing nourishment. Every time you go out do not forget to get fresh flowers from the old lady in front of temples or enjoy tender coconut from the handstand of a coconut seller sweating under the shade of avenue trees.
  • Visit temples but practice corona lockdown safety measures. Your footfall everywhere counts. It means, you are playing your part in oiling the wheels of the Indian economy.
  • Ask the neighbourhood urchin to clean your car. You won’t get corona from him if you maintain safe distance. Sanitize later if you have to. Be courteous to watchmen, civic workers, traffic constables etc., who are working in stressful conditions.
  • Remember small traders, business community and hawkers and sellers constitute the backbone of the Indian economy.
  • One place you can stay away from is Hospitals. Avoid lab testing and opt for home testing. Now this is available in nook and corner of India.
  • If possible unsubscribe from all desi and international news channels and stop buying newspapers. They are nothing but rubbish. Don’t buy whatever the media pedals. Listen to music and read books instead.
  • Shopping malls are still empty. It is safer right now to go for mall shopping. Take advantage of this if you have to . Mall workers need their jobs as well.
  • Remember, right at this moment, every single one around you is under extraordinary stress brought in by the novel coronavirus. Something unprecedented. Not everyone has the same mentral strength to get through this crisis without physical, moral and/or economic support. In whichever way you can, help someone in need. Make a striking difference. It matters.
  • Last but not the least is the role of the health workers in our midst. Standing ovation to them for their tireless services in these hard times. Medicos or paramedics or nursing staff or civic/sanitation workers/janitors or pharmacists, they all are doing a wonderful job in saving our lives endangering their own precious lives. Hats off to them. Let us keep them in our prayers.
  • Not all courses are online. Some friends’ kids who are in medical college have to repeat their year. Let us be sympathetic to these kids. 2020 is not an year to talk about academic achievements or job prospects. Staying alive is the priority.
  • WFH or Work from Home has proved to an effective and ideal solution to many white collar professionals. It can be extended after the Pandemic is over once and for all, to reduce pollution and unnecessary investments in infrastructure, power usage, fuel etc. So not only is this a cost cutting measure, but an evolution in the pattern we work.
  • Covid 19 also has helped some alternate professions to expand: one is that of logistics. Another is packaging industry. Online shopping has touched a peak in the last 6 months and has improved cashless transactions greatly. Whoever was complaining about demonetization and linking of Aadhar-PAN cards and Phone Pe and BHIM/UPI payments is since unheard of lol
  • October-November will see high schools and colleges opening up in India, with the choice to return to the institutions left to students. Nursery, primary and middle school children will be missing one whole academic year. Which is good, take it from me. I homeschooled my son upto his 7th year in Malaysia. I was his first ever proper teacher.
  • The elderly can be miserable. Take time to talk to them and reassure them keeping a tab on their health parameters.
  • Hopefully interstate travel regulations will ease before December in India. From January I hope for international travel restrictions to ease. I am eager and waiting to fly back to my hubby! Yes, the trauma of divided families is indescribable. The stress we undergo is worrying.
  • Top up your health insurance at the same time. Corona or no corona, it is a must. Also add riders to your life insurance if you can.
  • Kal ho na ho…. well, i must not be saying this but enjoy life to the fullest when you can. Let us not wait for that special day to release our new kurta. Today is that day!
  • Fitness should not take a back seat either. At least walk in your terrace if you cannot go for any other workout in gym. Or take advantage of staggered timings of your reopened gym/yoga studio. Online classes also an option
  • Go back to your music lessons, art classes, other hobbies, sporting activities, clubs, cinemas, cafes, get-togethers firmly adhering to Covid 19 safety protocol. Never miss an appointment or opportunity to feel better.
  • With resorts opening, book your holiday adhering to safety measures with respect to covid. Nothing like taking a break in this season!
  • Cutting down on celebrations is happening but better minimize than eliminate festivity bills. Remember, the big fat Indian weddings are essentially great job spinners for people from different walks of life. Now we have sanitation booths in wedding halls/hotels etc. Catering and costumes to florists and jewelry and music bands, everyone can fit in in our gala traditional weddings.
  • Improvise, innovate, do anything that can employ direct and indirect manual labour generating income. Even a fraction of resumption of regularity and normalcy is welcome move. A big shot in the arms of our self-employed and businesses.
  • Keep the cash registers jingling in shops, small trades and businesses, enable cash rotation.
  • Invest in real estate and stocks. Now is the right time for going for long term investment plans. Buyers market.
  • Vaccines are around the corner. Wherever you are, you are safe and you will get it soon. If you are NRI based in Arab countries, rest assured, the oil rich nations will bulk buy the vaccines before rest of the world. If you are in America or Europe, then it means you are residents of nations that value human lives. They will not hesitate vaccinating their denizens in the first instance possible. If you are in India, hahaha, well we will be supplying vaccination shots to rest of the world. Manufacturing labs are ours, so rest assured. Modi ji will make sure that all 1.3 billion of us get a shot as soon as possible. Believe miracles are possible and this magic is what keeps the world going.
  • Meanwhile I enjoyed the videos of peacocks dancing in the highways of Rajasthan and pachyderms walking through the elephant corridors in India, without a care in the world. Covid 19 scare has changed me in many ways as it has affected everyone around me.
  • Grateful for all that life has bestowed on me so far. Absolutely no regrets. Positive thinking only. Positive vibes. Let us get ready to celebrate Navrathri and Diwali in all fanfare and welcome 2021 with a fresh gusto.
  • Indian economy is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s do our bit to the nation. Let’s rebuild India!

Together let us rise and shine!

Posted in Indian Art Culture Music

An Emotion Called SPB

There are very few memories that I carry from my parents’ times to this day…. I mean, most common things I shared with them are already lost… very few are surviving today but are running out fast into oblivion… so why I like SPB, Ilayaraja etc., is for an entirely different reason. SPB was one of the connecting dots to me with my parents. Whenever I would listen to his old songs of late 1970s, i would be transported back to my happy home when i was carefree kid like everyone else… In my teens, SPB became synonymous with unforgettable melodies, that being the Mike Mohan era ! In my middle age I continued to be drawn to SPB’s versatility with his glitzy chartbursters! Throughout my memorable part of life, SPB remained a steady component, taken for granted. Where will those like me find this comfort level ever. I liked his consistency. His soothing voice. His adaptability. I viewed him as a mature artist who cut through generations. Most importantly I saw him in a paternal role. May be never did I get to meet him but he was always there singing to my ears. I have drawn inspiration and happiness from him. And peace. I wish I had attended his Doha concert. Tickets were there. Mostly we skip these events never having the curiosity to get to know or see celebrities in person. However SPB is one enigmatic genius i wish I hadn’t missed out on…

It must have been the year 1980. The picture ‘Raja Parvai’ was entirely filmed in my mother’s school. Kamal Hassan was the hero, Madhavi the heroine. While my mom taught the deaf and the dumb kids (we used no euphemism in those days to mask the stark truth. truth was spoken straight to one’s eyes and ears), the film was shot in the blind section. Everyday my mother would come back with stories about the cast and the crew. When the film was released, ‘andhi mazhai’ became my mom’s top fave song that she got recorded in a sony cassette. After she passed away, for over 10 years i held on to the cassette and replayed her selections. There were those like ‘aaghaya gangai’, ‘sippi irukkudhu muthum irukkudhu’ all in the mellifluous tone of SPB as if soaked in honey. He was already a star by then.

My personal favourites became his ‘nandha en nila’ and ‘kamban emandhan’ and ‘ilakkanam maarudho’ that were not from Ilayaraja stable. MS Viswanathan was equally a legend in those days preceding Ilayaraja. However, I discovered these gems much later in life when I had the time to reminisce the 80s filmy music. By now I was addicted to Azhagan songs ‘sangeetha swarangal’ , ‘mazhaiyum neeye’ and ‘saathi malli poocharame’ – these remain my lifetime faves, gems from music director Maragatha Mani (who recently scored music for Bahubali when I thought he was lost and forgotten). The 80s were peppered with Mike Mohan’s sweetest melodies that were given gentlest treatment by SPB sir, with Ilayaraja scoring the music. 80s teens must know. Every single number by SPB from ‘ilaya nila pozhigiradhu’ to ‘nilave vaa’ balmed my heart in those years when I going through a personal crisis.

The unending saga of SPB superhits through late 70s to mid 90s upto the time of Roja with AR Rehman was golden period for us girls who went through school and college in those times. ‘Pani vizhum malar vanam’ oh my god! SPB-Ilayaraja-Vairamuthu combo was nothing short of fireworks starting with ‘idhu oru pon maalai pozhudhu’ to ‘vaa vennila’ just to name a couple. My bosom buddy from school Shobi would regale us by singing ‘vandanam en vandanam’ and ‘devi sri devi’ during our free classes and school excursions. By college time she graduated to ‘mandram vandha thendralukku.’ To this day for our school friends, these numbers are etched in heart in SPB and Shobi’s voices! Again for me, all these eased pain. Life became bearable.

Sweet Mylapore childhood memories include crooning of such numbers as ‘singari sarakku’ and ‘ilamai idho idho’ in our terrace. I recall these incredibly funfilled moments with my friend Rupa’s bro Satish, father of 2 kids now hahaha. Those were his faves as he also danced like Kamal to the songs!

One day in the year 1989 or whatever I am not sure, my father’s side relatives were asking me to watch the picture ‘Keladi Kanmani.’ They said it was made for those girls like me. I didn’t quite understand. It was a heavy subject as I found out. SP Balasubramanyam played the rare hero role in the film as a widower. He sings nonstop a song holding his breath for over a minute in the movie, which became a record in those days. His daughter in the picture stops him from remarrying. Obviously this is what my relatives were trying to relay to me. The film hurt me immensely but SPB’s offbeat romance with Radhika showed to me how love can be so mature. SPB turned out to be a natural actor fitting the role perfectly.

Post marriage, I happened to see repeat of this picture many times. Over years, my take on life too has changed. From confused angry teenager/young woman, I have also aged to accept things as they are and grow more tolerant and accommodating. One more SPB picture ‘Sigaram’ was like Part II of ‘Keladi Kanmani.’ For this one, SPB scored the music himself. Class. A very mature storyline. I always wondered why SPB chose to act in these two pictures. They were out of the ordinary no doubt. Of course the compelling script and story telling must have been the reasons.

In the year 1993, SPB numbers were superhit in ARR musical Roja which was dubbed into Hindi. The same year before I got married, I watched the first picture ‘Marupadiyum’ with my would be-hubby in cinemas. A remake of ‘Arth’ from Hindi. ‘Nalam vaazha ennalum’ was a beautiful meloncholy but with that one, we left the theatre. So much for watching a film for the first time as a couple! Wrong choice but the music made it worthwhile. Around this period I believe SPB peaked in his career as the threshold to Tamil cinema music was broken open and we had more aspiring playback singers flooding and trying their luck in Indian film industry. However to my knowledge, none has been able to breach SPB’s top spot to this day. I could detect some copycats of SPB in fact who would not focus on originality! SPB went on with his musical odyssey unperturbed by new developments but learning to adapt to new technology and new producers (people) and new audience. That is something we all have to learn from him. In the process he antagonized none. The more successful he proved, the more humble and down to earth he transformed into.

I loved SPB’s ‘Saajan’ songs that I knew by heart and sang to myself in the 90s. His ‘Ek duje ke liya’ did not impress me much probably because I didn’t feel at ease with his hindi. In Saajan he had turned around. But i love to bits his ‘valaiyosai galagalavena’ that he sung with Latha Mangeshkar in Tamil. His another beautiful number is ‘pallavi illamal paadugiren’ for Laxmikanth Pyarelal. In ‘Shankarabharanam’ from late 1970s SPB proved to us that mastering classical music need not have to be a qualifying criteria for aspiring musicians. You can be a natural without cultivated practice. Sometimes I think may be this is the secret formula for his success. ‘Kaadu madhiri control pannadha valarchi.’ As someone who was not a trained singer, SPB knew no bounds and had nothing to hold him back. His ‘Kaadhal oviyam’ renditions for instance. Every single one in this album keeps reverberating in the background of my mind pretty often, decades after it was composed and recorded.

Even until very recently SPB enthralled us with his sunny ‘sahana saaral thoovudho’ and ‘ballelakka’ lending voice for Rajni Kanth. Ballelakka especially with its tongue twisting lyrics used to amaze me. His trademark was that he was much emotive vocally, laughing and crying and rejoicing as the lyrics/verses and situation demanded. Voice modulation was his greatest asset.

In this middle age, I also play SPB’s ‘Lingashtakam’ and other devotionals every other day. SPB’s Arunalachala renderings move me to tears along with Ilayaraja’s own. We started going to Thiruvannamalai in the year 1997 before my husband took up his first foreign posting. Roads were crude then. One lane. And the temple town used to be empty for Pournamis! Throughout the trip in that eerie quiet and dark of the night when we would return, this is what we heard. Until today for temple visits etc., we play mostly this kind of music over slokas during long drives. Mantras demand concentration. SPB and Ilayaraja devotions are as breezy. Some verses can touch a chord in you as you weave your way through that spiritual journey…

A few years back when my aunt was admitted in a hospital for knee replacement, i got to learn that the adjacent suite was SPB’s for months, vacated only days earlier. I was attending to my aunt for 3 days. Apparently SPB had had his bariatric surgery. For those 3 days I tried to quiz the nursing staff as much as possible for any info on SPB the legend. They told me, in the hospital he was just like any other patient. Fair enough. I wanted to see the suite by myself and actually walked through it hahaha! I pictured him there and came back to tell my aunt about it! My aunt wished SPB had waited until her knee surgery so that both of us could have shaken hands with him. My hubby as usual teased me that i narrowly missed the photo opp and the chance to update my profile pic in FB with SPB! I don’t have the celebrity craze but SPB was different. For him, I had respect and reverence. I was in awe of him. It was not his star value that attracted me but his s0-called gentle manners, his sweet bubbly persona. He was my mother’s generation and that somehow mattered to me.

In every phase of my life, this man had a presence like in most of my girls’ – the 70s & 80s teens… we can’t put it into words how exactly we felt then… but we realize now that SPB is an emotion for us… We connect him with so many, many happy memories…

Dear SPB sir, you are leaving us with a very sweet lingering aftertaste you know. Will there ever be anyone like you again? I even loved your first one ‘aayiram nilave vaa’ for MGR. I used to wonder what kind of young man you must have been to have sung it for the doyen of Tamil film industry then in that adolescent voice of yours. I would think your voice broke out right after that recording! I have read about your humility, a rarity especially in the face of such a huge Himalayan success, i have followed your concerts world wide on and off without really consciously keeping track of you. You just were there all the time. What a phenomenal journey yours must have been. A life well lived sir, hats off to you! Gentle sweet soul.

I just lost one more dot that connected me to my parents…

Posted in Political History

September 17 Contradictions: Coaxis & Convergence

Not only is September 17 the birthday of our beloved Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, it also happens to be the birth anniversary of E V Ramaswamy aka EVR aka Periyar, who spearheaded the Dravidian movement in the 1940s that led to eradication of untouchability in Tamil Nadu. EVR is credited with gaining entry access for millions of dalits into the state temples that held their doors closed to them until then. In short, EVR bestowed the much denied dignity on hundreds of thousands who were stomped over by the upper classes for centuries playing the ‘caste card.’ To most, it is a legal victory. Only to the traumatized and stigmatized community, it is akin to winning a psychological warfare.

To some of us like me, both Periyar and Modi are equally important. Dravidianism may have fizzled out presently just like the Congress party has lost steam over decades. That does not imply that these entities did not play their crucial roles at very important junctures of time, crafting history.

EVR managed to accomplish what none of the so-called Shankaracharyas of India even dared to attempt. To me this is the ultimate ‘Bhakthi’ or even better, ‘Mukthi.’ Bhakthi must stem from empathy and compassion or is it even bhakthi. What is ‘mandir’ but a huge hollow otherwise. Most often I see a total divorce between religiosity and spirituality (realization). To me, the chappal mala thrown by EVR would have been smilingly received as a garland of roses by Lord Raam. That is Ram to me. That is how I perceive Ram. This Ram i know wouldn’t have even wanted the Ayodhya. This is what maketh Ram. Sometimes I wonder why I have to think like this. But then I remember this is also the land of Ramanuja. This is faith to me. This is the dharma that i have come to believe in. I do not respect any culture or ideology that denies fellow humans equality and justice and dignity in the first place. I have written much on this. I trust our Sanatana Dharma has always been far above all this, but selfish groups reduced us to this lowly levels. If at all reservation has to go once and for all, I request the upper castes to ‘consider working in crematorium for just an year to experience what these downtrodden went through for ages. None stops you from manually scavenging either. Denial of social justice, equality and knowledge sharing and messing up with someone’s self respect and dignity – this is cruelty worst than cold blooded murder to me. This is what the upper castes of India committed through millennia. And we all talk about ‘Black lives matter’ when for eons we thrived suppressing systematically fellow humanity. What a wrong sense of entitlement some of us enjoy thanks to virtue of birth.

Of late a lot of demonizing such a phenomenal man as EVR is happening. How much is he maligned, how much character assassinated decades after he left. This must reveal to you something. That EVR was undoubtedly an epoch in history whether you like it or not.

EVR cannot be held responsible for the current political scenario in Tamil Nadu just as Mahatma Gandhi cannot be made accountable for the Congress debacle in present times. Denying EVR the credit for what he truly deserves is appalling. The more he is villainified, the more will some of us defend him staunchly. EVR’s views on women for instance! He was far ahead of his times. Much later in subtler tones we had our own K Balanchander make pictures echoing what EVR spoke of in the 40s and 50s. Periyar did not also mince words and did not hesitate from naming and shaming. He called a spade a spade. If it hurt someone, then how about the Panchamas living in the fringes for centuries. They do not even fall within the four varnas. Outside the varna system. If mere words can wound, then what trauma could harsh realities of life have inflicted not for one year, one century but for at least a two thousand years… Not mere untouchability, even unseeability was in force in many pockets of our society, especially in Kerala that gave us Adi Shankara. This was not a 3000 years ago but until a mere 100 years back.

Admiring EVR does not have to prevent one from being nationalistic at heart. Most importantly, Dravidian values need not have to make one any less Hindu. I am equally proud of what our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji is achieving for India, given the complex times we are living in. EVR mattered in the 1940s quite like Gandhi and Congress were relevant during our freedom struggle. Times change, history is in the making, and in modern India of the 21st century, the need of the hour is a man of steely nerves like Shri Narendra Modi who is resolute, determined, selfless, focused and persevering. With him for our PM, our sense of security is reinforced. We know, we are in good hands. Like EVR, Modi ji in a way restored our self esteem and self confidence.

There is also need for Hindu dharma to rise above pettiness in critical times like these. The Abrahamics are waiting like hawks. No one is dragged against his/her will kicking and screaming, for conversion. Conversion happens because, some among us are willing to accept rewards of any kind for promise of dignity in return that was denied to them by the society they have been part of. The converted are our shame! Will some numbskulls ever get it.

Too many self-appointed guardians of Hindu Dharma today out in the prowl doing more damage than they ever realize. Sickening ‘holier than thou’ attitude.

Living a neutral life, striving to remain sane is not an easy job in today’s India. As for me, EVR and PM Modi are two sides of the same coin.

PS: To those of us who invoke Karma at the drop of a hat, has it ever crossed your petty minds that perhaps Ayodhya was also our Karma. Is it possible that Ram with his acute sense of social justice wanted out of Ayodhya when a section of humanity was barred from His holy abode by narrow minded pompous self-important groups? Ram has now returned to Ayodhya because finally on legit grounds, social justice and equality triumphed in India as it never ever did in over 2000 years. Hail Ram! May be this was the destiny of each and every single Hindu temple struck down by the invaders. Hindu Bharatha deserved every bit of this historical correction.

Posted in Food For Soul

Signature

Why did these geniuses want to leave their signatures everywhere?

Some time ago, Kanda Shashti Kavasam sung for Lord Muruga aka Subrahmanya, Lord Shiva’s second son was eye of a controversy. Every Tamil child grows up singing this ‘Kavasam’ and in fact, there is a scientific opinion on the popular Thamizh prayer that, the nuanced pronunciations in the lyrics can keep off Alzheimer’s, for the tongue twisters they are. The same is also said to be true of Sanskrit slokas and mantras such as Vishnu Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama for instance, that are ages ancient. Repeated chanting of these can do wonders to your memory and delay aging process of the mind.

What caught my attention about the Kavasam uproar was that, how Bala Deva Raya signed the Kavasam composed by him at Thiruchendur, one of the six of the ‘Aru Padai Veedu’ – the shrines devoted to Lord Muruga throughout Tamil Nadu. ‘Bala deva rayan pagarndhadhai’ is the verse with which the devout signs off the Kavasam in his name that he first recited in the seaside Murugan temple famous for its Skanda Shashti celebrations during which time Lord Muruga rains arrows at Padmasura, the asura (demon) king, and the enactment continues to this day in the beach adjoining the temple drawing tens of thousands of Muruga bhakts throughout India for the annual occasion.

Hanuman Chalisa is similarly signed off by Tulsi Das.

Every keertan by Thyagaraja, one of the ‘trimurthis’ of Carnatic classical is signed by composer Thyagaraja with invariably the closing verse ‘thyagarajanutha.’

Which made me think, how nicely and intelligently these great men have copyrighted their renderings in bygone eras!

Let me add more names that come to my mind as I listen to devotional music.

I have not observed this trademark practice in Thevaram, Thiruvasagam, Thirupugazh, Thiruppavai etc. Nor have I picked up anything of this kind in Meera bhajans etc. To my knowledge, few doyens who reigned supreme in the classical music arena have patented their compositions as did some from northern India with their Samskrit compositions – in their own unique way! Clever!

Just found this curious! None seems capable of resisting the lure of vanity! Not all of us want to go down into the oblivion without making sure that we will be remembered forever! I find this signature similar to an artist leaving his/her initials in the masterpiece he/she creates that may survive to eternity. Great kings etched their names into stone masonry on temple granite walls. Some emperors got engraved their vain glory to posterity on their marble tombs. Some in history did not have a chance to leave a signature, yet they remain in our psyche, not having been banished to obscurity. Time has always done justice to these heroes be them scientists or architects or medicos or mathematicians or literary geniuses. Or even noble princes. That is how we have Vedas, Upanishads to Yogas in our midst until today. We remember Sushrutha to Bhaskara. Valmiki to Agasthya. Some signs have been erased by invaders and marauders, some signs did not exist at all, and some survived the onslaughts to reveal to us the history as it unfolded through centuries.

Recently, a time capsule was buried under earth during the ground breaking ceremony for Ram temple at Shri Ram Janam Bhoomi in Ayodhya. That got me thinking and that is how i tied Kanda Shashti and other things to each other. Just connected the dots and found it all absolutely amazing. I shall keep looking for more signatures in whatever literary composition or sanskrit sloka or mantra i may come across for a telltale sign left by the author.

Finally I have this confession to make: i am good at nothing. A mere passerby. And I may be completely wrong.

Posted in Pictures Desi

What is Art.

After 8 years since it was released, i caught up with watching our superstar thalaiva Rajni Kanth’s Sivaji, tamil film, only last evening in Prime. Of course I have loved the songs tuned in by AR Rahman always, given a voice by S P Balasubramanyam. Rajnis pictures are gross (no pun intended) entertainers. I like him over Kamal Hasan in that, he seems to treat his heroines with a bit more of respect. In case of Kamal, I have the opinion that he is vulgar with his women on screen and makes you squirm in your seat. He can never become the family entertainer that Rajni is.

I have enjoyed Rajni’s Robot made by director Shankar in the cinemas starring Aishwarya Roy opposite him. In Sivaji, it was a visual treat watching the car fight scene although generally i abhor violence. Mostly switch off death scenes/violent scenes or fast forward. Switch off tv if they show macabre scenes or present gloomy news with disturbing visuals. No point in carrying that baggage in your mind. According to some people, i am already negative! The truth is, I block a lot of negativity from my life and focus much more on positivity than I really speak about. Never psycho or terror or scary pictures for me. To fill my home with positive vibes, I play bhajans, classical music etc., in an effort to offset any negative energy present. Mind is cleared of clutter.

As for art, i am no connoisseur of art but having a spouse with artistic leaning has helped me appreciate art better. Europe tour was much more enjoyable thanks to our familiarity with art, that way. While most tourists just walked past, we stood rooted for a time studying art and debating the artists’ mindset. Thanks to my husband who himself is a scrap artist as well (he is a self-taught amateur artist) and thanks to my friends who are Rangoli specialists, i am discovering the many facets of art such as myriad surfaces, tools etc., apart from about some remarkable art installations. The art installations are a challenge to our imagination. Thought provoking. They define a new plane of art taking art to another dimension.

In celluloid pictures, i have been able to somewhat guess what can constitute art. By art here, i am not talking of award winning pictures. Art also need not have to be limited to scene settings. Art can be sublime as well relating to frames. For instance, the word ‘art’ hit me when i watched the car fight scene in Sivaji last evening. One thought in my mind then was that, this car fight sequence is like an art installation. Modern art. Abstract. The wastage hurt me nonetheless. Still I have to appreciate the stunts director and the screenplay-direction that came up with such a stunning and unprecedented scene for the first time in Tamil silver screen. Not ruling out the possibility of copying from Hollywood. Or even Bollywood. But knowing director Shankar and his originality, I have no doubts that this is his matchless ingenuity. This is what I thought of when watching ‘Robot’ dubbed in Hindi as well. Once I watched Shankar’s interview and the director said, how ideas keep popping up in his mind and how he imagines them in 3D and tries to visualize them in his mind’s eye and how he tries to match up film making with exactly what he pictured in his mind. This conceptualization that is strikingly similar to his visualization is what his pictures are all about. Great director of Indian cinema. Legend. Many of his Tamil productions are dubbed/remade in Hindi including Robot, Hindustani etc.

‘Prarthana’ the outdoor theatre also used to be my favourite drive-in cinemas by the sea (although the sea is invisible). I think now it is redundant. Not too sure how it is faring now in the digital age of Prime/Netflix and Inox cinemas. Looks like the scene is shot here. No copyright infringement intended. This is what sets Shankar’s films apart.

(This is a dubbed scene from Hindi version 😀 that hardly does any justice to the sequence. Better footage in Prime HD)

To me, anything with an aesthetic appeal to not only your eyes, but also to your heart and mind, qualifies as art. Art is ever evolving. One is reminded of Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’ with its gala science/art museum that is surreal. Art transcends levels and planes and is of a multi-dimension that is beyond one’s imagination here. I am lucky that i could expand my horizons of thinking where it concerns art. The possibilities are endless. The rustle of a leaf in the soft breeze is art as much as the buzzing bee about it. The gentle roll of the waves is an art as every beautiful twilight and sunset. Corona has spared us time to pause and take stock of art that is omnipresent about us 360 degrees. Nature or otherwise. And most importantly you don’t have to have this creative genius to reckon art for what it is. All it takes is the elusive eye that can wring art out of the ordinary.