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!