Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Harriet

Strongly Recommended.

This award winning Hollywood flick with Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet was on Netflix. The picture sheds light on socio-economics of America in the nineteenth century and how discontent is brewing among the black community who pine for slavery to be abolished. They leave no stone unturned to win over freedom from their slave masters and one way of going about it was to flee. Families stay united and keep track of/searching for the sold or missing members. There are underground networks who aid the fugitives in settling down when recruiting more ‘conductors’ to help rescue slaves from their miseries. Minty who later goes by her ‘free’ name Harriet Tubman is an exceptionally brave black woman who flees from her slave master in Maryland. Her flight to freedom wading through inhospitable terrain is incredulous. In Philadelphia her new home, she assumes the name of ‘Moses’ and becomes a successful ‘conductor’ directly involved with freeing dozens of slaves and ferrying them across to northern states from the dangerous south, either by road or rail or boat or even by foot as she proposes in the secretive Abolition committee (or society?) to which she is appointed. The freed slaves are to be gainfully employed in the underground railroad work. Real life story, Harriet is a very inspirational picture, a gripping watch. Period film set in eighteen hundreds, it is about the determined pursuits of the one bold woman who would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Harriet is forced to flee once more to Canada crossing borders as the Fugitive Slaves Act comes into force. As civil war ensues, Harriet leads a battalion and in the process frees hundreds of slaves as she lights up the beacon of hope for what is to come in future: abolition of slavery and freedom from slavery for the African American Blacks (called Negros in the picture).

Posted in Books

Review: The Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony.

My awareness of Lawrence Anthony’s work was purely incidental. I would be looking out for elephant news and he was always there in You tube in a time when we still did not have whatsapp or google. I am sure i have watched the video of elephants mourning his demise. What a blessed life. He could have lived longer, but the stress of running the reserve must have told upon his health. This we understand as we turn page after page of his book ‘the elephant whisperer.’

As Anthony makes it clear at the outset, the elephant whisperer is not him but the elephant in question that spoke to him. This book has been on my reading list now for years. Finally got my hands on it (kindle version). Comes second to Tanya James’ ‘the tusk that did the damage’ on the elephant scene in India that centers around the menacing poaching issue we have in the country for the precious tusks of the elephants. (Same is true of Indian single horned rhinos as well in the state of Assam, similar to the precarious situation of the double horned rhinos of Africa that are nearly hunted down to extinction already. Anthony’s ‘the last rhino’ is on the rhinos). Until this book happened I believed, the Indian wild elephant escaped poaching even if unhealthily domesticated at an alarming rate.

My introduction to the Zulus and Bantus, the native tribes of South Africa happened in my ninth standard I guess, when I read for the first time a James Hadley Chase novel ‘the vulture is a patient bird.’ It is because of the content i remember the title and the tribes. I can say this may have been a chief reason for my interests in Africa including its wildlife. Later on of course, there was Wilbur Smith. Literally every single trilogy or whatever of his I read with, mainly for the wildlife info even if it was all fiction. ‘The elephant song’ of his was special. The matriarch comes through in Smith’s works. I would like to skip his latest works that I wouldn’t attribute to him, probably penned under his name by someone else (like in the case of Sidney Sheldon). They don’t carry the same Smith stamp. If you have been reading Wilbur Smith, you must be familiar with entire Africa from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia to Congo, South Africa, Zaire and Zambia (both of erstwhile Rhodesia) and more. You learn of the languages such as Swahili. You discover the native tribes, the shortest men, the yellow men, the spear throwers, the trackers etc. You develop a deep respect for the dark continent that has been mindlessly exploited and now made a complete mess. I agree with Anthony on the violence aspect about Africa which has to keep with its wild nature. Apartheid is long since over. Afrikaners and the other remaining whites are doing a wonderful service to the conservation causes in Africa in the present, even if it was their ancestors who nearly brought the native wildlife to the brink of extinction in the first place. Still the current conservation efforts must not be underestimated or disrespected. This is very much the need of the hour.

Unlike fellow Indians, I am totally against domestication of our Indian wild elephants for Hindu temple service and for gala events like Navaratri-Dusshera celebrations in Mysore palace grounds in the name of culture, heritage and traditions. I have been vociferous over this capturing and taming of wild Indian elephants from the jungles, earning quite a few adversaries in the process. But here end my feeble protests. NGOs for wildlife and elephant lovers have to take the mantle from well-wishers and whistleblowers (!) like me at this stage.

My piece on temple elephants in India captured from wild for domestication, inspired by Lawrence Anthony’s ‘the Elephant whisperer’

I wish India has someone like Lawrence Anthony to save our wild elephants from poachers, regain the lost elephant corridors and conserve the population from going to extinction inevitably in a century or two.

wild Indian elephants faring no better…

The book is a treat to elephant lovers and naturalists and conservationists. It is enjoyable and good learning guide for anyone for that matter. Those of us who are keen on safaris must know what it takes to run a show.

Lawrence Anthony confirmed what I had read about the pachyderms over years: that the elephants communicate very intelligently in a unique way both physical and metaphysical, with their stomach rumblings in a very low frequency inaudible to human ears that therefore fail to pick up the jumbo communication. So that way, quite like the whales, the elephant community too may be much more evolved than us homo sapiens when it comes to tele communication. It is not without a reason that these giant mammals have survived and roamed planet earth many millions of years. The other way the elephants communicate is by tactile contact in the bush. The infrared waves of elephant whispers probably serve as transmission conduits to reach over herds spread across entire landmass of Africa which is stunning! Science may prove theories in labs but here was this dauntless conservationist living the experience to relate his story to the world. To me his well lived life and real time observation suffice as authentic proof to elephant telepathy we talk about including the long elephantine memory. The tuskers’ moving vigil for two days on Lawrence’s demise is the testimonial ultimate for what Lawrence recorded in his book: “The most important lesson i learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those we put up ourselves.

Anthony also in the course of his writing introduces us to the lush and rich spectrum of his natural reserve Thula Thula:

  • mongoose, warthog, tawny eagle, martial eagle, impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, nyala, baboon, black mumba, black python, bark spider, leguaan (african monitor lizard), duiker, southern white rhino, honey badgers, crocs, barbel (fish), cape buffalo … and of course elephants
  • (noctural creatures): bush pigs, giant eagle owl, vondos, bush rats, nightjars, bats, bushbabies, hyenas, leopard, lynx, serval
  • reptilians: Black mumba, puff adder, mozambican cobra
  • trees native to Africa: Acacia robusta, marula, boerbeen, fig, umbrella thorn tree
  • the winged nesters: plum coloured starlings, european rollers, bush shrike, narina trojans, gwala gwala, vultures

What a spectacular life Anthony lived! Added bonus was his elephants whispering to him accepting him as one among them. Nana and Frankie, the matriarchs in particular shared a wavelength with Anthony, able to reach him. Here i have to mention Anthony’s intention of keeping the wildlife feral and so his deliberate breaking up of connection with the tuskers so that the herd moves deeper into the bush far from human contact for their own sake. This was also necessary as Anthony felt that this way, the elephants will stay wary of poachers (or any humans for that matter).

When I was reading about the way Anthony was spending long and perilous nights in the bush to safekeep the elephants in the boma when they were traumatized, rowdy and tyrant, i couldn’t stop myself from admiring the man for not only his courage but also for his big heart that did not hesitate to sacrifice creature comforts to settle down the disturbed gang in his reserve. The herd mistrusted human beings having been subject to witnessing massacre of their family members. The move by truck and darting (with tranquilizers) had dazed them and made them more violent and edgy. Anthony however focused only on rehabilitation of the elephants on their new home winning their confidence and trust gradually. In the process he did not lose his patience or hope even for a minute. He believed sincerely, the elephants deserved a chance. It was a painstakingly done work worth its rich dividends. You have to be gifted for sharing such a compassion for wildlife to be going this extra mile. As Anthony himself says, one has to probably grow up in the bush with the right mindset to be able to work or live in this kind of nature’s setting. It is a tough but rewarding life for those with a passion for conversation. Only that, your physical fitness must match the demanding conditions of the life in the veldt. And African tribes like the Zulus of warrior blood naturally fit in their roles as armed rangers of the reserve. Having to share their living space with Africa’s rich wildlife and having a history, they are the natural choice for the maintenance and running of the Zululand sanctuary in the heartland of South Africa.

Anthony speak:

  • Living rough in the wilderness is a salve for the soul. Ancient instincts awaken; forgotten skills are relearned, consciousness is sharpened and life thrums at a rich tempo.
  • No matter how heart-wrenching the situation, we never interfered with nature. Brutal as the food chain is, that’s the balance of life in the wild.
  • Interesting observation on fright-flight distance, innovative game keeping methods, round the clock alertness and an equally enthusiastic team of rangers, merit a mention. Bush piloting and crane lifting on darting are familiar with us in India where latter methods are employed when it comes to dealing with the tuskers.

    What I consider firsthand research material about Anthony’s work may be the elephant communication information and Askari (male elephants led by an ageing patriarch) observations in particular apart from breeding habits of different fauna. Valuable input for future wildlife studies and conservationists. Kudos to his diplomacy with the native tribes. In today’s highly jingoistic egoistic material world, we need this kind of trendsetter. In another part of the book, Anthony says, it is the elephant who is the tone setter for the relationship shared between him and the herd. He goes on to narrate how each and every member of the family enriched his life and added dimensions to his perspective on the African elephant.

    Serious poaching threats from armed gangs and sharpshooters fitted to their teeth, the uneasy relationship Anthony shared with Nkosi Biyela and the Indunas in general whose ancient zululand is the reserve, the epidemics waiting to devastate wildlife if unchecked, the brutal forest fires, the rogue beasts on prowl (like the male elephant Mnumzane in musth that had to be put down) endangering not only safaris but also other wildlife (with Mnumzane shearing white female rhino to death with his tusk), natural disasters such as river flooding and breaking banks, the maintenance of full length electric fence with low voltage just to stun the wildlife from crossing over but not kill, the challenge of balancing the wildlife population that ensures the survival of the fittest in accordance with the food chain, nerve wracking dealings with the superstitious African tribes not antagonizing the sons of the oil, the law and order issues to be taken up with law enforcement, the follow up with KNZ of whatever, the wildlife departments and reserve sanctuaries of South Africa, … and much much more need to be addressed on day-to-day basis running a wildlife reserve as vast and teeming with diverse wildlife as Thula Thula.. And if the reserve is to boast of a safari lodge like Thula Thula, the challenge is many more time magnified, keeping in view the safety of the tourists. The days start well before dawn for a safari and end with the last of the tourists hitting the sack as Anthony explains. Lawrence’s wife Francoise now in charge of Thula Thula seems to have lent a French touch to the holiday resort with her exotic cuisine, a big draw with the visitors naturally. Game sighting is adventure like nothing else. Only those who have sampled this heady brew of thrill will know why nature and wildlife can be such a humbling and invigorating experience at the same time, making one even spiritual. You connect with your basal instincts when you confront all forms of life from the millipede, centipede and scorpions and spiders to the crocodiles and rhinos and bucks and antelopes and the giant elephants under trees as ancient as you can imagine, with their gnarled roots and spread branches sporting myriad coloured winged nesters. A profusion of life in the natural element. Nightlife in the wild is another symphony. What a welcome break from the cacophony of our urban materialistic life.

    birth control not for Indian wild elephants…

    Hopefully land acquisition for expansion of Thula Thula is now done with, which can provide the wildlife in the reserve more of room to amble about. Anthony also gainfully employed the local manpower which is mutually beneficial. Let’s see. I have always dreamt about a Kenya or Tanzania or even an Uganda or Zimbabwe safari, but never South African. My interest in South Africa got piqued with the Netflix serial ‘the penguin town.’ Now I have ‘Thula Thula’ too in my bucketlist! Hopefully i can make it with my entire family there in a couple of years, along with my grandchildren in tow! How i would luv to show my grandkids Nana and Frankie!

    My first ever elephant write-up. The original draft may be from over 10 years back…

    Anthony not a serious contender for Noble prize in lit still his south African lingo is something! Good sense of humour there. That supersized vacuum cleaner of an elephant trunk! Menopausal rhino!

    Rounding up with Lawrence Anthony quote: THE BEST CAGE IS NO CAGE. Om Shanthi!

    Posted in Pictures Foreign

    Review: The lighthouse of the Orcas (Netflix)

    Just finished watching this heartwarming flick based on true life story of an Orca conservationist from South America and couldn’t wait to post the review. Filmed in breathtaking locales of Patagonia in Argentina, the beachside shack where the orca park ranger Beto is posted is far cry from civilization with not a telephone in vicinity or cell phone tower leave alone a decent flushable toilet. Yet the man pursues his passion, relating to the magnificent and mesmerizing sea creatures that roam the oceans in this part of the world, the Pacific. How this reserve officer, lover of wildlife, draws out the autistic Spanish boy who flew in with his mother from Spain watching him in tv show is the story. Strongly recommended. What a landscape. Tough but peaceful life. Why should everyone walk by the beaten path. Offbeat is good! I really want to see South America, as i am also concurrently watching the Magical Andes. This massive continent from southern hemisphere hardly receives its fair share of attention except when it comes to soccer. How different lifestyle is in every single part of the world. Sometimes it is irritating to listen to cultural rhetoric of fellow Indians. We need to go see the world, see it for what it is, and see how too very insignificant we petty ourselves are in this vast universe. Conservation of nature to me is the hallmark of most civilized and cultured societies that have truly evolved. Heritage is not always showcased in ancient architecture like we view in India or in masterpieces hanging in Rome or Paris or in the operas of the west. Orcas seem to be darlings of the sea and they seem to relate to Beto is a special way, just like Lawrence Anthony, the elephant whisperer of south Africa could communicate with wild elephants Wow, what a gift, like none else. As is mentioned in the flick, may be the autistic kids can pick up some very feeble vibrations from the orcas that emit low frequency communication waves just like the their terrestrial counterpart the pachyderms roaming the forests of Africa and Asia. It did seem to have helped Tristan, the boy in the picture at least..

    ‘In the heart of the sea’ on whaling is not about wildlife conservation yet a compelling watch.

    If an orca is to approach the marina in Chennai, our guys would be drooling over orca biriyani omg! What kind of people are we. I liked the gentle hero the orca man, the survivor mom Lola who is so courageous to risk it for her special kid in a godforsaken barren place half way around the world. But that is what mothers are… aren’t we. I am familiar with autism. No, I don’t pity the autistic children, rather i guess they are merely different. As Beto says, these kids see the world through better glasses than ours. However, easier said than done. Not at all a fairytale. Patience stretched for parents and even marriages suffer. But the naivety of the autistic kids can melt your heart. With orcas they can be deadly combo! Lovable, lovable, adorable! Feelgood factor for me. World needs to hear more of this kind of stories.

    Posted in Pictures Foreign

    Review: Penguin Town (Documentary Series)

    Loved this Netflix serial probably meant for kids with the kind of narration in the background, yet equally enjoyable for adults. Some of us may have prior knowledge of south African penguins, still this was the first time, I could glean so much info about them. Otherwise, when you think of penguins, you picture only the Antarctic.

    The Penguin town as the Simon town is nicknamed after the takeover of the seaside place for over 6 months an year by the invading penguin colonies numbering in million, for their breeding season, is a bustling spot for both man and bird who do not only coexist but also tolerate each other to a great degree. Here is something for everyone of us take back: that shared space and peace. In India, such a scenario may spring up Penguin biriyani business (not a joke)! This was what was flashing frankly in my mind, as i relished watching each and every single episode on the adorable tall boy bird, the south african penguin. Picturesque beachfront and laidback villas from another age add charm to the setting. No wonder the bougainvillea family, the culvert family, the courtyard family all breed happily and look forward to coming back to their holiday homes (!) the next year. The travails of the penguins are very much humanlike! At least the struggle to secure a good comfy home is! Real estate hotcakes! Respects to the bougainvillea widowed father penguin for the way he is out in the sun day long to secure food for the family. The culvert family falling apart also is not unlike something that does not happen in human society. For the wild nature, the penguins have natural adversaries such as fellow gangster baddies, the lynx cats, the kites etc. Once the fledglings take to the water, of course there are the sea predators. The fragile ecosystem is balancing it out tactically against all odds. Yet, how well the town people have accommodated the penguins as part of their lives without counting them as nuisance deserves an applause. Their attitude matters.

    Until now I was under the impression that the penguin fledglings take to water immediately on hatching. This is news to me that they need so much grooming and energy, and have to grow their waterproof oily feathers/skin to enter water. Great conservation work by the townspeople rehabilitating wounded/abandoned/orphaned penguin hatchlings before making them sea-fit for survival. You need education, awareness and maturity to be doing this job, hats off.

    A must for kids and wildlife/nature lovers. Easy on our mind. Feelgood factor. The way wildlife care for their young ones is a reminder to us as to how everyone, every single life on planet Earth counts.

    Posted in Books

    Review: The Spirit Of Enquiry: Notes Of Dissent : T M Krishna

    Recommendation: Buy this book, read this book!

    In the spirit of the book ‘The spirit of enquiry’ by TM Krishna, I feel obliged to make the following enquiries with the author:

    • Since you are so brash and bold, and are such a hi-fi social activist, may I expect you to take up the matter of liberating the temple elephants held captive in Kerala please? Your communist friends and none less than CM Pinarayi Vijayan may come to your aid here. You may take up the issue right from your next concert in a Kerala temple be it Vadukkunatha temple in Thrissur or Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram! Please start a campaign to this effect because it looks like a lost cause already. I am willing to make a decent contribution. I shall sponsor your team’s t shirts and logo expenses plus others. Only Aug 12 we observed the World Elephant Day bro. Observed, not celebrated, because what is there to celebrate. Our elephant population is dwindling at lightening speed that for next generation, we might be able to show elephant only in museum or biology book. And when the elephants go, they will take away with them the bees and the trees, do you know that Krishna.
    • Since you are against Guru Shishya Parampara and at the same time also against institutionalizing music with a set syllabus and university and text books, would you please research and educate us how to go about both imparting and learning Classical music to enthusiastic aspirants. Or more specifically Karnatic music.
    • Is there anyone preventing by legal means or by physical means the general janata from learning or mastering carnatic music or instrumental? You can name and shame the parties here for further action by concerned authorities!
    • Is there anyhing sacred to you at all? You don’t respect or probably recognize national anthem, notion of nationality… in short anything that is an arrangement or discipline or institution. How about the institution of marriage? Should this also be dismantled by mankind. Already it is being done just that in many parts of the world! Wait it is coming to India!
    • Answer this: How many islamic nations are there in the world? How many christian nations are there ? How many Hindu nations are there officially as of today.
    • From Jerusalem, what stopped you from meeting with the Yazidis on your way back to India??
    • Who told you World war II or the year 1947 is the defining line for everything. That we cannot change anything after that. When did Bangladesh come into being. How many temples got razed in Pakistan after 1947. How many temples got razed even in Malaysia. If you are to quote the constitution, let us make some amendments then.

    Having said that, let me add some salient points from this fine book. Let me make it clear, i am just a housewife past my prime, and I am here only for timepass.

    At the outset, I have to give the author a standing ovation, for the way he has thoughtfully constructed each and every sentence with such a depth, insight, meaning and essence to leave a lasting impact on the reader. Exceptionally articulate and versatile, I have never read such a profound writing in my life, especially coming from an Indian author. I must confess I am not much into non-fictions. Even so, I can vouch this is one very fine assessment of so many, many faculties of human brain and behaviour. I share many of the author’s abstract views that he has so artfully captured into precise words, phrasing them just exactly as I would have wanted them to be and working out unimaginable permutation of ideas and possibilities with that skillful penmanship of his. Proud that he is a fellow Chennaiite, a Thamizh, and a local Alwarpet Andavaa 😀 I really feel like adopting this fine young man as my kutti brother!

    Now when I finally finish the book, i get his formula. He is like, proposing an idea, treats it to various interpretations pro and anti, discusses it thoroughly inside out with his self-confessed spirit of enquiry and then tries to deliver a balanced judgment. Or I must say, which side he thinks is heavily favoured. Judgment is one word anathema to this author! The author has paid attention to the voice of the dissent that we seldom get to hear in every single idea he discusses chapter after chapter. That treatment deserves respect and commendation. The spectrum of the debates is varied and priceless covering Karnatic to Kashmir.

    I liked the way he discussed how and why Karnatic music came to be the classical and not the vintage folk or tribal for instance that also may have a matching antiquity. The same words that come to his mind when he thinks of classical Karnatic also keep coming to my mind: ancient, hoary, superior, intellectual, elevating, traditional, religious, complex, difficult, subtle, sophisticated. So that sets apart Karnatic from the rest. Like Kamal Hasan the author never gives a definite conclusion! I had to keep looking at TMK the way I was looking at the limping man fading away in ‘Anbe Sivam’ as the screens went down! Anyway, that was one brilliant way of thrashing a point and closing the chapter. Kudos!

    I never so far distinguished between stage art (live rendering) and, the kind of art where the art object seems to be independent of its creator at the point when it is received (as in the case of an oil painting or cinema). Thanks for reminding us of this quintessential difference. This is the reason I have started reading TMK. He draws my attention to things I took for granted all this time that I forgot their existence. I do remember this point from his last book ‘Sebastian and sons’ when receivers of art (such as musical instrument Mrdangam for instance) have this disconnect with makers of the art. But is this not true of every profession. Do teachers and doctors and builders exercise proprietary rights over their produce. I am at loss to know why the author cannot make that professional distinction. That detachment or sense of separation for the creator from his object or art is necessary in some sectors (but not all). In this digital age when the stage concert can come to our living rooms, even Karnatic classical is being packaged an art that can be delivered like celluloid cinema. Covid has altered many equations. As TMK avers, this may be a step in evolution of Karnatic.

    The author has a valid point on computer generated music that can do serious damage to the musical sense in humankind once and for all. In his words, “The composer today has become more of an arranger, a choice-maker, a compiler …. The composer in gaining technological mastery is losing musical relevance ” Which is kind of sad. I made up my mind never to enjoy the sax music or keyboard in future. Or even the steely sounding ear-piercing drums. This is very educative to layman like me although I had had an idea.

    Hard-hitting truth: ” .. most of the time it is the item number that musically echoes the subaltern sound, further polarizing musical understandingIt is also true that the section of the population that will probably for certain have ‘Kolaveri’ on their list will never be asked their all time favourites.

    On an entirely different tack now: Zero tolerance for plagiarism of traditional, native, ancient Karnatic music which is divinely Hindu by heritage. Let TMK not confuse appropriation of art with inspirations of art.

    Loved the use of metaphors and simile comparing original Karnatic compositions with variations to the handblock handmade textile prints and dyes and weaves of India that come with a human error which is charming. On this, I have to agree with the author cent percent. Such a rich tapestry of choicest words and eloquence. Masterpiece. And cute!

    In any society the dominant class determines authenticity, quality and standard.” The author simply drove home a brilliant point, point blank. The ensuing paras need a careful contemplation from the book.

    …. Nada… is metaphysical…. . The idea of nada is not interpreted only as an abstract experience of transcending sounds, it is considered also a sound that unifies man with the paramatma.” Can’t put it in better words. A layman can make out what classical is all about or get clear picture about its components from this dissection on Karnatic.

    So is Hindustani more refined than Karnatic. May be. It could be the difference between the sweetish bhasha Hindi and the tongue twister called Thamizh.

    The technicality of the raga, kriya/laya/tala is fascinating to layman like me. Thanks for this explanation. I think the quality of my understanding of music can get better with this. Raga not to be bottled up in any one context representing a particular emotion? This is tough. Because I always associated Todi, Mukhari to despair and despondency and meloncholy thanks to our T Rajender !! But classical is definitely an emotion. No two opinions on that. The chapter on classical is too good even if its too technical.

    Classical is abstract. I find this abstract thing always a curious thing that I can’t figure out. True of abstract form of art (oil on canvas) as well. Without deep thinking, I just imbibe the honeyed melody and move on. To me personally carnatic is…. peace? harmony? calming? soothing? balm? divine?

    The author has laid specific emphasis on the state of the Isai Vellala community which gave the finest classical art forms of Bharat Natyam dance and Karnatic music to Thamizh Nadu, India. He does have a valid point here. I must say that from the community which is now engaged with economic emancipation via university education, we can expect a flowback into Karnatic as socially forward generations will have more time and resources to take up art once again among them. And this time, they shall command respect and attention.

    The author’s take on the concert scene is also realistic. Let us hope things will change for the better in future.

    The book is too technical in places and a bit rambling (!) but all is well that ends well! With TMK the prose is matchless and authentic and inspiring and motivating and even enquiring! He opens up avenues of my mind that hitherto remained closed to introspection. Intense and heavy, saturated with dense inside information, this print is a collection of previously published articles of the author in media, with or without edits.

    I am leaving out the political discussions here AS WELL AS THE CONTROVERSIES as our author is known for his penchant for mischiefs. This post in winding! Many stalwarts will be reviewing this gem of a book of his. Still I thought I must also review it hahaha whether the author likes it or not!

    I will close with this personal note to the author: Even the intention can go a long way when it comes to a good deed which may or may not materialize. To borrow from Paul Coelho, ‘when you want something , all the universe conspires in helping with you to achieve it!’ Best of luck, but do not forget the Indian wild elephant and the temple elephant.

    *

    Posted in Pictures Foreign

    Commercializing Violence On Women In Soaps

    I have done blog posts on physical violence on women and I have been harsh on Indian cinema for including scenes of sexual violence on women in their content.

    Now I am watching Spanish soaps in Netflix in which I find the same scenario which is shocking. To tell the truth, the serials tell a good story. They are period pieces done with a very fine taste otherwise. A treat to watch really. I got to see ‘the Cook of Castamar’ and ‘ the Cathedral by the sea’ both of which were interesting, but still had violent scenes on women shot with nitty gritty details. Now I am watching ‘the High seas’ which also already has had a violent episode on women.

    Until now I thought it was our Indian film industry that resorted to such cheap gimmicks to cash in on sensationalizing crime scenes. Looks like, this is international formula now. Disgusted. Even if the script warrantees, I guess the script writer and director can still work their way around such a distasteful scene and avoid it at all costs. It can’t be impossible for creative people to circumvent frames that can leave women fuming and cringing. No, you don’t even have to leave a hint. I wonder what these folks can gain from including gory scenes of violence on women in their productions.

    There obviously is no censorship which must help? Assaulting women is one thing, trying to pass off crimes on women normalizing them with films, soaps etc., is another. It is almost as if this can be routine and may be acceptable. This is what the rape scenes in pictures did to the illiterate masses in India. Everyone out there seems to be for a quick buck. If we cannot help a cause, at least let us not try to deteriorate the situation. Women are still vulnerable whichever part of the world we may be, how much ever we may be accomplished. Casual inclusion of violence on women, sexual assault on women and physical abuse of women need to be done with in our flicks. No, this cannot be for public consumption.

    Posted in Others

    Review: The fabulous lives of Bollywood wives

    The best part of any place is the free stuff. Or free access areas. Where you don’t have to pay your way through.

    I watched ‘The fabulous lives of Bollywood wives’ only for the Doha part. Stopped with that. Seems total fake to me. Cannot identify with any of these stars or this kind of society. Neelam, of course, I have heard of in my teens. I think she debuted with Govinda? Must be my age. Late marriage and parenthood perhaps.

    Doha looks stunning in the Netflix series but the Doha I know in last 15 years is quiet and relaxing and laidback. I have not taken the airtaxi or whatever but have instead been on Dune safari twice in Qatar deserts and once in Dubai. Both are different kinds, no comparison. But the desert safari in Qatar has a much more beautiful landscape. There is a small backwater sea in the terrain that separates the tiny nation from Saudi and we make it right up to this point. Breathtaking backdrop. This must be done in the wonderful winters we have here. Nominal fee. No dramatic ride like in DxB but impressive in its own way. For those interested, there is the buggy ride always and camel safari.

    ever tried climbing up a sand dune. not for the faint hearted. this is sealine beach in qatar desert with dune on one side and sea on another. took me and friends one hour to summit the dune. all the time looking out for any speeding dune buggy from knocking us down…

    Plus we have great free access museums that are truly a delight to those like me. I am the museum kind of person. There are free access art galleries. I and my husband take daily walks either in parks or through galleries. Have had the once-in-lifetime opportunity of looking up close at Picasso’s originals including his art installations. Very generous of the Qatar government to bring them down for display. Similarly the temporary museums from different nations are the best in the league. One from China is still unforgettable. Art keeps evolving in different media as well. Many especially in India never get it. We outgrow some and we cultivate new forms. That invaluable lesson I learnt in Doha. Savoured M F Hussains original as well including His Hindu God paintings that may not be exhibitable in India. Firsthand. Oman’s only Hindu family Khimji art as well. Just to name a few. All this for free. I would suggest the museum and art galleries circuit first for visiting tourists. If you have an eye for art, you will be lucky to catch up with both contemporary and period art on display here at various galleries. Because of my husband’s interest, I too get drawn to art – mixed media or sculpture or whatever. You feel such a sense of calm looking at these impossible creations. I love the photography exhibitions as well. To create art of mundane stuff is the challenge. India has more artists but not enough display. What most moved me in Doha galleries, have been from the war torn nations of the Middle East. Their artists spoke through their art. Their pain was literally touchable. The suffering and screaming came upto you. I never knew calligraphy could be speak volumes either. Doha enriches our lives in a different way, much different from India. The generosity of the administration/government to give access to public for free of cost anything and everything that may improve the quality of our lives, touches me most. For instance, if you have to declare in the Art section of the Souq that you are an amateur or professional, they supply you with material like painting brushes, colours, canvas, easel etc for free so that you can do there your business without a fee. 9 to 5. You have your own little art corner or painting studio to work at, in the most frequented public place of the city where you need no marketing or publicity. Crowds come to you. I learned what good governance is, here.

    As for medical facilities, touchwood all these years we could keep off this department with good health, but I hear this is one great wonderful area of service that even expats benefit from. Many younger ladies from not only India but from other nations working/living in Qatar opt to delivery here for this reason. Five star facility for nothing. We all have our health cards for all-paid medical treatment for whatever. Expats are fortunate to work here.

    There are foreign campuses of world class universities from UK and the US. Best international schools.

    Shopping, we do in regular malls. I do shopping in small retail businesses as well. From Vasantha Bhavan to Saravana Bhavan to Sangeetha, I have home delivery in Doha as well 😀 Street food means, I can say falafel and falafel sandwich both of which are vegetarian. I love lebanese vegetarian food and also turkish. Hummus, labneh (whey) and of course and the egyptian baba ghanoush. Eggplants, olives and cheese are local delicacies here. I relish the middle eastern vegetarian. So different and not spicy. Olive oil floating. Love the cheese blocks, cheese varieties from the meditterrannean. One chief reason for me to gain weight in Doha. Just can’t resist. Cheese and wholesome dates (not like what you get in India) are my daily snack. Hibiscus tea. I enjoy vegetarian from any part of the world. Pastries! Bread! If you are a nonvegetarian, oh my god, then the sky is the limit for you! If you are the barbeque type guy, well, well. My husband and son enjoyed the Malaysian steamed meat and fish 20 years back. My hubby enjoys the arab done non-veg now as well. Mostly smoked. I love the Arabi sharia rice made with ghee and seasoned with kishmish and their nutty walnutty baklava (dessert). Only in Doha, in north Indian restaurants have I enjoyed live hindi music with food. Sung with them as well as I spooned my food… I long for such restaurants in Chennai with light music. Celebrating food with music! Within a small restaurant I mean. That luxury within confined space is worth whatever the price.

    We pass frequently through the (upscale) Lafayette mall but never been there. It is styled like the Louvre of Paris that the show misses to mention, with the glass pyramid and all. I buy my brands from Doha although I would like to say I am not a brand conscious person! We get the best brands at best price during sale (the only time we shop!). M&S is my fave, then Mango, Zara etc. I get my best fit jean only in Doha. After my US visit and Europe visit, I felt that middle eastern shopping is better than shopping in Europe or America. Real value for money. But I am not a cosmetics person so I don’t shop for cosmetics at all. I use only our desi Fair & luvly 75 rupees 😀 Apart from that only the eye pencil and mild lipstick that last 3 years. But other ladies shop for cosmetics as well as perfumes here. However for skin care, I like Bodyshop. The outlets and stuff we have for M&S, Zara, Bodyshop etc., in Doha are much different to what is available across India. Value shopping. Friends opt for Mac or whatever. I have only seen this brand and been with friends here but not so far got it. I miss that kind of shopping seriously here in India. Discounts are real discounts. I think for middle class tourists visiting Doha, these are the highlights that must be projected.

    A friend of mine visited Doha and did a whopping shopping of upto 1 lac bucks for herself and daughter in teens. It is worth it. Clothes, cosmetics etc.

    Electronics and mobiles may be next in the shopping list.

    Gold shopping: i prefer Indian outlets in Doha although once or twice done Arab gold shopping. For those ready, there is always the gold souq. Gold shopping almost always strictly only in middle-east.

    That brings us to the souq. Close to my apartment and my most fave haunting place in winters with my hubby. Love walking through the cobblestoned alleys. If you are the hookah guy in chilly winters, this is the place for you. Old world charm recreated. I love the syrian dessert ‘sahlab’ here like our kheer. 10 qr simply out of the world. Plus the roasted chestnuts. Heavenly. I learnt to snack different in Doha! And appreciate others cultures, tastes etc.

    My zumba in Doha was also another level. It was kind of less dance and more work-out unlike bollywood influenced Indian zumba. Learnt even bellydancing hahaha. Had an tunisian girl teaching me that! Plus my exposure to broadminded lebanese muslim woman who refused to fast for ramzan taught me the lesson that we must never stereotype people or nations. This woman left soon but she used to tell me how different many of the arabs were. A moroccan girl treated my hair for US tour. Knowing these ladies as an average Indian gave me different perspectives from around the world. Of course there are the filipinos. Never seen a filipino get angry in my life. Born for the hospitality sector! Always happy. As an expat I draw something valuable from each of these guys I meet outside India. This is what shapes me, irrespective of what I write in my blog. I have to specially mention the nepali women, I see them working in the loo of malls. Just the sight of my bindi brought tears to a young girl from Kathmandu. I met once a Bhutanese woman in Bodyshop. I wanted nothing. I was with a friend. But when I asked her if she was Nepali, she said she was Bhutani and that Bhutan luvs India. Just for that i gave her business. She said the sight of salwar kameez or sari excited her so much because she was on her own, away from home. Unmarried and under 30. Interacted with women from entire Indian subcontinent: Paki, Bangla, Srilankan etc. Once you fly out of India, you think of all these women like your sisters as well.

    The parks in Doha are amazing. The new one Al Bida crosses over a highway laid with red asphalt to the otherside of the road. From the top we can watch a football ground and speeding cars in the 8 lane highway. Our favourite spot that has knoll to ascend up and descend down for fitness. Aspire park is around a manmade lake. Another favourite of mine. Doha Torch is there. We never dine at expensive restaurants. But the 47th floor 360 degree REAL revolving restaurant on top is our chosen one for wedding anniversary always. We have Zaffron by Sanjiv Kapoor to everything from India.

    Doha is truly a middle class budget tourist’s delight. Fits your pocket neatly. Not flashy like Dubai. Very relaxing and laid back.

    But it is okay, the series is made for the moneyed who can luxuriate in 7 star hospitality and can have private lounge for jewelry shopping. It is this part of Doha I can never have access to, not that I regret.

    I love the boating in the backwaters over the powerboat ride which also I have done.

    Happiest to be part of this city and great nation where expats feel securest and most respected. Here is where I rethink a lot.

    It annoys me when people comment back in India without having to move their butt an inch in foreign countries.

    I wish this small young nation all happiness and prosperity in all eternity. The dignity and calm and quiet and tight lip they maintained through their crisis time wants me to give them a standing ovation. Hats off. you pulled it guys. With a single word, the tensions had the potential to escalate. How they steadied their nerves and chilled and cooled with a maturity rare for Arab nations is profound and historic. Their patience paid off. Not a single complaint or bitching I heard muttered in public. Extremely wise and responsible. I was there when it happened. I don’t want to spell it all in the open here. Even in our personal life we can learn so much from others. A nation teaching an invaluable lesson to its expats here in last few years. Grateful for that. Life changing experience for many of us. I am learning to cultivate patience and control my temper from my second home Qatar.

    The series does no justice but gives a peek into areas beyond closed doors for middle class women like me.

    Other than that the series is a drab. However I find the girl gang exciting a little because I too go on all girls trip with 3 different gangs: school gang, zumba gang, doha wives gang. Just being on our own as girls is like being a different kinda person. We are with the girls, what we are not in front of our own family! I let my hair down always with my girls online or in person. It relaxes me completely. Brings out the wildest you that you are calmed and at peace having voiced it out. Only with girlfriends this is possible.

    That facefilling, facelifting etc.. omg. Clothes, shoes, accessories… looks like sin. As i said, I cannot identify with my own country women – these 4 ladies. Our daughters I mean our kids are also mostly the academic kind with nothing to do with show business. I am dusky, clumsy, poor at accessorizing, dress awkwardly, don’t have class yet I am Indian and most of us Indian expat women in Doha are like me 😀

    That Karan Johar joker. Had i known he was the producer, I wouldn’t have even watched it for Doha.

    I am quitting right after Doha.

    Posted in Books

    Sebastian & Sons – TM Krishna

    First of all before I go into review let me caution:

    I am not at all musical, music though brings me peace in whichever form: carnatic vocal or instrumental, bhajan or even filmy songs. Partial to latino foot-tapping beats hahaha! So I am hardly fit to review this masterpiece of TMK but as I have loads of time in my hands and I really want to review this book, I am doing just that here.

    Anyway I keep playing music all 24 hours that when my hubby returns home from work, the moment I open the door when he presses the calling bell he tells me, ‘down the shutters of your Nair tea kadai please!’ so that’s how my playing music the whole day is viewed by my workaholic worst half who relaxes with Ilayaraja music. I think keeping open the Nair tea kadai is qualification enough for me to review this gem of a book (although prescisely it is this caste prejudice TMK is resisting)!

    Lots of emotion and personal perspectives mixed in any review of mine.

    ************************

    A woman/housewife/mother, many view me as sort of rebel but I found the best in the town in TMK. So very grounded, oozing with knowledge in and out, expert in his chosen vocation (vocal carnatic), his compassion for fellow humans and anguish at the apathy of the society for the inhuman ways some of us are treated initially took me by surprise (given his birth privilege). I haven’t identified empathy as one of the chief characteristic traits of most of my countrymen. I guess Hindu gene is defunct of this DNA. Not that I am unaware of the author’s past history. In such an young age, he has carved a niche for himself not only in the carnatic music world but also in social work (and media). I came across his posts in Twitter years back when I was there to read interesting tweets. Then I closed my account and lost touch.

    But TMK, there is no need to self-deprecate yourself as you have done in the book. You are good enough. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Turning into a meat eater, denying this sense of repulsion in abattoir and confessing to not being moved by the death of a maker of Mrdangam, were not necessary. Unscientific? Says who? You surprise me with your forced meat option that I find frivolous. It is perfectly okay to feel squeamish in the literally bloody environ. You don’t have to become one of your subjects to talk or write about them. You can stay who you are, what you are without a compromise. Or do you think, only by embracing meat eating habits will you sound convincing.

    I believe, the tormented atma of the killed cattle/goat still gets trapped in their skins that we use in leatherware. Same holds true of silk. A Jain friend told me. Then what is the use of being a vegetarian from birth. Given your background, I can’t believe you didn’t bat an eyelid when the animal went under the butcher’s knife in the abattoir. This is my only peeve against you. But in a way you seem to agree, with the atma staying residual in the leather skin. You wonder whether the animal comes to life through the vibrations/beats from the mridangam in a musical way.

    Your talk of keratin and collagen really got me though! Makes me kind of sad. This lingo I am familiar with from my salon visits. To associate the terminology with butchered animal is shocking. The javvu you are talking about must be gelatin under the skin.

    I am neither a voracious writer or reader, I am mostly into fictions even then. Rarely go for non-fictions. But I guess this time I picked gold. Local authors are always a delight. Their proficiency makes me proud that a son/daughter of the soil is coming up with something so very substantial. In case of your book, I guess this is one of a kind. That’s what made me go for it. With my layman acumen, I can still certify that this material could be thesis subject for PhD. What an in-depth on-field research and analysis, hands-on approach and complete know-how. I particularly loved your prose. Such a simple styling with effective use of language. No effort to glamorize your text with superlatives or hollow jingoism. Where is the need for such a window-dressing. Nothing cliched. Stark naked reality. So neat and precise and honest and profound from heart. Honesty. This kind of intellectual honesty is rare even in seasoned authors (in my half-baked knowledge).

    I learned quite about Mrdangam, my favourite native percussion instrument. I have been like a blank sheet until now. Tabla and Tavil come close second. To mention that the book is informative is such an understatement. It is an encyclopedia not only on Mrdangam making but also on the makers of the most sacred percussion instrument of Hindus. Valandhalai, Toppi, Varu, Ul Sattai, Veli Sattai, Pinnal, Sadam, Kottu hahaha … various Thattu…. Never imagined so much complexities went into making this divine instrument that finds pride of place in Hindu temples and festivities. The skin part is common knowledge but the kind of expertise and manual work that goes into creation of the instrument really came like a bolt out of the blue. Never prepared for this bit of info. The wooden body of the Mridangam is a craft as well. The semi-mechanised process of turning out the shell is well illustrated. I did lose my way though through the maze of pull-heave-tug part of bringing the toppi and valandhalai together with the Kattai. When I emerged out, I felt dizzy but could appreciate what a fine work of art Mrdangam indeed is. The search for Kittankallu seems like an adventure. Your sense of humour comes through when you say the sadam part resembles idli with its concavity! Dig at the nightie being south Indian leissure wear is another point scored! Reference to C V Raman was punctuated with the erasure of the creator of the experimental mrdangam from the scene. This is what I would term ‘vaazhai pazhathla oosi etharadhu’ in your language.

    I have a point to add here. The lingo lapses to chaste Tamil when it comes to Mrdangam terminology naturally. Is there a way this can be made adaptable to international readers. This can be a dampener to even other state readers. I am reading you on Kindle. I went through the glossary in the end. This list will not do. The book will go places and may be contending for serious national and international awards. While the local vocab may make it sound very realistic, too much of its usage without apt/spot translations can dispirit interested readers. But I have to give it to the author for making the work standout with this kind of vernacular approach, not trying to anglicize the book for wider audience. The tamil terms seem to reaffirm the solid and indisputable authenticity and nativity of the very instrument Mrdangam. My recommendation: go for a 100% Tamil edition. It will benefit even the makers on whose behalf you have taken up the cudgels. The reach will be up to grassroots level.

    Neither have I given thought to the resonance of Mrdangam. I never knew the toppi part was reserved only for bass effect but after reading about it, it all rushes back to me from various concerts I have watched over years. Music to me is sweet pastime nothing more. More like an addiction. I have loved Drums Sivamani hahaha in the past! Hereafter NOOOOO !!! (Fine-tuning of the percussion instrument is no cakewalk as I get it now. Once again a thorough learning process when it comes to the nuances of the bass-beat-stroke emanating from the traditional percussion instrument that has evolved over decades to its present form. The finesse of a master’s stroke is the outcome of dozens of variables and components, permutations and combinations as you have shown.

    There is a little confusion over how the author goes back and forth with the Thanjavur family tree names and the Madras Muttu makers. Establishing characters in mind and relating to them exactly is proving difficult. Then I spaced out reading the book so that I would remember everyone. Finally still I resigned to the fact of losing track and settled for mere identification with Thanjavur family by names. Parlandu and Selvaraj and Melgies and Antony and Soosainathan are like Rajni and Kamal to me now 😀 However, I don’t find such an instant kinship when it comes to the shell makers such as Somu Asari. The skin workers are the ones who move me. To me they seem to be doing the actual work.

    You could have added one more index detailing Mrdangam parts for the benefit of those who have no inkling on the subject. The local Tamils who are on familiar terrain may get along. However, non Tamil/international readers can do with a good illustration of Mridangam with parts neatly earmarked. I didn’t find one such in the Kindle edition. Let me recheck.

    Having been born and brought up in Mylapore, I was shocked to learn there are still avenues that I never knew existed! Appar samy kovil street for one. It is in the northern end of Mylapore so I may have missed much about it (i have known it), coming from southern Mylapore closer to Mandaveli. Plus I was put off by your spelling for my fave deity of Mylapore. She is Mundagakanni Amma, please correct it in your next edition.

    Neither have I given thought to those living in the fringes. May be being on the spot gives you access to something not visible to most of the general janata. Still, unless you have a big, big heart and sheer will to go about it, you just can’t be doing it. What it takes to think the way you did, pour down your heartfelt thoughts into words and bind everything into this volume – i feel difficult to imagine. I am lost for words. Caste buried the dignity of labour sadly. Its one of the cruelest offences that can be committed by humanity – this denial of dignity and respect to fellow humans. No apologies can mend it in a 1000 years.

    Kudos to the author for bringing to light the extensive and backbreaking backend work that is never known to the outside world. Commendable. Where credit is due, it has to be accorded. We cannot snatch others’ glory just like that trivializing their contribution to anything majestic as mrdangam. Such a shame! This story needs to be told, no doubt. Someone has to do it, and it is puzzling why none took the initiative until now. The human aspect of the any good work needs to be not only recorded to posterity but also be retold and appreciated. The glaring insensitivity in some of us is deplorable.

    But the reason for such a work not making it to public sphere so far is guessable. This is greasy work. Not many have appetite for what the author has managed to pile forth. Standing ovation for the meticulous research and untiring efforts and zeal and enthusiasm to tell the story in the first place. How did such an idea even germinate ??? What an inspiring read! At times, your simple but profound words that pack truth brought tears to my eyes. Like how you relate the makers shrugging off mistreatment, taking disrespect in their stride. When dignity is stamped over for generations with such a brutality and souls get tired and bruised, this has to happen right? Passive aggression. This can be killing.

    The gender bias is covered nicely with the Kappi and Kuchchi distinction. News to me again but no surprise. Mridangam has held forte in entire south. The Vizhianagaram, Bangalore and Peruvemba angles open fresh vistas that might otherwise have remained unknown to most of us. The snide gender remarks are there from bank jobs to stage kutcheries. Kerala work being neat is on expected lines as well. Same holds for enterprising Keralite women.

    But TMK must have ruffled the feathers of some stalwart mrdangists who may or may not be around. Naming and shaming somehow I am never comfortable with. I agree there is no shaming but naming is damaging enough. I concede there is no other way out. Still, one has to be real brave to mention names. The book might not be going down well with everyone connected to Carnatic. You threw caution to the winds TMK! I am proud of you yet concerned at what you have done to yourself. You are already an outcast. No bother I know. Still.

    But you did go on to highlight the geniuses of the mrdangam artists if that can count as any solace for them. Hope Palghat Mani Iyer and Palani Subramanya Pillai are not turning in their graves! You have brought to life Parlandu in such a vivid manner that I want to go see him and shake his hands!

    It is interesting to read anyway about generations of musicians of Tamil Nadu. How the music culture was cultivated and bred. No surprises about Thanjavur being the epicenter of classical carnatic. Spellbound by the intricate details and versatility of the carnatic music. I wish there had been no collateral damage when it came to Carnatic achieving this supreme greatness in world music arena though. After viewing You tube uploads of the author, I can understand why he is up in arms against classical status conferred to carnatic. To him social justice about EVERYTHING matters. Street art is equally worthy and appreciable which I can’t deny. I loved TMK’s Narayanaguru renditions and the Ashoka inscriptions being brought to life with carnatic. A contribution to society like none other. One of a kind. Road less traveled. TMK seems to back up his genius authoring with real life music.

    Was there so much casteism in Mylapore. I am not sure on this. I agree the middle level non brahminical communities were the worst perpetrators and practitioners of divisiveness among us. Even in present times, who is committing honour killings in Tamil Nadu. In friends’ circle they call me ‘lady kamalahasan (actually I don’t see eye to eye with Kamal at all in many issues) so I have toned down a lot of my usual rhetoric. One reason for leaving Twitter is that. As a woman, i found that it is easy to be threatened. (Now I think I have a new ‘naam ke vaaste’ kind of twitter account).

    To hold your pen and author such a heart-tugging tale, you have to be blessed and gifted … is all I can say. At the end of the day I am just a housewife with too much free time in my hands, what else. My words may mean nothing to you. Never has someone left such an impact on the way I think. I guess I have been somewhat right all along when it comes to certain social issues.

    I look forward to reading more of this author.

    Salvation truly lies in this. How many will agree with me. This book is true Nirvana with its sincere attempt to restore dignity to those who are denied that, and respect and credit to truly where this may be overdue.

    *********************

    PS: Where is that villa in Goa 😀

    Posted in Others

    Review: Band Baajaa Bride

    Watching the show on and off for years now in NDTV Good Times. Seem to like this fashion designer Sabyasaachi even if fashionakkum enakkum romba dhooram:D He could be a groom himself hahaha. Looks like Virat Kohli’s older bro hahaha. I like the respect Sabyasaachi accords to the aged parents of the brides (very touching), the way he lavishes praises on would-be brides making them feel important, and how he pampers and spoils the girls with his exuberant riches. He seems genuinely happy for them and goes out of the way to make them feel comfortable (at times overtly amicable and pleasing that I doubt if its plastic). I particularly liked the Poppat (Dangal) girl quite naturally but I adored all of his picks frankly. We get an idea of how the designer makes a choice among the sea of applicants. In my guess, he goes for character and charisma in equal measure. His brides are well accomplished, confident and are independent women, the face of the Indian nari (current generation). In someway the participants seem to have broken over a threshold or so here and there.

    After years finally, happened to get a glimpse of Sabyasaachi’s palatial home in Kolkata that he seemingly designed by himself. Looks like, his chef etc., are mostly male. Loved his canines! For the kind of luxurious life he seems to be living, he comes across as a down-to-earth humble guy. He sounds warm and sincere. May be a business tactic as well! Must be a tough job to narrow down the list of aspirants and cherrypick the real deserving/meritorious girls to feature in his production. Simply too many may qualify. I can’t recollect individual cases much. Perhaps I can remember faces even if i cannot retain names. I reckon that the chosen brides are truly worthy of their much cherished appointment. Starry eyed, they all look so ever grateful to Sabyasaachi and can’t wait to start their wedding life in style! Honeymoon package is the icing on the cake!

    Yet somehow I happen to think that, this is not the way it must be (in general). One thing I strongly disapprove of is Sabyasaachi getting mangalsutra for all the brides which may earn him punya but will depriv the groom’s parents off once-in-a-lifetime parental obligation or responsibility. Certain things, we must never give up in life. Others just can’t take over our lives just like that. In that way, I abhor him taking over the weddings completely and branding them as his house’s. Weddings are such personal affairs that you do not even need to let others know of necessarily. Or you can have an intimate, close gathering making the occasion very private, taking it away from prying eyes. I personally prefer closed weddings which are now becoming vogue thanks to the corona pandemic scare. Even if it is for glamour and free gifts and advertisement and page 3 opp, how can the brides let a third party gain such a predominant access into the most special moments/event of their lives. I just can’t get it. Not everything can be for sale.

    Sabyasaachi’s girls are themselves like fashionistas – at least most of them. They are a style statement on their own. His work gets a lot easier that way. After watching the north Indian crowd living outside India as an NRI, i get it perfectly now. Sorry, most of us south Indians just do not accord this kind of priority to grooming. Not even the creamiest and most fashionable among us. May be I missed out on south bound stories, but mostly I saw only the snazziest prettiest ladies swooning over Sabyasaachi.

    A visit to dermatologist, not just anyone but No.1 always, to the dentist, to the hairstylist, to the jeweler, to the fashion designer (the producer himself), to the cosmetologist omg… I have mentioned in my previous blog posts, first time I stepped into a beauty salon was in my 36th year, after a previous one-off visit just before my wedding reception. I really don’t get it why such a superficial grooming is attached this kind of hyper attention these days. Finally does it really matter! I guess, to carry well the Sabyasaachi creation, one needs to be groomed to this degree otherwise it could be a disaster. If you ask me, my vote is always for a Kanjivaram. Not many brides however have opted for Kanchi silks in the show. Mostly Benarasi lehengas are the hot favourites among the girls. One more thing: covering the head is for widows in the south. Probably the north Indian Hindus got influenced by the islamist invaders. Such a head covering pallu for a bride is unthinkable in any south Indian Hindu wedding. Lehengas too. Only a full sari – an unstitched robe, can be a wedding dress. We call it Koorai Pudavai – in which you get married. Different families have different parampara when it comes to Koorai pudavai. For example, in my family it used to be 8 yard but now 6 yard deep maroon silk or cotton with tiniest yellow checks. For some of my friends it is 9 yard of the same. Andhrites have it in yellow – with white sari dipped in turmeric to make it yellow. For Keralites it is cream Kasavu. We just cannot have any colourful costume for wedding muhurat in south. We follow age old traditions and customs without altering them a bit to suit our fancy. Similarly only a white dhoti, again an unstitched robe can be the wedding dress for Hindu men irrespective of caste or social status. In north, they seem to be wearing stitched lehengas (brides) and kurtas (grooms) for weddings. In south, this is permissible only for wedding receptions, never for muhurtham or muhurat.

    By the way, I am sure, even North Indian brides originally were marrying only in desi sari, the unstitched robe, with the grooms in dhotis being unstitched garment of the grooms. The very same old Bollywood films bear witness. Why and how have the lehengas substituted the saris and since when? This is not good. Glamour replacing customs and traditions. Hopefully those who live north of the Vindhyas return to our roots and stop wearing lehengas for weddings. The lehengas can be worn for the following reception.

    (I must say after all the visits and appointments with the designers and dressers, many brides ended up garish at least in my frank opinion hahaha! They looked much better in their natural setting before all this decking up started! The lehengas too not all were stunning. Some were overdone and gaudy.)

    So Sabyasaachi falls flat in our estimation. I mean, of not much relevance. Today’s girls from my place may choose lehengas for reception perhaps. This is also a very recent development only. If you choose a kanjivaram, it is lifetime keep. If you choose a designer lehenga it is use and throw one-time wear.

    I got stung by one episode of Band baajaa recently that I was watching offhandedly doing some chores in my kitchen. The girl featured was a bit obese and dusky – like regular south Indian dusky. What is there to be ashamed of or bullied for for your skin colour. It is outright demeaning. May be there was more to the story. I will have to catch up with the episode in You tube before I can come clear. If a dusky girl must feel low and find it difficult to get married in India, then 90% girls in the south will be spinsters even now, which is not the case. I guess, a lot more rethinking has to be done by the producers before shooting such hurtful sequences. It is downright insulting. Bodyshaming is horrible. Girls admitting to feeling depressed for physical reasons is revolting. What kind of girls are these. Such a weak mind. Upset being obese, dusky? You may wish to look better, but you must feel beautiful the way you are. At least that’s how I see myself!

    What a run-up to the actual wedding! Already these vulgar pre-wedding shoots I find very crass and disgusting, and can’t imagine the educated youth wanting to make a fool of themselves singing and dancing around trees to show off to the world, how intimate they are as couples!

    Such ostentatious shows and extravagant weddings to me are total fake. I have enjoyed the Sangeeths and Mehendis of friends’ kids but personally I am never for this bullshit. First of all, these are considered frivolous and have had no place in south Indian weddings. Of late our guys are brainlessly adapting whatever is glamorous and glitzy by Bollywood standards. In this melee, the true sense of a marriage is lost. Having fun and frolic is fine but losing the perspective of having a Vedic wedding as per Hindu rites which is so sacred and puritanical is shocking and unbelievable with the ceremonies minimized after all the useless paraphernalia extra fittings that tire everyone especially the marrying couple, before the Muhurath. The young couple must be sharing some very special, auspicious and hearty moments in the glow of the ritual fire (homa) in Hindu weddings. Saath Pheras or the Sapta Padhi – how a bride may feel at heart taking every single step towards her bright, happy and prosperous future. Should it all be in front of tv cameras. Emotional moment for the couple exchanging vows, chanting mantras or tying the knot. Very special private moments of one’s life. To be blessed by your near and dear ones. To have the closest and most caring loving people surrounding you. Having strange unconnected people around you at this time can be unthinkable. Everything is commercialized and for photoshoot and media-sharing these days. Nothing is now personal, private and just for the family. I am surprised Sabyasaachi stops with the sangeeth, wedding muhurat and reception and not venturing into the nuptial bed with his designer gown! Why can’t he just stop with designing the lehengas and jewelry. Why should he or his team partake in the wedding ritual? Is it part and parcel of the package.

    I think Sabyasaachi must have a reunion with his brides after 20 years and check how well they are doing. I do want them all to be happy. Still, I would want a reconfirmation.

    Because, i am a believer in marriages, not weddings. I married with 2k in bank balance and with no parents. That forever has influenced my take on marriages. Recently had my only son have a registered wedding (unplanned) of course. I am fine with that. Do feel a slight ache at times – even I would have wanted a handful of nearest and dearest guests – family and friends for the occasion…. anyway corona weddings are also the new normal! In a way I reflect, perhaps my Mother Goddess gave me what I have always appreciated and prayed for sincerely at heart.

    I do view at expensive/theme weddings in positive light for the job opportunities they may create. But I am increasingly getting an impression that the workmen down the line get only peanuts whereas the event managers take the biggest slice of the pie. Besides I am put off by the event management girls welcoming us guests and asking us whether we have had the buffet. How much more estranged can you get with your friend or relative at the family wedding.

    Grand weddings are fine if you belong to such a strata of society but using weddings to parade one’s social status is abhorrent. It is much more important to receive our guests personally at our family weddings, after inviting them respectfully and graciously, usher them warmly to the dining hall, seek their blessings sincerely for our children. Very few opt for such simple and nice weddings these days. Prefer the typical Hindu wedding rituals we have in the south followed by a reception for friends and guests.

    I invite Sabyasaachi to attend real Kerala temple weddings to know how a wedding can be just a 20 min affair with 2 hr wedding reception followed by a 60 year blissful married life. I love the simplistic Mallu weddings. My Nair friend tells me, even the Mangalsutra is only a recent addition for them borrowed from other state Hindu practices. Earlier, if the bride was given a cotton Kasavu sari (typical kerala off white sari) by the groom’s family and the girl’s family received it with her, it meant the marriage between the boy and the girl just got over. Just like that! Feast on banana leaves with three kheers – one of sweet ripe mangoes, one of coconut pulp, and one of dal. Even in Tamil Nadu, wedding feasts are always served in banana leaves only. You may be a king yet you can have a buffet dinner in crystals for your wedding reception, but for the wedding muhurat feast, it is always the humblest banana leaf only that is like our silver dining ware and cutlery. I hope we never compromise on that for the cheap china.

    I have attended simplest but heart warming Kerala weddings and have always thought of them to be the best – not the gulf-money marriages.

    Sabyasaachi, I like your show. I am transported to another world weekly one hour thanks to you but I strongly denounce this kind of fakeness surrounding your weddings, i am sorry to say. But the show is enjoyable! I do love looking at the jewelry and the clothes even if I can never come to agree with them. May be every other woman loves you Sabyasaachi and may be I am the only one to underwrite you…

    Is it a paid content Sabyasaachi???

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    Cakes in weddings: cakes made with eggs are nowadays cut on wedding days. To my knowledge, even in non-vegetarian families, they stop eating meat from before Pandakkal and resume meat eating 10 to 15 days after the wedding muhurat. Similarly in no Hindu caste is garam masala used in traditional wedding feasts normally. But now we have naan and panneer and cutlets served on banana leaf along with traditional wedding recipes. I agree there can be no hard and fast rules, yet reasons followed for sticking to satwik menu for our weddings need no elaboration. Only paal sadham (milk rice) for the wedding night dinner for the newly married and Paal-pazham (banana fruit and milk) immediately after the wedding muhurat. Much married now, I can understand the significance of these practices handed down to us through generations. Introduction of masala and meat is reserved for a special occasion much later after weddings in non veg families. Now even liquor serving is becoming the norm in upper middle class receptions. I am the last person not to welcome change and modernity but when it comes to traditional weddings and religious/solemn occasions, I would rather respectfully stick to our age old/ancient customs and practices followed and advised by our ancestors. There is a time and place for everything.

    Posted in Books

    Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

    Ken Follett has done it again. This is the last time I am reading this arrogant haughty fellow. Lost all respect for him. I doubted he must be racial for the way he wrote about World war II painting the US and allies like saints and trivializing the Hiroshima Nagasaki bombing in Japan by the US (Winter of the world). Such a fellow can never be trusted, I must have known.

    For someone who glorified the democracies and villainified communism, it is therefore natural not to write a page about how the USSR remained a reason for PM Indira Gandhi to crush the nefarious designs of Nixon and Kissinger who sided and plotted with Pakistan. Mrs. Gandhi taught the duo the lesson they never forgot in life. Mrs Gandhi was there lot before Margaret Thatcher became UK’s PM. She bifurcated Pakistan into two and created Bangladesh out of the eastern half. The terror supporting elected governments of the US always favoured Pakistan over India that remained neutral (as a non-aligned nation at least officially). The looming threat of USSR which was India’s ally thwarted any US mischief from fighting/invading India on behalf of/along with Pakistan.

    What kind of author is this man who seems to be suffering from selective amnesia for the only reason that he wants to show only US/West in good light. He underplays the work done by communists and overplays the democracy card (read America). Communism has had its advantage. Indian state of Kerala is a standing example. China, even if India’s dire adversary, has developed uniformly because of communist principles only. Is democracy a panacea for all. Capitalists are bloodsucking leeches basically. They are no better than communists who are the polar opposite.

    This Follett fellow must write about the British atrocities as well if he is so bent on writing from pages of history. How about starting with Jallian Walah Bagh. Queen Elizabeth shamelessly sports the Kohinoor diamond stolen from India. If UK is to be stripped off all the stolen wealth from native people and nations some day, then they will go bankrupt before sundown. Gives me ample satisfaction that the Pakistanis are now taking over the UK. Soon England will become the first ever caliphate of Europe. Serves them right.

    Day is not for when all Brits will be on welfare. Karma is best served cold. Asians are ruling the roost everywhere. We need no certification from these racist fellows. How many native human races/aborigines as well as wildlife these Brits have rendered extinct. Ethnic cleansing.

    There wasn’t an iota of sympathy in the book for the blacks – it is mere superficial and inaccurate recording of events. It is a coincidence that the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining momentum now, with Trump losing the US elections. Follett’s racial reference to Saudi diplomat referring to Indian servant is deliberate racial slight.

    US invading smaller nations is open secret. How many countries destroyed. How many economies devastated. How many societies plundered for gain. All in the name of Democracy I hope? Who made with the oil and gas in Iraq or Syria. Who stands to gain from fallen nations. UK is the main ally note.

    DON’T READ. DON’T WASTE A PENNY ON KEN FOLLETT. How he even saves the face of Germans from Nazi era portraying them as decent (Franck) family! Sickening. This guy is not bothered about values. He is only for making money. He will touch any low.

    India is now a heaven for good writing including in English language. Such a rich literary culture we have. Soft power that never lived sucking others’ blood and making a living on the grave of native races. Proudly an Indian, proudly a Hindu. Churchill was No.1 scoundrel who bled nations and shamelessly built his country stealing from hapless defenceless Asian African nations. And if this Churchill is portrayed as kind of hero in UK, then we will have scum like Follett only, what else.

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    I was not even in standard 5 (in 1970s) when I heard my granny and my mom discuss Kennedy’s assassination (which happened before my birth). My granny read the Warren report. She was born in 1926. Our relative took our copy and never returned.

    One more snippet from such an innocent pre-teen age. My granny told me, Jackie Kennedy threw her wedding ring into Kennedy’s grave which meant she ought not to have (re)married Onassis! My god, she (my granny) hardly studied upto third standard! Years later may be in 1990s, there was a news in local media that one of the Kennedy children and Jackie happened to live anonymously at Mahabalipuram near Chennai in a seaside villa. After an year or a couple of years they were found out when they flew back to US. This is unconfirmed report. I don’t know how my brain has retained this kind of information from my very young years to this day! Especially such very specific details!

    My political interest i owe therefore entirely to my granny. She read both the Hindu (English paper) and the Tamil newspaper Dina Thanthi every single day. She showed me once a photo and lead story in Tamil newspaper and told me about Bhutto’s hanging. That was the first time I heard about Pakistan/started taking note of Pakistan. My granny told me Zia hung Bhutto.

    My little women! My granny and my mom were very intelligent, sharp women. I take immense pride in that, my mom was working in 1965-66 a good half century ago. Very strong unflinching character. The kind of info they processed and the books they read! Clearly women in sari donning a bindi in forehead are not as naive as some fools in the west think. Yet our women were very homely and devoted to family.

    In 1999-91 I was doing my masters in Econometrics in Madras University (final year) after graduating with a degree in Maths in 1989. So my economics knowledge was not too great but I tried best to learn. With Math background, economics was like greek and latin to me.

    What I cannot forget from my PG days is the visit to my department by a professor from University of Kiev, Ukraine. He was on a tour of India and for his last leg, he was visiting Madras. He spoke to us for 2 hrs. In 1990/91, India was not even in globalization phase. Yet, even I remember how rich India was. The professor told our class, he was bedazzled by the kind of foodstuff (vegetables, fruits), spices, handicrafts, wealth (gold, silks etc) and merchandise that India boasted. All local made. No shortages, no queues anywhere. He did tell us how they in USSR had to stand in queue for even buying their daily bread which was their staple food. He couldn’t believe that India was portrayed a poor country in USSR or elsewhere in the west including in Europe. On contrary he found that everything was in abundance in India. He said, he just couldn’t have enough of India. He saw big hoardings of the Hindi film “Brashtachchar’ starring Rajnikanth in the metros and asked the hosts the meaning for the title of the film. When he was told the meaning was ‘corruption’ he couldn’t believe Indians had this kind of liberty to make film on govt corruption to be screened for masses. He was moved relating this story to us. He said he was shopping at Raymonds, shopped for all things made in India, crafts, silver, whatever. He was dumbfounded by the quality of merchandise, the textiles, the spirit of India, the magnetism and spirituality of the Hindu dharma.

    This professor came visiting to lecture us on communism and Russian model economy but he found that India had a robust mixed economy from grassroots level. He said he was taking back home lessons from India. From India model.

    He also told us about Gorbachev who was their president then. I vaguely remember the words Perestroika and Glasnost from newspapers in those years. He asked us whether we knew about it all. It amazes me only now that we had firsthand information on the Balkanization of the Soviet Union right from the horse’s mouth. Perfect timing. Right then, I must say I did not appreciate that I was one of a kind of witness that day to history unfolding in our very times, in front of our very eyes. My department was lukewarm but hopefully the story in Delhi campuses was different. In that age when information was not spread like wildfire, we were aware of only the bringing down of the Berlin wall, not much else. Besides, India is always consumed first by our own domestic events and happenings. A lot was happening with Rajiv Gandhi gearing back for midterm elections. My personal life went for a toss. Last on my agenda was interest on Soviet Union matters. The Kiev professor said soon Ukraine would be a free independent nation. But he also was concerned about those like Lithuania, Estonia etc., that he doubted may not be faring well without help from Russia. Despite myself I enjoyed the long interactive session although we were all being lulled to our inevitable daily dose of afternoon siesta. Our classroom faced the Bay of Bengal and the gentle sea breeze was blowing sweet.

    After the Ukranian left, the cold war came to an end and the USSR broke up into handful of independent nations that started looking towards west.

    I was thinking about this professor whose name I cannot recall as I toured Georgia and also Azerbaijan in last 3 years that look like poorer cousins of European countries. I had a firsthand view of the Russian infrastructure that looked perfectly fine to me.

    As far as I am concerned, these breakaway nations from the erstwhile USSR are not yet commercialized or corrupted because, they were under the protective wings of Russia. Even if supposedly human rights may have been stifled by the Russians, the kind of REAL development we have in these countries is astonishing. Marvelous. My husband is an engineer by profession and he has decades of rich experience in industrial engineering including in O&G, expressways with flyovers and underpasses, even reservoirs. I value his views therefore. I loved even the soviet cabs. They were roomy and unlike anything you might ever have seen in US or Europe or Middle East or India. Automobile engineering of a different but sophisticated kind. Highways are another league no way inferior to US. All other European nations (that i have toured) are like beggar nations really compared to the truly wealthy Georgia and Azerbaijan that are rich in mineral resources, nature and beauty not yet corrupted or stolen by the greedy west. Rivers are lush. Population is less. No absolute poverty. Ideal and idyllic lifestyle. If given an option, I would rather choose to live in Georgia over Switzerland or Austria! Simple but heartwarming peasant lifestyle still with a good standard of living. Hundreds of Indian medical aspirants attend universities in Georgia. I hope these breakaway Soviet nations remain cautious and don’t let their guards down. Let it not be the case of frying pan to fire. Azerbaijan highways omg! Totally a different level of engineering and technology including when it comes to oil & gas! Georgian wine! Even food is native not confined to mere burgers and fries. The west is fake. Dear Soviet block nations, do not trust America or UK. Never.

    Our Georgian cab driver presented us with a big bottle of home brewn red wine from his cellar. As we were flying back to Doha where we could not bring liquor, we polished off every drop right there in Georgia! I relished the vegetarian Georgian cuisine that was so authentic, and their homemade energy bars with local dryfruits and nuts. Unforgettable holiday! Cheap and best! Highly recommend! Georgian villages were charming. The leeside of the Ural mountains is awesome. This country is underexplored and not high on tourist radar. Do it before it becomes one more sore tourist spot. Slightly affluent Azerbaijan is dangerously inclined towards Iran which is not healthy. So far so good, but we have to wait and watch. Big bro Russia kept everyone in check no doubt.

    Dear Georgia and Azerbaijan, kick capitalist trademarks Marks & Spencers, Burger King etc., out of your nations and close your doors to the west even if you do not want to be with Russia. These are no saints but wolves in sheep clothing. You will be fine on your own. Don’t be in a hurry to sell yourselves to US for peanuts.