Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Queen’s Gambit

Every Chess aficionado’s dream: something like the Queen’s Gambit, limited series on OTG platform. Glued to it literally. Almost believed its a true story but did wonder why I could not place Elizabeth Harmon anywhere from my memory like the way I could Bobby Fischer. Or for that matter the Polkar sisters. Fischer was living memory, that much I can vouch for. Not that I am a player with strategy, more of a rookie who has now digressed to clumsy lows, out of practice. My online rating has dipped to dismal stat, not to speak of! Chess, at least the speed chess that we play in the 10 minute format online, banks on reflex. If you don’t have the lightening reflex, you may not make it. That way the timed format in Chess to me appears like any other game where the player’s reflex must be sharp. Even if Queen’s gambit is based on a novel by one Walter Tevis, from way back in 1983, it made for a super series that kept me on my toes. Not that I could follow each and every move, Most the games are pictured dramatic but one or two moves here and there were graspable. I guess most of us open with the queen’s gambit as I have seen the description every time I make it. How a chess player winds her way up the ladder to top slot is amazing. The gender equation is also nicely fitted in. As we know India produces her share of women grandmasters in Chess. The interest is even more spiked after we hosted the Chess Olympiad very recently in my hometown Chennai, a rare honour. My city has also produced three times world champion in Chess, V Anand who beat Garry Kasparov. But the way chess is followed like a religion in Russia is flabbergasting. Chess originated in India and was the game of the royals (Hindu kings) (at least they were good at vanquishing the enemy kings in checkered board!). The character who played Beth Harmon is Anna Joy. She has done a marvelous job keeping her poise and holding her head high. She looks intelligent enough and doesn’t look a bimbo! The male chess players remarkably seem to lack the masculine build we credit with athletic sport players. What is the point they are making here? Kudos to the director who made Beth win the one against the Russian GM without having to pop up the pills. Beth comes across as quite a character. She is mentally strong, living on her own, is independent and is shyly fun loving keeping with her personality. I got emotional watching the final she played with Borgov when the former US champions she bet to reach the spot where she was, gang up on phone to give her last minute tips. That overseas call was a good directorial touch and so was the closing scene when Beth walks in the streets of Moscow to play with the sidewalk retired chess players who give her a standing ovation. That mother Alma’s character! Alma adopts Beth and showers unconditional love on her which goes a long way in establishing Beth’s career as a professional chess player. For a chess player, Beth dresses up class keeping with contemporary times. Those upturned blonde curls remind one of Marlyn Munro. Trend of the 60s? One more character worth mentioning: Shaibel who initiates Beth into the world of chess. Its a well made series, slick and period.

Incidentally the first woman chess grandmaster from India goes by the name S. Vijayalakshmi! (She is not listed. Must be international master). The second is Koneru Hampi who is still playing (listed as first woman grandmaster from India).. India has so far produced 81 grandmasters at world level and comes after Russia and the US. The lion’s share of maximum no. of ranked chess players comes from my home state Tamil Nadu! Proud of the feat! In total 124 international masters from India with some 42 woman international masters. The picture made me google for the India story! The world no.1 Magnus Carlsen was in Chennai in connection with the world chess championships that we recently hosted. The event drew crowds and was spectacular.

Posted in Lateral Thinking

The organic nature of the Organic is chemical :D

The organic nature of the Organic is chemical hehehe (read this Nityananda stye 😀 )

I have something to prove it.

Not at all a makeup or cosmetic person. Only sun protection (SPF) cream for me or good old ‘fair & lovely’ (now renamed ‘glow & lovely’) for evenings out. At home its moisturizer with mild SPF. Rare vitamin C applications that I started last year along with under eye cream. This is my maintenance routine but my main skin care essential is desi coconut oil. I do switch between olive oil, argan oil and coconut oil in the Middle east because in winters sometimes coconut oil gets frozen. Anyday I prefer body oils to chemicals.

The one brand I have always favoured has been Bodyshop. Indian chain is not good enough. I get mine from Middle east. Although against age defying formula, I have loved their vitamin C and Drops of life. I use their body butters and scrubs and shampoos. Expensive but that is one luxury I have allowed myself over years over salon visits. In India i have no use for any of these as my skin returns to normal self. In middle east in ten days on landing I tan maximum and my skin dries out. Its like I am two different persons : one in middle east and one in India. We have extreme weather in middle east with summers soaring to 55 c and winters chilling to 4 c both of which impact adversely my skin. Whereas India is a beautiful pH balanced country that asks for zero maintenance. In India, my night balm is also the natural Kumkumadi Lepam that in my teens I used to get from Lalitha pharmacy (ayurvedic). Now with improvisations it is available nonsticky.

Last year I got this body scrub from Bodyshop. I prefer Bodyshop because they claim to be maximum organic (even they admit they can’t be 100% organic). Upto 75-80% they claim that their products contain natural ingredients. Theirs are plant based and are not lab tested on animals which is very important for me. For longer shelf life, naturally the preserving chemicals and additives and colours need to be blended in. Understandable. A high price also I thought perhaps meant the quality assured. The body scrub that I use for my hands and foot once a week, I put away with lid open before I left for India. I thought leaving the lid open might remind me to use it once more the next day before taking the flight out and that way I could avoid paying for a pedicure in a salon in Chennai! Later I remembered not closing the jar with the lid but made a mental note to remind my hubby about it. Then blissfully I forgot everything as you know, India consumes you totally!

My break in India got extended and I ended up spending three months June, July, August before returning to Doha by September. The first thing I noticed in the bath on my return was that, the cleaner who my hubby engaged once in 15 days to tidy up our place in my absence, had washed clean the bathrooms flooding the still open jar in the bathtub nook. Nobody bothered to replace the lid. I rued the loss of an expensive scrub. Even before unpacking I drained the standing water from the jar. God knows how long it remained that way. Beneath I found that the scrub layer holding good. Surprised that I found no fungus, i still took out the top layer and the sides and wiped clean the jar. I left the dry jar open for again a week. The scrub smelt heavenly after all the contamination and was usable that shocked me. I skimmed out one more layer from atop to rule out any seeping adulteration. None. Nothing. The bodyscrub held the forte solid and firm! Left the jar open more for a couple of days. Then everything was fine and settled. I could use the contents of the jar once again. The bodyscrub was as good as new. That if you think made me happy, you can’t get more out of focus. That actually made me think and I dropped Bodyshop from my list of shopping.

Our Indian Ayurvedic products easily get moldy with fungus even before the expiry date – which means, the ingredients still are natural. Products from India do not have an extended shelf life like those we shop for in dutyfree shops. Every big brand or designer brand is oozing chemical. You check Bodyshop: shelf life is three to four years on average. The more French/Italian your beauty routine is, the more you pack your skin with advanced complex chemical compounds. This is the truth. I shopped for Bodyshop because their products were mostly paraben free.

Some of these foreign brands capitalize on the organic label. Some sell for their European origin. Tell me what kind of body scrub won’t go foul with 3 month standing dirty water in it. Now whenever I use the scrub I wonder what are all chemicals I am rubbing into my skin. Nothing comes chemical free. I am wary of even olive oil and argan oil that emanate a mild scent. Only India seems to be producing virgin coconut oil besides others. How far the manufacturer/supplier is keeping his words, we are not sure. But virgin coconut oil smells good thought i can’t rule out paraffin addition.

As I live between countries, I am unable to stick with just the Indian Ayurvedic. I am forced to go for longer shelf life skincare. But one thing I consciously opted out of is: anti ageing. Just read the constituent chemical next time you go for an anti ageing skin routine. Too complex that scares me. Now with the last batch of last year’s skincare. Next time in India, I shall try to top up with desi Ayurvedic.

The other day I was picking oranges from a supermarket. Oranges are mostly from Pakistan or Morocco or Spain or Australia and rarely from India. The loose jackets that we call Kamala in India are the only locals I have come across. Seeded. No takers for our Kamala sad! The more expensive the oranges are, the seedless they come, and sweeter. The cheapest oranges are from Pakistan that come a bit sourer but are the only ones that still come with seeds. Its not for their price I buy them. Its for their not tampering with nature, i get them. Nothing saddens me than filling my grocery baskets with seedless grapes, seedless oranges, seedless this, seedless that. Only one fruit is not yet seedless in our bazars: the mango! And the day when we have a seedless mango will be the day of reckoning for entire humanity. One thing I would like to underscore: the seeded naturals don’t come very delicious like the seedless sweet tender fruits. Some seedless oranges are indeed organic!

Note: Get the difference between de-seeded and seedless. Dates can come deseeded.

What about pasteurized milk. In India milk without added vitamins etc., won’t last for more than 12-18 hours even with refrigeration whereas even in dry heat conditions of Middle east, pasteurized milk can last for days, even weeks. Fruits and vegetables too rot fast even if refrigerated, whereas they can stay fresh with refrigeration for weeks in advanced countries. One reason could be the power supply which may be at times erratic in India. The other chief factor could be the absence of strong preservatives in Indian pasteurization.

You know sometimes, decay is good. Daag achcha hai! Rotting is a blessing. Death is a blessing. It means everything is normal, natural the way things ought to be.

Posted in Economic

Digitalization drive: transforming rural India like never before.

Time to take stock of UPI payments enabled in India. This came close on the heels of demonetization. Paperless transactions may never have amounted to this magnitude in days before demonetization. It was quick and easy for petty shopkeepers and even street hawkers to seamlessly switch over to UPI payments because, even the villagers and rural artisans who have not have received elementary education have turned out to be tech savvy today when it comes to smart phones and can follow maps and keep track of bill payments etc. Digitalization therefore materialized in India more out of necessity as the nation ran out of cash overnight with demonetization. Recently I was in Kerala. As we thronged the streets of Guruvayur, I and my friend found that we did not carry enough cash and our cards were not being accepted anywhere. We were not exactly shopping for big brands whose franchisees had opened posh showrooms or chains in the backstreets. The petty shops, arguably, may not have impressive volumes of turnover. We shopped for papads, nendram (a kind of banana) chips (deepfried in coconut oil) (that Kerala is famous for), lamps, sweets etc. Our bills in the snacks shops couldn’t have exceeded 200-300 bucks. The shopowners too were not the kind to wait for credit card payments settlements. As we know, the credit cards have a window of 3 months for final bill honour and settlement from merchant banks. Running cash remains crucial for small businesses. Plus since I have a phone from Middle east where some features in Playstore are disabled, I do not have Gpay. I have though downloaded desi Phonepe that the shopowners did not have even if they did have the universal payment method Gpay. In which case I had to scan the QR code and make instant payment. The places were not as crowded as the fastfoods in Mumbai that may necessitate speaker announcements for payments received. But the billing clerk and the salesmen did verify and confirm with each other on the spot in the shops in the Guruvayurvappan temple Sannadhi street whether payments were received. Before anyone left the shop,t the verifications were done superfast. These are small things that do not come packaged with qr codes printed in the merchandise to emit the beep sound if someone left with a stolen item. The shopowners needed to be super alert given that the chips packets, pickles and other nibbles and edibles were displayed right through the small shop and were also hanging from roof in suspenders. It must be tough to keep track. But they seemed to have perfected a way to keep track of sales and payments. It would be interesting to see what they would do should there be a crowd. When we were shopping, there weren’t more than a dozen shoppers that made it easy for the petty shopkeepers to keep an eye on every transaction. Even so, the small shops seemed to be stuffy. Its true, from the tender coconut vending woman in the street side to the pani puri wala hawking everything from bhel puri to sandwiches and steamed dimsums in busy market places, everybody has gone cashless. Last two years I have been paying bills for all labour thro UPI. These include the plumber, the electrician, the tailor, the janitor etc. All you have to do is make a phonepe payment or scan the qr printed in the push cart or wherever to make a payment. I haven’t witnessed this level of digitalization even in Middle east where normally tech facilities are enabled better especially when it comes to banking. The advantage with digitalization and cashless economy is that, there is more transparency than ever before and the black market shrinks significantly. More incomes and individuals under taxable net as transactions leave an electronic trail that you cannot erase or refute. With the Aadhar (national/personal) ID linked to our bank accounts alongwith PAN (permanent account number for income tax), when you make a UPI payment, like the credit card payment these minor bills are accounted for. Which was never the case earlier when you bought something or anything from the street stall or an icecream during the park stroll or when you took the giant wheel ride in the fair or sometimes as simply as chewed pan outside the restaurant you dined in. Now the paan vendors have UPI qr code displayed on their stand and would rather prefer you to scan and pay. So what happens? You leave a record of your lifestyle, your habits, your preference, your tastes etc., so far not covered by the credit cards. This can give a totally different perspective to the ways of spending by netizens. The more you make digitalized payments, the more white is the national currency from black. I insist on making cash payments sometimes for groceries because I want to make use of cash – as I have to necessarily swipe my cards at least once in 6 months to keep them active. Otherwise frankly, I have no need for cash at all.

Where Gods and Goddesses accept UPI : In all temple hundis, qr scan code is printed for donations, for special puja services etc! The last time I visited Kapali temple in Mylapore, there was a queue so I opted for a shorter queue for which I had to buy a ticket for 50 bucks. The receipt with qr code was scanned in the queue by a temple worker before I was allowed a darshan of Kapali-Karpagambal! You no more can sneak into any queue even in temples!

The far reach of the digital payments: now its possible to go cashless in the remotest corners of the country where your credit cards may not be accepted but where UPI payments are more than welcome for the safety and security and convenience they present. As good as cash, UPI payments have cut down the ATM precipitation especially in rural areas.

I visited the PDS (public distribution shop) last month where there is smart card in use for 4-5 years now. The latest addition is thumb impression verification matched with your Aadhar to prevent misuse of govt rations. Its a good move and can check corruption – provided the state govt fat rats and central govt don’t eat into the rations literally (pun intended).

How many loopholes has PM Modi plugged. Quite a few. Very smart. Yet it agonizes me that the common man is made to sacrifice whereas those like the Adanis can get away with it all.

Posted in Food For Soul

Not for sale: Soul.

Moved to tears watching ‘the scent of a woman’ starring Al Pacino in Netflix. Too late I know. I don’t want this to be a review of the picture. I am using the filmy quotes just to record my perspectives. Hugs to Charlie Simms played by Chris O Donnel who takes the tough road risking his Harvard admission from the prestigious Baird not wanting to sell his soul for gain – even if he earned the place on merit. His entire future is at stake, given he is from humble Oregon. He is on scholarship at his school. The rich creamy society boy George Willis so easily succumbs with his weak mind, sells his soul without a regret to save his ass. It shows how some of us are BORN DIFFERENT. How our priorities determine who we are. And how some of us would rather slog it than have it cheap and easy with a price tag on our soul. Al Pacino’s riveting closing dialogues just bore into my very own soul. Says he, THERE IS NO PROSTHETIC TO AN AMPUTED SOUL. That is how pathetic are those who sell their soul, who trade in their integrity, who have no shame, no dignity, no honesty, no strength of character but actually have the audacity to justify their smallness. It may have just been a picture but it gives you still a great message. Its what some of us stand for. Fight for. I may not be the naive Charlie but I could very well be that colonel Slide! I am that!

We don’t read books or watch pictures for nothing. If you sing Bharathi, you must try to live like Bharathi. If you talk about Sangam literature, you have to try to adhere to the code of morals and ethics – the basics at least, in today’s context. VALUES ARE EVERYTHING. UNCOMPROMISABLE. UNTRADABLE. UNCHANGEABLE. You have to do justice to whatever you preach. You have to practise what you preach.There is no use going to temples or performing Pujas when our fundamentals are not sound. Following the right path, speaking your mind, alienates you from the rest. You are alone. Still, you are the only one who has the courage to call a spade a spade and you know that. It is worth fighting the lone battle than join the comfortable crowd of spineless cowards who are all sold out. The pied piper led hundreds of mice to their cursed destiny. There is no comfort in numbers so far as ethics are concerned. A clear conscience is priceless. The Puja phalan for those who sell their soul is like the water they may try to fill in a pitcher that has a hole at the bottom. Whatever you pour in will drain away in no time and it doesn’t matter what efforts you put in. It was the very first lesson on Aanmeegam for me, on why it is important to lead a clean life. When the roots are shaky, you cannot build a superstructure over it. My parents raised me in their absence. They never lectured me on anything. I felt this way even the very next day after my mother passed away when I was still in school.

All of us are aware of changing times and what that demand of us. I, more than anyone living abroad for over a quarter century in multi-culture society, am painfully aware of where one must draw the line. What you can trespass and what you may not violate even if your dear life is on the line of fire. We have a word for that: honour. Which in turn earns us something irreplaceable: respect.

Never mind. If someone has to be tutored on value systems, then they bombed grandly in the final exams already, before even the classes started or the bell rang.

Posted in Food For Soul

லௌகீகத்தில் தர்மம்

சில நாட்களாக என் மனத்திரையின் பின்னால் ஓடி கொண்டிருக்கும் ஒரு விவாதம் இது. துறவரம் தான் கொள்ள வேண்டுமா என்ன. எம்ப்போன்றோருக்கு இல்லறமே நல்லறம் தான். குடும்பத்தில் இருந்து அறத்தை மேற்கொள்வது எப்படி. லௌகீக வாழ்க்கை பின்பற்றி மட்டுமே ஒருவர் சத்கதி அடைய இயலுமா. இது சாத்தியமா. இது போன்ற கேள்விகள் என் ஆழ் மனதில் வந்து வந்து போயின. முடியும் என்று சொல்கின்றனர் நான் சந்தித்த ஆன்மீக சான்றோர். குடும்பமே யாவற்றிற்கும் அடிப்படை. குடும்பத்தை நேர்த்தியாக கொண்டு சென்றாலே நமக்கு மோக்ஷம் தான். குடும்பத்திற்காக அயராது சுயநலம் இன்றி உழைப்பது, ஒழுக்கத்தை பேணுவது, வயதில் மூத்தோரை மதித்தல், பராமரித்தல், அனைவரிடமும் அன்பு காட்டுதல், நம்மிடம் பணி புரிவோர் – வீட்டு வேலை செய்யும் பெண், வண்டி ஓட்டுனர், தோட்டக்காரர், சமையல் காரர் – போன்றோரை சக மனிதராக பாவித்து மரியாதையாக நடத்துதல், பிள்ளைகளை நன்கு பேணுதல், நல்ல குடிமகன்களாக நாம் பெற்ற பிள்ளைகளை உருவாக்குதல், பூஜை புனஸ்காரங்களை இல்லறத்தில் சிறக்க செய்தல், கோவில்களுக்கு நன்கொடை, வீட்டில் விருந்தாளிகளை நன்கு ஓம்புதல், நட்பு பாராட்டல், நேரம் கடமை தவறாமை, நம்மால் முடிந்த உதவிகளை அடுத்தவர்க்கு செய்தல், யார் குடியையும் கெடுக்காது இருத்தல்,ஒழுக்கம் தவறாமை, பக்தி மேன்மை, நலிந்தோர்க்கு உணவு உடை மற்ற தேவையான உதவி புரிதல், பண உதவியை காட்டிலும் உடல் உழைப்பால் மற்றவர் பயன் உறும் வகையில் உதவுதல், மற்றவர்க்கு நற்போதனை செய்தல், அடுத்தோற்கு நல் வழி காட்டுதல், உண்மையை உரைத்தல், பொய் இன்மை, மனசாட்சிக்கு கட்டுப்பட்டு நடத்தல், ஏமாற்று வேலை செய்யாதிருத்தல், பொறாமை வயிற்றெரிச்சல் கொள்ளாதிருத்தல், நம்பிக்கை துரோகம் புரியாதது இருத்தல், நம்பிக்கை, மரியாதை காப்பது, பேணுவது, பேராசை அற்று இருத்தல், மனசாட்சியை விலை பேசாதிருப்பது, போலி கௌரவம் கொள்ளாதிருத்தல், யார் வாழ்வையும் கெடுக்காதிருத்தல், வயதுக்கேற்ற மன முதிர்ச்சி, இனிமையான இயல்பு, நேரான நேர்மையான வாழ்க்கை, ஒளிவு மறைவு இல்லாமை, பார பட்சம் பார்க்காமை, அணைத்து உயிர் இனங்களை நேசித்தல், விலங்கு பறவை மரம் செடி கொடி போன்ற தாவர இனங்கள், நடப்பன பரப்பன ஊர்வன முதலிய எல்லா ஜீவன்களையும் ரசித்தல் அன்பு செய்தல், இயன்றால் பராமரித்தல், கற்பு, மானம் காப்பது, இன்னும் இப்படி பல நெறிகள் உள்ளன.நல்லவரிடம் சொல்லவே வேண்டாம். நன்னடத்தை சொல்லி வருவது இல்லை. ரத்தத்தில் வருவது. தாய்ப்பாலுடன் சேர்த்து ஊட்டி வளர்ப்பது. இப்படி ஒரு நேர்த்தியான குடும்ப வாழ்க்கை உங்களது என்றால், கோவிலில் கூட நீங்கள் தெய்வத்தை தேட வேண்டாம். கடவுள் வாழும் இல்லம் உங்கள் இல்லமாகும். உண்மையான பாசிட்டிவிட்டியே இது தானே ஒழிய தவறான போக்கோ தரம் கெட்ட வாழ்க்கை முறையோ அன்று. நம் நடத்தையே நம் குடும்ப மேம்பாட்டிற்கு அடித்தளம். ஒரு குடும்பத்தின் ஆணி வேறானா தாயே சரியில்லை என்றால் அந்த குடும்பமே பாழ் தான். பூர்வ ஜன்ம புண்ணியத்தால் தான் ஓடுவது ஓடிக்கொண்டு இருக்கும். நல்லோர் கூட்டு இதற்கு தான் அவசியம்.நல்லது கெட்டது எது என்று பகுத்து உணர நல்லவர் நட்பே முக்கியம். வீட்டில் பெரியவர் இருந்தால் பார் வைக்க முடியுமா. தர்மம் என்பது இடத்துக்கேற்ப நிர்ணயமாகும். லௌகீக தர்மம் நல்ல மேன்மையான நன்னெறி வாழ்க்கை வாழ்வதே. ஒழுக்கமே இங்கு அடிப்படை. கெட்டாலும் மேன்மக்கள் மேன்மக்களே, சங்கு சுட்டாலும் வெண்மை தரும் என்று இதற்க்கு தான் உரைத்தார். தலையே போனாலும் நெறி தவறாமை முக்கியம். இன்றளவும் இப்பேற்பட்ட நட்பை பெற நான் பாக்கியம் தான் செய்துள்ளேன். தவறை தவறு என்று சுட்டி காட்டி திருத்த உண்மைக்கு பின்வாங்காத நட்பும் சுற்றமும் அவசியம். நம் குழந்தைகளுக்கு நாம் விட்டு செல்வது இந்த செல்வத்தை தான் முதலில். நான் வேண்டுவது எல்லாம், என் குடும்பத்திற்கு ஒழுக்கம், நாணயம், கடின உழைப்பு, நேர்மை, கட்டுப்பாடு இவைதான். ஓரளவு வாழ்க்கைக்கு தேவையான பணம் போதும். அதிகம் இருந்தால் அதுவே ஆல கால விஷம். உழைக்காத பணம் இன்னும் வீண். லௌகீக வாழ்க்கையில் தர்மம் பின்பற்றாத எவருமே கடவுளை கும்பிட்டு பலனில்லை. ஒரு ஓட்டையான பாத்திரத்தில் தண்ணீர் நிரப்பி கொண்டே இருங்கள். நீர் நிறையுமா என்ன. அது போல தான் லௌகீக வாழ்க்கையில் அதர்மத்தை பேணுபவர் நிலையும். அதர்மம் நம்மை என்றும் ஜெயிக்க விடாது. நம் பாட்டிகளுக்கு மறு பிறவியே கிடையாது. கோவிலுக்கு சென்று வழிபட கூட அவருக்கு நேரம் இருந்தது இல்லை. பிள்ளைகளை வளர்த்து, பின் பேர குழந்தைகளை வளர்த்து கொடுத்து, சதா சர்வ நேரமும் அடுக்களையில் உழைத்து ஒய்ந்து தேய்ந்து, வீட்டுக்கு வருவோரை உபசரித்து அன்புடன் வயிறு புடைக்க உணவிட்டு விடைகொடுத்து அனுப்புவது, இதை தவிர எதை கண்டனர். இந்த லௌகீகமே ஒரு தெய்வீகம் தான். ஆலமரமாய் அதனால் தான் நம் குடும்பங்கள் இன்றும் விஸ்தாரமாய் கிளை பரப்பி ஊன்றி நிற்கின்றன. அதன் குளிர் நிழலில் தான் நாம் இன்று இளைப்பாறி கொண்டு இருக்கிறோம். அந்த ஞான பழங்கள் தான் இன்று உண்மையா நமக்கு சோறு போடுவது. இது தான் நாமும் நம் பிள்ளைகளுக்கு முதலில் ஆற்ற வேண்டிய கடமை. இல்லறம் நல்லறம். லௌகீக வாழ்க்கையில் தர்மம் கடைபிடிப்பது, அம்பாளுக்கு மிக பிடித்த ஒன்று. நம் கடமையை நாம் செய்யும் போதும், நாம் அற வழியில் நடக்கும் போதும், அம்பாள் நம் பக்கத்திலேயே துணை நிற்பாள். நம்மிடம் வேள்வி அவள் எதிர்பார்ப்பதில்லை. கோவிலுக்கு கூப்பிடுவதில்லை. நன்றாக உன் கையால் சமை. விருந்தோம்பு. ஒழுக்கம் பேண். நெறி தவறாது நட. இந்து பெண்களுக்கு கற்பு தெய்வீகம் தான். நல் வழி லௌகீகத்தில் அம்பாளுக்கு அவ்வளவு நாட்டம். எனக்கு தெரிந்த ஆன்மீக மக்கள் சொல்ல கேட்டு உரைப்பது இது. லௌகீக தர்மமே இந்த கலி யுகத்தில் உகந்தது, நடைமுறை வாழ்க்கைக்கு ஒத்து வருவது. லௌகீக தர்மம் பேணி நம் வாழ்வை செம்மை செய்வோம்.

Posted in Economic

Great Going!

how one brand captured the lion’s share in the leggings market in India and became a household name in a remarkably shorter time…

One of the most promising starts in recent times, smart entrepreneurship with high yields on low cost investments could be the GO COLORS chain of legging shops that have sprung up in every nook and corner of the city and perhaps entire India. Starting like a typical kirana shop abutting the street corners, not a square inch over the size of a walk-in closet, Go colors boldly sold the lycra stretch pants (leggings) exclusively to go with kurtis, limiting their scope (initially) to mere leggings which was a courageous move that at that point of time could have been considered foolish. There were established brand names doing good business that majorly sold kurtis when Go colors made a modest entry in the sector. Matching the pants was the natural corollary for retailers, so the shopper felt no need to step out of the air-conditioned environs to pair a matching pant/legging to go with the top/kameez. Leggings thus were an add-on and never an entity by themselves, at least until Go colors gave them their due. Leggings market in India also was new and limited in volume mostly because, harem pants, baggies, jeggings, culottes etc., were yet to make a splash if not a proper beginning in the country where mostly the favoured trouser for womenfolk was the unimaginative and simple stringed shalwar. The bigger the better it got, with the Patialas remaining top pick uncontested, complementing too very well the short kurtis. We Indian ladies would not even adapt easily to the elastic waistbands. Traditional Indian clothes continue(d) to be the preferred formal attire. So why should anyone want to open a shop that sold only the leggings that were a curious mix of the east and the west. They went well with the kurtis. They went well with short tops. But then lycras are lycras, aren’t they. One conjured up images of fitness routines with leggings. To connect them to traditional clothing was out-of-box thinking if not vulgar. The boundary was breached but market stayed unexplored. In summers, why would girls want to wear the spandex tights over cool ballooning shalwars. To go for the close intimate fit for outdoor wear, the pair of leggings needed to be real good. Go Colors captured the market with quality fabric, desired length (like ankle length rather than mostly gatherings that was one weak point with brands like Biba or Twin birds), neat finish, thinner strength of material that made it more stretchable, lasting elastic and neutral colours even if pricing was at par with ruling brands. As one of their earliest patrons, what made me go for them was their stretch quality, durability and chic shape and fit. Ankle length suited petite me and the elastic waist band held fast without twisting back or rolling down. Machine washes were fine and the fabric fit exactly into your body contour. To me this is what made Go colors get a sizeable share in the market pie in a hitherto unexplored line of business. From the shelves of mall outlets and retailers as an innocuous ‘also ran’ brand (as I first discovered them years back), the chain took baby steps opening up closet-sized nooks from ceiling to floor pigeonhole display racks neatly and nicely stacked with convenient sizes xs, s, m, l, xl, xxl, xxxl etc. Both gatherings (like churidhar) and ankle lengths were available but the ankle lengths were a massive hit. Even today mostly of the Go color outlets operate out of walk-in closet size nooks only. The trial rooms may be a 1×1 square foot space. Go colors are now simply everywhere: a cubicle in the center of a busy market to open stall in the lookout gallery down the corridor of a posh shopping mall. Curiously the brand is not sold any more by other retailers making it available only in the brand outlets. This single move to me makes Go colors an exclusive club. Only very lately Go colors have expanded floor space wise as slightly larger showrooms surface in shopping districts, strictly catering to ladies bottoms segment. A big risk by the venturer but the gamble paid off in my opinion. Today, Go colors is here to stay and a label to reckon with when it comes to ladies pants. The brand outlets have mushroomed in dozens. Whether they are the chain or franchisees – I have no idea. Whatever, the market share of Go colors has been steadily climbing, as is clearly evident. From leggings, they have now cautiously diversified into jeggings, nightwear, culottes, three fourths, seven by eights and even denims but the bottomline stays the same (pun intended)! There are then the elasticated shalwars and straight pants. The colour range includes sheers and shimmers. For anything and everything to pair with your kurta or kurti – the single brand that comes to your mind these days is GO COLORS. The rules are unlaid: you don’t have to sell designer brands or lacy lingerie or plush accessories to carve a niche in women’s retail. You can do just what Go Colors did, restrict yourselves to a specialized service and excel in the limited scope. Wherever I go now, I try to look for a street or thoroughfare without Go colors! I spotted the brand in Thrissur. In Tirupathi. In Kumbakonam. Where not? In a world where increasingly perfection is deplored to be a weakness, Go colors is living proof as to how perfection is key to success.

Posted in Women & Family

MTP of a Cleft fetus.

Had an interesting and educative discussion on women’s health today with a very young and bright gynecologist related to me. Things came to settle as expected around MTP that none of us women can miss. Recently a fetus that was 30 weeks (5 months) was medically terminated (legally) for cleft lip and palate (one complete side) by the parents. Three back to back surgeries could have reportedly corrected the disfiguration. But the would-be parents being medicos themselves were aware of the far reaching consequences of anomalies in fetus. They opted for MTP when there was still time when the ultrasound scan and other reports came in. It was a long and hard decision. By the way, the baby was a girl (revealed to the parents for medical reasons). The ethics of the matter is worth introspecting. I am precisely pro-choice for this matter. In an era when bulimia is getting rather too common among teens and girls are selling their precious eggs for a silicon implant, why blame the parents for MTP. Birthday and wedding anniversary gifts for the middle-aged women nowadays come in the form of dermal fillers and liposuction packages. How can women obsessed with their body or beauty routine have a moral right to talk about pro-life. Period. The parents were thinking about the emotional and psychological fallout of the girl baby in her teens, if allowed to live. Its worth admitting that an overwhelming majority of parents would have retained the baby opting for the corrective surgery. Such a sad day.

Posted in Food For Soul

Vallalar: first saint in recorded world history to merge with the Jyothi.

i don’t own this image. from Facebook.



தனிப்பெரும்கருணை அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி

The Abrahamics speak of saints and prophets and god’s sons. Hindu Dharma has its fair share of enlightened men. But the merging of the saint Vallalar who lived in the nineteenth century with the Jyothi has gone down in history – to be recorded to posterity, with proper evidence, during British Raj in India. So that puts Vallalar in an entirely different league.

For Chennaiites, Vallalar is a well known saint. We in the city have two ‘Kaval deivams’ – or the protecting deities, as we say: one is Vallalar and the other is Paamban swamigal. I have heard of Vallalar story but reading it once again yesterday penned by a friend moved me totally. We refer to Vallalaar as ‘Arut perunjothi, thaniperum karunai’ in Thamizh always. Vallalaar born as Ramalingam Pillai later known as Ramalinga Adigalar, was known for his religious discourses and ‘samathuvam’ or equality in worship and humanitarian service, which were considered progressive in his times. One fine day, Vallalar asked his disciples to lock him up in a windowless room and throw away the keys and never open it. The room had no opening to anywhere. After months the police opened the bolted room to observe that Vallalaar had disappeared without a trace like a camphor dissolves in thin air. The British recorded the evidence to posterity so that makes Vallalar the first human in history to have merged with the collective conscience in recorded history. Never has this materialized with anyone in the last 2000 years and never has this feat been repeated by any of the saints including by the line of Achcharyas that India has produced or by the Catholics or the Islamists. Many Hindu saints have united with the Jyothi as we grew up learning, but Vallalaar became the first in history to have left irrefutable evidence to humanity with his merger with the Higher conscience, witnessed by locals.

We do have Pamban swamigal and Ramalinga adigal (Vallalar) in our street temple. Even when the archaka installed them in our limited Prahara, I was wondering whether our small worshiping place was getting crowded. Ours is significant because it is a Siddha peetam really with the siddha Nadamuni having had his jeeva samadhi (buried alive for Moksha) in the precincts over which the Shiva Linga (the presiding deity Kambahareshwara) was established. If you take the ancient south Indian temples, most have Siddha peeta or Siddha jeeva samadhis for base over which the Shiva Lingas were installed which lend the temples very powerful aura and strongest vibrations. Even Tirumala – Tirupathi temple was supposedly raised over Siddha peetas. So even if our temple is not popular or is very poor without funds (that we refused to hand over to Tamil Nad govt), we the street people restored it after a century of neglect and we have been ever since trying to manage it with local collections. Try to imagine the Siddha meditating here in my street under the peepal tree with the anthill growing over him and him attaining moksha, some two hundred years ago. India is basically such a holy land. War is the last option for Hindus.

I wanted to write this down originally in Thamizh. I shall try to back it up with Tamil version. This is for now.

My faith in saints (called Sants in Hindu Dharma) who are born Sants is always greater than in those who are ‘cultivated’ by mutts, etc who become ‘gurus’. To me faith is intertwined with service to humanity and there can never be a delink between the two. The rationality and secularism of Vallalaar were unprecedented for his times.

I am posting a link to my friend’s original write-up:

Om Namasivaya! Blessed day. Today is the last Thai Shukravaar, very auspicious day for us. Lalitha Sahasranama Diya Puja at home that I perform every tuesday and friday for 20-30 years now. Followed it up with a recitation of Soundarya Lahari. Jaggery Pongal homecooked offered to Mundagakkanni Amman in Mylapore before dashing for a closeup darshan of none other than Karpahambal at Kapaleeshwara temple. Rounded off the day with a sneak peak at Valleeswara from the street as well as at Renuka Parameshwari. Bliss.

Wishing all peace and happiness. Rise over pettiness and lowly existence to noble heights. Evolve.

Posted in Mylapore Musings

In loving memory of Vani Jayaram

She was our proud alumna, schoolmate of my mother and my chithi (batchmate?), our school SPL in her days when her full name was Kalaivani. She was a star student who topped her class. She got all India popular with her rendition of ‘bolere papi hara’ in Guddi when she lent her voice to Jaya Baduri Bachchan. Recalling our batch’s 25th reunion some years back when she was our chief guest. She sang the song for us girls. Sharing for a brief time the interaction we had with her. Unforgettable. Om Shanthi. Madam, every time I would pass through your street, your house in Alwarpet, I would think of you with a smile on my face. Huge respects. Beautiful voice, subtle sweet soul, a life lived in dignity and grace. Old timer, rare.

I think I have a group photo of us girls with her. Will dig for it.

Posted in Food For Soul

Reckoning Senility.

Although I have a long day today (even as a housewife) I feel compelled to blog this first thing this morning.

I unlock my doors when I have my first cuppa for my househelp to enter without knocking. By 7 am today I was wondering whether I should be going for a second coffee even as I was scrolling my phone. I heard my outer pair of double doors open first and was surprised because, there was time yet for my parttime help to arrive. Then the inner single door opened and an old Kerala woman in kasavu sari in her eighties stepped into my living. Seeing me on the couch, confused her and finally realization dawned on her. Then she apologized and left saying, she mistook my doors for the ground floor grills leading to carpark and entrance to our apartments. Her brother had passed away early this week. In this grand old age, apparently she had boarded the train to pay a visit to the bereaved family. I said it was okay but it hit me right then, what old age can do to you. There is no way one can mistake my double doors for an exit to the street. In a single moment I understood what it is about senility that is bothersome. But it is remarkable that the lady has traveled upto Chennai (in all probability with a companion). Physically she seems to be in a far better shape given her age. My guess is that, she wanted to take a walk as she could not be going to temple too soon given the loss in the family. That she is independent enough in the city or wants to be, seems promising. But senility can be really scary. The octogenarian’s confusion for a minute saddened me. She wore that bewildered look as if she was lost. There was even a hint of fear in those eyes that I did not miss. She composed herself quickly which means, her mind is still sharp. New environs and unsteady feet may have unsettled her. Brave of her to venture out and explore the place.

I do have older women in family. Much sharper! As we age, mental health may seem to take predominance over physical health. We can manage every single ailment or disease with medication or surgery. What must be preserved is our mental capacity from becoming casualty to dementia or Alzheimer’s. Working the brain is of even more importance over physical workouts. Exercising the memory power assumes far greater significance. Its a gift to die knowing that your time has come.