Saturday, December 05, 2009

This is it...

Its been a year and a half, since I last felt this amazing impossibility to open my eyes in the morning, sleeping in the smallest room of Upasana... the place that still strangely still feels closest to being 'home'...a year and a half since I was in Chennai. Singara Chennai.

So there I was...riding my good old scooty,(Basanti 'reloaded' as it was lovingly named by good old friends), in the narrow streets of Mylapore Tank. One of those streets that are smugly flanked on either side by vegetable sellers, and flower sellers, with pedestrians everywhere, making you wonder if the road was built for cars at all...and then a huge toyota innova comfortably zooms past you, with a continuous honk...and you open your eyes wide, half-expecting to see blood on the road as a result of some traumatic accident...but all's good, and you will never understand how. But coming back to the point - we were on a scooty riding on this road, and suddenly, in the middle of the road, right in the middle of the road, we see this humongous structure made of leaves. This structure... 15 feet tall, and maybe around 7 feet long just stood there on the road, in front of a temple, and all the other million scooties and pulsars made their way around it. What the cars did, I do not know. There it was... total chaos. Bikes all over, pedestrians all over, people building the 'structure' walking to and from the stack of leaves... and my dear brother said the exact words that were in my mind - THIS, can happen only in India. So we rode on, making our way around the 'structure' on the great south mada street, to reach destination: Karpagambal mess. A place I've heard my brother rave about for years! After a breakfast that felt like it would keep us full for the day we stepped out, my brother complaining about how the standard of the food had come down so totally, and what a shame it was that I hadn't eaten in the place when it was at its yummy best, and what an idiot I was for missing it. Sigh.

Some things never change. Some things might, but I can't even start to explain how glad I am that my relationship with Chennai hasn't changed one bit. I love it for the same reasons I did before, and detest the same things as I did.

Paati's hot-sweet-ginger-tea still has its charm. I don't think any other tea will ever make me feel like her tea does.
The potholes are still horrible, and immensely annoying.
The roads are still dug out just before the rains, and is never covered up, as a result of which one's patiala pants unhappily encounter spots of rich brown slush!
The traffic rules are still changing dynamically, increasing the number of one-ways. I still find it maddening, and want to write a blog post about it each time I'm on the road!
I still sing the same song when I'm on my scooty. I think its been the same for over 2 years now. The humming bit in hey goodbye nanba, follwed by the 2 paragraphs and never the main lines.
Riding on boat club road is still pure bliss...
Street dogs have the same effect on me. I still want to run, and I still think they want to follow me and bite me.
Anantram Periappa's coffee still tastes better than any coffee day or barista coffee.
Suriya sweets vazhaikai bajji is something else. Nothing better in the evenings, no matter how much oil my thatha's dinamalar paper can suck out of it!
Saravanabhavan sambar vadai is still THE thing! I found myself giving my mamas strange looks when they insisted on eating medhu vadai with a spoon in Saravanabhavan. It took me sometime to realise that at our table of 5, i was the only one blissfully using my hands to eat, and it made me strangely happy!
Orange kucchi ice still costs 5Rs. It has, for the last i-don't-know-how-many years!

And I could go on...

But some things have changed...
Someone cut down the awesome gulmohar tree outside our balcony when I was away... I might have pulled off a 'chipko' if I was here!
Suriya sweets now has a separate stall for bajjis and puffs and weird buns. For some reason, I'm just not able to accept it!
Raniamma went back to thirupathi. I miss her. I dreamed of her. twice. I was wondering if I might go looking for her someday!
My pin-up board is EMPTY. Sigh.
Aunty closed her shop :( Now I have no idea where to find the second best corn florentine in the city! And I blame it on aunty that Nidhee and I haven't had a date yet!
I've just started to realise tha pains of jewellery shopping. I sincerely wish this shall be the last time I would have to do it, even though it is the first! Maybe I'll save this for another post!

I love Chennai. Just being here...the spirit of it. I know I'll come back stay.

For some reason... I'm going to dedicate this post to Sukanya Venkataraman. Maybe there are some vague reasons... For what she did today. And for giving me the most excited welcome I've had. Suk, I can't even start to explain how it felt to open that box. I swear, if it came to Aus, i'd have cried for a very long time. Thank you. I instinctively wanted to give you one long hug... I let it pass. So here's your lost hug - <3 :) Plus you'd told me not to touch you ;) Lol... Love you! And, I'm going to keep up my post card promise. Maybe not once a month, but atleast now and then.

Yours "Sorgame endraalum..."ly
Signing off...

Monday, August 31, 2009


“Its all in the upbringing...” I’d hear people say...all around me. And slowly, I started believing it as well... and I would find myself passing comments like “a well brought-up kid!”. Sheesh, wonder how old one can rightfully be to pass comments like that ;) Thank heavens there aren’t such restrictions! I can almost hear a number of people I know saying “molachu moonu yelai vidala, adhukula pesara pecha paaru!” But coming back to the point, or trying not to lose perspective (!), I think I did, and I still do believe that a large part of one’s personality is directly or indirectly related to how he/she has been brought up... in most cases, directly. In my case, definitely, directly.

Maybe I’m thinking about this because of the exponential rise in my watching TV shows (fiction, and true life stories) on how a child’s “growing-up” environment affects the mental state, and what sort conditions result in serial killers and psychopaths (sigh, this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you haven’t watched TV for over a year, and are suddenly re-introduced to it! The madness, I tell you, is very amusing!). Apart from realising how nice it is to have some form of entertainment, its made me feel...lucky. I think at some point, its important for us to reflect upon how smooth things have actually been, relative to so many other people’s lives... so maybe sometimes, we should stop thinking about our share of problems (which I should say, each person will always have!) and just be thankful...and say a little prayer.

So, I, for one, could now take a deep breath, and think about my “Rasna-kudumi” days, where I assume, I must have hopped, skipped and jumped around with a fountain-like ponytail emanating from the very centre of my skull, and a flowery frock, frilly and lacy, with a belt fastened in a bow at the back, in an attempt to give a neat appearance. Of course I am currently leaving out the opposite scenario where-in my frock would be gloriously soiled with the belt undone (as my shoe laces are these days!), and my fountain ponytail would be pushed to one side, my arms and feet would be as dirty as could get, and probably, the cherry on the cream would be a dripping nose from a cold...AND I’d run home to ammmmmaaaaaa, crying, with insect bites everywhere, knowing a tad too well that the ultimate question would come any moment – “Mannu la yaaru vilayada sonnadhu?” But the darlings that mothers are, they know what to ignore and what to take care of, and thusly, the crocodile tears shall be promptly ignored, as it could never be more evident that those rivers flowing down the little devil’s cheeks are but a facade to escape reprimands, but the insect bites shall be taken care of with ointment, and if severity persists – Avil! Such were the good old days ;). And such, is the judgement of mothers.

So today, I can think about it all on a day-to-day basis, and smile about it... I can think of all the hours my mom would have spent trying to shove rasam saadam down my throat when i now make rasam... I can think of how I abstained from lemon rice for years together, after the ‘good old days’ when a younger (perhaps, cuter!) me, used to call it ‘elipili saadam’... until Brisbane brought me back to it, in the name of convenience! I can think of the times I first started chopping vegetables to help in the kitchen, and how I still follow those techniques to the tiniest detail, and so many other small things that we don’t pay much attention to...and we hardly ever realise that we do them in that particular way because we were taught that way... and we were taught in such way, and at such a time in our lives, that it just got into our heads and never left... sort of like the person who taught you all that has left a permament imprint in your life, and you take it wherever you go, and it forever reminds you of them.

And then there’s the other side... the way you look at the world, the way you are with people... one’s priorities and things close to heart... one could argue that a large part of such things is determined by your peer group, your mentors, and the likes. Well... I believe it all starts at home... and everything is just a direct or an indirect result of it. Ultimately, wherever in the world you are, that’s where you go back to... family.

So... it IS all in the upbringing, isn’t it?

If you were conscious about the possibility that your actions and reactions reflect upon your upbringing, would you strive to be better? To give back to your parents what they’ve given you? To make them proud when they hear your praises from the world? To allow them to feel a warm glow about having done the right things for you? To give them peace of mind that they did good, and they can now sit back and watch what you do with your kids?

I would. Not because I think its some sort of obligation or duty I have to fulfil... but because I think they deserve the best. And, truly, its not very difficult to make people happy... So, why not do what you can?
So now... i’ll do what I said we should do... say a little prayer, and be thankful...

Happy Birthday amma ...

Yours “Uyirum neeye...Udalum neeye...Uravum neeye, thaaye” ly
Signing off...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

and so...

Odum kaalangal...
Udal odum ninaivugal...
Vazhi maarum payanangal...

Signing off...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Greys...and Abstract Revelations

Let me take this opportunity, on this auspicious saturday night, with the sound of moving vehicles filling my ears, and snoring sounds echoing in empty spaces of this huge the clouds engulf the stars with their ethereal greyness, and the winds beckon to the drizzle to join them on their mysterious the sole glowing lamp in this household seemingly blinks at intervals, and as the massive typing of keys dwells in pride for being the only sound that teases the the air emanating from the sinusoidal breathing of 4 mortals in their blissful state of slumber (and 1 (im)mortal) stirs all stillness and the chill finds comfort on carpets and beds, blankets and one mind wanders into non-existent, unlikely, untrodden land and and one heart hesitantly reaches out to a presently unattainable mist of a pair of eyes long to look beyond that opening in the clouds and a premature thought tricks the mind into fabricating neverland, to chance upon paradise a face with closed eyes remains half raised towards the open skies awaiting the return of the breeze and as a pair of ears mildly sense the melancholies of promises (un)made..songs (un)sung...whispers (un)said...

To (finally) tell you that... Life, is Beautiful. Life is simple and complex. Life is hazy and clear. Life is definite and ambiguous. Life is true and fake. Life is Treble and Bass. Life is ruthless and giving. Life is real and surreal. Life is a loss and a fairytale. Life is demanding and magnanimous. Life is separation and confluence...Life is confluence... Life is black and white....

But its not... Life... is Grey. The Grey...most prominent, seeming almost permanent. But... its beautiful nonetheless.

A large part of this post goes out to the part of my mind that has been travelling to places unrealised with Confluence of Elements, by Bombay Jaishree. An album so rightly named. Confluence of element... so abstract. Its true. The album would be a confluence of different things to different people... to me, its just so many things i can't even define. It just seems to bring the whole world in a swirl, making you feel like you're witnessing some kind of dance of life...a slow perfect harmony with everything...with yourself... waltzing away into the inner core of your being...pleasantly. Beautifully.

Niv said "her voice sounds like dew drops in the morning"... Jess said "She's something else. Her voice has this magic tinge"... so true. One feels utterly hypnotised. In a trance... brought upon by an immensely soulful voice. She sings every song like she means those words to the last syllable, and makes you feel like what you heard just made you feel slightly less solid...left you slightly less composed...triggered your conscience in an inexplicable way...gave you a combined feeling of tranquility and being-messed-up-in-the-head at the same time...just drove you through your maze, and helped you get out of it...just threw on your heart this invisible blanket of joy and sorrow that makes you want to cry...just swallowed you into you lost yourself, to the unknown, and you wish it'll never revert back... just inspired you, like never before. Never before...

To Jayashree Ramanathan. Thankyou...for this album...for being the light at the end of the tunnel...for being the rainbow and the pot of gold at the end of it...for being sanity...for being ultimate glowing etherial-ness...for being the realm of almost-reachable liberation...

Mokshamu galada... bhuvilo jeevan muktulu...kani varuluku

Irakkam...varaamal ponadh-enna kaaranam?

Saramathi. Behag. Kaapi.

Yours "Purandhara...vitalana..." ly
Signing off...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Upasana Arattais

Upasana. I associate the word with so many things, its difficult to point a finger at one thing. Maybe I could say it was truly...home. I don't think I've felt more at home anywhere else. And I'm not sure when I'll feel so at home again. Sometimes I wonder what makes it so special... wonder why I felt such a strong belonging, considering the fact that my parents weren't always around... maybe it is because I know that I spent some of the best years of my life there...learnt...grew...evolved as a person...the person I am today...shaped by all the happiness...the laughter...the tears.

But more than that, I think its other small things that tied me to it, and make me yearn for it even today. Ginger-tea evenings, Suriya sweets Vazhakai-bhajji, random conversations with the periya-meesai watchman and the lady who swept the place, sunsets from the terrace, sunday afternoon naps, pep-talks and not-so-pep-talks with so many friends, marathon watching Friends and House M.D., the gulmohar...

But even more than all of that... the arattai sessions! The people... the activity (which was sometimes immensely annoying!), someone forever walking in and out of that door, the door-bell ringing every other minute, the telephone yelling for attention, the television blaring with kolangal music, Paati arguing with Raniamma about drying the clothes when she's doing her 'madi' samayal (!), cable-kaaran paal-kaari wanting money all the time (sort of reminding you that its the beginning of a new month!), a mixture of loud carnatic music and Rahman's beats (and mostly, with the TV yelling as well!), the smell of rasam and kothamalli thogayal... and the sound of people talking. Maamis and aunties, mamas... thatha paati amma... Karthik and Visu. And during 'season' Chitti, Sanjana, Sandhya...

The dining table of that house would be the most entertained being in the world! So enriched with gossip and drama, and once in a while, serious talk, sensible talk ;) Every evening over tea and biscuits (AND thattai, murukku and other norukku!), every night - all the dinner discussions and even other times of the day, random talk! My memory stretched back to the one year my brother stayed in that house, and the million conversations thatha had with him and Karthik on what sort of girls are 'ok' to fall in love with, him justifying his caste specifications with vegetarianism! Each person's legs getting pulled in turns... on to college gossip that Kar and me shared over dinner religiously, each time taking the conversation into the airconditoned room and continuing through the night (or some other philo topic, or otherwise, mosre frequently, on realtionships!) And then Visu filling me in with all the ridiculous happenings of his college, and bringing me up to date with the latest crap-lingo with short forms and long forms! Sigh...

And then there were the numerous conversations with amma, on so many issues! Chopping veggies with her, listening to her complain about my dressing sense (Aal paadhi, aadai paadhi!)...and with Paati, about the future (her kollu perans and pethis!), and the past - her Madurai life...with thatha...on books (repeated discussions about the same part of the same book so many times!), music , and his good old days as an auditor (and the fantastic food he ate - Oru dosai, oru kaapi!)...with Raniamma, about how I should get married ASAP!

Well I guess the good part about Nostaligia is re-living those moments...and putting up posts like this to remember things years down the lane... I know things can never be the same at Upasana... painful as it is to realise, we have indeed grown up. We live in, as my paati would put it "yedhedho moolai"s (corners) of the world, and meeting each other becomes celebration... We thankfully have enough good memories to last a lifetime... to make us smile whenever we think back at those days... when i walk into that house again, I'm sure I'll hear echoes...of laughter, of happiness...of a time that was so beautiful, I'd give anything to have it back again...

Flat No.8, Upasana
Old No.48, New No. 64,
Ist Main road, R.A.Puram
Chennai - 600 028

Yours "Ninaivugal...yendrendrum" ly
Signing off...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Anubhavam. Moksham. Delirium.

Connected, yet so disconnected. Woven in the same web...yet, each an individual strand. Anubhavam, Moksham, Delirium. Three words that have held my interest for way too long now.

This is not the first time this blog claims a mention of my carnatic music classes. Its weird how things change so much with time. Songs that you listened to in passing years back, suddenly seem to hold so much all depends on what you relate to at different phases of life, doesn't it? I've been learning carnatic music for so many years's been so on and off, i can't even figure out how many years. Maybe 10. But 5, for sure. And now, at this point in life, when I'm no longer on my 3-days-a-week-1.5hours-each classes schedule, is when the beauty of this art has dawned upon my being, entirely. My grandfather would be proud to know that I am now capable of losing myself to this floaty, yet so profound force...and find ultimate solace in it. Satisfaction inexplicable...forgetting the rest of the world...forgetting oneself...being lost in the myriad of feelings something abstract imparts...something that one probably doesn't understand...something that can make its way into the depths of one's psyche with a single variation in tune...something that ultimately pulls you into it so intensely that you feel strangely drunk with it...your head so full of it, that it throbs. And stays. Drunken...with tranquility...with music...with faith...with the mystic force - a divine combination of liberation and surrender...Moksham. Bombay Jaishree's Anubhavam.

Anubhavam. The story comes back a full circle. I have very faint memories of 'Anubhavam' being listened to by my mother over and over again at home in Kenya... the Ngong house... the days when I attended music classes for the sole reason that I was forced to do so...the days I was the stubborn teenager, who even for a minute, wouldn't consider her mother's requests to learn one song and sing it for her. It took me a good 7 years to find that particular memory in my sea of thoughts, and finally comply with my mother's request from years ago... It was the first time I walked up to my music teacher with a song, its lyrics, and said that I want to learn that song, at any cost. And then waited...patiently...for the process to take shape. I don't think I 'felt' any other song more when i was learning it...and when i was convinced that the song was polished enough in my head for my mother to hear it, I recorded it...for the fear of choking if I sang it to her in person... Mother's day, 2007. Bhavayami Gopalabalan. A part of Bombay Jaishree's Anubhavam. Amma's favourite song. It became my prayer. It still is. My prayer. My strength. My tears. My solace.

I never really stopped singing it since the time I learnt it. But rediscovering it in this album...made me dream of amma and me sitting at the dining table at the Ngong house, chopping vegetables, this time, both of us lost in Bhavayami,instead of her alone... I've promised myself I'll make a trip to Kenya just for this...Just to look at her face when she's drowned in the depths of Yamuna-Kalyani...and know exactly what she's going through. Listening to my Brother sing it recently was a differnt experience altogeher...Its like some unfathomable force of nature bound our family to the song... Bhavayami... like the song was destined to change my life in more ways than one.

I've been going through a deliriously intense period with this music. Something at a higher level than addiction... Delirium. Two very different things claim the 'Delirium' tag at this point of time... Carnatic music and...Science. This insane compulsion to keep working even if you feel like it could kill you. This perpetual feeing that you're at the brink of a discovery, even if you aren't...the curiosity...the crazy hours...the brain-storms...the passion... Biology. Science. Bliss. Working with science at its roots.

Jantabhayaga vinu, Ventaramani vedu konti Bhadragiri Ramadaasa poshaka...

Happy Green Ball. PQR.

Yours "Niratha kara kalitha Navaneetham..." ly
Signing off....