2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Ra One

“The most expensive mid-life crisis of  KIng Khan”
“Atrocious movie! Don’t even go there!”
“The most confused movie ever!”
This is all I’ve been hearing about Ra-One since its release.
Still curious, I booked tickets for the earliest available show. 11.30 am on a Tuesday. I dragged two of my equally curious friends to bunk work & come with me.
Don’t know if the Gods didn’t approve, but the sky darkened with rain clouds when I was just about to leave. I drove on in a snail’s pace in the heavy traffic.
At 11.15, I was still about 4 kms from the theatre. To take my mind off the the tension, I looked out of the window, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.
A lungi-clad man was cajoling a lady in the platform. She pushed him away. he said something to her. Next second, she was beating her chest and bawling. In a trice, she was prone on the platform, rolling around, still beating her chest.

By the time I could make any sense of the scene I had to move on.

And then the rain came in torrents.

I couldn’t see what was in front of my car. Purely by intuition, I managed to reach the multiplex at 11.30. Panic-stricken I called my friends. They were still on their way, stuck in traffic at various parts of the city. After assuring them that I’ll come to the entrance to get them, I ran in with my tickets, umbrella & a soggy hand bag. Found my seat & settled down. Thank God, the movie had not started.

Anyway, once the movie started, all the comments in the beginning of this blog started coming to me in bits & pieces.

By then, my friends had joined me too & all three of us watched in horror as Shah Rukh Khan ate noodles with curds. With his hands. And spoke such terrible Tamil. (I’ve known white skins speak much better Tamil than that!)

What was he thinking? And as if he suddenly realised he’s offended the most seedha saadha of clans, he had to rope in Rajnikanth, just to stand around, so Kareena can worship him.

Come on! We’re not THAT stupid!

Anyway, while we got over all this & was seriously contemplating going back to work, it got funny. Not intentionally though. We just had to sit around to watch where this was going.

The villain from the game Shah Rukh designed comes alive! Ooh! Scary! He wants to kill Shah Rukh’s son! (Someone please give that boy a haircut!)

Shah Rukh dies valiantly, while saving his son.

And after a mad chase around London, which involves crashing into buses, toppling of cars in slow-mo & many such scenes, the villain corners Kareena & bad haired boy.

And guess who comes to the rescue?

G- One the hero from the game. Of course that’s played by Shah Rukh too.

The story gets crazier and crazier after that.

In a nutshell, after a few scenes of karva chauth, bithday parites, songs, dance & more fights later,  good triumphs over evil.

But I must admit, despite all the flaws in the story, this film is technically brilliant. Very slick & the special effects are stunning.

The songs are good too.

Watch it if:

1. You’re a die-hard Shah Rukh fan.

2. If you’re a naive 7 year old who loves video games.

3. If you desperately need something nonsensical to distract you from your woes.

The 9 to 5 Yogi – Book Review

I picked up this book from the ‘New Arrivals’ section in a nearby bookstore, because it seemed interesting (& I am a sucker for self-help books)

This is a very simple book, which uses a fictitious character called Uma, who’s a stressed-out, over-worked corporate professional, who regains control of her life through the author’s timely intervention.

The author hand holds Uma through the basic principles of Ayurveda. First, she takes Uma to a vaidya, of whom she’s a bit sceptical in the beginning, but  gradually starts to respect for decoding her with just a look & a touch.

Chapter by chapter the author takes Uma (& the reader) through various simple practices like deep breathing, exercising, sipping more water instead of caffaine, bathing right, moisturising your skin, etc. She even has a chapter giving us her best-loved recipes full of taste and nourishment – chickpea salad, yellow dal, rice keer.. all simple, but delicious.

She does not approve of us popping over-the-counter pills for acidity. Instead recommends sipping bioled water with cumin seeds, pepper, etc.. to ease our stomachs…

She’s of the opinion that going to an allopathic doctor is a bit like going to the mall & get a ready-made dress. They’re basically divided into small, medium & large & you take your pick.

But it is you who know your body intimately. You’ve been living in it for so many years. It gives you signals when something is wrong. So why go to somebody who can only look at it from outside and at best can only guess and use his/her intuition to treat you?

(I must say that most alternative healers take a potshot at allopathy, but I guess its only because there has been wide-spread misuse both sides. There are allopathy doctors who are more interested in money than healing and there are quacks who claim to practice alternative healing who totally has no clue about what they’re doing. So I take this mutual mistrust with a pinch of salt)

But this is definitely not just a handbook on ayurveda… Though simply written peppered with a lot of “oohs !” & “aahs!” from Uma (which I personally found annoying), the book is a very sensible read. Its only when I read it for the  second time, did I fully grasp the principal mantra behind the book.

Which is, “Be kind to yourself”

It is a very profound mantra these days, because  we subject our own selves to enormous stress caused by pressures at work, home, family, friends,& generally run around like a car without a driver.

This book like any good self-help book, puts you back on the driver’s seat & teaches you to take charge!

In essence, the very simplicity of this book is its greatest strength.

I’m impressed!

Mothers’ day…

Yesterday, my fb page was full of friends wishing all a very happy mothers’ day.

There are a few who think all this mothers’ day, fathers’ day, sisters’ day, brothers’ day, friendship day, women’s day, men’s day etc. are all recent trends marketed by greeting card companies.

And there are a few who believe that the perception of motherhood differs greatly in the west. They need one day in a year to stop and thank the person who has nourished them from when they’re born. “What’s the use of sending her to an old age home and ignore her 364 days of a year and suddenly honour her one day?” they ask.

Of course western mothers are also a lot unlike our own homegrown Nirupa Roy kind of mothers. They do not cling to their babies from day one. A baby sleeps alone in a separate room with only a beeper for company from the day he/she comes home from the hospital.

Children are taught to feed themselves and be independent long before they take their first steps.

I am no way suggesting the mothers there are hearltess, selfish creatures who ignore the needs of their young ones, but the rules of growing up are very different.

I just cannot imagine a mother here, sending her child to bed without supper if he/she misbehaves. Of course, a whack in the back is perfectly normal, but not feeding your child is definitely not.

We see mothers clinging to their babies long after the babies themselves have babies.

I just finished reading a book called ‘Aftertaste’ by Namita Devidayal where the central character is a mother universally called ‘Mummyji’ who establishes a flourishing sweet business in Mumbai when her huband loses all his money. The story follows her struggle in the early years and how she manipulates her four children by creating small insecurities, pitching one against another and makes sure she never loses control over her family fortunes.

A gritty lady for whom whose calamities only makes her strong, who remains a formidable influence in all her childrens’ life till she breathes her last.

A very interesting read which gives us a sneak peek into the minds of  an all-powerful mother, her simple, but malleable husband, their simple-minded eldest son and his family, a spoilt & beautiful, but perpetually insecure elder daughter, a meek and quiet younger daughter & a rebellious and belligerent youngest son.

The importance and influence of a kick ass mother in her children’s lives kept me riveted to this book. I just couldn’t help thinking what an awesome power a woman can have on her world if she’s strong enough.

The book ends with her children feeling strangely liberated after her death and all her carefully & secretly stashed wealth remains undiscovered.

The moral of her story – Family and love are much more important than money.

A simple moral, but told in a very interesting narration which flows from one character to another so seamlessly.

Anyway, this post is not exactly a book review, so let me come back to mothers’ day.

As I was saying a mother & motherhood  in India is an all-powerful phenomena than elsewhere in the world. She can create, destroy, nourish & nurture at her will.

Before anyone points out that women are still oppressed in most parts, let me tell you behind every oppressing man, stands an oppressing mother or grandmother or an aunt who directs the puppet man. Man or woman, the way we treat others around us is primarily taught only by our mothers.

So here’s wishing a belated mothers’ day to the all-powerful, all-knowing Indian Maa!

Happy 2011!

I spent the New years with a close set of friends and as we all sat around talking, the topic of New Year’s resolutions came up. A friend promptly took over the role of Emcee and went around with an imaginary mike in his hands, asking each of us to say a few words about our respective resolutions.

The scene took me back years ago to a similar setting. I had just landed a job in an ad agency as a trainee, and was invited to a New Year’s party at my immediate boss’s house.

It was so impromptu that it took my strict tam-brahm parents totally by surprise. Here I was, lounging in front of the TV sipping my cuppa after a hard day’s work and someone screamed my name.

I dragged myself to the verandah to see a colleague on his scooter. “Hey! Come on! N asked me to pick you up for a party at her place!” He said with great urgency. He spotted my dad peeping from the drawing room. “Uncle!” He screamed above the roar of his scooter. “I’m here to collect your daughter to a party in our boss’s house, in T” (It was hardly 3 minutes from my place) He said in pukka tam-brahm tamil. Before my baffled parents could respond I was off with him with a hurried goodbye.

Though she was my boss, she was hardly a few years older to me and I learnt that the New Year’s party was an annual affair at her place with full family in attendance with a few close friends too.

The party was great fun.  My friend’s super stylish older sister and her husband danced away to some fast numbers with their small sons.  Her dad was a great sport and was pottering around with the music. Her mom made sure she fed us at regular intervals. They had one more couple over other than my office crowd.

At midnight my friend ran to her garden, took out a list of her New Year wishes and set fire to it. Apparently that’s a tradition she’s been following it deligently since childhood.

I don’t remember much else from that night except me with 2 more female colleagues who opted to stay over, retired in a cosy bedroom upstairs and talked the rest of the night away.(the colleague with the scooter preferred riding back all the way back home which was literally at the other end of town)

Did N’s dreams come true that year? I never found out since I quit the job in a couple of months, but I’ve kept in touch with her through the years and she seems to have a happy contended life, so I guess they did.

Personally I never believed in making resolutions every year. I do make my resolutions from time to time, but they don’t seem to co incide with December- January. Its scary to make rules for myself which I have to follow one whole year!

So on that aforementioned evening, when it was my turn to announce my resolutions, I said ” My resolution is not to have any.”

But since I’m getting too much flak from my family & friends on my lethargy & general shabbiness, I’ve decided to make one resolution a day & make sure I follow it through. And today’s was “Post something on my blog!”

So here it is, folks!

A very very Happy 2011 to everyone! ( I know I’m late, but my next resolution is to work on my lethargy!)

Endhiran- Movie Review

A few years ago, I had been to a wedding in a popular hotel in the city.  The adjacent banquet hall was also hosting a wedding. But the difference was, the bride was an actor’s daughter.

Not surprisingly, the hotel was packed with fans from the gates almost till the banquet hall, eagerly awaiting their favourite stars’ entries. Every single one of them was armed with their mobile phones, aimed and ready to capture their demi gods.

I had to go down a spiral stair-case to reach my destination. Holding on to my sari dearly, clutching the gift in one hand and making sure my two and a half feet son was holding on to his dad and not  getting stamped upon by eager fans, I went down the steps rather nervously. When I was mid-way, all the cameras started clicking violently and  there was a major commotion. It was all a flurry of  flashes and people brushing past me up the stairs and excited screams of people. As I neared the lower level I saw our own T.R. waving to his fans both sides and climbing up the stairs in style.

Later, on the way back home I shared my amazement with my husband, about how T.R. was still so popular.

“The crowd just went wild, didn’t they?” I asked him. “There was total madness and people literally pushed me off the stairs to get a glimpse of him!”

I lurched forward as he screeched on the brakes. “Get off my car. Take an auto!” he said in an even voice.

“What? Why???” I looked at him in confusion.

“You thought the fans went mad like that for TR? Didn’t you see Rajnikanth coming up the stairs? He brushed against you, for heaven’s sake!”

“WHAT????” I squealed.

“Yes! And he was right there wearing a white kurta, inches away from you, blind bat!”

All I remembered was a flurry of white and lots of men running up.

How did I miss him, I wondered in amazement.

*********

Seeing Endhiran took me back to that day.

Rajnikanth is not  numero uno for nothing. He makes no bones about his age. He’s definitely not handsome in the conventional way.

But his energy and screen presence more than make up for any lack.

My son is not very comfortable watching movies in the theatre. At 6, he’s still terrified of the noise. Last time, after barely settling down in my seat, I had to carry him home sobbing because he was terrified of Nazar’s introductory scene in a movie, thanks to the dramatic (and ear-shattering) music and  wide-angle, tight close-ups!

He came along this time because he’s older now and he’d seen the trailers and loved the fighting.

After 10 minutes into the movie, he turned to me and broke the awed silence in the theatre by asking me rather  loudly, ‘Amma! who is Rajnikanth?” Terrified I may get lynched, I whispered, “Sh… You just saw him. He’s the scientist…”

The three hours we spent in the theatre was gripping to say the least. From the beginning to end there was no slack in the story.  I’m not getting into the story because its been too widely written about.

The movie is illogical in a few places (like how can a machine fall in love??? puleaaase!) but thoroughly entertaining. Every scene is a visual treat.

I’d read reviews about Ash looking really aged in Raavan, but here she was as glamorous as ever and what clothes!

The songs are nothing to write home about (not one is hummable or memorable) but the picturisation and the locations literally took my breath away! Wow!

On the whole it is a must-watch for Rajni fans. And I suppose this is the second film Shankar has actually moved from his oft -repeated Robinhood theme. (Jeans being the first)

The special effects are mind-blowing. Truly international. Danny is uber-cool. And Sujatha’s dialogues are brilliant.

But  I feel the comedy track doesn’t really gel.

My son jumped on to my lap when Danny’s robot tried to kill him. He started screaming “This is scary, Amma! Take me home!! Now!”

When I tried to calm him down and told him I wanted to see the movie, he screamed even louder “You can see it on TV! It’ll come on POGO! Please, Amma!”

A bribe of more Pepsi worked wonders(I know, I know, I’m a bad mother. But what to do? I had no intention walking away from the movie half way through) and in the climax scene, even he was glued to the screen. “Amma, this is so awesome!” he said, wonder-struck as all the Rajni robots joined together in magnificent formations. The snake particularly was big hit with him.

Oh I just loved the evil Rajni! What style! What elan! Nobody could have done this role but him. I couldn’t help clapping and screaming to his manic laughter, much to my son’s disgust.

The climax and the ending were just brilliant. Like I said, the movie did not slack even a bit.

If I ever see him in person again, I may just fall at his feet and yell, “Thalaivaa!!!! Konnutteenga!!

Puppy Love

My son looked morose when I picked him up from school the other day.

“What happened da?” I asked him sympathetically. Words tumbled over each other and were punctuated with sobs all the way home.

I deciphered the story with great difficulty. His best friend G did not sit with him for lunch. Instead he sat with S, my son’s current crush.

“He not only sat with her, but  teased me all the time and they laughed at me!” he sobbed. ” He’s not my friend anymore!” he declared vehemently.

“Don’t say that!” I soothed him. “G is your best friend and will be very sad if he hears it”

“Its okay, Amma. he already knows.” he said.

“How?”

“I told him.”

The whole evening was spent on dissecting the lunch hour and plotting a suitable revenge. I tried my best to divert him with stories, games and even TV, but he kept going back to that dreaded lunchtime.

Later that night, my husband (who had no clue of his son’s heartbreak) was helping him brush his teeth.

“Appa..” he called sadly. “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow!”

“Why?”

“I want S to sit with me tomorrow for lunch.”

“So?. Just ask her.” replied my husband with a forced nonchalance. (he was most uncomfortable discussing matters of the heart with his little son)

“I can’t do that! ” He cried plaintively. “The teacher assigns us the lunch table and S will sit next to G tomorrow also and he’ll tease me and both of them will laugh and laugh at me!” Saying this, he flung his toothbrush and sobbed uncontrollably.

Now, I didn’t know whom I should help.

My husband had the classic deer caught in the headlights expression and my son was still sobbing.

I just slipped out as noiselessly as I could and ran back to my comp to catch up on facebook.

The men can sort out their problems without me, for a change.

Half an hour later, I peeped in the bedroom to find my son fast asleep and the father stealthily walking towards the door.

“Phew!” he said, collapsing on the sofa.

“So? How did the counselling session go?” I asked him.

He glared at me. ‘Thanks for running away like that, leaving me to handle it!” he said.

“Excuse me! I have been ‘handling’ it since afternoon! Anyway, what did you say to him?” I couldn’t wait to hear the fatherly advice.

“I was totally flabberghasted.” He admitted. “Just didn’t know what to say. So I told him he should not be thinking of girls now. He should concentrate on learning lots of things. Like do well in sports. Learn to sing well. Sign up for a karate class.  He stopped sobbing and was even smiling. ”

“Wow! ” I said. “I’m impressed!”

“Then I reminded him his life mission” my husband continued. (For a while now my son tells anyone who cares to listen that he’ll grow up to be a super hero)  “Help his teachers and friends when they are in trouble. And soon he’ll be a  Super Boy.”

“And? What did he say?”

He buried his face in his hands. “He asked me if he did all that, will S like him better than G?”

The mirth which had been bubbling inside me came gurgling out and soon I was rolling on the floor laughing.

My husband threw up his hands and walked away to find solace in the National Geographic channel.

***********

Something tells me his teenage years are not going to be as peaceful as we expect them to be.

I swear it…

Coming from a true-blue Tambrahm family, I grew up with cuss words as part of  the language at home.

My grandmother called most people (including her own sons & grandsons) endearingly, “Yei, kattela poravane!”

My dad almost always started a conversation with “erumma madu!”

My aunts addressed most of us as “saniyane!”

And almost everybody at home were given to a fiery temper. And when that happened, cuss words flew around us like pigeons in flight in a Manirathnam movie!

But these words  are not to be confused with the obscenities you hear on the streets. Oh we’re very decent people, you see. We never abuse the parentage or any other sensitive areas of a person.

It is just that we enjoy getting things off our chests with a good show down. And peace follows almost immediately.

On an everyday basis, we like calling each other more names than our given ones. And most of us have to talk in ear-shattering decibels.

My mother was a total exception to this as she had the softest of voices and a very diplomatic nature.

But the majority of others had another rule too. Always agree to disagree.

Right from deciding on the menu for the day to planning a trip with family, each situation met with oh so many opinions and criticisms. In my younger days my brother and me spent our holidays placing bets on the outcome of everyday battles.

I dreaded the days when my father dropped me off at school. Because he’d invariably stop the car, roll down his window and scream at a passing biker or another car or anybody on the road with the choicest of  cuss words, while I cowered in my seat praying none of my friends would see me.

But once I grew up, I noticed something.

My mother had to deal with hypertension in her forties and my  grandmother at ninety, still is free of  such maladies.

The rest of my clan is also relatively free of hyper tension. (My aunt at seventy did have it for a while, but on her doctor’s advice, she’d stopped watching the soaps in the regional channels and she was healed without medication)

Does it mean all of us have this angry energy swirling inside us and needs an outlet regularly?

Do softer people bottle up everything and it ruins their health in the later years?

I’ve read health capsules which advices you to write the nastiest of letters to some one who’s wronged you and then tear it up to bits. It gets the whole negative emotion out of the system, they say.

Or lock yourself in a sound-proof room and scream your head off till your anger melts and vanishes.

Me? I prefer screaming at my object of ire ‘yei! ariuvketta kazhudhai!’ any day!!

Saves a lot of effort! I’m working on my voice too.

PS: I only feel sad my son is having  too peaceful an upbringing. Once my father told him “Stop staring at the TV and eat the saniyan in your hand,” in true Tambrahm tenor and the child promptly burst into tears!

We don’t need no education….

“Why should I go to school every day????” This was the first thing my son said, rather screamed every morning when the schools opened after the long summer break. “Why can’t I stay home & watch TV all day?”

The fact that he’s started 1st Grade in a new, bigger school didn’t help either.  He was still getting used to the idea of staying longer hours at school and (his voice breaks every time he says this) he has to eat the  lunch they serve him  everyday.

One particularly trying morning, we saw the gypsy man who collects garbage from our houses with his little daughter who’s almost the same age as my son.

“Look at the poor girl,” I told him, as we drove past. “Her father collects garbage all day & does not have the money to educate her. So she has no school, no teachers,  no friends and she will probably never know if she can become a doctor, an artist or a dancer.” Warming up to my lecture giving mode I droned on. ‘All day she’ll be on the streets with her farther, collecting garbage. Isn’t that sad?”

He mulled over it for a long time. He had tears in his eyes when he quiveringly replied. ” But I’m sure she’ll have more fun than me everyday…” And promptly burst into tears…

Kids say the darnest things!

My little niece had come down for a visit with her mother. The pretty little thing was more or less the same age as my son.

He was thrilled to bits having a sister living at home.

The first four days were so blissful with both of them playing  happily with each other. They never interacted with any of us except for meal times and sleep times.

But slowly differences crept in and they were at loggerheads most of the time. The house was filled with shrieks and howls of ‘i-don’t-want-to-play-with-you-anymore’ and ‘don’t-talk-to-me-again!’ and more such heated exchange of words.

I happened to hear one of them.

She accidentally kicked his Hanuman maze. He insisted she apologised to Hanuman since he is god.

Growing up on a healthy diet of Hannah Montana and Barbie,  she countered him, “No. He’s not! Hanuman is a monkey. And monkey is a zoo animal!”

With a toss of her long tresses, she pedalled away in his 3-wheeled cycle, leaving him with his chin quivering with rage…

**********

After another big fight between both of them, I took him aside. I had been observing them for a while and knew it was him who was responsible for the whole blow-up. I’d seen  how he’d needled her and had also refused to share his toy.

So, I took him aside and ticked him off. But I’d kept my voice down, reprimanded him as calmly as I could, listed the ‘bad’ things he’d done,  and how at his age, I’d have never done things like that and how I’d  always shared my toys generously with my brother and so on and so forth. I walked off after a stiff warning.

And I returned to my comp and continued my work.

A little later he came bounding towards me.

“Amma! Guees what I found!”

As he came closer, he remembered that I’d just given him a piece of my mind.

He came closer, looked at my face searchingly and asked, “Amma, are you still scary?”

Perks of motherhood, again!

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