Wednesday, November 27, 2002


After living some years out of the country, I can more easily see how much one encounters religion in India. I really don't see what is all the fuss the Sangh parivar is making. Hinduism is alive and well. You visit hotels, company guest houses, hospitals, auto rickshaws - there are chubby Ganeshas smiling at you. (Ganesha seems to be the favorite of everybody, the designer versions rampant in all sorts of materials from Gold to Chalk is worth another blog). Inside the office too, on the desks, walls, there is invariably a religious picture along with Aishwarya Rai screen savers.

Is it possible that there are other colorful countries like India?

Tuesday, November 19, 2002


Hear ye NRI software enginners, you may be living in some rich country, but most of you are definitely not living rich like your Indian counterpart.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Back in Indes

Its ages since I have blogged. I am back in India, not on vacation this time but to
live, and as I go about making arrangements - housing, transportation etc., I wonder if I should write a cultural reorientation piece for the returning NRIs - Hit 0 in the lift when you want to go to the ground floor, try and find the method behind the madness called traffic if you have any aspirations to drive, remember the days when you caught a bus - thats what those hundreds of people on the sidewalk facing the same direction are doing, nothing untoward has happened.

Another interesting aspect is people often start off with the economic condition and tell you how their relative so and so is still in the US, as though they could not, would not believe that someone out of their free will would come back.

Monday, October 28, 2002


Our HR representative passed me a resume for an interview and whispered reverently, "an IIT guy". Never mind the guy from IIT majored in mechanical engineering and somewhere along the line acquired a diploma in computer science and is now interviewing for a software engineering job, where his IIT trained mechanical engineering skills would utmost be called upon to, I dont know, perhaps move a monitor. Another similar breed is those who have gone to school in the US universities, again majoring in all sorts of esoteric things like signal processing, but ending up as programmers. Only thing as far as I have seen that differentiate them at workplace is a more active email box with participation in sundry associations and a bumper sticker in their car that claims they are alumni of such and such university. I am always curious about the awe they inspire, sometime even seem to demand.

Saturday, October 19, 2002


My friend calls me a bundle of contradictions. I call myself balanced.

Friday, October 11, 2002


The weather has changed and I've got a cold. The mornings have turned lazy and I nestle snug beneath a comforter (whoever thought of the name?), till the creeping hand of the clock reminds me gently. I hate alarms; besides I hit the snooze button and defeat the purpose. I was sneezing all through the day yesterday, the heightened temperature and the cold making my world acquire a hazy, hollow, dream like quality. Tired, at the end of the day, we went to a restaurant. The steamy bowl of minestrone was divine. Little pleasures. I guess that's what it boils down to.

My moods are heavily influenced by the weather. I need the Sun's brightness, its heat, the busy feeling it inspires. But a morning when my fingers feel cold against my face, when the windows are frosted has its own charms.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Changing Jobs

I recently quit my job. I was waiting near the elevator with my box full of things, when a woman joined me. I had seen her often, though I was not particularly acquainted with her. She saw me, nodded amiably and blurted, "cleaning out?". It was interesting to watch the shocked sympathy along with embarrassment at having said something inappropriate dawn on her eyes, immediately. I said, "today's my last day", not helping her much. Others joined us, glanced nervously at my side, and absolute silence prevailed as we descended despite the fact that it was Friday. I couldn't have had a better indicator of the economy. I idly wondered if I should give them a hug and reassure.

Anyway, I think one should force oneself to move to a new place, change jobs or atleast change the route to work from time to time, to shake oneself out of complacency, to reinvent oneself, to prove oneself. It is a great feeling to start something anew, despite the angst of change.

Monday, September 30, 2002


The next time someone outside of India attempts to deride Indian toilets, I am going to ask them if they have ever attempted to use a porta-potty in a crowded fair. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Went to the renaissance faire this weekend. It was fascinating to see how even the visitors were into it, wearing period costumes, speaking period language... Walking through the streets you would find characters like Sir Walter Raleigh being chivalrous, Shakespeare, an unnamed priest muttering malevolently "sin, sin, sin", an ale wench... They also had these little skits performed by their actors right on the street, to give glimpses of lifestyle - A fight breaking out between two gentlemen, women washing clothes near a well, the guards dragging a man to the prison. It was very well done, you know, the prisoner would beg for mercy to someone walking along. I thought I would say "Off with his head", if he asked me! The smell of cigar and beer and meat was sickening though.

I wonder if a history fair on a similar vein would work in India. Cant say definitively.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Ganesh Chathurthi

This past Ganesh-Chathurthi, as always, I got reminded of that other day - the last day of my stay in Bangalore. Ganesh chathurthi usually has some negative connotations to me because of all the communal violence that is associated with it and I think of the parade as just the wealthy and powerful, flaunting.

But this day was different. I was to quit the city that evening and it colored my moods. The whole day me and my friends wandered about, with no particular destination in my mind, no urgency to do or accomplish anything. My friends, KK & VKG, typical men, did not have anything sentimental to say about my departure, nor any tears to shed and were acting as though it was just another weekend and we were on our usual ramble. I distinctly remember we didn't talk much, but we walked quite a bit that day, sometimes beneath the shady trees adorning the roadside, sometimes on the pavements beneath a blazing sun, sometimes listening to the sound of the birds, sometimes the honk of a vehicle. All the time, Bharathi's "vittu viduthalaiyagi" was constantly playing in the back of my mind.

The day culminated with a visit to the lake where the Ganesha chathurthi celebration was coming to an end. We stood close to the water, gentle breeze caressing us, the sun painting glorious colors on the dusk sky and watched the crowd gathering and with all the drama, the various idols of Ganesha being brought in for immersion. The massive idols kept rocking back and forth to the rhythm as they approached in a steady pace and were sunk one after the other into the water, while the crowd kept chanting loudly, "alli nodu Ganesha, illi nodu Ganesha". I still feel the promise of an answer to some universal mystery that filled the air, that day.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Working moms

Geetha Bennet, in her article appreciates Jodie Foster's feelings on motherhood. (Incidentally, I admire both of their talents quite a bit) Ms. Foster apparently had refused an opportunity to repeat her oscar winning role on Hannibal and had instead opted to stay with her newborn child. Indeed, it is quite commendable.

Though millionaire actresses who have already won oscars deserve praise for making a choice to stay with their kids, those thousands of women who out of necessity have to go to work, get squelched in a crowded bus, get immersed in a mountain of files before their bodies that have just borne a child completely recovers, those women who have to sacrifice the pleasure of being with their child - to make ends meet, to give a better life for their little one, which in my opinion, is also a hallmark of motherhood, deserve equal praise. Especially more than what they usually get.

Thursday, September 12, 2002


I was idly watching a food channel, which by the way is a bad idea if you are stressed out and are already susceptible to overeat. There was this Japanese cooking show where the chef was preparing some creature which I think belonged to a species that crawls, whose name I dont know, with the air of an actor. It was quite theatrical really - his audience went ooh and aah as he threw some part in the air, caught it right on the knife, slammed it and adroitly cut it to pieces. Art of cooking! Like the deft pizza maker throwing the pie up in the air and catching it.

Reminded me of the parotta makers. Back home, come evening, the little roadside food shops would come alive with the sound of the ladles hitting the huge iron pan. To attract customers, the chefs, as they mash the parotta, would break into a loud rhythmic clanging that could almost be deemed a percussion performance. Last I heard, it has been banned, quite rightly though, for noise pollution. Ah well, soon we would rediscover it in TV or some five star hotel would have a parotta festival and would set up a booth where we would pay a good amount of money to hear the kothu-parotta makers of the yester years.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Water woes

The major wars of this century are predicted to be not for oil but for water. Everyday I read about the cauvery imbroglio and wonder perhaps if there is some truth to it.

Just goes to show, all the help science can provide can easily be messed up by lack of vision and cooperation. Here is an interesting read about the conflict and some solutions.

I remember seeing the huge pipes of the abandoned veeranam project on the chennai roadside serving as homes for many families complete with a screen for a door and a "kolam" pattern denoting the entrance. I wonder if those families would organize a protest if the government after all decide to revive the plans.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002


A local desi television program showed Indian Independence Day celebrations in New York City. The parade was colorful - young girls dancing to popular hindi tunes (with "payal", "sajna" or some such words), middle aged men sporting their cultural costumes, floats with sundry pictures of Gandhiji, Nehruji, Netaji and Shivaji hoisted on the sides... What a circus. Oops! I forget. As the interviewed expatriate Indians informed - it was an opportunity to show their patriotism, to expose the youngsters to Indian culture and heritage. One of those youngsters interviewed said succinctly that he was there to see Madhuri Dixit. The token Americans interviewed, dutifully praised the chicken marsala. I wondered if some American was waiting in the traffic complaining and cursing.

On a related note, Amitabh Bachan was the grand marshall of the Independence Day celebration in Silicon Valley. It seems the maddening crowd jostled, shoved and ran after him. Must have scared the daylights out of him.

Thursday, August 29, 2002


My father was quite incensed when I casually remarked, "I will check in the web" to a question he had about some event. He complained that (I and in extension) the younger generation doesn't flex its brain anymore. It reminded me of a quote.

Yes, use of laptops in primary, middle schools may result in lack of fundamental understanding of math, science, but what's the harm in not remembering details. On the positive side, writing them down in a web page or a book frees the mind to pursue more lofty goals doesn't it? In this day of mobile devices, rather than knowledge, isnt attitude and understanding more crucial? Ah, well it doesn't matter. I don't use my brain to the fullest anyway!

Monday, August 26, 2002


My cavalier attitude towards pills took a jolt. I am telling you, you better finish that course of antibiotics that the doctor prescribed; otherwise, you will also be contributing to drug resistant strains of bacteria. That link is also a good read for ye Indian moms dwelling in the US of A, complaining incessantly to others in every party about how American doctors don't give enough medicines for your sick babies, about how they 'callously' ask you to ride your child's fever for the initial three or four days.

Not that the Indian doctors are all indiscriminate. They have to face a populace which is terribly suspicious of them. I have seen folks buying only 75 percent of a course of medicine, dismissing the rest as unnecessary (especially since they start feeling better after that); they also give a lecture about the nexus between pharmacists, labs and doctors. "The doctor gets kickbacks", they would declare. The worst part is sometimes that is also true!

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Indian men

It took me tremendous restraint to not burst out laughing. After a tiring day, in a crowded Indian grocery store, I had just walked out of an aisle to stand in line behind a couple. They were looking at the stack of strategically placed videos and discussing about the stars of a popular movie, in proper tamil. After a moment or two, they realized my presence and promptly switched over to English (with an accent) and started talking about skiing in Lake Tahoe!

Another similar incident happened last week. I was busy licking off the vestige of delicious tomato chutney, sitting in a popular South Indian restaurant, when a conversation from the next table caught my attention. "Do you know what happens when you ask an Indian women if she loves her husband? Even the women in this restaurant?"

The middle aged Indian with a curiously fiftys style hairstyle brandished a piece of dosa towards the white man who shifted uncomfortably, bestowed a 'challenge me if you dare' look at me and continued, "You get a blank stare".

"Do you know why?", he continued. Please pray enlighten us, I thought.

"Because the fault is with Indian men, including myself. Unlike American men, we dont bring flowers, we dont tell them we love them", he declared, ignoring whatever his friend mumbled.

That was the most bizarre statement in this topic I have heard till date. The last thing an Indian women would do is go blank.

On the way back I stopped by Mike's cube and asked him just for kicks, "So did you bring flowers to your wife yesterday?" His brows creased momentarily and he asked startled, "Oh God, did I miss her birthday again?"

Monday, August 19, 2002


To elaborate my previous post further, gamakam - the oscillations and nuances are the lifeline of carnatic music, they can make or break a raga rendition. But if I go pick up a book of krithis (there aren't that many) and try to render it going by the notation, it will sound very flat. I should have heard the krithi or atleast the raga before. For example, the notation will say sa-sa, ri-ri; but in reality it may have to be rendered sa-ni-sa, ri-sa-ri. So the notation fails to do justice to the piece.

I am not talking about the meaning of existence or some divine truth. This is simply musical notation. Take the western classical music, even the baroque period. They have oscillations like trills and mordents which are quite comparable to our gamakams. And lo and behold, they have notation schemes to represent it. Not in carnatic music, simply because, they didn't see a need for it. They taught orally.

This gives a control on who is taught and more importantly what is taught. A composition wouldn't reach the masses without the teachers' blessings. Ergo, the conclusion.

Sunday, August 18, 2002


For a music system so well developed, I find the notation schemes of carnatic music, quite lacking. Is there a common, defined way of representing say, anya swaram or a particular gamakam? This makes an accurate rendering of a carnatic piece, in terms of what the composer intended, without having heard it, somewhat difficult, however skilled one maybe.

At the risk of sounding like one of those conspiracy nuts, I think this dependence on guru-sishya, oral tradition learning is actually to preserve an elitist, casteist, patriarchal process. The fact that we have the knowledge but not the means to make it accesible is one of our greatest failings.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Independence day

This Independence day, my thoughts turned to the independence struggle and Gandhiji.

Gandhiji during the last year of his life must have been a tortured soul - to see his country being torn apart, his own disciples growing distant, to realize he and his views were becoming dispensable, and worst of all to possibly not escape feeling a failure despite the enormous achievement of freedom.

In spite of all that, at such an old age, he had had the courage and energy to still continue fighting his fight till the very end - he had undertaken a fast unto death just a few days before, he had been planning a trip to pakistan. Amazing!

Friday, August 09, 2002

Write more

I am the kind of person that wouldn't write unless I had something dazzling to say and impress the whole world with. Either utter boredom or an utterly compulsive experience is what would push me to write. This blog thing is giving a jolt to that nature.

When I don't blog, I feel guilty like I didn't water my plant or feed my pet.

I don't know if I am going to look back and smile with a proud 'did I write that?' or shake my head with a 'god, what was I thinking?'

Wednesday, August 07, 2002


I am quite enchanted by the moonlight garden. All I needed was a little imagination (and some tissue to clean the horrible fingerprint marks off my monitor, I must add), to enjoy this water garden. I could see the half moon about to peek into the water from behind a silver lined cloud, could smell the scent of the wild flower that had strayed down just beyond the edge, sense the damp air and the gentle shower from the trees above against my skin, hear the whisper of the slumberous wind and the film of water flowing through my fingers.

I will, from now on, think twice before saying, no screensaver howsoever cute will equal my window however dreary.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Much Mush

Apologizing to the Bangladeshis for war atrocities, extending support to Srilanka and hoping to sign free trade treaties.. For an amateur politician this Musharraf is one smart dude.

We better clean up our act!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002


I was reading some of Queen Victoria's amazingly sharp letters to her daughter about women and child bearing. She writes, "It is indeed too hard and dreadful what we have to go through and men ought to have an adoration for one, and indeed to do everything to make up, for what after all they alone are the cause of! I must say it is a bad arrangement."

Bad arrangement indeed :) She would know! She was pregnant nine times I think. I know of and have met women of my grandmother's generation who had been pregnant more than twelve times. If you really think about it, they have had to deal with pregnancy and nursing and taking care of toddlers pretty much through out their adult life. That sort of puts their achievements, however small it may seem now, be it tending plants or learning prayer songs or even cooking a variety of dishes, into perspective doesn't it?

Thursday, July 25, 2002


This morning, along with a group of giggling toddlers, I took a peek at a tortoise. A little one, barely two months old, palm size, he was dashing about cutely in his little glass box. He was remarkably fast for a two month old his size, it is quite believable he beat the hare ;)

The lady next to me told me that he will grow quite heavy and will live upto a hundred and fifty years. Amazing! This little tortoise will live to see what we make of this world a century and a half from now. I wonder if he or anyone else will remember this indifferent ejournal writer then

Monday, July 15, 2002


With regards to partition and its aftermath, maybe we, that is Pakistan, India and Bangladesh should jointly sue the British for compensation. It is incredible the boundaries for the then two countries had been determined in less than six months. I realize there were talks about it before, but the actual commission seems to have worked only for a short period of time,  less compared to the time taken to split Burma. And no plebiscite too. And the British players - Lord MountBatten and Radcliffe seem to be the main culprits.

But then how can we sue the British when our leaders have also said yes to whatever the commission had proposed. Hindsight is an important factor no doubt, but isn't making important decisions in anticipation of future is what is called vision? It is amazing to me that no one had that kind of vision in 1947.

But what do I know? It was perhaps such a superhuman effort. "Leave her to God or leave her to anarchy" is what Gandhi had said after all. I suppose after two hundred years of alien rule one would be in an urgency to win freedom at whatever cost.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002


Last few days, drove through acres and acres of lush green fields, meandering streams, massive lakes and majestic redwoods. Nature filled my heart.

It is very unlikely that I would be able to see such scenery for a stretch so long anymore, where I grew up. The loss of such aesthetic enjoyment is one of the sad side effects of over population.

I remember the amazing beauty of rain beating down on a stretch of road filled with red soil (which they market wonderfully well in Hawaii by the way), not a decade ago. Now the same stretch of road is paved with asphalt and lined with shops and neon lights.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002


I took the train to work today. No book, no newspaper, no chat with the person sitting next to me... I had to ruthlessly crush the juggler in me screaming of all the things I could do in half an hour - to let go. In between, I watched the passing scenes lazily, the man struggling to pick up the ticket and rush before the train left, the three senior ladies insisting on finding a seat that is facing the direction in which the train moved, the commuter immersed in his lap top.. Half an hour to idly follow the clouds and the roof tops and dream of something else. What luxury!

Thursday, June 27, 2002

We Indians

Now that Dr.Kalam is in the news, I was re-reading his article. Though to some extent, more towards the later part, I understand, admire and identify with his visions, I was intrigued by his statements on vision of freedom. He says for 3000 years we have not conquered any other country. Who is this 'we'?

India, as this one entity is relatively modern. And there have been many wars - conquests, plunders, amongst the various empires, kingdoms of this region. It is rather simplistic and wrong to say these kingdoms didn't have any wars except for those inflicted upon them by 'outsiders'.

Even if we decide, for our convenience to consider this 'we' as the modern india, and deem the wars of kingdoms within - internal rife, there have been empires like those of Ashoka and Rajendra Chola whose boundaries have included modern day Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Ceylon etc. 'We' have grabbed their land, possibly their culture and we have propagated, if not enforce, our ways of live on them.

1857 is another story.

Monday, June 24, 2002


Kishore's quote says "Love isn't about finding someone perfect; it's about learning to love an imperfect person perfectly". I have also often come across quotes in relationship advice columns and books about how you should not try and overhaul the other person and how you should learn to love the imperfections.

Though it doesnt quite say it, it sort of implies that tolerating your loved ones' imperfections is a virtue To me if I am tolerating a bad trait in someone's character it means I dont care enough about them or that I dont think they are open enough to deal with the change. Indeed love isn't about finding someone perfect. To me love is also to constantly endevour to make each other perfect, however hard it may seem at times

Thursday, June 20, 2002


Unlike their American counter-parts, Indian parents are not big on showing baby pictures. Though they have other equally interesting traits. One classic line, mainly by parents of toddlers and mobile babies is - "Oh, if I just let him/her down, in one minute, he/she will explore and plunder this whole area". Delivered in a proud tone, this is often followed by a "At home she/he is very different", if the poor child sits quietly, shy of strangers.

I have often wondered what would happen, if, instead of politely smiling and admiring their child's research capabilities, I said something like, "Really? So you think you are failing as a parent by bringing up such a brat?"

Barred out of society, thats what will happen. Parents - funny creatures!

Friday, May 31, 2002

War- what is it good for?

I am totally depressed reading about the escalations of tension between India and Pakistan. How utterly unimaginative and barbaric that we are ready to resort to such weapons. Or perhaps we are incredibly optimistic and trusting to continue to develop them.

It is completely illogical, thats for sure. At this moment I think it is religion that is the root cause of all evil.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002


Everytime there is a natural calamity or a terrorist incident like 9/11, I feel closer to my own mortality. I wake up and wonder how fragile and precious life is and ponder deeply about its meaning and question myself about what I have done to make it worthwhile.

Then I recover, reminding myself, I have always known this. I mean, just consider the traffic accidents. Death has always been very near. Why bother with such questions now?

Thursday, May 16, 2002


The stream beyond my window changes everyday. Not in the zenny "Not the same river in the next second" - sense. More because of the tides.This little stream is connected to the bay that opens into the ocean. Backwaters. Some mornings, water is brimming upto the edge. Sparkling white birds skim the water, ducks swim, birds chatter. Somedays, it is just a messy mire. Slush with sweeping patterns chiseled by the long gone waves.

Today it is somewhere in the middle.

I like it all.

Thursday, May 02, 2002


I am quite sure that you, good reader, have no other job but to read about my travails with maid-servants. After much deliberation, finally subscribing to the school of thought that there is nothing really wrong with employing a maid as long as one treats her with dignity, and that by doing so I am instrumental in one more woman financially independent, after moving to my apartment in Bangalore, I made the monumental decision to employ a maid.

As soon as I landed, probably prompted by what I call the idealistic halo and what they call the circle of gullibility around my face, my friends warned me to be careful with maids, and how if I dont they will clean me out. My zeal fueled and fed by all the books and papers I have read about lofty things like human rights, treatment of the poor, not lessened by these lectures, I promptly employed a maid, gave her work assignments and outlined compensation plans with the enthusiasm and vigor only a first time employer would and could have.

A well dressed young mother of one, she was quite all right. I was satisfied with the work she did and we even began to enjoy a little bit of chat about this and that during the coffee and an occasional breakfast we shared. And I was about ready to open my laptop and blast off a blog or two about my success.

Thats when she got work at another house. Now she had to juggle the two and probably realizing I would be more easy to manage, she was repeatedly late and couldnt finish before I left for work. She couldnt come in the evening of course, since it became dark and her husband, that drunken good for nothing fellow, didnt like it. Then there were incidents she told me about how her mother in law abused her and how her husband beat her. My neighbor kindly informed me how I was being fooled and despite an uneasy feeling that maybe I was being conned, I couldnt bring myself to fire her, for the fear of what if it were all true.

After she played truant for many more days, having had enough of the piled up dishes and dust, egged on by the uniform theme on the advises I got, I gave her an ultimatum. Show up on time or stop coming altogether.

She promptly stated that she was going on a pilgrimage the next day but not to worry, her sister will be coming to work for me. This was delivered with such smoothness that would shame Mark Antony that I found myself nodding quite dumbly.

The fun really started now. The sister, came accompanied with her mother-in-law, who sat in the hall like a matriarch you see in those over-acted movies, drinking the cup of coffee I offered with relish and commenting on this an that. For a few days there, it became hazy whose mother in law she was. She also had this peculiar habit of standing in front of the mirror, preening. I had to tell her everyday, that yes she had to clean every room, every dish. And, oh, I forget, they both had this habit of ringing the bell continuously, first thing in the morning till I opened the door.

Dear reader , I am sure you would agree that that was enough to show what a tolerant and gentle human being I am. Anyway, I fired her when after a week, I found her opening the closet.

So there I was dejected by these encounters with maids, starting to do the few dishes and dusting myself, chanting all the time, it was a wonderful exercise after all.

A few days later another lady, having realized that I didn't have a maid, came by to ask me if she could render her services. I agreed, quite reluctantly I must say. But there was something about the wisdom in her face that I liked. What a difference! she and her daughter share the work. They are thorough professionals - they dont waste time, nor do they make me repeat any request.

One day last week, she cleaned a particularly dirty patio, without me having asked for it. Here was the devotion, dedication that I was looking for. Here was the meaning of the phrase your work is your god. Overjoyed, I gave her a decent extra sweater I had.

The next day morning, she handed me a strand of kanakambaram flowers that one puts on ones hair, that she must have bought, stopping a few moments in her haste, probably even walking a bit more than usual, remembering me that morning despite the physically tiring day she must have had before. Touched by this simple, sensitive gesture of thanks, I wore those flowers for the rest of the day.

There may be days when we may get angry or unhappy or unsatisfied with each other, but those flowers will always be tucked away in my memory.

Tuesday, April 30, 2002


Went to the Concord Murugan temple past weekend. Murugan was having one of his grand showers with milk, buttermilk and honey and albeit a little itch in my heart about the waste it was a pretty sight as films of whites, yellows and browns cascaded on the luminous black stone. There was a thin crowd, a few seemingly regular visitors sitting mesmerised watching and listening to the intonations of the nasal chanting . The priest did an elaborate abhishekam, then had the screen for an interminably long time for the alankaram and then did more puja before he finally showed the arathi - reasons I can think of a) he took his job very seriously, b) he didnt want to let go of the precious weekend crowd, c) My degeneration is complete with the expectation of a fast food version of pujas. It was very soothing to hear a tamil song and the bespectacled gentleman did carry the tune well. I idly wondered if the priest was thinking about that temple back home, with people thronging in the weekends and on special days, with the fragrance of fresh flowers and the noise and of course the paltry pay.

Someone I know, just returned from Israel. So I braced myself to the mandatory photo viewing session. But she is a different kind of person, not one of those who completely loose perspective and go berserk whenever they are behind a lens, and so I knew this was not going to be one of those ordeals - this is me in front of the best cafe in town, this is my husband in front of the same cafe, this is the two of us in front of the cafe... And I was in for a pleasent surprise. She had a whole collection of pictures of doors. I know some of you are shaking your heads - 'and you call that a pleasent surprise?'. But believe me, these doors were exquisite, vibrant, so colorful with so much character. These were doors from ordinary houses all over old jerusalem. I was telling her about the intricate, sculpted wooden doors in our temples. I was so door conscious for a week.
A very hot monday morning, really bad traffic, drivers honking away madly, and then everyone stops even though it is green for a few silent inward moments as three serene ducks in the right order of height saunters across the road. Then yet another day of bugs and endless meetings and the mad rush for the release and then among the dismal emails is an email from a friend with a link to a favourite song of the forgotten days. Thank God for those timely reminders.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Coffee Break

Had coffee as usual in the '300 market'. The number, for those curious souls, is actually the building name. Buildings in my office just have numbers - 100, 200 etc., quite modest and doesn't live up to the actual buildings. (I remember at another place I used to work, even the conference rooms had names, not numbers. So you would meet in 'Led Zeppelin' or in 'The Beatles'). This coffee break is a nice ritual Paul and I follow to break the monotony of myriad emails, builds and bugs. Instead of lunch break, we take a coffee break. We walk along the lake, with a sometime chilly nipping air, past the ducks, away from the smokers, leaving way to the folks hurrying to some meetings, to our market. 3 o clock is the right time to go for coffee, 2 is a little early, there are still unsold large pizzas in the counter with their aroma filling the air. 4 is a little late, it gets colder and the walk to that cafeteria becomes literally an uphill task what with tunnel effect and all between the buildings. Yes Sir, 3 is the right time.

I'd get my coffee, lazily gaze at the counter and some days take Wilde's (Or was it Shaw? I forget) advice and yield to the temptation of a rich cake. Paul is more specific. He would ask for a 'lowfat no-foam double latte'. Then one day there was this new energetic looking stewardess, and Paul was at his best asking for his coffee, adding a smile and a 'por favor' and she very swiftly prepared for him a 'decaf double latte with foam'. The nice guy decided not to make a big fuss and accepted it. Next day there was another waitress. He goes again double latte, low fat - no foam as clearly as possible. So she makes something that looks like it and as she gets ready to hand it over, the other waitress comes running and snatches it and tells this waitress sternly, 'he gets decaf and you made regular', smiles at us, pours it and proceeds to make him another! It was one of those rare situations when we were speechless in the coffee shop.

My favorite corner was empty today. I invariably pick up the chair facing the fountain.. I am greatly disappointed those days when it is turned off. They play good music and in some rare situations some talented soul would be playing the piano in the building lobby and mellifluous music floats in.. Hot coffee, ambiance and conversation.. And the conversation is the best part it ranges from death penalty in India, roams in Vietnam forests, touches the free trade and economic balance, Tamil language... and we reluctantly trudge back to our cubes as the time slips away.

Sunday, April 28, 2002


These days Barnes and Noble has become one of my favourite hang-outs. As I walk into this grand bookshop, serenity, contentment and a sense of well being engulf me. It brings to my mind images of a cold winter evening, crackling wood in the fireplace, a warm rug and a great book. I feel this even in the height of summer, perhaps because the first time I went to Barnes and Noble was one such evening.

I take a quick look at the bestseller section, then pause at the fictions, linger on at the classics, browse the magazines, wander around the specialities section, listen to the books on tape and finally settle with a dozen books on a cozy corner. Sometimes I indulge in a coffee and biscotti. I love the ability to assess the books undisturbed to see if they qualify to be on my shelf before I buy it. The crowd too has a lot of variety - students busy taking notes, dashing guys browsing automobile magazines, mothers dragging their children..

Every visit invariably reminds me of a bookshop back in Madurai. Until the modern bookstalls tookover with their posh looking interiors, Sarvodhaya Ilakkiya Pannai with its appealing name was the biggest bookshop there. It was a crammy little, not so bright place, that housed thousands of books. The books were rarely ordered and you dont have space to sit, let alone read. Back in the late eighties in Madurai, the book buying crowd was predominantly students, intellectual or pseudo intellectual types with a beard and a shoulder bag or those who buy one of those practical 'eppadi' books. I'd feel highly conscious in that crowd and will have a hard time trying to decide which book to buy out of the pocket money, my benevolent father bestowed upon me. But, it had its attractions. The bespectacled middle aged man in the cash counter, after your nth visit engages in small talk. If you are quite consistent in visiting the shop, sometimes you get information about which book is on print, which got sold out, which is really good, and directions to another crammier book shop where you are guaranteed to get that book you are searching. And after more visits you get a 10% discount and a smile of recognition. Perhaps he is still in that counter, I wonder if he remembers me. When I sit in a corner at B&N with soothing music filling the air, I miss the drone of the ceiling fans in a bookshop in another world, another era...

Monday, April 22, 2002


Was idly browsing through a copy of silapathikaram. The epic poem starts off with a beautiful prayer. Or perhaps praise or celebration would be a better translation than prayer. Ilangovadigal, the author for the benfit of those who have not heard of it, begins by praising the moon, the sun and the rain. He intelligently slides in some praise to the King as well, by comparing these to the various things that the king possesses. One thing that was interesting to me was the moon comes before the sun in his list. First it is the moon, then sun, then rain. I would have expected the sun to be the first.

The climate does have an influence in the language does it not? In my language, you'd rather not have a 'warm' welcome. A few cool words are a good thing. And if you had spent some time under the hot scorching tropical sun you'd know why. So maybe the sun was too harsh that day when our good old Ilango started his poem and the bright moon bringing some relief was a welcome sight?

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Lake view

Late afternoon - stopped the car near a lake. Gentle waves hitting the rocky shores, the silver sheen on the surface breaking into a million crystals thanks to the wind and the blazing sun, jazz on the radio.. Pitied the poor souls struggling in the distant traffic, till I realized I had to do the same.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002


Saw the dark and sombre A.I sometime ago. Couldnt understand it at all. I mean, yeah - I got the profound questions alright - what makes someone or something human, the moral dilemma of how one would treat an artificial 'mecha' etc., but it was so unlike Spielberg, and I couldnt understand the ultimate point of the movie - I found it very contrived. I might have enjoyed a treatement of pinnochi in the same intellectual vein more.

And imagine waiting for an eternity, with no other option, for love. Boy, I was glad, unlike the mechas, I can shut myself down if it comes to that. Or can I?