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?