Friday, February 25, 2011

Mazha (Rain)

These days it rains in the evenings. Not the mild showers that is generally common here, but the ones with lightning and thunder. Reminds me of "thulavarsham" back home (the north-east monsoons that reaches Kerala around November). It makes me miss home. Then my mother calls and I miss home even more. We talk and we end up arguing over something and I tell myself I am not going home. For whom? for what?
Then it rains again and I miss home again. Then mother calls again and I miss home even more , again.

Yes I know-pretty silly!

Listening to song from Perumazhakalam, dedicated to the rain gods!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Romantic Encounters at Malda

I suppose when there is nothing personal to share you share what someone else shared with you, provided it is not confidential! Read a witty and insightful book on India by Pankaj Mishra. It is an exploration of small towns across India and its inhabitants and the nature of "progress" and "transformation" happening in these places. Sharing excerpts from the book that had me in splits!

Location: Malda- a small town in West Bengal. The author is at a small local restaurant; one of those dimly lit ones, with Boney M playing in the background (I suppose Kenny G had not yet arrived) and witness es a “romantic encounter” involving two local love birds.

“The furtive couple in love was now a familiar sight in my travels. Saw them mostly in restaurants whose darkened interiors were undoubtedly the best possible setting for a secret rendezvous. Sex hadn’t happened here yet. Indeed, there was a touching pre-sexual innocence about these couples, a fumbling naïveté that came from the absence of fixed notions of romantic demeanor. Many of them could seem to be going nowhere, to be playing an elaborate and pointless game of hide-and -seek with each other. And the conversation goes…

The woman: (plainly dressed, with no eyes for anyone except her lover): ‘That Sudesh is so bad. Why are you not saying something to him?’

The man: (flashily dressed, and shooting nervous-cum-proud glances at everyone except his lover): ‘What should I say? You tell me’


The man: ‘Are you hurt?’


The woman: ‘You are always hurting me’.

The man: ‘What did I say?’


The woman: ‘You know’.


The man: ‘One more Pepsi?’

The woman: ‘No’.

Silence. Both stare at the plate of ‘Vegitable Choumin’ ( note the spelling) before them.

The woman: ‘Are you feeling bad?’

The man: ‘No’.

The woman: ‘Why are you not saying anything?’

The man: ‘Because you are always saying these things’.

The woman: ‘What things?’

The man: ‘You know’.

The woman: ‘What do I know? I know nothing.’

And so on…

Then they left.”

Wonder how a similar scene between a boy and girl or man and woman in a high flying metro like Bangalore or Mumbai or Chennai would go? I wonder about Cochin too. Eves dropping is going to be up in my agenda time I visit :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Story of My Experiments With Tea

Well yes, the title is inspired from Gandhiji's book but the contents of the post are most definitely not.

The title can be taken quite literally. I have been experimenting with teas of different kind, simultaneously taking up on the long given advice of one of my professors- “brew and sip some tea and relax". I can only claim to have accomplished a part of the advice- the brewing and sipping tea part. Trying to relax might require something stronger-a prescription of some kind perhaps. Anyways, coming to the tea part- what got me started was the wonderful Nilgiris tea that was gifted to me, courtesy my friend from the Western ghats. I have it the Indian way, with milk (w/o sugar though). Soon I realized, at the rate I am consuming it, the packets are not going to last me long. As a strategy to stretch the precious commodity, I decided to supplement my evening teas with an alternative option and headed to the exclusive tea store in town. Not a very good idea if your knowledge of tea is limited to the Liptons, the Kannan Devans and Taj! Luckily the Chinese sales girl was trained to hide any judgments she may have had over my ignorance and helped me choose something I might like. Well actually I cannot call myself totally ignorant as I knew I wanted tea leaves, wanted something I can have without milk and sugar so that the flavor of the tea could be savored and technically you steep the tea leaves.

I ended up choosing "best quality" Darjeeling tea leaves (apparently the "second flush"-and no I don't know what that means) and also some Jasmine and Mandarin green tea. As it was experimental, I bought the 50gms pack, $8 each. Yes, talk about designer tea! I suppose once you have paid $8 for 50gms of tea, you are probably in suicidal mode and so I further indulged and bought myself a lovely tea set from the Japanese store (but how else could I steep my tea?!). Here is a picture of my grand indulgence. Doesn't it look very Zen like?

As to my choices of tea, the Jasmine & Mandarin green tea has become my favorite. Now what remains a challenge is my ability to relax and I doubt if I ever will! Not when I develop such expensive habits, despite my limited means!

Oh well! I am being a bit dramatic and silly don't take me too seriously-please. :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Week of Discoveries

Yes!A week of discoveries indeed. Nothing of the sort that would benefit mankind or foster world peace but the kind that surprised me, amused me, entertained me and even made me a bit nostalgic.

Why surprised?...well-
Our campus has not one but at least four libraries that I know of- two general and a couple of specialized ones for the law school, medical school and I think the business school as well. The two general libraries are the ones I visit occasionally. Since most of the published materials are available online through our library's electronic resources, a walk down to the building is not a necessity. Now, this is mainly for my school/ research related readings. For my fiction fix, I normally start by browsing at the local bookstore- Barnes & Noble or Borders and then once I know what I want, I check for the used-but-in-good-condition-book of my choice and put an order. I was doing something similar the other day and on an impulse decided to check if it was available at the campus library. To my unexpected but pleasant surprise, I not only found the book I was looking for, but a whole collection of amazing books by Indian authors writing in English- a genre I am slightly obsessed with. So, along with the book I wanted, I also picked a bunch of other books by Asian writers and I am happy to state that the night stand next to my bed has a delightful little pile of books ready to be read.
Now, you might recall I was also amused and entertained. Naturally by all the books I have been reading.

I had just finished reading a rather interesting (in a crazy sort of way) autobiography of Kamala Das and decided I needed something fun and light to read next. My pick from the “pile” was Almost Single by Advaita Kala. From the reviews, it did not promise to be a book that would tease your intellectual sensibilities but rather tickle all the funny bones in you. Again, not a P G Woodhouse kind of funny, but a Bridget Jones meets Sex in the City kind of funny (well, if you find that sort of stuff funny). It is about single women in their 30s, financially independent, chasing mates and happily ever afters, all set in New Delhi, which could as well have been “New Jersey” if not for the mention of “Karva Chowts” ( a North Indian tradition) , the references to astrologers and their predictions, and the charming but sometimes annoying involvement of extended family members in hitching them up. It was a great way to get entertained without straining your eye muscles too much (a.k.a watching a movie). In short- a desi version of Bridget Jones Diaries with many instances of LOLs!

Once done with Almost Single, I started with Anita Nair's Ladies Coupe but found it somewhat slow and monotonous. The book was immediately set aside and I latched on to Pankaj Mishra's Butter Chicken in Ludhiana! Just from the title, the book promised to be amusing and it was!! I have read The Romantics by the same author and from whatever else he has published I considered him a thoughtful, astute, perceptive, and a bit serious kind of writer, but with a dry sense of humor. With Butter chicken he was still all the above, but it was a different kind of serious. The book is basically about his trip across 20 some small towns in India and his observations are exceptional and written with his usual dry humor, sarcasm, and wit, it makes a delightful and fun read.

And lastly, what made me nostalgic? Well.. frankly I don’t understand why, what or whom I am nostalgic for but I came across this song and it just had that effect on me. It is an old classic called moonriver. Sweet, sweet lyrics..

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.

We're after the same rainbow's end--
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

The lines in bold perhaps my favorite :)
Enjoy some good music now..

Friday, February 11, 2011

Witnessing a Revolution

Amazing to even type the words revolution in my life time. I mean I always associated it with that happened long time ago where there were wars fought, blood shed and what not.

But here I am, in the middle of my adult life witnessing a revolution, on TV that was apparently triggered off on Facebook! A 21st century revolution indeed! and a revolution that can be best described as fairly peaceful and dignified. I guess to some extent the army should be thanked for, for not going against the people and realizing that it is there to protect the land and its people from "bad forces" not turn against its own folks- unlike what perhaps happened in China or Iran.

When the last public address by the ex-ruler was telecast I thought -'man this guy is something!'.The LA times reported that he and his family is worth 40-70 billion USD! So is he refusing to budge because he wants to amass more wealth?! Cannot be--it was his ego that was refusing to budge. As someone sarcastically commented "only a great dictator can have such delusions of grandeur to think that the country needs him after all this and that the protesters need to stop this silly business and go home". While the Egyptians were engaged in a struggle for freedom and rights, the ex-ruler was engaged in a power struggle. Yesterday while checking twitter I found a tweet by a New York times columnist that said:" Egyptians chanting "Mubarak Go!" and can't he hear? Perhaps he needs hearing aids". lol!

Anyways--it feels like a wonderful victory and hope that there is a peaceful transition to a democratically elected government in Egypt and the people of Egypt gets to enjoy democracy which is usually messy but at least fair. Meanwhile I cannot help feeling excited about having witnessed such an incredible demonstration of people's collective will.

Long live freedom of thought,speech and expression!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mixed Bag

Something or the other happening all the time. Our senses are constantly teased--be it something you saw, heard, felt.... Sounding all philosophical but really its a very mundane post of what happened and what is happening with me.

A friend got back from home ( home happens to be somewhere in the glorious western ghats!) and she brought some excellent Nilgiri chai, home made plum cakes and candied gooseberries harvested from the forests and processed by the local community! All yummy- delicious! Spent two hours at her dorm yesterday sharing lunch and soaking in all the news from home. Poor thing had a bad experience at the immigration here (basically rude behavior)but one of her other friends was waiting outside with a lovely garland of ginger flowers which was enough to cheer her up.

Occupied with school stuff, reading a book and cross-referenced articles. Since there is a genuine interest in what is being read, it is not that painful, in fact quite enjoyable.

Oh! and it is that time of the year- filing federal and state taxes! Will it ever become an easy process, without confusions and doubts and long exasperating waits for expert advice? Since the deadline is a couple of months away, reasonably ahead of time compared to previous years and therefore not too preoccupied with it.

Other than that, for fun, reading again, "My Story" by Kamala Das ( a.k.a Madhavikutty, Kamala Surayya)- a bit crazy, romantic, controversial, preoccupied with love, and a bit self-obsessed soul (has to be to write an autobiography in her early 40s!). The first time I read her "My Story" was when my dad borrowed it from her younger brother who lives right behind my parents' place in Kochi. Her younger sister lives with her family in the next lane from our house (where their mother, the well know Malayalam poetess also stayed until her death). Reading her book always felt a bit strange because we knew some of her family, having been neighbors. It is like reading the autobiography of somebody you know through somebody. Well I am not doing a good job of explaining why it feels let it be :).

Finally, to wrap up this post, sharing some music with anyone and everyone.
Loving the music by Gustavo Santaolalla. This one is from Motorcycle Diaries and his most recent one is the sound track of Dhobi Ghat!

enjoy and peace!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Crisis in Egypt"!

So, like millions of urban folks across the world, I too spent most of my weekend staring at the TV. There was a choice between watching some sports (heard that the pro-ball/American Football was on)or the drama that was unfolding in Egypt. Geopolitics and tyrannical leaders won over men in tights fighting over a ball (also indicates my limited understanding of American football).

Particularly enjoyed watching Christiana Amanpour's coverage on her show- "This Week" on abc. My favorite bit was her interview with Mohamed ElBaradei, where she asked his assessment of US administration’s reaction, that “the government” must respect people’s rights and restore peace and democracy in Egypt. He replied- "to ask a dictator to implement democratic measures after 30 years of power is an oxymoron". I thought his response was spot on. Later, a friend of mine sent me an article that was featured in Aljazeera. It was a critique on the US Mideast policy by an ex-CIA agent and he expressed similar sentiments. The article said-

"Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress the protesters' desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the wobbling, repressive governments in the region to "respect civil society", and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform”.

With almost a billion dollar worth of US AID received by Egypt and as one of the key US allies in the Muslim world, things are a bit complicated for both countries. Geopolitics for sure is interesting. What we see happening in Egypt is sad, yet it is incredible and inspiring! It shows how unjust, irresponsible leaders will not be tolerated too long and people will revolt. My only concern following all this is the likelihood of an Islamic fundamentalist regime over Egypt. As ironic as it sounds, I hope, for Goad's sake, all "gods" are kept out of this mess!

Anyways, as a "concerned" citizen of this world, this is more than a weekend TV fix for me. For the sake of the people of Egypt hope that peace is restored, and democracy is implemented and we can all live as one big happy family.