Monday, August 31, 2009

In retrospective

At this point of my life I have had a great deal of time to think, an action that I had not spent much time on when I was young. The solitude that I longed for in my youth has transformed into terrifying loneliness that manifests itself even amidst the people who pass through my life with varying shades of disregard, and it is essential to keep myself from falling into the abyss of isolation. Moreover, I find that my mind is full of scraps of thought that I am afraid of losing. I wish to collect them, label them and place them in their holders before I go. This is the final examination of the life-long learning, where my experiences are evaluated and classified. But there is no grading, no rating of good or bad - no one tells me I was right or wrong. Only the awareness that if I do so, I would feel as if a heavy mass has been lifted off my mind.


(Pre-scheduled post)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'll see you when I see you!

As I had let slip several times this week, we are going on a short trip to God's own country, Kerala, to celebrate Onam. The vacation is not going to be the kind where we sit back and relaaaaxxxxxx one whole week, it is going to be hectic with the three of us - AK, Munnu and I - sprinting from Nedumbassery to Thiruvananthapuram in seven days. But I am excited that we can catch the different faces of Onam in the towns we pass! Believe me, Kerala is the place to be - especially at the time when King Mahabali is around.

Though I plan to be totally out of touch with the Outside World, considering my obsession with the Internet, I suspect I will peek in now and then - perhaps towards the end of next week - to see how things are faring in the cyber world.

And I do not intend to completely neglect my blog while I am away. Taking a leaf from Sandra Bell-Lundy's blog, I am scheduling a few posts for the next week.

Do come over, read them and leave me comments!

Happy Onam to all !

Friday, August 28, 2009

Some days...!

Scene I

The door bell rings twice. The person outside is obviously in a hurry. I am not expecting anyone. I rush to the door hoping it is a package that I had believed lost en route from the US. I open the door, and there is no one. I wonder if it is "Kids?" and step out to look. There is someone standing at the next door, as my neighbour opens it.

The picture is now clear. Due to a number of reasons that are too insignificant to list here, people confuse my door with my neighbour's. I have often faced delivery boys handing me parcels I had never asked for, strangers asking for people I haven't heard of and so forth. It has never bothered me, I would only be pleased to point out that the house they want is that one.

But this time it is different. The man standing ten feet away with his back to me is very clearly one of them who got the wrong door, he obviously heard me open mine, probably saw me standing there staring at him, but does not have the courtesy to turn around and say, "Sorry, wrong door." Or something to that effect. I mean, it is quite natural to make a mistake, especially in the circumstances, but why can't the man just admit it? Had he done so, I would have forgotten it the next instant. He didn't, and (an irritated) I didn't.

Scene II

I am eagerly waiting (rather, hoping) for two emails to arrive. I switch on my PC in the morning, and as I walk about doing my chores (I have much to finish before going on vacation!) or sit at the desk typing away, every now and then I glance at the Inbox or refresh it, hoping the mail(s) would arrive. They don't. I go out for an hour and when I come back, I again check mails. Nope, no sign of them yet.

I have two phone numbers with me. I have to ring them up and get some information. I try the first number, three times. No one picks it up. It is an office, for God's sake. Where are these people? I drop it and try the other number. A female voice asks, "Hello?" I ask for the person I want to talk to. "He is gone for lunch, please call later." Lunch at 4 o'clock?

I take the hint. Probably, as they say, this is not a good day for my matters to work out. Maybe one of the planets is aligned with a cranky constellation and Moon is passing through them. So, though I am impatient and furious, I stop waiting (or, I tell myself I am not waiting, I am just connected to the Net, just because.) And I do not try the phone numbers again. "One of those days," I tell myself.

She comes to me then. She had been to see someone, very important someone - again details are not needed here - and she was hoping for some excellent results. Hoping is not the term here. She was assured earlier, that very positive results would be given today. And now she is told that there is no such thing as a result, please come back after a few days. She comes to me and says, "Today is a bad day for me..."

You get what I mean?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Appointment in Samarra

I had read this story years ago, and loved it. Happened to remember it recently and Googled for it.

There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

(Somerset Maugham)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clean and dry

Know the feeling of fulfilment when your long-pending laundry, that was threatening to break the basket, is finally done, the house is scrubbed clean to your heart's content, and the bathroom floor & walls are spotless?

I just had that kind of contentment when I scheduled and completed a virus scan, disk defragment, disk check (Scandisk) and deleted all temporary and unnecessary files that had accumulated in my PC.

I do not know if it really made any difference, but I feel good, and it makes me reflect, isn't my Mozilla Firefox a wee bit faster today? Isn't my File Explorer loading without any grumble today?
Yes, or No.
Who knows? It feels good nevertheless!

Ganesha goes to his Mother

Ganesha Pooja at our apartment on Sunday night.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Humans and Fonts

Here is a survey for you. Please spare a moment and put in your comments as to whether my statements are right or wrong, from your experience. Do ask your friends to take part in this as well.

Fonts that Women prefer are Garamond, Georgia or Trebuchet.
Fonts that Men prefer are Verdana or Arial.

I would like you to comment on this:
Is this correct or not? What kind of font do you use or like to see?

The statements are based on my observations of fonts used by different people - in their mails, blogs, etc.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Today is a very special day.
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi, the festival of Lord Ganesha.
Today is also Atham, the day that signifies the beginning of Onam, the most important festival of Keralites. The ten-day countdown to Thiruonam(Sep 2) begins today.

Next Sunday, I travel to Kerala to be part of the celebrations!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Search for the silver lining

Ever had one of those days when you flop back to your bed at night, and you strain your eyes, wear thick, powerful glasses and try to spot the silver lining amidst the dark clouds that threaten to cover your sky? You peer into them because you know that the thinnest possible line of silver does exist, yet your mind focuses on the darkness rather than the silver, and you need to dig deeper into the clouds to really spot it, and hold it.
I see you nod your head in understanding, even in sympathy.

Munnu and I set out for shopping today morning, there were things I needed to purchase prior to my week-long vacation to God's own country, Kerala, in the first week of Sept. When the cab dropped us at the Commercial Street, unfortunately I had only hundreds with me, and he had no lesser notes either. The very nice cabbie asked me to wait in the car whilst he would go get my hundred changed to smaller amounts so that I can pay him. After a while I spotted him wandering through each shop and waving to auto-wallahs, asking for a change for hundred. Finally I beckoned to him to come back. If there is one thing I despise about Bangalorean shopkeepers and autowallahs (oh, regarding autowallahs there is a longer list but of course that is a different story), it is their refusal to provide change when someone requests it. And I have noted this behaviour consistently in the last five or six years, and have made it a habit to always carry smaller currency whenever I go out. However there are days when these things happen. It does not matter to them that the seeker is in dire need of the change, you should see their indifferent faces when we ask. (How do all of them wear the same blank expression?) They do not even bother to check if they have any. "I have no intention or interest to help you" is written in large, bold, underlined font on their face. Finally, guess what I had to do? I went into a shop, bought something which I did not need, got the balance and paid my cabbie. Where I should have spent Rs.18/-, I ended up spending Rs.70/-

Maybe I should have taken a cue from this and returned home without any further mishap, wasn't this a clear enough signal that the day is doomed? My next entry was into a shop to pick up some T-shirts for Munnu. I found them quite expensive, but after a moment's reflection I picked up a few of them, so that I can tick the item off my To-Do List. Wasn't I too much in a hurry? After the tasks at the Commercial Street, when I went to Lifestyle Mall to pick up other items, what do I see? T-shirts for 3-4 year olds at a price less than half of the ones I bought earlier.

The day was far from easy, as I had to tow a very restless three-year-old with me, who would suddenly spot a Toy Shop at every other corner of Commercial Street, and start screaming that he wants "something." Something is a magic word that can lie anywhere between "Nothing" and "Everything" via "Anything". To make matters difficult, I had to pick up a few picture books from one of these shops and to calm a screamy child, I bought a toy for him.

I often go out shopping with Munnu. He likes coming with me, he likes wandering around the shops doing window-shopping as well as real shopping, and I enjoy going with him, buying him an occasional juice or a toy. Whenever I go with him, I do my purchases in fast-forwaded manner so that he doesn't get bored, and at the end of the day I feel a sense of achievement at a shopping well done. Today was very, very different - I am afraid that if I check my purchases a second time, I will want to return them! And I really think I spent much more than I intended to!

And yet, there are a few small good things that happened here and there. I spoke to a couple of well-known book stores about putting up my book for sale. One of them asked me to send him a few copies.

My husband joined us for lunch at Hotel Empire, Church Street, and took charge of the by now whiney Munnu (while I relaxed and had my lunch).

We came back home exhausted, and I remembered with relief that it was only Saturday, the whole of Sunday is still before us, untainted! To quote Meg Ryan in a movie whose name I cannot recall, "Sunday is the day before the day I work, so it is poisoned!"

Hope you have a clean Sunday!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Rising of the Moon

I put my book down on my lap and gazed at the eastern horizon. A glorious full moon was rising, bathing the road and the trees before me in its cool and pleasing light. The golden orb would soon shrink in size and become a flat disc as it travelled across the sky. It was becoming too dark to read. I closed my book and continued watching the rising of the full Moon, a sight that never ceases to take my breath away. The thriller that I was reading did not give me as much excitement as this view before me did.

My son came running towards me and pointed to the sky, saying "Moon, Moon" in his baby talk. I nodded and smiled at him. After a while, he ran away again back to his toys.

I grew solemn as I thought about a similar evening about a year ago. My baby was in my arms and I was pointing out the full moon to him from this very same balcony. He was gazing up, his eyes wide in wonder. He must have been about five months old.

A year has passed by, though it feels like decades... centuries.

My son has learned to walk since. And I stopped walking.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A glimpse - Tales from the Garden City

Click on the image to read the text in the back cover.

As per a suggestion from my friend, I am updating my earlier post on my book with the complete book cover as above. Also, I have added a snapshot of the Contents page.

Thanks for the suggestion, Mj.
More suggestions welcome!

Read More about Tales from the Garden City...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Difficult decisions

Sometimes Life thrusts into our hands unjust and unkind choices, and forces us to make a decision because in the delicate balance of our priorities, one side maybe a millimetre lower than the other.

And then we pretend that such choices don't trouble us, we pretend that our pains don't hurt us, and we trudge along, putting them behind us, and try to think no further till the next similar hurdle.

Each such hurdle leaves an unforgettable scar on us, since they tear us apart as we face them, and the scar becomes a lesson for us to draw out later on when we are beyond them, and recite to others.

But then, the one thing that would keep us from falling apart and give us the courage to proceed is the thought that we tried our best to be kind, to be just and to save others from disaster.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Debate

The following story from the Mahabharata is taken from the novel Show Business by Dr. Shashi Tharoor.

Ashok Banjara, the superhero of Hindi cinema, at the peak of his fame suddenly decides to take a turn in his career and plunges into politics, to follow the path of his Father, though not exactly the way his Father wanted. Acting upon his brother Ashwin's advice, Ashok visits a Guru in his ashram, to seek his blessings prior to the upcoming elections. The following excerpt is from the Guru's address to his followers:

"... I shall conclude this discourse with a story from the Mahabharata - a debate, shall we say, amongst the five Pandava brothers, the "heroes", if you must, of the great epic. The topic they were debating was a typically Hindu question of hierarchies: which, they argued, was the highest of human pursuits, - kama, pleasure, artha, wealth, or dharma, righteousness? Their uncle and counsellor Vidura thought the matter was self-evident: the answer was obviously dharma. Arjuna, the most intelligent of the Pandavas, was not so sure: he put artha first, seeing pleasure and righteousness as merely two adjuncts of wealth. (He would obviously have made a very successful merchant banker today.) Bhima, the glutton and strongman, disagreed. In his view, the satisfaction of desire, in other words, kama, was obviously man's first duty, since without the desire to achieve, any achievement would be impossible. The twin brothers Nakul and Sahadev wanted to have it both ways: man, they declared, should go for all three - first pursue righteousness, then wealth, and lastly pleasure. (I am beginning to think they had a point there, but not necessarily in that order.) Finally, the oldest brother, Yudhishtira, paragon of virtue, surveyed the options and sadly rejected all of them. The only thing for a man to do, he concluded, was to sidestep the debate altogether, and submit himself to Fate."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Independence Day

This year's Independence Day has been quite dampened thanks to the nasty swine flu that has descended on the nation, early this week. Panic is the mood of the hour, and the last thing on everyone's minds is celebration.

Anyway... Jai Hind!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Book - Tales from the Garden City

I had been at it for some time now. For the last couple of months (or more), I have been working on gathering the stories that I had written as a hobby, face-lifting them and getting them ready to be read by others. Last year, I had sent some of them to some known publishers in India to see if they would be interested in making a book of it. Many of them responded (after 4-5 months of anxious waiting!) saying that they aren't interested (of course, in a much more polished way!). I had found these publishers through the Internet, and manuscript submissions were made as their sites directed. I like to believe that my manuscript was rejected because they did not come with any "credentials" (I am not a known writer, nor did I approach them through a literary agent).

Finally in April of this year I had this idea of self-publishing.

My collection of short stories, Tales from the Garden City, based in Bangalore (as the name implies) and written over the last few years, is published by Cinnamonteal Print And Publishing.

Click on the image to read the text on the back cover of the book.

A snapshot of the Contents page.

Read snippets:
The Rising of the Moon
In Retrospective (Part-1, Part-2)
The Greatest Love of All
The Well

Available at the following Book Stores:
Landmark Bangalore / Chennai / Mumbai / Pune / Hyderabad / Gurgaon
Gangarams Book Bureau, M.G. Road, Bangalore.
TBS Publishers, Thiruvananthapuram.
Green Books, Thrissur 

Click here to Purchase Online:
Flipkart (Shipped to anywhere in India)
Dogears Etc (Shipped to anywhere in India and abroad) 

Click here to read some reviews.

For several reasons, I am glad I took this step. Just as in everything else, there have been lessons to learn in this trip as well. I will share some of those interesting experiences as we travel along.

If you think Print-on-Demand, think CinnamonTeal. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I believe in Destiny.
I guess I always did, but I was never really conscious of it nor did I realise it.
So what does it mean? It means that whatever you do or think or say has already been decided ('written'), and you are only fulfilling your Destiny with your actions. In other words, regrets or guilt do not have a place in your life, since you are only succumbing to a higher command. What it amounts to is that sometimes, there are bushes you are expected to cut across at the expense of bruising your arms, and there are also times when, after crossing a number of bushes and oceans we find ourselves at the same place where we started, because someone chose to put us in our place.

Many a time when I am bewildered by the complexity of the cross-roads I have reached, when I am at a loss to decide which of the pointers to follow and each decision I venture to take tightens its grip on me, I slowly let go, close my eyes and walk, taking each straw as it comes, making one decision at a time, choosing one path at a time. If such a thing as Destiny exists, then whatever I do, whomever I thwart, or whomever I keep close, I would be doing what I am expected to do, and I would reach the position in Life I was meant to reach. If nothing else, this relaxes me and brings peace to my mind.

If I am confusing you, it is just that I am confused myself, and I believe clarity comes at the end of the big, bad tunnel of confusion.

A similar thought (and against it) has been expressed by Dr.Shashi Tharoor, whose book Show Business I recently read.

'From dharma comes success, from dharma comes happiness, everything emerges from dharma, dharma is the essence of the world.'

Is that all? I asked him. Is that the message? And he said, tell him that dharma is what life is all about, the upholding of the natural order. Tell him that whatever he did was in fulfilment of his dharma. Tell him to have no regrets.

I'm passing it on, Ashokbhai, but for what it's worth, I think it's too easy. One has to have regrets. I have regrets. A life without regrets is a life lived without introspection, without inquiry. That's not a life worth living.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Swine Flu lands in Bangalore

Just heard the news that two schools are closed down this week as two of their students tested positive for H1N1 (swine flu)...

News from Deccan Chronicle regarding a student of Frank Anthony Public School, the other student is in a different school and the report is unconfirmed.

There is a lot of panic among the people, hospitals are overflowing with patients with the slightest symptom, because the symptoms are just the same as ordinary (common) flu. Already four deaths and associated controversies have happened in India.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Show Business

I just finished reading "Show Business" by Dr. Shashi Tharoor. This is the second book by Dr.Tharoor that I am reading (the first being The Great Indian Novel) since he won the Elections in a victory that put landslides to shame, and became the Minister of State for External Affairs. In fact, if one reads the tweets(@shashitharoor) that his 20-thousand+ (and increasing) followers send him daily, I believe his books are selling at a much faster pace than ever before, since he left the UN (he was the former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations) and appeared in the Indian Political scenario prior to this year's Elections to the Parliament.

Show Business is a story that circles around the Indian Film capital of Mumbai and the Indian Political capital of New Delhi. I am sure I don't sound kind to the author when I say that his days at the UN seem to have been quite unstressful, yielding him plenty of free time, because he has had time to study, research and write intensely about the world of Bollywood and of Political India, much before he became an active participant in the matters of State. I do read his tweets once in a while (I am one of his 20thou+ followers), and they reiterate that he does not have any time for himself after becoming a Minister, let alone for reading, researching and writing. Surely no books can spring from his mind right now, or do I underestimate him? Let us wait and see.

The book is much lengthier than I would have liked it to be, to the extent of becoming quite a drag at places, especially where he details an entire movie (about six movies in the entire book - Imagine!). The author has squeezed in his opinion of a lot of topics into the book, ranging from Mahabharata to Michelangelo to Swiss accounts to dharma to cricket.

It is a different read from The Great Indian Novel, which, though it did have its share of comedy, was made of more sterner and deeper stuff. Show Business is comedy itself, mocking at politics, films, people, things and everything that the author comes across in his narration.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thought for the weekend

If infants know they should fall on their tummy three months after birth, and to crawl in their sixth month and to walk in their twelfth month without anyone telling them, why don't they also learn beforehand (who teaches them, anyway?) that glass would break if they drop it, they would hurt themselves if they fall, and all the remaining basic lessons of human existence, without their having to experience each to understand, or poor harassed mothers screaming at them at every juncture?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raksha Bandhan

Today is Raksha Bandhan, the festival that celebrates brother-sister love.

The following text is borrowed from today's Times of India:

Legend has it that when Krishna was injured with a cut on his hand, Draupadi, the Pandavas' wife, dressed his wound by wrapping a strip of her sari around it. Krishna, touched by her concern for his well-being, swore to repay the debt by protecting her.
Over the years, the spirit of rakhi spread with other stories further emphasizing the importance of the bond. By tying a rakhi, a sister promises to pray for her brother's well-being and he, in return, promises to protect her.

More stories from the legends, regarding Rakhi can be found in this site.
Picture of Rakhi (above) saved from the Internet.

Monday, August 3, 2009

At the Doctor's

At the end of the first trimester of my pregnancy, my doctor suggested an ultra sound scan to ensure that the growth and other developments are on track. The radiologist, perhaps owing to a long experience of seeing eager first-time Moms, turned the screen towards me as he did the scan, and after satisfying himself that everything was fine, told me, "That- is your baby." I could make out nothing, I felt as though I was looking toward outer space on a starry night. Slowly he explained to me where the head was, how the body was positioned and how the hands were gently moving, so that I could make out something that resembles a foetus. The sight placed a lump in my throat and jerked a few unseen tears from my eyes; it was an emotion I could not explain. That shapeless form slowly moving about in my womb is my child! I could not wait the remaining few months to hold him in my hands.

Today there was a routine visit to the paediatrician for the shapeless form who is now a three-and-a-half year old boy. And the little being that had once elicited tears from my eyes was running about as if a pin would prick his back if he sat down. I almost lost him twice in the hospital. First, after I left him watching Tom and Jerry from the Plasma TV in the lobby for a moment when I went around to get his reports (the lady at the reception was frantically searching for the paper she had just left there a moment ago) and when I turned back a moment later, the head that was bouncing up and down in a chair was suddenly missing. A second later, I saw him come out of the radiology department, calling "Amme... Amme...", looking for me. I hoped he was sufficiently frightened not to run off again. But a spirit like his cannot be dampened by insignificant instances as those. After getting the reports I found that there were two patients before our turn. So we both sat down to wait. Suddenly a pre-schooler appears, his parents nowhere in sight - they must really have given up on this one, and I don't blame them - and the two begin to play. No introductions, no questions. They look at each other and when I ask my son to sit down, he tells me, "He is my friend!"

Suddenly, the new friend starts running towards the reception and before my startled eyes, my son also starts running after him. I wait a moment to see if he realises that he has an anxious parent somewhere nearby and turns back, but no such thoughts deter him. They go on, go on, past the reception, past the pharmacy and almost into the canteen where I catch up with him and ask between breaths, "Where... do... you... think... you... are... going?" I puffed and panted my way back, holding his hand (a little too hard), muttering, "You go sit there in that chair, young man! And don't you dare move!"

The doctor's room has a rotating chair that no doubt has been used to wear and tear by all the little ones that visit. This young man sits on it and starts rotating it to glory and when I say, "please sit still", he says, "This chair is made to rotate". I could find nothing to refute that argument. I am silenced.

My only hope is that in a few years, at least he will be able to find his way back once he gets lost.
So much for longing to hold him in my hands!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Guest Post: Solar Eclipse snaps

I have been after my Father ever since he left comments on my blog post on Total Solar Eclipse, (comments under the name Astroram) to upload or send me snaps of the previous solar eclipses that he has witnessed in different parts of India (he is one enthusiastic sky-watcher, I tell you!). Finally he consented, and sent me a few, with a short note on each.

The three black-and-white photographs below were taken on 16th Feb 1980, at Gokarn in Karnataka State. The first with a slightly big diamond was the first and when the disk of the moon slid in fully, the diamond became small and then the totality with the beautiful corona. It was breathtaking indeed. Notice the circular shape of the big corona, which is typical of times around sunspot maximum.

The below image was taken on 19th March 2007 at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. It was a beautiful partial eclipse sans clouds.

The total solar eclipse of 22nd July, 2009 was the longest in terms of maximum totality duration of the 21st century – lasting over six and a half minutes. Not since Saros 1991 have astronomers and eclipse chasers been treated to such a length of time! The eclipse footprint started in India along the western shore near Surat moved towards Butan and reached the southern tip of Nepal and the northern edge of Bangladesh. For other lucky astronomers, the eclipse path also took the event over the Chinese main land – yielding five minutes of totality. Leaving Shanghai the shadow raced across the ocean to fall across islands such as Toshima and Akusaki south of Japan and eventually the Marshall islands. Where did the longest time occur? The maximum eclipse duration of 6 minutes and 43 seconds was far off the coast in the Pacific Ocean!