Monthly Archives: August 2010

They don’t make movies like this, these days

Update for week ended 27 August 2010

I was still reeling under the influence of the “dishoom dishoom”, heady dialogues, screechy heroine, loud background scores and unusual movie title of the film that I saw. 405 Miles is not a conventional Hindi film title, and not even if it is prefixed with the word Bombay. But that was perhaps an attempt to draw in the crowds for the thriller, action, drama movie that could have raked in the moolah for the producer. A bunch of goons escaping Delhi after a foiled crime, (I could almost visualise the Organising Committee Chairman and his ilk of the CommonWealthy games) onto a goods train. Now that is a different one; (the diamond thieves from Mumbai actually flew out in style on an English/Emirati aircraft); but these goons chose the incognito route. And guess what – they bump into an old man and a little girl on the same train…. Now that is quite an absurd way of meeting anyone – I know that Indian railways can get crowded and people are often seen travelling on the roofs, if not sitting in the corridors, outside the loos, even in the vestibule railing; but imagine travelling in a goods train compartment. But Hindi films will be what they are – and much before reaching its destination – Bombay – the old man kicks the bucket; but says his dying words – “take care of this girl, she is worth millions”… and you guessed right – the man dies 405 miles before reaching Bombay. So that is where the thrill, action, drama all begins… The “tan de nan” trumpets, trombones blow in the background setting the pace for the rest of the movie… Of course, I got a headache, as did the 5 others in the near empty movie theatre, and before the screechy anglicized heroine could sing another song (her first song was worth the wait – and those who know this lady, will vouch for it; but this song was of lost love and other such sad thoughts), we reeled out of the 405 miles…  My head was swimming, and I could not walk down steadily out of the theatre. The partly damaged steps did not help steady our climb down, and we almost tumbled out. 405 miles traversed in not so long a time!!!!

This week was when the D Boyz thought of all things nice. Their Malayali colleagues had served up a good “sadhya” (meal on a plantain leaf) and their sisters tied colourful silk threads on their wrists for their protection. But poor D Boyz, who would protect them from the torture of the 405 mile ride; seems like they also endured the escaping goons (were these the FIIs pulling money out of D Street); and tried to board the goods train out — but the heady noises from across the seven seas was too much to handle, and they lost the handle on their lady love – SENSEX. Before she (the SENSEX) could belt out her sad song, they abandoned their work 405 points down…. This week SENSEX is sadly that many points down at 17998.

The angry man from a small town, the suave goon from Punjab, the sultry half German – half Muslim lady are quite a formidable combination, but individually. I guess it is difficult to throw in thrill, comedy, love triangle, lost and found theme, musical, into a Western style title. Or was it the goods train? I know not, but now I know that a good looking hero, a dialogue spewing second hero and a fabulous looking heroine do not necessarily gel well…. So I will stick to watching TV with my little girls – cartoons are evergreen and truly a lot of fun…

Have a nice weekend… Cheers…

p.s. The events depicted in this writing are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.


The Shrubs in the rain soaked lane

Update for week ended 20 August 2010

The rain soaked earth had stopped scenting the air with that heady fresh monsoon scent. It was the third monsoon month and the squishy earth was wet yet firm, after the top soil had been eroded and the gritty laterite foundation was visible. The little lane was at a lower level than the houses flanking the lane. This is typical of Kerala settlements and towns, given the heavy rains that pound them for practically every month of the year; and this arrangement helps the houses stay away from stray floods or water overflows that occur. Most of the hedges along this lane have little shrubs. And at this time just before the annual festival of Onam, the hedges were lush with glistening green leaves. The hibiscuses had grown to over 10 feet in height, while the henna shrub interspersed itself and the thick foliage had replaced the bare boughs (refer to Crush of the Henna Leaves). The tightly packed ixora shrub could not be missed either. This is also the season for the shrubs to flower. The henna flowers were pale green – almost yellowish but the fragrance was heady. The old “muttachhis” (grand old ladies of the house) would warn people to be careful while negotiating these shrubs, as serpents were believed to be attracted to the scent of the henna flower. So stepping out in the dark was a strict no-no, unless one carried a staff in hand and tapped the ground loudly before taking steps forward. A torchlight was a weak replacement for the staff, but a muttacchi could be cajoled to permit it. The occasional night queen shrub would also blend its fragrance with the henna and the air would smell like the store of the Muslim Perfumier in Calicut – heady and overpowering at times. And the “chembarathi”, hibiscus would also be in bloom this month with its trademark flame red flowers that every child who went to school and studied science, and remembered some of its primary sessions, would immediately recognize. The flower that is sometimes referred to as shoeflower, is the “classic” flower with its sepals, 5 petals, the stamen, with the stigma and anthers and pollen clearly visible. This flower however has no smell, and thankfully so, else the already heady scents in the air would have got a bit nauseous fro passersby. The other abundant blossoms in the rains was the “thecchi” (common ixora), the flower that looks like a bulbous red fruit from a distance, only because the flower always blooms in a bunches of over 50 flowers in a stalk and are so neatly arranged in a bouquet resembling a spherical ball. Despite the riotous flowering, the lush foliage still makes this lane green, and is perhaps why some people get spiritual and use slogans like “God’s Own Country” to describe the place.

The D Street Boyz walked down their green lane – D Street. The rains were bountiful, and the earth was not soggy, as it was a tarred road. And thankfully for them, the local municipal authorities had not dug up any of these calm roads and lanes, so no fresh earth around. The rains were also not so heavy for water to accumulate after last night’s floods (quite unlike what their friends in Delhi have to endure). The lush greens of the flanking trees were enough to keep the boys happy and prompt them to prop up their SENSEX – 200 points for 2 consecutive days… and make them feel like on top of the world – or at least what they perceive as the top in the last 30 months… A few red flowers, here and there did distract them and they finally ended this week at 18401. I am not sure if the D Boyz have a nose for the scented flowers or an eye for their catchy colours. The only way to figure that out is how they will celebrate their Onam.

The Muttacchis will guide the youngsters in their “tharavaads”, households on which flowers to pick. The thecchi for sure, as also the chembarathi, but the pride of place will be given to the yellow “Kolambi” – the yellow bell flower or allamanda. This is the flower that will adorn the centre of the Pookallam – flower rangoli that will adorn every Keralite’s home – irrespective of religion, or place of residence.

Wishing all of you a very happy Onam and happy weekend……..

Have you ever been on a diet?

Update for week ended 13 August 2010 

Have you ever been on a diet? No I am not referring to times when you travelled to the Far East and could not unscramble what was served to you; or when you visited the Americas and could not gather the strength to eat through the almost uncooked – and truly rare meats! Or when you wanted to be adventurous in the African game reserve and were not game to the game being served. I am referring to voluntary diets that are self imposed to achieve a goal. The goal could be anything – losing weight, shaping up, toning up or even gaining weight and a few times more sublime and ethereal. Well, I will focus my next few lines on the goal that millions aim to achieve – losing weight. The choice of this diet is driven by the aim to achieve the maximum by giving up the minimum. So you gather all information you can on all possible diets – then zero in on the most “effective” (effective from the dieter’s point of view). And the day you start, you make a loud announcement – sometimes subtly, but mostly for everyone to give you those approving looks. Don’t consider those approving faces as encouragement, but they are disdain or smirks hidden behind those stretched cheeks – almost laughing out on the failure of the purported outcome. Well that is the way the world is. So take it in your stride and dive into day 1. Follow the diet to the T. You avoid conversations with your colleagues in office lest they tempt you to the coffee machines; you carry little boxes of specially prepared lunch from home and grandly announce how it tastes so good! (it actually tastes good, because you are famished at lunch time, so you can wolf down anything). And then by mid afternoon – your cravings start – initially as low rumbles in your abdomen, and then manifest in incoherence, light headedness, lack of concentration and at times even drowsiness. No – this is not the panic moment – it is just your mind playing games. If the dieter overcomes these – he has a future in dieting; and so at the end of the day, he feels ecstatic. One milestone achieved, a few more to go and the goal already looks achievable. The next day is tougher, because the food deficit adds up (and actually doubles) and the food is now actually like it is – bland. This is more reason for quitters to call it a day. And many actually drop out. But those that persevere – get into day 3 with a lot of hope and a spring in their step – as they get used to the reduced eating. Perhaps the body learns to live off its reserves, and the occasional flirtations with the last biscuit in the meeting room, or an additional coffee in mid morning – actually don’t happen. And then this moves onto the fourth, by when the body actually realizes that the end is near – not the end of its existence, but of the diet! This is the tricky day – because although you know that you are on the last leg, the body for some strange reason, thinks that you are going to get disabled (perhaps because of the last leg bit) and gets into an emergency situation – it sends signals to the brain to get refurbishments – cakes, cream, desserts, – name it and the brain will demand it. Now that will be a disaster for the poor soul who wants to achieve his weight loss goal – his soul fights his brain, his eyes, his tongues, his lips, his taste buds, and somehow ends a miserable day. And finally on the day the goal is set for, you wake up with a twinkle in your eye, a spring in your step, and give it your best shot. After all, you won’t have to go through it for long. So the day ends on a great note. It feels even better, when you stand on the weighing scale and actually see the goal. So you shout out your yippee and it is time to crack that bottle of bubbly – and indulge… 

The D Street was buzzing with excitement this week, as the D Boyz planned their next move. They wanted to go on a Diet. So they started Monday on a high note, but the next day their shortfall in food intake doubled, for them to double over – this worried the SENSEX which dipped and then the D Boyz strived harder on Wednesday and came out tops as they triumphed over their internal devils. And then as they got into Thursday – looked ahead to the weekend and suddenly – they could not control themselves. They went berserk and although they would have loved to kilos, they instead lost their marbles and the SENSEX slid too. But the few Boyz who stayed on till Friday, woke up with a spring in their step and twinkle in their eye, as they helped perk up the Street and SENSEX to end the week on a happy note – 18144 to 18167. And you thought they dieted to lose their SENSEX figure?

This week saw the start of the Hindu holy month of Shravan when many devouts and some not so devout, stay away from meat and other animal products; and yesterday was the start of the holy month of Ramzan (Ramadhan) when many Muslims fast all through the day. There are reasons beyond just religion that at times have started off these cultural food controls, and one could perhaps try to learn these instead of passing them off as religious mumbo jumbo. And if it is done as a group effort and with a strong belief, I have seen that the ability to endure these strict diets are not as torturous as they seem. Wishing all a happy holy month.

Have a nice weekend – Jai Hind …..

The Crush of the Henna Leaves

Update for year ended 6 August 2010

The cheerful house was full of giggling gaggle of girls. They were gaily dressed and flitting in and out of the house carrying their wicker baskets full of henna leaves. They took it to the courtyard in the centre of the villa where Rasathi was seated near the grinding stone. She was getting ready to crush the leaves into a thick paste. All the girls gathered around Rasathi and eagerly looked forward to the ritual that was to follow. Rasathi picked up more than a handful of the leaves, placed it on the stone slab and sprinkled some water. She then shut her eyes momentarily in prayer, and then started her chant. The girls waited for her to complete the first stanza and when Rasathi picked up the crushing stone, they waited for her to start the rhythmic crush. That was when they started singing in chorus about the gathering clouds, about pining hearts, the blinding rain, the scent of the wet earth, the green shoots in paddy fields, the coir swings strung on mango boughs. Rasathi would repeatedly add more leaf bunches and continue with the regimen. Once a while, she would pause to push back a lock of hair that had slipped out of place. Her messy hands would make it difficult to flick her hair, so she would sometimes use her wrist or urge her chorus choir members to oblige. And sometimes, the littlest of the girls would wrap her arms around Rasathi’s neck and when she sang her line, all would be silent to then rebuke her or tease her. And as the songs progressed, so did the mounds of the now brownish green paste, that Rasathi would scoop out into the brass bowl placed by her side. And then the girls would pass it around for the girls to pluck out a blob of the crush. And one at a time, the girls would start by applying the henna crush on the palm – first a large circular disc in the centre, and with satellite like little dots around it. They would then cap their finger tips with little “helmet-like” henna blobs and the next girl would help her with the feet applications. And this would go on till the last girl would be left with no-one to help her. Rasathi would then step in with her already coloured palms, and do the needful.

This week was full of song and cheer on D Street. The D Boyz who had ended last week hanging onto the SENSEX below 18000 started this week by piercing this level – and pushed the SENSEX to green levels as the song and rhythmic dance kept it it in high spirits. Of course, when the D Boyz wanted to scoop out some profits from the SENSEX, it slipped to show the red colours on the street. So the SENSEX which zoomed to a 23 month high slipped a few points on Thursday and Friday to end at 18144.

So don’t you want to know what Rasathi did to get her palms and feet hennaed? Her constant crushing of the green leaves, and the regular scooping up and scooping out, of the paste would have rendered her palms and fingers a deep red. Well her hands were deep crimson already with all that henna crushing, so she did not bother about them. She just applied the henna to her feet and joined the girls near the kitchen to be fed some coffee and freshly fried aamai vadais – fried black gram fritters spiced up with chillies and greens.

Monsoons are here and some of the traditions of the past are sometimes lost in the web of time. If any of you know the significance of the henna application, the songs sung, the swings strung on mango tree branches, the eating of fritters on rainy afternoons; please share it with me and others who read this.

Have a nice weekend … Cheers..