Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And we are born again

Dear The World According to Me,

Another year dies. And a new one emerges from the womb of time. The world has been reborn with the hereditary traits of a million centuries- and not all of them good. Yet, it squalls unbeaten, determined to survive.

You too,dear blog, have survived. Despite the erratic and eccentric nature of the Creator, you have managed to go on. Not only have you survived,you have also grown. You have seen old faces move on and new faces enter, new branches grace your family tree. You enter the new year with the strength of a hundred posts behind you- a true achievement indeed given the decidedly Ent-like nature of the Creator. Regardless of droughts and depressions you still continue. And for this the Creator Herself bows to you (no meager compliment,this).

The World According to me is like the world. It moves into the new year carrying the scars and achievements of the ages. But yet, it remains optimistic, because not all that passed in the past was utterly irredeemably bad. The World According to Me is a world of it's own. And the Creator promises Happy things for you.

The Creator,


Happy New Year to all. :D

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dr. Ames' Inventory of New Age Diseases-3

Welcome to the newest edition of Dr.Ames' Directory for New Age Diseases. This edition will focus on two of the most rampant ailments plaguing the student community. The avid readers will perhaps be disappointed at the brevity of this edition. However, the good doctor assures them that these two ailments are equivalent to four more than than their number. Knowledge awaits:

1) Brain ham-or-rage:

This dreaded condition strikes the student at her/his most delicate times. That of assignment writing. As most individuals who have gone through the motion of higher education would know, these tasks are usually commenced on the previous day; more often a couple of hours before dead-line(emphasis on dead).And given that an hour can only accommodate 60 minutes, the ideal strategy of research is generally abandoned.This rather tight situation results in a surge of enzymes and fluids into the cranial area. The body adapts to the need for material and a enters a phase known as SFEE (Spontaneous Fecal-Equivalent Emission), more commonly known as "crapping" or "hamming". This phase is characterized by the cerebrum morphing into it's sister form- cerebum. "All the better for writing out of one's a**.", to quote a leading medical practitioner. This transformation ensures the student an entry into the word-limit safe zone.
However,the morph often goes awry due to a diffusion of the said fluids,and results not only in aforementioned change,but also in that of the medula oblongata into muddle-a oblongated. This causes a constipation in the cerebum and a general lack of flow in FE (Fecal-Equivalent). Thus, leaving the student unable to fill the necessary pages and the emergence of general frustration and rage.This condition is known as Ham-or-rage. High frequency screaming, groaning at computer screens, and zombie-like stricken staring are all symptoms of this.

Cures are broadly subjective. However, short walks, emergency light reading and beverages have proven to be useful in the past. Extreme measures include sharp flicking movements of the wrist towards the visage of the patient.


This ailment is characterised by the stiffening of the joints through intensive writing/typing. Most people mistake this condition to be limited merely to the fingers. This is not true. The neck, the lower back etc. are also targets. Sometimes patients have even complained about "sprained brains". As painful as the condition is, it is not necessarily crippling. The student usually plows along even with the said ailment, often inflaming the condition to the level of a C-section. A C-section can be defined as the movement of two extreme ends of one structure towards each other under the influence of gravity,concentration and extensive pressure. This usually results in the arth-write-is struck bone structure taking the form of a "C". Another complication that might arise is that of Type-phoid. In this case the fingers of the ailing person seize up and/or obtain a psyche of their own. Both the scenarios result in considerable discomfort and disastrous typos.
Flexing, massaging and stretching are effective methods to ease out of this ailment.

Further developments in the New Age medical field will be updated as and when the venerable doctor feels like it. Until then, good health and happiness to all! And happy healthy Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grand Exit

Here is another story from the heart of malluland. I extend my humble thanks to my father for supplying me with this one.

The Keralite family,with its ridiculously hypocritical system of matriarchy(a bigger hoax there never was), granted all the power to the maternal uncle or the Ammaaman of the family. Thiruvazhuthaan was one such ammaaman. And in the after life he would give serious competition to the Devil. Besides being a natural despotic tyrant and a bigotted sadist, Thiruvazhuthaan also took pleasure in driving away all his family members and anyone who dared to be at harassing distance. And even after they left, he rejoiced in thinking up and executing elaborate plans which managed to trouble and hassle them regardless of distance. Yes: you could run, you could hide, but you can't escape his abuse.

Several interminable years of torture later, to the joy and relief of his family, Thiruvazhuthaan finally ended up on his death bed. Him being the head of the family, the entire family was obligated to turn up. Mumbling, grumbling, cursing and scowling at the inconvenience, they came to offer their last respects(hah!) to the dying man. Bent and crooked, a mere waif of his evil self, Thiruvazhuthaan summoned the eldest brother of the second generation to his side. The brother grudgingly agreed and shuffled off to the beside, manfully disguising his elation at his uncle's dying state.

Thiruvazhuthaan raised his shrivelled, puckered lips in a semblance of a smile and coughed a frail cough. Anyone with a heart would have felt a faint tremor of sympathy for him. The nephew unbent enough to smile back and hold his uncle's hand.
"I have been very cruel to you,nephew; to all of you...." he rasped.
The nephew demurred completely, but respectfully kept quiet.
"... And I deserved to punished ten fold for it..."
The nephew was tempted to agree vigorously, but held his tongue again.
" And so I have thought of something good to give all of you satisfaction."
Here is where the nephew sat bolt upright and became wary. The nephew had good reason to be cautious- His uncle had never thought anything remotely good or helpful in his entire life.
A short fit of dry coughing later, Thiruvazhuthaan outlined his plan. He instructed the nephew to find a fine bamboo growing in the backyard, cut down a sizable portion, and, following his uncle's death, to sharpen one end of the pole and(here's the climax) shove it up his dead a**.
Ignoring the flabbergastred stare his nephew was levelling at him, Thiruvazhuthaan continued, "Only the family must do it. And it must be done. It is the only way my soul will find solace..."
"But I ca-"
"Say the truth! You have to admit that I deserve to be impaled."
"Well...that's tr-"
"You have to do this for me! It's my dying wish!
" But Ammaava how can-"
"You must! My soul will never find peace if you don't! You must make sure I'm impaled! Otherwise, my spirit will haunt this realm and never go away."

It was probably the thought of the prolonged existence of his Uncle in any form,anywhere near him that made the decision for the nephew. He agreed to carry out the request and communicated the developments to the rest of the family. For some reason,they were very enthusiastic about carrying it out...

At long last the old gargoyle breathed his last and the family breathed a sigh of relief (they were probably worried that he'd stay alive just to spite them). His final request was carried out with unwonted happiness and his spitted body was laid out for people to pay their respects. The mangled state of the corpse raised scandal and suspicion amongst the guests at the funeral. 'The family did him in!' they exclaimed. 'What brutal beasts! They actually impaled the poor old man!', decried the good folk.

To cut to the chase, the action oriented townsfolk called in the police and the smilingly impaled corpse earned the family an arrest and murder charges. You see, there was no document certifying that the uncle actually requested the procedure. There was only the nephew's word for it. And the entire place knew about the bad blood between the uncle and the rest of the family. The poor family was embroiled in scandal, entrenched in a convoluted legal case, black marked, and had to go into hiding. That poor nephew is probably slapping himself over and over again for believing his scheming uncle.

Well, in Thiruvazhuthaan's defence, he had spoken the truth. I'm sure his soul wouldn't have found solace if he hadn't made sure his family would be mired in trouble even after his death. And he never once said he was sorry. In his mind, I'm sure, he'd died the perfect death- One stick in the right place ended up ensuring more strife than anyone could have imagined. His life was fulfilled. For him a stick up his a** in no way detracted from the dignity of his death; in fact it made it a grand exit!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Apparently senility is making its presence felt within my geriatric being .
Hitting 21 has set off weird experimental tendencies in my erstwhile marginally sane mind. But the hold must be slipping from my gnarled hands. Why else would I actually
dabble in that quagmire, make-up?
How low the mighty have fallen!...

...It was a nice, cool evening, the wind blowing in fresh soft gusts from the balcony. My newly cleaned out room smiled a satisfied smile and all was in peace. Not for long... At some misguided moment, like Dr.Frankenstien, I decided to tread on unchartered territories. Chancing upon a lonely pot of kajal, some wicked spirit whispered in my ear to try out "smoky eyes". Dunno what that is? Neither did I, until a few months back. I blame it all on my fashion savy room-mate whose every second word is a fashion statement ;p . "Smoky eyes", as popularised by the likes of Angelina Jolie, Rani Mukherjee etc., essentially involves drawing kohl on your eyes and then smudging the whole thing.Yeah yeah it's supposed to have a lot more to it, but this is the bare essential method. Ridiculous, isn't it? And it sounds ridiculously easy too.

Apparently not.

Eye #1 was not such a hassle, the kajal behaved itself and went only where the ear-bud coaxed (yes, I'm an innovative soul). Eye#2 however was where both kajal and ear-bud decided to make like the Bounty crewmen and mutiny. I dabbed left, the kajal went right. Truly a scietific miracle- I don't know how it managed it! Pretty soon I figured out I wasn't a dab hand at dabbing. 'This eye is lighter than the other. No problem. Just a little more to that side. And some more to this side.A little here and- Oh hell now this eye is darker than the other.' A few short minutes later,I looked like a sleep deprived druggie with a blackened eye. Shooting a black glance at the kohl encrusted earbud, I tried my luck again.Dab, dab, rub, rub. Oh lovely-a look in the glass confirmed my suspicions- Now I looked like a panda.

In the face of such stubborn non-cooperation from the earbuds, I decided to go for a new game plan. Yes, I know what you're thinking. I should have just given it up then. But like any tragic heroine, I simply tumbled headlong and headstrong into my black doom. Chucking the offending earbud into the nearest dustbin, I put my ingenious plan into action. I ground two of my fingers into the kajal and swept them across my eye- Woohoo! it's going where it's supposed to go! A little here and little there, wait let me just scratch my upper li- AAAAG!

Great! Now I looked like a panda with half a black moustache.

And no- not just your average Charlie Chaplin moosh. This one would probably put Tipu Sultan to shame. I raised my hands in despair -and thankfully stopped before any more damage could be done.I yield ye black monsters of beauty! I swallowed the dark draught of defeat and slinked off to wash away the stains of battle.

Slipping into stealth mode I shimmied out of my room and shadowed towards the nearest sink and soap. Admittedly, being the one person in the entire family with nothing to do, gives one a lot of solitude. However, there's always a chance of brother dearest sneaking up on me when I least expected it or wanted it. Like right then, for example. Thankfully he and nobody else did. Tip toeing my way to the bathroom, I vigorously scrubbed my face- only to realise that the kajal I had used was of a particularly stubborn varitety. About half an hour later I emerged out of the bathroom looking like Gollum's grandaunt who was majorly into cocaine.

I wholeheartedly admit that my attempt at smoky-eyes was too much smoke for my eyes. On the otherhand, I believe I created a new fashion phenomenon myself. I mean, if there can be "smoky eyes", there can also be "burnt-charcoal-eyes", right? Be that as it may, I think I'll limit my make-up escapades to plain chapstick. If not for the sake of my questionable sanity, at least for that of others who may unwittingly stumble upon the Beast trying to get to Beauty level :P.

Now I'm off to bed to catch up on my beauty sleep. Goodnight :D

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Plane Miserable

Travel gives us knowledge, experience, a deeper insight to life. Following the recent travels of the author (no, no, not just from the laptop and back), she is able to vouch for this.

Air travel is not pleasant. Majestic view notwithstanding, the entire process is truly not the most enjoyable. One is closed off within the claustraphobic confines of the aircraft, served smelly food, and that myth about goodlooking staff?: it is a myth. All in all, it is an experience which the author would prefer to get over with in a hurry. But fate conspires to make us dance to it's decidedly wayward tunes (rather like those old westerns where the villain keeps shooting at the good guy's feet making her/him jump around.)

The author learned first hand the unpleasant nature of that double edged sword called Papers. For the uninitiated, the Visa/ Residence/ any other heavy wieght paper, is not merely a guarantee of welcome and a ward against instant deportation on stepping on foreign land. No ladies and gentlemen, you malign and underestimate them if you think so.These papers are also potential instruments of torture. If the officials at the check in/ immigration counters have had their meals on time, not fought with their spouses or not engaging in their customary(pun intended)sadism- then one is
safe. But if you happen to be like the author during her recent flighty experience... she extends her deepest condolences.

After joyously relieving the author of a thousand rupees in the name of the mythical User Development Fund (yeah right), the officials were pleased to inform her that her residence wasn't valid since she hadn't entered the foreign land in six months.( Weird Kuwaiti rule). The author's uncannily clairvoyant father had prophesied such an event and she was duly armed with a charmed official document.Which was sadly written in arabic. To cut a long story short, she ended up waiting for approximately a quarter of an hour while the airporters slowmotioned their way to their inner sanctum then slow motioned back, got the paper transalated, photocopied, laminated, photographed, finger printed, faxed...

May be Hiro Nakamura had made an appearance when she wasn't looking, but somehow the author actually got to get to the baggage check-in counter before the flight left; where the only question was (bless their mercifully mercenary hearts) whether the UDF was paid. Triumphantly armed with boarding pass and immigration form, the author marched up to the immigration counter. Which is when things began to really go downhill.

To begin with, the officer who decided that this was his day to bother, spoke only in telugu. While the author struggled unsuccessfuly to comprehend, the officer slapped her passport and papers back on the counter and said three succint words "Visa not there". No, she didn't scream. Reasoning didn't work, but the man finally understood that "yes she has boarding pass so she can be allowed through." His face fell momentariy at the deprival of a treat, but brightened again ominously. "Go get airline person. NEXT!"
And that was that.
Trudging back to the check-in counter, the author was forced to wait for an hour for the appearance of one Rahim, who apparently had the answer to all her problems. He never turned up. While waiting interminably, the author had the good fortune of coming across the Charmer. This individual was carrying 10kgs worth of extra baggage. Appearing to be a classic Excess Baggager(refer to previous posts) at first sight, the Charmer turned out to a completely different species. Apologetically, almost Frisky-like, he began to remove stuff from his decidedly huge box when he "accidentally" chanced upon a box of biscuits among his items. Which he "casually" offered to the officials at the counter all the while enquiring about their work, their family, how he is so successful etc. It was a pro at work. The officials didn't stand a chance. The baggage was checked in, excess weight and all, without the slightest problem. Amazing!

While this interlude provided brief entertainment, it also drove home the fact that the author had been much longer than she needed to. And apparently the barely controlled rage made some impression because they not only looked vaguely intimidated but also immediately got someone. The irony of the entire episode is that they happily let the author through without a mention of Visa problems this time even though the person who came along was not the big boss or whoever it is they wanted the author to bring along. And after traversing all this, what must await her but the beaming neon face of a sign that shouted FLIGHT DELAYED.(the vague sound you hear in the background is the gut wrenching scream of the author, and the other sound is that of her hair being torn.)

Ah well, the flight did take off and the author did reach her destination without further mishaps. Since that is the case, she should have nothing to complain about. Milton had it right when he said "...They are also served who stand and wait.". What he forgot to mention was the pure agony of the standing and waiting part. Especially to ones heels. Well, atleast she has both feet firmly on the ground now.The rest can rest. C'est la vie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Payasam Penchant

My grandfather was the consummate storyteller. You could have heard the same story a million times from a million other people. But no rendition could hold a candle to my grandfather's. In fact most of these renditions did happen by candle-light. The load-shedding hours were Prime time at Vellat House. But then, being the fount of all knowledge that he was, my grandfather was never deterred by something as silly as time when it came to telling a story. Besides, no story is as good as a spur-of-the-moment one. It was through such a moment that my brother and I got to hear this one.

Somewhere in the misty reaches of time,it had been lunch-time. Which meant my poor mother was busy trying to herd my brother and me to the dining table. Well you couldn't really blame us.We were young. We were on vacation.There was so much field and fallow to explore. And great food is a lovely thing, but in those pre-hostel days it wasn't that much of a bait. With some quick maneuvering and deft use of the one-eye-brow-up routine (she made us shiver with that one), she actually got us to sit still and placed a plate in front of us before we escaped. And since my grandmother was the greatest cook since since cooking was discovered, we weren't complaining much. We enthusiastically piled our plates and had made some headway into our attack,when my brother whiffed a whiff of something delectable.

"Mmmmmmmmm... what's that smell..." He slurped.
My grandmother swelled imperceptibly with pride.
"Chakka payasam." she smiled. The smile died a quick death and was resurrected as a frown when it was greeted with a loud chorus of "EEEEEEWWW!"

Chakka- jackfruit- is one of the superstars of mallu cooking. It can be eaten as fruit, morph into curry, transmogrify itself into sabzi, and even reappear as dessert in the form of payasam or chakkavaratti. And later in the evening, it will return as chips, or back as fruit again. You can't escape the chakka. My brother and I were not really averse to it in most forms. But we were a wee bit dubious to the payasam. And hence the "EEEEEEW!"

Wincing at the double glares we were getting, my brother and I were preparing to face the wrath of the furies, when my grandfather saved us.
"Ah you shouldn't say that," He said between a bite of succulent ladiesfinger,"Chakka payasam is the king of payasams."

Apparently our disbelieving expressions were expressive.

"Really!" he insisted, eyes twinkling behind his thick rimmed glasses as he swallowed another morsel of food, "It's true. It was my father's favorite. But he didn't like it in the beginning either."

Our ears pricked up, and my mother let out a silent groan. The prospects of our finishing our meal anytime soon diminished considerably under the ensnaring influence of my grandfather's story telling.

"Yes..." he said, pouring more sambar onto his rice, settling into his story. "When my father was very young, he had to go for a wedding. At sadhya that followed he was a little distressed to find that one of the payasams was chakka payasam. But it wasn't such a great problem. After all, all he had to do was to tell the server to not pour it.

"It was a great sadhya. Everything was perfect. He was enjoying himself thoroughly. He had just finished cleaning off his third helping when, before he could say a word, the passing server dolloped a slop of chakka payasam right in the middle of his leaf!"

Here he paused dramatically and slurped on some drumstick while my brother and I let out enraged gasps. Yes, he knew how to work up the drama factor really well. He let us go on in the indignant vein for while and then got back to the story.

" Yes, he was furious!And he showed it!
'What have you done!'He shouted.
Apparently the server was a rather slow person.
'What sir?' he smiled benignly and dumped another ladle-full onto his leaf. The fact that the person on the other side of the leaf was squeaking indignant squawks seemed to have lit a candle wick somewhere in the server's cobweb ridden mind.'You don't like it?'
'No I don't like it!And now you've gone and put such a lot on my leaf!You mggfyffiuggg...' And the rest were sputters of rage.
The server scratched his head apologetically and said 'Oops.'
Which naturally sent the already irate guest into a whole new planet of rage.
'Well... don't worry' he continued, looking vaguely troubled at the rather scarily angry person in front of him. 'Just move it off to one side of the leaf and take whatever else you want.'
This rather simple solution,which had skipped my father's mind, took most of the wind out of his angry sails. He scowled and did as suggested and found the idea quite plausible. Except-
'Now it's on my hand!' he huffed at the server who was still standing by to see the effect of his advice.
'Well...' the server drawled, scratching his head again. 'Just lick it off.' At that moment he was called off to another side of the hall, leaving my father grimacing at his payasam coated palm.
Since it was already on his hand, and since he was planning on eating some more food, my father decided he might as well lick it off and get on with his gastronomical exploits. Taking a deep breath and steeling his tastebuds,my father licked off the payasam."

At this point my grandfather decided to prolong our suspense by leaning over his plate and cleaning off the last pools of sambar from his plate. We of course, obligingly chorused demands for him to continue. Satisfied that his plate was curry free, he leaned back and picked up where he stopped.

"He licked off the payasam, and realised it didn't really taste all that bad. But he wasn't in the mood to to follow up on that. Now that his sullied hand was taken care of, he looked down at his leaf- and was not happy. The pool of payasam was too close to the aviyal. He moved it off to another corner, and licked off the offending payasam. But now it was too close to the pappadam and pickles. So he moved it off to the other side and licked off his palm. Ah that's better. But look the inji thair is flowing into it! Oops! And he quickly moved it off to a safer location.

As it turned out, by the time he was done manouevering the payasam around his leaf- there was no payasam left. And, he had to admit it to himself, he was rather sad that it had gotten over. As if on cue, he espied the erring server passing by under a cloud of sweet aroma. He gestured madly at the man. The server caught sight of him and quickly came to his leaf. My father squirmed uncomfortably in his seat and cleared his throat a lot and finally mumbled at the server 'Couldeyehevsumore?'

The server blinked slowly and smiled a smile that he quickly hid. 'Here you go sir' He said, as he poured a ladle full of payasam and then darted off to another end of the hall.
And that is how my father first fell in love with chakka payasam."

Just then Karthyayani our grandmother's woman Friday walked in with a vessel wafting the distinct perfume of payasam. After a story like that it was difficult for us curious children to keep away from the stuff! My grandfather smiled indulgently at us as we slurped off several ladles of payasam. Our grandmother beamed with pride and my mother let out a sigh of relief.

Chakka payasam has remained one of our favorites ever since. Even now when we go back to Kerala for vacations Karthyayani makes it a point to make it for us if there is jackfruit around. May be she thinks that would make us miss our grand parents less. It doesn't, but it helps soothe the hurt to remember good times like those. And I'm sure they serve chakka payasam in heaven.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Party

Smaller and smaller the world gets
As we shrink into our selfs
-if they exist.
I take my pick, make my choices.
The night's darkness has nothing
On what I see
In your eyes
Staring at my painted face
From within the framed prison
Of the glass.

We spin in tune to the rush
of our blood, and our jewels
jingling and tinkling-
chink chink...
The chink in our armours
Meld into the skin on our backs,
Making stabbing easier.
And may be less painful.

The lights blink- black and white
Blotting the grey world out.
And the roar of the music
Tunes out reason (that pain in the head).
Festooning our faces with grinning fangs,
We soak in the madness of the static night.
Growing steadily drunk on amnesial vodka,
We drown the shadows within us.

We rise and fall to the beat,
Keeping time with the beads of sweat
Racing each other down,down
drip, drip,dripping.
You kiss the closest person
And call it love.
Declare it so loudly,
That you can't hear yourself
Tell you otherwise.

The night turns to day.
Muscles finally buckle.
Swaying and stumbling,we sashay back.
Laugh light laughs,
Unfurling like cigarette smoke,
That make you cough and choke.

Back in front of the framed
Glass prison,
I look and see a new face.
The paint is chipped and the varnish peeling,
But you-
Your eyes-
Still unyielding, accusing.

Right up till then I'd forgotten,
I'd lived something else,
Someone else.
But one look into your eyes,
And the haze lifted.

The party truly ended.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

While the world sleeps

The thing about being nocturnal is that you have so many experiences which most people who know only the sun don't. They don't get it. They never will either. They think you're crazy if you try to explain it. But I've been called crazy before; and if I am crazy ,it hasn't hurt me yet. So I try to put into words the cool shivers than chase up and down my spine when I walk into the night.

Insomnia is a sweet sweet drug- getting you high on the light silver mist that coats the darkness, seeping into your bones until you tingle with it. The stars smile into your eyes as you walk into the deep music of a hundred crickets harmonizing with the tenors and sopranos of the night birds and creatures.And in that pearl-like moment,cushioned in the soft flesh of time, you are awed by the singular beauty of what only you have. The night, the mist the breeze. They are yours. The multitude sleep unwary as you come alive in the depths of the dark. As new knowledge blooms in your breast,as the world and its sleepless life wraps itself around your soul,you become one with everything. You are the grass which bears you weight like a lover, you are the cool air that rushes into you like a possessing spirit. You are the little mouse scurrying in the dark to live, and the bird of prey that swoops on that mouse to live. You are the moonlight spilling like milk on the the world, you are the shadows that dance around the light.You are the center and the periphery. You are.

I take a deep breath and raise my hands to to the sky- letting myself diffuse like gas molecules into the night. Letting it carry me away in it's light breezy arms into a world away from the world. I walk and walk- and never feel the ground beneath my rubber-soled feet. The breeze picks up and my ears tingle with it's added whistle. The smell of dewy grass and moist earth fill my head until the words stop and the world stops...

The dawn breaks like a glass bangle on the black marble of the sky. The crickets have sung their requiem and the birds pick up the symphony. The flowers rub their sleepy eyes and raise their faces for the sun to kiss. The sleeping world opens it's eyes. But it can never open them like you have. You smile indulgently and breathe deeply. And wait for the night.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Terminal

Statutory Warning: The following post has nothing to do with Tom Hanks.

In my long and shockingly unvaried career as an air-traveler,I have learned that there is never a dearth of entertainment in the sterile confines of an airport. It is a widely believed myth that being stranded at the airport lounge with no reading material or music is slow death. On the contrary, one often finds oneself in the most interesting and memorable situations.The prospect of future air travel inspires the following insights into the airy life.

An airport is far from boring. In fact it can be quite hilarious-though you might not get the humour immediately. For example, the Kuwait International Airport delights in giving the travelers pre-flight exercise. The authorities would keep changing the gates- and somehow managed to make sure that no two selected gates are ever close together.This usually resulted in people running up and down the lounge lugging family and hand luggage. It's fun to watch, but not so much to participate. On one such run I ended up standing just behind a nice old man in the queue. He was very solicitous, and kept turning back to talk to me. During one of these short exchanges, I realised there was an awful stench coming from somewhere. The smell kept coming and going- making it very difficult for me to identify it or to concentrate on what the old man was saying. Which is when it hit me! (No, not just the smell) The stink rose whenever he opened his mouth!
Sigh.. it was a bad half an hour. Thankfully the authorities decided to change the gate again.

It's not just the activities of the airport that are engaging. The people populating it provide enough entertainment to form the cast for a mini sitcom. In any airport, on any flight, you are guaranteed to come across the following characters.

1)The Overdressed: There are some characters who feel the few claustrophobic hours spent in the lounge and in closed confines of a stinky airplane, should be made all the more painful by imprisoning themselves in excruciating finery. Tiny kids in a full wool suit in the peak of summer in fly-infested Karippur Airport, women weighed down with their weight's worth of jewelery at Kuwait International Airport, men sporting brocaded sherwanis at Chennai Airport,grandmothers sporting a ten inch thick layer of make up to go with their designer silk suits in Rajiv Gandhi Airport, Hyderabad... these are merely the tip of the extremely stuffy iceberg. One surmmises that the logic behind these illogical fashion statements is some misguided sense of penance. Or may be masochism..?

2) The Excess baggaged: There is always some poor family/person who's baggage turns into their cross. They enter the airport carefree, a smile(only slightly strained from lugging the luggage)wreathing their faces. Guilelessly they hoist their boxes onto the security check, and even get it bound in cellophane wrap to protect it from damage. And then they go in for check-in...
One is torn between pity, exasperation and irritation(the last especially when you are the person just behind the hapless over-weighter). The poor souls then end up pulling out half their stuff out and carrying it in innumerable plastic covers, or (worse)start asking fellow travelers with less baggage to check in the extra baggage for them. The irritation is there... but it's mostly pity... There are some enterprising souls who bring on the drama and begin to cry- which occasionally tug at some non-existent heart-strings and let them escape. Occasionally being the key phrase.
A similar species is that of the Security-victim. Take the aforementioned scenario and cut at security check post cellophane wrap. This is when the pot-bellied officer (surprisingly they are always pot-bellied- may be it's one of the job-requirements.)decides s/he saw something suspicious in the box. And then there follows the ripping of the cellophane, a stream of neatly packed items falling all around and a poor would-be passenger close to tears. Most often these baggage-rapes only yield something as dangerous as your general pappada-kol or a tiffin box. The hapless traveler picks up the scraps of his/her lovingly packed luggage and trudge away to try and put together the ravaged luggage.Ah the meaninglessness of it all...

3) The Brat(s): You can never escape them. Every airport has them. One is lucky if it's just one in a group. Often the entire family can be classified as brat. Those that haven't hit adolescence, usually communicate via something handy thrown in the direction of your cranium. And these are the well behaved ones. [For truly gruesome examples please refer to one of the previous posts entitled Parental Harassment.] The kid brats aren't as bad as the grown up ones. At least the former can be excused on account of age. And all they do is scream their head off and generally give you a migraine. The grown up ones do this and further court homicide by being complete asses and behaving like they are entitled to it when other human beings try to protest. Truly the bane of the airport experience. But a lot of fun to watch at couple of aisles distance.

4) The Babe/Hunk: At the outset, be warned that these species need be neither babes nor hunks. In fact most often they are the binary opposite. They derive their name from their steady belief that they are babes or hunks. They are focussed creatures who concentrate on their top priority- themselves. They usually station themselves near the nearest reflecting surface and engross themselves in themselves. Lots of hair primping, re-application of lipstick(in the case of the babe), studied messaging (all the better to survey the manicure with and to show off the phone)etc. form favored activities. Some even engage in long, exceptionally loud conversations on their phones. It can be safely surmised that this is mostly to show evidence of some unknown accent, given that most such conversations don't really go anywhere.

These are but a few of the creatures that inhabit the chrome jungle of the airport. The next time you sit in the airport lounge and your mp3 konks off- you know all you need to do is look around for entertainment. It's live!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Achande mol

At some misty time in the forgotten days of my youth, I'd been asked to guess the age of my father. 'Sixty five!" I'd crowed, liking the sound of the words. Needless to say everyone else crowed with laughter. Today I was asked the same question and in all truth I didn't know! The thing about him is that he doesn't seem to have changed at all from that fateful day, yet he seems to have changed so much. He's one of the few constants that ever-changing life gifted me.

I remember those afternoons when my brother and I would race to the door to be the first to welcome my father home from work. The innumerable times we'd pummeled into him must have left his ribs permanently damaged. And then of course- despite the gargantuan lunch we'd consumed- we'd vie for the special morsel he'd feed us from his plate. And in all truth, he even made mulagooshyam taste nice! There were the myriad programs he would organise, the skits and the kadhaprasangams he scripted. I still remember the lines which he spent days relentlessly drilling into my rather unwilling head. My mother still maintains that had he had a hand in our studies- we'd have been topping all our classes. Thankfully he never did :P. He is an exacting person and one whose approval is a thing of great value simply because he bestows it sparingly. Which,while it commanded a healthy amount of respect from all and sundry,at the same time made him slightly intimidating. We'd think twice thrice and several more times before we risk testing his patience. In fact the only person who'd actually attempt this and escape more or less unscathed was my brother- who can charm the fangs off a serpent, so he's definitely a special case.

And now we are all different yet the same. I am an ocean away. My brother is usually studying or away when my father gets back from work. The entire pattern of our lives is different. Often we come in friction with our father and there are uncomfortable tensions. His patience is tested more times than a rich invalid. Things are so much more complicated. There are fewer shared activities, fewer common interests. Maybe it's generation gap ... At some level I suppose with self reliance there also came some distancing. And yet for all that, our father never changed. He still makes sure everything is all right- like he used to when there was no one else to do the drawing assignment. Or like he did while helping me fill out my M.A applications.

I may no longer be that tiny baby who used to sleep on your stomach. I may not fit on the sofa along with you anymore.I may seem distant and un-understandable(not just when I talk too fast). I may sound like I don't value you. I may seem irreverant and disobedient. I may never become as great as you think me to be. But the fact that you think I'm great makes me glad all the same- because you don't bestow your approval lightly. And the fact that you given me someone like you to look up to makes me a much better person. May be I should blame you for having such high standards in the people category :D.

Thank you Acha, for being you.

Happy birthday :)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I aam a Malayalee...

You can take the mallu out of Kerala, but you can't take the Kerala out of the mallu.

I'm what is generally known as a 'fraud mallu'. True, I'm not lost in the abyss of non-mallu-mallu-ness. But I'm close. I've only stayed a couple of months in good old Gods own country. I speak passably good Mallu. But I read and write it at the pace that makes a snail look like a speeding ferrari. I don't like coconut water and prefer tapioca chips to banana chips (which is the complete antithesis of standard mallu behaviour). I have no natural obsession with gold. Neither with coconut oil. The only mallu cliche I actually adhere to is that I do have the 'gelf connection'. Obviously I am truly not the example of a dedicated, mundu-swishing mallu.

Or so I thought.

One evening two fellow mallu hostellites and I began to reminisce. The topic veered towards movies and consequently to music. And then, naturally to all out singing. The kinship and the happiness experienced was immense! It was like being back home! And that's when it hit me. Despite the beauty of all those lovely evenings jamming with Gunther(in beautiful Chennai days) or with Firestone at the stone bench,the satisfaction I obtained from singing plain malayalam songs- regardless of how banal- was several times more. Simply because the songs were malayalam! It brought to mind those lovely lines by the poet Vallathol, roughly transalated as,

"All other languages are merely secondary,it is my language that stands as king."

That shared musical evening was enough to leave me nostalgic and sighing for several days to come. I recall those early days in Chennai when I'd yearn to hear malayalam being spoken. Of course now it's both Tamil as well as Malayalam (oh joy..)

Thetruth is that we humans all of us are intrinsically clannish. Regardless of how many times we try to declare ourselves nomadic or perhaps universal, at the end of the day we still have a hearth that our heart yearns for. And for the average Mallu (even the fraud one, apparently), this is more so since we tend to do things in extremes. No matter how fraud a mallu might be,s/he will always be a true blue mallu at heart. You never know when this trait will manifest itself, but be warned it does when you least expect it. Which brings to mind another verse from one of Vallathol's poems,(which I'm loathe to translate since I'll only make a mash of it)

"Ethu videshathu ponnu vasichaalum, ekaamba putrar naam- Keraliar."

Wherever we go we Mallus will always be Mallus.
On that note I'll get hold of my "ping lungi" and break into "I am a Malayalee". :D

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Yes, it's been a long long time. Sadly,the University has no interest in the creative lives of it's students. It's more busy testing our survival instincts. But no more explanations.

So we joined M.A. Cool. What we didn't know was that M.A, in the University's definition meant Mental Asylum (as B-30, with an admirable show of astute thought,inscribed on their door). When it's not dogs taking up residence in your bathrooms or -worse still- in your rooms, then it's Bais who mop the entire corridor with the same unwashed mop with which they mopped up the doggie pee (eeeewwww!!). I shall restrain myself to the point format to curtail ranting. So here goes:

You know you're firmly entrenched in M.A at the University when:

1)You start assaulting your poor defenseless floor-mate while she sleeps, just for the heck of it.In fact,you measure the days worth by the number of times you make her scream.

2)People stop jumping and running to the aid of the aforementioned floor-mate,when the former point is played out since, "it's so common now"

3)One actually practices the axiom 'early to bed and early to rise': only in our case it's early in the morning and early in the afternoon respectively.

4)Ones metabolism resembles an alien life form's: resulting in loud singing (at the least)in early hours, when normal people indulge in lala-land fantasies.

5)Your search for healthy food leads you to the nearest Subway, almost everyday.

6)You become adept at pushing 200 words to 500 words just by force of will.

7) You check for doggie pee before you put your foot down on the corridor floor.

8)Pepsi is your life-line.

9)You haven't read fiction in...hell you can't remember since when!

10)Second Hand smoke is the air you breathe.

11)We wash clothes at 2 am.

12)Songs are written in praise of the praise-worthy campus shop and it's owner.

13) You spend hours plotting the demise of the internet guy: who's services are @#%&*

14) You can't even plan your escape 'cause you don't know when the holidays are.

This perhaps throws some light on the life and times of the hostelite/student at the University. We welcome new comers with open arms: especially if they bear food, which will be handy when the hunger pangs hit. Sometime before sunrise :D

Monday, September 01, 2008

In a Pickle

On the basis of the vigorous endorsement of the place by fellow hostelite MonaLisa, Pickles was chosen as the victim of our gastronomic attack.Mona was ecstacic in her praise of the place.Just listening to her would have a foodie running to the place on barefeet. A sumptuous buffet for a mere 250 bucks and a variety of dessert was ample bait to lure us. You may be wondering what the motive behind this eating expedition was.Well,it was the first 1st since the commencement of our sojourn at the University. It was in celebration of our survival that we were venturing forth. At least that was our excuse.

We wished to make the most of the buffet(meaning leave nothing for the losers who happened to come after us)and on Mona's advice, decided to set out early.In a weak moment, Firestone and I succumbed to Fashunista's (room-mate)urging and actually conceded to move away from Slobville and appear in what is referred to as haute-couture. These miraculous events themselves should have warned us of the eventful evening to follow.

Following a small skirmish with an over charging auto-driver, and some confusion regarding the route, the three of us- finery unruffled- arrived at our destination at around 7.15. Tacky name notwithstanding, Pickles turned out to be a posh little outfit. The kind of place you take your hapless buddy when she says she'll treat.Confident in the knowledge that we were safe from over expenditure, we sashayed into the place. There was no sign of a buffet. This did cause a twinge of anxiety,but we ignored the little niggle and asked the receptionist when the siege officially began. "9:30" , she said with a smile. All three of us looked at our watches simultaneously- it was 7.30. Hanging on to the hope that the receptionist was dazzled by our awe inspiring beauty and the sudden blast of our benevolence, we asked again. Only to receive the same answer.

While Firestone and I stood with jaws hanging, Fashunista quickly got us seated before we blew up.Which, in hindsight, wasn't the best idea. Now that we were sitting, how the hell do we get out without seeming like the complete cheapskates we were. It wouldn't have been a problem in namma Chennai- but the place being new and all, our skins were still rather tender. I believe I speak for all of us when I say that at that moment we wanted to kill Monalisa- very slowly.

Trying to play the casual card we coolly accepted the menu and looked at it, admirably hiding our winces at the price range (200 bucks for a burger!!! 90 bucks for a stupid soup!)It didn't help that the waiter was hovering around like a hopeful fly- which compelled us into ordering the cheapest thing on the menu. While we waited for our soups feeling like bugs caught in a Venus-flytrap and contemplated on different ways to torture Mona, the flint in Firestone's head sparked off and she came up with a brilliant plan.

Following her instructions I missed-called her and she began a fake conversation regarding a hysterical friend stranded near some bridge (which became a flyover after a while since we didn't know of any bridges nearby). While Fashunista and Firestone kept up the conversation I frantically motioned the waiter and canceled our orders in the name of an emergency. Of course Firestone very obligingly supported the scenario by continually saying "calm down.." and "don't cry.." into the phone. She kept up the phone call until she realised her phone wasn't in silent mode.Thankfully by this time we'd managed to get out and even jumped into an auto. Which is when we finally burst out laughing.

We did have dinner. The watchman at the biriyani place did a double take when we entered.And a sweeping glance told us we were at SlobCentral. Ignoring the curious stares and mumbling curses at Fashunista for getting Firestone and me dolled(?)up, we got ourselves biriyani which tasted like ambrosia to our starving palates. The sight of the comparatively small bill,which would have been double the amount if we hadn't escaped from the Pickles pickle, added to the sweetness of the moment.We returned to the warm- er... sweltering- arms of the hostel. And who should be waiting for us but Monalisa!

We didn't kill her. But we made sure she wished we had.

All in all- it was a memorable first, full of firsts. May it be the first of many such firsts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dogged doggies

This post was inspired by the inimitable Gunther, who jump started my blogger-blocked mind and diverted it to frolicking Fluffies. Many thanks comrade.

If you would recall, gentle reader, my hostel-besides providing a venue for impromptu thepla parties, chocolate cake and guitar evenings- is also a congregation ground for a variety of canines.The dogs(the four legged varieties) of the University vie with the students for top demographic position. And,it seems, for amenities as well. If it's not Frisky the too frisky frisking into your room,or Tyson(who ought to be renamed 'Hyperion'- or better still, 'High'perion.)chasing after your harmlessly hanging hand,then it's Sundari the doggy matriarch lounging in bathing areas.

But I over reach myself.

Welcome dear readers into the doggy world of the University hostels.Yours truly, ensconced in the Old Women's Hostel, ( well... they took one look at me and knew where I belonged ;P)found this out the hard way. The sun rose on the cluttered face of the hostel and the sweet melody of morning groans spilled into the moist morning air.The author rises from her cramped bed and moves towards the bathing cubicles with the happy hope of starting the day clean. With sweet thoughts of soap running through my mind I opened the cubicle door- and almost stepped on the gargantuan backside of Sundari the dog. Now Sundari, dear readers, is not your average dog. In fact, she is about the size of three average dogs put together. And perhaps for the same reason- immovable. What began with coaxing pleas to the dozing dog escalated to reverberating "Sundari OUT!"s and "SHOO DOG!"s : all of which proved completely useless- she continued to sleep undeterred. Soon these measures disintegrated into all out abuses.A particularly loud bout of swearing finally had the sleeping Sundari open one single bleary eye. Apparently what she saw didn't impress her at all because she merely shifted a bit and went back to sleep. Rage has a way of making the world get a wee reddish around the edges. Thankfully- the venue being the bathroom and all- there were no sharp objects at hand to apply on that thick furry hide. More fortunately the lady in the adjacent cubicle finally got out. It's probably because of that I didn't get hauled up by PETA. Now several weeks veteran to the ways of the Old Women's hostel, I have learnt that Sundari's apathy and dismissive attitude wasn't a unique case. Indeed, it is conjectured that even an earthquake wouldn't cause her to move her fat arse. In fact the only thing that gets a rise out of her is the sight of Frisky who she obviously can't stand. Which brings us to Frisky.

Frisky, unlike Sundari, is emaciated to the point of scary. But he makes up for that scariness with the studied application of Puppy-eyes whenever he wants to get his way. Frisky gets his name from his thorough frisking of the dustbins in the evening. (Sundari probably got her name through some weird joke- there is nothing beautiful about her)This must,of course, follow hierarchy- Frisky can frisk for dinner only after Sundari does- other wise Sundari would have him for dinner. Frisky wouldn't have been such a pain if it weren't for his terrible habit of barging into your rooms and refusing to leave. Just when you raise your slipper armed arm to render a stinging blow, Frisky looks up at you with those sad you-will-hurt-me?- you're-so-mean eyes and the earth shaking blow you were planning to render turns into a wimpy half-pat. And then we have to resort to literally shoving him out- and avoid eye contact. Frisky is the scapegoat in the campus- every dog has taken it upon themselves to make his life hell. The makes you feel even more like Cruella De Vil each time you attempt to whack him or kick him out. Especially since he just stands there and seems to invite hurt. He seriously ought to take lessons from his campus partner Tyson who never stands still.

For the record, Tyson does not have an ear fetish.(His palate turns towards other body parts, to which we will come to shortly)Why he is named this is beyond me. Maybe it's the whole 'crazy feet' thing, because Tyson can't stand still. Not to mention, he is absolutely bonkers!I cannot stress the point enough- he is completely,irrevocably nuts! I thought the whole theory of dogs chasing after nothing was mere fiction until I came across this particular specimen. Most people tend to swing their arms while walking. But we learned soon enough to keep our hands out of sight when Tyson is around. For some weird reason, Tyson seems to believe all free-hanging hands contain goodies. He refuses to eat biscuits unless they are dangling from your fingers. This trait has lead to the stupid dog happily snapping on somebody's lit cigarette. That must have been a hot snack.Another favorite trick of his is to run break neck at you and apply the brakes a couple of millimeters away from your toes. Not the best way to enjoy your evening stroll.

These are the key players in our little menagerie. They aren't that bad, really. They're amazing entertainment in all truth- though it takes you a while to see the humor in the situation.Especially when you are dying for a bath and have to concede to a fat dog, or would kill for sleep and end up spending several precious minute trying to get the dratted mutt out of the room and then be forced to keep the door closed all the time... But life in the Old Women's Hostel wouldn't be the same without them. We love the doggies :)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Chennai meri Jaan

You know you're suffering from intense Chennai-itis when:

(a) you start talking really bad tamil just to hear some tamil.
(b) You crave filter coffee. Even more than you used to.
(c) T.Nagar starts sounding like a beautiful haven in your head.
(d) You get sentimental over M.T.C stories (!!!)
(e) When you whine "I wish I were home." you're thinking Chennai.
(f) You'd do anything for a landmark.
(g)You have an undying urge for Manga a la Marina/ Besant Nagar.

Damned Chennai- can't live with it, can't live without it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hostel Humbug I: Bootcamp

Class didn't happen. Couldn't find it. Hence I am now basking in the benevolent light of internet availabitlity. And that results in another post. Read on soldier-

Hostel is a significant part of student existence. They teach the untried to survive-provide us with the necessary arsenal to face the harsh world ahead. The author has had the questionable good fortune of having spent her Under Graduate life in two exemplary examples of the educational hostels and now spends her P.G life in an equally interesting abode.

The first one was a study in community closeness. We hostel dwellers were very close-literally. We were all crammed together in a manner that made canned sardines seem comfortably housed. The hostel was actually a medium size house converted into a hostel. And the conversion was a bad idea. Approximately forty women were clogged together in a four bedroom house.The "dorm" was located in the corridor and housed some 20 girls. Each room (which, by the way, hadn’t much room to go by) was packed with six girls. This was achieved through judicious use of bunk beds. Which were another bane. Being an unsuspecting rookie, the author was thrilled with the prospect of getting the upper bunk. Only after the first night there did she realise what she had got herself into. The bed was situated in such a way that the hapless sleeper in the upper bunk got niether the air from the pedestal fan nor the cieling fan. And this was during a Chennai July. Explaination is unecessary. Several months of waitng and drenching before sleeping later- the author finally got the bed below the "hotseat". This one turned out to be a hotbed for mosquitoes. Several mosquito families owed their upkeep to the author. This great establishment not only taught us the value of space but also how to tackle encroachment, eviction and other such evils. We’d make admirable quotation gundas after the training we got here. Besides this, we also learnt the fungal nature of squalor. A perfectly neat corner will be filled with rubbish from nothing more than the mere proximity of a group of people.

Following first year, the author escaped from this institution- which probably accounts for what little sanity she had left. The next establishment was much better-for one thing it was clean and didn't house more than two people in a room. Of course the rooms were tiny, had no plug points and may seem, as Ms.Shinyhair loves to put it,"like a concentration camp cell". But they came with a great location and good ventilation (the fans worked!). Of course electricity was switched off from 10 am to 1 pm. and the lights were switched off at the main at 10 pm... But those were all minor in comparison to the water problem. We hostelites would scrounge up every bottle in sight to store water. For you see,most mornings saw the hostel bathrooms waterless. Forget bathing, brushing your teeth was a shifty possibility if you haven't stocked your bottles. Hair washing,especially,was a very dicey business. God help you if,at a weak moment,you decided to oil your hair overnight. But then again,considering the amount of salt in the water it would be advisable to leave the mane untouched. Truth be told- a cannibal would not have to add extra seasoning to you if s/he chances upon you after your bath.

U.G days have passed by. and now the author finds herself in the world of the University. And residenceless. Several weeks of nail-biting suspense later, she finally managed to infiltrate the hostel. And there raged a war for possesion(s) as never seen before.Furniture needed protection from marauding bedless/cupboardless/shelfless bandits. Meanwhile beds needed to be strategically acquired before other conquering souls swooped upon them and marked them with baggage.Constant information must travel between you and your allies to see that you are sufficiently guarded and your supplies untouched. Much like the ancient battles for supremacy, space and territory were coveted with a vengeance. It is at these trying moments that one's territorial nature is awakened. May be it is some kind of weird allegory that the hostel premices are populated with a variety of dogs- them being fiercely territorial and all.

A new hostel saga has begun. Heroes will be born. Legends will told. But all that will have to wait. I need to get to class. Forward march!


I believe the title says it all but still-

Wake up oh blog of mine! Your sleepy days are over!
Chennaisickness, doubtful net connection and 9-6 classes notwithstanding, the Creator shall not let you go to seed. Perhaps you might even get extra exercise- what with all the interesting characters that populate the grounds of the University. The possibilities are endless!

With that warning I shall move on to pastures anew. Which reminds me, Yipes! I need to run for Milton!

The Creator,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On his baldness

Little brothers, regardless how much taller they are, are still little in the eyes of everyone. Ok fine- me. Which was why it was rather disconcerting to find that one fine morning he's interested in the mug that he sees in the mirror and has a fetish for hair care. It is, was and always will be the hair care part of it that leaves the hapless bystanders tearing their hair in exasperation.

You see, unlike most guys who love to splock on whatever goop they can get onto their hair in the name of "styling" my brother went the other way. Exhibiting his undoubtably hirsute scalp which looked like a black rainforest, he said-
"Chechi, I'm going bald."

It was with this small statement began a saga of mythical proportions- and an endless stream of potions and elixirs that supposedly increase hair growth. It wouldn't have beeen so bad if he had kept his paranoia to himself. But noooo. We family members had to listen to all the myriad proof of his baldness- which, if it were true, was as easy to notice as a microbe. He'd point out his side parting as the beginnings of a baldspot. If the Chinese had had the oppurtunity to confer with my sibling, chinese torture would have been more effective.

And the anticlimax of the whole business is that last week he went and shaved his head- Clean, shining, BALD.
Boys,Guys, Men- the mind bogles at their convoluted logic. And they call women the eternal enigma. I say - "HAH!".

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dr. Pepper

This is another story from the heartland of family lore.
My mother’s paternal grandfather, Manaveda Raja, was royalty. This of course meant he had to survey and maintain acres and acres of property as well as commandeer a formidable regiment of stewards, caretakers etc. This story is about one of those myriad figures that formed the cogs in his system. Once again the name eludes me in misty mazes of memory; however we shall not leave this figure nameless. Let’s call him Appu Nair (for the uninitiated, some of the commonest names in the uncommonly varied terrain of Keralite nomenclature are either ‘Unni’ or ‘Appu’). Appu Nair was a dedicated servant. His employer’s word was law. He followed instructions to the last syllable. Sadly, he was a little literal minded. As we will see in the following incident.

Kerala in the monsoon season is wetter than a fish. And so it wasn’t unusual to see people nursing snuffling nose, cattarhing coughs and throbbing heads. Appu Nair had got it bad. He let out regular bouts of sneezing and coughing and sniffing while shuffling miserably behind my great grandfather. The latter took pity on him and made the terrible mistake of suggesting a remedy.
“Appu Nair, why don’t you take some pepper? It brings the cold down very fast. “
A light shone in the bleary eyes.
“Really sir?”
“Absolutely! It’s worked for me several times.”
“How much should I take?”
“A pinch per meal should cure you in two days.”

When the master himself had such confidence in the cure how could the servant think twice? During his midday break Appu Nair sought out his store of pepper. Rejoicing at the thought of a mucus free nose and clear head he proceeded to take his dose. Sadly, in his eagerness to be rid of the ailment, Appu Nair over reached himself. Squeezing his ham sized hand into the tin he pulled out a pound of pepper and shoved the whole lot into his mouth. The shock of the impact lead to the swallowing of all that potent powder. Please remember this is pure pepper- none of your adulterated, processed namby- pamby stuff. When the master said a pinch- he was actually recommending a double dose.

First there was sneezing, then there was coughing. And it was all a blur. His head on fire, Appu Nair ran out of his house screaming in agony. Grazing cows stopped their chomping to watch the burly figure running down the slope like a mad man. Roosting pheasants took off in indignant flutters at the bellowing disturbance. At least four people were unceremoniously pushed out of the way, and often into the slush, when they made the mistake of being in his path. Appu Nair’s maddened run culminated into him jumping into the stream. Which would have been alright.
Had he known how to swim.
Glugging and glogging, he was swept away by the strong current.

Meanwhile, my great grandfather was taking a routine stroll around the irrigation bunds along with a couple of his other stewards. He was placidly walking along thinking how nice a neat set of paddy fields looked with a strong unpolluted stream running through them…hey wait a minute, there’s someone in the stream. He must be a very god swimmer. Oh look he’s waving. Hello to you too. He looks remarkably like Appu Nair. Oh my god it is Appu Nair!

Being an unhesitating person, he quickly had a few strong laborers to jump in and pull out the poor man. Following the plying of the safe solid comforts of a towel, blanket and a hot cup of tea, the entire story tumbled out of the now cooled mouth of the unfortunate. Perhaps it was astonishment that kept my great grandfather from laughing or from throwing the stupid man into the stream again.

But in all truth, you couldn’t fault his logic- if a pinch would cure him in two days; a handful should have cured him in a couple of hours. And the funniest part is- at the end of his pepper escapade he didn’t have a cold anymore. So maybe he wasn’t such a Suppandi after all.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Karuppan's Father

Karuppan, like most people, had a father. This was long back in the past of course, which is why I cannot recall his name at all. But the tales of his enterprises are perhaps more entertaining than his offspring's. But the most memorable among his considerable repertoire was the episode with the dog.

Karuppan's father loved a challenge and was always stretching his limits. At least that is the only thing that can explain why a person with a capacity for liquor that surpassed even Karuppan's was mostly tottering about smashed like a glass at a toddy shop. It was during such a drunken spell,late one night,weaving doggedly down the dancing tarmac road bordered by a hazy blur of verdant bamboo, coconut and jack fruit, that this story unfolds.

It was a fine December night, with just the right amount of chill in the air to make the liquor feel like a warm hug. And Karuppan's father had received a lot of hugs that night. The mist that swept in from the fields and the moonlight that painted the path gilded the night with a fairytale loveliness. All was bliss and at peace. Except for Karuppan's dad who expressed his happiness with loud discordant singing and unintentional ballet.

On the  climax note of his midnight serenade to nobody, Karuppan's father rounded the corner, reeled around from the inertia and came face to face with the Dog. The healthy flow of energizing spirits in his system had put him into a benevolent frame of mind regarding the whole world - even if it was twirling like a ballerina. He extended his swaying arm towards the dog in the middle (since that one was the only one with a single head and so seemed the real thing). With an encouraging,endearing grin, perfect for winning the heart of any average dog he reached for his new comrade. But this was no average dog. This was a canine which used to be dedicated to the alcoholics anonymous cause in it's past life. Or may be it just got a brush off from the local hot pattikutty. Anyway,one look at the inebriated figure in it's wake and Dog decided it was time to live up to the name "canine" by applying its canines. On the leg of the figure in front of it.


Karuppan's father then went on to perform the ancient Indian rain dance. Of course he wasn't aware of the heritage of his paroxysms. All the while the Dog, mission accomplished, sat on its haunches and watched with the avid attention of a dance connoisseur. Fifteen minutes of intense hopping and language that cannot be recreated or repeated later,the pater finally noticed the enragingly calm canine gazing at him with Dalai Lama-like equanimity. This naturally set his blood boiling. Letting go of the maligned leg, he up to the insufferable dog. Breathing harshly, his bloodshot eyes rolling with menace, he placed his hands on his hips and thundered-

"You Godforsaken lowlife chokli(mongrel),mutt!"
The Dog stared.
"I'll beat you up and feed you to the dogs,you dog!"
The dog scratched an itch behind it's ear.
"Who do you think you are! You think you're so great or what!"
The dog yawned.
This show of nonchalance by the dratted dog drew the enraged man into a fever pitch of fury.
"You sit there like you've swallowed a spear you stupid thing! If you have no fear then I dare you to bite my other leg you son of a bitch!"
The dog cocked it's head.
"Hah hah! Don't seem so smug now do you, you disgrace to dogdom! Hah hah hah spineless, sore ridden do- YEOOOOOOWWWWWWCH!!!!!!

There followed a reenactment of the rain dance only more violent and colourful- and that's not just the language. It didn't help that sometime during the hopping the poor man fell into a road side ditch. The dog meanwhile finally decided that discretion is the better part of valor, or may be the local hot pattikutty came along again. Whatever be the case, by the time Karuppan's dad pulled himself out, along with a variety of flora, fauna, thorns in uncomfortable places and other materials that one would not like to mull over, there wasn't a trace of the dog on the road. Life can be a bitch sometimes. The poor man had to satisfy himself with flinging a few stones into the dark, and shouting obscenities to the heavens. He tottered back to his shack with a few extra holes and the firm resolution to never tempt fate. Especially when it comes to dogs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Theory of Theories

Over the years of going through the futile exercise of education one is forced to "learn" theories and axioms propagated by venerated and cursed individuals. The author too admits having gone through this sad routine. However, unlike less the productive, the author spent more time contemplating the philosophy of theories than actually mugging them up. Why, wondered I while perusing through Newton and his laws, did the no good, jobless, individual just not eat the bloody apple and be done with it. He was probably suffering from a stomach upset or something. Which brought on further ruminations on the lines of the popular joke regarding Newton's excretory thoughts (his thoughtlessness to be more precise), followed by further reflections on the other popular joke concerning his marital status which spawned the law of equal and opposite reactions... And it is at this juncture the ferocious physics teacher swooped down upon me like a Fury and... I'd rather not go into that.

But to get back to the lost point, why do common ideas and things that stare you in the face like gravity and the whole food availability theory that Amartya Sen got the whole Nobel Prize for, become the bane of student existence? The fact is, until these dastardly devils give these simple truths unpronounceable names, these truths and theories were enjoyable thoughts. And e then-when they do name them, they become the dreaded THEORY. And now finally the point. The Theory behind Theories.

This theory states that any homily suitably endowed with difficult language and a name that spans time and space with more syllables than one can keep track of, automatically becomes what is generally referred to as the theory. This rule is applicable to any axiom- ranging from how to reverse a bike to best way to write graffiti. And of course once this is accomplished the poor piece of common sense becomes much cursed and generally bemoaned. And it is only when this stage is reached that we can know for sure that the theory has become a theory. Once they start appearing in text books and getting mugged up for board exams you know you've clinched the theory spot.

And this be-eth my Theory on theories. I'm thinking of the perfect name, but my latin is not up to scratch.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Name Shame, follow up.

I rarely if ever post any forwards, but this one seemed permissable. I am a red blooded Mallu myself. But I cannot deny the truth of the following email. I extend my thanks to the venerable Pyne for this valuable insight into the shrouded realms of impossibly impossible names.

The Science Behind Christening Mallu Christians

It has been a well kept secret for eons, shrouded in mystery and mazes of deceit, but finally Itty Boben Jacob Elias Kuruvilla from Pazhookaville, near Thelmasherry, Kerala has consented to let us publish this classified mallu formula, on the naming of mallu christian kids.

1. Select a combination of both the mother and fathers names. Eg: Suresh and Sharon = Susha or Joseph and Beena = Jobi.
2. The addition of a 'mon' (meaning son) or 'mol' (meaning daughter) is optional. eg: Sushamol, Jobimon
3. To attach a modern anglicised feel to the names, the mol or mon can be replaced with boy or girl. eg: Jobiboy, Sushagirl.
4. For the politically correct keralite family, mol and mon can be replaced by the universal 'kutty'(child), which can be used for both boys and girls! Eg: Jokutty, Susikutty

Even parents having combination names can still give their children suitable names eg: Libi and Jobi = Lijo

However, in the scenario where the parents already have combination names that cannot form more comprehensible child names. Eg: Itty and Amukutty, would produce only Itam (which doesn't even sound like a name) or Amit (which is like Northie and stuff!!!!), then

a. use an English word like Baby, Merry, Titty, Pearly, Smiley, Anarchy, Innocent, Infant etc.
b. use a combination of two English names that you think sound cool (but never cool enough) like Meredith + Gina = Megi, or Sharon + Darlene = Sharlene
c. Use a name from the Bible (and not Nebuchadnezzar! Use one that even velliammachi can pronounce!) like Jacob, Sam, John, Joseph, Mathew, or Jijo!
d. Use a name that sounds like a cuss word but isn't. Eg: Boben, Prussy, Shagi, JustinTimberlake etc.

Note: The use of the letter 'j' is useful in the naming of sibling where names that sound alike are a novelty. Eg: Ajji, Sajji, Majji, Bhajji and Nimajji, or Sijo, Lijo, Jijo, Anjo, Panjo, Banjo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Karuppan the gardener.

My parents' hometowns are home to several interesting characters. Their quirks and mannerisms can rival any Wodehousian peer. One such one is Karuppan.

Karuppan is an honorable man. He works as a gardner and general Man-Friday at my father's sprawling farm home. He lives a simple life. Work in the fields in the morning, get his wages in the evening, proceed to go get sloshed, go back home and beat up his two wives and enjoy a peaceful slumber. Yes, Karuppan is a good, ordinary man.

But Karuppan has a unique and fatal power. - he possesses the binary opposite of a green thumb. If you don't want something to grow- call Karuppan. All he has to do is trim a tiny leaf from the farthest branch of the unfortunate plant, and its growth would be blighted for life.

My father,sadly, discovered this fact through first hand experience.

Being a man of a pioneering aspect, my father was determined to bring order to the "pretty
wilderness" that adorned the premises.

"The yard is a terrible mess,we've got to do something about it."
"Hmm?Yes. Do you want some tea?"
Yes. But I am serious-- All the trees need a little pruning and the bushes need to be replanted."
"Hein? Looks fine to me."
"What fine?! You can't see the road from here!"
"Not from there, but if you bend down and twist your neck and peer from between the jackfruit tree and the mango--"
"That's it! I am going to fix it."
"But you can't do all that alone."
"Of course not." scoffed my father, "I've asked Karuppan to come."
A furitive and fearful glance passed between the rest of us. "Do you really want to do that...?"
"Yes,I do. He's handy and nimble."

"You know," said my oldest uncle. "That backyard mango tree was never quite the same again."
"And the left side sapota. Took five years for it to bear fruits again."
 "All nonsense! I'm calling him tomorrow and clearing up this mess."

He didn't notice the rest of the family shooting each other dubious glances.

At the appointed hour Karuppan turned up and the work commenced. Discarding his shirt of an indiscriminate dirt shade, Karuppan quickly shimmied up and began to unceremoniously lob off random branches of the big mango tree that stood in the yard.To the uninitiated, the mango tree is a very special part of any Mallu family lore. It gets the full brunt of sentiment. Especially when it is a very fruitful kind as this one definitely was. And Karuppan besides having the blackest thumb in this part of the world (both literally and figuratively) was of a rather chop-happy nature.

Suppressing a moan of horror, my  father rushed to curb the carnage.

"What are you doing?!" shouted my father at the figure swinging on a branch like a monkey."Get down."
Karuppan obligingly descended and stood respectfully scratching his armpit.
"What were you doing!"my father bellowed.
"Cutting branches."
"All of them????"
"Oh no,no,no- I was going to leave a few. On the top. "
For a moment my father actually seemed to contemplate shaking the man but restrained himself admirably. "The trunk doesn't really count as a branch." he said.
"Hahaha! Very funny sir!" Karuppan grinned, displaying rows of betel stained teeth."Don't worry,I've been doing this for ages. You need to cut them so they will grow more." With that, he took up his tools, scurried up the tree and continued to chop.

My father, though always confident and and rarely cowed, couldn't help feeling a little bit of doubt at this declaration. May be they would grow back. And the man is a farmer and a gardener, he ought to know. But some deeper instinct warned him to keep an eye on Karuppan. Following this altercation my father concentrated his efforts on restraining Karuppan. With each branch lobbed off Karuppan seemed to grow more zealous. In fact, it can be safely surmised that he resented my father's insistence on leaving some more branches on the tree than he felt necessary.

By evening our yard was filled with denuded trees and their branches. Karuppan still in attendance cheerfully helped move the latter while splattering the ground with betel juice at steady intervals. Before Karupan left for his evening entertainment, my father asked him with ill concealed anxiety, "The branches... they will grow..?"
" Definitely!" Assured the able gardener, busy counting his wages," They'll be full of mangoes when you come next vacation."

Next vacation came- but there were no new branches. The next vacation came, and there were branches but no fruits.Several vacations passed with no fruition. It was only last year that we finally got a few mangoes from the tree Karuppan attacked that morning.

A few years back we'd made our house. My father, having still retained his pioneering nature, decided there must be a garden. The pots and seedlings were duly bought. And once again Karuppan was pressed into service- to dig and nothing else. He kept shooting wistful glances at the saplings and finally my father relented and let him plant a few.

Unsurprisingly- every other plant except his took root.

Recently,he'd come to our place to help with something--nothing to do with plants. During his break, armed with tea and biscuits he lounged near the garden. Mid-sip he turned to my father and said "See all my plants have grown so well!"
My father choked lightly on his tea "What? Where?"
"There, that one, between the bluebells and the cosmos."
"Isn't that just grass?"
"They are so strong and healthy."
My father took a long sip.
"You know, a lot of people say things about me."
My father took another long sip.
"And they are right. I've got magic fingers" he grinned proudly waggling his fingers.

I don't think my father had the heart to correct him.

Singing in Landmark

One of the landmark discoveries of my college days is Landmark.

The Apex Landmark was my earliest haunt. I'd go there everyday.So much so that the security people would recognize me by sight,actually enquire if I missed a day in between and smile indulgently as they heard me sing along with whatever music was playing. That is my earliest memory in Chennai- singing in Landmark.

Coming from the book starved world of the middle east, and a school whose library was as big as the general ATM booth,Landmark was a Brave New World. Add music to this potent drug and I was enslaved.Dust stained and dismal after a day at College followed by work at the NSS centre, the tired first year student trudged through the A.C cooled portals of the beloved establishment- and fell in love. I found solace in endless shelves of worlds.Volumes bound in seductive leather,perfumed paperbacks which make your mouth water at their scent... was it any wonder that I was entrapped. I used to spend entire days there, reading until my arms chilled and I could no longer feel my fingers and toes.Landmark turned into the worst place to ask me to wait- I'd generally remain caught up in whatever book I'd be reading and completely forget any appointment. In fact I'd miss my curfew simply because I was reading. In my stuffy hostel bed I "recollected in tranquility.."of stories and music. I'd close my eyes and once again I'd be singing in Landmark.

First year rolled into second. I changed hostels but I still held on to my haunt. Most evenings would find me balancing precariously on the side of a shelf or sitting on a rickety stool bent over a book and humming along with the music. I remember an instance when they were playing Coldplay's The Scientist. As usual I began singing along and realised there was another voice singing as well. The guy on the other side of the shelf had the same revelation simultaneously. We gave each other sheepish grins and continued while I tallied another Lover to Landmark's list.

Second year crooned into third and third year into graduation. Following a short stay with the family (I'm still trying to figure out which creates the more painful parting, a long stay or a short stay),I returned into the warm- perhaps over warm- arms of Chennai. Post unpacking and such obligatory processes, I proceeded to reactivate my dormant contacts. The classmates came first. Most of our conversation revolved around up-coming entrance exams, future prospects and all that depressing stuff. The juniors, perhaps under some misconception of overnight maturity or trying to appear interested, endeavored to follow the same track. I was hit by a sense of over-powering change. Like when one stands on the beach and the water washes away the sand from beneath ones feet,and one has unknowingly moved. Dispirited and unhappy I sat slumped on my bed and decided that stasis would only lead to greater depression. Picking up my wallet and phone, I went to the first place my feet lead me- Landmark.

Standing in the Indian Writing section, I pick up a misplaced Gerald Durrell and transport myself to the sun-kissed island of Corfu. The Beatles' Yellow submarine plays in the background. I smile, not only at the antics of the Durrell family and their menagerie, but also at myself. What is there to worry when I have this? Things change, as they ought to. But there are the anchors that keep you steady even in the course of the flood. And for that you have books,music and moments like this- singing in Landmark.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hairy Tale

I think it started with Rapunzel and Sohrab&Rustam.

This fascination with a feminine head of flowing,glossy locks has endured and even grown through the ages. And now it's transferred to the masculine head as well- pioneered by Mahendra Singh Dhoni,Vikram and for a while Amir Khan to name a few. My family has always had issues with my hair. Especially my father and brother. Coming from a stock of Class A Mallus, they maintain that long flowing tresses are an essential for the enhancement of female beauty. And no argument- reasonable or otherwise- can ever convince them otherwise. It's all my mother's fault of course! She's the one who set the precedent. Whenever I passionately champion the wonders of un-long hair, they merely turn and point to her.But surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly,she had always been my staunchest supporter in the cause of manageable short hair. But that reprieve didn't last long.The number of things done to my poor tresses outnumber the number of things done to my face(refer to previous posts).But like my face it has remained firmly untamed. In fact, my mother actually had plans of taking me along while she tought Shelley's Ode to The West Wind. She wanted to give them a clear picture of "maenad's hair" (for the ignorant- go read the poem).

It's not that I don't like my hair- I love my hair ,I really do. It's distinctive and very like me: messy, notorious and a not a little scary. Since it's so much like me, isn't it the natural course of things that I carry forward the similarity and keep it short? I remember that glorious time when the hair-lady had made a mistake and bobbed off my mid-back trail.I didn't have to really comb it for ages! A lazy girl's dream. But then it grew...sigh. But all said and done, my hair does look nicer long. When it's short I look more like a hobbit than ever. But then it's such a bother... It seems my hairytale has no happy ends-they are all split.

And why am I writing about this? I've been charged with getting a haircut. Why am I not rejoicing, you ask? Simple- there are instructions. Left to my own devices I'd just take a pair of scissors and snip away. But noooooo. It has to be done in a system. I should go to a stylist and get a trim as opposed to a chop. And I have to make sure that it swings just so and that the "volume" (isn't that something in stereos?) is maintained and GAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!The physics, and lately the chemistry, of hairstyling-especially female hairstyling- is hair raising. The names itself require a hundred page glossary. The prospect of journeying into the tangled lands of beautiful hair makes my hair stand on end. Ah why oh why are we put to such tests!? Is it not bad enough that we have a facial hair ripped off to appease beauty. Must we bow our heads to these edicts as well?

May be I'll just make a trip to Tirupathi, what say?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Talking in tongues.

My mother tongue is malayalam.
Therefore,logically, that would be the language spoken at home.However- showing evidence of strong familial similarity to the author- logic is thrown out the window. The common linguistic scene that greets the eye-the ear, perhaps would be more appropriate- is a a sea of languages sloshing together like spirits in a cocktail.Something on the lines of "Athu ko vaha leavekar vekum kalambaffy karo."(simple transalation: 'Leave that and get going', number of languages used 4)is as common as day in our residential premises. And this is a simple example.
Trissur Malayalam flows into cheri Tamil and that mixture is splashed with a dash of some tapori Hindi and then heated with some rapper lingo and shudh, school-tought-Hindi. To this is added a smattering of French a breath of Arabic along with a brand of English that is unique to this family , and Voila! That's our language. It is surprising that any of us understand each other. Even my father,being the only comparatively sane person among a horde of confirmed lunatics (sorry,ma),does. Yet people who come home and chance upon one of our informal conversations will most definitely be at sea.

Forget the languages themselves, the various allusions-intertextual and otherwise-the quotes (from books,movies, relatives etc.), the mannerisms to go with each of these and of course the accents... Hmm.. maybe we should declare what we speak a different language as a whole.

The point being that there are more things than the tenets of the Mendelian Theory that bind family members together. And no,not all that sentimental stuff either- though that's definitely an aspect. Families connected,and each member made uniquely a part of that family through the bonds of language. No one family- no matter how alike- can speak like any other. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is another reason why language must always be respected.
Go Linguists!

Dr.Ames' Inventory of New Age Diseases- 2

Welcome to the newest edition of Dr.Ames' Directory for New Age Diseases.This edition's prime diseases are:

Fartigo: This is an airborne menace. Like the foot-in-mouth disease (refer to Edition1)this diabolical disease works pulse like- rippling outward. It may be compared to an atomic explosion. It hardly ever effects the source, except in very rare cases when the source is struck by chagrined embarassment. But this is , as mentioned earlier, very rare. Most sources feign ignorance and several go unknown-thus creating an aura of mystery. The general symptoms are immediate nausea and necessity to cover the nasal passage following the inhalation of noxious fumes. General moaning and occasional cases of loss of consciousness have also been recorded. The disease can be almost fatal in small enclosed spaces. The best remedy is to catch hold of the source and dispose of it in the nastiest way possible.

Like-aemia: This is a speech defect. It is characterised by excessive use of the word "like". Generally deemed a disease of the young, this illness has spread its tentacles into not so young speech as well. In it's most virulent form,cancerous like-aemia cells can overide all the cells in a sentence thereby creating a tumor in the sense lodes of speech and consequent breakdown of communication and leaving listeners cell-shocked.The origins of this disease may seem harmless- a "like" here, a "like" there. But soon this becomes a "like" everywhere. The disease must be nipped in the bud and this can be achieved by constant teasing and in the case of little children or easily dominated individuals- a sharp, forceful down/side ways movement on any fleshy part of the patient's anatomy should suffice to discourage.

Sore-i-ass-is: This ailment is very broad-based(no pun intended). It usually manifests itself on individuals who spend a lot of time on their behinds. It is characterised by numbness and alternating soreness experienced in the posterior. This disease is an occupational hazard for drivers,especially bikers,in a traffic jam, 10 ruppee ticket movie watchers,students in an exam hall and government officials. Another variation of this is seen in students whose ends have made an acquaintance with the rougher end of a ruler/cane/paddle/any hard and effectively pain inducing surface. A brisk massage or a special exercise called the Guntherian-bum-dance is very effective in tackling Sore-i-ass-is.
No-money-a: This too is a highly wide spread disease. It is characterised by a lack of GFCs (refer to Edition1). Almost everyone who has made an acquaintance with GFCs believes that they have suffered from this disease or are suffering from this disease. But the perenial patients are always- students. Students, especially the college variety,constantly succumb to this illness and have to undergo an intensely painful drought period. They sometimes try to combat this through the Borrowing Maneuver, but this generally increases the risk of relapse.The best method to tackle this menace is by cultivating several GFC banks and by appealing to the Green Cross run by Parental Associates for GFC transfusions in dire scenarios.

The Common-Scold: This is a common ailment stereotypically manifested in the female. However the doctor holds that this is equally or more applicable to the male. It is usually seen in parents. The symptoms of this disease is a characteristic repetetion of dialogues or threats, better knowns as scolds, issuing from the male/female in question. Continuous exposure to the Common-Scold can result in sore-throats (for the patient), headaches (for the receiver) and general discomfort. The only way to tackle this is to grin and bear it. Cotton helps though.

Further developments in the New Age Medical scene will be updated as and when the venerable doctor feels like it. The good doctor expresses gratitude to fellow physicians for their valuable inputs. Until the next time,good health and happiness to all.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Name Shame

To start on an oft quoted quote- "What's in a name?"

I'm sure Sycho Baby would have a lot to rant about on that flippant statement. As would Shitty. And Mincy. And Diarrhea.

And these examples are all real people.

It is fascinating to wonder what exactly deranged parents were thinking while condemning their offspring to such labels. These name-traumas permanently scar the poor person.Put yourself in the shoes of young "Queen Elizabeth" - yes, she really was named that- and you'll see what I mean.Imagine the plight of the poor 80 year old, forever doomed to a name like "Baby". Isn't that taking "eternal youth" a step too far? A similar anomaly is the case of grotesquely ugly individuals named "Sundaran"/"Sundari". I suppose their parents were trying very hard to fool themselves. Poor Lajjith probably dies of shame everytime he has to introduce himself.

Mallus are atrocious namers.There are a huge number of kids condemned to being called Saddam Hussein,Lenin, Stalin etc. everyday.Mallu Christians are another category by themselves. A mad fettish for rhyme, leaves hapless siblings with names on the lines of Jincy,Dincy,Vincy,Lincy,Tincy(!),Mincy,Rincy... (let us pause for a moment and pray for these blighted children.)

To move on. Names can be damaging in their extreme imagination or complete lack of it. My grandfather used to tell us the story of his distant cousin's name. Born after several years and several daughters, the young son bore the full brunt of his sanskrit-scholar father's eruditon. He was named-


The semiotics of this name are irreproachable. It's almost poetic. Sadly it's epic proportions leave something lacking. And the anticlimax of the whole name,was that the cousin was finally and universally called 'Kandunni', a massive step down from the kavya traditions of his actual name. The other extreme is equally sad. The handyman at my father's place, besides being wiry, betel chewing and sloshed every evening, is as dark as a politician's doings. And he is named Karuppan which- wouldn't you guess- means "blackie". Let us side step the obvious political incorrectness of that and wonder--Couldn't his parents have thought of something a little innovative? What could be a better- or should I say worse- example of this disturbing lack of creativity in parents,than all those boring begetters who name their children after states!These individulas can be excused as being patriotic, but what about those parents who name their offspring after months and days? And who can forget Douglas Adams' creation,"Fenchurch" who was named after a railway station. I suppose they ran out of creativity post creation of the child in question.

And then there are the incomplete names. The kinds where a person introduces herself/himself and you're wondering "And..?". One such name I've come across is "Chinma". I mean, it sounds like her parent was cut off in the middle of saying the whole name and whatever was said got stuck. Names can also be a curse just by sounding the way they do. Let me remind of Yann Martel's creation, "Piscine"- forever doomed to jokes about "Pissin'". But a fictional case will not prove this contention. Imagine the plight of poor "Abish", his name booming like the soundtrack for a fight scene in some sad production. Or Uppili,who ought to become a clown or a stand-up comedian, because the moment he says his name people start laughing.Another similar situation is the case of double meaning. Remember "Gaylord Focker", of "Meet The Parents" fame? And my personal favorite-"Mahaboob".

My question is,what exactly are parents thinking while bestowing a terrible name on their child? Is it some kind of revenge for inflicting labour pains? Or is a crime of passion- they were carried away by an artistic,patriotic or ideological madness? Or is it some wayward misconception of teaching them humility through shame? Perhaps... After all, the parents' minds work in mysterious ways. To quote the Bard yet again- "There are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in our philosophy."

P.S: As for my name, my parents were over-reachers and hoped for great things from me. Hence I'm left to create my own names.