Laughing Out Loud!

It was one of those things that looked like we’d keep talking about it, but never get around to doing. Only this time, we managed to pull it off.

A bunch of us engineering classmates got together and went to Kochi, where another classmate lives, and has been inviting us over forever. Oh what a fun time we had! Stuffed ourselves with food, including the sumptuous Onam spread she had prepared, had a lovely day out, and laughed till we cried! We were back to our silly selves, giggling away, not bothered about anything, just having a jolly good time.

Kochi is known for a lot of things like the port, naval base, synagogue, church, spices, etc. But what took all of us by surprise was this.

Thrikkaakara Vamana Moorthy Temple
Thrikkaakara Vamana Moorthy Temple

A beautiful temple, only one of its kind, the Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy temple is dedicated to Vamana! None of us had heard about it, so it was quite a revelation. Apparently, Onam has its origins in this very temple. Very interesting history indeed. It was so peaceful when we visited it, though the aftermath of the Onam celebrations was quite visible.

We also visited the Hill Palace museum and the Kerala Folkore Museum. The latter was absolutely fascinating, and astonishing because it is the collection of a single man!

Face Writing
Face Writing

We wound up the day with a stroll down the beautifully lit Marine Drive and some yummy appams.

All in all, a great weekend in the company of friends, and really laughing out loud! :)

Tea-Time

The ubiquitous tea or chai.

So many varieties, right from the railway station hot chai in small cups, to the golden liquid that swirls into your cup in a plane. So many tastes, from the strongly brewed and sugary chai to the delicate flavours of green tea.

Some of my chai memories include a really tall glass of very strong and rich tea that I drank at a Punjabi household. I still remember trying hard to finish it and hold it in without throwing up.

I have green tea every morning which is just plain, no milk or sugar added. In the evenings, I have the usual Indian chai, with the tea leaves boiled along with the water, and a moderate quantity of milk added to it. I like my tea without sugar (I gave up adding sugar a few years ago), but I like to eat a little sweet before my tea. I dislike the taste of sweetness that lingers on after sweet tea; this way, I get a taste of sweet, but it gets washed away by the taste of the tea. Marie biscuits dipped in hot tea are a favourite.

For some reason, I just love the tea served on airplanes. I like drinking it plain, without adding the chalky milk powder or sugar. Some of the best teas I have had include my friend’s masala chai, made with homemade masala. Nothing better than to drink one of her chais while gup-shupping with friends!

The other one is the chamomile tea I had in Madrid. It was just too good, so comforting and everything about it – the flavour, the aroma, the temperature –  just right. It was heavenly!

I bought a little teapot in the fond hope that I would brew my own tea, but it didn’t work out so well. I do know some folks who brew their tea in teapots, but I haven’t made a decent cup of tea this way. I love that teapot though – it’s red and cheery and cosy.

I'm a little teapot
I’m a little teapot

I remember our tea in Darjeeling, when we sat on the terrace (or was it a balcony) overflowing with flowers, looked out into the drifting mist, and sipped hot tea. That was straight out of a book!

The weather today is so perfect for curling up in bed with a book and a hot cup of tea. Ah, the small pleasures that life offers.

So, how do you like your cup of tea?

Celebrate!

There are people who think singing and dancing to show your love for your country is stupid and shallow.

There are people who think that giving flowers to someone is an empty gesture.

There are people who think that spending some time selecting a good gift for someone is a waste of time.

There are people who think everyday is special and so celebrations are meaningless.

There are people who think saying “I love you” to the people they deeply care about is just lip service.

I was one of them.

I dismissed all gestures as empty and ostentatious.

I hated celebrating my birthday.

Now, however, I’m older and wiser.

What’s wrong in singing and dancing if that gives you joy and a sense of overwhelming love towards your country?

What’s wrong in saying it with flowers?

What’s wrong with a well-chosen and thoughtful gift?

What’s wrong with joyous and happy celebrations?

What’s wrong with expressing and reaffirming oneself whole-heartedly?

I say, go ahead and celebrate! Laugh and sing and dance and be merry to your heart’s content (please do not use loudspeakers though :D). Life is boring when you treat everyday just like the next. Let your voice soar, your feet move, and release your spirit. That is what freedom is all about. And don’t let people who scoff at these efforts pull you down. Let them go ahead and be the same everyday. After all, that is also what freedom is all about.

Down To Earth or Larger Than Life?

I watched two very different movies recently.

Masaan was a movie that impressed me with its writing/editing. This is the second movie, the other being Kaaka Muttai, in which I found the scenes chosen and crafted carefully, with no extraneous scenes at all. Everything was relevant to the storyline. The movie was so authentic, yet so beautifully shot. The boy-girl love story was really so cute, yet so completely realistic, and the casting could not have been more perfect! On a personal note, I too have used Benares as the backdrop for my prize-winning story City of Gods (which I’m very fond of), with the theme of modernity straining for release from the centuries of history and religious culture. So I felt very happy to see a somewhat similar theme. Benares is really a different experience altogether.

Baahubali was the other movie I caught. What a movie! I loved it. True, the story is the usual larger than life legendary figure, some of the songs could have easily been dispensed with, and Tamanna was a very weak link, both story-wise and acting-wise. However, the sheer lavish scale of the movie, the attention to detail, the way every frame is so lovingly mounted, and of course, the special effects, make the movie really worth watching. Especially the war scenes. They are beautifully done, and plunges the viewer right into the middle of the action. I’ve never seen any movie that takes the viewer along the complete war path, right from the strategy, to the retreat, and then to the glorious victory. The scenes are extremely effective without being explicit, and that’s the beauty of the whole second half of this movie. The cliff-hanger ending is a fantastic way to wrap up the first part. I actually felt proud that an Indian moviemaker had not only been so ambitious and aimed so high, but had delivered on it.

So, down to earth, or larger than life? Which did I prefer?

Honestly, you need both to make life interesting, don’t you? :)

Dancing To My Tune

Choreography is defined as primarily “the sequence of steps and movements in dance”.

If we go strictly by this definition, then yes, I’ve choreographed dances.

I love dance. I love the fact that the human body is so beautifully expressive, that just a flick of the hands or a look in the eyes can convey so much. I tried to learn formal dancing very late in life. I could not take the whirls of Kathak and so stopped even before I could put on ghungroos. Bollywood dancing was very interesting in terms of the different steps, the basic tools that they use, and the interpretation of various gestures. However, it felt rather alien to me, and I could not connect to it as much as I’d have liked to.

So, I am not a trained dancer. When I dance, it looks like I’ve stumbled onto the stage by chance, even though I know all the steps perfectly. I was told this in college once by a classmate, and I was highly offended. However, recently when I saw a dancing video of mine, I realized how accurate that assessment was! However, I am much better at choreographing. I learn steps very quickly, I’m able to break down the dance into palatable little bits, and I think I am able to get a good dance out of an interested group, even if I say so myself! :)

When I was a kid, I used to make up steps to popular tunes. I think TV had a huge influence on me. I loved the dance programs on Doordarshan. Some of the dance ballets deeply moved me. I began to weave fantasies about bigger and better productions. In college too, I quite enjoyed choreographing a few dances. I began branching into more abstract dances, trying to translate what I felt when I heard the music into dance. I remember chalking up a rather ambitious dance-drama based on Sleeping Beauty for Chitti Babu’s music on the veena. I choreographed a “Dance of the Waves” for one of his lovely numbers, because that was what I visualized when I heard his music.

All this was laid aside for quite a few years of my life, when career, marriage, and kid took over. The spark glowed again with DD’s interest in dance. Slowly I’ve got into the groove again. Now it’s become an almost regular feature, and I enjoy the challenge of choosing and editing the appropriate song(s), learning and coming up with the steps and expressions, and bringing the dance to shape. Now that DD and her friends are grown, they learn much faster, and I need to keep abreast with all the latest trends. It’s fun and though I’m still quite old-school, I try to keep an open mind.

I’m sure in a couple of years, DD will no longer want to be guided by me and will want to do things her own way. Till then though, I’ll derive great pleasure from making her (and her friends) dance to my tune. They are the Dancing Queens of my life!

BF or BFF

OK, blame it on that silly superhit movie Maine Pyaar Kiya. The one that had a million hearts beating, and included a really important lesson, which the nation took to heart:

Ek ladka ladki kabhi dost nahin hote

Translation: A guy and a girl can never be (just) friends.

I just read Mr. Chetan Bhagat’s comment on the same:

Why a guy and a gal can not be friends

“Why should any guy want to be only friends with a girl? It’s like agreeing to be near a chocolate cake and never eat it. It’s like sitting in a racing car but not driving it.” 

Yeah right. I’m sure they’ve all flunked their Chemistry 101. I think it’s pretty obvious that if you are not attracted to a member of the opposite sex, but have enough overlapping interests, you can still be a good friend without jumping into bed. I think it clearly speaks of the desperation and frustration of one of the genders that they look upon every member of the opposite sex as, well, chocolate cake. Such utter nonsense.

The damage that Indian movies (not just Bollywood) do to young minds and hearts is immeasurable. And now (ok, I’m probably a bit late, it’s not exactly Now, I guess) you have the imbecile “literati” spouting the same nonsense!

Hmmm, I wonder if Mr CB has any good lady friends? Or have they all zoomed off in their racing cars, far, far away from him?

But let’s look at the silver lining, shall we? At least he gives me something to blog about :D

Love Wins, Every Time

DD is now practically a teenager, all grown up. She’s been a sweet child, curious and active and loving, and I think the only time I really despaired was when she was four, and had the tendency to bite people she found disagreeable. After that, my trepidations have always been swept away, and she’s turned out rather well, even though I say so myself.

One of the lovely things about her is her sense of responsibility. She’s pretty organized and meticulous about her stuff. For my niece’s wedding last year, she was the only one who had her clothes AND accessories packed in order of the ceremonies we would be part of, a full week in advance! I never have to remind her to do stuff, her room and closet are always far neater than mine will ever be, and she’s on her school work, whether it’s projects or homework, even before I know what it’s all about. She’s even become self-disciplined enough to turn off the TV at the regulated time on school days and go to bed at the right time, without any prompting whatsoever from us. Little wonder that I have very little to complain about when other parents are moaning about their children!

Even so, there are days when things flare up. If there’s one thing she really dislikes, it’s studying – no surprises there. Unfortunately, this is the one thing I insist on, since there’s a lot riding on it for her. I don’t really care about the marks, per se, but I would like to see her make a sincere effort, and that’s all I push her to do. If you know me, I like balance in everything, so work-while-you-work, play-while-you-play is what I try to enforce.

Most of the time, the pushing works, but sometimes, (like a couple of days ago), I lose my temper. I end up ranting and she sinks into a deep sulk, and things spiral downwards from there. It’s never pleasant, I hate myself, and nothing good comes out of it at the end.

But of late, I’ve been asking myself a single question that’s made all the difference, and has stopped me from becoming the kind of mom I hate.

The question I ask myself is simply this: Would I stop loving her just because she didn’t do [whatever she was supposed to do]?

The answer I get is, of course, a resounding NO! It immediately makes me change my perspective. I stop ranting and give myself a time-out. I interact with her once again only when I am certain that all the negative feelings have vanished, and I am the mom I would like to be.

It’s worked wonders so far. Every time I have stopped ranting and have become more loving, DD responds far more positively.

Your child is a constant source of joy. Just learn to look lovingly.