Sunday, December 06, 2015

t has been quite a few days. What started as a "I will pick up those stranded in the rain in my car and drop them off" , 6 days ago when the rains were pelting Chennai and "I will recharge people's phone numbers" became a huge WE, a bigger movement. And I realize what a wonderful city Chennai is. What lovely people we have. And that in the face of adversity we all become the better humans and are happy to help.
Because it is top of mind, I would like to thank Yeskay Durai on Twitter, who I have known only as someone who followed my songs. The past couple of days, he got together volunteers from Bangalore, loaded 20 huge trucks, sent 10 to Cuddalore and 10 to Chennai as of today the 5th December, 2015.
Chennai, the past few days has been about thousands and thousands of people who have silently helped each other. So many from here. So many from outside. Sometimes individually, sometimes in groups. Being a volunteer has been an experience I have loved and would do it again any day, just like the thousands others.
Gitanjali Selva / her dad Mr Bharat Raman lent her Innova to me and this helped our friends go around everywhere from Villivakkam to Saidapet. This car has been a revelation. I have always made fun of this car, but I have newfound love and respect for this vehicle as it continues to run superbly after 3-4 days of driving in anywhere between 1ft-3.5 ft water. I have thanked the car and also prayed for the car when we thought the water on the roads was too high and that it should pull through and she did smile emoticon I louue this car now. And the makers.
Chennai wasn't prepared for such a disaster. I wonder if any city in India is. It city has been truly battered, as are Cuddalore and Pondichery.
Twitter has been a boon. Though the networks were all down, as were power and fuel (for a short while) it was a huge tool to spread, receive and broadcast information. When network was patchy, it was fastest to load tweets. People verifying if claims were correct, calling numbers and posting "Verified" so that volunteers dont waste time.
Social media is not so bad after all. We can use this tool for some incredible work.
Media operating out of Mumbai / Delhi were a disappointment. They were debating a disaster as an issue, until people here made noise. Finally they did realize what was going on and gave airtime to their sleepless, overworked journalists here who finally got some attention for the work they were doing from Chennai.
Workers of the Electricity Board, Police and Sewage - many haven't eaten or had a drink of water, something I realized today when we went to Kotturpuram. The NDRF - What heroes they are. Only boats could ply in areas that were once roads.
I have learned several life lessons. And have an incredible amount of silence within me. I have also been humbled by the amount of trust so many unknown people have in me. I am grateful and am glad that a clean reputation, character does hold one in good stead. I have seriously fought with God in my mind several times that none of these have helped me as to me, those who seemed to have taken short cuts are better off (not that I could be any other way) but yes it makes me feel good.
Finally, I think all of us should have a bag at home with emergency supplies that will keep us in good stead for at least a week in case of an emergency. Another lesson - our vehicles must always be at least 3/4th full with fuel. Several lessons actually. Maybe that would be a separate blog post.
Tomorrow is yet another day and am truly grateful for the graces the Universe has given me and us all.

This tweet by RJ Balaji sums it all up - Cldnt see my city drown,And all
I did was spontaneous n emotional.Bt never expected ths unbelievable trust n love.Thank u.Am truly blessed."
Be kind. And trust in human beings. We are all good. Still smile emoticon

Monday, November 30, 2015

What I have bought and from where

Vitamin C Serum is the first in the line of actives that I have bought and this is what I decided to purchase based on reviews
I read that concentration of Vitamin C must be at least more than 15% for it to have an effect on the skin. Vitamin C must be stored away from direct sunlight and in a reasonably dark place. Some users are known to store it in the refrigerator. Maybe this would make sense in India.

What I have bought is the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA ++++
due to several glowing reviews it has got from K-beauty blogging veterans. 

PA++++ is the highest range of UV protection according to some skincare industries. Japanese if I read right, though right now, I cant remember which blog I read this nugget of information. 

Read here about what to look for in sunscreen 

Mizon All In One Snail Repair Cream

Mizon Snail All in one repair cream. One of my first Korean Skincare purchases. Comes in a sturdy glass bottle. 
Snail mucus, the slimy stuff that snails feet leave on a surface when they slide along is apparently a wonder skin-repair thing. Did my research to find no snails are killed or ill treated in the process. 
According the makers' advice Snail AIO repair cream should be used in place of an essence, i.e., Oil Cleanse, foam cleanse, tone, essence. Started using this today. Will figure out changes in 2 weeks I presume. This contains about 92% snail filtrate and claims to brighten skin and work on fading scars ideal for oily/acne prone skin. May also work on dry / normal skin if used under other products as the brand claims. But I did read that some bloggers with oily skin gave this one amazing reviews. You may google for the reviews yourself. Based on how this goes, I am thinking of getting the Ampoule from this range. 

The 'What-I-Bought' list is longer. But additional information requires independent posts on the why-s hows and some skincare gyaan :p 


My current skincare routine based on the K-Beauty regimen

My routine as of 2 weeks is this.

1. Oil cleanse
Coconut Oil or Gingelly Oil
2. Foam cleanser - L'occitane Precious foam cleanser. Something I have been using for a long time now. At least 2 years. K-Beauty-bloghopping helped me find that this product has a PH level of 5.
3. Toner / Toning mist - Forest Essentials Rose water / Jasmine and Aloe Vera facial toning mist
4. Vitamin C serum - After waiting 15 minutes for skin to return to normal PH post cleansing (can be eschewed once you use an AHA/BHA toner that I ordered from the brand Mizon, due to its glowing reviews. This helps the skin to return to normal PH so that the actives like Vitamin C can work on the skin rather than battling on bringing it back to normal PH. I got this information from Snow White and Asian Pear's blog. She has a lovely post on building your skincare routine and how to put things in order.) I ordered the Serumtologie Vitamin C, from the US and requested someone to bring it for me. Vitamin C is one of the best things that you can incorporate into your routine is there is only one thing that you will add. You could consult a dermatologist you trust for a Vitamin C Serum and see if your skin agrees to it after requesting for samples. Some formulations may / may not work for several skins. 
5. First Essence - 15-20 minutes after Vitamin C, so that it has time to work on the skin. L'occitane Brightening essence (A gift and didn't purchase this.)
6. Serum - L'occitane Reine Blanche serum
7. Serum 2 - L'occitane Divine Extract
8. Eye cream - L'occitane Divine eyes
9. Oil - Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi oil (always mixed with a few drops of rosewater as applying the oil directly on the skin will cause break-outs. This aids better absorption and doesn't leave your skin feeling at all.
10. Night cream - L'occitane Divine Cream


1. Foam Cleanse
2. Toning mist 

Exfoliation 2/3 times - Kama Ayurveda Kumkumadi scrub
Clarisonic Smart Profile (Something my mom bought for herself but I hijacked albeit temporarily. Really love this one)
Clay Mask - Multani Mitti or Bentonite clay mask from EcoNut an organic store at Besant Nagar.
L'Occitane Aromachologie Rebalancing Face Mask

Only thing, most of the L'occitane stuff have been gifts from Dipika or my mom. Dipika in an attempt to somehow try and convert me into taking care of my skin. Now however, she says she is very proud of me, because for the first time, she actually learned something new from me :p. I however have regularly bought their face wash and their Almond shower oil, absolute favourites that I have indulged in.

I have also been a huge fan of Forest Essentials as a brand ever since they launched, way before they opened their store in Chennai. Maybe one of the reasons that I am drawn to K Beauty is their focus on all-natural/fermented products.

Now one would think this is an overdose of stuff on the skin. So did I. Strangely after all this, my skin looked like it was glowing a bit. Slightly shiny, if one may say. 

I'd like to say that my skin is normal with a slightly oily T Zone. No acne or problematic skin other than perhaps sun-damage from years of never using Sunscreen. 

As stated earlier the Vitamin C was my first purchase. And I started using my sunscreen regularly. 

If nothing else this regimen makes me remember to use my sunscreen. :)

Korean skincare - Where to buy

The US is seeing a surge of K-beauty entrepreneurs and I hear Sephora has an entire aisle dedicated to brands from Korea.

If you live in the US here are some websites you could try

Some sell pre-made sets, according to specific skin concerns. They also have dedicated pages that will take you through Korean Skincare.

Living in India and having a new interest like this is no good. This is a lot like my baking obsession from 5 years ago when I didn't find a decent counter-top OTG, forget other exotic ingredients like sprinkles or even whipping cream.

Amazon (US) is a great place to check for a lot of the popular K-beauty products and for other sellers that ship directly from Korea where you can buy samples to see what will work for your skin

The only thing here is the insane shipping time. Plus the shipping cost itself. If you and your friend(s) can team up you could save significantly on shipping costs.

Checking these sites will also give you an idea of some insane discounts that happen every once in a while. Plus, there are fake Korean skincare stuff that abound. The sites that I have listed right now (I am sure there are more) are used by other bloggers regularly to purchase their hauls and ship legit stuff. 

Dabbling in K-Beauty

Here I am talking of something I have never talked of, I think, in my 10 years or so of blogging here. 
Skincare and tapping into myself to see if I have a vain side. I definitely went through the nailpolish, lipstick etc thing as a teenager but was successfully insulted out of it :p

Dipika Lal, a girl I first knew as a fantastic designer/stylist based out of Mumbai who is now more a sister than anything else, has tried through time and in vain to make me do something about my skin except the need-based-before-a-concert/event-visit to the salon.

I am the loyal kind. I usually stick to something once I have taken to it. 

One of my go to people for the past 8 (maybe more) years, in Chennai has been Sulakshana at Studio Profile in Chennai. I have never really let my brows be touched by anyone else in all these years. She also is the go-to person for some of the prettiest faces in the industry and outside of it. She was never the salesperson type, suggesting a ton of treatments/products just to jack up sales for entity she works for. I would say that for everyone in Studio Profile, which is what makes me trust them a lot. By default I can hazard to say I have good skin, never really had acne and the like. But the Korean Skincare thing is fascinating.

Since most of us in Chennai were holed up inside our homes thanks to the rains I had enough time in my hand to do some research and discovered the huge Asian Beauty Reddit and some other blogs I have started haunting. 

I however don't seem to have come across anyone (yet) who reviews and tries out K-Beauty lines on Indian skin. That would have really helped me. In case you are new to this, K(orean)-Beauty talks about the extensive multi-step daily/twice a day regimen that Korean and Japanese women are said to follow which is supposed to be the reason that contributes to their porcelain-like skin. 

Blog-hopping unearthed a lot of women belonging to different skin-types/tones/ethnicities and the result of following a Korean skincare regimen. 

Korean Skincare talks of a 2 step cleansing, everyday. One is the oil-cleansing method and the second, using a cleanser that is on the low PH range, making sure that the acid mantle of the skin is not disrupted allowing it to take actives like Vitamin C or some other treatment products. 

As Indians, oil baths are actually prescribed as a ritualistic step in our festivals and finding that the multi-step K Beauty skincare involved massaging the grime off each day with an oil was not surprising to me. 

I have always worn minimal makeup during my events and go bare-skinned (no sunscreen either!!) on other days. 

So to get started, if you are with me, and are still interested have a look at the multi step regimen which looks like this. There is a day-time and a night time routine.

Night Time

1. Spot cleansing - i.e. if you wear make up you need to take care to remove eye make up 
2. Oil cleansing - use of an oil to remove make-up or the grime from each day
3. The second cleanse (making step 2 &3 the famous Korean Double cleanse method) - A foam cleanser with a low Ph under 5.5 
4. Exfoliate (2/3 times a week) - to slough off dead skin
5. Toner - Not the kind thats filled with alcohol. More the typical rosewater or 'fermented' lines that K-skincare giants have released. What I like a lot of K skincare is that there are complete lines which are cruelty free, organic and plant based. 
6. First (and second) Essence - Touted to me the most important thing in a K-Skincare routine. This is said to prep the skin for the serums or other treatments that may come in later. A lot of essences increase elasticity or brightness or hydration. Depends on what you choose. 
7. Serum / Ampoule - A step in which you can tackle concerns specific to your skin, say Hyper pigmentation or famous in blog-speak as PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyper pigmentation)
8. Sheet Masks (2/3 times a week) - An additional boost to tackle hydration, brightening, or firming
9. Eye cream 
10. Face oil - Concentrated oils that are used as occlusives (For example a kunkumadi Tailam that we get here in India could he used)
10. Night /sleeping pack - the last step to seal in everything. 

Yes, looks like a mighty list. But doesn't take as much time as one may fear. 

Stuff I learned after all the reading 

1. Korea is one of the biggest destinations for plastic surgery. 
2. Skincare is said to be one of their biggest exports and their Government actively supports and funds research in skincare. I also remember reading that some business are also exempt from paying taxes if their sales outside of Korea. 
3.  Said to be at least 10 years ahead of the West in their research and innovations in Skincare. 
4. Korea gave us the now famous BB and CC Creams. 

I may continue to blog a bit since this is my current obsession. 

Here is a list of blogs that you may love reading, just like I did

Snow White and the Asian Pear

I love how she goes into ingredient lists and the science behind it all. Reviews and descriptions are lovely and so well researched. Plus one of the things I like about the bloggers I am listing here are these guys have paid for their own stuff unless otherwise stated and they post a review after at least 2-3 weeks of using the product.

Crazy Snail Lady
Also goes into ingredient lists, which ingredient may trigger what and is very interested in the science behind it all.

Holy Snails

So good at DIY that she has now launched her own skincare concoctions that are selling out faster than the time it takes to finish typing this line

In this section of Recommended Reading on Snow White and Asian Pear's blog, you'll find a list of bloggers that you could follow, based on skin type and concerns. 

If you are crazy about skincare and etc., you'll love reading this stuff. And your wallet may not thank me.

P.S.: This is not a sponsored post. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Attempting dialogue

on Women's rights almost always leads to whataboutery. "What about women who file false dowry harassment cases, false rape cases", etc. etc. etc.
While I sympathise with the family and the persons involved in such false cases, the harassment when someone is wrongly legally victimized, in my opinion, should not be gender sensitive. 

There aren't enough women in politics. Not enough girls in schools. Still not enough girls remain in wombs. Those who survive are malnourished. Not many women in the boards of huge corporates. The average woman still makes 60% less for the same job, qualification, experience than a man. (I can send the data if you like. I got the data during the mentorship program). Women owning lands, property are still a minuscule minority.  The numbers are scary even in 2015. Rape cases, I am inclined to believe has thankfully found more reportage though the crime itself is nothing to be proud of. I wonder if there is a sudden surge in incidents or if there have always been as many cases but the women and their families come out to lodge complaints only now. However, the number of rape cases in countries like the US far outnumber India's. 

I often receive this advice about not to tweet about 'serious' issues being someone involved in the film industry. It will affect my 'image' they'd say. I was told, I should be tweeting about make-up (which sadly horde and not use), cute puppies (I do tweet about) and other 'fluff'. More fluff, less serious. More girl, less feminist, I am advised. 

Though it is difficult for me to be this 'fluffy' person on social media or otherwise, I got a tweet the other day advising I must put an end to this "over feminism". I fail to understand what "over feminism" is.

So many of us don't read much, don't listen enough to others PoV, have a frail idea about history (which also involves reading conflicting accounts, coz as someone remarked, history is what some historians agree upon) and a lack of curiosity / inquisitiveness on various things. Weren't we all curious as children? When did latent curiosity die to lame acceptance of what is shoved down our ears and packed into our grey cells?

Today, the average man reacts negatively to a woman who tweets her opinion on an issue that is assumed to be in the man's domain. He reacts negatively to a woman's tweet on getting unwanted attention with "Oh, she is doing this for more attention". However this is not just a man's problem. I have seen women react similarly. "She is asking for it" is used way too often. 

Why is feminism a bad word? Why do so many react negatively to it? Men like Jyotirao Phule and Mahakavi Bharathiyar were examples of early feminists but sadly, not many men chose to follow their footsteps. If they had, perhaps India today would have been an example on the equal society many believe is utopian. Someday perhaps. Someday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


brings some memories from not too long ago flooding into my head. To put things mildly, there have been Deepavalis when the perfect festival was but a dream, a faraway one it seemed at that time. But now, those days seem like yesterday. Time is a strange thing. The passage of time, even more so. 

There was one Deepavali when, for the first time, mom could finally get me the crackers that we wished I could buy. And I went crazy bursting a small bucketful of those. I later gave up bursting them due to a campaign in school. 

Paatti had a way of wrapping some money in a paper->rubberband->plastic cover-> rubberband-> purse-yellow bag-> which would be knotted to the handlebar of my cycle. I would cycle back home with it. 

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like for thatha who, I am told, lead a pretty luxurious life until he lost his lands, to seeing his daughter/s go through pretty tough times. One lost her husband to cancer. The other to divorce. He was most worried about my mom coz she didn't have a job, that gave her a salary each month; or one that he understood.. They were supportive. 

Today, I wish I could bring my grandparents back together, for one day. Take them out on a drive. Maybe take them abroad. My thatha wouldn't really fall in the category of being a good looking man at all. But he had such 'gethu' in my opinion. Suave, had a splendid way of speaking English and a tremendous bearing. My grandma was the exact opposite. '3aam claas padicha Alamu' as she used to call herself. Knew zero English. And had not much clue about things like finesse and the like also didn't bother learning about them :)

But she was my mom when my own was absent working to put food on the plate. 

When I met my grandma a couple of years before she died, she told me that rarely, on our way to my school in Bombay she'd often wonder what it'd be like to fall in the wayside well and end the misery that was her life, but would be reminded of my hand holding on to hers and that she could do no such thing. Plus the usual 'Perumaal othukka maattaar' etc etc. Must have been very tough for her. They never really see me or mom do well, at least according to their definition. 

And today, I wish they could see us. Wish I could take them out. Wish I could get her, her favourite aaranji mittai. Wish I could take thatha on a lovely walk, in London perhaps. He walked at a pace and gait that would put a 20 year old to shame, even well into his late 80-s. Until one day he fell down the stairs and it rendered him immobile. His insistence on not letting anyone watch anything on the TV until his news was over. Something we all cribbed about. He'd have a field day today with all the news channels screaming for attention, this would have been his 'kid in the candy store' moment. Would have loved to hear his account of his involvement in the freedom struggle and how he produced a movie that never released and who the actors were. 

Someday, on the other side, I hope I ll get to know that they were watching us.. From somewhere. 

Miss them terribly. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

American Express India (Credit Card) and they perhaps hire trained rowdies for bill collection :)

So here is an experience with American Express India that I need to talk about. 

Several months ago I had made a high value transaction *and* made the full payment into the card through NEFT. For some random reason that both my bank and AMEX haven't been able to explain, that payment had returned into my bank account and I didn't realize that my payment has returned, thinking one of the cheques I had deposited, has been credited. (Who ever heard of a payment made into a credit card returning into one's own account?)  

In addition, my AMEX card showed a zero balance for months and have received bills to that effect that there was a zero balance. I primarily use my card to make payments to translators. (AMEX is a card that doesn't get accepted by several merchants in Chennai either because their fee is too high or some vendors, like a local grocery store that is famous for serving expats, have not had their claims settled for several months)

After about 5 months from this said incident AMEX calls to say I need to make they I need to make the payment again and after several rounds of verifying with the bank and AMEX we sorted this out.

Now, there are times that my travel keeps my away from Chennai and I had told these guys that they need to give me an extended period by when I can make they payment into the card and where I am happy to pay the late fee. Simply because by the time the OTP arrives on the phone while you are roaming the prescribed 180 seconds are over. Sometimes overseas concert schedules last over 2 months away from India. I had explained my circumstances to the man dealing with us from AMEX when he was selling us the card. Plus my mother travels with me and no one other than her or I handles my financial transactions. 

It is unfortunate (in this context) that I developed a sort of a soft corner for the company, even though this card has insanely high fees plus doesn't get accepted at most merchants (even online) because I got mentored by AMEX for my US State Dept / Fortune program in NYC a few years ago and 

It just so happened that AMEX sent a typical rowdy type guy home to because my credit card bill was overdue. Not to mention he had an amazing style of using expletives to ask us to pay the bill. 

I hear there is a court order that credit card companies cannot hire people like this but since this is India, who cares about court orders?

Now that I am on terra firma, I cannot wait to end the relationship with AMEX. Severely disappointed and hassled, to say the least. So yes, stay away if you could, from AMEX cards (India).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shanthi Panchakam

Here is my rendition of Shanti Pancakam.

There were a few tracks I wanted to release and the Shanti Pancakam is the first of the few.

Credit due to Mr Hari Tirumalai who very kindly corrected the Sanskrit pronunciations.

Recorded at Seed Studios, Chennai
Sound Engineer - Hafeez
Music Produced by Prashanth Techno
Mixed and Mastered by Navneeth Balachanderan of TheRedPencilCompany
If you wish to buy, it is available on this link

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Association with House of Talent

Things have been great on the work front lately and this blog is an announcement to announce my association with House of Talent. 

I have heard a lot of people in the recent past complain that they are unable to reach me when it comes to work, especially with regard to concerts. It also came to our notice that there are touts of sorts who charge insane amounts of money, without any authorization from our part to just share contact details for professional purposes.

Hoping this would put an end to all that. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The aaranji mittaai.

Alamelu alias Jayalakshmi. Sometime if we wanted to make fun of her, we'd call her Boguloor Jayam. A lady who hadn't gone to school past 4th standard. Or maybe 3rd. I am not too sure right now. Someone who wasn't a great cook at all. Yet, I loved her watery sambars. It was a standard joke in our family - when we'd remark that the rasam wasn't good that day (or any dish for that matter),  pat came her response "Yaen dee... nannaa dhaane di panninaen"? As if something had magically gone wrong between the time she had finished cooking and brought it to the dining table. 

My Paati. I hadn't seen her with teeth at all. I remember her toothless, baby-like grins. And when anyone in the family came home angry, upset, or anything on those lines, her standard response would be "saadhatha kalandhu vaaila adaicha seriya poidum". Feed the anger. Feed the sadness. Basically feed and there shall be happiness. I remember the time we all sat around her in a semi circle and she would give food on our hands. It required very special talent to have rasam saadham that way. 

She was married to my very suave, english speaking, regal-in-bearing sort of a man in my grandfather when she was 10 or 12. Theirs was a mismatch in every way. But their marriage lasted their entire lifetime. My grandfather died at 92. Until then he'd keep calling out to her "Adiyaaaayyyyy" and she'll respond, "varennaaaaaaa". She was as tired or old as he was. But unlike any of the women of her generation or her age, she didn't wish to die a sumangali. She always said no one would be able to cope with the demands of thatha other than her. "I'd rather die after him", she'd say. I think she probably had a true vacation in life only after he passed on. I could never talk to her much after thatha's demise as she was sent soon after to my uncle, having harbored the wish very typical of her generation - to die in her son's hands. My greatest regret was none of us were allowed to see her for the last time. Each family has their share of quirky members. It was a different story that I had never known my mama. He was always referred to. I never got to really see him until my grandfather died. And he didn't inform any of us when paaati died. Several things in life can never be explained. 

While growing up, when mom was struggling at several levels for several things, my paati was my mother. Mom used to say that I used to refer to paati as amma and mom as "Padmasini". And to this day, I can never figure out how she managed with a child who spoke only marathi. I cannot figure out how she took me to school and brought me back in a city like Bombay. 

I remember one day, she excitedly told me that she now reads Chemistry and Biology. I was like what??!!!!! And I asked her how, because she spoke no English. The one thing she could manage was "see dooooooun". This was her version of "sit down" if she tried to show off her skills to a visitor and then follow it up with a pretty proud smile. I tried to teach her the a b c d-s when she was in her 70s perhaps. So, when her announcement came to me about Chemistry and biology I was curious to know how she suddenly learnt so much and what I'd missed. Turned out she could now identify the difference between the Chemistry and Biology textbooks my cousin had. "C-H-E-M...istry. Correct aaa?" she'd ask. "Bi-law-gy. Uh?"

She was definitely not someone you could define as matriarchal. The best fit would be 'paavam'. She had neither supra intelligence nor power to make an entire family obey her orders. She was rather the docile person who ended up being the wife of one of four brother and the willing obeyer of the family matriarch. Life wasn't kind to her really while she was younger.

By the time she was was almost 70, one of her two daughters lost her husband to cancer and the other, to divorce. 

She worried the most about my mother and I, much to the irritation of others because they believed that she prayed for and wished well for *only* for us. To the mother that she was, she saw her son and her eldest daughter employed in regular jobs, and draw a salary, whatever it may be. She never understood the concept of her other daughter's work with Music/research/documentation and she would pray that her daughter be 'settled' financially. I loved my paati more than my thatha when I was 10 or 11. I grew to love and admire thatha much later. I was alleged to be their favorite grandchild. I fell sick the most. I was in and out of hospitals for a good while when I was a child and she worried about me a lot. 

I had a song taught to me in school and I came back and sang it to her. She dutifully took down the lyrics and learnt it from me and sang it as best as she could. Thiruve en illam varuvaaye... She had a battered book where she wrote down stuff like this. She also had a pretty bad handwriting. But she taught me to read and write Tamil and made me transition from Marathi to Tamil. 

Paatti had limited desires. At least she never told me what she wanted to eat or what she liked to eat.  Or perhaps she did and I don't remember now. I didnt know where she liked to go. Nothing. But what she did like the most in the world, was the aaranji mitttai as she said it. The orange candy that one would get for probably 10 paise when I was in kindergarten. If someone asked her what she wanted, she'd say "aaranji mittaai". If my mom bought her a box of Fox candies, she'd remove every other color and keep only the orange. She said this was what she loved the most and the one sweet she could truly enjoy without teeth. I don't know why she never wore dentures though. 

A couple of days ago, I realized that my favorite, in spite of all the types of frozen yoghurts, ice creams and etc that is available today, is the orange popsicle that we used to get for 5/- but now costs 10 or 15/- depending on where we buy it from. I go on a good 10-20 km cycling expedition each day and a lot of time I go searching for the orange pop. It struck me then that I have probably carried her love for something aaranji too :) No other ice-cream, even the one that I churn myself at home gives me as much joy as the orange pop. 

It is sad I could not see for the one last time. Neither could my aunt, cousins or my mother or other relatives, so I actually have a lot of company in that misery. 

I remember her from the last conversation that we had. A video of her that I recorded on Sony Ericsson P900 that I still hold to because I couldn't download the video from the phone. 

And every time I go searching for the 10/- orange pop over the fancier stuff, I can't help but remember her toothless grin and her love for the aaranji mittaai. I wish she were here to see that we are well off today. Perhaps she knows.... my paati. Alamelu alias Jayalakshmi. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

10 years in the blogosphere

and one year of being happily married, warrants a blog, I thought. At least it is an excuse to sprinkle some water in this area which is slowly beginning to look like land that may become arid. 

Some of the things that draws us to our inner circle, especially with people that we choose to spend time with could be similar value systems. Similar ethical codes. Or mindsets. It could even be with people with whom we know we disagree on several things but still it may be a connection that we learn from, at times mutually, at times not. More so, we may be wiser, more accepting or become more self aware. 

I believe we meet people for a reason. Various people, I think fulfill a role in our lives. Including parents, siblings - people we spend significant parts of our life with and people that we did not consciously choose. (There is a metaphysical force at play when we are born into a family, some say. There is a karma theory. Past life regression practitioners vouch that our closest ties are those that repeat across lifetimes. That we choose our family and others for us to learn lessons). Friends and acquaintances. Bosses and colleagues. There is a lesson everywhere. Perhaps, in some unseen goldsmith's hand, we are all specks of gold, constantly undergoing 'sphuta' or the uncut diamond that is being chiseled till we attain the brilliance that our soul has to.

Every couple, from the beginning of their relationship may find themselves in situations that seriously tests their commitment toward each other. Whether we crumble or survive happily, God willing, to see another day together is the question.

People like me, have random people taking it upon themselves to "test how strong" our marriage is. What did I deserve for such extreme goodwill? :p Like yesterday, someone tweeted to me and tagged Rahul saying, "you are way ahead of his league. Perhaps love is the answer". I did respond asking why he would insult someone like that. Stranger responds "So is that how strong your marriage is, after all?". 

Now, I sometimes shudder to think what in the world would have happened had I married a man who was even a tad insecure. Yes, I am married only for a year. It is early days. But I see several insecure men all around me. Men who are quite successful themselves, but they really don't have it in them to accept, leave alone celebrate their spouse's success. Rahul is my one of my most indulgent audiences. So much so that my mother worries that his praising me when he listens to song of mine will get to my head and make me lackadaisical and "egotistical". 

Marriages today.. actually every relationship today is brittle. Everyone is out to disbelieve everyone else. Mistrust others. Actually there are enough people around us, well-meaning and otherwise, to blindly believe random gossip and hate someone for a crime they might not even have committed. All it takes is one spark to create a raging fire. Needle someone enough, keep needling them and it will create insecurity. "I know stuff you don't know..." 

At times I wonder if people are made to find joy in creating insecurity for others. They just wont let people be happy in their relationship with one another. 

When I see those who are 4-6 years younger than I, lamenting "there will never be a right person...", I wonder if they make/made their choices well in the first place. And if they want to make a decision to live the rest of their life (because most of us want to find that *one* person with whom we can have our happily-ever-after) do they know what they want ... what they themselves are made of? What they can compromise on, what they can let go and what is not negotiable? Of course, all of us do get warning signs when things are not right. And more often than not, when we ignore the gut instinct, our own inner voice, is when we perhaps don't find our peace of mind. 

Eventually there are some lessons that I have been taught and have learned through the years. 

Do not get involved in gossip. Those that gossip to you will gossip about you. Don't even stand where people are negatively discussing someone you don't know. You become guilty by association. It is true of every social group. Being a mute spectator in the presence of gossipers makes you a participant regardless of contribution. 

It is OK to clarify when matters get to head. Communicate. Always. Let us not assume and make someone a villain without their even knowing about it. Of course those who want to make a villain out of others will do so regardless. No amount of convincing will work. They will find ways of assuring themselves that xyz is a terrible person and if the sun rises late tomorrow, it will be their fault. Those are lost cases. When there is a misunderstanding, count to 100. Or chant a mantra. Sleep over it and think it through, honestly before discussing with the other person. 

Now, I don't know if finding the 'right' person to our 'right' and 'wrong' selves is a stroke of luck. Sometimes we may falter. Some eventually work on it. But at the end of the day, I am wiser and happier because of this thing called trust. I'd rather not jump at every warning, every "prediction" and every other negative information that may come to me about my relationships and ruin my peace of mind today. If we work on keeping our minds and hearts pure, we can hope that what we put out will come back to us. 

One of the things I like most in Rahul is that he seems to have somehow reached the zen level of "not gonna waste time wishing that people suffer for wrong doing.. I'd rather keep my mind pure". I knew I wanted to admire the person I would end up with. And like they say, the Universe conspires to give you what you want. 

We are all works in progress. Beings that are in a constant state of evolution. In this realm and perhaps in parallel realms too, who knows?

Today, more than anything else, I am grateful for a great friend who is also my spouse, a marriage based on trust (with free strength tests that I didn't sign up for) comfort in the loyalty - we end up spending more time apart than we do together - mutual respect, admiration and being each other's greatest well-wishers and cheerleaders  and the sense of security we are able to give each other. And I hope and definitely pray that I would be able to say all this and hopefully more nice things 50 years down the line (ill-will, 'drishti' and negativity notwithstanding). If the first year is anything to go by, it should be a breeze :)

And yes, I also wish everyone finds the person that is most right for them. 


Friday, February 13, 2015

Public shaming

Here is an article I got to read thanks to @beastoftraal.

It is, as he says, a very compelling read and something that makes one introspect, i.e. if he has the tendency to.

Please read the remaining of this blog after you have read the article. 

What I took away from the article most was this line "Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so"

There have been various studies that have been published on online troll behavior. They are said to be mix of sadists, narcissists and psychopaths. 

In our attempt to bring about 'justice', using social media as a tool for public shaming, in a situation where we believe a person has erred, are we, the ones who believe ourselves to be sane and compassionate/empathetic (add any positive adjective that you would love to describe yourself) exhibiting troll tendency at some level ourselves? Especially the sadistic aspect? Or are we all closet bullies? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Whose fault is it anyway?

Following news on Twitter is at times the most depressing thing. You'd much rather be happy following comedic handles, cute puppy photos, tweets of friends who RT cute, baby animal GIFs.. well you get the drift. 

Ever since the Nirbhaya case, it seems like there is an avalanche on reportage of rape cases. Victims are of all ages. Babies, old women. Nirbhaya was a horrific incident. Shortly after, when I visited Delhi, enroute Maha Kumbh Mela, I remember the driver justifying what 'prompted' the rapists to rape. Something about the couple making out in the bus. There are people who I heard agreeing to, oh, yes. How could they behave like that in public? She put herself out there and asked for the rape. The issue here is, how the justification for rape swiftly happened while sympathetic cluck-clucking continued.  

On another note, I attended talks, which crunched numbers on violence against women in developed countries as against those in India. And how we aren't even 1/84th as bad as the media claims us to be. We are *not* a rape nation. At least, the speakers vociferously claimed, we are not as bad as the Americas of the world, where the number of violent crimes against women were (a certain number I don't remember now) as against India's numbers of *just* (another certain number I don't remember now).

Yesterday morning, tweet-news was about the rape of an 8 year old. Today the Rohtak incident comes to light. I'd daresay there are thousands of cases that go unreported. Some don't even know that they are being raped. Forget even discussing marital rape. Forget coercion. On this topic, I have heard some doctors tell me about the worrying number of women/girls that come for abortion that work in construction sites. Abortion after abortion after abortion where they are used by the 'maestri' or the contractor, or any other 'higher official' who fancies them. Of course, she is a woman. Why bother about protection. Let her get another abortion and come right back to work at the construction site. Look around the developing India. You'll find enough and more spaces where a woman is coerced. She is unwilling. But she does it anyway. Because she is told. She is told to obey. For 'her own good'.  This, of course, cannot be rape.

We Indians will outrage if we talk about safe sex. About sex education in schools. Why tell them what is right and wrong? Between forced and not? This information will make the woman choose. Oh no!! We cant do THAT!! 

A Japanese tourist gets raped and a gentleman's tweet is primarily concerned about India's 'image getting dented abroad'. 

The problem is in our celebrated Indian culture. As much as we have celebrated Goddesses (guilty as charged for typing down a cliche typed down a gazillion times over, right from school essays to newspaper OP-Eds) we don't care for the girl child. The girl child's primary business is to be married off and produce male progeny. Thats all her space is in India. She is a liability. I know of a neighbor who said she'd like to marry at 20 because she didn't want to be a 'burden' to her father. This is an 'educated', forward thinking household. Or so I thought. They didn't fail in inculcating the values of life in their daughter including the concept that she was a burden that was unfortunately placed on the unwilling shoulders of the parents who will later be transferred to the willing/unwilling shoulders of the inlaws/husband. The parents, poor things, need to earn and save to eternity to marry off their daughter in a certain manner, or else the groom and his egotistic family would have a problem. 

Eventually that is all there is. We watch it in movies. We watch it in our families. We watch. We love watching. We love watching serials. Watching outrage tweets. Watching Op Eds. Watching people discuss issues which we'll also participate in because, in our mind's eye we are watching ourselves being very intelligent and a participant in the thought process of our country. We watch the news. We watch our daughters with a hawk's eye. But don't care a damn what our son does. He is a son after all. The society will accept and forgive/forget every behavioral anomaly of the man. He is, after all, a gift. The daughter is the curse.   

Those who work for change, have done so silently. How many of us could claim to know Kailash Satyarthi till he was awarded the Nobel Prize? How many claim to know Sunita Krishnan? There are many, many more, I am sure, working in villages and Panchayats and even the Khaps we love to hate, working for the safety of the women and the people of their own small communities. 

Rapes have been happening for ages. It is the easiest method men and societies have used for subjugation against a woman who is proving to be powerful. What else can a worthless man do? It has been used in war. Religions talk about keeping the children and women safe. But no. At this point the religious will forget their Gods. Children will be killed. Women will be raped and killed and mutilated. And there are others who will take to social media and tweet about wanting to rape/have sex with/ molest/ attack a woman to silence her voice.

Now, on Twitter, it is about "if Congress were ruling during this rape case, such-and-such would have happened". "AAP wouldn't want to fast and do a dharna because election is over". "Where are the BJP's promises about safety for women? They can install cameras for Obama but not for the women". 
As much as I abhor the sanctimonious holier-than-thou bullshit solely directed at women alone, I abhor those who give the issue of rape, and for that matter, any serious issue that has plagued our society for ages, a political angle. This party, that party. Every party, for most part has truly raped this country. The minds of the people. It seems impossible to weed out corruption from the minds of the average Indian who just wants his job done, go home and live his life. 

It will take quite a while to work at the grassroots level to change the collective minds of all the men and women who think a woman's business is to be subjugated. Parade her naked. Rape her. Beat her in front of a panchayat. Disrobe her to teach her a lesson. Rape of the tribal woman / dalit woman has been happening for aeons. No one really seemed to care. It was all hushed up. In rural India, the higher 'caste' man can subjugate/erase/taint a woman or an entire family by using rape as a tool to show his power. Sadly, there is no Krishna to prevent this woman from the Dushasanas of the world. Then there are those who say it is in her karma/ destiny/ horoscope. Oh lord, Oh lord. 

The men and the women of the country hate the women in this country. That has to change. But will it? Is it going to be education that will change minds? Is it going to be God? TV Serials that dole out even more subjugation bullshit? Religious bodies? Lets not even get there because their sole aim will be to take offense and file a case against films or anything in the mainstream media. I don't see religious bodies sitting on a dharna when a rape happens, coz, lets face it, there is neither money nor publicity to be made in championing a cause. Only films are worth their while to file a case on, and be in the news. 

And when will that change happen? When will the women in this country be safe? I wish I had a darn clue. 

Some ask is it enough if you outrage on social media? I don't think so. I wish for a vigilante. For instant justice. For preventing the crime before it is done. What does one do to *prevent* eliminate rape? It is not like Polio, is it? Where a vaccine can be administered? Every solution seems long drawn. Changing the mindset, especially. Then there is the age-old, thirudane thirundhaa vittaal... Adhan avan thirundhi tholaya maattengarane?! 

And how many more women will have to be brutalized? I, like most others wait, seemingly in vain, for the solution. And more than anything else, political parties using 'rape' for tu-tu-main-main is the rape of us all together. Leave the woman in India alone and help her if you can, dear political parties. The country is getting jacked anyway.