Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I love Flickr's cluster feature! Simply love it! I merely searched for the tag 'book' and checked the cluster to find pictures of bookshelves. Very neat feature this. And I can't stop gushing.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Noon at a Kali temple

Yesterday was Maha Shivaratri. This is that day of the year when devotees of Lord Shiva fast, stay up all night and pray. Special prayers are held throughout the night at Shiva temples and devotees throng temples for a darshan of the diety.

So a visit to a Kali temple at noon wouldn't really count you say? Probably. But listen!

The husband and I set out late in the morning to this new temple called Sri Chakra Kali Prayer Centre. This temple is barely six months old and is situated in a place called Rathinamangalam, just off the Vandalur-Kelambakkam Highway. We took the G.S.T Road to Vandalur and turned onto the highway just before Crescent College of Engineering. After a few kilometres down the highway, we took a left turn near the Tagore Engineering College. A couple of quick turns along quaint mud lanes later and we were at the Prayer Centre.

Partial View of the front

A rather small temple with some lofty ideals, this place is charming. For a change, the temple was not a ghastly multi-coloured spectacle. Instead, it was a welcoming Jasmine white with polished granite flooring. The main diety, Goddess Chakra Kali, is an imposing and beautiful statue - easily six feet sitting. As for lofty ideals, they do not have a hundi and do not expect money. Nor do they offer special treatment to VIPs.

Chakra Kali temple - side view

There was a puja at noon and we spent some time there. The staff were already assembling hundreds of kalasams for the special Shivaratri puja in the evening. What satisfied me the most was the peaceful surrounding - lush green fields, cows grazing, a distant view of the hills and cool breeze. It was wonderful to quietly sit on the floor and soak in the temple and its environs.

Kalasam

Visit Recommended; devotion level - your choice.
Tilo's post on Vidya Mandir took me to the Mylapore blog. And what do I see on reading a few posts there but a picture of my father-in-law! Yeah, second from right in the audience. Small world indeed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

LPG FAQ, Safety drill and more. After this, time for a quick revision of basics don't you think?
Every once in a while, there are lumps of pride in my throat. Meera's attempts caused them this morning. Keep the songs coming lady!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Sea by John Banville - A Reminiscence

On 10 October 2005, the Booker judges did something unexpected; they awarded the Man Booker Prize 2005 to the work of a selectively popular, largely unheard of, exquisitely stylistic author John Banville. That work, variously described in the media as 'utterly absorbing', 'numbingly pretentious', 'brilliant, sensuous, discombobulating', is The Sea - a book that you shall take a peek at in the next few paragraphs.

This is a book that cannot be read without evoking a strong emotion in the heart of a reader. When sentences reach out to you and speak as if they reflect your innermost thoughts, your fears, your little pretenses, what can you possibly do other than be completely moved? As an involved reader, I found a lot of lines jolting me and affecting me in such a manner that I was thinking about The Sea’s parallels long after I finished reading the book. Isn't that what a good book does to you, stretch you in a manner that you can never go back to being who you were before you picked up that book?

There are many things The Sea is not. It is not a love story though it talks about love. It is not a book with an orchestrated beginning and ending though, on second reading, you marvel at how seamlessly the author lets the end flow into the beginning. Perhaps with the intention of letting the narrative flow unhindered, the author has chosen to structure this book in two parts without chapters in either of them.

The Sea is a reflection of one man's life. The salty waters touching the shores of Ballyless, a seaside village, serve as a background metaphor for Max Morden's journey – ever present in various hues of blue as he reflects on select fragments from his memory. John Banville has tailored the reflections to be perceptive statements of not just Morden's journey but of the larger concept of life itself.

When Max Morden, an art historian, returns to the seaside village of Ballyless where he once spent his childhood holidays, he appears to be running away from the reality of his wife Anna's death.

“Had I ever looked at her in life, with such urgent attention, as I looked at her now? As if looking alone would hold her here, as if she could not go so long as my eye did not flinch.”

He stays at the Cedars, a resort that holds cheerful memories of a particular summer that he spent with the Grace family – the stocky, twinkle-eyed Carlo Grace; his languid, seductive wife Connie; their children – silent, naughty Myles and feisty, forthright Chloe.

"I thought of Ballyless and the house there on Station Road, and the Graces, and Chloe Grace, I cannot think why, and it was as if I had stepped suddenly out of the dark into a splash of pale, salt-washed sunlight."

The narrative moves back and forth in time, from the near past to the very distant past as Morden picks on selective threads of memory to ruminate at length, drawing astonishing conclusions at times. He realizes that his parents were mere fixtures in the scene of his growth:

"Their unhappiness was one of the constants of my earliest years, a high, unceasing buzz just beyond hearing. I did not hate them. I loved them, probably. Only they were in my way, obscuring my view of the future. In time I would be able to see right through them, my transparent parents. "

"Oh, Ma, how little I understood you, thinking how little you understood."

Morden, though seemingly well on appearance, suffers from intense internal conflict as he tries to understand, perhaps review, life and its meaning for him.

"But then, at what moment, of all our moments, is life not utterly, utterly changed, until the final, most momentous change of all?"

As a little boy, that eventful summer in Ballyless, Max develops a strong crush for the alluring Mrs.Grace, but discovers a few weeks later that his love has swiftly shifted from mother to daughter:

"Love, as we call it, has a fickle tendency to transfer itself, by a heartless, sidewise shift, from one bright object to a brighter, in the most inappropriate of circumstances. "

Morden is supposed to be spending his time in Ballyless coping with loss as well as working on a monograph of the painter Pierre Bonnard. On his reflective journey, Morden draws in segments of Bonnard's life and compares it to his last few months with Anna.

"In those final bathroom paintings that Bonnard did of the septuagenarian Marthe he was still depicting her as the teenager he had thought she was when he first met her. Why should I demand more veracity of vision of myself than of a great and tragic artist? "

The author uses Part I of the book to set the stage and introduce all the characters. In Part II he carries the story forward and answers why Morden chooses Ballyless to escape loss. Employing subtle twists in the second half of the book, Banville effortlessly connects lives and incidents across time and memory. You realize that Max Morden is coping with the guilt pangs of more than one death and that every reflection encountered thus far means more than what it originally did.

Banville's writing is lush with brilliant imagery. Of particular beauty is the way he describes the many references to sunlight throughout the book. There are 'Byzantine coppers and golds' that add colour to the canvas of a 'sumptuous autumn day'; moments when 'light of summer thick as honey' falls from the tall windows; the 'bronzen sunlight of the October afternoon' colouring everything with a 'quaintly faded look'. There are breathtaking examples of the usage of the blue colour as well. The author paints 'enamelled blue' skies and 'lead-blue darkness'; cobbles that 'bluely shine' and mud that 'shone blue as a new bruise.'

Peppered across the book are unusual uses of adjective and adverb forms of the same word. For instance, when Anna asks Morden to marry her, the author describes it thus: 'in her usual mild and mildly preoccupied fashion [she] invited me to marry her.' Likewise, when describing Max's walk with Chloe, he uses, 'my fond and fondly anguished gaze fixed on the blond comma of hair at the nape of her neck.' He describes Anna's 'disenchanted, disenchanting eye' for photography triggering an effective image of a photographer who is not satisfied until a perfect picture is captured.

John Banville is known for using several obscure words in his works, making it difficult to read him without a dictionary at hand and it is no different in The Sea. Not only does he use rare words like 'velutinous', 'cinereal', 'djellabas' and many more, but he also formulates words of his own – try locating 'Avrilaceous' in a regular dictionary! Therefore, reading this work is as much an interesting challenge as it is a special treat.

The Sea is the story of Max Morden's search for meaning and identity. It is a reflection on life and its vagaries. This is not an ordinary book for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Instead it is a rich sensory delight – one that you can go back to and savour, the experience richer with each reading.

/*This reminiscence was originally published in the Feb 2006 issue of Alvibest*/

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is GMail for domains the next from the goodies bag? Reasonable speculation I think.

Assuming a new feature for domains is in the making, this is how I see it working. After deciding to use GMail as a mail server, the first step would be to add an MX record pointing to mail.google.com in the DNS for a domain — effectively routing email directly to Google for it. GMail will not automatically put this incoming mail into your inbox as there is no link between that domain and yourself.

In your settings, there will be a tab to manage your domains — giving you the ability to link domain(s) to your account. I would guess an authorization email is sent to the administrative or technical contact before it's officially added to prevent random people from adding domains they don't own.

Once a domain is linked, you can then manage email addresses for it by clicking the "Manage this domain" link (as seen in the javascript) when you are logged in as the administrator. It is likely that the domain email administrator could even set up quotas to best manage the 2GB of space given to them — unless they are willing to pay for extra of course.

Two fishermen are killed by the tribesmen of the last surviving Neolithic tribe near a desert island in the Indian Ocean.

ONE of the world's last Stone Age tribes has murdered two fishermen whose boat drifted on to a desert island in the Indian Ocean.
The Sentinelese, thought to number between 50 and 200, have rebuffed all contact with the modern world, firing a shower of arrows at anyone who comes within range.
They are believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world to remain isolated and appear to have survived the 2004 Asian tsunami.
The men killed, Sunder Raj, 48, and Pandit Tiwari, 52, were fishing illegally for mud crabs off North Sentinel Island, a speck of land in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
archipelago.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Alvibest Feb 2006

Alvibest, the magazine, is a passion with a bunch of people over here. And they are out with their latest issue Feb 2006. I read it and enjoyed it a great deal. Oh, I better let you know that this review features in that latest issue (January is over remember? And I am not even mentioning that author's name yet! aside: for those who did not understand the stuff in paranthesis, never mind. It is a silly insignificant joke about an author that I had written a lot about in this blog).

Go on and read the issue. And yeah, that review of the book whose author I shall not speak about? I wrote it.