Friday, March 31, 2006

Clicked in a model hut at Dakshina Chitra
{Picture clicked in a model hut at Dakshina Chitra. Originally spotted by him}

In authentic South Indian huts, they speed up cooking with Quaker white oats. Seriously. At least after 1901. I wonder the British didn't mind ;)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Few Short Notes on T(r)opical Butterflies

John Murray's 2003 debut collection of short stories A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies is a striking book. Using the obvious symbolism of butterflies, Murray weaves stories that examine identity, insecurity and dysfunctional relationships. Each of the eight short stories are thematically related but hold their own in examining particular aspects of life in great detail. The author's descriptions of setting and emotion are richly different because of the use of a biological/medical vocabulary.

The protagonists are typically physicians, surgeons or biologists with a marked obsession for order and detail. John Murray trained as a doctor and has worked on child-health programs in several third-world countries and he uses his real-world experience to perfection in the stories in this book.

I enjoyed the title story and the last one in the collection called Acts of Memory, Wisdom of Man. Both these stories have an Indian connection while others have African or Asian influence. This is a very different collection of stories. Crisply put, striking and unique. Recommended.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Check out Krithiga's cute little Book Trolley app. What I love best is marking the trustworthiness of your book borrowers :)
For the kids of the 1980s, Mount Road was a special outing. It was where you went to watch a movie, to buy costly chocolates, to visit a library with Amma, to feel the wind on your face while Appa carefully steered the scooter with your hair flying on his face. It was where you went when your parents wanted it to be special.

Years later, I took a ride down Mount Road and enjoyed it with girlish joy. Life is really a series of simple pleasures!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chennai is a Metroblogging city!

Yes, clap, clap, clap.

It delights me considerably to mention that Chennai is now active on the Metroblogging circuit.

What is Metroblogging?
Wikipedia shines the light in great detail here (via CCG).

What does it mean when you say Chennai is on it?
Ravages eloquently explains it here.

So check us out, bookmark us, blogroll us, spread the word and most importantly keep reading and commenting.
Kiruba has this post on Rajini's new film Shivaji and what struck me the most on seeing the pictures is the neat wig that Rajini is wearing. So there is hope when I slip into the thirties and need help covering the scalp :)

Monday, March 13, 2006


For those who diligently search for 'Avrilaceous' and end up at this post, read on.

I did a lot of searching for that word myself when I read Banville's The Sea. And it did not show up in any regular dictionary. Therefore I made up the explanation below and carried on.

Avrilaceous appears to be a formulated word. Banville uses Avrilaceous to describe freckles - 'flecked with chocolatey, Avrilaceous freckles' - and given the fact that A is capitalized, I think he means the kind of freckles that come out in the summer heat, therefore using French's April 'Avril' to make the description sound exotic. So Avrilaceous is probably 'that which comes in April'.

What say?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Gladwell shares some thoughts on Freakonomics, particularly the reduction of crime rate in America in the '90s. Levitt and Dubner apparently dismiss Gladwell's Broken Windows theory in Freakonomics.

...chapter four of Freakonomics is devoted to the question of why crime dropped so dramatically in America—and particularly New York—in the 1990’s, and in that chapter Dubner and Levitt reach a very different conclusion than I do in "The Tipping Point." In fact, "Freakonomics" specially singles out for ridicule the theory of broken windows, which I suggest in the Tipping Point played a big role in New York City’s recovery. So what gives? Why do I love a book so much, if it contradicts my own book? Have I renounced the theories I put forward in the Tipping Point?

I must get to reading Freakonomics soon. Been intending to for a while. BTW, don't books like Tipping Point, Blink, Freakonomics, Wisdom of Crowds and the like give you an eerie feeling of a Web 2.0 in the making for books? The whole 'popularity/effectiveness grows as more people use it/talk about it' yada yada...

Update: Dubner responds to Gladwell's post.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Speak Up!

Annie touched a raw nerve when she wrote her story for the Blank Noise blog-a-thon. I emailed her post to a number of my friends and asked them to read that and the other ones at Blank Noise. I thought Annie's post said it all. It had stirred my own buried memories: of attacks, of conversations with other women where all we needed was for one woman to start her story before the rest of us jumped up and said "that happened to me too!"

Some of my male friends emailed back saying that the post was revealing and that they were shocked. One told me that some women flirted and pawed men and that this issue should be the larger one of violation of personal space and not just harassment of women. Another added that maybe such violations were a 'culture' thing - India being a sexually repressed country etc. That is when something in me snapped. I was thinking of just linking to Blank Noise today and leaving it at that. But not any more. I have the same stories as the rest and they have to be heard.

He was a cousin, a nice handsome guy in his early twenties. I was barely five and all of innocence and trust. He sat me on his lap and while India played cricket on television, his fingers steadily moved up my thigh. I kept moving his hands away thinking it was a game to scare me and he brought them back repeatedly. It was ten years later that I realized what had happened that summer afternoon.

It was a normal working morning and I was rushing up the stairs to catch my train. Up the first flight and onto the flat middle path. No one else was around except for this slender guy in a dark blue shirt and a red cap. He looked around, then lunged forward and grabbed my breast. Time stopped completely then. He had moved a few steps away before I screamed at the top of my voice. For a busy station during peak hour, that was one morning when no one came.


There are many such stories and many, many more of us who carry them deep inside. And no, this is not some silly cry about flirtation. This is not a rant about an inevitable dash in a crowded bus or train. This is violation and harassment. One in four women is a victim of such harassment in this country. This is serious and rampant. Please do not trivialize it as some pointless exercise in attention grabbing. Go to Blank Noise for more.

You cannot touch a woman without her permission. Period.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Chennai Stuff: Citi-Centre - new gloss in town

The ever-curious wait for the first chance to hurry over and take a look at the latest entrant in drawing room conversation. So it was that I found myself at Chennai's new Citi-Centre[CC] (or is it Center?) mall on Sunday afternoon. The building is hardly finished and I, for one, did not expect it to open for customers anytime before April. When I heard about Asin inaugurating Lifestyle's biggest store on Friday I got really curious. Of course I knew Landmark was going to be there too and I made my plans for the weekend with a careful time bracket for 'malling around'.

The CC is quite different from the way Spencers is structured. It is more like walking into a standard US mall where you will find say JCPenney occupying n floors of one corner and say Sears occupying n floors on the other corner. At CC, Lifestyle looms like a giant on one side. Three floors of goodies promising one a complete makeover of life. The store is well-designed and well-stocked too. Worth a patient visit and don't worry, for a change, there are plenty of neatly maintained rest rooms in the complex. From what is evident now, CC will not be the mall for the tiny shops. Instead it will be a host for few big ones catering to the luxury needs of the city.

Let us get to what I am itching to write about, okay? Landmark. I read somewhere that the store at CC is Landmark's fourth one in Chennai. I suppose four would mean Nungambakkam, Spencers, Residency Towers and CC? The ambience at CC is all old wood and green. The book section looks far more inviting than the one at Spencers. I did some standard book-stock checking (I have a trick up my sleeve to evaluate which bookstore suits my needs the best) and figured that Landmark has designed the book space to accommodate a wide variety of books. What you will find right now on the shelves is n copies of a single book piled to give the appearance of plenty. I suppose as the footfalls increase Landmark would change that to mirror the stock levels of Nungambakkam.

The home store section has some interesting gift stuff but the one at Spencers has more variety to offer. Glassware (limited), home linen (missing) and the others have perhaps been restricted because of Lifestyle's fare. The music section is comparable to the one at Spencers. In my opinion, if you are a reader seeking out books then Landmark at Nungambakkam is your best bet. If you are the kind who wants books to seek you out, Landmark at Spencers and the new one at CC are both pretty good. Now I have one more place to go along with cousins and friends, pretending to be interested in lace trimmings and then rushing towards the nearest Landmark entrance while they enjoy some quiet time debating matching cushion covers!

BTW, I could not manage any pictures. Did have the camera but photography was not allowed inside Lifestyle and when I saw Landmark I forgot about the camera :)

Chenthil's take here.

Update: Citi-Centre is on Radhakrishnan Salai, a short distance before it hits Beach Road.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Her Flame burns bright

July 2005:

"Hello L******. Have you settled down in your new home?" Hers was one of the first phone calls I received after we moved into a new place last July.

"Hi! We are still unpacking P'ma. You will really like this place when you see it."

"I will visit you once you have settled down. I am sorry I could not send you lunch on the day you were shifting. I really wanted to but nowadays I am not even able to promise any little thing."

"No problem P'ma. There is a nice restaurant just across the road. Hot idlis, dosai, and good South Indian meals too. We are eating well. How are you feeling now P'ma?"

"Hmm...I am okay. Tell me something about your house L******."

"Okay! You know what I really like about this house P'ma? It is the Flame of the Forest tree just outside the main balcony. It is so lovely. I thought of you immediately. Remember all our conversations about trees P'ma? You will really like this place."

"Oh that is nice. In fact, fact I am painting a picture of the tree outside my window. It is also the Flame of the Forest. Hmm...I am not following the exact details but I am painting my view of that tree."

"Wow! What a coincidence! P'ma, why don't you come and stay with us for a few days? You can paint this tree outside my balcony. It is just touching distance away and you can get its details too."

"Okay. We shall see how things go. Bye."

"Bye P'ma."


flame of the forest1

She never managed to visit us. Life ate away her body meanwhile, organ by organ crumbled as primaries became secondaries. Metastasis. Through it all, she remained who she always was - a genuine human being; warm, nice, caring, self-effacing. She smiled away her pain and transactionalized our sympathy.

Do I miss her? I see her everyday in that tree outside my balcony. I think of her and of our conversations. We never spoke about events or about people. We spoke about trees and books and the simple joys of life.

Did I know her well? How well can you know anyone anyway? I liked her and I think she liked me too. While she lay dying in the next room, I discovered that she made wonderful figurines from soap cakes. I saw such beauty chiseled from the humble soap cake that it moved me greatly. It was easy to see that she was a woman of high principles and simple goodness. That was enough for me.

Why am I writing this? No, not in memoriam or some such thing. I just thought of her now and it struck me that my life would be well-lived if I could aspire to her level of goodness. I'll try for sure. I have the Flame of the Forest to remind me every single day.

^P'ma stands for 'Periyamma', the Tamil word for 'elder aunt'
Lord Venkateshwara's celestial wedding in Chennai on March 5.

Nearly two lakh devotees are expected to witness the celestial wedding of Lord Venkateswara, the presiding deity of Tirumala temple with Goddess Padmavathi, here on March 5.

The city will be the first metro to witness the 'kalyana utsavam'. This will be the fourth occasion, after several hundred years, when it is being held outside the hill shrine in Andhra Pradesh, TTD Joint Executive Officer K Venkatadharma Reddy told reporters here today.