Tuesday, 11 September 2012


For once, I was going to a play without knowing anything about the storyline. When our friend, writer-director Augusto, called to invite us to his new play being staged at Narada Gana Sabha, I was happy to accept, and asked him the name of the play. ‘Achu Asal’, he said, which literally means ‘perfectly identical.’ And that was all I knew about it.

A scene from the play
It was a change to sit back and await developments in the story, which were really quite interesting. At no stage could I guess what was coming next.  The story line is briefly this  - a dead ringer for a famous actor wins a big amount in a TV show dedicated to spitting images of personalities. This person Ravinder, an MBA from IIM A, uses the money wisely and generously, and unintentionally upstages the star Jitendra, much to the annoyance of the star’s father, a film director of yester years. The father loses no chance to pull down the MBA, but has to give in when he needs Ravinder’s help at a critical stage. He thanks Ravinder for his help and asks him how he can thank him. The scene/play ends crisply with Ravinder requesting him to make movies which carry positive messages to youngsters, showing them the right path. He points out that the goal is the same, but there is a correct path, as against the short cut of crooked path to reach the goal.

As in his other plays, Augusto’s stories are strong, and show a good imagination at work. The suspense is maintained, ensuring the audience’s desire to know more. He uses to full effect his awareness of current affairs, trends in  televison programmes, and his knowledge of world cinema.

A scene at the Library
The acting was good, and mention must be made of the part-owner of the library where many of the characters meet. K. S. Pazhani  raised quite a few laughs with his delivery of the comic lines. The backdrop of the library was pleasing to the eye, and the scenes changed quickly. The muted music was soothing, and unobtrusive. Augusto chose the recorded music himself. S. K. Jayakumaran, the mainstay of most of Augusto’s plays, gave a strong performance as the headstrong and arrogant director. A light and artistic touch was provided by a brief dance (Bharatanayam) by the only actress.

Augusto is a qualified oculist and runs his optical shop in Mylapore. It is sheer passion, without thought of commercial profit, that makes him write and direct a new play every year. “All of us are in it because of our love for the theatre,” he says. The plays are staged first at the Summer drama festival of Kartik Fine Arts. Invariably he picks up a couple of prizes there every year. This one got him the Best Director award, and his son-in-law K. Raja, who acted as Ravinder, the best actor award. His son-in-law is an engineer, and runs his own industry.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


 Ravi Venugopal is an entrepreneur based in the USA, and is currently in Chennai, taking care of his business from here, while working on the promotion of his book, I, Rama. 

It is a story we all know, learnt at our parents and grandparents’ feet, and love - a story that never loses its freshness no matter how often we hear it or read it. My eight year old granddaughter loves the story and Rama with equal fervour.

There are reportedly about 300 version of the Ramayana, originally written by Valmiki. Ravi’s book, 
I, Rama, looks at this story from a different perspective. As the story unfolds we realise that it is the Lord himself narrating, in the evening of his life, the incidents of his youth and adolescence, to his brothers and sons, without losing his objectivity.

While Rama himself relates the main story, the tales of Dasaratha, his father, and the great sage Viswamithra, one of his gurus, are also in the first person as narrated to Rama.  The first person narrative brings the characters alive to the readers, and a little closer to them. We feel the impact the two seniors had in moulding the character of Rama.

I was impressed by the brisk style and strong characterisation, and the acuity that could see beyond legends. There are new dimensions to the characters of the two women. Kaikeyi is not at all the evil stepmother, but a warrior princess, who plans and wins battles. Her admirable foresight is the cause of Rama’s expulsion to the forest, which sets off the chain of events for the eventual destruction of Ravana. Sita is not just a demure maiden, as we have always thought of her. She is a bright person, well-versed in domestic affairs as well as the craft of warfare, and a visionary who thinks of welfare programmes. We get a glimpse of the strong-minded woman who would in the future hold her own against Ravana in Asoka vana.

As I went through the pages, I was amazed at the futuristic tone of the book. The powers of the rishis and asuras are supernatural indeed. (Do Viswamithra’s feet ever touch the ground, or does he just glide above it?) I felt convinced that they must have come from another world, to which there are portals allowing movement to and fro.  Ravi’s narration makes it all so plausible and simple. The power of the weapons used in the battles is little short of nuclear - surely there must have been knowledge gained from outside our world, I felt.

It is obvious that a lot of research has gone into the writing of the book. It has always been a mystery to me how these busy young men, working full time, find time to write. And write not at random, but with due research. Ravi says that he bought many books, and also read up from the Internet. “I also have some senior gurus who guide me.”

Ravi has been in the USA for the last fifteen years, where he lives with wife Sri Lakshmi and daughter Ananya.  When asked “Why Ramayana?” he says, “I feel the whole picture is not clear yet. Who is Rama? Why is he important? He is living proof that there are celestials….and lots more”. His daughter Ananya is his inspiration for the book, he says.

Well done, Ravi. We look forward to the next volumes.

Ravi has his say here.  


Tuesday, 3 July 2012


It was a pleasant, bright day in September, 2009. My husband and I were visiting my son and daughter-in-law and their newborn, Samyukta, in Newport, New Jersey. This is just across River Hudson from New York, where both of them work.

The play area is to the right
. We had arrived a few days earlier, and this was our first outing with the baby – a trip to the nearby Liberty Park. Travelling with a little baby or child needs a lot of planning –there is the stroller, which accommodates the infant car seat, without which no child can ride in a car in any part of the Unites States. Even when leaving the hospital soon after making their appearance, the days old babies have to be strapped into their car seats, which is then fitted on to the base of the seat in the back. The baby rides alone! I was horrified when I saw this first – my granddaughter Arundati barely five days old came home in the car seat from the hospital. The car seat is mandatory up to 12 years even in some states, and I often joke that, no sooner are they out of the car seats than they are allowed to drive – they can get a driving license at 16!

The stroller is usually roomy enough to hold the baby’s requirements, bottle, formula, diapers, and more – like our own stuff like sweaters, snacks, water bottles. Makes walking very simple .By simply pushing the stroller you can move baby and baggage with minimum effort. And so we got ready. The stroller was folded and packed in the backseat, with other stuff, and the car seat holding the baby fixed on the back seat. Grandparents sat proudly on either side of the baby, and with Vandana driving we were off.

It was such a beautiful day, not too warm, nor windy. The baby, barely three months old was snug in her seat in the stroller, as we walked away from the car into the park. The grass was green, the sky so blue with cotton wool clouds, and there were young trees with flowers and berries which I could not identify, and birds warbling away. 

The Statue of Liberty -at the centre of the picture
 The Statue of Liberty could be seen at a distance. It was quite idyllic. Other families with young children were around, and there were play areas for children with various equipment, other than swings and seesaws. Roughly hewn wooden tables and chairs with metal supports were placed at regular intervals for picnickers, and we found a suitable place to park ourselves. 
Ready for a walk in the stroller

The hold all stroller

The stroller with the baby! Can you spot the Statue of Liberty?
Samyukta was quite happy to be pushed around in her stroller, while lazy old me preferred to sit in the sunshine. We had brought along some food and drinks, and if not exactly lunch, it was quite satisfying. After an hour or so we decided to leave, and packed up. Baby was in the stroller, all litter put in the trash bins, and some of our stuff too hung in a bag from the stroller handle, and off we went to where the car was parked. We even put our cameras and purse in the stroller so we did not have to carry anything.

At the car the baby was lifted with the seat and placed on the base. It took a little manoeuvring, but it was done. It would require some more practice before it could be done easily. By now the baby was also getting restless. Vandana got into the driving seat and Sriram got in, and we were off.

As always, the ride home seemed so much shorter, and we were all pleased at the way everything had gone smoothly on Baby’s first day out. We were home in no time, and we got out of the car and opened the boot to pull out the stroller, so that baby could ride home undisturbed from the car park. I just stood and stared mouth agape at the inside of the boot – the stroller wasn’t there! I called to Sriram and Vandana  who were busy getting the baby in the car seat out. They came and were equally aghast. All of us were now totally confused. “Did you put in the stroller?”  My husband and I, total newbies at this had done nothing except admire Samyukta!  Vandana and Sriram, one busy with getting the car ready and the other with the car seat had also not put the stroller in.  They too were new at this. It was already time for Baby’s next feed and her bottle was in the bag hanging from the stroller. And on top of that, Vandana’s handbag with her driving licence, camera and purse with her credit cards, were all in the stroller. We debated on what to do. I suggested that I would go to the apartment with the baby so she could be fed. But in the end we decided to drive back to the park, baby and all.

And we did. What a totally different frame of mind we were in, compared to our happy mood in the morning as we took the same route. Losing one’s cards and driving license meant a lot of unnecessary trouble - though replaceable, it would take time. The camera was precious too, it is a high end one, and many pictures were still stored there. (No, the ones you see on this page were taken with my humble Kodak.) Vandana and Sriram discussed the options they had if the stroller was missing, including complaining to the park attendants, and everything seemed so involved.

We had little hope of finding the stroller and contents. In fact I was sure we would not, but kept my fingers crossed and prayed to all the gods in the pantheon. As we turned into the car park and drove up to where we had parked earlier, we could not see the stroller. An ice cream van was there, and people were waking up to buy ice cream. I thought glumly that anyone could have removed the stroller and contents and left. As we turned, and the van was no longer in our line of vision, there! we could see it  - our stroller standing quietly where it had been left! Oh, the relief.

We got down and found everything exactly as we had left it, including Vandana’s bag.  This time we bundled everything into the boot carefully and got in for the ride home.

I just could not believe it. We had returned 40 to 50 minutes after we had left, and no one had touched this property left unattended in a public park. Now, if this had been Chennai…….

Needless to say, on our next outings, we checked and double checked to make sure the stroller was in the boot.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Clue:  Nag and a ram reordered Word . (7).
Solution: ANAGRAM.
 And that is what this post is going to be about.

It all started with a few email exchanges between my brothers and sisters – youtube links to some old (they have to be, because we are all over 50!) family favourites like Mustafa and House of Bamboo.

Which prompted my sister Gowri to come out with a crossword clue :
Clan is got into knots reliving past? (9)
We worked out that it is an anagram and got the answer NOSTALGIC.

All of us at home are crossword puzzle solvers, in varying degrees of competence/incompetence. My father enjoyed doing them, and he encouraged my mother and us to try them. We picked up the habit, and enjoy working on the puzzles - the more cryptic the clues the greater the pleasure. Regardless of cracking the clue my joy in racking my brains over a puzzle is great. And  the delight of getting a particularly tough  one is just unbeatable.

The simplest clues are the anagrams – but you have to find out which words in the clue form the anagrams.

I just checked with my family over their favourite anagrams, and I got these
Lives and Levis for– Elvis.
Severely Slip, Sleepy Silver, for Elvis Presley
Mr Mojo Risin  for Jim Morrison  from his song L. A. Woman
Old West Action- Clint Eastwood
Maiji remembered my father’s favourite - Webs Ran Hard!  - Bernard Shaw.
And Gowri made anagrams of the names of some of us:
Gowri - I Grow
Mohan - Oh, man!! (her husband)
Bala - A Lab
Raji - I jar!

If you work on them long enough you usually get the anagrams. A crossword clue tells you what the anagram is going to be.
For instance Elvis could be:  Singer in crumpled Levis (5).
An example from a crossword in the Guardian:
As direction, I fancy reference books (12).
With this you have to find the anagram to form a word of 12 letters to mean a word or words in the clue. (Answer at bottom).

Can you see the underlined clue which is an anagram, and the answer is boxed in
Constant practice, and your eyes zoom down on the words which form the anagram. And it becomes a fairly easy occupation to juggle the letters around and find the word.

Nobody I know is as good as my brother Raja at this – he is the ace crossword solver too. But all that is a preamble to this - Taking Gowri’s clue at the top, he formed this jingle using the words ‘Clan is got’

clan is got

cat logs in
got in lacs
it can slog

go sit clan
act is long
lags in cot

cot nil sag
con lit gas
sang i clot

cats lingo
o! it clangs
losing act

last in cog
aligns cot
at closing

lo! casting
o! castling

ALL anagrams of NOSTALGIC!


Answer to the Guardian clue:  DICTIONARIES 
'reference books' is the definition.(dictionary is a kind of reference book).
'as direction i fancy' is the subsidiary indication.
'fancy' indicates an anagram.
'asdirectioni' anagrammed gives 'dictionaries'.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


Sometimes I come across interesting people who have really pushed themselves to do something worthwhile, and do it well. One of these persons is Bharti Arora, an entrepreneur who has taken up the business of catering North Indian food in a hard-core South Indian area like Mylapore in Chennai, and honed it to a thoroughly satisfying skill. I wrote about her while I was with Mylapore Times, our neighbourhood paper. I order food from her regularly, especially when entertaining, and our guests also enjoy her fare. And when she started a new venture, alongside with the catering, she called to let me know. I liked her idea, and wrote about it for Mylapore Times, with whom I still maintain a friendly connection. The following piece (with a few changes) appeared in a recent edition of the paper. 

 Packing a healthy and tasty lunch for people at work is always a challenge. Here is something that Bharti Arora offers, a vegetarian lunch that is nutritious and neatly packed, and easy to eat without messing up your fingers. And because it is the staple food of Punjab, it is called Le (pronounced Lay) Punjabi – it means ‘Take Punjabi.’ The lunch pack consists of two parathas - plain, or stuffed with veggies or cheese, and a packet of pickles.

 Bharti Arora
Photos Courtesy: Mylapore Times
The parathas are made fresh every day with whole wheat flour, and do not contain any artificial colours or preservatives. Bharti says they are made in the authentic Punjabi way and are prepared and packed hygienically. “Whole wheat flour is a rich source of dietary fibre, iron, calcium and minerals. It is more nutritious and provides a better option for a healthy diet,” says Bharti.

 Bharti has been in the business of catering, dishing out authentic North Indian food for many a year now. She belongs to New Delhi, and moved to Chennai in 1988, when she got married. She started her kitchen Vege Delights, with the support of husband Sanjiv, “to give people in Chennai authentic Punjabi food,” she says. Orders are taken on the phone, and the food is prepared in her kitchens, and door-delivered.

“We also take orders for parties and corporate catering,” says Bharti, who lives in R. A. Puram. She loves idlis and dosais, but must have one paratha meal everyday she says.

 Right now her focus is on the brand Le Punjabi and making the packed lunches accessible to as many office-goers as possible. The parathas come in these varieties - Aloo paratha, Gobi paratha, Mooli paratha, Aloo Methi paratha, Onion paratha and Paneer paratha, and are priced between Rs. 40 and Rs..60. The parathas are available at many places in the neighbourhood, and in the city too.

Bharti and Sanjiv may be contacted at 9840060200 and 9840240571.

The photos were taken by R. Saravanan, photographer for the Mylapore Times. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Did you hear that sound? Like something grating? That was me. I am grinding my teeth. And I do that when I am extremely irritated or angry.

I have received in my mail an invitation to go and buy jewellery on this auspicious day, Akshaya Tritaya, so that I will be blessed. And the invitation is a glossy three paged affair, with beautiful colour pictures of jewellery and silver articles. Tempting enough for anyone to go and pick up a few pieces, and must have cost a pretty penny, no doubt to be made good with the expected sales on the big day.

Not only this, newspapers and magazines were swamped yesterday (April 23) with advertisements from jewellers, inveigling people, luring them into their beautifully lit air-conditioned showrooms to buy some piece of jewellery and consider themselves blessed. The smaller jewellers contented themselves with smaller ads. The Hindu had a full page ad (from a jeweller’s?) yesterday, which also ran a sentence to the effect that The Hindu wished everyone a Happy Akshaya Tritaya Day. Today (April 24) the paper carried an apology on the front page dissociating itself from such sentiments – and rightly so.

Televison news reports said people were swarming around jewellery shops, and that these shops had been open from early in the morning to accommodate shoppers.

Are we really so gullible?  When did this desire to get blessed by buying gold come into being?

A few years ago we were completely ignorant of this day. But soon when traders ran out of ideas to sell their wares, other than for Christmas, Pongal and Deepavali, they chanced on other ‘sale’ tactics -- like Aadi,  summer, school opening, pre-monsoon, post monsoon, you name it. Every second month there is something to celebrate and hold a sale. But nothing has picked up like this – Akshaya Tritaya.

Akshaya is a Sanskrit word meaning undiminishing, and Tritaya only means the third day after the New Moon. It is considered an auspicious day for giving to charity, so that the giver is blessed manifold. Somewhere along the way, the meaning got twisted by jewellers and their ads, and I think people began to read it as ‘charity begins at home’ and started buying a small piece of jewellery as an auspicious start.

From there it has grown to gargantuan proportions. I saw that some jewellery shop had invited Kerala chendai players with their typical hypnotic beat to lure shoppers into spending at their shop. And we have begun to feel that we will be cursed if we don’t buy jewellery on Akshaya Tritaya.

I am all for jewellery and the pleasure it gives us women to wear them, and all for buying jewellery. But I do not want to be browbeaten into it.

Happy shopping folks!

Monday, 5 March 2012


Well, well, well. It never rains but it pours. Here is my poor neglected blog, practically moribund, when out of the blue it is given two awards in a period of three days.

Two dear blogger friends have separately presented the awards. I am so touched, honoured and delighted by this gesture of Resmi  (http://flowersncolors.blogspot.com/)and Happy Kitten. http://under-the-tree-of-tranquility.blogspot.com/2012/03/award.html
Who would have thought it!
Both are Liebster awards (which in German means 'favourite') yet they are different

From Resmi:
From Happy Kitten

The awards come with some simple rules to be followed

Award No. I:
 Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.
Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog.

Award No. II

Link back to the person who gave you the award.
Pick 5 people deserving of the award and notify them on their blogs.
Post the award on your blog and spread the love.

The rules are the same! The best bit is that I am expected to pass on the awards to five fellow bloggers.
This now brings me to an elevated status as I can choose five bloggers whose posts I enjoy, and confer on them the awards. And what is best – since they are two different awards, it means I can chose ten bloggers to give the awards to.But even then, never enough to share with all those whose blogposts I enjoy reading.

I would really like to include my mother Lalitha Ramakrishnan (Maiji, as she is famously known ) and her blog, http://lifeinpondicherry.blogspot.in/ which is incredibly interesting because of her memories and records of things past, but I desist. And for the same reason, I must pass up my sisters Gowri and Viji's , and cousin Kamini's blogs, who are all three terrific writers. No nepotism!

 I am delighted to name ten blogs which I find interesting. 
The Liebster Award I share with:

Dinakar's Mysorean Musings,  a kind of diary and has many interesting tales from the recent past  
Flower Girl's  Madras Ramblings, all about nature  
Gauri Gharpure's Short and Sweet, which has short verses illustrated by herself.
Asha's musings & ramblings, about matters that affect her 
Song of The Waves, a blog by Abraham Tharakan, with fantastic pictures and  stories about Kerala 

 The Liebster blog with
Indrani's i Share, a blog full of lovely photographs and her travel records 
Rajesh's My India , a travel post with great pictures.
satchitananda's From Life's Pages, a blog of posts about the world around her. 
Ramakrishnan's Ramblings and Musings, a beautifully illustrated travel blog http://sankriti.blogspot.in/
Sunita's  The Urban Gardener full of pictures and tales of her lovely garden

 I am consumed by pangs of guilt at the stepmotherly treatment I have meted out to the blog, and shall seriously go back to the days when I was more active here. And try to justify Resmi’s and Happy Kitten’s faith in me. Thanks Resmi and Happy Kitten.