Wednesday, December 31, 2008 0 reflections

Happy New Year 2009 to everyone!

Stands at our doorstep, another year anew,
Awaiting to paint our life with every possible hue,
Let us invite it in, treat it well, and take care
That it leaves behind loads of peace and happiness to share.


Wishing all my readers a wonderful Happy New Year 2009. Here is hoping that the new season will bring all of you the much needed love, peace, health and success. May the Almighty take away all your troubles and in His infinite wisdom, grant you all your wishes and make all your dreams come true.

Please click here if you to wish to see a card specially made for you. :)
See you next year! Stay well and all the best!

Cheers!

..ShaKri..
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 2 reflections

[ShaK Recipe] - Okra Kurma / Bhindi Gravy

Dear Reader,

Presenting another little experiment of mine that I tried out today listening to some Alejandro Sanz in the background. Okra Kurma, it is called. A concoction made with okra and spices. I am attaching below the mouth watering result and following it is the recipe. Hope you try it too and enjoy it as much as I did with my stuffed aaloo paratha!





Ingredients

Okra/Bhindi/Lady's Finger - about 15 (thoroughly washed and VERY dry)
Onions - 1
Tomato - 2
Ginger/Garlic paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Coconut paste - 1 table spoon
Oil - 1 table spoon
Curry leaves - a few
Red Chilly Powder - 1 teaspoon
Coriander Powder - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric Powder - a pinch
Mustard seeds - for seasoning


Method

Wash and pat dry the Okra. It has to be very dry. Cut them into 1 inch pieces and fry on dry tawa till it changes bright green in colour. Keep aside.

Heat oil add mustard seeds, curry leaves. Then add chopped onions and sauté till they are brown in colour. Then add ginger garlic paste and fry well for a couple of minutes.

Then add nicely chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt to taste. Cook the dish till tomatoes are well cooked. Then add the Okra and mix well. Add coconut paste with water. Cook on high flame for 5 mins. Simmer for 10 mins until the gravy thickens.

And that's it! Enjoy with rice and/or roti with daal.


I hope you try this out some day and enjoy it as much as I did. It's great with aaloo paratha as you can see in the mouth watering photograph I have added above. Cheers!


..ShaKri..
Saturday, December 27, 2008 0 reflections

Ghajini : One more review

Fine. So here is another review on Aamir’s latest movie. Considering I have had immense respect for him given that he has always challenged himself to do different and very original stuff, I have to say ‘Ghajini’ was a bit of a let down. And yes. I have seen ‘Memento’ too and believe me, this was nowhere near that classic. Memento’s USP was its water proof script that made the audience think, analyze, remember and most importantly, be shocked! The arrangement of Memento was so brilliant that I was always sure if ever a desi version of it came out it would be filled with meaningless fights, male chauvinism and full of other masala that audience crave from movies in the sub continent.

And, sadly, I was right. I say sadly because the Hindi version – or should I say the version that is bound to reach a lot more audiences than its previous avatar in Tamil – features Aamir Khan. I don’t know why he chose to put himself through such an exhausting routine of muscle building and genuine head shaving for a movie that is simply put – a revenge drama. There is absolutely nothing in the movie that makes the audience want to take the journey of memory loss along with the protagonist. We never feel as lost as he does when clues are brutally erased from his body. We don’t even get a rational explanation as to how he managed to remember everything again without the thousands of photographs and sketches he had for himself. Serious loopholes that make a rather dark story a tad too easy to understand which should be the opposite aim for such scripts. Stories that compel the audience to become part of it and not just passive watchers who see a man out to kill his lover’s murderer. Too simple.

So we have a guy who falls in love with a simple lass who has a major affliction to helping random strangers and an immensely positive attitude towards life – nothing wrong there. The guy is a millionaire but wont say it since, well, he wants to ensure if she likes him it has to be because he is ‘aam aadmi’. Nothing wrong there either. A tragic twist of cinematic liberty and goons come rushing in finishing the girl off and smashing Mr. Millionaire’s head into a 15 minute replay button.

The basic problem with this ‘Ghajini’ (since I haven’t seen the Tamil version which I am told 80% of the scenes in this version are a direct translation from) is its super simple execution of what could have been a brilliant script. Aamir’s performance, as convincing as he always is, just doesn’t meet that benchmark he has created for himself with each performance. Be it Dil Chahta Hai or Rang De or Taare Zameen Per or even Lagaan for instance. Movies that bore a quintessential Aamir signature. Bar the heavy breathing and wild wide eyed craziness brooding over a hunky body set to take on goons, Aamir comes of as ‘just another Bollywood hero’. A tag I am sure he has struggled very hard and very successfully to avoid.

Music is alright albeit the songs have nothing to do with the story. A classic cliché like all other masala movies. The female lead is not too bad either although her only genuine scene seemed to be the one where she is killed. Otherwise she was unnaturally peppy with a ‘Juhi Chawla’ hangover with her giggles and overconfident persona. Much has been written about Jiah Khan but I fail to see where it was she really got into the skin of her role. It was nothing more than a confused medical student’s character that was so messed up to begin with that she interfered with a lot of vital sub plots and came off without any redemption.

Anyway. ‘Ghajini’ is here and sadly it didn’t quite make it for me. I did find the chemistry between Aamir and Asin endearing but not enough to call this a milestone movie for Aamir who quite frankly should be more careful with his choices next time. No more remakes please Mr. Khan. Your audience has put you on a special pedestal for a reason. Please stick to it without bogging down to meaningless rank races and muscle building melas that seem to have taken precedence over meaningful stories.

So now lets all hope to become the 15 minute replay button and try to forget this movie. Shall we?
Rating (for the sake of it)
Script 2/5
Music 3.5/5
Performances 3/5
Entertainment Factor 2.5/5

..ShaKri..
Friday, December 26, 2008 0 reflections

Tomato Dosa - experimenting with food!



Dear reader,
Xmas vacations are a time for me to expand my cooking skills and try out new recipes. I am not much of a chef, per say, but I do experiment with things I feel meet my basic cooking skills. This new recipe - Tomato Dosa - was one among them. I am attaching an image of the dosa I ended up making. I had it with some spicy Karela gojju (the # 1 favorite dish on my list) for dinner tonight so thought of sharing the joy - and the recipe!




Ingredients:
1 cup raw rice (about 200 grams)
4 medium sized ripe tomatoes
4-5 long red chillies
Coconut - shredded or a can of coconut milk
Salt to taste


Method:
1) Wash and soak rice in water for about 2 hours.
2) Grind together - coconut, tomatoes and red chillies to a fine paste. Make sure there are no lumps.
3) Add rice slowly to this mixture and keep grinding until a fine batter is ready. Add salt to taste and grind it one more round.
4) This dosa is not like a rice dosa where it has to be turned to be cooked. So, ensure that the batter is a tad thin - but not too thin like Neeru Dosa either.
5) Pre-heat the pan with a little oil and ensure the pan is really hot.
6) Pour batter on it in circular motions. One swift motion recommended without spreading it around like a regular dosa.
7) Sprinkle a little more oil on it and cover it with a lid to let both sides cook for about 2-3 minutes.
8) Once done fold it carefully and put it on a plate. And thats it!


I am sure there are several variations for this that more experienced folks can accessorize with. For me, this was heaven considering I had it with Hagalkai Gojju!


Cheers,
ShaKri
Wednesday, December 17, 2008 0 reflections

[New Year Cards @ Shubhashaya.com]




yeMjAy!
Monday, December 15, 2008 0 reflections

Shubhashaya.com promotional video on YouTube

Promotional video for Shubhashaya.com on YouTube.

yeMjAy!

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Saturday, December 06, 2008 0 reflections

Christmas Cards on Shubhashaya.com

Dear reader,

Shubhashaya.com once again presents its array of cards for Christmas. Please feel free to click on the links below to view the collection and send a word of care and love to your near ones.
Your support remains our only motivation.
Direct Link to the Christmas cards page - http://www.shubhashaya.com/christmas.htm



Cheers,
SK












Wednesday, November 05, 2008 0 reflections

And then one day...

IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE this you know. Things were much more predictable and somehow there was a cocoon of self-contained comfort that he had always found himself in. It was old, but familiar. It was boring, but pleasant. It was cliché, but controllable.

As the waves of fatigue of another day had passed him by, he found himself waking up to an unknown seeming drone. He couldn’t quite place it but having become acquainted with almost every possible clink in his apartment, this was definitely something he had never heard before. He spent some time looking around in the usually suspected corners – the bathroom shower, the taps, and the toilet flush, the kitchen sink and of course, the always popular washing machine. No. There was nothing there. In fact there was so much silence that he was almost convinced he was losing his mind.

And so he showered, gulped down his toast with peanut butter, dressed himself up for another day on the battleground and stepped out into the early dew of an upcoming winter. He must have taken just two more steps into the cold when it hit him again. That hum – that unmistakably different buzz that he could swear was something he had never heard before. He looked up at the loosely grayed out sky and felt the atomic drops of moisture spray his face. For a man who had never really appreciated the rain, he found himself smiling. He found himself wanting to take a deep breathe and to pray for a good solid rain.

It was beyond his human comprehension as to what these random thoughts were that were occurring to him with such frequency. For some reason his stride was more confident and himself more prepared. But for what, he wondered. He caught a glimpse of himself in a reflection of a shop’s window for a fleeting second and was quite amazed by what he saw. Yes. There was something definitely out of place.

He carried on to his usual destinations and awaited his train with the usual patience. As the time indicator said 1 more minute left, he turned out to see a newsstand. His gaze shifted from the coffeemaker to the newspapers dangling at the bottom shelf outside. It caught his attention. As the train appeared like an obnoxious copperhead from within the belly of the dark interiors, he found himself wandering away from his routine to do something different.

He walked closer to the tabloid spill and looked intently at the headlines for a few seconds. The smile that had appeared on his face earlier that day…returned. It returned to say it was OK to be happy. It returned to mention he was now part of history. Only this time he was no longer wishing rain for himself, but for everyone on Earth. What he saw there were the first thundershowers of an emerging hurricane and all he could do was pray – pray that the fresh waters would wash away all the congestion that plague the world today. A wonderful beginning, he thought, and awaited the next train.


Wishing Mr. Barack Obama hearty congratulations on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America. You've earned it Sir and I wish you health, success and the vision of a leader who can finally begin the healing this poor planet so badly needs. I give you my seven letter word - SUPPORT - if you can help remove this four letter word from our lives - HATE.


Amen.



..ShaKri..

Monday, November 03, 2008 0 reflections

Nandini's Confession

‘Dear Diary,

It is happening again. It is three in the morning and I am still up. It’s not the time that has started to bother me but the reason I am awake for at this God forsaken hour. I know….I know, it is pretty common for people to be up all night these days. What with 24 hour jobs that don’t depend on time zones anymore…but still. For a guy like me who does two jobs during sunshine, it is just hard to squeeze in a three hour sleep until midnight and then slog for another few hours chatting with absolute strangers. God…I honestly hate it. One thing I have come to realize though is men can be such pigs! A reasonable well educated and decent seeming fellow turns into a hormonal beast that is just waiting to grab the first chance to expose his perversion. I wonder if this only happens in our country. Oh well whats the difference…I might never find out. My dream of leaving this awful place and getting a plush and cozy place for myself overseas is still that – a dream. I mean, how can I possibly go on spending this meaningless existence to cater to nameless faces who are NEVER satisfied! Hopeless morons. No – I need an identity. Something that distinguishes me as unique! Is that too much to ask for a twenty year old! God…should have continued college when I had the chance. At least I wouldn’t have to put up with what I have to now! I mean…do I really care if this guy isn’t getting married! Why doesn’t he just find the nerve to get a girl friend instead! I wonder if that’s it though. That if Indian men are always craving to get married just to get laid! Oh man…that would be just sad. No – I’d never do that. But well…here I am dealing with these fellows who are desperate to chat with someone like me instead of getting a girl for myself. So I guess I am no different at all! Damn...that made it worse. And where the heck are all the girls! All I ever find here are men whining and wailing about how their searches are in vain and asking for ways to improve. Maybe I should scream at them and tell them to get the heck off the Net for that! LOL...oh well. Cant do that either if I want this job.

Hopeless …hopeless indeed.

Oh well…time to stop ranting. I see the usual bar flashing and I know what that means….yeah yeah…I am coming, dude. It should be fun getting all technical if this fellow acts funny. Always great to get all serious and make them apologize! God…these guys are sad. Wait…is it a guy…oh yes…it is.

It … always…is.

Until tomorrow then! See you later! G’Nite old friend!’

And so he proceeded to close his document and responded to the flashing bar. The moment it opened he typed.

‘Welcome to matrimonials4u! I am Nandini here. How may I help you today?’






..ShaKri..

PS: For the uninitiated, this piece is centered around the fact that Nandini is a girl's name in India.
Saturday, November 01, 2008 0 reflections

The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 2 of 2

For those who came in late - Part 1 of 2



The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 2 of 2

A ShaKri Tale


IT HAD STARTED FEELING strange that Nandini was actually being led to God knows where by the same woman who had been her biggest fear for so many long years. After the first few steps she was suddenly unsure of her spontaneous albeit noteworthy mission since she was beginning to feel oddly out of place. She knew the moment they took a steep turn into a dimly lit alley that she had somehow managed to make the wrong move. An immediate rush of uncertainty clouded Nandini’s thoughts as she passed by an array of crumbling walls attached to blackened houses with tired housewives looking back at her in mute wonder. This just seemed like a little too much reality for what was supposed to be a more predictable reunion. At least the way it had played out in Nandini’s head at some point. And that’s when she knew – she had to tell the woman who she was even if it was beyond reason.

‘Miss Devaki…’ she mumbled in a tone that still had hints of a primary school girl.

The old woman kept talking to herself in whispers and completely ignored Nandini’s initiative.

‘Miss…Devaki?’ said Nandini again after clearing her throat a little and raising her tone.

‘What is it now? Are you already tired from the walking? Look at me! I am seventy five and still slaving like a dog to keep that bastard happy. What woman my age wants to go through this hell! I can’t even kick the fellow out since that will make me the crazy one! What a life this is! Now shut up and bring my bag. I still insist I wont pay you a dime…’ And then she continued ranting about several things that made Nandini lose complete track of what her original intention was.

But that wasn’t the problem anymore. The moment they stopped at a cream colored wall that had a large poster of some rally by an unknown politician, Nandini was about to get a glimpse of her teacher’s purse and the ghost in it.

There was a distinct smell of something rotting that hit Nandini’s nose. This made her cringe with disgust as she quickly grabbed her veil once again for help. She just couldn’t believe how on earth her teacher had ended up in a place like this. Devaki pulled out a bronze colored key and unlocked the door that opened with a tiny squeal. The interior of what looked like the living room was lit just by the subtle rays of the sun that were peeping through from one of the only two windows in the wall. There was the strong stench of body odor that had enveloped the interiors and got to Nandini once again. As she looked around she realized that right under that open window was a bed on which lay the silent body of someone moaning in dull murmurs.

‘Yes! Yes! Don’t shout! I have brought your bloody medicines! Let us see how many more days this can keep you screaming! Do you hear me? Are you still alive or dead?’ yelled Devaki as she grabbed the bag she had handed to Nandini earlier and disappeared into the only other door that room had.

Nandini walked a little closer to the person on the bed. Just as she had taken two steps further her eyes casually rested on an old black and white photograph that was lying on a pile of two steel trunks and a rolled up mattress. It was clearly a photograph of a couple and needless to say one of them was Devaki but she couldn’t quite place the other person in it. She then walked a little closer to look at it in the light that showered into the room when she heard a shivering masculine voice from the bed say softly ‘…a smaller size of that used to be with her all the time you know…’ Nandini was a bit startled at this rather unexpected interaction and turned to speak to the stranger.

‘Excuse me?’ she said as she took another step closer to the ailing man.

‘….she kept it in her purse then…old stories…who are you?’ he responded straining his silver eyebrows and trying to place the woman in front of him.

‘Uh…’ started Nandini before being interrupted by the old man. ‘Oh… it doesn’t matter. It is nice to have company…would you like to sit down?’

‘No thank you,’ said Nandini as she realized there wasn’t anything in the room to sit on. All the room had was an old carpet rolled and set aside, a medium sized metallic cupboard that had an outdated calendar stuck on it, a rickety tea table with three and three fourth legs and an old bed pan that lay next to it.

‘…times have changed…’ continued the man without acknowledging Nandini’s words, ‘…there was a time I used to say the same thing and people would say ‘Thank you, sir!’ and sit in front of me with respect….now…’ he stopped and turned to look outside the window ‘…even I don’t respect myself for what I did…’

Nandini could swear she had heard that voice somewhere before. But she wasn’t really sure where. That soft gentle way of putting things in perspective and that easy going attitude which could easily win over the toughest of children. Yes – Nandini definitely was having flashbacks about this man too.

A bunch of steel pans rattled in the other room as Devaki yelled back ‘Oh! Don’t worry! I am OK! No need to come and help me! As if you can just walk up on those lifeless legs and hop by to finally free me from this jail!’

Following the incoherent chant from the woman, Nandini ventured the next obvious question.

‘I am sorry about your condition. How did you lose your legs?’

‘….they had warned me against it…’ the old man continued oblivious of Nandini’s existence. ‘…they had told me….Namboodari…don’t do it…Devi is tricking you…don’t do it…what about Parimala…don’t do it…but…’

‘Oh! You are still here! What the hell do you want from me! Go away! I am not giving you any money! Go now! Out! Else I will have to call the neighbors!’ screamed Devaki as she emerged from the room with two small bottles. She waved one of them viciously at Nandini screaming at her to leave.

Nandini took one last look at the couple – the oddest kind she had ever seen, smiled back quickly at the emotionless face of the old man and walked outside the door. No sooner had she stepped out back into the rotting alley Devaki slammed the door shut behind her. ‘Thieves! They are all thieves! They put on perfume now and cheat you…’

A minute later Nandini was out of the alley and into bright sunlight again. She quickly opened her shoulder bag and took out her cell phone. A few buttons later she awaited the call to be picked up.

‘Nanda…where are you?’ said a male voice.

‘Pa I got off at the wrong stop that’s all. Don’t worry. I am waiting for the next bus.’

‘I told you not to take the bus! What is it with you? All auto-drivers are the same. Just pay them whatever and get on one will you! This city is unsafe…and you…’

‘Don’t worry pa,’ she continued realizing that her worried father was missing the point.

‘I am not far away. I will call Shamili and have her pick me up in her bike. But listen…’ she said as she quickly started walking back to the bus stop. ‘Do you remember Vidyavardaka Primary?’

Her father paused for a moment and responded ‘Uhh…yes yes…why?’

‘OK. I will explain that later but was there a man called Namboodari there?’

‘Namboodari? Yes. The Principal of your school. Why?’

‘Do you know anything more about him?’

‘Well,’ continued her father ‘…you were too small then so you didn’t know. The man was fine but they say he had an affair with someone. Some teacher in the school. I don’t know her name but she was definitely not popular. The guy was married too…so that caused more issues they said. Maybe your mother knows I think. I can ask her….but…Nandu…are you OK? Why are you asking me this? Did you meet him?’

After bidding her father a quick goodbye Nandini fell silent for a few seconds. There it was. The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse. That photograph that showed the two of them together in some random park somewhere. The dirty little secret that nasty woman had hidden from everyone at that school. Nandini suddenly saw the irony that the crime she had been publicly humiliated for was actually something Devaki was guilty of. Not only had she stolen the man from his wife but had made him absolutely miserable in what were possibly his last few days. How they both went from being respectable educators to leading an insufferable existence in a nameless shanty town was best left unexplored.

And just like that – Nandini was no longer afraid. No longer did the threatening looks of the men on that street bother her. No longer did the rabid looking canine scare her. No longer did the stench of the rubbish annoy her. No longer did the disturbing image of her past haunt her since now she knew – she had not only found the ghost but had also released it. The smacks she had received for being an innocent had returned to haunt Devaki for the rest of her life. Namboodari was just paying the price.

And as for Nandini, well she had finally found redemption.





End of Part 2

Friday, October 31, 2008 0 reflections

The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 1 of 2

The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 1 of 2
A ShaKri Tale




IT TOOK MORE THAN A COUPLE OF MINUTES for Nandini to recognize the old bag and register a mental confirmation. The crooked nose, the hollow cheeks, the ridiculously obvious mole that stood staring back in brazen shamelessness from just below a dangly chin. And of course, the trademark gold rimmed spectacles that had lost its bi-focal power centuries ago yet remained on that bridge clinging for dear life. Yes – there was not an ounce of suspicion left that it indeed was the mug shot which was connected to a sinful hand that had once planted intense slaps across little Nandini’s sobbing face.

The incident back then had consumed a little over three minutes of Nandini’s time and six minutes of the classroom’s but had haunted the girl for over three decades after. The moment she had realized it was her long forgotten nightmare, Miss Devaki Rani, sitting just two seats beyond her on the bus that fateful afternoon, Nandini’s graveyard-friendly fears suddenly made a brief but shocking comeback. She found her hand automatically heading to her right cheek that had felt the sting of a heavily ringed and immensely flaky palm one rainy afternoon back in Vidyavardaka Girls’ Primary School. An image flashed by the following second in black and white where she saw herself as a seven year old standing helplessly in front of a figure larger than any door she had ever been through at her grandmother’s ancestral house. She then witnessed the Hercuelean silhouette barking those unforgettable words – ‘…Why you little cunning witch! You are not even as tall as my thumb and you are already stealing! What do you want to be? A dacoit? A robber? Will that make your mother happy? Is that going to bring your father smiles? Tell me! Should I call the police and ask them to take you away? Should I? Tell me! SPEAK UP!’

As tears flowed from silent Nandini’s saucer cup eyes, she had found further reason to bellow in pain as the large trunk like arm swung up once into the air and flung back on to the little girl’s reddened face.

SMACK!

As Nandini’s head reeled under the ripples of shock that impact had created, her ears had gone momentarily deaf to human sounds. All they could hear was the faint buzz of a telephone ringing in the distance. But before she could inform the furious teacher that the phone needed to be answered….

SMACK! SMACK!

Two more freshly baked crisps had been stamped on the little one. And with that it was over. The woman had carelessly pushed the child back into her place and had yelled out a stern warning to everyone that any further attempts at trying to find ‘the ghost who lived in Miss Devaki’s purse’ would result in more serious consequences.

As Nandini returned to her present state of nostalgia she couldn’t help but feel relieved. One couldn’t blame her since she had been after all – guilty. Thanks to the endless taunts of her fellow class mates as to how cowardly and puny she was, there was never a chance Nandini would not have dared to explore the five rupee note sticking out of her teacher’s purse while the woman had left the classroom for an errand. What Devaki, on the other hand, didn’t know was the child was actually looking for what was popularly called ‘the ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse’. This had been a trendy way to taunt the woman by the kids as they had all wondered who exactly would release that ‘ghost’ some day. That brave girl! Who would it be? The one who would go ahead and do the impossible! Unfortunately the day Nandini had taken it upon herself to become ‘the one’ was the day she had been stung by the owner of the purse so badly, that it became one of the most traumatic experiences of her entire life. An incident that had come back to her thirty something years later, while traveling to meet her class mate from that very class in her native.

As Nandini struggled with the dilemma of whether or not she should go and reconnect with her nemesis, the old lady’s stop arrived. Despite being four stops away from her original destination, Nandini took a deep breathe, adjusted the long flowing veil of her salwar-kameez, pulled the tiny lock of hair hanging near her temple back behind her ear and got down too.

The first thing Nandini noticed was the location she had chosen to pursue her past. The stop was located in what was easily one of the dirtiest neighborhoods of her city. Strewn with open sewage drains and scantily spread out garbage bins surrounded by trash around it rather than in it, Nandini suddenly covered her nose with the edge of her veil to escape the stench emanating from almost everywhere.

‘Gosh!’ she thought. ‘What sort of a place is this!’ But given the reasoning behind her rather abrupt move, she didn’t have a choice but to see its end. And so she walked slowly behind the frail looking figure staggering a few feet in front of her avoiding cow-dung and other manure.

The vision of seeing Miss Devaki from behind suddenly seemed like a new context. The woman now looked old, fragile and extremely unhealthy. There had always been a rumor that she secretly smoked but considering Nandini had left that school just a year after the ‘smacking’ incident, she knew nothing more about the teacher’s life except the three minute physical ordeal she had endured. Devaki kept coughing into what looked like a napkin as she shooed away stray animals that seemed interested in what she was carrying in her four plastic bags. Nandini suddenly felt insecure as she began noticing that she was the clearly the odd man out in what looked like a lower middle class locality with bare-bottomed kids playing outside with rabid looking street canine and bare-chested middle aged men staring emotionlessly at the well dressed woman who was following an ill tempered old lady.

To play it safe, Nandini did the unthinkable. What had started as a non-plan was now turning into a sequence of meaningful events. She paced herself and joined the old woman who was struggling with her bags.

‘Can I help you, Miss?’ she enquired in her British accented English that had only improved after she had moved to the United Kingdom with her husband a decade ago.

‘What?’ coughed the old lady back as she strained her aged eyes to recognize the stranger offering her needless and intrusive help.

‘I said can I help you?’ she repeated with a genuine smile that she hoped would vitalize the aged soul.

‘Who the heck are you all of a sudden? Go away!’ said Devaki making it clear to Nandini – that she hadn’t changed one atom. Age had definitely not deterred the will of this woman who could only spew bitterness. She was treating Nandini the same way she had fanned away the canine earlier.

‘O! I am no one…’ Nandini found herself saying almost apologetically. ‘I noticed you were being hassled by the dogs…so I wanted to help, Miss.’

She found it odd that she couldn’t stop herself from calling the woman ‘Miss’.

‘No need! I do this every day. Now go away! Lot of thieves these days. I don’t want you stealing my things. You can’t fool me by putting on make up, I say!’

Nandini was shocked. She couldn’t believe Devaki still accused people of being criminals who were out to burgle her blind. Even if it meant random blokes who were trying to be good Samaritans.

‘Miss please…’ Nandini insisted as she found the old woman almost dropping one of her bags. ‘Please let me help. You can hold my hand if you don’t want me to run away. OK?’

Once a teacher – always a teacher. They cannot stand too much whining. And so this tactic worked somewhat. Devaki immediately lost whatever was left of her temper and flung one of the bags at Nandini and grabbed her right hand. ‘Amma!!!!Fine! My God you are a pesky little girl! What a pain! But listen! I wont pay you anything for this service you hear me? I don’t want you haggling outside my door for money!’

Nandini smiled back and responded, ‘That’s OK Miss. I don’t want anything. Let’s go.’ And then they walked. Devaki held on to Nandini with the same sinful hand that had come crashing down on the child one rainy afternoon in pursuit of a rumored ghost. What Nandini didn’t know then was within the next few minutes, she would actually meet the ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse.



End of Part 1

Click here to read Part 2 of 2


Thursday, October 30, 2008 0 reflections

Kannada Rajyotsava with Shubhashaya.com

ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಬಾಂಧವರೆ,

ನವೆಂಬರ್ ೧ ರಂದು ನಮ್ಮ ನಾಡಿನ ಹುಟ್ಟು ಹಬ್ಬವನ್ನು ಆಚರಿಸಲೆಂದು, ಶುಭಾಶಯ.ಕಾಂ ತಂದಿದೆ ಇ-ಕಾಗದಗಳ ಹೂಮಾಲೆ! ಕೆಳಗೆ ಕಾಣುವ ಕೊಂಡಿಯನ್ನು ಕ್ಲಿಕ್ಕಿಸಿ ಹಾಗೂ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತು ಮನೆಯವರಿಗೆ "ಸಿರಿಗನ್ನಡಂ ಗೆಲ್ಗೆ"ಯ ಹೆಮ್ಮೆಯ ಮಾತನ್ನು ಕಳುಹಿಸಿ.

ಕನ್ನಡ ರಾಜ್ಯೋತ್ಸವದ ಇ-ಕಾಗದಗಳು

ನಿಮ್ಮ ಸಹಕಾರವೆ ನಮಗೆ ಸ್ಪೂರ್ಥಿ.

ನಿಮ್ಮವನಾದ,

ಶ.ಕೃ

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Dear reader,

To celebrate the birth of our dear Karnataka and Kannada on November 1st, Shubhashaya.com proudly presents a new set of E-Cards that you can send to your near and dear Kannadigas to spread the message of 'sirigannaDaM gelge'.

Kannada Rajyotsava E-Cards on Shubhashaya.com

Your support remains our inspiration.

Thank you.

ShaKri

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Sunday, October 26, 2008 2 reflections

Deepavali Kannada E-Cards @ Shubhashaya.com

Dear readers,

As always, Shubhashaya.com presents its entire collection of old and new Kannada E-Greeting cards that can be sent out during this Deepavali /Diwali season. Here are a few preview images of some of the new cards added. Feel free to explore the 3 pages of options and let your near and dear ones know - you care.
Add Image
Direct Link : http://www.shubhashaya.com/deepavali.htm





And many more to choose from!

Wishing all the readers of my blog a wonderful Deepavali festival.



Cheers,

ShaKri


Friday, October 24, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : Il Pantheon e Fontana di Trevi

Il Pantheon e Fontana di Trevi, Roma
The Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain


The manager of the hotel I was in strongly recommended going to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. When I asked him why they were so popular – he just smiled and responded – ‘You cannot leave Rome without seeing them.’ A comment quite justified, I thought, coming from an Italian and most importantly – a Roman.

And so to wrap up the collection of interesting places I had been to over the four day period, I decided to pop into a monument called The Pantheon first.


When I asked a guide who stood smoking a cigarette outside the monument what the word ‘Pantheon’ meant, he shrugged in an obvious kind of way and said ‘A temple of the entire God…ya?’. Notwithstanding the grammatical error he had made, I soon found out that the Pantheon was indeed – a temple that was built to honor all of the Roman gods.

The first thing I noticed was the inscription written on the entrance of the building –
M∙AGRIPPA∙L∙F∙COS∙TERTIVM∙FECIT


Further investigation about its meaning revealed that translated to English, this Latin text meant

“M(arcus) Agrippa, son (F) of Lucius (L), Consul (COS) for the third time (Tertium), built this.”

More information about the authenticity of this sentence can be found here. The most captivating thing about this temple was a large circular opening at the top of its ceiling. Almost seemed like a beautiful metaphor to let the superior powers bless the visitors' lives with water, light and prosperity.



As I entered the large edifice, it became clear that they wanted visitors to behave like pilgrims since the stress on Pantheon etiquette, as it were, was on two vital things – silence and decorum. I couldn’t help smile to myself as my mind went back to my own Hindu temples back home. One of the noisiest and chaotic examples in the world of religious places, I thought. I have always appreciated the quiet and spiritual atmosphere in a church or a Gurudwara given the scope they provide for actual seeking of wishes and being one with the Almighty. I can’t say I agree that Hindu temples provide the same sense of solace without some serious effort.



Be that as it may, the Pantheon’s architectural finesse aside, I realized how beautifully the dome sat on top of the monument encompassing all that was holy into the shrine. Despite not being of the faith, I found myself feeling the presence of something divine in a place that had been frequented by many an emperor to seek blessings from the one above.


Moving out of the Pantheon, at about a fifteen minute walking distance amid the narrow streets of Rome is ‘Fontana di Trevi’. The word 'Trevi' basically means Tre Vie - as in three streets/roads. The fountain is situated at the intersection of three streets/roads and hence the name.



Legend has it that the Romans found a water source here through the help of a virgin girl 800 years ago and whose statue adorns the face of the fountain. It is also believed that throwing a coin backwards facing forward assures the visitor’s return to Rome. Of course, this is just a legend but without a doubt, hundreds of tourists fling coins into the fountain each day. Not to be left behind I did my bit as well, wishing that I return to Rome someday. Hopefully with my best half. It just seemed like the perfect end to a wonderful trip. Started with an eagerness and ended with a wish. The complete circle.



Another grand day indeed as I was witness to two more of the several wonderful monuments that have stood the test of time in Rome and other parts of Italy. The saying ‘be a Roman in Rome’ never rung truer as I flew out of the city the following day with fond memories and some notes from Italia.


..ShaKri..

This blog concludes the 4-part series I have been documenting on my trip to Italy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : Torre Pendente di Pisa

Torre Pendente di Pisa, The leaning tower of Pisa

On a dull summer afternoon about seventeen years ago, a young girl turns to her friend and hands out a postcard. Her friend, a slightly buck toothed fellow wearing black thick rimmed glasses and smelling of coconut oil, giggles back and says ‘…its about to fall!’ to which the girl responds ‘…no man…that’s the leaning tower of Pisa…it never falls…’



Yes. It has certainly been almost two decades since that eventful moment I shared with my school mate Poornima under a dusty fan of our noisy classroom in Bangalore. I had a weird flashback when I first laid eyes on this architectural wonder after having read about it for so long. Set on the side of a bustling city that has now gotten used to thousands of tourists flocking it each passing day, the leaning tower sure stands tall. The view is truly picturesque as one walks into an opening surrounded by thick walls about thirty feet high. One wonders if that was done deliberately to give the visitor a well placed surprise after walking past them – the leaning tower. One really can’t see the tower from the street but a clear view emerges once you peek through the giant opening that connect the two ends of the crawling wall.


As I got off the bus (with the red arrow pointing downwards, I was told) right in front of the monument, there was a sense of accomplishment. In a day and age when almost nothing can be taken for granted anymore, monuments like this one are better seen as soon as possible. With time and the termite of history eating them up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for curators to truly preserve these wonderful examples of an era bygone.


The one thing I immediately wanted to do – apart from getting a photograph taken in front of it (and no, not the clichéd one with an image of me trying to support the tower from a distance) – was to explore the source of its support! The base! In all the visuals I had seen of the tower I had never seen a glimpse of the foundation that held this wonder in place. It was truly refreshing to say the least. Given the land slippage that caused this otherwise ordinary seeming tower to become a global phenomenon, they have actually re-designed the base to become a tilted disc. This took place, if you recall, in 2001 when a British engineer led a team that saved the tower from toppling over from further slippage. After what was certainly quite a complicated process, the tower is now said to be stable – albeit still leaning southwards.

Tourists are allowed to walk up the tower but with a pre-condition that only x number of people can go at a time. I noticed people standing on the topmost point of the tower but did not risk going up there since I didn’t want to feel responsible to cause any further damage to a structure that has already seen enough in eight centuries.

All said and done, truly a delightful day in Italia as I finally smiled to myself and sent a mental message to Poornima – ‘Yes, old friend, this tower will never fall. Amen.’


..ShaKri..


Sunday, October 19, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : La Cappella Sistina

Cappella Sistina, Vaticano : The Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Please click on the photographs for a larger view.

For those of you who have seen the brilliant movie ‘Good Will Hunting’, you will remember the famous monologue Robin Williams delivers to Matt Damon about the things that just need to be experienced, not read about. One of the things he mentions in his speech is the master craftsman Michael Angelo and his paintings, prominently the one on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museum. When I saw this movie a few years ago I couldn’t help wonder what that room really smelt like (referring to Robin’s lines ‘…but I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel…you’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling…seen that…’ – video here for those interested in this wonderful scene from that movie) considering it was mentioned under such a vital context. So when I realized I could easily get to the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum) on a single bus ride from my hotel in Trastevere, it became impossible to resist. After all, when in Rome, right?

So I headed off to make the beeline that formed outside the museum in the Vatican. I also learnt that the Vatican, despite being just another area within Rome has been officially christened the smallest country in the world given the power it contains. Hence this was an eye-opener of sorts for people like me who were always told ‘Vatican City’ is in Italy instead of ‘the Vatican, while within Rome is a state within itself’.



As I entered the museum I was welcomed by a barrage of some magnificent paintings and sculptures. The tales from the Bible and then onward to the life and times of the Roman Empire were sprawling all over the roofs and walls of the hallways. Every single painting had a story behind it! None of them were really ‘still portraits’ like the ones at a place like the Mysore Palace where Kings and his family are shown posing for the painting. Instead these art pieces were action based images that unfolded scriptures and tales from an era bygone. To better enhance my knowledge about what I was seeing I even picked up a book from the souvenir shop that shed a lot of light on what was displayed in the museum. But despite all that, the one thing I waited for with a lot of expectation was the Sistine Chapel. My mind kept going back to Robin’s words and I just couldn’t wait to experience it.



First things first – it’s a long walk to the chapel. In what seemed like a never ending maze of symbols that kept assuring me that ‘La Cappella Sistina’ is right around the corner, I found myself getting a tad frustrated about the build up that was being given to the room. There was a time I couldn’t help wonder just which floor of the building I was in since I had gone up and down so many times! However, I waited. And to help me get through the wait were some amazing pieces of art spread on the way that kept me busy appreciating the attention to detail artists like Angelo gave to their work. It was a blessed feeling to have been witness to such timeless examples of sheer brilliance.



After what seemed like eternity, it finally came. And it did so with quite a rush as well. You can never be sure if the next room you are stepping into is the Sistine Chapel or not so every room has an arrow indicating that the next room will lead to the chapel. So I must admit I wasn’t completely ready for it which then meant, it took me by surprise.

Absolute and complete surprise.


The room opened up into a wide area that resembled a huge church. At first sight I couldn’t quite make out what to look for since the light wasn’t at its best. But once inside, I knew – I was there. Surrounded by easily about 500-600 other people, I stood in absolute silence. There was a large sign outside that made two things clear – no talk and no camera. I chose to ignore the second one and snapped a quick shot before being reminded by a nosy old lady not to do so. I then politely reminded her back with a well timed ‘…well, it also says no talking…so…’ to which she nodded in disbelief and walked away. That side-note apart, all I could do really was look up…and be spellbound.



The photograph I took above - of the ceiling - doesn’t do any justice to the beauty one experiences in that room. There is something more too – there is a sense of silent compassion which is so rare to find in a ‘museum’. One tends to treat a museum like a house that contains some relics and reminders of a past no one can really connect with anymore. All one generally does is look at them dispassionately, maybe ponder on the date and then move on to the next item nodding in mute appreciation. But it is quite impossible to stand under that ceiling and not feel connected to something higher – something beyond what we represent below. What Michael Angelo successfully accomplished by painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for me at least, was tell the world that hope exists. That there is some chain that has come down from the time the first human was created that now trickles into the hundreds of heads that look up each at that roof each passing hour. A connection quite divine becomes apparent.

All I could do after watching the collection – especially the painting God creates Adam – was take a deep breathe. I needed another breathe to now experience what Robin mentioned in Good Will Hunting – and I did. And it was beautiful.



Another wonderful day spent in magnifica Italia.


..ShaKri..

4 reflections

Note da Italia : Il Colosseo

Il Colosseo, Roma: The Colosseum, Rome

I am not one to document travelogues since I think it takes a lot of observation and a place worthy of being mentioned. Despite having seen a good part of the world over the last decade, I have found it particularly challenging to write about my travels mainly because of the effort it takes in penning something that does justice to the place itself. That said, when I recently visited Italy for a week, it became almost impossible not to share my visions in the form of words just because of the grandeur I witnessed in Rome and Pisa. Hence the series – Note da Italia – which will be a 4 part series that documents the highlights of my journey. Here is the first part – The Colosseum. Please click on the photographs for a larger view.


Il Colosseo, Roma: The Colosseum, Rome

The first time I recall hearing of the Colosseum (Colosseo in Italian) was when the buzz for the movie ‘Gladiator’ started making the rounds. Scenes of a burly Maximus taking on a ferocious tiger as thousands in the audience cheer on under the watchful gaze of a Emperor Commodus made their appearance. As much as I enjoyed watching the much acclaimed movie, oddly enough, it never really sunk in as to how gigantic and amazing a engineering feat this monument really was until I stepped into it a few days ago.

The first thing that hit me was its size. Oh – the size of it! No man-made structure I have seen, maybe with the fair exception of the Taj Mahal, has been this huge in its construction and attention to detail. Clearly, the Colosseo was a key point in the grand Roman Empire that gave the world so many architectural wonders during its reign. Situated in the heart of Rome, the Colosseo is surrounded by various bustling streets and other buildings that look like a super-downsized miniature when compared to this structure. See the satellite image of the structure below.



Right outside the obviously visible Colosseo is The Arch of Constantine. Constantine was the emperor who brought an air of peace to a Rome that had been filled with civil war on and off for a hundred years. He gained power by defeating the emperor Maxentius in the famous battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. The arch was built for Constantine by the Senate and people of Rome in 315 CE to commemorate his victory over Maxentius. The arc creates a wonderful symbolic welcome message for visitors as they note the background being covered with the Colosseo as the foreground is lit with the Arc of Constantine. A great way to juxtapose one magnificent monument over the other.


Once past the arc, it hits you that you are present at one of the most historically relevant sites on the planet. The sheer magnitude of stories, voices, whispers and shadows that engulfs you at the sight of the Colosseo is breathtaking. It is hard to treat the structure as one more ‘tourist spot’ because of the way it is designed. There is a general tendency for the unsuspecting visitor to label almost everything on the tour as ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ but the Colosseo needs no such descriptors. The remains of what was once one of the most powerful empires on Earth becomes very apparent as one approaches the monumental edifice.



Despite the fact that a lot of the building has gone through intensive renovation, there are still hints of what used to be part of a magical time. As I continued exploring the main arena of the Colosseo inside, I could not help but picture the thousands of events, fights, gory battles and the endless crescendo of a roaring audience that had once occupied the very seats we now stood taking photographs on. It was nothing short of a revelation to note the deeply clear concepts of engineering, design and mathematics Romans had when they had attempted to create this amphitheater. The ruins of the walls that once housed gladiators and fierce animals, now stood bare to the so called ‘civil’ world who will probably never fully understand the psyche of an empire that was built both on brains and definitely beauty.


As I walked out of the arena into a mirage of fake gladiators waiting to be posed with and mobile souvenir shops that were out to swindle the foreigner, I smiled at myself as the words came back – Wealth conquered Rome after Rome had conquered the world”. True, Rome was definitely not built in a day.



..ShaKri..

Friday, October 10, 2008 4 reflections

Questions & Answers

Nandini’s eyes had been blinking almost in sync with the on screen cursor when her alien impulse had taken over. It wasn’t like her to pause and ponder about such an obviously celebratory event, but she did. And she hated it. Not because of what it represented, but because of what it suddenly reminded her of. Herself.

The tussle in her heart had started a little over fifteen seconds ago. Like always at around 10PM that day she had collapsed on the rickety computer chair to check her email messages. Considering the small window between 10:01 and 10:10 was the only time she could call ‘her own’, she had to make quick decisions. At exactly 10:11, her ailing father would yell from the next room – ‘How much longer should I hear that God forsaken chatter? Is it not enough you do that every day for 10 hours in the sweat shop? Not a minute of peace in this darned house! Why doesn’t He take me sooner?’ – and then would word off some choice curses that Nandini had memorized better than her own birthday.

As much as it would be considered a cliché to have an irrational and bad-tongued old man in any house, there was a small nugget attached to it. There were only two occupants in the house – the old man and Nandini. Despite having to live with a father who had stopped caring the day Nandini’s mother had died two years ago, not once had the girl grieved. She did miss the affectionate silence of her mother whose judgments were always muted by the obnoxious husband’s maniacal behavior. But without words, Nandini’s mother had provided the psychological balance she knew the girl would require some day to manage the old man given her bad heart condition.

And she had been right. Till the dusty evening, when she had exhaled for one last time watching Nandini hold her hands together praying for a little more time from God. Apparently that prayer was answered since the heart that had stopped beating within the mother now beat within Nandini. The only difference was – Nandini was now beginning to ask questions. Not just about who she was, but also about what she was becoming.

The first question that came to Nandini’s mind the moment she had read the subject line from Savita’s email was – What could it be? The two word sentence that contained more exclamation marks than the roses in Mrs. Goel’s garden next door definitely had the hint of mysterious exuberance – “Guess what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Gingerly, Nandini had clicked on it to find out what it is she was being asked to deduce.

Two seconds later, Nandini’s question had been answered with ten more questions – lethal and naked.

“…….nandi!!!!!! i am expecting da!!!! we got the tests done today….and its confirmed! we don’t know the sxe yet but I want a girl nandidiiiii!!!!! Ok bye….will talk to you soon ok? just wanted to let u know!!! Jeevan says hi! bye!!!!111”


Notwithstanding the typo Savita had made with quite possibly the most important word of the message – sex – Nandini was suddenly overcome with two kinds of reactions. One, the more obvious one that wanted to click on the ‘Reply’ button immediately and express how happy she was that her class mate was becoming a mother. And she even proceeded to do that. But the moment the cursor requested Nandini to start feeding her joyous response…she had frozen.

She suddenly asked herself – ‘Why is this happy news making me feel sad?’

A question that had never been asked before. Not to others. Not to herself. Having lived a stereotypical single child life with a silent mother and a loud father, Nandini had never found it relevant to know what was ahead. Even when she chose to do an undergraduate degree in Commerce instead of the more preferred Computer Science, she had noticed almost no retaliation from the family. Even when she had announced that she would be working an evening shift from 1PM until 9PM for a company no one had heard of, there was no debate over it. The first time she had arrived in a cab driven by a stranger at 10PM, her mother had opened the door and let her in without asking a word about how her first day had been.

No. There were certainly no questions anywhere. Needless to say, there were no answers either.

The first time Nandini had realized a probable cause was when she had turned 26. Two years after her work had begun. The fact that she had been born under an ‘inauspicious’ star according to her birth chart had vaporized any little hope her parents had had in getting her married to someone. The vermillion smeared faces of several God-men had prophesized the same thing – ‘Terrible star. No hope now. Better wait...’

Nandini now wondered why no ‘peace making’ prayers had been offered to ‘calm down the stars’. And how long was the wait supposed to be? She wondered why no advertisements had been given out to find out if indeed there were people out there who didn’t believe in this kind of thing. She was unsure why there had been absolutely no initiative even when three years later her mother had passed away with the same silence that she had lived all her life in.

Questions – with no one to answer.

But that didn’t help how Nandini felt now. She was 31, working for a dead end job answering calls from all over the world when there was no such thing as ‘her world’ to begin with. There was no one left in the family that she knew of, who would come forward and ask her – for once – What do you want Nandini? For some reason, she felt she had answers now.

This fact fell around her like shattered pieces of her precious years when the cursor blinked on the screen and mocked her. Its constant visible/invisible factor made Nandini realize how similar her life had been – known/unknown. Within her aging gut was a fire no one had cared to explore. Inside her chaotic mind were patterns of words strung together – the ones she called hopes. The ones she labeled dreams.

Dreams of a family, a partner. Images of a whisper in her ear, and a mischievous hug somewhere. Flashes of a kiss on the lips and the gentle squeezing of the hand. Frames of heads on shoulders and tears with a landing pad. A belly filled with a piece of herself growing bigger each month...

These had been things both Savita and Nandini had shared together somewhere in the past. But now…all Savita had were answers and Nandini, well she was just now starting to ask questions.

A scary choke ran down her throat as these thoughts clouded her tired eyes. A stream waiting to erupt and satisfy the greedy and selfish soul bubbled somewhere in between when she suddenly realized – 10:09PM.

She wiped her eyes to get rid off non existent tears and straightened her back. Within the next remaining minute she had typed a three sentence response that captured everything that was appropriate, happy, celebratory and wonderful about life.

She switched off the light in her room as she lay down in bed for the day. As she blinked into the darkness she heard her father starting to cough. She knew it would last a good ten second, so she chose to weep herself free during that time. And then she grieved.

After ten seconds all the worlds had been restored again…for another day.






…ShaKri…

Sunday, September 28, 2008 15 reflections

The Note!



IT WAS QUITE UNSETTLING when Nandini found the note stuck on the large and overwhelmingly brightly lit mirror of the spotless bathroom. The first thing she thought of when she saw Jayant’s sticky note, weirdly enough, was not about the context of the words on that sad little piece of paper, but the location that had been chosen. Being a bride fresh from the honeymoon suite not fifteen days ago, Nandini found it a tad unromantic that her geeky ‘Americanized’ husband – who hated being called ‘hubby’ - would leave a message for her on a partially foggy mirror.

Nevertheless – there it was. Scribbled on a yellow dog eared piece of paper were the three words Nandini had never expected to read the first thing on any day…

‘we gotta talk!’

Being what seemed like a million miles away from her cozy little bedroom in one of Bangalore’s thousands of sleepy neighborhoods with sleepier streets intersecting amid them, Nandini was still coming to terms with the ways of ‘You Yes of Yeah’. She knew Jayant well enough by now to realize it was definitely something important since nothing else could explain the presence of the much adored exclamation mark in it. Many a time she had noticed him making quick notes while speaking on the phone and almost every time, an important string of words would end with the same distinct symbol that brought her grandfather’s tilaka* to mind.

But then there was something scarier about this three word puzzle. Once the waves of sleep had started vanishing from her eyes, she started seeing lines of worry appear on her forehead. A flood of random thoughts popped up as she frowned and started making instant connections.

‘What does he mean ‘talk’? We always talk! Don’t we? I mean, how much more can a couple only 15 days old really talk? And what does he mean ‘we’? Why can’t he say something more meaningful like ‘I need to talk to you’ or something with the word ‘honey’ in it. I thought these Americanized fellows loved calling their wives that. Humph. What big stories I had heard about these people being oh so romantic and what not. And here it is – some stupid note with a message that doesn’t even make sense. And why doesn’t he use those smiley things? I thought these people were addicted to adding emotion to everything they write. At least that way I can know if it was a good thing or not!’

In her head, she had put her grandfather’s tilaka next to each of those statements. Despite her obvious attempt at over simplifying the case as just being the first of thousands of notes she might find in her marriage, she couldn’t help feel a little scared.

Just a little.

And so, to avoid spending the day with speculations longer than her mother’s list of complaints about the price of vegetables, she decided to give him a call.

She spent an hour trying to get hold of him but all she got was his answering machine that seemed to know about the note. There was something in that recorded voice … ‘…you’ve reached Jayant….you know what to do…’ that only amplified the distress in her already worried mind.

‘Do I?’ she pondered as she showered and made piping hot cucumber dosa for breakfast. ‘Do I really know what to do? What if I don’t?’ she continued as the sun rose to the zenith and started his usual descend. She kept toying with the note everywhere she went creating sporadic cobwebs of assumptions and educated guesses. ‘What if I am not the kind of girl he wanted? What if he is unhappy with me? Lord! How bad should I be if he is leaving meaningless and threatening notes in just two weeks? What if he has a wife already! And he wants to talk me into getting her to live with us! Impossible! Where on Earth do men find the courage to do things like this? I will pack my bags and leave if it comes to that. God forbid if he has kids with her…oh…I just want him to be happy…’ Her eyes welled up a little at this thought since her simple upbringing had not involved putting static messages on lifeless mirrors. It had always been about words – seen, spoken, heard. But apparently that was a life she was now no longer part of. This was an alien land with a communication culture that she was having difficulties recognizing, let alone adapting.

Jayant was a simple guy. There was nothing pretentious or self-obsessive about him. Despite having completed his Masters in the states, he still ate only strict South Indian vegetarian food at home and was still crazy about K.L.Saigal’s classics. His Sundays were always filled with ‘diya jalao’ and ‘jab dil hi toot gaya’ that had now started becoming a part of Nandini’s life as well. As much as she didn’t think much of Mr. Saigal or his nasal journey of music, she was beginning to feel glad that Jayant understood the subtleties of the unspoken word. He knew what ‘dil ka tootna’ meant else how could one appreciate that song anyway? Ah…the ideal platform for a solid marriage, she had concluded.

But this note had somehow created a faint yet quite prominent dent on that platform. Being new and inexperienced in the matters of the scribbled word, she was feeling a little shortchanged at this new culture Jayant was trying to introduce. And what a debut! Three simple seeming words but with consequences no mortal mind can accurately fathom.

And so, without a choice or a sign of getting hold of a busy husband, she spent the day pouting. It was probably a little after 6PM, when her pouting stopped and something bigger replaced it – fear.

‘Did you get my note?’ asked Jayant as he removed his tie and started unbuttoning his shirt.

‘Hmm…’ murmured Nandini as she folded his trousers, unsure of what to expect next.

‘Alright,’ said Jayant in a decisive tone and approached a visibly anxious Nandini.

‘I want you to sit down. OK?’ and then she did.

‘Now…I know it can be a touchy issue. And…God knows I have tried to ignore it for a while now…’

His words were starting to pierce her soft exterior. There was something about to surface that Nandini would probably scream at – but from within.

‘…and I want you to know how much this will mean to me…to us…are you with me?’

Nandini nodded.

‘It’s just that…’ and he got up to face the window ‘…I work really hard all day. And I am so exhausted at the end of it. I think its reasonable to ask for some comfort after that, right?’

Nandini nodded again, unsure.

‘…And I know…you must be embarrassed about it but listen, you don’t have to be. It’s a pretty standard thing these days. You’ll be fine in a matter of weeks and ….Jeez…God knows I’ve had to work my words to talk to you about it. And so…’

Saying this he pulled out a brochure from his briefcase and handed it to his pale looking wife.

‘…George knows this really great place and he says it’s a sure thing. We just need to make sure you are OK with this though. It will take a few weeks, he says, but its gonna work. So…what do you think?’

And there it was – written in bright red colors against a white and vanilla background attached to the fading image of a sleeping woman - ‘WILLINGTON’S SLEEP CLINIC – your one stop spot to drive away snoring problems’.




..ShaKri..
© Copyright 2008. All right reserved.


* Religious mark on the forehead primarily worn by Hindus / Brahmins
Thursday, September 11, 2008 4 reflections

Between 11

WHEN SOMEONE IS EXHAUSTED beyond hope, bizarre things attract that person’s attention. Sights and associated metaphors that otherwise would have had no meaning, suddenly start to seem relevant. They start to get a context. Such an instance happened to me on the way back from work today.

So my day began at 6AM and after five meetings (one of which lasted 2 ½ hours and was on the phone with a developer in the United States), my watch still showed 6. As I later realized it was 6PM. I felt like flinging it under the Metro rail for being so true all the time. But I could not blame the innocent watch for my dying spirit. I could not even accuse it for causing the mind numbing sprain around my right shoulder blade. Somehow, in the desperate attempt to get home and find sanity, I dragged myself into the very busy and ridiculously overcrowded underground interiors of the Metro.

Being a weekday, this place gets bombarded with human entities between 4PM and 7PM. A time when everyone is either getting back to their nest or traveling to the airport (the last stop of that line) with their baggage on squeaky wheels. As I patiently waited for the neon sign to say ‘½ minute arrival time’ I couldn’t help noticing a crescendo of growing human breathes behind me. I was certain that they would push me into the train the moment the automatic doors hissed open so I stood guard to ensure I didn’t get hurt. Or more importantly, didn’t hurt anyone else in the process.

It finally arrived and the doors slid open welcoming a tiny streak of impatient heads attached to uncertain bodies. As we headed in I realized finding a seat was a lost cause since getting a spot to stand was becoming a challenge. I had never seen this train so crowded. What was the matter? I wondered.

As the driverless metro service chugged past grim cement corridors in the tunnel, I looked around me to find dull, bored, emotionless faces hanging low and trying to avoid eye contact. With every pull and shove of the machine, people would quickly readjust themselves to avoid any sort of body contact with the person standing just millimeters away from them. And just like that, somewhere between Christianshavn and Amagerbro … I noticed it.

I was standing holding one of the two yellow bars attached to the automated door and above me was a set of about four other hands clasping the same metal bar. As I tilted my head I noticed a collection of four more unique human hands holding on to the yellow bar at the other end of the door as if their life depended on it. What struck me as weird was not the fact that people were somehow waiting impatiently for their stop to get out of this human pool, but the fact that the collection of hands seemed like a Benetton Ad. Every possible shade was there from around the world – mine, Indian – Caucasian, Latino-looking, Oriental, African, Middle Eastern! So many different races – one bar to hold. I smiled at myself at how a simple thing like public transport had, for a brief moment, brought so many different civilizations into such intimate proximity. We all had to hold on to the bars to avoid losing balance and that was what made it unique. Our unity between those bars was what was keeping us safe, it seemed. I smiled at being so silly and blamed my exhaustion from the day for such weird thoughts.

It was when I got off at my stop did it finally dawn on me – nine different hands on two bars. Two bars standing apart, like the number eleven – 11. I shook my head in disbelief at that odd arrangement. Nine and eleven.

9/11.




..ShaKri..

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 2 reflections

A Wednesday in a lifetime

IT IS TRUE WHAT THEY SAY about greatness. It is always meant to be. No amount of planning or foresight or pundits with beards longer than their hands can ever truly make someone something one is not. If one is destined to be great – one is. Most times one wonders how much more one has to shout and scream so that people can take notice while other times…well, other times silences creep in so beautifully that we hardly recognize them and something breathe taking has already been created.

Before, dear reader, the assumption is made that I am off on a track quite abstract to the common man – ah, that word suddenly sounds so powerful – let me underline the topic I have chosen. I was browsing through my usual collection of review websites when I happened to get a glimpse of one interesting review. It was for a movie I had never heard of. Neither had I ever seen any publicity posters of it nor had I guessed it would feature two of my all time favorites – Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher. The fact that no one else, except maybe the highly underestimated Jimmy Shergill, was even remotely recognizable on the credit list apart from these three did not deter me from giving it a shot. Bollywood these days is being showered with ‘alternate’ cinema that runs a delicate line between commercial masala-fundas and the documentary type approaches. In such a rain it is easy to miss some true refreshingly different rain drops. Having shied away from such features for a while, I decided to give this a look-see since I knew Naseer and Anupam would definitely make it worth my time. With that random assumption, I began watching ‘A Wednesday’.

Two hours later…I was going through a very rare feeling. I did not understand it initially since it had been such a long time but then, I knew. It was the same bunch of emotions I had felt when I had seen the climax of ‘The Sixth Sense’. It was the same ‘Oh wow!’ feeling that had pierced my veins as the final few minutes of ‘The Usual Suspects’ drowned in my eyes. It was the very unique gut sense of genuine enthusiasm I had felt when I finally understood ‘Momento’ in its last frame.

But, this time it was different. I had never felt such a tingle in my heart for a Hindi movie in many years. Sure, I have had my share of laughs and appreciation for some decent Indian cinema over the years, but there was never anything in them that made me say to myself ‘…he is so right…this could happen to me too…today…tomorrow…any day…’ since there was never any context. What ‘A Wednesday’ successfully did was pick me up from my starry eyed slumber and slap a ‘REALITY CHECK’ sticker on my face. It reminded me of the times we are part of. It made me wonder about my own life and how unsure things are in the world we live in. It, if not anything else, made me think.

I am sure people often sigh and yawn about movies that make them ‘think’ since it is exactly the opposite reason of why one would watch a movie. No one wants to see relevant issues these days. There is a huge fan following for the larger than life, escapist features which come and go every week. We Indians, the world’s best consumers, lap it up in all our glee not caring about if it had anything to do with our life. Why? Since it does not matter. It never does, does it?

But then how long can we keep doing this? Once in a while we do need that refreshing slap on the face that makes us realize who we really are. And what a wonderful slap this was! No better way to bring me back to reality than a movie like this one. I was applauding myself for having taken a chance and seen one of the most relevant movies of our times. A silent yet beautiful effort at capturing human emotion on the screen. To summarize in one word – great.

Do yourself a favor – watch ‘A Wednesday’. A must see for every Indian according to me. If not anything else it will definitely catch you by surprise! I strongly recommend this movie to everyone who has ever sat back and said ‘I wish things were different…’


..ShaKri..

For those interested, here is the trailer of this movie –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI3E1jneWvg
 
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