Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Destiny of Dinosaurs

A friend passionately recommended Jurassic Park, the book. Of course, like every other child, I had watched the film earlier. But, the book is my friend's all-time favourite. And, so, I plunged into it. (Perhaps, I lied. I started rather reluctantly. Sorry, K.)

But, I must admit. I wanted to slap whoever tried talking to me while I was reading it. I wanted to keep my phone switched off till I finished it. I wanted Boo and Calvin to keep quiet for a couple of days. The book was... so fucking absorbing. Intriguing. You may use every nice adjective here.

For some reason, I didn't want to write a traditional review in my book-blog. I wanted to try something impish.

Since the time, I began reading the book, the tagline on the book's cover kept crossing my mind.

"In the future there will be dinosaurs!"

How different our world would be, if there were dinosaurs now? Or, how different our lives would be, if there were dinosaurs in India?

You are going to be heavily disappointed if you are expecting anything philosophical, or rational here. I am going for something light and silly.

If there were dinosaurs in Chennai, and if they weren't a threat to us...
  • Humans would include one more day to Pongal holidays. Dinosaur Pongal. Who doesn't need an extra day off.
  • Something like jallikaatu would be held for dinosaurs. No prize for guessing that actor Raj Kiran would tame the dinosaurs. And remember the patta-pattis, okay.
  • People, who visit pottikadais, would buy a couple of butter biscuits, and feed the dinosaurs on roads. I am sure the animals would be slobbering. I kind of find that image awww.
  • Government would ban dinosaurs's meat. Then the Facebook activists would post pictures of them attacking Dinosaur 65 and Lollipop Dinosaur.
  • Director Shankar would make films with dinosaurs. He would make them wear skimpy clothes and make them dance to the tunes of AR Rahman. And, you know who would be the hero. Our very own Ramarajan. It's okay if Maybelline and Loreal would have to manufacture more lipsticks. The film's title would be... erm... Ko Dina Engal Kula Dina.
  • Like cows and buffaloes, dinosaurs would zen-walk on roads, eating posters and leftovers in garbage yards, and taking monstrous dumps everywhere. Nice
  • Animal Welfare organisations would allow dinosaurs to share their shelters. They would be put up for adoption. Humans would name them Tiger, Tommy, Ramu, Mani, Blackie... and feed them curd rice. (If I had one, I would pamper her -- from buying squeaky toys to letting her sleep on my bed. And, I would NOT tie her up when scared visitors drop by. Learn to pet a dinosaur, man. Please!)
  • Dinosaurs would learn to cross roads in a self-aware manner. But, humans still wouldn't bother trying. 
  • And, finally, The New York Times would write about the queer lives of dinosaurs in Chennai and Steven Spielberg would read that article and suffer a cardiac arrest.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Sunny Day: Of cliches and cleavages

Today, till 10 am, I was sulking. There was no purpose to life. I was reading The Trumpet of the Swan, and that's when my best friend pinged, "Movie polaama? Ek Paheli Leela? Sunny Leone's film?" A conundrum surfaced. The Trumpet of the Swan (a children's book) or Sunny Leone's film? I have never watched Sunny Leone's movies... erm... mainstream movies. So, I said yes.

I was excited. I was curious to know how Sunny Leone would look in regular movies. I quickly stuffed my face with Tamil New Year's Day special saapaad and rushed to Sathyam Cinemas. Damn! I was 10 minutes late. Stamping 10 pair of feet in the dark, I went to our corner. While I sank in my seat, my friend said, "You missed Sunny Leone's introduction scene..." Fuck! My universe collapsed. My life lost its purpose again. I was mad at myself for stealing my own little pleasure. But, I am trying to be pragmatic these days. Hence, I decided to be happy with what I could see further. In truth, my excitement wasn't extinguished. My God! My first Sunny Leone film at a regular theatre. And, it was houseful. Everybody loves Sunny Leone no? Okay, maybe, secretly!

Right! So, how was Ek Paheli Leela? (Loads of spoilers here.)

Talaash was the last Hindi film I watched. If a colleague didn't spoil it, I wouldn't have learnt that Kareena Kapoor was the ghost. Because I understand just about a couple of phrases in Hindi. Like tum, pyaar, mujhe, paagal, hum aapke hain khon, kuch kuch hota hai, dil chata hai... Get it? My inability to comprehend the language didn't thwart me from watching Ek Paheli Leela. After all, it's a Sunny Leone film man? Who wants to pay attention to words?

On the other hand, it's not the usual Sunny-Leone-film that you watch on those 'You' websites (of course!). Ideally, there should have been a story, screenplay, and some dialogues. Ek Paheli Leela has all of it too. But, it can be noticed only when Sunny Leone is not shoving her cleavage in your face. That happens in the last 15 minutes, because she marries a Rajput prince and becomes a bahu of sorts. She wears designer salwar that reminds me of nighties. Something like this.

The funniest aspect is this: Indian cinema will make Sunny Leone a kudumba vilakku too, if she gets married. (Not judging her here. But, just highlighting the absurdities in film industries.)

The story is also reminiscent of Anegan. Like some of the important characters still remember their previous lives. Sunny Leone too reincarnates. But, it doesn't really matter. She wears super skimpy clothes in every reincarnation, and in each life there is cleavage galore. At one point in time, I felt suffocated. Because there is just too much cleavage. Why the fuck did they even bother writing a story, when they could have managed the show by playing 10 songs of Sunny Leone flaunting her cleavage? My friend was upset that her favourite song - Glamarous Ankhiyaan - was not used completely in the film. That director had one job. Sigh!

Sunny Leone is a super model, living in London, in Ek Paheli Leela. Her friends con her into flying to India by lying that they were going to an Airport themed restaurant. Because she has the fear of flying. They make her down numerous shots, and the naive lady believes them too. What a twist! How intelligent! But, the stony-faced man beside me doesn't wink, doesn't move. His eyes are fixed on her.. erm... cleavage. No surprise there!

Then a lot more things happen. The film doesn't worry about plot and all that. It has got Sunny Leone and it is all that matters. In her current life, Sunny Leone wears a lot of dresses, which have got windows close to her neck. One can look out of the window... no! Actually, one can look inside the window and find the very thing that we are discussing now. Am I now objectifying a woman? But, man, it's an erotica. I don't want to think that I am watching KR Vijaya or Ramya Krishnan play amman right?

In her previous life, Sunny Leone is that super hot, horny, village belle. And, she wears a skirt like the one that Sivaji Ganesan wore in Kandhan Karunai. Have you seen it? Like this.

All the women in her village appear normal. But Sunny Leone looks like she has viagara as three square meals everyday. But, I shouldn't complain. If Sunny Leone played a Revathy or Vidya Balan, why should my stony-faced neigbour come to a theatre to watch a Sunny Leone film? His mobile Internet should suffice.

There are myriad flaws in the film. However, that doesn't matter. After I watched Ek Paheli Leela, a realisation dawned one me: Story becomes superfluous in a Sunny Leone film because of the very brand called Sunny Leone. It's as simple as that!

Monday, April 13, 2015

What I Talk About When I Talk About Walking

The virtual world now knows that I walked 5K at a marathon yesterday. My virtual friends sent me ponnaadais, poochendus, and bro-hugs online. A couple of close friends couldn't stop raving about my 'feat'. "Proud of you, Deepika! Way to go!" all of them said. A good friend went a bit overboard. "I am not surprised at all. You can do more!" he observed. (He didn't know that I might not have returned home if I had walked 21K. Because of ambulance, Apollo and all that.) Anyway, I accepted all the compliments. Perhaps, sheepishly.

I was a bit more glad, as Milind Soman flagged off the marathon. M i l i n d S o m a n. Milind Soman. Okay, I should stop before Boo drowns in my sea of slobber. Also, Milind Soman had two advices for the runners. (I was a walker. But, who wouldn't listen to Milind Soman, man. Please.)

His advices:
"First timers, take it easy!" - Whatever that meant!
"Make exercise a part of your life..." - Point. 

I reminded myself again: Exercise will be a part of my life henceforth. Not just because Milind Soman advised, but also because a friend warned of severing everything between us, if I fail to look after myself anymore. For some reason, she thinks I might kick the bucket at 35, and she might have to prepare herself to deal with the loss. Sigh! But, point.

Above all, I had that moment. That moment when I sat straight, looked around, thought of everybody who loves me, launched a heavy slap on my face, and yelled at myself, "Why the fuck won't you care for yourself, moron!"

So, I reckoned that the marathon was like an unofficial beginning. 

But, after I went to bed last night, my memories assaulted me. 

I saw images of me doing floor exercises at Slimline Gym nine years ago.
Just when I was beginning to feel sad about not being allowed to use a fancy elliptical trainer because I was too heavy, Dr Jalaja told me I should stop gymming. Asthma attack. Dr Jalaja said I could resume in a couple of months. But, I ignored that part of her advice. (I liked using that name. Jalaja.)

I saw images of me panting on a manual treadmill at an all-male gym seven years ago.
I quit because I dropped the gym-ball on my trainer's head. Of course, accidentally. I couldn't apologise because I had a fit of laughter. And, I never went again. I saw that man once after the disaster. So, he had survived.

I saw images of me trying to row faster at Pink three years ago.
Since the elite-women discussed their bra-sizes too many times everyday, I quit. (Thus, I always could blame others. Conveniently!)

The mishmash of images formed a face. A face with knitted eyebrows, and clenching teeth. That nameless thing shot an accusatory glance. Then, the misty face broke into a sardonic smile. It stifled a yawn and asked me, "So, you have started again? But, this stunt is not going to last long, is it?" 

Fine. I exaggerated. But, it was that kind of a cynical, discouraging thought. One of those times when one chooses to not believe oneself because of the ghosts from the past. Then, I recalled that moment, when a friend told me about preparing herself to deal with my death. That moment, when I chose to not ruin my loved ones's happiness. That moment, when I thought I should do it for myself. After all! 

Later, I vowed to myself that I shouldn't let my shoes be covered by cobwebs. When I swore, I heard the ghost say, "A stunt again?

I told the ghost something in a polite manner. "You would never know! You might be exorcised."

There are also those times, when one surprises oneself by doing the very things one once detested. Because...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Why I Would Never Go to Majayaal Again

I realised it's been ages since I wrote anything funny. I mean, mildly funny. I have been writing serious stuff. About childhood memories and why Padukone kept yelling, "My choice!" and all that. So, I have decided to write about a series of strange things that happened yesterday. They were frustrating, yet funny in some ways.

Disclaimer: Everything you read here is true, and definitely not a figment of my imagination. Thank you.

At 3.45 pm yesterday, I left home to watch Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkiradhu at Mayajaal. The multiplex is 14 kilometers away from my place. But, the ride was great. It wasn't too hot. It was pleasantly windy. I liked the evening sun. About 10 minutes into my smooth ride, I wanted to post a status on Facebook. Some cliche like, "Wind in the hair..." Then, I remembered, I was wearing a helmet. And, I have promised to a friend that I won't check my phone, while riding. So, I halfheartedly dropped the idea. It took just about 25 minutes to reach Mayajaal. I was sad that the ride ended. I wanted to go longer. Maybe, till Mahabalipuram. But I had work to do - reviewing Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkiradhu. Sigh!

Till I reached the theatre, I wasn't sure if the film would release. I was told that the show might be cancelled. Because, only five tickets were sold. I went to the counter, and asked an employee, "Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkiradhu show irukka?" She was nervous for reasons that I couldn't comprehend. Women usually think I am a man, and maintain one-arm distance from me. But, I was wearing a kurta yesterday. A kurta that women wear. However, the employee was still nervous. "Enna padam madam?" she asked. Man, why would anybody give such a LONG title to a movie. I said the film's name again. She became more nervous, turned to her colleague, and asked, "Annan, andha Bobby Singhaa padam odudhaa?" The lean man at the next counter shot an incredulous look at me. "Andha padama?" he laughed. "Odudhu. Odudhu. Ponga. Ponga," he said, stifling a giggle. I don't like when people laugh and refuse to say what made them laugh. "Madam, thaniyaa paakireengala?" the girl asked. When I nodded, the young man said, "Appo, enjoy pannunga!" I didn't ask tickets for Paapa Potta Thaapaa or something no? I had no fucking clue about why they laughed. I snatched my ticket from them, and rushed to Screen 14.

The owners of Mayajaal don't like Screen 14, I suppose. It's hidden in a corner, and the hall smelt of every bad stuff I couldn't name. Cinema halls in Mayajaal usually smell bad. Every once in a while, rats say hello. But, Screen 14 was the most deplorable.

I was 10 minutes early. Unlike Sathyam Cinema, adverts are not screened at Mayajaal. Watching jewellery ads that throw pompous ass words at you, is a lot better than seeing a dark room. I began to hear rats screeching. I was sure that bugs were making their way into my bag. People started coming in. There were about 15 people in the theatre. And, a couple dropped themselves in the seats beside me. Their adventures began.

She removed her dupatta, carefully folded it, and put it in her bag. They placed their helmet and bags next to my feet. It was still dark, and I heard the first strange noise. Pichuk. Then I heard more. Pichuk. Pichooook. Such loud kissers! When the sound reached its crescendo, I turned, and saw them over my shoulders. I didn't throw an accusatory glance. I promise! I was plainly curious. Without warning, the hall was lit, because "Enna dhaan aachu nam naatukku..." was screened. The man, who removed his hand from a spot that I choose not to name (sorry to keep you guessing!), shook his head like questioning me. "Neengellam idhu panna maateengala?" he asked. I ignored his question, and looked at the screen. There was no noise afterwards, but my chair shook. Several times. I couldn't complain.

Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkiradhu was so directionless, as though the director, who had multiple stories in mind, was indecisive about which one he wanted to film, and ended up including a bit from every story. It was random. So random like reading the text on a paper that we use to remove oil from bajjis. I was beginning to feel slightly upset for watching a dud again. That's when someone's phone rang.

It wasn't kasamusa couple's. (I think they were tired of making love. So, they chose to watch the film for a while.) The phone belonged to a man, who sat behind me. Before answering the phone, I heard him say, "Ayyo, machi, wife phone panra da. Enna soltum. Padathukku vanthurukkennu avalukku theriyadhu." His friend offered a sage advice. "Meeting-la irukkey-nu message pannu." Till the time they arrived at a suitable decision, the man didn't think of silencing the phone. It kept ringing. I am sure it was a Korean phone. Kalyaana Maalai Kondaadum Penne... was the ringtone. The man was probably ignoring his 'Gowri'. Shit, for once, I wasn't ashamed of myself for eavesdropping. But no! They were really loud.

The couple next to me seemed okay for a while. I settled comfortably to watch the film, although it was shitty.

Then, it was time for a break. The couple went out and came back with puffs, black-forest cakes... a handful of snacks. I think they do everything in excess. Okay. Never mind! The men, who sat behind me discussed, "Machi, oru dhummu dhaanda irukku. Seri, share vuttukklaam!" Their public display of mustafa-mustafa seemed a bit too much. But, everything appeared normal. Finally, I thought I could watch the second half in peace. In a second, I was taught that it was too much to expect.

A brawl broke out.

The couple stopped munching the snacks, the mustafa boys stopped discussing their wives, and two more couples, who were ensconced in corners sat straight. "Otha, naanum paakuren, darru burrunu korattai vidra..." scowled a man in one of the front rows. He was livid, and employed beautiful Tamil swear words. And, he sounded admirably natural, when he uttered those words. "Olagatha marakkanumnu dhaan inga vaarom... Ingaiyum vandhu, summa darru burrunu korattai vittugunu..." he scolded his neighbour, who was still half-asleep. Bobby Simhaa was on screen again. But, the men were oblivious to it. The angry man was more pissed because the sleepy man didn't apologise. "Manners therdha unugu?" he asked. Finally, the sleepy man chose to speak. "Naan enna darru burrunu kusu vuttu naasthi pannena..." The angry man became angrier. "Oh! Otha, adhu vera pannuviya nee? Koopduba andha ticket kizhikkara paiyana..." he told his friend. Bobby Simhaa was shedding buckets of tears in the film. The men didn't want to think of that sad man on screen. The war of words went on for a long while. The usher came in.

"Koratta vuttugune irukaanba ivan," said the angry man. The usher - a young boy - couldn't manage the situation. "Anna anna please na! Vutrungana!" he beseeched. The snorer was silent, and the angry man was still furious. However, something changed his mood. Maybe, it was the poor face of the usher. "Ayyo! Panjaayathukku ivana koopta ivan nammala edho vuda solraan. Thambi, adhu dhaan prechanai. Ivan over-ah vudraan..." Those 15 people in the theatre, including yours truly, burst out laughing. The sleepy man was later asked to vacate his seat.

And... and... and... he sat right beside me.

He went back to slumber, and rendered a snore-song. Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varverkiradhu was getting more terrible, and so, the couple went back to doing what they liked doing. He snored more. My chair shook harder. And, I couldn't endure that shit anymore. So, I got up and sat in another seat. I could still hear somebody snore. I leaned forward and found the angry man now snoring away to glory. I wanted to borrow his words. "Otha, appo enna mayithukku da sanda poteenga!"

An hour later, I bumped into that couple at the parking lot. They ignored me. But, I will never forget them. As he unlocked the bike, the man said, "Kovalam polama? Anga innum konjam privacy irukkum." I was like, "Innuma!"

So, they went South to do more stuff. And, I went North, with a puzzling thought on mind: Which weird soornam or laigyam could motivate a couple to that level! They couldn't wait to reproduce another India, man!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What Rain Did To A Child

For dad's birthday, I wrote a quick status message on Facebook yesterday. I thanked him for everything, but for some reason, I thanked him more for making me bunk school on rainy days. Later, I realised, a blog was lying in that post.

I am a pluviophile. Rainy days can have a great impact on my outlook. Just like every other rain-lover, I whine about going to work when it pours down. I would want to curl up at home, read a nice book, and generally feel content. It makes me immensely sad to do anything mundane when it rains. On such unkind days, I try to feel better by reminiscing about the way I used to delight in rainy days, when I was in school, when all I had to do was enjoy the weather, and when life was incredibly simple.

There is something comforting about lounging on the bed for a while, before actually waking up. The feeling appears only more pleasant on cold, rainy days - to keep lying on the bed, listening to the torrential rain that patters against the windows, and to bask in the thought that 'a long day lies ahead, and that it's all mine.'

When I was in school, even before I could raise from my bed, dad would tell me, "It's okay. Sleep more. You need not go to school today. Relax at home." Most mornings, I would wake up to see him applying cologne on his carefully shaven face. If I jumped from my bed fast and ran to him, he would sprinkle some cologne on my palm too. Such a lovely, unforgettable fragrance! Shuffling my legs, I would smile at him to pour more, and he would always indulge me.

Sometimes, I would make subtle protests when I was not allowed to go to school on rainy days. "Appa, I might miss the Mathematics class. It's important. I must go..." He would smile naughtily. "I was told that government has declared holiday. Don't fret," he would say. Although I was a child, I always knew that it was a lie. But, I chose not to protest further. After all, it was his way of caring for us.

Regardless of the kind of clothes I used to wear on rainy days, I would always keep myself warm by sporting granddad's sweater vest, even if it wasn't really cold. A mischievous rat had eaten a small piece of the sweater. I never really gave a damn. The sweater vest was black, charmingly vintage, and I was madly in love with it. Whenever my sister and I wore it, mum would offer her brightest smile. It was her dad's belonging. I would also go a bit overboard by wearing a pair of my favourite socks.

I was never a lover of breakfast. So, I would wolf down an early lunch. Then, I would go out, and stand at the threshold for a long while, gazing at the grey sky, and colourless rain. On such occasions, gazing meant gazing. Thoughts would never go astray. As a little child then, I wouldn't have known how Zennish such moments could have been. In retrospect, I realise how rain had inspired a child to just be.

Around noon, I would sprawl in front of the TV. There was a channel that telecast old Tamil movies every afternoon. I was the kind of child, who watched a lot of Discovery, National Geographic, and Tamil movies. Even then, I was a sucker for classics. Sampoorna Ramayanam, Poompuhaar, Kandhan Karunai, Nenjil Oor Aalayam, Kadhalikka Neramillai, Iru Kodugal, and many such old films were watched. Guilt never enveloped me for bunking school, and watching movies that were beyond my age, because dad wanted his children home. (I was prone to too many infections then, and he always chose to prevent.)

By 5 pm, mum would make some delicious snacks. Thattai, Thenkozhal, and such munchies. After the taste-buds were sated, I would go to the terrace, and find shapes in the clouds. I would retire at 9.30 pm again. Despite doing nothing (technically), I would fall asleep in no time.

There was nothing striking about those days. I might have done what most children would do on rainy days. Maybe, I am just romanticizing and glorifying the past. But, what looks extraordinary is that the liberty I enjoyed, the ability to be happy, carefree, and sleep with a silent mind. I was not laden with the onus of managing myself. I didn't have to wake up and rush to work the next day. The days seemed more peaceful, and the nights seemed longer. Life, in general, seemed blissful. Perhaps, it was just the rain. Or, was it the childhood?

I finished reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane a couple of weeks ago, and I am still nursing a hangover. I particularly love this passage that goes with the theme I have just explored.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Choice: Too Facile

Before you proceed to read my rant here, let me reiterate that I don't intend to hurt your sentiments.

Since the time I started to blog, I always drew immense pleasure from writing about animals, and gender equality. I have almost stopped exploring the latter these days, for the theme is quite misunderstood, carelessly discussed, and I have also become a bit ambivalent about some views. But, I chose to write a quick blog because I watched the video - Vogue's My Choice, starring Deepika Padukone and 98 more women.

Okay, the video seems stylish. 99 women appear in less than three minutes. But, I only remember how Padukone looks, because she keeps appearing often, with her hair that has a life of its own. There are a couple of old ladies and tribal women, whose inclusion looks evidently staged. And, like Chandrima Pal mentioned in her piece, the video can very well pass as an advert for shampoo or sanitary napkins. Not that the adverts are well- thought-out lately, but the video appears facile.

So, why was Padukone chosen to lead? I understand that a Bollywood celebrity has volunteered for what is billed as a cause. Quite welcoming. But, what is the significance really? Why should I feel motivated when she tells me that I am empowered, and that I can make my own choices? What is her story? If she has one, is that inspiring? Why is she removing her clothes? Sorry, if I am getting too cynical here, but there seems to be a spike in the number of mediocre videos going viral on social media, and I really don't understand why most of it are widely shared.

I don't know who wrote that monologue which Padukone renders, but I have too many problems with the writing. A video funded by Vogue tells me that it's okay to be size 15. How many fashion magazines carry photos of obese women as cover pictures? And, don't they give tips to achieve hour-glass figure? How hypocritical is that!

The writing sounds superficial, and self-important at several junctures, and Padukone's tone is accusatory, making her sound misandrist. Sample these lines:

To have sex before marriage... and sex outside marriage 
To love temporarily... or to lust forever
I mean, marriage involves two people right? But, is it okay to act all for myself and not think of my significant other, just because it's my choice? Doesn't the understanding emerge through dialogues? Just because I choose to have sex outside marriage, I certainly don't become free-spirited and strong-willed.

Remember, you are my choice... I am not your privilege
The second part makes sense. I agree. But what does the first part mean? I am my partner's choice too right, if that's the case? What does one try to imply with such confounding writing that seems extraordinary to so many?

Remember the bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to my name, they are all ornaments. They can be replaced, my love for you cannot. So treasure that.
In the beginning, she says it's her choice to love temporarily. And in a little while, she says her love cannot be replaced. So contradicting! It sounds like an inebriated, confused person, purging out negative emotions that are bottled up.

It even seems superfluous to mention that gender equality issues have to be addressed at micro-levels, and not just by releasing some sloppily made videos. More than the pseudo-feminist videos and stories that are shared these days, a few films of K Balachander and Visu explored gender equality quite impressively. They didn't need a pretty-looking Padukone, a fancy camera, and some flawed philosophy (I'm the universe...) to narrate stories from women's perspectives. A naive housewife, a confused lover, a battered nurse... they all could tell us what women needed. More precisely, their stories championed individualism. The women in such stories didn't really go tom-tomming about their lame choices all right. Please!

End of rant. It's time to watch a cat video. Thank you. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Friend Named K

K. I met her last year, during an insane phase of my life. I was sulking like Winky from Harry Potter, and that's when she started to walk along, offering the much-needed companionship. Without realising that I was building the foundation to a beautiful relationship, I began befriending her - K, my Winnie-The-Pooh, my McGonagall, my Hermione, my Charlotte, and sometimes, my Hagrid.

Usually, I don't blog about my friends, and gush about how much I love them. But it's K's birthday today. So, I am breaking my own rules. And, K is really special to me all right! Hence, I am listing everything that I love about her. (K, I have been OD'ing on Buzzfeed. So, forgive me for this list. A personal note about a lot of nicer things would reach you soon.)

Here are five reasons why everybody (at least, weirdos like me) needs a friend like K:

1. If I were marooned in an island, and had a cell phone that has enough signal strength, I would still send a text - save me - to my rescuers. I can't make/answer calls to save my life. Like literally. So, why would I not fall in love with a girl, who doesn't phone me at all, but still gives me great company through messages? Why would I not fall in love with a girl, who makes an effort to use proper English even in text messages? (Her 'you' is not 'u'.) At times, she would never think twice before typing a long essay on Viber. I had waited for that kind of a friend all my life; a friend who wouldn't expect me to answer calls. Phew! If there's a God, that guy heard my prayers!

2. Till I met K, I was listening to songs like I am a little star... Aaven naan super star. (No offence to STR fans okay?) Then she sends a couple of songs on WhatsApp, and starts discussing different genres of music. In a few months, I go to a pub and yell at the DJ to play Above & Beyond's Sun and Moon, set my ringtone to Coldplay's 42, and arm-twist another friend into listening to Tom Odell's Another Love. A good friend and good music can change the way one looks at life. Really!

3. While reading, have you ever felt like reading some passages over and over again, and sharing it with best friends, only to invite different views and discuss more? I suffer from that illness. I spam K's inbox with myriad of random quotes and stories. She would patiently read, initiate a healthy conversation, and also read all the books that I want to marry. The trade takes place, when we stumble upon animals's pictures too. Because she knows I love seeing dogs being dogs, and pandas doing interpretive dance. (I know. I am lucky. Thank you.) Also, I am aware that, photos of poonsies fill her eyes with hearts. (A quick advice: Never lose a friend, who loves animals and books.)

4. I have been blogging since 2008, and the number of followers here is less than my nephew's age. (He is 9. If you were wondering...) I promote my articles on social media, but they don't meet a lot of readers. And then, K discovered my blog, read all my stories, and wrote some encouraging comments. That day, I knew I could die peacefully. Since the time she found my blog, she has read all that I have written. (Well, almost.) Most importantly, she gives me honest feedback - shitty stories are shitty. A sincere reader means a great deal to an aspiring writer like me.  

5. I laugh with her heartily, cracking jokes at our expense. I talk to her about my dark secrets, nightmares, struggles, fears, mistakes, desires... She listens, offers, debates, questions, and she makes a genuine effort to know me more. But she never judges. Never. (Sorry about these long lists. I am a sucker for listeners and people who care to question.) And, I know my secrets would die with her. You may make Snape read her mind. He would, maybe, just see two cats being Zennish there.  

Quite often, I wonder if I deserve all that love from her. Like always, EB White's Charlotte's Web had an answer. Knowing her, she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked. "I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you."

"You have been my friend," replied Charlotte. "That in itself is a tremendous thing."

(Happy birthday, K. There are more reasons and I am saving it for next year. Okay. Bye.) 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Confessions of an Ajith-fan

9.30 PM, Devi Theatre, Circa 1996. After a horrific ride on our TVS Champ that grudgingly helped to transport two adults, one teenager, and a chubby child to the theatre, I settled to watch Kadhal Kottai. Thanks to Father, who watched over three films a week those days, I often found myself in city's theatres (even on schooldays). There were no butter popcorn and doughnuts then, mind. But vegetable pups were not that bad.

Beside the snoring Mother, and the enthusiastic Sister, I watched this film. About a couple, who kept writing letters, and fell in love with each other. There weren't many details I could remember about the film (save the camels). No, for some reason I remembered the horny Heera too. Weird. That was the first Ajith film I watched in theatre.

In the next few years, several 'Kadhal...' films were watched, and there was no Ajith in it. However, there was this stud of a channel called Sun Movies. It telecast some 'gems' like Amaravathi, Aasai, Vaanmathi, Pavithra, Minor Mappillai... All the terrible (well, almost!) movies of Ajith that only a kind, jobless soul like me would remember. And, for reasons that escaped my memory, I became a fan of Ajith. You must judge me here!

Let's face it. He was fair and handsome. (I had no clue about his acting prowess though.) But I was a wee bit judgmental then, I suppose. No, maybe more. He was way different than the usual ones in the industry. At least, in my mind. He wore funny jeans, and loose shirts. It still didn't bother me much. He overacted. Let's say 40% of what Sivaji Ganesan would do. Still, it didn't bother me much. Father would narrate stories of him being a naughty womaniser, and hardworking and all that. (Of course, I overheard Father.) Passed no rude judgement yet.

Then, Ajith acted in many strange, cringe-worthy films. Like in Uyirodu Uyiraga, he had some brain disease, and did his wife's delivery all by himself. (Really? Unsure if I am even framing that sentence correctly.) His Saroja-Devi kind of acting in Vaali was unforgettable. Unforgettable in a bad way. I also suffered a lot to uproot my memory of that song - Indru Mudhal Iravu. Eek! Hey, but I was an Ajith loyalist still.

Then came the time, when he slowly started to become Thala. And that was it. He had almost lost a die-hard fan. (Blame it on my age too. I was growing up, I guess. And I developed an aversion to run-of-the-mill ones. Maybe. Just maybe.)

Imagine watching the excruciating films like Jana, Aalwar, Attagasam, Anjaneya, Kireedam, Aegan... Did I mention Citizen, Varalaaru, and Villain? I dutifully refrained from watching all the duds to preserve my memory of the man, and the times when the actor and his films seemed good to me. However, I was not the one to watch Cartoon Network or Discovery Channel or the other English ones. So, I ended up watching the very duds that I tried avoiding, and gathered myself to start loathing the man, and his films. It was official!

Mankatha and Arrambam were not as bad as the other ones. But they were still bad. (How many friends am I going to lose for saying this?) Oh, and that little shit Veeram... What the fuck was that!

And... Several years after I had given up on the man, Yennai Arindhaal happened, restoring all the faith I seemed to have had once. He was super handsome. (Ahem! Ahem!) And, after ages, the man had had the chutzpah to act in a film that showed its middle finger to 'Thala' fans. It seemed to have helped the actor rediscover himself, for fans like... erm... me, who liked him as an artiste, and who reckoned that his right side (that little potential) was not tapped. (Did I just say that?) The film was okayish. (And I wanted to shoot the inner goddess of Anushka. Annoying, horny bitch!) But, what a revelation it was to see Ajith as the director's actor. And, what a relief it was to not watch him shake a leg with the ladies (Fab India customers, I suppose), and mouth punchlines... and be glorified by his side-kicks! Where was this actor all this while?

And, if he would go back to do those terrible ones again... Oh, we always have other ways to watch shitty films.

Image courtesy:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Strange Party

As we alighted from our car at Hotel Deccan Plaza's portico, Mother said, "Oh, what's wrong with this hotel today? There are barely any people here." The lobby was dimly-lit, and the receptionists were strangely too happy to receive us.

The over-friendly staff at the hotel, ushered us to our table. We were about to celebrate Father's retirement by participating in Maami's Food Festival. Again, there were no guests in the hall. It was eerie to dine at a place that looked rundown. Father, who was a bit curious, asked the waiter, "Are you expecting more guests?" He adjusted his tie, wore a sinister smile, flaunting his blinding white teeth. "No, sir. It's just your family."

Mother seemed worried. "Can we go to another place?" I suggested. Father, who didn't want to disappoint me by changing the plan, reassuringly said, "It's fine. This looks strange today. But don't worry. Nobody would harm us or anything."

I was restlessly drumming on the table, when the waiter appeared with four bowls of cold soup, and two plates of pasta. I was filled with indignation. While Mother and Father looked quizzical, I questioned the waiter. "We have come for Maami's Food Festival. Why have you given us soup and pasta?" I yelled, fisting on the table. The cold soup spilled. Our glasses jumped off from the table. But, the waiter was unyielding. "I think, you must talk to our manager," he said nonchalantly.

I stood up, threw the napkin on my seat, and scarpered to the managers' bay. To my surprise, he was not liveried. His eyes were blue, and matched his denim shirt. He was dark and tall. The air in his room was thick. I wanted to run away from him.

Breaking from my reverie, I chided. "I demand an explanation. Why were we offered soup and pasta at Maami's Food Festival?" His smile was reminiscent of the waiter's. Bright and sinister. "Ma'am, I apologise. Would you like to buy a couple of apartments from us? I can explain the deal to you..."

My head whirred. I couldn't bear a whisker more of that bullshit. I walked out with vehemence, just to find a group of photographers capturing my angry countenance. Click. Click. Click. "What the fuck is happening here? Bastards! Stop!" I screamed, clapping my hands to my eyes.

When I brought my hands down, Telugu actor Venkatesh walked toward me, pushing the bunch of unruly photographers. He was wielding a microphone. "Happy birthday, Deepika! It's a surprise.What do you think of this unusual party?" Moping the bead of sweat on my forehead, I panted, "Where are my parents? What am I on? This is strange. This party is strange. I want to see my parents."

Venkatesh laughed out heartily. He laughed, laughed, and laughed. As the photographers, the actor, and the waiters faded, I heard my phone ring. Dangamaari Udhaari was the ringtone. Anu Boo placed a warm lick on my face, and I woke up to answer the call. "Ma'am, This is Ramachandran, calling from Deccan Plaza. Your booking is confirmed. May I expect you at 7.30 tonight?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DogsbodyDogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I was reading the book, I thought I would write a blog about it. The writing was beautiful. The story was extraordinary. And, it's only natural for an animal lover to rave about a well-written book on a dog. So, I wanted to write a detailed blog.

After a long day, I finished reading the book, and promptly went back to read the introduction written by Neil Gaiman (as advised by him). When I read his last sentence - "I hope it (the book) made you happy and sad" - it dawned on me that it was not an introduction, but an ode to this heartwarming story, and to Diana Wynne Jones.

Having said that, now I realise no other article about this book can convey anything deeper than Gaiman's. *wipes tears*

View all my reviews

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Light of My Life

Most men love to impress and pamper their women on Valentine's Day. I am a bit old school, you see. Men like me are fond of love-notes. So, I am going to write about her. 

That girl, the light of my life... my soul. (Sorry Nabokov!)

It was dark and stormy, as Snoopy would say. I lit my last cigarette for the day. Hosanna was on my lips, along with the cigarette. When I was about to drop the cigarette butt, I heard a girl wail. She was standing at the threshold of my neighbour's house, drenched and tired. Maybe, even famished. 

Her eyes looked extraordinary, despite her deplorable state. They were like black grapes. Particularly like the fresh ones that're just sprinkled with water. My heart plummeted. I knew I had fallen in love. 

I stamped the stub with unnecessary vehemence, and stifled a yawn. I could hear her cry again. I turned around to find her looking for a dry spot, where she could rest for a while. I hadn't seen her before. She was alone and scared. I could have offered her help. But, sometimes, for reasons that you can't comprehend, you hesitate to act, and wait for someone to lead. It was that kind of a strange, yet warm moment. She wasn't aware of my presence. Man, she was really sad... and ravishing. 

I couldn't see tears rolling down her cheeks, but she continued to whimper. It was too late, and it was still dark and stormy. So, I left her to her fate, and locked the door. I know! Bastard!

Two days went without her beautiful countenance crossing my mind. Now, you must hate me more. I found a damsel in distress (hello PG Wodehouse!), she seemed sad, hungry, and pathetic, and a man with a wee bit of humanity left in him would have helped. But I behaved like an ass, and proved that I'm worse than that by not thinking of the girl... and her beautiful eyes.

Three days after our first encounter, I sauntered down the market road. What did I want to buy? I didn't know. I was gloomy for reasons that had escaped my mind, and I needed to walk. As I walked past a fruit shop, my glance fell on a pair of eyes. They were like black grapes and they seemed familiar. 

Perched on a bench, she was longingly looking at a hawker downing a glass of tea. I tiptoed to the stall, and knelt down, as I extended my hands to carry her. Carry her? Yes, it dawned on me that she always belonged to me, and that I had gone to bring her home. 

Startled by my intrusion, she jumped into an empty carton and shut her eyes tight. A bright smile spreading over my lips, I let her be ensconced in the box, and brought her home before an afterthought could challenge my decision.

It's been more than one year since I found my furry-friend. Her mere presence lights up my life.

Happy Valentine's Day, folks!

This piece is dedicated to the man and the fur-babies, whom I adore.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Harry Potter and the Reluctant Reader

"You haven't read HARRY POTTER?"

"Which Harry Potter character are you? You DON'T know?"

"You can't understand the joke because you haven't read Harry Potter!"

"Man, are you serious? Why didn't you read Harry Potter! Crazy!"

The world went berserk, and I was blissfully ignorant of the awesomeness of Harry Potter books.

Friends found me strange. They reckoned that I was being haughty, and that I found Harry Potter juvenile. But the truth was that I was clueless about why I didn't read Harry Potter for so long. Honestly! Such a shame!

A couple of days ago, after I finished Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I logged into Goodreads to move the book to the 'Read' shelf. And, I stumbled upon this quote that substantiated (Well, almost!) my reason for not befriending Harry Potter when the books were a rage.

"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time.”
—Gabrielle Zevin

Now, after having read three books, I admit that I had missed a lot.

But, the good news is that there is no deadline really. One is never too old to read Harry Potter.

I am glad that I finally met the boy and his friends. Oh! They are fascinating, aren't they?

And, Rowling is a witch herself. She seemed to have cast a spell on the books. They enchant the readers. What is the name of the spell?

Legentium Delectationem

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

That cloud's silver lining

June 2014. I was trying to cope with acute quarter-life crisis. After having quit my job at a daily, I was unemployed for about three months. It was fun in the beginning. Besides OD'ing on Murakami, RK Narayan and Ellen, I pampered myself. Also, once in a while, I managed to dress up, attend interviews and deliver my tried and tested answer for tell-me-about-yourself (quite like Chitti from Enthiran).

When nobody bothered to hire me, it was getting terrible. Murakami became mind-fucking. RK Narayan turned sob-inducing. Ellen was barely funny. And I still continued to dress up and attend interviews. But, the tell-me-about-yourself elicited frustrated responses (quite like Kamal Haasan's from Varumai Niram Sivappu). In between, all the interviews and perennial sulking, I often found time to stalk people on Facebook. Especially those, who could remind me of all the not-so-happy times. I couldn't help. It was that phase of life, when my dreams were always about finishing a race last, being very late to exams, and making numerous attempts to write the story of a battered woman. But I would always wake up, aborting all of it, because even in my dreams, I was tired of trying. Ahem! Ahem!

During one stalking session, I stumbled upon the Facebook page of Infinitheism. The first post in their page read, "Are you an aspiring writer? Email your story on 'Office'. We would be glad to publish it." Although I resigned in April, I almost stopped writing in February. But for reasons that I couldn't comprehend, I chose to write about my first day, at my first job. Words agreed to cooperate. I managed to write a very short memoir. After I emailed the article to them, I realised I had written it feverishly and with some weird vengeance. I also missed to proofread it. But, writing that piece was cathartic.

July 2014. I bought their magazine Infinithoughts (formerly known as Frozen Thoughts) to see if my story was published. No luck. Surprisingly, I was not disappointed. I didn't write back to them asking for status. By the end of July, I started working again and couldn't find time for Murakami, RKN and Ellen. My dreams were mostly about finding typos in a published interview, and reporting incorrect news.

November 2014. Appa, who is a regular reader of Infinithoughts, incidentally found my article that I had sent in June, in their November's edition. For once, my family was proud and delighted. I reread my story and found it cringeworthy. I kicked myself for using too many adverbs (Sorry Stephen King) and not proofreading. I couldn't read it again, for I was angry at myself for recounting a pedestrian experience. But in a way, I was happy too.

A copy of the story:

Even though I'm not THAT proud of this piece, I will always be fond of it, for this is the only physical copy of a story that's published under my byline. When I worked at the daily, it didn't occur to me that I should keep a copy of my favourite stories. Not a single copy in two years. Now, seeing my byline again on paper after ages, feels as good as finding a 500 rupee note in an old pants' pocket.

And Khalil Gibran's quote always comes in handy.

" the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Memory Keeper

12 years ago, on a balmy evening, Krithika (my sister) and I went to one of the bag shops in Mandaveli (Chennai). She had promised to buy me a bag if I scored 100 in Mathematics in my Class 10 board exams. My sister, unlike me, always keeps her word. And she always works out the budget first. "500 rupees for you!" she declared. I agreed.

We walked a couple of kilometers, from Mylapore to Mandaveli. There were a lot of shops in Luz Corner too. But for some reason, the shop in Mandaveli appeared fancy. I spent five minutes browsing all the shelves and settled with this blue bag.

The price tag read Rs 750. I began to sulk. However, she didn't pay heed. She snatched the bag from me and went to the billing counter.

An hour later, I emptied my old rectangular bag that had The Flintstones' pictures, and arranged my books in my newly-bought bag. In many ways, I reckoned then that my sister's gift made me feel like a big, mature girl. No cartoon characters on the bag. I stopped using lunch koodai. Instead, I packed my steel-boxes in a plastic cover and carried it in my bag. I shoved my water-bottle in the small holder in the side. While a lot of girls still used old-fashioned bags, I flaunted my sister's gift, which I thought was uber-cool.

After all, she bought it with her hard-earned money. She was a tuition teacher then. I also knew that she saved for about five months to afford this bag for me. Despite appreciating her gesture and realising how special the gift was, I never thanked her effusively.

Today, a delivery boy from one of the online shopping portals, knocked on the door, with a gift box in his hands. I hurriedly unwrapped the gift box and was delighted to see this bag.

And this beautiful note:

I've always told my friends that I'm a sucker for tiny warm moments. Tiny, tiny things keep me going. Like receiving a note from friends, a smile from a stranger, reading quotes from my favourite books, buying new books, using a newly-learnt word, and solving a crossword puzzle. It sounds cliched, doesn't it? But, these are the things that define me and many a time, help me find a purpose in life.

Above all, I also glorify memories; memories of all kinds. Every once in a while, when emptiness envelopes me, when I begin to forget all the nice things that happened to me, I remind myself that there are a very few people, who know everything about my bumpy rides and sunny days; the people, who keep the memories that we made together. I go to them when I struggle to recall some of the beautiful times that would restore faith in life. They never fail to pull me out of my abyss. While it's superfluous to say that my sister is one of them, today, I am overwhelmed and so, I am stating the obvious.

It's a luxury to have a sister, who is a keeper of memories that can help one rise above the darkness.

Monday, November 3, 2014

After the Halloween party

Kavitha: Where the hell am I?
A random dude: You are in Heaven. Glad to meet you. I can help you settle down.

K: Oh?
ARD: Yes. You died last night. After the Halloween party. I'm sorry. But this is a beautiful place. You are going to like it.

K: Okay. Get this straight. I'm an atheist. Now my only question is how did I even get here?
ARD: I knew you would't trust me. I have to show this to you. This is the picture that you clicked last night right?

ARD: How did I get this picture? Let me explain. The Lord of Death asked us to make your character real, because you are an Indian, and you celebrated Halloween. So, we had to punish you. You played a random accident victim last night. And you lost your life in a road accident after the party. I'm very sorry.

K: That's a very blah story, man. The characters have turned real? Okay. So, has Sudhir gone to Gotham City?
ARD: No. He is on his way to Goa with his friends. They are conducting a memorial for you there.

K: That's so sweet of them. But wait. Why was he not punished?
ARD: We chose people randomly.

K: This is so weird. And unfair. I'm going to be here forever?
ARD: Yes.

K: Then I might as well start following my routine. I am going to sleep for a while. I will wake up, and run for about an hour. I can make my own breakfast. I will have some bacon tomorrow.
ARD: We are all vegetarians here. You will have to be on a plant-based diet too.

K: This is atrocious. I need to go for my classes. I dance. And I want some Bachata songs.
ARD: We play Carnatic music for an hour everyday. Will that help?

K: Man, this place is shitty. And I can't party? No alcohol?
ARD: Absolutely no alcohol.

K: May I at least read Harry Potter?
ARD: We have some books on 'life after death' by Osho.

K: This is not helping me. I'm finding this strange. I think I'm just dreaming. This is just a nightmare. I should wake up.
ARD: No. You are not dreaming. You are just confused.

K: Dude, I have watched nine seasons of House. For all we know, I'm just hallucinating. Maybe, I am stuck in an accident. I should wake up. I should. I should.


Sudhir: Kavitha! Kavitha! Ezhundhirru. This Winky wants food. Wake up. Winky, stop biting.
K: Fuck. Okay. Winkoo. I'm coming.