Dec 12, 2014

Selfishness is GOOD...

... and please read on to the end before you chew me out!!!

"Don't be selfish," must have been the adjuration I have heard the most in my childhood apart from the constant instructions on how "good girls" have to behave. My Mom still enjoys telling me how I hated sharing my toys with my friends. She especially remembers how my closest chaddi-buddy used to complain, "Kala, when you come to my home, I let you play with all my toys. But you let me play with only this one-eyed teddy bear." (Well, she didn't know the honor I was conferring on her by allowing her to play with my personal confidant, nightmare-keeper-away and best friend, still!)

But this "selfishness" adjuration when accompanied by the dreaded finger wag and aimed at a little girl means much more than the simple meaning of the word. It means she has to be obedient, to never talk back, to be always gentle and humble and to be ladylike in all circumstances. 

Having had the time and opportunity to look around and see for myself how this works, especially in the case of a couple of women who have taken this adjuration to heart and put it to work in their daily lives, I will tell you how I came to the resolution above.

One of the women is one I have grown up with. Having been tomboyish, loud and contrary while growing up, I was constantly compared unfavorably with her and ordered to be "more like her". She was and still is the Beauty of my family, the best at domestic arts and the most lady-like of all the girls. It speaks volumes about my love for her and my restraint that she grew up to womanhood without being strangled at my hands. And having been a contemporary, I also knew firsthand that her meekness and obedience came from the goodness and piety of her heart and that she was by no means weak inside. I could not but admire her innate goodness.

I thought she was very happy till recently when she started talking to me about how her meek nature had always been taken advantage of by her spouse's family and how she had been treated as a drudge all along. The breaking point came when there was a tussle in her own family regarding property and she was accused by her siblings of insinuating herself into a better position with her father by being "all very subservient and charming and oily" with the cantankerous old man. She was shocked to the core of her being when she found out that this was how she was being perceived.

The good thing is, after the shock, she no longer feels the need to be subservient and obliging all the time. She continues to be true to her essence, but no one gets away with taking advantage of her any more. It did turn her a little bitter, but she has learnt her lesson. The people around her are astonished at "how the worm has turned" and are not quite pleased. But now she does not care that much for them.

The other lady belongs to my mother's generation, but essentially she is also the same. Quite like my relative, she too is a very strong and opinionated woman - the only thing is, she had hidden this part of her so long that she became very good at passive aggressiveness. It amazed me once to observe her having to lie to her mother-in-law about having to go to the hospital when all she wanted to do was to go shopping. She went to great lengths to conceal any activity (none of which were criminal or reprehensible) that would make her "an object of censure" (oh horror of horrors!). She burst into tears at any hint of remonstrance for anything from others. If she accidentally broke something, instead of owning up like an adult would do, she hid the evidence and protested her innocence like a scared 6-year-old - to people young enough to be her kids!

Now, in her old age, she herself is suspicious of others' motives all the time. When her daughter-in-law tells her that she needs to go to the hospital, she checks with her son whether he is sure that she is going there and tells me that she suspects that her daughter-in-law has just gone to meet her friends or have fun. And she is bitter, bitterer than the greenest bitter gourd. Her favorite topic of conversation is how everyone (no exceptions) in her life have only exploited, ruled over and hurt her in various ways - which does not make for good conversation. The bitterness is so pervasive that she cannot appreciate all the good in life. It shows in her face - her perpetual expression while at rest is that of a person who has just downed a dose of the bitterest kashaayam. In all the years I have seen her, I don't remember her producing more than a single halfhearted "heh-heh" at the funniest of jokes (Ladies do not guffaw). 

Both these women are not foolish, silly or evil. They are both pious, good and generous people and I admire them both. They do have another thing in common - they both don't have good friends. My relative became a housewife right after graduation and has not kept in touch with her old friends except very occasionally. But now she opens up to me and has made a few friends of her own and is getting to be more sociable. The older lady I spoke of had a good career and is retired. But she does not keep in touch with any of her old colleagues or childhood friends - which I think is an important factor in keeping up a healthy mental attitude.

These are just two cases that I have noted. We have all seen that archetypal Indian mother who has to remind her offspring of the "9 months and painful labor" when she is ignored by them in her dotage. If they don't listen to that, then she enumerates the instances of her "unselfish slaving for their welfare". Well dear friends, I think it is much better to be selfish, assertive and happy to the end of life than be unselfish and end up bitter and complaining. I also think that it is very important to hold all precious friends close to your heart all your life.

Don't you agree?

Dec 5, 2014

A first time for everything...

Karthi was a bedlam of activity the whole of November. Why? Because Kala Chaarutha was gearing up for its first ever exhibition stall at a corporate event. The dining table was snowed under with paper clippings, metal findings and the occasional shiny rhinestone. 

 
There were few horizontal surfaces in the house where paper, bead or crochet jewelry were not reposing in various stages of formation. One weekend saw DH wandering disconsolately around with his open laptop in hand until he ended up in front of me. Of course, I cleared up some space for him immediately - but there WAS only just enough space to put down the laptop, not even the space for a coffee cup beside it. 


I also managed to rope in two people to help me. My cousin, to whom I had gifted a beginner's kit for quilling and had taken a class for came with her own wonderful creations to add to my repertoire. And my sis came in to act as cashier. We gathered at Karthi on the day before and were taking care of last minute things till the stroke of midnight! It was fun!


So there we were, on the morning of the 29th, setting out our wares in the grip of equal parts of trepidation and hope - .okay to be honest, 80 parts of trepidation to 20 parts of hope...


The good day had another surprise in store for us - we got "promoted" to a better location quite in the thick of the action and soon we were ensconced there...


Concentrating on the "product" left us little time for "decor" of the stall. I just had enough time in which to whip up a hand-written board for our little stall...


...which seeing our tagline - "All handmade, all with love" was probably more appropriate than a printed flex on a standee! Also, it served  to "mask" our billing station, leaving only the goodies out in plain view - a totally unintended effect, I assure you!

There will be no more pictures of the day, because once the people started coming in, we were too busy to take pictures of the action! And THAT is a good thing. Some came to stare, some to chat, some to try on and discard - but lots of people bought our things - which was pretty awesome an experience.  

At the end of the day, we all sent up prayers of thanks and walked off exhausted, but very happy with a cash box considerably heavier than when it came in the morning!

So far, so good!!! Besides my cousin and sister, I have DH to thank for a lot including making me believe that I could make enough pieces for display, for chivvying me all along and most of all, ignoring the dust bunnies all around Karthi because I had let the housekeeping slide in the last week! I'm still not sure whether my family got enough nutrition in that week, but since they all seem unharmed, I am relieved! 

Which does not mean that everything was perfect. I learned several good lessons in the process ranging from the variety, number and pricing of products to good display techniques. And those lessons can only come from experience - for which I am extremely thankful.

The only casualties of the exhibition are my left forefinger that is STILL sore after continually stretching yarn over the metal hangers (but to good effect because my earring organizers were completely sold out!) and my right arm that ached after all the wire cutting. But hey, what's a little pain in the face of all this joy of accomplishment?

So now on to learning more and making more....!

Nov 20, 2014

Movie Review Digest: 9 movies at one go!!!

Due to a family wedding and subsequent activities, it's been a while since we got out to watch a film. But what is Karthi without movies? We decided to watch a few DVDs we have been holding on to for a while now. Here we go.

We do not watch many Hindi movies unless they are recommended to us by friends or family. That is how we got to see the following.

Highway: Wow, a fantastic cinematic experience in all senses of the word! Alia Bhatt was a revelation in this soul-scraping movie of an heiress who gets kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. She accurately portrays the angst of women who have to fear sexual exploitation from absolutely everyone - it's absolutely a miracle how all women do not turn out to be misanthropes! Great watch, definitely recommended. Also a road movie - which is another one of my likes!

Two States: Everyone I talk to either loves or hates Chetan Bhagat. I like a few of his books and would say "meh" to some others. Two States, I definitely liked. The movie adaptation is an almost verbatim copy of the novel except for understandably omitting the not-so-relevant parts. Although Alia would not have been my choice to play Ananya (completely lacks the doe-eyed look), she makes up for it by her peppiness. My picks of the cast are Amrita Singh and Ronit Roy as Krish's (Arjun Kapoor) parents. Great performances! Okay to watch.

Lunch Box: What is it with foodie movies and inducing hunger? Please make sure you have a full tummy before you watch this movie!!! I had just watched a documentary about the dabbawallahs of Mumbai on TLC when this movie came my way. The movie develops through a tiny error made by the dabbahwallas whose error margin is claimed to be one in 6 million (allegedly). But the mistake is savored by the receiver and cook between whom a relation slowly blooms helped on by the aromatic wafts coming from the green-bagged lunch box which is a central character of the movie! Lovely performances by Nimrat Kaur and Irfan Khan. And I had to search and find the recipe for Bhindi fry right after the movie: our younger one who refuses to eat okra was compelled to eat one. He did and thereafter was tough to stop. He said he would give me "hundred out of hundred" for the dish! 

Now to get to the Malayalam movies.

Mosayile Kuthirameenukal: We completed the first half of this movie, then remembered to watch it only after several weeks! But once it was completed, we felt bad for not having watched it earlier! :) By which I mean to say, the first half  is not very remarkable although it has a snappy narrative technique. It also takes an unconscionably long time for Sunny Wayne to be introduced, which to me is a huge flaw! :) But once we got into the second half of the movie shot in Lakshadweep, the movie took on an ethereal, lyrical quality which I think is owing to the exotic location as well. Wow! The music too changes and takes on the rhythm of the waves that lap those golden shores. I could go on and on in this vein - I will end on this note - the second half is a must watch - but you are welcome to watch the first part to be able to understand the second! :) DH has been looking up passage to Lakshadweep after watching the movie!! Hurrah!

Hi, I'm Tony: Watch this only if you have an affinity for I Know What You Did Last Summer. For the genre, it's an ok movie with adequate doses of creepiness, gore and pain. The last two twists were totally predictable. I dislike such movies on principle, but please do not let that prevent you from scaring yourself!

Praise the Lord: Years ago Zachariah penned the delighting little novella of the same name. It was the true  and funny picture of the thought process of a wealthy plantation owner in Pala.  PT Devarajan had the unenviable task of expanding and updating the novella to fit the movie format. He has done a good job, but the fact remains that there is too little matter in the novella to be spread over 2.5 hours. The attempts to inject humor are pathetic. And nowhere does Zachariah say that Samkutty talks in that singsong voice even though his phraseology is kind of preachy. I definitely like the book better. There is something to be said for brevity.

Vegam: "Meh". Resembles Nivin Pauly- Nazriya starrer Neram in several aspects. But nowhere near it. Definitely avoidable.

Avathaaram: Old-fashioned revenge story with the totally cliched murder of honest customs officer part. Of course, Dileep as Madhavan Mahadevan is the brother of the dead officer. In many ways, his character is a continuation of the character Vinod in Anthikkad's Vinodayatra, albeit in a lethal form. Only new things are the extensive use of the mobile phone and apps to apprehend the wrongdoers. Okay, if slightly too gory for my taste.

Ormayundo Ee Mukham?: Finally, one movie we WERE able to watch in a theater. Shouldn't have. I mean, if you have watched "Fifty First Dates" (openly acknowledged in the movie), no point in watching this one. And it's not anywhere as interesting as the original. Added to it is the characters who live in Kerala of some alternative universe - totally disconnected from reality. Humor injections pathetic in this movie too. Watchable only for the Sand art parts - which are truly breathtaking.

Nov 7, 2014

From my bookshelf - The Fault in Our Stars



It's been a while since a book moved me so much that I wanted to write about it. What with Kala Chaarutha happening, my reading is limited to what I can snatch at bedtime before I drop off to sleep. Even so, I managed to somehow finish John Green's The Fault in Our Stars in just a couple of sittings. 

I had had my doubts about reading this book despite some rave reviews I've been reading for some time. When the protagonists are both cancer patients, it wouldn't certainly be a happy story, I was sure. And after the mind-numbing shallowness of Stephanie Meyer's vampire series, I was not sure I wanted to try a "teenage" romance again. It was probably the small size of the book and the promise of absolutely no sequels that made me go for it :).

And was I surprised. Yes, the story is unutterably sad. Yes, it is tragic. Yes, it made me cry.  But they were cleansing tears - the good kind. I will not set out the plot here or the points that made me love the book because I hope you will go ahead and read it and feel as moved as I did. Let me just say that I was awed by the quiet bravery that human beings can achieve in the face of the greatest pain.

In many ways it reminded me of another of my all-time favorite love stories: Erich Segal's Love Story. Which of course, is another tragedy. It has the same type of snappy dialogue, the same brevity of expression and the same intensity of feelings, not to mention cancer playing spoilsport. 

All in all, a must-read for people who like love stories and don't mind if they don't have happy endings!

Oct 17, 2014

Is it worth it?

Yesterday I was chatting to one of my neighbors while we were waiting at the bus stop. Our chat meandered among a few topics when we fell into chatting about a recent gold-chain snatching incident just 2 km away from our home. 

Ever since gold prices have been going up, Kerala has seen a steep rise in chain-snatching incidents. The snatchers almost always travel by motorbike, snatch the chain and disappear. Not content with just pedestrians, a daring few have knocked women riding on two-wheelers to the side of the road to snatch the chain in peace. 

In the land of Unniyarcha, some modern Unniyarchas refused to be cowed by the snatchers and grimly held on to their end of the chain or fought the robbers off. So the current trend is to bash the woman's head in with a stone or bottle from behind before snatching the chain. 

As I walked to the bus stop today, I was wondering what would be the best method to deter such robbers. Obviously everyone cannot drive around in cars all the time (even then a gang tricked a newly-wed couple and hijacked their car to rob them!) So I was mentally designing an unbreakable plexi shield sort of thing that will cover a woman's chest and go around her neck with a huge padlock behind that will deter the most determined of robbers and still will allow the precious necklace to be shown off in all its glory. I started chuckling to myself drawing some strange looks from other people before I realized what I was doing!

My dear, enlightened women of Kerala - why, why, WHY do you continue to endanger your lives by insisting on wearing gold chains often weighing 5-8 sovereigns (worth more than 1 lakh) around your necks on a daily basis? Don't you value your lives? 

I feel that this "need" to wear gold on a daily basis is a result of cultural indoctrination. Girls are brought up to believe that they need to wear a gold ornaments on a daily basis - I have personally seen elderly women chide the daughters of the house saying "കഴുത്തും കാതും പറിച്ചിട്ട്‌ നടക്കുന്നു , അശ്രീകരം!" (meaning going about with bare neck and ear lobes is inauspicious) - and it was not enough to wear just anything, it had to be gold. Married women are compelled to wear a gold chain with the thali on it - and those who disobey are threatened with dire consequences.

Even today I see among my own relatives, grandmothers who insist on making their baby granddaughters wear gold ornaments even if the mother wishes it otherwise. 

Thankfully I have escaped this fate. My Dad and DH both value my life more than showing off their wealth or conforming to society in this issue. I am free to do as I please. I try to wear a small pair of gold studs when I'm at home - because gold studs have larger stems than costume jewelry ones and if I leave out gold studs for long, I can't get them into my ears again without shedding blood, sweat and tears! I have had several neighbors point out my bare neck to me when I go out - just making sure that my gold chain hadn't fallen off without my knowledge. They look at me oddly when I jauntily tell them that I have deliberately left it behind.

Please get this, I am not against wearing gold. Even when it's disgustingly ostentatious or totally in bad taste like in this wedding costume I saw recently...


I am not bothered about this because no lives are endangered in a wedding when the bride is surrounded by people - okay she may be at risk of a broken neck, still!

Even as the chain-snatchings continue, I have hope. Last week when I was riding a crowded bus to the library, I looked around at the accessories of the ladies and girls around me. Whether it's because of the prohibitive price of gold or out of love for their lives and limbs, a notable number of women were wearing costume jewelry. The percentage of such prudent women was substantially more than what was the case a mere 7 years ago when I first started living in our capital city.

Great!

Oct 8, 2014

Movie Review: Vellimoonga

 (Pic courtesy - Cinema Mangalam)

A teeny tiny whopper: that's the only way I can describe this movie. It came without any hype or hullaballoo, first pricked the curiosity with the unusual title, then drew us in with positive initial reviews. My own review would have come earlier had it been not for a combination of circumstances that led us to waste a whole weekend when we could have watched Vellimoonga and its antics. As luck would have it, the hot, hot sun in Kozhikode where we were on an exploratory weekend led us into the confines of the refurbished Apsara theater and we finally caught the "silver owl" in full flight!

The story is simple: Mammachan, the long-suffering son of a highly idealistic politician father decides at an early age to eschew his father's calling. But by a miracle of sorts, he comes to don the same "uniform" of his father, only Mammachan goes to the other extreme of embracing only "practical" politics. Whether the aspiring politician is as bad as he makes himself out to others and whether he is able to survive in the cut throat competition is the story.

Finally, after several years, Biju Menon takes a single-lead movie and leads with aplomb. It's been painful to watch this talented actor don just bread-and-butter roles (villain, comic sidekick, cameo) for so long. I hope this leads  to better roles for this actor who has proven again and again that he can deliver. Aju Varghese is hilarious as Menon's sidekick. The whole cast - comprising of some of the best character-artistes of Malayalam film industry and a couple of new faces - does an exemplary job. Asif Ali is suitably restrained in a story-turning cameo. 

The movie is hilarious from start to finish. Even the twists and turns of the plot are liberally sprinkled with laughs. There was not a boring moment. How could there be with the wily fox-like Mammachan scattering one-liners all over the place. I will have to buy a DVD of the movie in order to catch some of the dialogues that I missed while laughing about the previous joke.

All in all, a huge round of applause for debutante director Jibu Jacob and writer Joji Thomas who were willing to spend years in developing this project and had the staying power to see it through - the maturing time has definite dividends. And I've been humming "വെള്ളാരം കണ്ണുള്ള വെള്ളിമൂങ്ങ " incessantly since leaving the theater!

Verdict: Go and watch this movie in the full theaters and have some fun!

Sep 27, 2014

Back again!

Aha, it does feel good to be chatting again on my own blog. In the past two months, Karthi has been in an upheaval of sorts because the lady of the family decided to venture out into something new. And that something new meant a lot of things had to be put in order, a lot of things were to be learned in a short space of time, a lot of soul-searching and questioning was required... which left precious little time to attend to the affairs of the home and the family, let alone a blog!

But first let me show you a pic of serenity: an unexpected sight on a Sunday morning and just looking at it makes me want to indulge in a quiet and peaceful hour...


Two kids and a cat, just welcoming a Sunday morning on our front doorsteps. What better way to start the day..

So what have I been up to? I finally decided to take my love for craft to the next level. It all started with a jewelry making workshop conducted by a leading daily to promote one of their new books. I've always been interested in making jewelry and I got some supplies and made a few pieces back in 2004 in good old US of A. But once we were back in India, I couldn't find many supplies and any way I was taken up with baby and child care. 

It would have turned out like my usual craft activities: I would swamp myself with purchasing new material and then lose steam and just keep looking at my hoard and keep putting off things for later. But this time something happened. And it was probably the culminating point of a lot of subconscious processes going on, but it was actually a question from my irritated DH that did the final trick. When he saw me buying some pill-organizing boxes for bead and findings storage, he snapped, "What are you buying those for? Anyone would think you are taking it up professionally!" And I retorted, "That's exactly what I'm thinking of!"

And Kala Chaarutha happened, just like that! In this past two months, I have been climbing a humongous learning curve, the peak of which is nowhere in sight. There are so many ideas traipsing along in my head, so many images that I have to put down, so many techniques I want to try that will probably take me a very long time to learn - and I'm loving all of it! Friends and family have all chipped in with first orders and I have asked them to be merciless in their feedback. I have started off with paper jewelry to begin with, but I will soon branch out into more.

I did try to put up a different blog for the shop, but then I found I couldn't muster up more energy to start chatting on a new blog.  So notsoperfectkarthi will be housing Kala Chaarutha too from now on!

I thank all my readers for having supported me for the past four years and hope you will accompany me on this new journey too!

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