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.


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!


Aug 22, 2014

A trip down the Blue Hills - Part Two

So there we were, chugging through the tunnels on the mountain railway, with me having to push my fingers into my ear whenever the train approached a tunnel. I literally counted the seconds it took us to traverse each tunnel and had I written it down then, I could have told you how long each tunnel was along the journey. But the scenery made up for all the hullaballoo. Here was a meandering stream...

Sometimes the railway line hugged the serpentine road...

We caught glimpses of very orderly looking tea estates...

 And sometimes we were treated to craggy vistas...

Soon the sedate pace put some of us to sleep...

And then we drew into Hillgrove station where they began pumping more water into the engine. This my train enthusiasts HAD to see. Can you see the water pipe amongst the billowing steam clouds?

Our groggy sleeper had to get up because there was another side show going on involving some of our little cousins...and by "our" I mean all mankind's!!!

There was a horde of them enjoying little titbits thrown to them by our fellow travelers. Notice how his/her throat is stuffed with biscuit - possibly to share with family later? I am both fascinated and repulsed by this feature - though I can't deny it can have its uses - like at a buffet for example? :)

And here's our groggy guy taking a peek at all the drama at the station

Yup, not looking too pleased at being woken up! And here's a view of the other side of the train...

Just wanted to showcase the oval window of the door!

Soon enough our jackets came off as we came chugging down the mountain and entered the prosaic plains. The camera went into the bag, our kiddos nodded off again. All too soon the train had pulled into Mettupalayam station, the compartments were emptied and the mountain greens were carried off to grace a florist's creations for the next day, no doubt...

And that was the end of our Nilgiri Toy Train ride. We were lucky to have had the chance to do it, because at the Ooty railway station we had got to know that the morning up train had been cancelled that day. DH's foresight and Lady Luck combined to make it happen and it was definitely worth all the preparations that went into it.

So if any of you want to take the same trip, do plan for it at least three months ahead and be ready with your computer turned on and logged in at 8 am on the day the booking opens on IRCTC's website. Remember that the up train journey is in the early morning at takes more than 5 hours - but it must be more romantic to see the misty Nilgiris in the morning light. The up train would be a better option if you don't have kids who could get restive on a long journey and you won't be disturbed in your contemplation of the mystic mountains with questions of "Are we there yet?" and constant demands for snacks and the window seat. If you have kids with you, the down train is the best option. You can have your lunch at Ooty and be in time for a good masala dosa in Mettupalayam.

Hope you get a chance to enjoy this journey!

Aug 6, 2014

A trip down the blue hills... Part One

Ideally a travelogue should be written immediately after a journey, when the impressions are fresh and memories are still crystal clear. So why am I writing about a journey we undertook in the month of May? A bit of perversity on my part, that's all. When the weather is hot, I like remembering green, green fields. So now when Thiruvananthapuram has finally decided that it should get its fair share of this year's monsoon, I am thinking of cloudless skies and a cool and dry clime! :)

You've all probably heard of the Nilgiri "Toy" train that runs from Mettupalayam to Ooty. DH set his sights on riding this train very early this year. And the foresight proved extremely essential because it is a very coveted ticket and we couldn't grab first class tickets (waitlisted) and barely got the second class ones. There are only 3 reserved compartments and a single unreserved one, so you can guess the competition! We opted to hire a car to go up as the up-train takes more than 5 hours to reach Ooty while the down-train takes 3.5 hours.

 So there we were, tired after the long walks in the Botanical Garden, waiting in the picturesquely old-fashioned train station for the train to start at 2 pm...

...when the train pulled in. The journey from Ooty to Coonoor is accomplished by a prosaic diesel engine...

Here you can see for yourself why we were fortunate to have reservations, look at the jam in front of the last (unreserved) compartment!

We soon forgot the general squalor that Ooty town has become and set off along one side of the artificial lake and had wonderful views to look at...

The slow chugging was ideal to take pics of the train as it took the curves...

Believe me, that is just one of the scores of turning pics that DH took from his side of the train and each time the train took a left curve, he made ME take a pic from the other side! 

At first the kids were jumping from one side to the other to see everything. Then they settled down to enjoy things in a relaxed manner.

Yeah, nothing like a lolly to calm people down! :)

We passed four or five stations, including Lovedale and Wellington before reaching Coonoor, where the real star of the show arrived, here she is....!



...thar' she blows!!!!

Really, what's it with men and vehicles? I thought that Ani would be the one excited about steam engines because he is a huge Thomas the Engine fan and draws them all the time. Nope, turns out his brother and father were equally excited and jumped out to watch the engine being attached to the train while I sat stolidly in my seat, blowing on my hot tea and musing about mere men. :) This next picture is for all mechanically minded people among my readers!

Yes, for some reason best known to experts, the front end of the engine was connected to the train, which means the engine went down the incline backwards. From Coonoor the train gained a new gait. The rack and pinion system made itself evident in the jerking motion the train acquired thence. So we waved bye-bye to the clock-tower in Coonoor and went on our merry, jerking way.

From Coonoor, the landscape too changed. Till then it had been mostly tea estates, buildings and orderly eucalyptus plantations. But now the carefully manicured plantations appeared more infrequently, the vegetation ran wild...

I really enjoyed this part of the journey because wild flowers were rampant at the sides of the track and I wish we could have stopped to take pictures - most of what I have are only blurs...

I got the picture above because I belatedly got the idea of trying to take pics of the flowers turning backwards in my seat! If only...(sigh)!

And quite inexplicably, some time later, the lights in the compartment were turned on!

Oh oh, this I didn't foresee!

What, I didn't foresee tunnels in a hill track? No, I simply did not foresee that a lot of shrieking and howling wild animals would erupt in the train once it reached the tunnel! 

It looked like the above in the train while the most horrendous high-pitched screaming and shouting was going on. I had to close my ears and try (ineffectively) to shush two of our own family members who seemed to have morphed into wolves all of a sudden!

I think I'll leave you all to enjoy my discomfiture (through all 16 tunnels) today. The second leg of the journey needs another post altogether!

Jul 17, 2014

Tried and tested

After the untimely and much-mourned demise of my favorite productivity app Astrid, I carried its non-syncable version on my phone, still able to use my task list that I had built up with so much care even if it was only on my phone. But I also went about worrying about losing the data to some glitch that would need returning the phone to factory settings or other unforeseen circumstances. 

I tried a lot of task apps (todoist, Any.Do, Wunderlist are the ones I remember) that are accessible from both computers and phones: all had one great drawback. I couldn't customize the recurrence period. For example, I check the water levels of the our inverter battery every three months. Astrid allowed me to schedule things 3 months apart, three weeks apart or anything of that sort.Other to-do apps never had that capability.

I did not give up. While holding my precarious Astrid tasks in one hand, I kept searching for a to-do app that would let me schedule the recurrence of my tasks according to my own needs. And a few months ago, I found...

The first thing I noticed on their features list was "Flexible  recurring tasks"! I was still very cautious, and tried it for several days on my comp and phone before transferring my tasks data to TickTick (manually of course).

The app took a little getting used to - as with any new thing - but now I've got the hang of it. On my computer I use only Firefox to browse, so I've set my TickTick account as the home page for Chrome.  So whenever I open Chrome, I have my task list on hand! The interface is clutter-free and quite simple. I like it!

  • Limited number of entries you can make in the free version. Astrid's was unlimited. But I can live with it!
  • It doesn't have a cheerful little octopus congratulating me for the tasks I mark as done :(
So finally without trepidation, but with lots of regret, I let go of the little red octopus in my phone. Bye Astrid, I'll miss ya!!!

Jul 4, 2014

Another precious year!

Yesterday someone celebrated a birthday here at Karthi.. Who? I'll show you...

Yup all of six years old and in the first grade! On June 2, the brothers finally stepped out in identical outfits - also known as school uniforms and I couldn't but help get all weepy...

...thinking about how all that pristine whiteness was destined for an untimely demise on the persons of my boys. By the way, I wasn't worried about the dress of the guy in the back, just so that you know :)

To think this guy started out like this...

and this...

... and is now going to regular school!!! (Now you see why I was concerned about the uniforms? If you have been trying to wash out the dirt in boys' white uniforms for years, you would cry too.)

And here I am left with useless things like these...

Is there anything more forlorn in this world than a couple of support wheels separated forever from a kid's bicycle? I couldn't help think that once kids grow up, parents will kind of look like that pair up there, all worn down to nothing, battered and completely useless for anything else. Okay the uselessness part may not be true :)!

And yes, I have to tell you the story of how those support wheels came off. Our younger kid is such a contrarian (yup, new word, describes Ani exactly) that he makes a production out of every little thing. I think I managed him well this time! 

At first I was fixing something on Kunjunni's bike when the little guy rolled his up with support wheels and all. I finished my fixing and just commented to his elder brother how great the smaller cycle would look once the support wheels were off and the side-stand was on. (Notice how wily I was, I did not make any direct suggestion to the owner of the bike! :))

Kunjunni played along and agreed. So Ani had to agree too and off we went to find the side stand and I fixed it to the cycle after removing the extra wheels. Kunjunni and I made a great production of how stream-lined and big-boy-like the bike was looking when Ani suddenly realized, "But I can't ride without support wheels!"

We poohpoohed the thought. It was easy as anything, we said and got Kunjunni to demo on his own cycle around the front yard (not that Ani hadn't seen it before, still). I offered support and pushed him around a little.

Then our contrarian had a humongous meltdown. He insisted that I reinstate the support wheels as he would never, never, ever be able to ride without them. I think now that he was not ready to let go of that aspect of his childhood so quickly.

Here, I was crafty again. I didn't stay to reason with him. I just said, "Oh, if you aren't ready to ride it like this, I had better give it away..." and beat a strategic retreat.

Then I went into my room and pretended to be working on something on my laptop. The little guy came in and made some tearful complaints. I did not even deign to look.

Soon, our front yard became the arena for desperate attempts to keep possession of a beloved bike. I did not dare peek out of the window for fear of him seeing me. But I could hear some falls and some riding. DH who had been working from home that day went out and made some congratulatory noises, so I knew there was some progress...

About a half hour's efforts later, Ani sidled into the room and tried to catch my eye while I gazed resolutely at the monitor. 

"Amma, come and see, I have learned to ride the bike without support wheels"

"Hmm... (very bass, very serious)"

"Would you like to come?"

"Ok.. (no enthusiasm at all, the danger is not over even at this point)"

Thus I went to the front door and witnessed that accomplishment which had been touted as impossible just half an hour ago and made appropriate congratulatory noises, but in a very subdued fashion.

Then I went back inside and did a victory dance all by myself.

Thus do parents pave the way, one stone at a time, to becoming redundant support wheels.