Oct 31, 2010

A little feverish and my visit to Bengaluru...

What, a whole week went by without posting? Sheesh, I must have been in the daze of the Bengaluru bug-induced fever to notice things! Suddenly it's Sunday, the end of October and it's like I am waking up from a stupor.

Yes, last weekend we chugged off to Bengaluru to visit a few long-standing friends. Bengaluru - the site of my first and to-date last full-time job back at the beginning of this century! Wow, weekends spent roaming MG Road and environs, eating kachori chat at Maheswari Chaat behind Commercial Street, collecting precious books from the street vendors... good old times.

Understandably, MG Road was one of our intended destinations this time around. Brigades looked quite the same in the cool dusk - busy as usual, but as we emerged into MG Road, I couldn't even concentrate on the shops and stalls by the wayside. The Metro Rail overpass kind of engrossed my attention in all its huge, ugly and unfinished bulk. Walking alongside made me feel as though I were being stalked by a resurrected Godzilla. The promenade on the otherside has been completely gobbled up by the Godzilla, I think.

But there were compensations - Gangaram's is alive and thriving - all three floors of it. The wheezy lift that gets stuck at the first floor, the black and white mosaic floors and fluorescent lighting, the lovely floor of stationery that set me drooling as always, are all there. I quite forgave the Godzilla while I happily browsed inside. And Higginbothams is still ok too! After a recent experience I had in one of Thiruvananthapuram's erstwhile grand book shops, this was a huge relief to me. There I was in Tvm, paying a long-due visit to this particular book shop which I had frequented during my college days. There was someone at the entrance of the shop who I took to be the security staff. As I went inside, he too came in and discreetly stood behind the counter. It was then I noticed the absolutely deserted shop. As I was still browsing some 5 minutes later, the staff switched on the air-conditioner. This explained why he had been sitting outside the shop earlier. Now I was in trouble - I couldn't go out empty handed after having made the man switch on the airconditioner, but I could not find any title that was of interest to me. All that looked good, I already had and the others were mostly "safe" bestsellers and text books that did not hold any interest for me. Finally I combed the non-fiction section till I found a title and fled with it. It was so dismal because I remember it as a cheery, busy place with at least 2 or 3 staff members who tailed college students to make sure nobody filched anything while the others were busy at the counter ringing up purchases. I was quite depressed the rest of the day.

We got back from Bengaluru on Monday and since then I've been absolutely lethargic although the trip was not physically strenuous at all. Perhaps the Godzilla-given fright did it for me. For four days now, I've been having bouts of low-grade fever that start sometime in the evening and make me miserable, but not sick. Now if it was an all-out flu, I would've gladly crept under a blanket and stayed there for a week. But this one leaves me feeling fit and healthy in the morning, makes me do all the work, only niggling my back if I keep on my feet for a while. And then it comes, when all my work is done and takes all the enjoyment out of my rest with a full-body ache and burning behind the eyes! I mean how can I enjoy Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals" when I have to keep from laughing for fear of starting a bout of coughing that will tear out my lungs? It would also have been helpful to make me look sick - but naah - I have to wave the thermometer in people's faces to prove it. Sheesh!

So NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I have my beginning chapter started in anticipation! The goal is at least 2000 words per day. I hope I can turn off the internal editor/critic enough to complete the goal each day! Wish me luck!

Oct 22, 2010

Movie Review - Endhiran

Have you seen the movie Millennium Man in which Robin William plays a robot that wishes to become a man? Well, add a lot of garam masala to it and add some tadka at the end and you get Endhiran, the latest Rajni-Shankar blockbuster. We went to a small-town theatre to watch it in the third weekend after release (which we deemed to be safe from crowds), only to see people bring in extra chairs to sit down in the aisles. I haven't seen a movie hall that filled since - well...I don't know when!

The story is simple enough - Vazigaran (ordinary Rajni) the scientist creates a humanoid robot Chitti (extraordinary Rajni) after 10 years of research. He intends to use it for military applications, mostly in situations dangerous for humans (eg, mine field clearing), so why he uploads all the art and culture data into it is a bit odd. But then, who doesn't like a robot who can do Bharatanatyam and the tango with equal flare? Would be a great hit at the officers' parties. The robot is taken out for some real-world testing and is a great hit with Sanaa (Aishwarya), Vazi's girlfriend. He is deemed incomplete by Vazi's former mentor and current competitor Dr. Bora (Danny Dengzongpa). The trouble (and what magnificent trouble) starts when, in an attempt to teach Chitti the finer points of judgement, Vazi gets Chiiti to absorb all human emotions. The second half is a veritable CAG wonder - simply splendid with a believable climax for sci-fi movie. My 6-year-old loved the jokes and I too chortled once or twice in the first half. The song sequences are actually a little nuisance when they keep intruding at inopportune moments - but the picturisation in remote locations and Aishwarya made up for the intrusion.

Let me say here that I am not a Rajni fan. The first movie of him that I saw was way back when I was a kid and he was the villain of the piece. His acting was so good that I was totally scared and never wanted to see him again. (I had the same problem adjusting to Mohanlal after watching Manjil Virinja Pookkal and only constant exposure to movies in which he's the good guy made up for it.) But then, being in India, one can scarcely escape from Rajni. He simply pops up everywhere! If that's not enough, you get all those Rajni jokes by email which enlist his superhuman qualities as well as discussions of how he survives totally on gimmicks rather than actual histrionic talent. Criticisms aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he can give a restrained performance if he is allowed to.

All in all, I do recommend the movie if you are interested in this type of movie. Take your kids along - their giggles will help you enjoy it more.

Oct 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo and my Quikut knife

Aaah, I finally think I am reaching somewhere. For years I have been looking at the NaNoWriMo website, hesitating, dillydallying and shillyshallying before brushing aside any notion of joining to some dark corner of my mind. (For those who don't know: National Novel Writing Month is meant to be a motivator to sit down and write something that is at least 50,000 words long - in short, a novel.) But today I was led there while browsing through some blogs and it seemed almost serendipitous that I reached it with plenty of time to start. I took it as an omen and signed up before I had time to think and backpedal. One of the things that they ask you to do in their welcome mail is to tell as many people as you can that you are writing a novel in the month of November. So here I am, declaring my intention to write a novel. Why don't YOU join me as my writing buddy? Don't have any idea about what to do or write about? Don't worry, neither have I. But I have not let that stop me from putting the first step forward. So why are you hesitating? Join me and let me know by clicking the comments section!

I have read several articles about the brain hemisphere dichotomy. I have been trying to analyze the actions of my own brain halves and have come to the conclusion that both of them are pretty active, but the right one is pretty dominated by the left. For example, while cooking, my right brain goes, "Why don't you try adding some chicken masala to the sambar? We'll see if it makes any difference or whether people enjoy it more!" and my left brain screams, "Shut up!" and goes ahead and instructs my hand to pick up the sambar masala. As you can plainly see, it is sometimes best that the left brain is in control. But lately my right brain has been giving me images of a green-glove-clad hand wielding my long Quikut knife and slashing at my overgrown yard. Our four Quikut knives are testimony to a winter evening's temptation for a good deal at a local Walmart store in Detroit. Along with our other possessions, all their "bone-splitting" power has been lying unused for around 4 years. I have a favorite cleaver that also doubles as my coconut splitter, so there is no real work for a meat knife in a household that buys poultry once in a month or two.

Today as I was feeding my roses with nutritious rice gruel water, I was irked by the weeds that had almost grown half as tall as I am. I jumped into the house, took time to wear just one glove and get my Quikut knife and jumped back into the middle of the weed patch. Ten minutes later, my weed patch had an inch-long crew cut, weeds including the hardy, thorny touch-me-nots lay defeated on the ground and I was panting and sweating from all the stooping and hand-swinging workout. I have finally used my Quikut!!! Hurray! I will reserve the twin of this knife for the next jackfruit season. Let's see if the triumphant knife can hold its own against the hard jackfruit skin that usually yields only to the axe. So till then, Quikut rules as my lawn mower and exercise accessory! More power to my right brain!!!

Oct 14, 2010

Wish you all a Happy Navratri!

Today evening, along with my son's school books, I shall be putting up my favorite hero pen (yes, I still use those and I do have inkpots!), a notebook, a paintbrush and my collection of crochet hooks for the puja. And I will religiously give up reading till Vijayadasami on Sunday. Yeah, I know that it is just meant for students mostly, but hey, when does one stop being a student in this world? Not a day goes by when we don't learn something - be it the best combination of grains to make good dosas, finding a perfect way to counter the tantrums of a toddler (diversion, of course!), learning a foreign language phrase from TV or even just the fact that wasp's nests are stuck to surfaces with glue that is stickier that Fevicol, but very elastic. So I will be putting up my tools for puja this year too, if not for anything else, just to remind me that I am still a student in the best sense of the term. Since my husband might need the laptop, I shall not be putting that up, but I am wondering about my second keyboard....

And yes, my voluntary giving up of all reading shall put me in the state comparable to that of the master wordsmith and our beloved MP Shashi Tharoor describes in his essay "Growing Up with Books in India" - ...I would find myself reading the fine print on the toiletries in the bathroom of the fragments of old newspaper that lined my clothes-drawers. I used to do the same when I was a kid! Oh, to be reduced to such desperation!

Once again, I wish you all a wonderful Navratri!

Oct 10, 2010

Good morning!

Up at 4:30. A gloriously leisurely bath instead of the usual 10-minute dash. A breakfast of crispy, golden brown dosas to look forward to...

And in the meanwhile, a steaming mug of hot chocolate to fortify me...

The toughest question facing me - start a good book or play some more with Perler Beads? Hmm... think I will go ahead with the book in the spirit of the day.

It'll be at least an hour before a "Coo moning" from my toddler who will be smiling even while he's rubbing his eyes. Aaaah, the peace and quiet...

Wish you all a lovely Sunday morning!

Oct 8, 2010

What do you do on a rainy afternoon?

It's the eighth day of October today and the number of days when we have had some uninterrupted sunshine for at least an hour so far are three. The last two days my son didn't have to go to school because the district collector declared them holidays due to the heavy rain. Since he couldn't go outside to play and was bored with TV, I had to find something to do...

I finally broke out my Perler beads collection. For those unfamiliar with the name - it's a bead craft for kids (ahem, ahem!) with teeny tiny cylindrical plastic beads that you arrange on pegboards of different shapes to create pictures or objects. My explanation not enough? Check this out - Perler Beads .

My Perler beads have a history - they have been in my craft stash - untouched - for a whopping 6 years now! I hope none of you will mind my taking the title "queen of procrastination"! And I didn't just buy one tub of beads - no sirree! I have two tubs of them and a whole set of a dozen or so different-sized pegboards, a pair of cute sharp-nosed tweezers to pick up the beads and two project books. All this had been stuffed into a suitcase that had been left at my mother-in-law's place while we did our globe-trotting thing.

So my son and I sat down, took a look at the project ideas, chose a pegboard and tweezer each and poured a handful of beads into a steel plate and started off. He chose a smiley face design while I went in for a bigger circular design.

I really marveled at my son's color recognition, because whenever I picked up a sky-blue bead, he'd tell me it was a turquoise one. When he did that for the dozenth time, I gave my glasses a good wipe and turned on the light! Things were much better from then onward. Well, when all was said and done two hours later (with several interruptions from my toddler who tried to get into all the fun), this is what I had after ironing both sides...

I hope you can make out what it is supposed to represent! Now it hangs on our "emergency" curtain rod between our living room and open-plan kitchen. I've decided that I like the craft and it's a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon. Note: "Emergency" curtain rod is what my husband insisted on installing for the safety of unwary visitors - to prevent them from fainting away after seeing my kitchen.

What did my son do? Well, he was so particular about finding the exact shade of green for the outer circle of his smiley face that he got bored with having to pick them and refused to "make do" with similar colored ones. So after completing two circles, he dumped them back into the plate and went to watch Ben Ten! Hmm... do I sense a budding perfectionist there??? On the other hand, I was pleased that an active almost 6-year-old boy could sit still for that much!

How do you enjoy your rainy afternoons? Do tell me by clicking on the comments link below and posting your valuable thoughts and ideas.

Oct 5, 2010

Last week's project

Our son's school had sent ahead a list of events the students could participate in for the "cultural fest" scheduled for the third week of October. Since the kiddo loves dressing up, we signed him up for the fancy dress competition. Imagine our surprise when we got a note last Monday, just when he had finished his first term exams, saying that the competition would be conducted on that Friday itself. Result - doting Mama scurrying around for a costume that would fit in the theme of "Harvest festivals of India".

What would I do without the internet? I had already decided that he would be representing the Lohri festival of Punjab, but I had no dress. Frantic calling of city costumers ensued - all of them said they didn't have the requisite costume in child size and if I gave them a week, they could get it made and rent it to me. Not enough time. That's when I thought of making it myself. So out I went shopping. A few hours of stitching later - here's what I came up with.

(Please disregard the shoes, he was supposed to wear his uniform afterwards and I didn't want to carry back his footwear.)

Of course, I bought the kurta readymade. I made the "lungi" from a dupatta of mine and bought green material that matched the lungi's borders to make the overcoat and turban. The fan I made with buckram covered in green. I knew I would not be able to wrap the turban at school, so I wrapped it around my son's head the previous day and stitched the layers together while he was wearing it. I did poke him with the needle a few times, but at least I was sure that the needle was going through all the layers! I can tell you that it made the dressing much easier on the D-day!

He is missing a beard and mustache in this picture that was snapped just before we left for school. I saved the "painting" for later as I did not want the outfit messed up with black streaks. Everything went as planned and he came away from the stage with his costume intact - around which time I let my breath out finally.

Lessons from this craft:

1. Always buy matching thread with the material - never ASSUME you would have matching thread at home! :-)

2. Start searching for costumes when you get the first whiff of competition!

And no... we haven't got the results of the competition as yet. I will tell you when we do. But I am totally satisfied because he wore the costume without any mishaps!

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