Dec 14, 2012

Did you watch the meteor showers?

Yesterday I came across an article about the Geminid meteor shower that was predicted to peak on the 13th and 14th of December. So when my alarm chirped in the morning at 4 am as usual, I brushed my teeth, informed a groggy DH of my whereabouts, made a scalding cuppa tea and made my way to our terrace. The article had warned me of the visibility sapping effects of "visual pollution", which would mean man-made light in this context. I spied some bright light in the northwestern and southern quarters (from a KSEB substation and power grid respectively), but since the Geminids were predicted to appear in the eastern sky, I put down my cuppa and sat down resolutely facing the east.

How many of us deliberately look up at the night sky and how often do we do it? The maximum I notice is the full moon at times, but it mostly happens when it accidentally pops in front of my eyes while we are driving in the night time. One of my fondest childhood memories is "chasing" the moon by roaming all over the backseat of my parents' car as the moon changed its position during our drive over the mostly desert area of the road stretch between Dammam and Al-Khobar. In 2008, I happened upon a curious formation of   two stars and the crescent moon that looked exactly like a slightly lop-sided smiley. It kinda looked like this:


We were returning from hospital fetching my Mom who had just sacrificed a toe on the altar of diabetes and I took the astronomical phenomenon as sign for me to cheer up again. I remember drawing the same in my diary that night. That my vision was not a chimera was proved by pictures in the next day's newspaper.

To return to this morning, I was struck all of a heap to see the literally star -studded sky. I could make out Ursa Major and Ursa Minor pretty well. Now before your mind boggles at my astronomical knowledge, let me tell you that those are the ONLY constellations I know and that too just because they look like sauce pans! I think I can also recognize the Pole star, but it could be quite a different one in a true star-gazer's opinion. So there I was, my tea cooling rapidly in the chilly morning - I had fortunately had the foresight to wear a woolen hat and wrap up my throat with a thorthu - while I gaped at the marvelous show above me. 

I sat there for five minutes and started feeling slightly foolish because I hadn't noticed anything yet. And that is when I saw something dart in my right peripheral vision. Yes!!!!! It was my first real shooting star!! (The only shooting star I've seen before this was in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai). And then when I gazed at that spot, there went one on my left!

After counting about five shooting stars, I spotted a sixth one approaching from the north. Compared to the previous ones, this was quite slower and was traveling almost horizontally with a brighter light. I went, "What a super meteor!" when a faint rumble reached my ears. I guess it must have been an early flight from Mumbai coming in to land. Oh well! As time slowly passed and my count increased, I noticed that the meteorites were shifting position to directly above me. So I stretched out on my back on the chilly terrace with my arms under my head. 

In the meanwhile I noticed the world waking up. A neighbor's speaking clock chimed five and then informed its family of the hour. A few seconds later, MS Subbalakshmi exhorted Venkatesa and all around us to "Wake up and get up" from our Maruppancode temple speakers. I could have lain there for ever and ever. But right after my twelfth shooting star an almighty sneeze bolted me upright. I also began to feel the discomforts of certain effects that my morning cuppa had put into motion (get the pun?). So I cut short my astronomical observations for the time being and groped my way down the steep iron stairs. A little visual pollution or at least a torch would have been handy at that moment, but I made it down in one piece. I hope I can catch another meteor shower soon!!!

Dec 12, 2012

Elephants Can Remember (Apologies to Agatha Christie)

First of all, an apology in advance to all my techno-savvy readers ... please look the other way while I gloat over my new technological "discovery"!

The name of my latest technological friend is Evernote. Yup, the green elephant head that you see down below is a real boon to me. 


One of my main activities while surfing is copying and saving articles I want to read again, or craft projects that I want to try. And most probably it will be in the middle of these activities that I will remember something that needs to be done @home, @shopping etc. But I would be so engrossed in surfing that the item would inevitably be forgotten by the time I got up from my chair. Now let me tell you in what ways Evernote has made life a lot easier for me.

1. Evernote has this lovely interface with my "notebooks" listed on the far left side. I have notebooks called craft, decorative ideas, braindump, home and garden and so on and so forth. I can choose whether the notebooks should be private (in which case it is saved only on my comp) or whether it can be shared by others. 

2. Which leads to the loveliness that allows me to access my notes on my android phone. So whatever I enter into my comp gets synced on to my phone that goes with me everywhere. My notes are always accessible! So now I can tell you some of the uses I put it to:

3. Evernote has a web-clipper with the elephant-head icon that appears in one corner of my browser window. When I find something that needs more than cursory attention, I just click the elephant and he asks me whether I need the whole page, just the article or even just an image. I tell him what to select and which notebook to put it in and voila!

4. I have a notebook called monthly shopping in Evernote. Till now I used a master grocery list (made, I think, back in 2002 and updated occasionally thereafter) carefully preserved in a sheet protector. Once a month I took the list around the kitchen and pantry with a notepad and checked for the items in the list, then noted down what I needed. Then I took the paper list for shopping (Or forgot it,  which happened very often) What do I do now? Evernote has a checklist feature that can be used to insert "tickable" boxes. I have three notes in my monthly shopping notebook - each corresponding to a floor of our favorite grocery shop with a list of the items available on that floor. Whenever I run out of something, I just take my phone, find the item and put a tick against it  and note the quantity I need to buy next month. So I just have to carry the phone to the store and uncheck the boxes as I put the items in my basket. So easy, huh! Saving paper is a bonus too!

5. I have another notebook named Someday. In it there are items like Books I want to read, Movies I want to watch, etc. I note down the names of interesting books and movies. The next time I go to the library or the bookstore, I have a ready list of things I need to look for.

6. This can be done even without Evernote, but since it is already there, I make use of it. I use my diary to plan the activities for the weekend (Isn't there something so satisfying about writing it down than just using keys or tapping/swyping on a tiny screen?) When we go out on Saturday morning, I just take a snapshot of it on my phone and my errand list is so handy from there on.  

7. The best thing about Evernote is when I get some free time, I can go through all the articles that I have collected and read them at my leisure.

I know that Evernote can be put to greater and more varied uses than what I have listed. A few videos at their site can give you some ideas if you haven't tried Evernote. 

I guess Microsoft One Note too has the same features and they have a site called skydrive.com where the notes are uploaded. I use One Note on my comp too, but I put only those things there that I need only when I access my computer. OneNote app's interface looks much more colorful, but I am happy with my little green elephant. What is it with me and cute icons????

Speaking of cute icons, you may remember my post about Astrid tasks. I recently became bold enough to sync my phone with an online Astrid account, so I can type to my heart's content when I get tired of using my touch phone screen. Do u know that Astrid has activity-specific icons there? For instance, when I click on my "Write" list of tasks, a bespectacled Astrid complete with pencil and paper appears! I just wish they would come to my phone too!

Dec 6, 2012

Two Books from My Bookshelf!

Hi everyone!

It's so easy to delve deep into blog-world to the extent that one forgets that one's own little blog is languishing from want of attentionYep, that's what happened to me. Susan Branch is one huge addiction nowadays. Rest easy, I've almost caught up with her archived pages and will soon be in real time!

Meanwhile I have not neglected my paperback friends either. One small thing that was preventing me from writing about them was the thought of photographing the covers and adding them to my posts. The procedure was enough to make me procrastinate - take digicamera, put in batteries, take pics, find connecting cable, connect, copy, paste etc. etc. Sheesh. So I took the easy route today. Took pics on my phone, transferred with bluetooth to my comp. Tada!!! So now don't go complaining the pics aren't very good or clear, I don't have an iPhone!

The first book was this: a thin volume that lasted me the length of a train journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Kottayam with lots of pauses between each essay to savor the flavors and think about a bit.


It has all the charm and wholesomeness of Sathyan's movies themselves. Each reminiscence is filled with truth, humor and candor.  I couldn't help but relate to several things that this people's director has to say - especially about the lost art of letter writing. Yes, we can communicate with a wider audience within a teeny tiny fraction of the time now. But no email or social website can reproduce the qualities of a handwritten letter. I tried reviving my letter-writing habit a while ago, but was stumped when I couldn't find anyone to send them to! Now I can only thank the stars that I have had the lovely experience of sending and receiving letters in the past. If anyone's interested in writing letters just for the sake of writing and receiving them, please let me know! We'll  indulge our craziness together and keep our postmen busy! 

If you can read Malayalam, do get yourself a copy of  Ormakalude Kudamaattam, savor it on a leisurely afternoon and share with your family and friends.

The second book was Monisha Rajesh's Around India in 80 Trains -  a travelogue or rather a trainologue.


On a not-so-subtle take on Verne's book, Monisha even names her Norwegian photographer companion Passepartout. His real name as well as the photographs he took are missing from the book. Or were the photographs meant for some other project? I don't know. The book has some wit and some touching moments. But what stands out throughout the book is the author's confusion about her own identity and nationality - she says that she roots for the English cricket team when it plays against India, but she also feels the need to defend India against foreigners who would look down upon the country as a whole. This confusion makes for some tiring reading, but I guess Monisha was only being true to herself. To add some drama and continuity to the book instead of making it simply a string of train journeys connected by stations, the author introduces an acrimonious theological debate with Passepartout and a blustering Railway employee Anusha.  Like any Westerner offended by pantheistic Hinduism, she storms out of Puri Jagannath Temple after her religious affliation was doubted and falls for Vipassana meditation. Her moments of "resentment release" reads like a chapter straight out of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.  In short, Monisha is not sure she wants to be labeled an Indian but is very angry when someone refuses to see her as Indian. Funny! 

Personally I find writers like William Dalrymple much more in tune with the culture he is writing about, notwithstanding his enthusiastic comment splashed straight across the cover of Around India...
Good points: The lady has a wonderful power of observation and eye for detail that makes her word portraits truly marvelous, though they are mostly in a sarcastic and censorious vein. And her book is very informative and is never dull for a moment.

Certainly worth a read.

Nov 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Somehow, 2012 has been the year of thanksgiving and remembering things with gratitude. The first inkling of what would be came when I got a diary for this year totally based on the looks (how shallow of me) and my favorite format inside (have to have month-at-a-glance). When I brought it home, I saw this:


and sure enough, each month had gratitude messages and exercises on the facing pages.  And then near the half-way mark of the year, this came into my life:


The month I spent doing the exercises in this book has had lasting effects. Now each day begins and ends with gratitude meditations - and as someone who has tried several meditation techniques in the past and left them along the wayside I can definitely say - this one is easy, extremely doable and very uplifting. 

So following the US tradition of remembering and sharing the blessings in our lives on this day, let me enumerate some things I am grateful for just off the top of my head...

 I am thankful for:

... just being here, now, in this wonderful age of computers, internet and a level of interconnection with peers that defies the imagination.

... having been young when A.R. Rahman burst upon the scene and having heard the best and freshest of his melodies. Can't think of college days without ARR's Kaathal Rojave, Netriyillatha Maatram, En Veettu Thottathil etc. as a running soundtrack.

... hearing "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha" from 1942: A Love Story last night on the radio while doing the dishes and still remembering all the lyrics.

... being able to sing along aloud with those lyrics without being strangled forthwith!

... having lots of FM channels to entertain me while doing the dishes or cooking!

... having a little kiddo sneakily undo my apron strings so that I will chase him all around the house and tickle him till he begs for mercy.

... having discovered a great artist and human being called Susan Branch and having access to her site for daily inspiration. 

... having found an easy way to access Susan's blog archives and being able to read all her old posts  - 4 or 5 a day - to my heart's content.

... being able to go up to DH who is frantically getting ready for office and inquiring very concernedly whether he has lost something. And when he asks, showing him a screw and escaping braying and honking alternately without any bodily harm befalling me.

... sharing watercolor beginner lessons with our elder son and crowing "my painting looks better" at each other.

I could go on ad nauseam, but will confine myself to ten for the time being. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with or without roast turkey. Have oodles of fun and good times!

Nov 7, 2012

A Reluctant Recipe

I don't enjoy cooking very much. There, I've confessed to the worst sin a stay-at-home-mother can commit. I won't go into the whys and wherefores now as that would be sufficient stuff for another post. When I started blogging, a few of my friends suggested that I should post recipes - I cringed at the thought of the extremely basic fare that I plate up each day and kept mum. Last month, a childhood friend (popularly known as a chuddi buddy these days?) came to visit after a loooong gap of several years and I prepared dinner for him. I still aver that it was not deliberate, but when I was thinking about a chicken dish, I automatically chose a childhood favorite. Not until I saw him picking out chicken pieces to eat with relish even after his rice was long over did I realize that he must have eaten the same dish several times as it was a staple of my mom's at parties. If people ask me for just one dish that is an absolute favorite of mine, it is this, it is this, it is this!

So here is my mother's fried chicken (or as we Malayalis call it, chicken fry) in my style.

Ingredients
Chicken, skinned and cut into medium-sized pieces: 1 kg
Onions, thinly sliced: 1 cup
Grated coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies: 6  - 8 for medium, 12 if you want it really spicy (Me like REALLY spicy!)
Any good chicken masala: 2 tbsp
Curd (plain yogurt): 1 tbsp
Garlic and ginger diced finely/ paste: 1 tsp each
Curry leaves: 2 sprigs
Coconut oil: enough for frying
Salt: q.s
(tee hee, I've always wanted to write that q.s., pretending to be a master chef writing out my recipe!!!)

Procedure:
1. Mix curd, chicken masala and the salt together, rub the mixture on the chicken pieces and let sit in the fridge for half an hour (can be made even without this step, but I find it adds to the flavor).  Meanwhile, grate the coconut, slice the onions and do the rest of the prep work. Here's a pic of the ingredients after all the prep work is done.


2. Cook/steam the chicken for around half an hour till it's half cooked - this again helps it to absorb more flavor. Strain out the chicken pieces after they are done. You can use some of the cooled chicken broth for grinding in the fourth step.

3. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan with a tsp-ful of coconut oil and add the onions, grated coconut and green chillies. Fry them over high heat stirring continuously. Don't you dare stop for even five seconds if you don't want charred and smoky masala. This is what it looks like at the beginning of the step.



Half-way through it will look like this. Keep a glass of water ready at the side:


No, don't add the water to the mix, that is for YOU to drink as you will be thoroughly sweating and parched by now. You can add the garlic and ginger at this stage. If you are intrepid, you can add half a dozen pepper corns if you want - okay, okay, just saying... The next picture shows you how it will look when done.


There is a tiny window of time between when the coconut is evenly browned and when it is charred, so as soon as the coconut reaches the above color, take the pan off the fire and keep stirring for a minute or two till the heat dissipates.

4. As soon as the masala mixture cools down, grind it in a blender with just enough water or broth from step 2 to get it ground evenly into a fine paste. Transfer it into a bowl and keep aside.

5. Put the pan back on the fire and pour enough oil to cover the bottom to a good quarter of an inch high. When it heats up, put in just enough chicken pieces in so that turning will be easy. Fry each side of the chicken for two minutes each, then add the masala paste (keeping aside enough for the second batch of chicken if need be, of course). Add a few curry leaves too and turn the pieces occasionally so that the masala will coat the chicken (don't worry if the paste doesn't stick to the chicken, some of it will fall off.) When the masala turns dark brown and becomes less mushy, it's done. To make sure,  take out a tiny bit of the masala, blow hard on it and check if it has a "fried" taste.


6. Take out the chicken pieces, then scoop as much masala out of the pan as you can after squeezing it on the side of the pan to drain out as much oil as possible.  Arrange the chicken pieces in your serving dish and smear the pieces with the masala. Add more fried curry leaves as garnish. Enjoyed best with white rice and curd  with a green salad on the side. 


My mom's way of making this is to grind the masala and cook it with chicken and water and once the chicken is done, she allows the water to boil off gradually stirring it occasionally and then adds oil to the mix and fries it. This process entails a lot of time and stirring in front of the stove in addition to the masala-frying time, so I do it this way. My method also saves some time because you can let the chicken cook while you are frying the ingredients for the masala. But you can try it  mom's way too, just make sure you have a lot of water to drink!

Nov 2, 2012

A little fun for the weekend

We are all plagued by the difference between how English is written and spoken. Once our professor told us about how fish could be spelled "ghoti" and attributed the anecdote to George Bernard Shaw. What? It can't be spelled that way? Try pronouncing the italicized letters in the following words and see for yourself: enough, women, nation.

Here is a poem called The Chaos written in 1920 by a Dutchman called Gerard Nolst Trenite who was thoroughly fed up by the vagaries of English pronunciation. You can turn on this video and read along with it.There are several versions of this poem on the net, no doubt it has been added to by other frustrated English language students! :-) This is the nearest version to the video that I could find on the net. You can also use this site if you want to find the correct pronunciation of the words all by yourself - Howjsay

The Chaos

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

It will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you'll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, Lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it's written);
Say - said, pay - paid, laid, but plaid.

Made has not the sound of bade;
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak,
Previous, precious, fuschia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven; how and low;
Script, receipt; shoe, poem, toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles;
Exiles, similes, reviles;
Wholly, holly; signal, signing;
Thames, examining, combining;
Scholar, vicar and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From "desire" desirable - admirable from "admire";
Lumber, plumber; bier, but brier;
Chatham, brougham; renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anernone; Balmoral;
Kitchen, lichen; laundry,. laurel,
Gertrude, German; wind and mind;
Scene, Melpomene; mankind;
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Billet does not sound like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with "khaki".
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Froward, to forward, to reward.

And your pronunciation's O.K.,
When you say correctly:: croquet;
Rounded, wounded; grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live;
Liberty, library; heave and heaven;
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed;
People, leopard; towed, but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice, but police and lice.'
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Portal, penal and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit
Rime with "shirk it" and "beyond it".
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular; gaol; iron;
Timber, climber, bullion, lion;
Worm and storm; chaise, chaos, chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Ivy, privy; famous. Clamour
And enamour rime with "hammer".

Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf; countenance; lieutenants
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.

River, rival; tomb, bomb, comb;
Doll and roll and some and home,
Stranger does not rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.

Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and, grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then say: singer, ginger, linger.

Roal, zoal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with "very",
Nor does fury sound like' bury'
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut, granite and unite.
Reefer does not rime with "deafer",
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.

Dull, bull; Geoffrey, George; ate, late;
Hint, pint; senate, but sedate;
Scenic, Arabic, pacific;
Science, conscience, scientific.

Tour, but our and succour, four;
Gas, alas, and Arkansas!
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria;
Couth, south, southern; cleanse and clean;
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.

Sally with ally; yea,,ye,
Eye,I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.

Never guess - it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf!
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie.

Face, but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass;
Large, but target, gin, give, verging;
Ought, out joust and scour, but scourging.
Far, but earn; and wear and bear
Do not rime with "here", but "ore".

Seven is right, but so is even;
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen;
Monkey, donkey; clerk and jerk;
Asp, grasp, wasp; and cork and work.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
   Won't it make you lose your wits
   Writing groats and saying "grits"?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
   Islington, and Isle of Wight,
   Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
   Finally, which rhymes with enough,
   Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!
 

Nov 1, 2012

Happy birthday to Two!

ലോകമെമ്പാടുമുള്ള  മലയാളികള്‍ക്ക്  എന്‍റെ ഹൃദയംഗമമായ കേരളപ്പിറവി ആശംസകള്‍!!!

Last week, on the 24th which was Vijayadasami day was an anxiously awaited one at Karthi. For a week I had been looking forward to the evening to see a beloved artiste who we had gjven up as retired for good make a second debut in the presence of the mischievous and ever benevolent Lord of Guruvayoor. Yes, I am talking about none other than the birthday girl Manju Warrier! I had been an ardent fan of her dance since she was a regular participant in the state youth festivals. As I watched her mesmerize the audience once again with her performance on stage at the Melpathoor auditorium last Wednesday, I couldn't but applaud, I was so happy!!!

(Pic Courtesy Gruhalakshmi Nov 2012 issue)

I was not a fan of Manju in her heyday mainly because I was not a regular moviegoer at the time. My father hated taking his precious daughters into the pushing and shoving melee that surrounded the movie theatres at the time and often recommended that we go to movies after our marriage - thankfully that has happened now!!! The only movie of Manju that I have seen on the big screen is Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu - a movie that was too dark for my taste. So it was not until the age of movie reruns on plentiful Malayalam channels that I could watch Manju's movies and appreciate the consummate talent and hard work she brought into each of her roles.

What is the mystery of Manju's fan following that has survived all 14 years of inactivity? Her prodigious talent apart, I think it is the authenticity and life she imparted to the ordinary characters in her movies - the fun-loving, slightly naughty, capable of intense jealousy but good at heart girl that boys would love to love and girls would hunger to be. Her typical Malayali looks and hair didn't hurt although her facial features are far from perfect. In fact, I think the imperfections are what really make her accessible and loved by all.

So it was with a lot of trepidation and anxious anticipation that I sat down in front of the TV to watch Manju's second debut. My fears were happily proven groundless. The goddess of dance has returned to the stage. I don't know if she will venture into movies and if she does, what will await her there. But I am certainly happy that she has returned to the stage on her own terms and have proved that her talents are untarnished by the passage of time. After sixteen years of hectic schooling, dance programs and 20 movies crammed into 4 years, she certainly deserved to lead a leisurely life being just a wife and a mom. We can't even guess the life she must have led with constant dance practice starting from kindergarten years, programs and rehearsals that segued into a hectic movie career without even the gap to enjoy a college life etc.

Dear Manju, happy birthday and welcome back! You are a huge inspiration to all moms  who have shelved their artistic aspirations for the sake of family. It doesn't matter if you choose to concentrate on classical dance. But if you do choose to act in movies, I will be one of the thousands in queue for a ticket of the very first show of every movie that you do!!!!

Oct 30, 2012

Movie Review: Ayalum Njaanum Thammil

After a case of the sniffles turned into hacking coughs and catarrhy sinuses requiring two courses of antibiotics, it was singularly apt that the first movie I ventured out to see after a hiatus should have been concerned with the medical profession. 

The theme of Lal Jose's latest is not new at all. If you have seen Lakshya, Usthad Hotel etc., you'll get the general drift. Dr. Ravi Tharakan (Prithviraj) and his pal (Naren) are feckless youngsters who complete their medical studies taking their time to learn everything thoroughly. Determined to make his son see some life, Ravi Tharakan's father refuses to put up the money with which Ravi can evade his bond. The only way he can stay in the state is by accepting work at Dr. Samuel's Redemption Hospital (a name chosen with great care) which takes care of the less fortunate in Munnar. The moment he joins up, Dr. Tharakan realizes that he has signed up for nothing less than a trial by fire.

The scriptwriters have tried to add to the suspense of an otherwise straightforward story by a reprisal of their tremendously successful Traffic's  non-linear narrative technique. Not as effective as the first one, I must say. The script stretches in places to bring out new and harrowing sufferings for the protagonist and there is one elongaaaated moment in which the protagonist behaves truly out of character (I suspect that it was added to give Prithvi a chance to do some serious emoting), but to my relief, he sprang back into action. Yes, Prithvi is Dr. Ravi Tharakan to a T.  Reema and Remya have good, meaty roles which they have handled with finesse and Samvrutha - does nothing noteworthy (another character twisted out of recognition to add to the good doctor's trials). Prathap Pothen does very well again as the exemplary and unorthodox physician who, having failed with his own son, takes it upon himself to whip up his raw junior into shape. Salim Kumar's character is a fresh source of comic relief and his interludes were really welcome.

Does Ravi Tharakan become a wonderful doctor worthy of his mentor? Does he learn to rein in his impulsive nature and unforgiving ways? What does Dr. Samuel do to guide his junior? Watch the movie to find out - I promise that you won't be bored.

Oct 5, 2012

All my glamour is gone!!!

One of the high points of my day is waiting at our gate to receive our kindergartner. I absolutely love the way he shyly smiles and holds me tight for a moment as he steps off the bus into my arms. I also have to say hi to his friend Kashi, a bright little boy with lots of curly hair and a very infectious smile. He makes it a point to greet me every afternoon when the bus stops in front of our gate and I reply in the same enthusiastic tone that he uses. These days, he considers himself obliged to make some chitchat too. For example, one day he said, "Sorry, innu ithiri late aayi"(Sorry, I am a little late today). Yesterday, as the bus stopped, Kashi shouted "Haaaayiii!!!"

Me: Haaayiiii!!!
Kashi: Ente glamour ellam poyi!!! (All my glamour is gone!!!)
Me: Meh?!?! (Imagine a cow interrupted mid-moo and you will get the sound)
Ayah: Yeah, he did say glamour...

And the bus went off, but I was left thinking...

DH and I were recently looking through our old photos spurred on by him wanting to find his high school class photo etc. This led us to checking out a lot of old photos and reminiscing about how wonderful we looked "in those days". There was certainly much lesser of us and more hair evident on our heads. DH even started estimating the ages of our elders in those old photos to see how he fared in hair loss compared with them! 

My thinking went in quite a different direction. I started thinking of what my reaction to my own pictures have been over the years. I don't remember much about my first few years, but I used to hate my pictures taken around the age of 8. That's about the time I started wearing glasses and was teased a lot about my looks. The teasers couldn't have helped it, my glasses were total granny ones - with black, tip-tilted oval frames!! I certainly didn't look very happy in the pictures I have of that time.  I think I didn't start liking my photos again till I was almost 20 years old and started wearing contact lenses.

Fast forward a few years and starting with my first pregnancy in 2004, there aren't a lot of single pictures of me and I look happy only in those in which I am clutching one or both of our kiddos. I guess I've turned critical of my looks once again because of the burgeoning weight. With that has come the tendency to stay behind the camera more than in front of it. Although it has meant an improvement in photography skills with the amount of practice I'm getting, it is also a place I don't want to be in: being overcritical of myself. I am sure when I am 60, even my ballooned figure will look pretty to me! I don't want to wait that long though. Therefore, note to self: Love yourself for what you are, not some ideal of what you should be!!!

Meanwhile I am still wondering where Kashi got his statement from!!!!

Sep 27, 2012

Produce!!!

We've been breaking our backs wielding the pickaxe and shovel in Karthi's backyard the past few months. At least, I've been doing it most of the time with occasional voluntary help (by my MIL who likes vegetable gardening and DH whom I accuse of wanting to hog the bragging rights) and rarer bonded labor (our elder kiddo who will surely brand me a slave-driver one of these days) as well as well-intended, but mostly disastrous work by the youngest of the family who now gets shooed away before he can wreak any havoc. Incidentally, this makes him even more eager to enter the fray and two weeks ago, he cried for one whole hour sitting on the back steps while we all toiled in the hot, hot sun. 

Last week we got these:


Two lovely tomatoes that were gifted to us by a plant that grew up all by itself and was helped only with some physical and moral support from us. They were soon transformed thus:


and consumed eagerly by a grateful family. Even my salad-hating elder kiddo said it was tasty. Yes, although it grew up from a store-bought tomato that escaped a noble fate in our tummies, it tasted much better - probably because it was fresh and untouched by pesticides or chemical fertilizers!

I also went up to our terrace and picked these - our first ever Ivy gourd/Tindora/Kovakka


We got the mature cutting from the nearest Krishi office and I've coaxed the vine to climb on to our terrace from the ground. These tasted absolutely wonderful fresh off the vine (crisp and sweet,  quite unlike the store variety that have a sticky texture) and the rest went into a stir-fry yesterday.

Besides these we have been enjoying Cheera (amaranth) and Payar (long beans) for some weeks now (too lazy to photograph those too). So far our gardening experiments and accidents have been somewhat successful, so we plan to do a little more. Meanwhile we have papaya, elephant yam and plantains on the way!!!

BTW, if any of you are troubled by aphid (aka munja)s on long bean vines, spray garlic juice on them. To do this, crush a handful of garlic cloves with a pestle, wash the mortar out with quarter a liter of water, strain the juice into a sprayer and use. Pretend you are nailing your opponents in the Wild West with a silver-plated six-shooter and it will be fun too. No, don't ask me how I know!!!

Sep 20, 2012

Movie Review: Molly Aunty Rocks

Does Molly Aunty rock or not? That might depend on the person watching. If you ask me, as a total cinematic experience, she rocked only slightly. Ranjith Sankar's latest offering is quite different from Passenger and Arjunan Sakshi in that it is not a thriller. 

Molly aunty (Revathy) has left her job in the US of A to rejoin a bank in Cherppulasseri from where she had taken long leave to go abroad. Two years later, she takes a VRS and is covered with accolades for her personal and professional aplomb. She is all set to rejoin her husband when lightning strikes her in the form of the Income Tax Deputy Commissioner Pranav Roy (Prithviraj).
In the resulting tussle between them, we see the not-so-pretty and the sublime parts of Molly Aunty come out. 

Molly aunty really rocks in terms of characterization and not-so-dark humor. It also has several happy-tear-jerking moments. KPAC Lalitha as Molly Aunty's mother-in-law is simply superb. Prithviraj for once has a role that he has really given his heart to. Just a little flexing of those God-gifted eyebrows and he is the embodiment of professional arrogance and superciliousness. He really deserves a pat on the back for taking up this role and executing it perfectly. Revathy is a little shortchanged in terms of having nothing more strenuous to do than climb over a gate. Lalu Alex both entertains and endears himself to us as the understanding husband of the firebrand Molly. The star of the movie is surprisingly Salim Mecheril, our own irrepressible Mamu Koya! He's got the role of a lifetime (even though it's a bit short)  as the brilliant but unconventional lawyer who tries to extricate Molly Aunty from the corner into which she has painted herself.

Now for why Molly Aunty doesn't rock as much as it should - the plot fails where it tries to bring in the conflict that is required to bring out Molly's secret life. For one, why does Pranav Roy blindly try to frame Molly in revenge? There is nothing in the plot to show that Roy is corrupt. Next, it is odd that Molly says that she didn't know that incomes from fixed deposits are taxable when she has been working in a bank and it is inconsistent with the character not to have paid the same. Also, the greedy and corrupt official never gets his comeuppance, so that leaves something to be desired by way of the plot.

Summing up, Molly Aunty is a lighthearted satire which has a lot of heart. In my DH's opinion, it felt more like a Sathyan Anthikad movie than a Ranjith Sankar product. It's a movie I would watch again on DVD or one I would not skip when it appears on TV. After all, when the heart's in the right place, a few plot points do not matter.

Sep 4, 2012

Movie Review: Run Baby Run

This is the best of the Onam release pictures out there. Sachi and Joshiyyy (that man has mangled up his spelling so much I don't know what it exactly is now) have come up with a winner this time. Let me just give you a small glimpse of the plot.

Renuka (Amala Paul) is a hotshot at a prime news channel. Venu (Mohanlal) is a cameraman of high stature with names like Reuters and BBC behind him. Rishi (Biju Menon), Venu's friend is struggling at the helm of his own news channel that has lost its backers. The three had been thick as thieves until something happened that led to a huge showdown and resulted in Venu going away to Delhi. Five years later, Venu lands in Kerala again and things start happening. Personal issues notwithstanding, Renuka wants a cut of the action too and she will go to any lengths to get a sign-off shot in Venu's work. But this time their snare is too fragile for the big game they are hunting...

Pluses:
Pace: Not a moment to relax and kick back except for the Anthiveyilppaayayil song. Keeps you guessing and second-guessing. I really pity my DH who had to listen to all my hissed conjectures during the movie. Even though some of my guesses were right, I didn't feel let down at any time. 

Biju Menon: Superb in both the comic and serious parts.

Mohanlal: Why do we keep comparing this man's current roles with his past ones? Does very well in this role too. Still I felt sad when I saw snippet from "Desadanakkili Karayarilla" recently. 

Amala Paul: Sizzles up the screen. Does very well in both versions of Renuka. She reminds me of Eva Mendez in some angles and I was surprised when our elder kiddo asked me "How did the aunty from Ghost Rider come in this movie?" So I am not the only one!

Minus:

Picturization of Anthiveyilppaayayil : It is Mohanlal's best song to date and I have been humming along with the song on radio for weeks now. The movie has spoiled it for me. No connection between the semi-sad theme of the song and the scenes.

I have a huge issue with the writer and the director: The heroine claims to have had six years of kalari training and yet she has to be rescued by the hero all the time?????? Don't these people realize that action by actresses is not confined to Vijayasanthi and Vani Viswanath any more? I seriously advise them to watch other Indian language films!!! 

Productivity Helper: Astrid Tasks

Here's a confession: contrary to people who are usually sidetracked, I have this tendency to concentrate so much on one thing to the detriment of my usual work. For example, if I start reading a new book, I cannot put it down till I've finished reading it. As a consequence, only the bare minimum of my household chores get done that day (Usually the ones I can do holding the book in one hand). The only alternative to it is to not read at all and THAT is like denying oxygen to myself - not very feasible! :-)

I've tried several things to break this habit including writing down routines, timing myself etc., but nothing has been very effective. When my Android phone came to keep me company this year, I had no idea that it could be used to increase my productivity. But a month ago, I found an app that looked promising. (Forgive me, all techno geeks out there, it may be old as the hills to you, but to a neophyte like me, it's pretty exciting!)  It's called Astrid apps, and I must tell you that their icon - a tiny red smiling octopus-like thingy is what first called my attention to it. He looked as though he could be Oswald the Octopus's cousin. So I decided to check him out. 

Although I was very excited at first, I didn't want to share the excitement till I had tried it out for sometime. It's much easier and more exciting than a calendar app and since I have a finite number of tasks to do each day, it's very effective. If I immerse myself in something, the reminder keeps pestering me till I complete the task. A typical day of mine starts off with exercise and breakfast-cooking and packing lunch for my family. If I do my laundry at the same time, it'll be ready to hang up by the time the others leave. This was pretty hard for me to remember, so that is the first daily item on my task list. Some days I remember to start the load of laundry early enough, but if not, Astrid reminds me at exactly 7 a.m. After our younger one gets on his school bus, I do some gardening work and then move on to a leisurely breakfast along with some reading. Aah, here is another opportunity for Astrid to help me. I've been known to sit at that breakfast table with the empty plate before me till past lunchtime. Now Astrid tells me to "shine my sink" (FlyLady jargon!) at 9:30 and reminds me to do my most important task of the day (Write!) at 10 a.m. And since that activity too can be pretty absorbing, it again reminds me to take a lunch break at 1:00 p.m. See what I mean?

Now why do I like Astrid so much? It's the messages it gives along with the reminders. For example, one day it told me, "Don't be lazy. Write". Sometimes it cajoles me, "Isn't it wonderful weather to do this? Do a load of laundry." (It was raining cats and dogs outside at the moment) Or sometimes it motivates me by saying, "You'll feel much better when you finish this: Wipe down all the sinks" In my book, a task program that makes me laugh is numero uno.

I will not go into the details of the features, because you can try them out if you want. It helps me keep track of  very infrequent chores like topping up the battery water of our inverter (every three months) and checking out and cleaning our water tank (every 6 months). In short, it makes my life pretty smooth. 

So right now, my little red octopus and I are a pretty happy couple. I mind him pretty much all the time and he makes me laugh. What more could you want?

Aug 26, 2012

Movie Review: Mr. Marumakan

A must watch - for the wonderful evergreen Indian dress called a sari. Keep looking at Khushboo (except in one song fantasy sequence and the last scene) and at Sheela (in the last scene also) for a veritable feast for the eyes as they don vibrantly gorgeous saris and matching accessories in each scene. I felt like devouring the screen whenever they were there. Keep focusing on the saris and you can escape having to beat your own head to pulp for having chosen this movie on which to spend time and money. Poor DH, he couldn't even enjoy the saris (although he did take a look at Dileep's  double-colored shirts with cuffs turned halfway up the sleeve)!

Please tell me who did the costumes - we missed the titles of the movie in a traffic jam and couldn't catch it. Neither can I find it on the net.

Aug 23, 2012

Service with lots of smiles!!!

Remember the last time you had to take a new passport, renew your existing one or do something simple like change the address on it? Unless you were giving it through an agent, it meant a lot of hassles. I remember leaving home before sunrise, getting DH to park in a narrow residential road and yet having to stand in a queue that was already almost a kilometer long!

The worst part was that the tokens were limited and until you got to the front of the building and got that precious little token in your hand, you were never sure whether you would be able to step inside the office at all that day. And once you were inside, there were some grim officers in even more grim booths whose faces were hoardings for suspicion. Even if you had all the right documents and had completely honest intentions, the officers flustered you so much that you failed to produce the required documents in correct sequence and were made to feel about 2 inches high...

Not any more.  I had read about new Passport Service Kendras (PSKs) opening in different parts of the state and finally had the occasion to go to one when my passport was due for renewal. Out of habit, we met a passport agent who filled up my form and took copies of necessary documents. He then informed me that I need not submit passport photographs because they would be taken at the PSK.  This was new. And he also told me that he would inform me about my appointment later, again, another new thing!

So on the appointed day, I collected the completed forms from the agent and presented myself at the Vazhuthacaud PSK. I expected to find the place by dint of a long queue and general pokiness, but was pleasantly surprised to find very courteous security personnel who verified my appointment slot, checked me with a metal detector and ushered me in to an air-conditioned, well-lit hall.

I was amazed by the atmosphere of quiet efficiency with which all newcomers' applications were vetted by the personnel at the entry. I was issued a token and when my number appeared on the LCD monitor, I was ushered to a corresponding booth where a data-entry operator made me verify all details on a wide computer monitor, took my picture, scanned in my finger prints and took the payment. Then I had to visit two more officers in their separate booths - all still according to my token number which appeared on the respective screens.

There were no queues, no arguments, no pushing or shoving. Everyone waited calmly on the plentiful seating provided. If it had not been for a slight muddle in the supporting documents for my address proof for which I was sent back to data entry for a revision, I would have been out of the place within 15 minutes of my appointed time. The revision took just 10 more minutes and I was assured that the passport would reach me within 90 days. 

Imagine my surprise when I got my passport exactly one month from the date of application. And I was also informed by SMS regarding the dispatch of my new passport! 

Soon after I got my passport renewed with my address updated, I decided to do the same for my younger kiddo too. This time I was more informed and found the Passport Seva Portal and filled the online application form, made a note of the required documents and took a printout of the acknowledgment and appointment form. Then all I had to do was go to the PSK with our son and do a repeat performance.

Again I was amazed by the polite and efficient service at the front desk. I had omitted to take a necessary photostat copy and was ushered  to a copier on the premises (they have thought of everything!). We were through the formalities in a jiffy and this time in addition to thanking everyone who took care of us, I expressed my gratitude to the senior official at the end of the line for having received my own passport in a timely manner. Her smiling acknowledgment warmed my heart. 

I was assured that our son's passport would be issued within 10 days as no police verification was required. It arrived on the seventh day! Yes, I got the SMS too.  I know I won't  be allowed into the PSK again without something official to do, so let me use my blog to thank all the officials at the PSK including the security personnel (who were very sweet to my kiddo) for their exemplary service. If there is any among you personally acquainted with a staff of the Vazhuthacaud PSK, please pass on my gratitude!

The only problem with the new system is - now we can't have those nicely "touched-up", blemish-free photos that were little works of art that the studios produced for us to put in our passports. What you look like in front of the data entry person's camera is what you get. I dearly wish I had taken some time to smooth down my bangs that day.... :-(

What the heck, I'll take the better service any day!

Aug 17, 2012

Hrudayamgamamaya Puthuvatsarasamsakal!!!

As my DH noted so astutely this morning, it feels like Karkkidakam is really in Chingom now. The rain hasn't stopped since it began at 530ish this morning and I feel so happy. So it's with a really full heart that I offer you my wishes...

നിങ്ങള്‍ക്കെല്ലാവര്‍ക്കും എന്റെ ഹൃദയംഗമമായ പുതുവത്സരാശംസകള്‍!!!
(Yeah, FINALLY laid my eyes on that transliteration button. Do tell me why it doesn't work for the title though???)

So here are a few blossoms from my garden to welcome the new year.

 Let's start off with an auspicious yellow



Even these leaves are gorgeous, aren't they?


Some promises for tomorrow too...




Have a wonderful new year!!!

Aug 14, 2012

Jackfruit buffet

Yesterday I was waiting for Anikkuttan's bus to come pick him up in the morning when I was attracted to a commotion in our front yard. There is a jackfruit tree near our gate providing a lot of welcome shade. Since it's a koozha, no one is fond of its fruit except to make kumbilappams.  So we leave the ripe ones alone and once they fall and squash themselves open, we collect the seeds to make mezhukkupuratti and leave the lest to enrich the soil. Today a new one had fallen and this is what I saw...


A few pecks later, this guy screeched away the brown sparrow (?) and came for his share



Meanwhile, a sparrow was so curious about my actions that she came hopping right up to me and gave me this shot - closest I've ever got to a bird in my entire life!!!


Soon some mynahs came hopping up and waited till the others had a tummy full. And no, they did not say "klaaa klaa klee klee klooo kloo" - have you ever heard mynahs say that???


Although they were very polite about waiting their turn, they turned a leeetle rowdy when it was time for them to share... Whoa there!!!


Then it was time for a furry friend to get into action...


All the while, a little someone was tugging at my elbow and I had to keep scolding him because it's tough getting a steady picture on digital zoom. Oh yes, Ani was wearing a new "Krishna and Chotta Bheem" t-shirt which his aunt had given him this weekend. So here's the little guy modelling it...


And one picture wasn't enough ! He called me over to the gate and kept changing his poses as fast as I could click them...


Hasn't he got that snooty model look down pat? Here's another...


And just look at this, I swear I didn't give him any directions for this either!


This coupled with the grief that he gives me over tussles about each day's outfits has got me convinced that he was a fashion icon/model the last time he came to earth!!!

Jul 27, 2012

Finished....


At the beginning of May, our elder son started month-long swimming lessons. After a day or two of keeping a panicking eye on the youngster so that he wouldn't drown accidentally, I grew bored with having to sit at the poolside just chitchatting with other moms. So I started a crochet table runner project. It worked on a square-by-square basis and was easily portable. Well the swimming lessons were over two months ago and this week I finally finished it







 This is the biggest thread crochet project I've done so far and I can tell you, each of those squares took me almost 45 minutes and that was the best I could do in a day to avoid hand cramp. But it is extremely rewarding...


Here's a close up...

After laying it lengthwise on our coffee table, I thought I would go with this look...


As long as we are on the subject of crochet, I would like to show you something...


Tadaaaa..., my yarn stash! Top left corner is the leftover ecru thread. I made a dent in that baby, huh? Those pastel baby shades are kinda weighing me down now because no one appreciates woollen things for babies in this hot climate.  And I need to find something to make with that red and multicolored thread too! Are you wondering why I am agonizing about using up all the yarn? (Sigh...) I've promised myself that I will not buy any more new yarn till I finish these :-(  So my next project will be either a white-wool one or a white thread one. Haven't decided yet. But for the time being, I have put away my crochet hooks...



 Can you tell that I love my crochet hooks? :-) Yeah, they go with me wherever I go in this world! Yep, I made that holder too from a pattern I got from the internet and it rolls up into a nifty little bundle that you can see on the top right corner of my stash photo.

My next craft project will be something I have been procrastinating on for a long time now. I've girded up my loins and have decided to do or let that thing go away for ever. Here it is peeking out from my craft basket, silently reprimanding me for the neglect .... ooooh...


 Yeah, it's been imprisoned in that ziploc bag for ages now. So here goes... Wish me luck!!!

Jul 25, 2012

The easiest way to attract rain...

The Ramayana month started off particularly sunny and dry. I had to water all my newly planted cuttings twice a day. The newspapers were cribbing about how poor the rainfall has been this season. Whenever I checked the weather forecast on my phone, it showed a rain-cloud with a huge question-mark imposed upon it and said "scattered rain and thunderstorms" every day, but we got to see nothing.

So we decided to interfere. My DH and I ought to receive an award for ending the unseasonable drought. On Sunday morning we decided in a loud conversation that our coconut oil is running out and it is time to dry some copra again. Not twelve hours later, we had rain!!! For good measure, I again shouted out for all to hear on Monday morning that we are NOT postponing our plan and WILL start dehusking the coconuts THIS weekend. I haven't had to water the new plants ever since!!! This is not the first time it has happened either :-)

In this enthusiastic planting season, I bought some plants from a nearby nursery and mentioned to one of my neighbors that I was on the lookout for saplings of a kariveppu and a kadaplavu (seemaplavu). She gave me a sound scolding for having spent money on buying plants and promised me the saplings from her own yard. So I went to her place last Thursday with the kiddos for some socializing and getting the saplings. She has a tiny bit of space in the front of her house and on an upper balcony and both are chock-full of beautiful flowering plants. She was so generous with her plants that coming back, I looked like the Birnam woods walking down to Dunsinane with the kids behind me picking up whatever fell down. Ok, like Hanuman carrying the Dronagiri mountain would be more apt a simile, but hey, I can't let you picture me like that now, can I?

Fortunately I was able to plant the whole forest of cuttings that evening itself because I had already prepared several pits and beds to receive plants while I was weeding (law of attraction at work, huh?!) and I had very little digging to do. Now I am waiting with bated breath to see how many take to my garden. Yep, I promise that there shall be pictures of tiny little shoots and leaves and flowers as they come! For one thing, our camera is back after a course of treatment and has finally taken to the batteries it used to hate earlier (it always kept ordering us to "Change the batteries" whatever we put in it - pretty choosy, we thought). Macro time coming up!

BTW, if you want to experience some fantastic poetry literally "in action", try reading the fight between Rama and Ravana's brothers (Khara, Dooshana and Thrisirassu) in the Adhyatma Ramayana. It's absolutely bracing and the words themselves transform into weapons that cut, pierce and deal heavy blows. I bow before thee, maestro!!!

Jul 18, 2012

Movie Review: Thattathin Marayathu

"Come back to the classic cliches" was the subtitle that Vineeth Sreenivasan had originally intended for this movie. His inability to translate the same into a catchy Malayalam subtitle led him to ditch it. But it still is a very good description of the movie. Boy meets girl at a wedding, falls in love and the story goes on...

But what makes "Thattathin Marayathu" watchable and different? The script, the brilliantly funny dialogues, the simplicity... After all the angst and dark humor of current Malayalam movies, it's absolutely fun to watch a young guy lose his head over a beautiful girl and commit all sorts of indiscretions for the sake of that love. I guarantee that unless you are in a state of untreated clinical depression, this movie will have you exploding with laughter at regular intervals. You don't have to fall in love with the characters - although you are free to do so if an unapporachably reserved ice queen and a feckless youngster are your type...er well!

Nivin and Isha have accomplished what the director has asked them to do - but the supporting characters take the cake - too numerous to be mentioned by name and frankly I don't know most of the youngsters by name, but they have done a superb job. The only one a little too larger-than-life is Manoj K. Jayan as a sub-inspector with a heart of gold - one feels that the role would have been better underplayed rather than in the overtly comic style.

This is one movie that will bear watching more than once and you will certainly want to do it because you would be laughing so hard at one joke that you will totally miss another. And getting the CD when it comes out will be good so that you can watch it without incurring the wrath of fellow spectators who are irked by your loud guffaws. The music made its name long before the movie came out. Suffice to say it is a treat to watch our four-year old sing "Anuragathin Velayil" and run his fingers through his hair Nivin-style. And he also has the "Aa thattamitta kuttine angane angu zoom cheyyanda" dialogue down pat!

I read somewhere that Isha had taken Malayalam classes before she did the role - the preparation has paid off in dialogue delivery (whatever little there was). There must have been no problem dubbing for her - the lip-sync is perfect. I don't know why, but such little things make or mar a movie experience for me! :-)

In short... run and catch the movie in a theater next to you. Or you can even saunter, I think it's gonna stay there for a while!!!

Jul 6, 2012

One more birthday and some culinary explorations

Anikkuttan turned 4 this week...



Yep, that's the birthday boy. He's into funny faces now when I ask him to pose for the camera. This year has been pretty momentous for him. He was toilet-trained (yep, I finally bit the bullet and was rewarded for my wait, he picked it up within a week!). Then he started school and fell ill with all sorts of infections - and had to quit school after going for a month at the beginning of 2012. Now he's started LKG and is pretty happy and healthy, and has started a very HUGE part of schooling.... HOMEWORK!!!!




These days he has taken up a serious hobby - cooking. Last week he tried a variation on our favorite breakfast food - the humble dosa. He felt it needed a little zing (must be watching Masterchef Australia), so added some fresh used tea leaves to the batter that I had left for a moment on the kitchen counter. He did not forget to give it a good stir so that the tea leaves were very evenly distributed in the batter and his momma didn't have a prayer at scooping it out.

I vainly hoped that the tea leaves would settle at the bottom overnight, but learned some important physics lessons the next morning when the tea leaves remained suspended in their dispersed state at even intervals in the interstitial spaces of  the dosa matrix  (yeah, totally made that up!). I made the dosas. Apart from the fact that our dosas turned out slightly yellower than usual, they tasted fine and the tea leaves were pretty unobtrusive, I must say!

This week, he tried a new experiment by trying to put the string back into the stringed and chopped beans I had left for a moment (you would think I had learned my lesson by now!?!). Not one to do things halfheartedly, he emptied all the strings into the finely chopped beans and tried the tested and true method of stirring things up. But this time it didn't work and for all his pains he received a pretty prolonged tweak of the ear from his exasperated mother who had to pick out the strings for the next ten minutes.

Ani is also at that precious age at which kids have enough verbal ability to give clear accounts of what is happening in their imaginative world and I have droll comments to share almost daily with DH when he gets back from office. Last week, we watched from our porch as a crew of workers hurried about pouring concrete into the basement for a new house.

After a day's frenzied activity, they left the concrete to set and all that was left at ground level were some bunches of metal bars sticking up. Two or three days passed and we realized that our little guy had been watching the place when he said, "Those uncles don't know how to build a house, do they? They tried hard one day and have given up. I think they know only how to dig wells."  I did try to explain, but then left the workers prove themselves capable through their work....

How to bring back the green...

Back in 2007, when we bought the land for Karthi, it looked like this... There were coconut trees that looked tired, a few jack fr...