Aug 30, 2013

Another craft project out of the way! Yippee yay yay!

Take a look at the following picture:

It's a page from the Jan 2006 issue of Crochet magazine. I ripped it and the accompanying instructions out when I came back from Minneapolis in Dec, 2006 (Luggage space was at a premium, so I couldn't bring the whole mag!)

And today, I give you this:

This is the first doily I've ever tried and you can see it's a bit lopsided because my blocking skills are not that good. It had some tricky stitches in it - a horror called fpdtr (front post double treble stitch) that started at one place and ended somewhere totally crazy. I had to keep glancing at the picture to see if my fpdtr's was going the way it was intended to, and I think they were!

When I completed round 6, I found that these spaces in the middle were not aligned properly and had to unravel all till round 2 and make it all over again. That's one of the things I LOVE about crochet - it's so forgiving, we can always go back to where we made a mistake (provided we find it before everything is cut and knotted up!) and correct it!

The things I like the best about this doily is (a) the three-dimensional fans atop the 'columns' of gaps, (b) those bits of red peeking under the cream in the first contrasting edging and (c) all those complicated fpdtr's making a solid web effect.

So there it lies on our coffee table along with my home decor crochet project from last year. It took me only about SEVEN years and seven months to start this project!

Aug 19, 2013

Movie Review: Memories

Okay, the verdict is out - Prithviraj the actor trumps Prithviraj the producer this festival season! Last week we watched Kadal Kadannoru Mathukkutty which would have been better named Kadalil Mungippoya Mathukkutty. This weekend, the Association of Whodunit Fans at Karthi made a beeline for Attingal where Memories is playing. Another weird thing - we searched high and low for movie listings online since our daily did not carry the listings on Saturday (no paper on Friday because of Independence Day holiday). Know what? They simply were not available! Do let me know if there are any reliable online show listings for theaters in and around Tvm. We relied on Thursday's paper and kept our fingers crossed till we reached the theater and saw the movie hadn't changed on Friday.

Memories is the story of a cop Sam (Prithvi, of course) who has been trying hard to drown his sorrows in alcohol since the tragic abduction and murder of his wife and daughter. When a series of murders leave the police clueless, one of his former mentors (Vijayaraghavan) seeks Sam ostensibly for help and hoping that the challenge will kick him out of his apathy. Despite himself, Sam becomes involved in the case, but finds that he is mentally and physically incapable of being effective due to his drinking habit. The rest is really worth a watch...

Now, I take my whodunits seriously - for me to really like a detective movie, I need a watertight script (But then I also swallow anything romantic with my eyes shut!). My DH on the other hand just needs the movie to be "engaging" by which he means that with a little suspension of disbelief, and with the plot tension kept steady, he finds the movie good. This leads to some heated debates in Karthi. DH accuses me of poking holes in the tightest of scripts Eg., after watching Mumbai Police, {I had guessed the motive for murder in the first half}, I was wondering how the murderer had a hi-tech murder weapon lying around on hand to do a spontaneous murder, why he had got it in the first place and how seemingly absurdly outdated the motive was. The motive and the technology couldn't exist together even in the same decade. Also, how did amnesia cloud his "ahem" amorous sensibilities? So, I liked the movie for its terse action, wonderful dialogue and superb performances, but couldn't write a good review because the plot points bothered me. 

Memories also has a couple of such absurd plot points, but they are much more tolerable. And I have another way of measuring the quality of a movie - my kids bother me less for snacks and more for explanation of plot points!!! During Mathukkutty both of them kept pestering me for snacks ALL THE TIME while for Memories our older one was silent and on the edge of his seat throughout and the younger was asking doubts and holding one of my hands for reassurance! :-)

Prithvi delivers another good performance although he has nowhere near enough to do as he had in Mumbai Police. I feel the frequent glugging closeups were a bit overdone. One doesn't need to see the constant glugging to reinforce the fact that hero is a pathetic alcoholic - a little more subtlety would have been better.  The supporting cast also does its job well. The villain is also good  (won't reveal his name so that suspense is not spoiled). Rahul Madhav adds the right touch of estranged brother. Vanitha, Nedumudi etc. fit the bill. 

All in all, a good movie, enjoyable. Jeethu Joseph has got his basics and twists right.   

Aug 13, 2013

Remembering four ideal brothers...

Another Karkkidakam is drawing to an end... Ravana has been finished off, Sita has just passed her "fire-test" and Lord Rama is getting ready to take his family and army to Ayodhya (at least that's where I am in my annual reading of the Adhyatma Ramayana). As the monsoon rains slowly slacked off, hopefully to bring a sunny beginning to the new Kollavarsham, we left Karthi for the weekend for a jaunt to our hometown. 

This time, we had a definite pilgrimage plan on our agenda. Karkkidakam is the best time for the "Naalambalam" (four-temple) worship. The little town of Ramapuram ( north of Pala, Kottayam) has 4 temples dedicated to each of the Ayodhyan princes. (A similar foursome are the famous temples of Thriprayar, Koodalmanikyam, Moozhikkulam and Payammal in Thrissur and Ernakulam). A complete circuit of all the temples starts at the Ramapuram Sree Rama temple, proceeds to Lakshmana Swamy temple at Koodappulam, the Bharata Swamy temple at Amanakara and the Methiri Shatrughna Swamy temple, finally coming back to the Sree Rama temple once again. 

Our relatives who had gone for the Naalambalam darsan warned us of long queues that twisted and turned in the temple premises and then extended out into the long approach road and on to the main road at the temples. So we decided to start early. (Starting early is the usual way of things at Karthi. Although I am the only morning person in the family, when it comes to travelling, even our kiddos just have to be informed the previous day. They jump up all ready to go even at 2 am. They've been intensely trained since birth to do so, please don't envy us!!!) 

Thus last Saturday morning we were all bathed and dressed and ready at 4 am. From DH's home, it's just an hour's drive to Ramapuram: the roads are wonderfully smooth with a few "natural" speed breakers aka pot holes here and there. We had our first darsan at the Rama Swamy temple at 5:15 am. Bus loads of people were already arriving at the time, but we were in and out without hustle or hassle. 

The entrance to the temple was awash in lighting at the pre-dawn moment

We had a look at the "map" I have put at the top and wondered whether it would be enough to guide us. But thankfully, there are plenty of signs that point out the way to the next destination on the Naalambalam route.

Thus we easily reached the Kudappulam Lakshmana Swamy temple as dawn was breaking...

A steep flight of steps led us to the Lakshmana Swamy temple. I have never seen such a variety of flowering plants in one place as there is in the vicinity of this temple. It is a real feast for the eyes.

From Koodappulam, we headed towards Amanakara to the third temple in the quartet, the Bharata Swamy temple. The approach road to the temple is very narrow and not in good condition, so it is better to park at the side of the main road and walk down. The first thing we see is the temple tank as we approach this temple...

Meenoottu (feeding the fish) is an offering in this temple. We all enjoyed doing the same. 

Finally, we went to the Shatrughnaswamy temple at Methiri. This time - and the only time - the road was very rough and we proceeded very slowly and carefully. Thankfully, the verdant hills rolled out in endless vistas all around us to compensate for the road. If you are thinking of doing the Naalambalam route, you might want to avoid the route from Amanakara to Methiri and instead drive down to Ramapuram and then proceed to Methiri and return the same way as the Ramapuram-Methiri road is not one-way. 

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the Shatrughna Swamy temple as it was swathed completely in pandals and I couldn't take a discernible picture. Having completed our worship there, we proceeded back to Ramapuram to complete the circle. Fortunately, the second time over, we were directed to go in through the northern entrance to the Rama Swamy temple which is reserved for those coming back after darsan in all the four temples. We could see that the crowds had swollen considerably by then and it was just 8:45 in the morning. In the course of the morning, I caught Malayalam inflections of all sorts including the distinctive Ernakulam and Thrissur dialects. No wonder the queues were reputed to be really long by mid-morning.

On the way back, the part of my mind that was not agonizing over the umpteen twists and turns of the road was thinking about the special bond that the four brothers shared. In a world in which siblings fight over anything from a child's toy to their share of ancestral property, those brothers really set a high standard. One was willing to give up his birthright to his younger brother, one was ready to volunteer to live in the forest than let his brother go alone, the third didn't want the power that was thrust upon him and did all the work of governing a country by staying in exactly the same ascetic style his brother was following in the forest. The youngest one also followed suit. No wonder they are considered divine - just look at the models of "brotherhoods" we have around us in popular fiction, legends and scriptures. These four are really unique and rare in that they are of one mind always. Whatever happened around them, they always stayed together. 

It's a good thing to remember... at least once a year.

Aug 7, 2013

Don't be fooled!!!

We all want the best for our family, right? Especially when it comes to our kids. We want them to have a better education than we have had. We want them to stay ahead of the pack, never be behind at anything, never lack for anything...

Thus we become sitting ducks for every person/ corporate who has a child-oriented business. Right from the moment the baby is conceived, we are exhorted by "child experts" to let the fetus listen to the compositions of classical greats! Once the baby is born, we are sold umpteen contraptions to make the child more intelligent, better informed and a WINNER in all aspects.

The favorite tag line of most of these businesses is "leave the child to us during this age to this age when their brain development is at the highest". For example, when high-end "designer" pre-schools approach you for custom, they remind you that "the brain develops the most from birth to the age of three" and admonish you for having let your six-month-old waste 6 precious months of optimum brain development by having been at home with you. So you are urged to pack him/her off complete with baby formula. And within just six months you are supposed to beam proudly when your baby toddles up to the pictures on the preschool's colorful wall and points out the planet Neptune to you.

But hey, wait! Today I saw an ad for a health drink that assured me that all I need to make my 8-year-old a precocious scientific prodigy is to give him that drink from age 7-14 when - again - "the brain develops the most". Ahem, I'm confused. You mean, my kids' brain didn't stop growing the moment they turned three??? Can I finally redeem myself for not sending both my kids to pre-kindergarten by just giving them the health drink?!! Oh, how guilt-ridden have I been!!!
As the number of choices for co-curricular, extra-curricular and sport activities increase around us, it is easy for us to become bewildered and feel that our kids are losing out by missing one or the other, be it learning Vedic mathematics or cricket coaching or acting classes. 

I am no child expert, but I do have the leisure to observe the rat race several parents throw themselves into willingly and then complain and worry all the time. Here is my advice for what it is worth:
  1. Whenever possible, take care of your kids by yourself. If you are a stay-at-home-mum/papa, don't feel bad that your child is not having a classy education by not going to a designer pre-school. Watching you doing home chores, playing with you and getting all the hugs and kisses that you give all day are the best studies in the world.
  2. Working parents, don't  despair. Instead of sending kids to the ones that just promise the best brain development, try and find a place where they will be treated with love and care, a place where they will feel secure.
  3. Don't worry at all about early brain development - the brain develops throughout our lifetime - as evidenced by my being able to learn how to ride a scooter at the age of 38. Ok, bad example. But consider this,  80-year-old illiterates can learn to read and write. So what makes you think that your child's brain won't develop past a certain age?
  4. Whenever possible, let the kids help with chores around the house. This will mean keeping quiet when they make sloppy jobs of it, (I for one find it pretty tough to tolerate that too!) But encourage any effort from them with dollops of praise. Our 5-year-old wielded the rake today when I was weeding. I let him help and thanked him for wanting to do it. And let them play as much as they want in the kitchen. 
  5. Put a limit to co- and extra-curricular activities. For those children who demonstrate extraordinary talent, go all out in encouraging them and training them. But not all children demonstrate such talent at early ages. For such children, just one extra-curricular activity is enough. Give kids some downtime each day to unwind and just play by himself/herself or raise hell with siblings. 
If you are a naturally competitive parent and consider all this advice bosh, you are free to do so. It takes all kinds to make the world go around and I'm glad for your existence. But if you are a slightly bewildered parent who is not sure/ feel guilty about your kids missing out, this is for you. It can be unnerving, I have been there. Be confident, push back at those who are trying to foist their child-oriented businesses on you.

And no, no health drink can make your child the tallest/ the strongest/ a mini Einstein. Ask your kid whether they want to BE an Einstein in the first place!!!

Spring/Summer Projects

Gosh, isn't it baking hot in God's Own Country these days! In accordance with the government's guidelines, we seldom venture o...