Thursday, November 21, 2013

Show some concern, road users

There was something that really irked me during a recent visit to Chennai.

The state of the road traffic in the country and the strong foundation of make-your-own-rules upon which all the motorized vehicles move is a well-known fact.
  • We won’t stop at a traffic signal if it’s the wee hours of the day or whenever we simply believe that it’s not required.
  • We would never care to indicate before we swerve to change lanes. After all, the driver behind is playing a video game and needs to be alert. Speaking of lanes, the number in most of our roads tends to infinity and they always overlap one another. We would have three cars, two bikes, one bicycle and a cow or a goat all marking their own lanes with millimetre spaces in between.
  • We would blare our horns as loud as possible even when the vehicle in front has stopped because the signal is red. We find it disgusting when others follow rules. Noise did you say! We love that, it gives us a sense of power.
  • Speed limits? What on earth are they? Our speed depends on the number of obstacles, a.k.a the vehicles on our way. Residential areas, school zones, whatever be the locality! We will drive as fast as we like. We hate waiting and loathe queues. We will drive with the sole intention of overtaking all vehicles ahead and reaching our destination in the shortest possible time span. Its like we are representing Ferrari on some international circuit.  
  • No matter how much we are preached about it, we can't wear helmets. We have specially designed heads made of unbreakable material.
These are some things we have to learn to live with for now and no, getting annoyed with it is a useless exercise.

The sight that got on my nerves was that of an ambulance, its sirens screaming out loud, stuck in traffic at a junction. No vehicle was prepared to move and give way. No one seemed to care for the life already struggling for existence inside it or the one fighting against odds while waiting for help to reach it. Ambulances do not need to halt when the signal is red but only if the vehicles in front move, can it proceed right? The autos, two wheelers and cars were involved in their usual hustle-bustle of getting away first and were totally oblivious to the medical vehicle struggling to get out of the chaos.

Many a time I have seen an ambulance fighting its way out even in ongoing traffic. No one would do the simple act of moving aside and letting it pass. I think the traffic police personnel have their own limitations in controlling the public behavior in this regard. It's simply a moral responsibility that every road user should have and exercise.On the other hand, it was heartening to see quite a lot of public message displays the city traffic police had put up in this regard. 

When we step out of the country we would all follow every single rule like stopping yards before ambulances or school buses. We won't have this humanitarian concern when on our own land? What if it had been our kin or for that matter our own self-centred selves inside that white and red vehicle?

Please give way to ambulances. It's definitely a matter of life and death.

Some acts just need a forerunner. Others will soon follow suit.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scenes unfolded - 100 words on Saturday

I was panting and perspiring in the torturous heat of the prison kitchens as the smoke angrily sped into my lungs. Yet the exuberant chillness I felt inside was unperturbed. I knew it was my last day there. Suddenly I heard screams. It was the recent arrival Kapil; another innocent yet misfortunate soul! That horrendous monster Ranga was crushing him under his bulk and sniggering.

Scenes from the past unfolded. On the floor, I saw my quivering Reshma and the brute who had destroyed her years ago; the man I murdered. Furiously I brought the ladle crashing on Ranga’s head.

100 Words on Saturday - Write Tribe

Linking this to 100 Words on Saturday at Write Tribe prompt of "I knew it was my last day here".

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Diplomat at home

Its been ages since I wrote a post on the naughty little brat I have at home a.k.a my son, just a few months away from his fifth birthday now.

I quit my job last year and have been a full time SAHM (Stay at home mom) for some time now. I think I have now developed an intuition for those moments when his quests for worldly knowledge, his inquisitiveness and his creativity make him do things that would make me go "Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!! Oh My Gooooooooddddddd" with a lot of huffing-puffing anger directed towards our common creator in the heavens above.

Like when he opens the fridge and mixes the juice in the water bottles ; or tip toes to the bathroom, fills the basin and empties the hand soap in it in an attempt to bathe his plastic lion and tiger; or silently creeps to my dresser, takes my kohl and nail polishes out and does some art work on the wood.

My intuition is actually facilitated by those moments of absolute silence and quiet like a calm before the storm when he is really engrossed in some activity like the above. (He is oblivious to the big wide world around when concentrating, a trait supposed to have transferred from my genes.)

With my intuitive sensors sending out blaring alarms I would get up and go looking for him with a 'V , What are you doing?'

He would come dashing out, then slow down his pace and nonchalantly walk past me with his hands at his back, like going out on a stroll. Sporting the cutest of his smiles he would say 'Nothing!' with an air of reassurance. From past experiences I am perfectly aware that it's synonymous to 'Something is really wrong!'.

I would step forward to go to where he came from and he would put both hands on mine, stop me and say "Amma, dont go there. You stay here" and point to the sofa. That translates to 'Something is definitely really really REALLY wrong.'

I would pray to the Gods for the damages to be within my resilient boundaries and also for oodles of patience. Once I find out what he has done I would go on with my usual. 'I told you that you should not do this. Amma is really angry V' blah blah blah.

He would run off to his room and try to do something for a few minutes after which he would slowly approach me. He would sense that I am still upset and come near me and ask "Amma , are you happy?". My look would remain stern and then he would edge closer to my face and ask again "Amma, are you HAPPY?" with a lot of stress on the last word.

He would whip up an expression hosting the entire innocence existing on the planet and say  'I am sorry Amma. I can't do that.' After two seconds he would ask again 'Are you happy?'

Mind you , he knows the perfect tone to use; the right mix of childish innocence and sympathy.

Then he would hold the ends of his lips with his fingers, pull them upwards to imitate a happy smiley and say "Amma, be like this!"

As a final measure he would fling his arms around me, give me a peck on my cheek and say "I love you too Amma." . Now, after a high dose of a super effective drug like that, how could I not smile and ruffle his hair. "Dont do that again, ok?" and he would nod vigorously like its an oath for life. But both of us know that storms and the calm before that don't come only once.  "Are you happy?" he would ask again just to double check that peace has been restored!

I have a diplomat at home!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Falling in love - A social taboo?

I recently saw a talk show on TV between some couples who had eloped and married on one side and their parents on the other.

One such parent, a teacher, mentioned that to vent their anger against their daughter, she along with her husband had burnt all her educational certificates from LKG till degree. The girl in question happens to be a BTech graduate. The mother said this with absolutely no remorse as if it was a totally justified act. She also said that they had totally cut off all relations with their daughter.

There are two things that are really hard hitting here.

One - There are still a lot of communities in India where parents cannot accept their wards choosing their life partners on their own accord. This woman said that she had faced extreme humiliations in her neighbourhood and relative circles when her daughter ran away with the man of her choice. There are families where the youngsters do not discuss such matters openly with their parents and are not given the liberty to do so. Even if they did, they would be chastised for tarnishing the family name. No opportunity would be given to make their point. Immediate steps would be taken to somehow find an alternative bride or groom within their community and marry them off. Parental egos and so called social image would hold high and the young couple would be forced to take measures like eloping and marrying. Of course, movies, media etc. do misguide the youth and in some cases the decision they take is a little rash and immature without any proper attempts to convince their not-so-conservative parents. On one side we have places where even live-in relationships are accepted with dignity. On the other side we still have places and communities like these where 'falling in love' is like a crime or an antisocial act. There is definitely a small percent of cases where men with no moral intentions lure girls in the name of love and then exploit them and leave them stranded. Without taking these into consideration, some communities have a long way to go to stop treating unarranged relationships as a taboo.

Two - This lady was a teacher. This is the quality of teachers that teach in our schools. Teachers impart 50% academic knowledge and 50% life and social skills. What kind of social lessons or life lessons would such a person impart to the kids? Who gives her the right to destroy her daughter's future in the name of anger or revenge? What kind of example would she set to her students and how narrow-mindedly would she view the camaraderie between her own students if they belong to the opposite sexes?

Somehow the latter point above troubles me more.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Happy Senses - 3

Any more absence from me and people might conclude that I have actually lost one of the senses about whom I have been blabbering away in this series.

You can see the first two at Happy Senses -1 and Happy Senses - 2


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

After a long and arduous journey, the first sight of food would fill one with a kind of bliss. Be it a simple roti dal at a roadside dhaba, idly chutney sold on a cart or a table laden with an array of home cooked items.Food that reaches and satisfies one at the hungriest of hours is the tastiest on earth. 

A cup of coffee my husband makes after forcing me to sit and take a break from the household work, the single grape my son pops into my mouth, the bowl of curd rice my father used to bring to my room during the uncomfortable days of my pregnancy, every meal my mom prepares with gusto each time I visit her - When love gets mixed, food always becomes delicious.

The cup of steaming tea on the highest points of Ooty or Kodaikanal, hot crispy molagai bajjis(chilli pakoras) on a rainy evening, A lick of that icecream or a bite of that watermelon slice after being out in the scorching sun - Weather and surroundings have a huge impact on the taste buds.

I have always been a foodie, a vegetarian one though. Food is something man has been experimenting with, since time immemorial and we have a million varieties under the sun . In todays globalized world we need a lifetime to try out all thats available - Indian, Italian, Lebanese, American, Mexican, Thai, African, Japanese, Chinese - Sweet, Spicy, Hot, Sour, Hot, Cold, Bitter!. Being healthy, eating it right is definitely good. But every now and then, one does need to indulge, immerse and relish. After all we live to eat don't we? Once in a while say good bye to that no-carb, no-fat diet and pop some pani puris in. Your system deserves it.

Image courtesy of twobee /

At a function or in general, whenever an elder touches me on my head to wish me good and bless me, it gives me a feeling of being loved , cared for and protected.

A hug, a pat, a tap, a hold, a kiss any expression of affection is amazing. That's why perhaps the emotion is called being touched.

In our marriages we have a practice where the bride has to hold her fingers like a closed lotus and the groom would be asked to hold it and not let go till all rituals are over. Its a lovely symbolic representation of the life long promise to love, share,care and safe guard.

At the end of an exhausted day, sitting next to a loved one and dozing off leaning on their shoulder - one of the simple nice things in life.

The most cherished touch I have had is something my unfortunate male friends will never get to experience. Every time I felt the baby in my womb move or kick . I don't even know if it can be classified as touch but its an extraordinary and a beautiful feeling indeed.

Our touch can make a huge difference in so many lives. A simple pat on the head to a boy acting as a waiter at the small restaurant, holding a blind person while helping her get aboard a bud, helping an injured sick relative to move lending him a shoulder support, handing out books to some poor kids- These are very mediocre examples that came popping in my head. A touch can go a very long way in adding a new meaning to people's lives.  The first and strongest expression of love and affection is nothing but a simple touch.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wish (Flash 55 Fiction)

She was excitedly curious. He would definitely make her birthday special. The sharp pain on her wrists shook her awake. The ropes! It was dark; silent. “God, Let him find me“ she prayed aloud fervently. Light slapped her face. Her kidnapper stood at the doorway with a menacing smile. “Birthday wish granted sweetheart”, he smirked.

This is an attempt as part of the Flash 55 exercise on Write Tribe

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy Senses - 2

This is a continuation of my earlier post Happy Senses 1. For those who have not read it, basically I am trying to list things that have a deep impact on me with respect to each of the five senses.


Image courtesy of OhMega1982 /

  • The sounds of nature are the most musical notes on the planet and a rarity in the mad rush of the cities.If one moves a little away from the hustle bustle of the concrete jungle to where there is more greenery the symphony of birds would permeate the air as the sun rises.A myriad of tweets and coos hits our ears as we just peep our heads out of the covers. The world wakes up to tweets these days but on twitter. We need to stop and listen to the real ones for a change!
  • Have you witnessed a small infant or toddler breaking into peals of laughter on something that to us adults would be a totally mundane thing or occurrence. The gurgle of their innocent laughter has a rippling effect and would lift the spirits of all around. Small things like these make life worth living.
  • Imagine a serene clear green lake surrounded by the mystic mountains. One should opt for the yet to be commercially exploited ones where tranquility would hold fort. In the pleasant misty weather, the small waves would gently kiss the lake shore. One should take a boat ride on a non-motorized vehicle. The water speaks to us each time the boatman's paddle slices through the gleaming ripples. Apart from that silence pervades; A quiet peace.
  • I have a fascination for wind chimes. In a gently blowing breeze, the soft tinkling notes they disperse in all directions are magical and meditative. Once during a trip to Bali we came across a wind chime store in a temple at a high altitude. Imagine fifty wind chimes rocking in unison together. It was amazing.
  • While watching a cricket or a soccer match on TV, every time the crowd goes into frenzied screams it fills me with so much excitement. After someone delivers a great performance on stage , when the entire audience goes into a deafening applause it gives one a unique feeling. Applause and cheer always lightens ones mood, though one may or may not be the recepient of the same. Well that reminds me of the moments in school and college when for various reasons one would burst into an elated 'Yay!! Hip Hip Hurrah' with friends.
  • In South Indian functions like marriages there is something called 'Getti Melam'. Its a unique combination of the nadaswaram and melam (the musical instruments) thats played during significant moments like when the groom ties the knot around the bride's neck and makes her his wife. With the guests strewing blessings in the form of flower petals and atchathai (turmeric coated rice) over the couple, the rhythmic music is deafening and befitting that wonderful scene.
  • My list  would be incomplete without something synonymous with hearing ;  music. Everyone likes music in some form though the tastes might be diverse. I enjoy different genres of music and what I would listen to depends on my mood, the weather(Oh yes!), my energy levels etc. There are times I like to listen to soft soothing Ilayaraja numbers and times when I would like to do a crazy jig with some A R Rahman fast number blasting away on my speakers. There are also times when M S Subbulakshmi's voice takes me to a different domain. When MTV first made its way into Indian television I did develop a fascination for Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys and other chart toppers of that time but apart from that I do not follow Western music much save the numbers I get to listen during an occasional taxi ride on radio. Music can be therapeutic, soul stirring.It sometimes provides one a momentary bliss, a peaceful solitude even when surrounded by so many things. 

I thought of clubbing Taste and Touch as well, but then it would be a really long post. Will follow up with those in another post.

Do let me know what you relate with hearing!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy Senses - 1

Our last edition on IndifictionWorkshop was on horror and there was a lot of talk about bringing in the five senses into the narration.This post has nothing to do with fiction or horror. All this talk made me reminisce under what circumstances each of my senses comes to life and fills me with vigor. 

Okay, I have been drinking cup after cup of Horlicks and Bournvita to get my cerebrum , hypothalamus and the rest of the folks to work in unison and come up with ideas for a new post. This is what they suggested after a lot of pushing and prodding!

By notStudio - studio fotograficzne (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Sometimes in the temples, a screen would be drawn in the sanctum sanctorum  for the pujas or naivedyam(offering) hiding the deity from public view. As we wait, in a flash the curtains would be drawn open and one would witness beautiful lamps(aarthi) with multiple flames being shown as the entire place reverberates with the divine sounds of the ringing bells.
  • Yesterday I cleaned up my refrigerator; Today when I opened the fridge to get some water, the clean and sparkling look sans any clutter gives me a satisfaction, an exuberant feeling of a job well done. During my programming days, after hours of struggling with a piece of code, when I saw it finally working on my monitor,  I could almost do a jig. Adding the final garnishing to a dish done perfectly, standing back and admiring a painting I just finished- Fruits of Effort are always treats to the eye.
  • The cascading Niagara, rivers of the Himalayas running through the beautiful white pebbles, green still backwaters of Aleppey, the ever stretching ocean one witnesses at the beach - Water in its so many forms displays energy and strength.
  • Even pigs and buffaloes look amazingly cute as babies.  All little ones, human or otherwise look so adorable when at play. A kitten playing with a ball of wool, a baby looking at a tubelight and laughing, a piglet rolling in mud, an elephant calf playing with its mother's tail - Simple beautiful sights in life.
  • A foodie that I am, the widespread array of dishes one witnesses at any buffet always fills me with a happiness I have never been able to fathom. Just seeing it gives me more pleasure than actually wolfing the delicacies down my gut. 
  • I know they pollute the environment but when done once in a while on a restricted basis they are a treat. Fireworks! During New Years Eve when the entire sky gets lit up with these blooming sparkling colorful stars its magical!
Smell :

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/

  • Petrichor is a word I learnt recently though it is an experience that has always made me rejoice - The beautiful smell that spreads when the drops of rain first kiss the dry earth. 
  • When one lifts a baby fresh from its bath after applying lotion and powdered well a beautiful fragrance sweeps all over.
  • On removing a bathing soap from its carton , a wonderful smell fills your being. Not just the perfumed ones, ordinary deodorant ones do that too!
  • When you go to the market to the vegetable vendor, the fresh cucumber, the green spinach, the gleaming carrots, radishes and beetroots, the sacks of potatoes and pumpkins and everything else on display together emit a fresh lovely odor. 
  • I like wearing jasmine flowers on my hair in typical South Indian fashion and that can leave you feeling heavenly. 
  • I already told you I am a foodie. Obviously a whole lot of related things would get my olfactory senses on a high - Sambar boiling on the stove, the smell of ghee that the sweet pongal in the making emanates, the smell of ripe mangoes and juicy watermelons, the aromas of steaming basmati rice and hot pizza and what wafts the air when something is baking and the list goes on!
To be continued....(unless I get a hate warning mail demanding that I put an end to this!)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Early cooking endeavors

Most of my childhood, atleast till I entered my teens was spent in Kozhikode a.k.a Calicut, a northern district in God's Own Country Kerala.

For nearly thirteen years we stayed in the same rental house. It was a three storeyed traditional Kerala style house with tiled roofs . There was a well at the back that was always filled with sweet tasting water despite the fact that we were hardly a mile away from the sea. There was a huge open space in front of the house in addition to a car shed,  which my mother used to decorate with Kolam(Rangoli) everyday.A sprawling mango tree grew in front that covered the whole of the front yard. It allowed just enough sunlight to light up the space and always kept the house cool. Apart from that there were a couple of coconut trees and a betel nut tree in the space around the house. The latter had a black pepper climber running around it.

A huge cowshed that no longer housed any animals stood between our house and the landlord's house and that used to be a primary play area for kids in the compound.

At that age I was not mature enough to appreciate the loveliness of that house. I longed to move to one of those modern concrete mosaic floored houses. Now sitting on the 4th floor of a multistorey concrete complex , with not many plants around, I would give anything to get back to such a home.

There was a huge washing stone near the well, that our maid used for washing our clothes. Every morning I would sit on that stone with the toothbrush in my hand thinking about God knows what, for almost eternity. Then my mother's 'Jaish, go brush' would slowly transform to 'You are going to be late for school, are you going to brush or not?' and I would carry on with my morning routine.

All the houses in the neighborhood had so many trees and plants and many of them housed beautiful gardens. I had so much to explore and a lot of friends to play with.

One of my favorite activities now is losing myself within the walls of my kitchen experimenting with food. Of course, the favorable results do have only a 50% probability.  My cooking interests dates back to my years in Calicut as a five or six year old. Oh, I loved pretending to cook. Three stones or brick pieces arranged  together housing some sticks was my stove. One of the easily available materials in the neighborhood was the coconut shell that served as my vessel. I would fill it up with water , add some grasses for the seasoning and place it on the make believe stove. Take an orange brick piece or a tile piece, dip it in water and rub it against a stone and it would give a red colored paste. This would add color and look to my curry on the stove.Sand mixed with water would be filled in some of the coconut shells and then turned upside down and emptied to give us what we called rice cakes. Above all, I would pluck the still young green black pepper fruits, smash them to a paste and add them to the water on my stove to give it a thick consistency. The cowshed had a guava tree and some of the yet to ripen guava fruits would also meet their end in my cooking endeavors.

Soon, the landlord came to know how his precious crops were getting sabotaged by a mischievous brat in the neighborhood and a warning came flying in my direction. Then I could not fathom what was wrong in plucking and grinding all those fruits. Now when I pay a huge sum in my supermarket bill for a mere 100g of black pepper or 3 guava fruits, I find myself reminiscing those days.

The years I spent at Calicut hold some memories very very close to my heart and yes, I had a very fulfilling  and exciting childhood in a beautiful and green town.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Wrapped up tight in my blanket warm,
Comfortable and snug, pondering I lay;
A wish blossomed that I were in a cocoon of peace;
Impermeable, impenetrable!
Safe from evil,
Away from harm,
Devoid of worries,
Free from fears,
No attachments and no strings attached;
Nothing to decide, nothing to face;
Only bliss, eternal and serene.
With the flicker of a candle my eyes opened wide
Realization dawned, slowly yet surely.
I am but still a caterpillar.
Leaves aplenty!
Aplenty to chew
Before I freeze!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons - By aussiegall from sydney, Australia (Monarch emerging  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Aajana Dil Hai Deewana - Memories

After around ten minutes of staring at a blank page and still not getting any ideas for a new post, I decided to do some no-particular-reason- web- browsing.

'Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani' reviews, posters caught my attention and brought back some memories.

Well, nothing to do with the film or with Ranbir or Deepika for that matter. Just the title. Rather, just one word in the title 'Deewani'.

It happened when I was around nine years old. My maternal grandfather had expired and all my mother's siblings and their children had gathered at my uncle's house for the obsequies.

A lady lived next door with her husband and two daughters. My cousins and I used to go to her place for playing. She used to do sweet things like just calling her daughters aside , giving them some snacks and specifically instructing them not to waste them sharing it with the monsters from next door. Well it was perfectly audible to us and at that age a little bit of innocence was still intact I suppose and so we did not give it any importance.

That was the time when Hassan Jahangir's 'Hawa Hawa E Hawa ' song had been a super hit all over India. The same album had a song 'Aajana Dil Hai Deewana'

One day while playing, my cousin and I started singing this song. This lady's second daughter had just enrolled for Hindi classes and God knows what her honorable Hindi teacher taught her.

She retorted 'Hey you two, you think I dont know Hindi? I know what Deewana means. Deewana means payithiyam (word in Tamil for mad) right?'

At that point in time, my only Hindi teachers were the great heroes and heroines of Bollywood. I knew that 'Deewana, Parvana, Mastana' kept coming in every song churned out along with 'Pyaar' and 'Ishq', but did not really have a clue about their meaning.

"What? Mad? No WAY!  Mother promise" I responded.

"No, I know. My saar has taught me. Deewana means mad. You both are calling me mad ?"

Thats when the beings inside us with red skin and two horns got excited and we both started singing that song as loud as possible. I dont recollect what she had done earlier to annoy us that we absolutely enjoyed teasing her. With a villainous laughter we continued "Aajana Dil Hai Deewana, roke chaahe lakh zamaana, kehdo naa yai dil hai deewana, ta da ta ta ta ta da da ta ta". The last musical notes, we uttered with amazing musicality.

"Do you know what super song this is? This is the latest hit" one of us bragged to the poor girl whose Hindi was restricted to the pure Hindi lessons of her sir and she had not seen any Bollywood movie till then.

She was almost on the verge of tears and the two of us started singing with all the more frenzy.

"Wait, I will go tell my mommy" she threatened. " Sollikko (Go ahead and tell)" we replied nonchalantly and continued our rendition. I think we even did a jiggle or two in rhythm to our tune.

Once satisfied that she was fuming with anger and brimming with tears we returned home. Well, the lady did follow very soon with "You have these brats that you call children at home. You know what they did? They are coming to my house and making fun of my daughter with some Hindi song. It seems they kept calling her a lunatic"

Our parents were already grief stricken due to the death in the family and they were in no mood to question the authenticity of the baseless accusation against us. Do I need to say that we were grounded? 

"Aajaana Dil Hai Deewana" :D

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Trojan Horse And The Great Loss

Theatrical Release Poster
Most of you would be familiar with the Greek story about the Trojan horse and I am sure quite a few of you would have seen the movie 'Troy' starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. As part of Indifiction Workshop, the challenge this time, was to "Write the story of the Trojan War with a narrative that creates a comic mood" covering more than 80% of the events in less than 3000 words.

The story below is my attempt at the same. One of the toughest genres in fiction writing is definitely humor. Would love to hear your comments and feedback. Do read and let me know how you found it.

What follows is a story with a lot of names that would require you to perform some gymnastic acts with your tongue to get them right. So for now let's ignore my name.

Being a soldier in the Spartan army, my duty usually ended up being on guard outside various royal chambers – those occupied by the guests, princes, princesses, monarchs, their mistresses and so on and so forth. It was not easy to stand in the same position, without any expression on your face, in that horrendous armour and ridiculous suffocating headgear, but it had its own benefits. No one in the royal clan found it necessary to speak in hushed tones when discussing important matters. Even in such instances they would not abstain from displaying their genetic trait of bellowing like an elephant with a gastric problem. How would gossip not spread?
I knew Paris had all the makings of a trouble-maker, the moment he landed in Sparta with his brother Hector from Troy. Who else would offer king Menelaus, a donkey’s brain soup as a gift, no matter how famous it is in Troy? Menelaus was shamelessly gorging on it anyways as if famine had stuck Sparta.
He only came to his senses when he found Helen, his wife missing. It was the day, the Trojan princes departed! No one in Sparta ever fathomed what he had found attractive in her, despite the squint that she had and the snorts that she let out every now and then. When Paris smuggled her out, the question became all the more baffling. “I would say good riddance”, one of my comrades had commented. Menelaus looked terribly comical almost like a raging rhino when angered but none of us dared to even smile. He stormed out into the palace corridors, tripped over a carpet, fell flat on his face and broke his nose. When Agamemnon the king of Mycenae and his brother, saw him with the plaster around his head, he burst out laughing. “I warned you” he giggled “Your poetry is absolutely beyond tolerance. I asked you not to recite those awful lines to her. Who do you think you are, Homer? I knew she would flee if you continued to regurgitate all that non sense to her in the name of romance.”
I am not very sure what instigated Agamemnon (I did warn you about the names) to attack Troy. He did not seem to give much importance to Menelaus and his stolen wife. Someone told me, he wanted uninterrupted supply of donkey’s brain soup that was very expensive in other parts of Greece. Eventually he prepared his army to launch an attack on Troy.
The next day Achilles and his cousin Patroclus landed at Agamemnon’s door to join him in his quest. Apparently Achilles had gone to his mother for advice. As part of an experiment to invent a new beauty potion, she had consumed some drink made out of shellfish which had pushed her quite far away from sobriety. In an attempt to say “Good Day”, she kept repeating “Go Die” and Achilles took it to his heart.
I had heard many rumors about certain strange obsessions that Achilles possessed ranging from tooth picks to swords and daggers. I became quite convinced of the truth in them when the Greek army attacked and desecrated the temple of Apollo. Briseis, a member of the Trojan royal family was breathtakingly beautiful. I really have no idea why of all the things he whisked off her washroom slippers. She in turn seemed to have the same brain impairment. Charging like a grizzly bear, she followed the returning Greek men to retrieve her washroom sandals and ended up being captured. Achilles had started wailing like a child whose lollipop had been snatched, when he heard that they had taken her to Agamemnon. He was quite a sight sitting in his tent in his spiky armour and blowing his nose and sniffling. There was one thing about Briseis that no one in the Greek camp knew and proved really really costly. Her voice that resembled a symphony of a thousand peacocks. When she was presented before Agamemnon, she let out such a piercing cry, the tables and chairs started cracking and the chandeliers started falling. Agamemnon became immediately prepared to entrust her to Achilles. After all, his heel was the only sensitive part in his body, not his ears.
While the Greek camp was trying to save itself from the fury of Briseis’s voice, Paris challenged Menelaus to a duel. The only act of valour he had committed until then was the throwing of the fly that had fallen into his donkey’s brain soup. All of us were baffled what gave him the courage and motivation to fight our raging rhino. Helen? Nah! Not with that sort of squint! Anyways, if love can be blind, it can be squint too. Actually, he only had to do a little bit of research to win in the fight. Menelaus had a major weakness. If one slightly touched him on his left hip, it tickled him so much that he would drop his weapons and roll on the ground laughing. Paris was not aware of this. How intelligent would someone be if he drank only donkey’s brain soup all his life? He was squashed by Menelaus like a mosquito on his thigh. Hector somehow had come to know of these facts and rushed to his brother’s rescue. Menelaus was also pea brained in some aspects. Having such a weakness would anyone wear armour with an opening at the exact spot in the name of fashion? Slaying him became a piece of cake for Hector and that’s what finally happened.
That night as I stood guarding Achilles’s tent I heard sweet nothings from inside. The Greek soldiers had been falling into a coma one by one on hearing Briseis’s cries. In an attempt to save his men, he had pulled her inside and the pair had grown fond of each other. Well if love can be blind and squint, it can be deaf as well I suppose.
At day break, I was trying to stop my drooping eyelids from closing when I saw a battalion leaving towards the walls of Troy. At the lead was someone who looked a little like Achilles. “I wonder who that is.” I told my companion on guard. “Can’t you see that pot belly in front? That’s his cousin Patroclus” he giggled. One of the most distinguishing features of Patroclus was a paunch that resembled the biggest of our Grecian urns. I must say he had done quite a good attempt at the disguise. Unfortunately he should have remembered that he was going to fight Hector one of Troy’s greatest warriors. With his paunch hanging like an oversized necklace in front of his body, running was totally out of question for Patroclus if required. It did not come as a surprise to me when I heard that he had met his end at Hector’s hands. I was also told that poor Hector had lost two of his swords while trying to insert them in Patroclus’s stomach. They had become bent and useless. Finally he had managed to slit the latter’s throat.
On seeing Patrochlus’s corpse Achilles was reacting like a mad wild wart hog. He had entrusted Briseis’s washroom slippers with him, and now that he was no more, there was no way for him to figure out where it was hidden.
“Do you have any idea how much those slippers meant to me?” Achilles thundered at Hector outside the Trojan fort. “Nothing fit my feet so perfectly ever before” he growled and kicked his leg in the air bringing his feet close to Hector’s face. While the spectators gasped in absolute disbelief and horror, Hector collapsed like a landslide and fell on the ground, dead. In order to safeguard his own life, Achilles had never washed his feet ever since his mother dipped him as an infant in the river Styx. The obnoxious odours proved fatal to poor Hector who was totally unprepared and defenseless in front of it. To avoid embarrassment, Achilles screamed out loud and diverted attention by tying Hector to his chariot and dragging him along.
Priam the Trojan king came that night to get back Hector’s body from the Greek camp. Achilles grabbed the opportunity to send Briseis away as well. His ears had won the battle with his heart. They were tired of bleeding everyday listening to the earth shattering outputs from her vocal chords.
After all this, many in the Greek camp felt it was best to just return to Sparta. But Agamemnon was adamant about the donkey’s brain soup. All the generals started racking their brains for ideas to defeat Troy. That’s when Odysseus came up with the idea of the Trojan horse.
Where do these men get all these ideas from, I don’t know. The plan was to make a huge horse statue and all of us were to hide inside it. It was poor soldiers down the order like me executing such ingenious plans. By the time we ended up finishing that horse we were all exhausted. Like all customers the world has ever known, Odysseus and his peers kept changing the demand and the design every few hours. Finally when they grew tired of redesigning we ended up bringing the horse to a shape. It did look like a cross between a bison and a giraffe but we nevertheless called it a horse.
We all somehow managed to get inside the horse and seal it from inside. A general in the close circles of Odysseus banged his head on an iron rod while climbing in. The blow ended up upsetting his mental wiring. Throughout our stay inside the horse, he kept singing “Horsey, horsey, Trojan horsey…You look like a buffalo but you are a Horsey”. It was pitch dark and stifling hot inside and there was no option of silencing him either. “Briseis was heaven compared to this” many of them murmured. Some started sobbing uncontrollably unable to tolerate the ranting. Some found it musical and joined to sing along as well. It was pandemonium.
As planned, the Trojans dragged the horse within the walls of Troy. In the wee hours of the morning we opened the secret door and stepped out. After crouching for a long time inside that ludicrous horse most of us had sprained backs and sore legs. The incessant chorus of ‘Horsey Horsey’ had also driven some of my comrades to their wits end. The Trojans on the other hand were scattered in a myriad of postures around us in a totally inebriated state. Imagine what would ensue if a battle happens between a bunch of totally drunk soldiers and a bunch of partially insane ones. I had no more energy left in me and did what I considered best. I stealthily managed to sneak into one of the royal chambers and hid myself in a huge chest.
The earth was relieved of quite a few souls that night. Glaucus, Priam and Agamemnon to name a few. While I was waiting inside the chest I heard some noises outside. When there is a choice between saving one’s life and curiosity the latter always takes precedence. I lifted the chest lid inconspicuously and peaked out. Andromache, Hector’s wife was standing in front of a huge mirror her arms spread out flanked by Helen, Paris and Briseis.
“This is where the secret passage his. Hector had shown it to me. We should be able to get away safely.” The others nodded. “Hector Hector Abracadabra” she yelled. Nothing happened. “Wrong Password!” she muttered under her breath. “Hector Open Sesame” she tried again. No reaction again. “Let me try” Paris offered. He took a deep breath and screamed “Donkey Brain Soup”. The mirror did not budge. They all turned and looked at Briseis who nonchalantly responded “Alright” and stood before the mirror. I knew what was about to come and pressed my hands close to my ears with as much force as I could muster. She let out her quintessential scream and the mirror burst open revealing a passage behind.
Andromache went in first followed by Helen and Briseis. “Wow! Look what we have here” a voice was heard. Achilles came charging in brandishing a menacing sword. Paris stood in front of him, took aim with his bow and arrow and fired. The arrow managed to travel two feet. Huffing and puffing like a bull, he fired another ten arrows while Achilles stood with his arms folded and grinning. Not one managed to brush even a hair on his body. That’s when Paris’s eyes grew wide and his face developed an unprecedented expression. He had spotted him! His arch enemy! A fly that buzzed around and landed on Achilles’s heel! Ever since one had fallen into his donkey’s brain soup he had developed a blood thirty vengeance against their entire clan. Before Achilles realized what was occurring he snatched a fly swatter nearby and brought it down with a vehement force. Achilles let out a cry like a yelping dog and fell flat on his face. The Greek soldiers found Achilles the next day with a single fly swatter on his heel.

The saddest part of the story is all the men and women who knew the secret recipe of the donkey’s brain soup perished in the war and the delicacy was lost forever to the world.

About Indifiction Workshop: Indifiction Workshop is a story writing workshop for bloggers interested in fiction. This was initiated by 'The Fool' who blogs at and C.Suresh who blogs at
Link to the exercise
Plot By: Jointly by judges of edition 7 - The Fool who blogs at, Nabanita Dhar who blogs at and Mixi who blogs at
Link to this post on Indifiction Workshop

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A dialogue that was touching

Recently I saw the movie 'Dolphin Tale' on TV. Its the moving tale of a little boy who develops a bond with an injured dolphin. There is a question about the latter's survival as doctors have had to amputate its tail after an accident. The boy along with a few others attempts to save his friend by fixing a prosthetic tail. 

Its a poignant tale. One specific scene stuck to my mind.

There is one character in the movie , a champion swimmer Kyle who loses his leg in a military explosion. In a particular scene, the scientist who designs prosthetic devices, Dr Cameron McCarthy(Morgan Freeman) has a dialogue with Kyle to pep him up and bring him out of his feeling of doom.

Kyle says something like 'All along my life I have worked for only one thing' (meaning to say that its lost now after his accident).

Freeman nonchalantly responds 'The good thing is you have a million other things to choose from'. 

That dialogue was like 'Wow'. A very simple statement but yet it carries so much meaning, depth and above all 'Hope'.

We cannot always change what happens to us in life. How we react to it and what perspective we take is something we can choose. Its not always easy to stay positive. Life can be cruel at times too. One's spirit can go a long way in turning things over and finding new meanings. As he rightly said, when you lose one thing there are a million other things to choose from.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Wind, The Chimes and The Beast

Indifiction Workshop is a story writing workshop for bloggers interested in fiction. This was initiated by 'The Fool' who blogs at and C.Suresh who blogs at

The 6th edition of this exercise revolved around retelling of the fairy tale 'Beauty and the Beast' in a contemporary setting.  The winners of the previous edition Medha Kapoor, Prasanna Rao and Janaki Nagaraj have come up with the plot for this round which can be found at

My version of the plot:

Story Title: The Wind, The Chimes and The Beast



The sun should have disappeared by now at the horizon behind the vast expanse of the sea. I cannot see it from where I am lying but I catch the azure hue of the evening sky from the corner of my half closed eyes. I can hear the sound of the waves hitting the shore a few yards away from my seaside mansion. The palpitations in my body seem to be rocking me with a tremendous force. I feel sticky with sweat and something is trickling down my left ear, blood perhaps? A strong gust of wind blows and gets the wind chimes swinging. My wind chimes! They are hanging on my balcony right above me. Despite the shooting pain I feel near my heart, I let myself immerse in their musical noise. Then I hear that! Like it’s almost real! Laughter! Her laughter that used to dance with them every time I shared a joke with her!

The searing pain emerges as muffled growls from my mouth. I have sent the servants away and not a soul can hear me. I can feel my lips forming her name – Karishma. Again! And Again! My eyes drift into darkness and images of my past and that specific day keep flashing rapidly. The day I became what the locals call Boochandi, the beast!

Would love to hear your comments. You could leave them here or at the link above.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Woman on platform 10

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 38; the thirty-eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "The Woman on Platform Number 10"
The sun had just risen from its overnight slumber and was sneaking his rays everywhere with a rejuvenated vigor.  "Hot News!East Pakistan becomes Bangladesh" a newspaper boy screamed at the hurrying passengers. 'Kaapi Kaapi Kaapi',  the coffee seller bellowed. The aroma and vapors arising from his can blended with the morning air drawing the crowd like ants to a sugar hill. Porters in bright red attire scurried their way through oncoming loads and people, eager to start a new day.
The Trichy express was expected only in another two hours on platform no 10. Due to the same and the fact that it was at the fag end of the railway station , it was relatively less bustling compared to the other sections of the railway station.
A few people were curled up on the platform on stretched out newspapers or blankets, some still asleep, some awake and aware of the surrounding activities yet reluctant to open their eyes. Hardly discernible among the stretched out men and bundles was an infant, seven months old. He was cradled between his parents, his mother's guarding hands resting around his diminutive physique. A year of trying their luck in the city had proven futile. They were now headed back to their native village. The child slightly moved his hand, whimpered and then broke into loud wails. Like a switch turned on, his mother rose with a jerk. Adjusting the folds of her sari, she gathered him in her arms, drew him to her bosom and gently brushed his soft hair with her slender fingers. His sobs now disappeared in the feeble sound of his suckling. A few minutes later, his hunger satisfied, he started staring at the lights above and giggling. When he broke into a wail again, she knew what was wrong. She gently removed the white cloth tied around his waist, now dripping wet. After wiping him with a damp cloth, she wrapped another cloth around his waist and made a neat knot. She woke up her sleeping husband, handed him the playing child and went to a tap nearby. After washing the cloth well, she spread it on her iron trunk suitcase to dry. 'Chella Kutti'(darling little one) she spoke in baby tones when her son looked at her.

Around four decades passed.

The sun rose once again repeating his act of thousands of years , yet with the same rejuvenated spirit. Two porters hurried along, one of them engaged in a serious discussion with someone on his cellphone. The snack stall at the corner of the platform had vada, samosa, burgers and pizza slices arranged neatly next to one another.
The child now in his forties, moved through the platform, slowly. The frail hand of a woman was hooked in his, that of his mother. Her skin was pale and she was dressed in a light blue robe, something that resembled a nighty. He made her sit on a bench and sat next to her. Her eyes were looking at the sights around her but without any life. She did not seem to be cognizant of where she was or, for that matter,of the fact that the man who brought her there was her son. She kept tilting her head from one side to another. He bought a bun from the stall and put it in her hands. She quickly unwrapped it and started gnawing at it. He released her hand from his own , started walking ; first slowly and then rapidly and made his exit without looking back even once. The woman finished the bun soon. She was not aware that the person who had come with her was now gone. Her bladder became full and started leaking.  The urine made his way down her legs and wet her clothing. She was unperturbed by it or rather unaware of it. Oblivious of her condition the woman on platform 10 continued to stare at the unknown.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: C.Suresh, Participation Count: 7

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Soul Stirred

Yesterday evening I decided to take up a chore I had been procrastinating for quite some time. Its an apparently easy one but does require a lot of ones energy. Ironing clothes! Despite possessing a good quality steam iron from Philips and a really convenient ironing board its still hardwork.

I fondly remembered the man in a lungi and a colored vest standing in the corner of every street back home in Chennai with his hand-pulled cart and iron box filled with hot coal rendering his services to all the residents at such an affordable price! Ironing just meant gathering the washed clothes in a bundle and handing it over to him.

Yeah, things are different outside.Here I have not seen any ironing services so far and laundry can cost you a fortune. Best Solution: DO IT YOURSELF!

I have read theories about work being easier when its accompanied by music and yes, that's so very true. I have seen videos of women in tea plantations rendering some folk songs with gusto and the fishermen in some parts of the country singing some lovely tunes to the beat of their oars. Oh yes, these videos are from movies and I really don't know how far this is true.

Anyways I switched on FM Radio and it was the evening special compilation of Malayalam songs.

My mother tongue is Tamizh but the whole of my childhood i.e till I reached Std VIII was spent in God's Own Country. Hence I can read, write and speak Malayalam (There I go, bragging about it! Simply cant control myself on that front!). I am quite familiar with the movies and songs that were released then. But I would get a negative score if you test me on the more recent releases. I have kind of lost touch except for the occasional movie I get to catch on TV.

Coming back to the scenario, as I was ironing, a particular song was played. There are songs that you listened to as a child deeply implanted in some part of your memory. When you listen to it again, you realize you know the song but cannot recollect when and how. This was one such song. "Kanneer Poovinte " from the movie Kireedam.

There are songs which as you listen would enter your ears and then make their way quickly to the chasms of your heart, and stir your soul - gently , lightly yet beautifully. Once the song gets over, you start feeling bad that it came to an end. Yet, it leaves you with a nice feeling. This had that effect on me.

I am not sure how many of us actually have time to sit and listen to songs that touch our souls . We are caught in this world of work, chores, errands, run, run, run not to mention the dance and item numbers that seem to blare at us from every direction.

So, whoever managed to read all that I have blabbered above till this point - Go ahead. Take out your ipod, mobile phone, laptop or whatever source you have. Tune in to a song you really love and lose yourself in it. Now! Gift yourself five minutes of peaceful music. Do it immediately and rejoice. What is life after all without simple pleasures? :)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Para Sailing Experience and Langkawi - CableCar/Sky Bridge

When I visited Penang way back in 2007 my three month old pregnancy accompanied me. Para sailing was totally out of question. During our Langkawi trip, when I came across the same in Pantai Cenang beach it was kind of irresistible. There are things in life which you should try whenever an opportunity presents itself. After all , no clock - historical, biological or plainly logical is going backwards right?

Para Sailing

It costed us RM100 per person. There were more expensive options in other parts of Langkawi(nearly 50 to 100 RM more). I guess the slight difference lies in the amount of professionalism but we decided to opt for the cheaper one.

My husband and I decided to go together. They strapped a parachute to our shoulders and this in turn was connected by a rope to a boat in the sea.

The man instructed my husband "When its about to end, I will blow the whistle. Then you tug at this rope with both your hands and pull it towards your chest. Remember both hands!" Almost simultaneously he started yelling "Run, Run!" The boat was speeding away dragging us and we ran with as less clumsiness as we could muster. Our feet just touched the water when we felt ourselves being lifted and then we were in the sky clinging on to the parachute. It was amazing! There was a nice breeze, it was quite calm and we seemed to be gently floating. Oh Yeah! The view was breathtaking but we had decided to risk only our lives and not our material possessions on earth like iPhone, iPad or the digital camera. Hence no pictures, just lovely memories of that view.

After around seven to eight minutes , the boat completed a huge circle and started approaching the place on the beach where we had started.

By now, my husband and I were deeply engrossed in some conversation, I cant really recollect the subject now. A whistle distracted me and I slowly asked 'Are they whistling at us?'

The men on the shore were maddeningly waving their hands and whistling at us - Basically signalling us to pull the rope as instructed.

Now we forgot the 'Both hands' part and my husband proceeded to pull it with one hand. There was no noticeable difference in our stand! Then I remembered 'Hey both hands'.

This whole act is to maneuver the parachute to move it towards the land so that when we descend we would end up on the shore and not in the water. On using both hands we moved towards the shore and by now we were only around 10 to 15 feet above the ground. A man was seated at the beach and thanks to his stars that carefully guarded him my feet just managed to avoid giving him a solid kick on the chin.

When we reached the ground it was one of the best sights of the day for those at the beach. I toppled and fell, my husband toppled and fell over me and the parachute fell on us. Almost immediately the men came and helped us out of the tangle!

It totally lasted only around ten to fifteen minutes, but was an experience that I would cherish for life! As I said, don't have any images, just one of the beach.

Langkawi Cable Car & Skybridge

One of the major attractions of Langkawi is the cable car ride , a very steep one that takes visitors to a Sky Bridge atop the Mount Matchinang.

When we went the sky bridge was closed for renovation but we did go up the viewing decks. Beautiful views from there and a bad choice for people scared of heights.

Dataran Lang (Eagle Square)

The Eagle Square is a landmark in Langkawi in the city area next to the ferry terminal. A huge statue of an eagle stands overlooking the ocean. Nice place to take some lovely photos and a good view in front.

We went when it was very hot just before taking the ferry to Penang and hence did not linger too long but it one goes in the evening or so , it would be pleasant and more enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Langkawi - Resort and Mangrove Tour

When we were residing at Kuala Lumpur, we never got a chance to explore Langkawi.Now my in laws have come here and we wanted to go on a family vacation. After some brain storming we finalized Langkawi and Penang.

IN SE Asia, Indians get VISA on Arrival in Thailand and Indonesia. But for Malaysia you need to get a social visit pass before arriving, Processing typically takes a week.

Langkawi is a group of nearly 99 islands and is well connected by flights(quite a few low cost carriers) to many parts of the world.

The Resort:

The best part of our stay was the Berjaya resort where we had booked a family chalet. Nestled amongst nearly 70 acres of thick vegetation bordering the ocean, it houses a variety of flora and fauna. The chalets are  made of wood and you need to utilize the 24X7 shuttle service to get from one part of the resort to another.

The board on our room door read 'Please lock the balcony doors before leaving to prevent monkeys from coming inside'. In addition to the room service menu, the hotel had provided each room with a booklet on the varieties of animals present in that forest and what one needs to do in case we encountered a monkey or a python.

During our stay we did spot a couple of hornbills , a few monkeys . One morning we saw an animal clinging to the trunk of the tree outside our room that looked a little like a squirrel and a little like a mongoose and at one angle like an injured bird. We even thought we were imagining things. When we returned in the evening it was still there, but the next morning it was gone. The hotel brochure showed us that it was the flying lemur.

For images of the resort take a look at the hotel website here.

Mangrove Tour:

The day we landed we hired a local travel agency to take us on a Mangrove tour, a popular activity there. We were taken at first to a boat jetty by road and then in a speed boat from there.

The boatman skillfully maneuvered his machine as it waddled through beautiful mangrove forests. (Wikipedia:Mangroves are various types of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics )

After stopping at a local fish farm , the boat proceeded to the next destination - Eagle feeding. 

The boatman threw some pieces of meat in some machine which scattered it in the water and the kings of the skies came charging down in flocks scooping them up with amazing grace and grandeur. In fact Langkawi gets its name from these winged wonders and translates to reddish brown eagle.

The boat went in through some caves and crevices and then stopped at a place called Gua Kelawar(Bats Cave).

Bats Cave:

One needs to pay an entrance fee(around RM4) to go in. At the counter they also rent flash lights as its pitch dark inside the cave. We walked along the path carefully and when we directed the flash light above us, the ceiling was full of bats! EIKES!! I wanted to scream out loud and flee but there were boards asking us to maintain silence.In some time we got used to them and they did not seem all that repulsive.We also moved away from the space directly under them. Can you spot them in the pic below?

The cave also houses some very beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. In some countries they would give each of them a specific name based on the shape and have a guided tour but here they left all of that to our own creativity. I felt the below one looked like a tiger. Or maybe a snake?

The area around the Bat Cave was teeming with monkeys. One has to be be careful around them as they can snatch your belongings especially if it contains food.  One succeeded in giving me a good scare by making monkey faces at me. How monkey of him!

From there the boat set off again and merged into the Andaman ocean from the swamp areas. Then it was half an hour of super fast boat ride. In the cool evening, with the sea breeze madly blowing our hair, it was a heavenly experience.

The mangrove trip lasts around 4 hours in all including the road journey and costs around RM300 per boat.

More of Langkawi and Penang in further posts.....

Friday, March 22, 2013

Curd Rice Lessons !

We are a vegetarian family and hence during every vacation, finding food becomes an activity that involves a slight amount of additional effort.

Within India of course its not a problem, but outside its sometimes a huge challenge. 

One thing we need to remember is, that just because a dish is listed under vegetables on the menu card, it does not necessarily have to be vegetarian. It only indicates that the main ingredient is not chicken or beef. It could have any prawn or shrimp flavoring.In most parts of South East Asia, anchovies get added to food like we Indians add coriander leaves. Its like the grand finale step!

Once in the US, I went to a restaurant and explained with all possible words and gestures that I don't take meat. After a long stare at me as if she were working out three hundred and twenty seven divided by thirty nine, the waitress suggested a dish. To make sure, I asked for the ingredients and she went on 'pepper, onions, garlic and fish oil'. Fish Oil? Excuse Me! "Well, you said you did not take meat, not seafood. Besides no one told me that fish ain't vegetarian" She did not say that, but I could hear the words in her mind with amazing clarity. Then onward I make it a point to explain 'No meat, no seafood, no fish, no egg' .

Additionally if the language spoken is alien to us then better learn the word for 'vegetarian' before setting foot on that soil.

We had gone to Langkawi with my in laws and hence we were on the lookout for food that was Indian in addition to being vegetarian.

Just before we left for Penang from Langkawi we asked our taxi driver to drop us in some Indian restaurant. Every corner in the world has an Indian restaurant that serves Naan, Rotis , Dal and Dahi. We just need to find it. In most cases the name is usually Taj or Maharajah :). Antartica may be the only exception !

The driver stopped in front of a restaurant and the board outside proclaimed 'Arabic, Western and Indian cuisine'. That indicated that they did not serve Indian cuisine exclusively! Above that, our home food was third on the list. THIRD!!! It was actually a Middle Eastern restaurant that also served Western and Indian food. 'Ah-ah-Aaan' the alarms in our brains chimed in symphonic harmony. "Is there any other place nearby?" we asked the driver with caution. He had found the place after umpteen number of calls to some knowledgeable friend of his. This question had a high possibility of triggering violence in the afternoon heat.

'Why don't you take a look at the menu first?' he suggested.

We were greeted with a very warm welcoming smile by the person in charge. 'Do you have N-a-a-n, Cha-pa-thi?' we asked with some hesitation. Somehow whenever we talk to someone under the assumption that he would not understand us, we tend to say it very slow; giving a kilometer space between each syllable! How on earth would the speed in which a word is uttered make a difference? Anyways that's what we did as well. After all we are also human!

When he said "Yes we do" we thanked Mars, Venus , Jupiter and the whole family of planetary objects who were now spinning slightly tilted in our direction.

 "Curd?" .

"Yes" and then he uttered something which would sound like soul stirring music to the ears of any TamBrahm(Tamil Brahmin) "I can make curd rice for you if you would like that"

We were almost singing "Yankee Doodle went to town" when we entered the place.

They had a nice cozy family room that was secluded and gave us much needed peace and privacy for the meal.

There was no tomato soup in the menu card but he was ready to make it for us. We gave the situation a thought.Curd Rice was no big deal but a never-before-attempted-tomato-soup? We politely declined and stuck to the menu.

Masala Papad, Vegetable Pakoras, steaming chapathis, Dal, Mix Veg Masala - arrived one after another . The taste was heavenly and the aromas had us drifting into a meditative state of inner peace! Impeccably done with everything in correct proportion, the room was reverberating with the blessings that our satisfied souls were subconsciously sending in the man's direction.

Finally when the curd rice arrived we were spell bound. With the mustard, urad dal and curry leaves tempering, it appeared very close to perfection. When a spoonful of that went into our mouths we closed our eyes and uttered 'Ummmm' like the models in Gulab Jamun advertisements. It tasted close to perfection as well.

The basic purpose behind this post was to point out the business attitude and salesmanship of that person at the restaurant.

The effort that went into the curd rice preparation may have been minimal but that was what we needed at that hour. Knowing the need of your customer and going a little bit out of your way in satisfying that will go a long way in the success of any business.

We left the place happy and I am sure if we go to Langkawi again we will definitely pay him a visit. That sort of lasting impression would decide who stays in the run and who does not.

Boy! I never knew that my darling "Thayir Sadham"(curd rice) would get my simple mind to think about such topics like business, sales etc .   (Of course it proved the age old saying that appearances could be deceptive!)