A Review


18 April,2019

Hi Friends,

      Is maths making you miserable? Are you nobbled by the numbers and in a tangle about the angles?  Well, I’m not asking you these questions.  I am just repeating the questions that were printed on the back cover of a book.   “MURDEROUS MATHS” is here to change all that for good.  I also saw something interesting in this back cover which says “GUARANTEE : THIS BOOK CONTAINS NO NASTY EXERCISES AND NO BORING SUMS!”

      Mmmmmmmmm Interesting! I told myself coz Maths appadi engara peyar kaetallae chumma otharathu illaiya? I am sure there are a whole lot of people who are like me and and we must have come across situations where “isthiri kara amma vanthirukanga paru, kanakku pottu kudu” – and I will be thinking “Rounda oru pathu, iruvathu ippadi thuni kudithirundha evalavu easya irukkum.”

      This book is meant for people who are madly in love with maths as well as for people who run away on hearing the word.  “KJARTAN POSKITT” – don’t know how to pronounce his name correctly, is the author of this book. A British author and TV presenter, is best known for writing the Murderous Maths children’s series of books. The author has presented this book in an interesting way with the help of a story and has touched the basics of number system, time, algebra, trignometry and may more topics.  This book is highly interactive and makes the reader spring into action and try out different activities given in the text book which goes along with the story.  Some of the activities like coding for sending secret messages which deals with prime numbers, the quest for the right angle, the magic squares, mind mashing maze for symmetry and a few magical tricks with numbers which any child can perform before his/her friends. The entire book was filled with a lot of humour and comical pictures and I assure you that children will love this book.

      While I was about to finish reading this book, my mom called out to me saying, “Newspaper aalu kanakku paathu vanga varuvaaru, kanakku pottudarraya?” from the kitchen and all I was thinking of was a way to escape.


                                                       I’M IN GREAT SHAPE

                                                 by PADMINI VISWANATHAN

When you go for a walk on the beach in the morning, especially during weekends, you see this poster offering to check your Mass Fat Index, no, I think it is Fat Mass Index (FMI) for FREE! There is a tall, slim man standing beside it. How would it look if there was a short, pudgy man instead? Would anyone check their FMI, I wondered, smiling. This was the latest health fad, I realized. Earlier we used to see people standing in front of tables offering “Arugampul juice” for diabetics and men with the boot of their car open offering “farm fresh” keerai and katharikai. In my mind the term “farm fresh” itself is associated with an over production of katharikais.

I looked around wondering who would need to check their FMI. Not many of the senior citizens. Obviously they were there to exercise their aging muscles and creaking bones. Definitely not those smart young men wearing sleeveless t-shirts displaying their rippling muscles. Either they were there to enjoy the sea breeze, catch up with friends or just show off. Would that Junoesque woman over there need to check her FMI? I must admit right here that I included this sentence simply because I wanted to use the word ever since I read in Amitav Ghosh’s latest book that Mrs. Burham was a ‘Junoesque’ lady. Coming back to the subject, I realized that it was the middle aged and not-yet middle aged women who fell into the FMI checking category. And the men? They put on football paunches and will need a Paunch Measuring Index instead!

The other day, I was going through the usual mad search for material for a costume. This time, for our very own Meera, the ‘Meera Ke Prabhu Giridhara Gopala’ one, and a few props that were needed for a Temple procession. We were rushing around between shops in Luz and Mylapore tank to find the right shade of orange/pink with just enough dull gold or dull silver border for Meera and what was described to us as, “Y’know that guy amma, who carries that stick with a colourfully embroidered spade on it, big o.k, don’t forget that, and follows the palanquin in the Temple festival?” I was desperately winding my way through a profussion of haphazardly parked two-wheelers outside Giri Traders in search of the ‘stick-with-the-spade” when I heard a voice call out, “Ma’am.” It was the FMI guy! Here, outside the Kapali Temple, in front of the “Everything Religious under One Roof” Giri Traders.

“Hey Man,” I called out, pointing to my wholesome hips. “Can’t you see the Fat Mass? Does it have to MEASURED also?” and I hurriedly climbed the steps to the shop.

Why are people obsessed with Fat Mass Index and Body Types? It’s this Kareena Kapoor and her size zero. People fooled themselves into thinking that she achieved it by living on love for Saif Ali Khan and the fish-scented sea breeze in Bandra. It is only now after she stated that she can’t exist without her roti, dhal and lassi and that she does indulge in a sweet quite often that Vidhya Balan has been accepted for her good looks and not only for her acting talent.

“But this is not your body-type, amma,” they say, looking at the quite hefty me. “The doctors don’t know anything. You can lose weight if you set your mind to it.” For Heavens’ Sake, does anyone have the same body-type throughout their lives? But for a few exceptions, most women are slim when young, not-so-slim after child birth and put on girth after middle age. What you actually can’t fight is your DNA and if Fat Mass is the family type you can’t beat it. You may be less so or more so but be sure, it will show! Every woman in my family has thunder thighs and has started slowing down by the time they are sixty. I still stand erect and walk briskly, so what’s the FMI complex all about?

Why do people feel that it’s their basic right to make personal comments about us. “You’ve put on weight,” “Your face is beginning to look like a pumpkin,” “You’ve become shapeless,” —- Hey Man, I am not planning to participate in the Miss India Contest. I’ve been a Mrs for over 45 years! Do we look them up and down and say, “Do I see a two inch increase in those love handles?” or “What happened? Has the effect of that ‘Most Effective Diet’ worn off?”

I wish I could quote statistics that say, “A larger percentage of hefty people are healthy while most slim people suffer from malnutrition,” because I firmly believe that it is true. But like every article on healthy food habits tells you, “It is more important to be healthy and happy than to try to force yourself to look slimmer and younger than your age.” As for me, I’m in great shape and that shape is round!


                                              OUR NEW LIVE-IN GUEST

                                            by PADMINI VISWANATHAN

             An old Alarmelmangapuram resident’s grand-daughter has finally found her way to our flat. Announcing her arrival with a loud tich-tich-tich, she settled into the same place as her grand-mother before her. But what would she do at 9 o’clock at night, I wondered. The floor plan of our new place was very different. Even if she decides that she will follow in grandma’s footsteps and cross the drawing room to step out for some fun and frolic in the out-doors, there are no open windows here, nor an open front door for that matter. Even the kitchen window, which was the only way she could possibly have entered, has been firmly shut by Ganga.

Oh! What a predicament to be in. Will her boy friend wait for her indefinitely outside? Will she be able to make a dash for it when the front door is opened in the morning? Will she be able to figure out the layout of the flat in one night? Or, will she decide to slink out the way she came in when I open the kitchen window in the morning to take out my pudina plant to water?

The gong strikes nine. There she is, making her way along the wall and now to the ceiling above my head. Is she so confused that she has mistaken the ceiling for the floor? Aren’t I scared? No! Not at all! I’ve had one of her ilk jump at me every time I opened the toy cupboard in the morning during the five years that I was a pre-k.g teacher. One can’t be scared after that!

If Sanchita knew of this feat, she’d be very proud of her grand-mother. And, she would be in total awe of her brave dad who killed all the insects she was scared of, if she knew that in his growing years he had shared his house with a full-grown lizard!


                                                   MANGA ECHUMI WRITES

                                                      by PRABHA SRIDEVAN

It has always been my dream to start a blog. Always is of course an exaggeration, let us say after 2013. A friend said, “A great idea. Even if we do not buy the paper where your piece appears, we can always read it in your blog.” He generously offered to set it up. I said when I am ready I will tell him. Two years later I had chosen the name. It was “Manga Echumi writes” My “given” name or the name written on the paddy under the cradle was “Mahalakshmi”. I pronounced it as above (the hangover of the legal avatar lingers like perungaya vaasanai !) My mother’s Chittappa called me that for a long time. I shared this idea of “Manga echumi writes” with another friend. She thought it resonated, it was interest arousing and so forth. Time went by. I wondered what would happen if I got hate messages. Why should I expose myself to that? The possibility that I may be the only reader skimming my blog did not occur to me. Of such vain cells are human brains made. Another friend said there were things which will filter such messages and it could be installed. Kindly note that, right from the beginning my friends have been extending huge support to my blog that is yet to start. But my fear of hate mail is not unfounded. When I wrote in Dinamani about death penalty and why I am against it; a learned gentleman asked if I will hold the same view if my daughter had been …well…you fill in the blanks. This is the level of discerning debate in our country. I hope Mr. Amartya Sen was not referring to such “argumentship” when he wrote his much read book. Cool, analytical engagement with a counter view is something I have not seen much around me. So I make the move that suits me best, go in reverse gear. To get back to my theme, the blog, the truth is I haven’t started my blog yet.  Another inhibitor is I am not enthu about this e-space. I do not Facebook I do not Twitter. I am aware I can find long lost friends there and I can do this and I can do that, if I FB. But I also become entrenched in my views, I “unfriend” those who hold different views, I “like” only those who agree with me. Then the scope of my learning that I am wrong has as good a chance as an icicle in burning hell. But I could be wrong, right? If King Ashoka had “unfriended” all those who wrote on the Facebook that war and bloodshed was a bad idea, he could never have become a Devanampiya. To cut things short, I am not comfortable in the online space, I do not buy anything online, and I do not Netflix. Two months ago, I read about a book and asked for it on line, of course Cash on Delivery. I have not received it yet, may be the book is walking her way to me. She Who Decides All has probably laid down that Manga echumi and online shall not meet. It has also been decided by Her that I need not start a blog. Aparna has decided that I can pen for pleasure here and Padmini will facilitate it. Again my friends!


                                                NEVER ON A SUNDAY

                                                   by V. SRINIVASAN

To some of you the caption will bring to memory the Song bearing the same title, Never on a Sunday rendered by the dulcet voice of Connie Francis inviting you to good times except on the Christian day of Sabbath, when she prefers to take rest and probably sleep late!

I too like my Sundays. Time away from School, college and later work. However to tell the truth I liked Saturdays better, as they always lead to Sundays. The pleasure of anticipating the day of rest has always felt better for me than the actual day of rest, which usually melts away like ice cubes left near the oven! Sundays always promise a lot and many times fail to deliver. Even if you have had a great time on a Sunday, it always leads to Mondays and back to the mill. What a wet blanket end to a day of glorious enjoyment or laid back well earned rest!

Having lived in the Arabic countries of Oman and the United Arab Emirates for twenty odd years, my Sundays happened to be Fridays, which is the weekly off day in those parts.

We planned outings with the family on Sundays (Fridays as they turned out for a long time in my life). The kids want to go out to the beach or an amusement park or whatever other attractions are  available in and around where you live. So instead of sleeping late and having a leisurely breakfast, which can go on to a session of some beers before lunch and so on, you get up as usual – the kids up and ready, rearing to go and ensure you are up and ready too. You decide to leave early to make sure you reach the amusement park well ahead of the others. Smart move! Once you hit the road, too late you discover there are other equally smart fellows around; many are even smarter seeing as how there is long line of cars ahead of you. The traffic has built up to the healthy usual level and you are driving and cursing in your accustomed style as on a weekday. You finally struggle for a little over an hour and reach your destination. The family gets down from the car and enthusiastically run towards all the fun activities. You continue to curse and wedge your little car between two expensive mammoth SUVs. The next step in enjoying your Sunday is standing in the long queue to buy the entry tickets. When you reach the counter issuing tickets, the never fail  “Murphy’s law” kicks in. The computer issuing tickets hangs and there is a hold up with others behind you craning their necks to see what the hold up is. Eventually you have the precious entry tickets and go in. The kids have a whale of a time. You begin to think, it’s all been worth it.

After exhausting themselves, everyone is ready to go home. The drive back home is no better  with the day’s exertions adding to the irritation of the drive home. Finally you reach and park the car. After a cooling shower you sit with a drink and watch TV for a while. The wife is faring no better, is getting dinner ready. Everyone finishes dinner and you hit the sack. Inevitably the mind wanders to the tasks at hand at work the next day. Daunting thoughts scramble past. That is when you make a solemn resolution never on a Sunday. NEVER AGAIN on a Sunday…..

After all you do have six whole days to lose your resolve!!


                                                        WHAT’S IN A NAME

                                                              by NANDINI 

What’s in a Name…. But nevertheless why can’t you get it or spell it or WRITE it RIGHT?!

A name is someone’s identity, a sound that you respond to… the script of a name is as precious as the name itself… I thank my parents to this day for having given me a very pleasant sounding name… it almost reminds me of rain and bells… well if you say it the right way 😉

It’s spelt N-A-N-D-I-N-I.. Simple enough right? 7 equally distributed letters, all pleasant looking … no complications.. much like me … 😊

But as luck would have it my name would never be spelled right …. Ever and always the TAMIL in every TAMILIAN will spell it NANDHINI instead of the above. So by default I would clarify upfront I am NANDINI without the aitch (H)… and normally everyone would go Ah!

Up until school and college you are often recognized by your teachers by your roll no. I was, I think, 18 in school in my class and a 98/CM/556 for the 3 years at Stellla. When I started with Ferguson for articleship is when the damage to my name started. People called me NANDHINI, NANDHINEE and worse NANDUNEE …. I was still studying and was still under grooming, so to say and hence was polite but as I finished my CA and started working, my patience started wearing thin. I was amongst people who knew how to write and read… what’s the difficulty in noticing the name of the person emailing you?

As my career took me to US shores, it got worse …. I was called NANDINA, NANDILEE, so much that even people at home called me LANDLI (Name not mentioned –Pun intended) …. I was reminded of Henry Higgins when he used to lash “The cold blooded murder of the English tongue”… Just you wait!!!!

I experienced bosses typing out my name and doing a spell check and many emails addressed as NADINE….. This was atleast okay … The guy named VENU was addressed as VENUE!! … While it provided humour (much required) to the stressful work environment being in finance, who would run spell check on NOUNS.?!..

I gave up… I realized that it’s impossible to teach and rectify people…

I now respond to NANDHINI, NANDINEE, NANDHINEEE and NANDHINIEE just as I would for NANDINI… But just in case you get an email from me It would always say…


P.S – Remember it 😉


                                                           GOOD MORNING

                                              by PADMINI VISWANATHAN

Having crossed thirty, I’d begun to take a deeper look into myself.  I’d begun to accept comments on my personality and my behavior. One such was my husband’s oft-repeated comment that I wake up only an hour after I get up.  Unfortunate but true!  This is one more field where we’ve proved that opposites attract.  He wakes up every morning bursting with joy that a new day has begun, with a “Good morning Miss, Oh oh! Good Morning Missus!” type of joke on his lips.  Which is not very surprising when you consider that he comes from a family who can, first thing in the morning, enjoy a super gossip session on who said what to who, when, where, why and so on and so forth.  Now, my mother is a woman who never feels the need to speak more than is necessary, who indulges in a neighborly chat maybe once or twice in a year.  My father, though very jovial, never chatted or jabbered, especially not in the morning.  So it really is no matter of great surprise that if there is one thing I can’t do in the morning, it’s talk. I do go about my domestic duties in a sleepy manner, even pump water and heave a rather large andaa of water back to the house.  But I find it a severe strain to wake my sleeping cheek muscles up even to give my children a cheery ‘Good morning’ smile.  I manage to get out of this trance-like state only after I have had a bath, which is only an hour after I wake up.  I find that having a bath immediately after I brush my teeth of no use, for, as my husband said, I do awake up only an hour after I get up.  There was one occasion, however, when I did break this general rule.  My seven- year-old son, who like his father gets his greatest thrill from poking fun at me, came along one morning, a little after I woke up.  In my usual manner I gave him a sleepy nod and stood watching the milk.   He moved a little closer, hugged me and gave me a whopping kiss on my cheek.  The mother in me shook my cheek muscles out of their slumber and I gave him a radiant smile.  “Appa, appa,” he shouted, “Prince Charming has actually kissed Sleeping Beauty awake!”   My husband roared with laughter from the hall.  I, too, went off into peels of laughter and Hey Presto! I was wide awake long before the scheduled one hour!

I know of a husband who woke up every morning, billing and cooing and whispering endearing sweet-nothings into his wife’s ears.  She always surfaced from slumber with the deep contentment that her husband was totally in love with her.  What a beautiful way to start the day!  Except that the moment she was awake, he rolled over onto his side and went straight back to sleep.  Now what would you call that – love – with a purpose?

I also know of a wife who catapulted out of bed every morning, thinking, “coffee, idlis for breakfast, pitlai, morkuzhambu and kootu for lunch, pakoras for tiffin and chappathis and dhal for dinner.”  No, she was not a glutton.  That was quite robably the menu and she was toting up the culinary chores for the day.  Quite apparently these items of food were reeling in her brain throughout the night.  The sad thing was that though she ate rather frugally, all this concentrated thought of food made her grow fat!


                                             CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!

             by PADMINI VISWANATHAN  (from Mylapore Lodge)

“Akka it’s Aruna again,” I called and ran out of the front door with akka following close behind. Why was Aruna such a tomboy? There she was again vaulting over the low wall like a practised high-jumper. Rolling her head in delight,  she came rushing straight at us like a bull at a matador and we had to jump aside to save ourselves. This was a ‘Catch Me If You Can’ game that we were forced to play almost every other day. We charged at her from either side but she escaped deftly. She was flashing her bright white teeth. She careened suddenly and came at us again. But akka and I were no mean opponents. We were experts at the game too. I lunged at her and akka caught hold of the rope. Yes, rope. It was our tomboy calf Aruna!



                                        WHOSE COUSIN IS HE ANY WAY

                                           By PADMINI VISWANATHAN

                    Well, I thought he was my husband’s cousin and Raman Thatha, my father-in-law thought he was mine! Yes, it was the craziest mix-up. In the first few days of getting married I met all my husband’s cousins. Cousins who lived next door, cousins who lived opposite us, cousins who lived two houses away, cousins who lived down the street – phew – it was truly mind boggling. I just couldn’t figure out who was who.

          Every morning Raman Thatha went for a walk after having coffee. I would have breakfast ready when he returned. We always had breakfast together – he would tell me interesting stories about the family.

          On that morning Thatha left for his walk as usual. I just took a batch of idlis of the fire when the lad walked in hesitantly and said, ‘Can I have some breakfast’.  “Sure thing, I’ve just made a batch of idlis,” I said and served him some. While he was eating we had a chat. He was Ramesh and he was doing his II year Chemical Engineering in Guindy. I stowed this piece of information in my mind. I figured this is the best way to get to know each of my husband’s cousins.

          Thatha returned from his walk, wished Ramesh and sat down at the dining table. “I’m famished,” he said. I brought two more plates and the rest of the idlis and we started to eat. Ramesh looked a bit surprised. I felt proud he had noticed that Thatha and I were already great friends. After breakfast Ramesh said, “How much do I pay?” Thatha and I laughed. “Don’t worry cousin,” I said, “this time its on the house”. He thanked me, said bye and left.

        A few minutes later Thatha said, “nice boy Ramesh, who is he?” It was my turn to look surprised. “Isn’t he one of your nephews”, I asked. “No,” he said, “I thought he was your cousin. After all, you were serving him breakfast.”  “Yes,” I said perplexed, “But he came in asking if he could have some breakfast and so I assumed that he must be one of the many cousins who lived around us.” Both of us burst out laughing. I had not only let a total stranger into the house but I had even given him breakfast! But who was he and why did he come to our house demanding breakfast? It was a total mystery to all of us. That day the whole family had a nice time teasing me about my mysterious ‘breakfast cousin.’

        Thatha decided not to go for a walk the next day. We were curious to see if Ramesh would turn up again. And sure enough he did – just in time for breakfast. “Ah, there you are,” said Thatha, and demanded an explanation for his behaviour. He was Ramesh, a II year Engineering student. He was waiting for a vacancy in the College Hostel and in the meantime he had rented a room a few houses away from ours. He had to make his own arrangements for food. “Seeing the board ‘Mylapore Lodge’ I came in hoping that this lodging house may serve food too”. Thatha burst out laughing. “Didn’t you see the ‘Theosophical Society’ board on the other gate post,” he asked. “This is the Mylapore Lodge or Branch of the Theosophical Society which has its Headquarters in Adyar”. Ramesh gave a sheepish grin and looked apologetic. “Uncle, I’m so sorry,” he said, “It’s just that I was dying for some breakfast, saw the Mylapore Lodge and walked straight in”. Thatha patted him on his back, “Don’t feel bad my son. This lodge is still open to you for breakfast”. So my mysterious breakfast cousin came home every morning till he got hostel accommodation.


                                                    FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING!

                                                   By PADMINI VISWANATHAN

           I was in a dilemma.  Should I keep this blouse or should I discard it like I did the other three.  But this one fit, if you could call the squished boobs under them a fit.  And the tightness around my rib-cage.  Sure, the sleeves and armhole in this one were very comfortable which was generally the problem with  most of my other blouses.  What is it about women’s blouses that you end up making a continuous stream of them throughout your adult life?  And what is it about tailors that after making four blouses superbly, they just can’t make the fifth one right?

          My mind went back to the time in the College hostel when your bra size was such a serious matter for discussion.  Comparison of different girls’ sizes, the apparent increase in a girl’s size looked on with undisguised jealousy and of course the different styles and shapes examined to exhaustion.  “She has started wearing size 32 yaar.  I’m a year older and I’m still 30, the smallest size.”  As if boobs grew proportionate to age and other physical features had nothing to do with it!  I was about to pacify her by telling her that the smallest size was 28 and not 30 but quickly withheld the words before they could cross my voice box.  Just imagine the indignity I would be letting myself in for. She is a 28!  No wonder she looks like a boy despite that lovely long thick plait!  Her boobs must be the size of two small limes! I could think up these myself. Imagine what fun the girls would have making comments about me behind my back.  Being boob-less was my biggest sorrow in my teenage years.  I had achieved so much in College but what was the use?  I couldn’t develop a pair of decent boobs!

         I got married at nineteen and ended up with a father in law who was more boob-sie than me! He was a large, tall, well-endowed in all ways, happy man. And my ma in law was a slim, petite lady who made no bones about the fact that the men in our family were more well endowed.  How I cringed!  And this in spite of the fact that I had crossed over to size 30. Then, along came my three children and I too grew. Size 32, then 34 and I was still quite slim and finally at peace with myself.

          Nothing remains in a static state for too long. Life is not meant to be.  Past forty, the onset of depression,  I put on weight and so did my bo36, 38 and to be honest I didn’t really mind because I was still proportionate.  All those bra ads of the woman standing in front the mirror in a lacy bra propping up her breast in her hand came to mind.  I felt good, I could do it too!  But then came the fall.  A little more weight and the flab started spreading to my back.  Heaven’s forbid!  I couldn’t turn into the double breasted freak!  This was when I reached the ‘squished boobs, tight around the rib-cage’ phase with my blouses.  I had to do something about this and pronto.  I joined a yoga class and contacted a clinical nutritionist.  I had to lose the extra flab and to lose it in the back I was quite ready to sacrifice some of it from the front!


                              MY FRIEND AND I

                                           By PADMINI VISWANATHAN

          “I’m quite bored – trees, tees everywhere and nothing else in this place,” said this funny middle aged lady dressed in a tracksuit, Reeboks, a water-proof wind-cheater and an umbrella hanging across her back, held up by a braided silk rope hanging across her front!  I felt a little sad that there wasn’t a little bead-worked sling-bag attached to the umbrella contraption somewhere. That would’ve really completed the picture!  I had seen this strange creature walking along in a strange gait caused by her too huge persona (or too much protective material, perhaps) being supported by too tiny feet.  Or perhaps caused by being too conscious or scared of the possibility of stepping on a stone or pebble and having a fall.  I had seen her in different places a number of times in Coonoor before I actually came face to face with her and wished her a Good Evening.

          We walked long together for a short distance talking about this and that when I mentioned that I was here on a holiday from Madras.

          “I’m from Bombay,” she said, “and I live here now in one of the High Field property houses.”

              I told her that I had been passing that property everyday on my morning walks and wondered whether they were quarters of some sort.  They looked new and very much alike.

          “Quite badly built ones,” she said, and added (did I notice a wee tone of pride?), “We have bought one of the original ones built by the British.” Then she put her hand into her wind-cheater and pulled out a little walk-man, turned the cassette over and shoved it back in.  This was when I noticed the earphones.  (Hey, can one have a conversation with earphones on?  I don’t know.  I’ve never had a walk-man.)

          “I listen to a lot of music,” she said proudly.  I mentioned that I hadn’t realized how easily one got tired of listening to the same favorites.  I had brought only a few cassettes with me on this trip.

          “Oh, you should get onto Worldscape,” she said.  “It has a lot of very good music. I’m onto it all the time.”

          “You mean radio,” I asked.

          “Yes,” she replied.

           “Something like F.M.,” I inquired.  I’m not very techno-savvy.

          “No! It’s International,” she said.  “How come you don’t know about it?  You say you are from Madras!  I’ve had it since some time.  Only between eight and twelve thousand rupees – Variety Hall has it,” she added, pointing in the direction of the Coonoor Market.

           I thought Variety Hall was a saree shop in Coonoor.  Well, maybe they have – what is the word I want? – I mean divergised.

           “Music all twenty- four hours – and very good too,” she continued.  “You get everything  – African, Pop, Classic, Jazz!  You can even listen to music in the middle of the night!”

           Doesn’t twenty four hours include nighttime, I wondered.  Has that changed too?  Without my knowing it?  Oh ya!  I remember the word –diversified was what I meant – about Variety Hall.

          I smiled.  “Music for me is Carnatic Music, and I like movie songs.  My daughter has a huge collection of cassettes of all the old Hindi movie favorites…..”

          “You see,” she cut in, “That’s why Worldscape will work out cheaper.  You don’t have to keep buying cassettes.”

           Just a small matter of eight to twelve thousand rupees involved in between, I thought to myself.

          “Even I love old Hindi movie songs.  I grew up in Bombay, you know,” she said.

           “You’re basically from?” I inquired, politely.

          “I’m a North Indian,” she replied.

          I almost burst out laughing.  We Tamilians always get a kick from claiming that to many North Indians everything south of the Vindhyas is Madrasi!  They don’t know of Andhra or Karnataka, some may just know of Malayalis!  I’d just discovered the one to whom everything north of the Vindhyas was just North Indian!  Better Northern Integration, perhaps!

          She said bye and we went down different roads – me, wondering which state she belonged to, and she perhaps wondering whether Madrasis were still so backward – They don’t even know about Worldscape.  Kya log yar, ye?


                                                                      CRY BABY

                                               BY SARVESWARI SAIKRISHNA

     During the 45 years of my existence on this earth, one weapon that I had strongly relied upon to bail me out was my tears. My nasolacrimal ducts were always armed and ready to fire. I could cry without inhibitions, the degree of which could vary from delicate sniffling to a “Mother of God! Get her to shut up” vehemence in no time, depending upon the situation and need.

     Family folklore has it that this habit of my unabashed howling had once saved a life, actually, two.

     Now to the ‘prompt’ delivery of my teary childhood story.

     We lived in a coffee plantation, so sparsely populated that our nearest neighbour was a kilometer away. For the uninitiated, if tea plantations were the clean-shaven men with a crew cut and coolers, then coffee estates were their hippie unibrowed cousins with a nose ring. The unkempt plantation encouraged free movement of wild animals. Many times, we had woken up to elephants sneaking their trunk through our kitchen window, trying to steal salt or the bananas left hanging from a hook.

     The first few years of my life, I had grown up in that maintained world with many misadventures. During those years, I was told reliably, that I had a strict baby regime which included quite a lot of wailing with a bit of nibbling and power napping thrown in. Apparently, I could holler like Tina Turner.

     One night, the shrill sound of hyenas laugh startled my parents awake. Through the window, they could see a wounded pregnant doe surrounded by a pack of hyenas in our courtyard. The doe had probably escaped from a panther only to be chased by the hyenas. The striped hyenas were clever scavengers waiting for the deer to give up, now circling her. My parents knew what horror beheld the poor doe as they watched helplessly.

    Suddenly, a piercing shriek made the hyenas stop in their tracks. I, the howling horror, had woken up, probably by the chaos and had been quite miffed about it. It had started as a squall and reached an alarming crescendo in a matter of seconds. I bawled so loudly and without restraint that the hyenas stood frozen in their tracks. Then the whole pack had taken to its heels fearing for their poor lives. Considering that the hyenas could maul a sick gaur, my performance was considered nothing short of spectacular.

     The relieved doe had then collapsed into a heap in the courtyard, tired but grateful. The next day we found no traces of the late night drama.

     I, meanwhile, prefer to think that the doe lived its full life, recounting to her dear, deer ones how she was saved by a smelly screaming human cub.

      Now the story is used as a warning to intimidate my opponent, including my husband.

‘Give up…she had once….’

Ps – Apart from the fact that the writer is not a day over 25, nothing

 but the gospel truth was narrated.



                                                 By PADMINI VISWANATHAN

      Before you think, “Oh No, not another article on Sabha Canteens,” let me reassure you that that is not my intention at all.  I don’t plan to write about the merits of the jamuns in one or the finger-licking food in another, or the “not to be missed poli” in “x” or the “melt in the mouth mysore-pak” in “y”.  I don’t intend to get into the controversy on why the Music Academy dispensed with Chellappa and went in for a much inferior caterer.  The logic of that is so illogical that in my opinion it is not worth discussing.  I am instead going to talk about…. Sabha Toilets.

      Look around you while you are listening to a kutchery and you will see a steady stream of silvers head for the rest room when the natural urge gets the better of their desire to listen to the last two sangathis or swarams.  Even I belong to that clan which could well be the reason why I have become more aware of these cubicles built to help one relieve oneself.

      Returning from an enchanting, visually breathtaking, enthralling, intoxicating, emotionally uplifting trip to Sikim with my friends, I was primed and ready to enjoy the music season except for one small niggling problem – a severe pain in my left knee – this a result of using a series of Indian toilets in Sikim.  Small toilets in the basement of a shack, a wooden bok-like room a great distance away from the house along a narrow path, a pay-and use toilet almost two floors below the parking lot, but all sparkling clean and always smelling fresh as if someone had just washed the bathroom with a fragrant sanitiser. Indian toilets are the safest and most hygienic, I know, but it put paid to my knee.

      In all fairness to our own city, cleanliness levels have gone up many notches in public spaces like Malls, Theatres and Sabha Halls, even in marriage halls. But why, oh why do they build such miniscule cubicles?  Two rows of women in resplendent Kanchivaram pattu sarees waiting for their turn to enter and exit a restroom where you have to stick to the closet or the wall, or both, to open and close the door.  Has any architect who designs these structures ever entered one to do the job? As for the two western closets in Narada Gana Sabha, one is barely three feet by four feet. So, you somehow cotort yourself into shapes that you had to attend a yoga class to achieve and having managed to bolt the door, you find that, if you are even one inch over five feet four, you will have to bring your knees up to your face to sit on the pot unless you can put a portion of your legs out through the door like that cute friendly neighbourhood ghost, Casper. And all this in your lovely mayil kazhuthu veldhari saree!

      Being an expert on toilets, I wait to go into the second one which, for some unknown reason, but thank the heavens, has the closet facing the wall and not the door. A dhadhi worker who didn’t understand the maistry’s instructions perhaps? So, I have enough space for my knees despite being five feet six inches tall.  I just about manage to get up without scraping my nose against the wall, just about. And, to come out?  Abracadabara! The door opens outwards!  Which brings me to the Express Mall – huge, clean toilets, almost ten feet by four feet, but the closet? Facing the four foot wide wall! And for this, you step onto a platform to sit on the throne. What for the five by four empty space at the back, pray?  Even the cute fish-bowl sized wash-basin has been fitted in the front. Where do designers leave their brains when they design toilets?

     The Music Academy reigns supreme.  Regularly cleaned toilets of a decent size, square with space all around the closet, stickers on the wall reminding the users “Do Not Wet The Closet”, wet bathrooms being the bane of Indian society. A passage with seven toilets and a neat long queue with one person waiting outside each door. Nobody seems to be caring about the door at the other end facing the passage. If it is slightly ajar I walk straight in and bolt the door. It’s a huge ten by six bathroom with a closet on one side, a wash basin in the middle and a pop-up dustbin on the other end.  When I come out, I can see the “It was open and I’m standing here hanging on for dear life while the lady inside takes her time” look on the faces of the women waiting outside.  I leave, a smug smile plastered on my face while the quickest lady makes a dash for that door.






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