September 27, 2009

e- Saraswati poojai

Happy Saraswati Poojai to all of you. For the uninitiated, this is the second-last day of Navarathri (Dussera) on which the Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati is honoured by a festive celebratory prayer/poojai. It is typical for people to place their study books, work-related material, musical instruments, bank documents and anything else that they need prosperity in, in front of a picture/idol of the Goddess and pray for prosperity. Other than that, pooja is performed for all vehicles and utility devices to pray for their running smoothly. This is part of the ‘Ayudha Pooja’. That apart, this is a very important day for kids too. Guess why? It’s the official break from study! Yes indeed… one is not ‘supposed’ to study on this day while giving the Goddess a break for one day a year while otherwise constantly seeking Her blessings to study well and perform well at school/work. As kids, this was a great day to celebrate. The parents gave us a voluntary break from the whole – ‘Go to your room and study for the semester exams’ sermon. In fact we were encouraged to see TV, catch up on the phone, play games and what not, while being served yummy feast including payasam, vadai, sundal and what not. Ah bliss… of course everyone knew that the break was for exactly one day. because the day after Saraswati Poojai is Vijayadasami; And that’s the most auspicious day of the year to start something anew. It is traditional to do a bit of everything you want to/have to do on this day because there is a traditional belief that you will continue doing whatever it is that you do on Vijayadasami for the rest of the year. Typically in south India, classes (music/dance/cultural) are begun on this day for it’s auspicious nature. And hence, we had to study, paint/sing/dance/blah etc on this day and it was just as full as activity as Saraswati poojai was void.

While back home in Chennai the celebrations remain traditional, living in Paris means having to improvise. So that means that the shlokas are crooning off Youtube. The only photo of Saraswati we have is the current desktop wallpaper (only just downloaded from the Internet). So the velakku (diya) is lit in front of the laptop which currently serves as a photo frame, the incense sticks shown to it (and also thus performing the poojai for the laptop as an ayudham (utility) – orey kallula rendu maanga (multipurpose single move), hehe). The prasadams (Pal payasam and vadai) are placed in front of this, so are the books, cheque books, housing lease and whatever other papers that could be found along with contraptions such as the cell phone, PS3, etc. This is the age of the e-poojai.


Happy Saraswati Poojai and Vijayadasami everyone!

September 26, 2009


Nope, I am not talking about the renowned poet here. I am talking about how the wordplay happens, sometimes unintentionally and how then it becomes the brunt of comedy or blog posts such as these. I was going through the Masters/PhD theses of many friends over the past few days. Before you decide that I am a complete geek, I was only going through the acknowledgment section of each one (by the way this is my best opportunity to brag that I made about 5 of those :D). And maybe because this is the one section that the advisors don’t correct and the one section that you have free reign, people often end up not reading what they’ve written. And that leads to some comedy of errors. Here are a few-

1. This thesis is dedicated to my late grandfather. May his sole rest in peace. This one had to have been checked. I mean, come on!

2. Last but not least I would like to thank my parents. There blessings have helped me get here. Here, there, everywhere.

3. Life would have been difficult  at Cincinnati if not for my fiends (friends). Really? You’d think it would’ve been easier.

4. If not for my friends who were my family here, I am not sure I would have been able to beer living here alone. Of course friends are responsible for beers. Cheers!

Well, there are more of course. Any bloopers you’ve come across that you’d want to share?

September 25, 2009

Say cheese

Just yesterday one of my colleagues was looking over some pictures of mine and happened to comment that I have a very natural smile. And this wasn't the first time I was hearing this. In fact many of my friends tease me that I can give a "Colgate" smile at the drop of a hat. But then they haven't all met SM. Some people are just naturals at the art of posing and at any given time can give you a totally authentic smile like it's the most fascinating thing looking at the camera in front of them. Some others are not so comfortable... and it shows. So this results in either a smile-free, serious-looking face which makes them look sad to be next to the person they are or a fake smile (lips smiling but their eyes giving them away). Both are equally unconvincing. At this point I have to mention the Friends episode where Chandler just can't smile when posing with Monica for their engagement picture.

So here are my tried n tested tips (not that you asked) -

1. Work on it - This is the hard part - sometimes it requires work. Yes it's geeky, but if you want to look great in pictures, you have to give it 2 minutes in front of the mirror to get it right. Preferably this should've been done in your adolescent years when you anyways spent hours admiring/correcting yourself in front of the mirror. Mirrors don't lie. So give it a try (sorta like how SRK teaches Preity to smile in Kal Ho Na Ho - ok, maybe less creepier).

2. To bare or not to bare? - Of course this is with reference to your pearly whites. For some people, it suits them to show their teeth especially if they can frame their lips perfectly around it - think the world-famous Madhuri Dixit smile. It just works. For some others, the subtle closed-lip smile works just fine.

3. Smile with your eyes - This is the clincher really. Your lips could be pursed but if your eyes are smiling, you're smiling. Period. The clearest insight to our emotions lies in our eyes and it's fooling no one. So, for an authentic smile, it is completely imperative for your eyes to smile. How do you do that? This may take time or skill... But feeling interested about something brings that depth into your eyes... maybe you really are fascinated about something, maybe something's funny... be that as it may, you have to bring it to your eyes. And what emotion you bring is what distinguishes you from looking plain happy to sexy to brooding to angry to sad. So if you are just posing for pictures, it helps to widen your eyes a fraction and quickly imagine how you want to look in the photo the second it is being snapped. That helps your posture, your pose and most importantly your smile.

And that's your 2 minute guide to the art of smiling. Say cheese!

September 23, 2009

Stuffed tomato subji

I’ve always wanted to try this dish ever since I first had it at ML’s house and subsequently at some restaurant. It’s certainly not hard but I just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. Here goes – a recipe for stuffed tomatoes.. so this dish can be had just as an appetizer/snack by itself or as a side-dish with gravy. It doesn’t matter.. the procedure is pretty much the same.
What you need -
Tomatoes 4-6, reasonably firm
For the stuffing -
Paneer/Mozzarella or some cheese 100g
Garlic 3-4 cloves, finely chopped
Pepper Freshly ground to sprinkle
Salt to taste
For the gravy-
Onions 2 large, coarsely chopped
Green chillies 2, slit
Capsicum 1 medium, coarsely chopped
Milk 2 tablespoons
Dhaniya-Jeera powder 1/2 tsp
Turmeric a pinch
Oil 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Curry and coriander leaves to garnish

As always, for stuffing the tomatoes, use your imagination. I actually used 2 spoons of leftover fried rice along with the paneer and the spices to give it some body.
Method -
1. Wash the tomatoes well and prepare them for slitting. What you want to do is to make the tomatoes into cups which you can then stuff and bake. So using a sharp knife, make a slit at the crown of the tomato and keep slitting clockwise (or anti) till you’ve made a full circle. Now you should be able to remove the top of the tomato. You may wonder why you should do this instead of just slicing away the top. The reason is that this gives it more of a cup structure and is less likely to crumble while baking than if just cut across. Reserve the tops as they assist in quick baking.
2. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp from the tomato leaving behind the empty tomato cup. Do not throw the pulp away. Collect the pulp from all the tomatoes you plan to use.
3. For the filling: Just mix all the ingredients you plan to stuff your tomato with in a bowl, divide them evenly and stuff each tomato cup with it till 3/4th full. I like to leave some cheese on top of all the filling because it looks pretty when it’s baked. So this is what you should have -
4. Now before you prepare the gravy (if you are going to), shove the tomatoes into the oven with their ‘tops’ on at 180°C for 20 minutes to bake. Voilà – Notice how the tomato is cooked well enough to crack it’s sides. You could stop right here if you’re just serving this as a snack.
4. For the gravy: Shallow fry the green chillies, onions, the capsicum and the tomato pulp you used in oil for a few minutes till everything’s cooked. Season with salt, dhaniya-jeera powder and turmeric. Set aside till it has cooled down.
5. Grind the mixture into a coarse paste adding milk to it to give it a creamy texture. Add water if required till you get the desired consistency.
6. Heat it to a boil once again the saucepan and set aside. The tomatoes that have baked can now go in.
7. Garnish with coriander/curry leaves and serve with fresh white rice or chapathis/parathas.
Bon Appétit!

September 22, 2009


Out come the boxes
With crackle of duct tape
And so much stuff in excess
Is there no escape?

Stacking and packing
There is no respite
Cleaning and dismantling...
Will last many a night.

Ooh, it's just the beginning
For we have to do it all again
I mean the unpacking
To be done God-knows-when!

One thing's evident
I hate to move
Oh what do I tell ya
It's just not my groove.

PS: Happy 10th "anniversary" fellow F-Batchmates of HCE! Can't believe it's been 10 years since we all met each other. Cheers!!

September 21, 2009

Comments anyone?

Well well... here's where we get to the heart of the blogger's world. Comments. Without the comments, it seems almost unacknowledged that your blog gets read at all, but for the Statcounter that sits there proclaiming that 150 people have visited your blog in a single day. That sounds great... but with no comments, it's hard to tell if people enjoyed or cussed your blog for it's contents. Well, the bigger person may say that they don't care and that they use it as an outlet for their emotions, blah.. but we know that in every bigger person, there hides a tiny little part that wishes that people would just comment! And it's not a big ask, considering that we're the ones who sit n dole out every aspect of our lives for dissection while the rest of you only have to put in some words of encouragement, support, acknowledgement or in pertinent cases, make relevant contributions to the discussions in question.

Of course I realize that not everyone will enjoy everything you write about. But does that authorize them to leave anonymous one-liners that neither relate to the content of the post nor do justice to the rest of the stuff you've written about? I don't think so. Like my friend Gandalf pointed out in the comments section of the previous post, if you have nothing good to say, you should probably say nothing at all. And this is strictly in relevance to unrelated comments that contribute nothing to the content of the post. On the other hand, a healthy debate about some discussion is more than welcome and we've seen it happen in quite a few topics in the past. So does it make me vain if I delete these anonymous comments that are plain derogatory? Probably. But it's in keeping with the fact that these comments are left anonymous for a reason. Does that sound reasonable? No anonymous comments on this one please.

September 18, 2009

Being Jaya

I saw this movie called Julie and Julia yesterday. To make short of the story, it's about how one woman makes a life out of challenging herself into trying all the recipes written by a famous chef within 1 year and keeping it up by creating a blog. It charts her triumphs, her meltdowns and how she thinks that she is the center of the universe and how she is more worried about disappointing her readers than herself. It set me thinking. It is so true of almost everyone who blogs, I guess. Not always for the disappointment factor, but also for the treading-the-fine-line factor, especially on sensitive issues.

The weird thing about having a personal blog is that it's not really a personal space. But it is something I've chosen to share with everyone, not something I've been forced to. Over the course of MindBlogging, I realize that I have expressed my views over a variety of things/incidents/experiences, blah. And of course there are 2 sides to every coin. While some people agree with my view point, others don't. And that's perfectly alright. There's a reason this is my blog. It's about my thoughts (sorry about center-of-the-universe vibe). And unless you're me, we can agree to disagree.

September 17, 2009

The ripple effect

Loose definition: Sorta like a Mexican wave that spreads around from the place it started.

Ah, have you noticed something? Many bloggers aren't writing all of a sudden. Confused? Scroll down to the 'I spy' section on MindBlogging (find it on the column on the right) and look under each blog to see when it was last updated. These are the blogs I "follow". Apart from a couple of updates (after more than a few weeks), the rest of the bloggers and inadvertantly the blogs, have reached stagnation. Now scroll up to the part of MindBlogging's archives. See the dwindling number of blogs from hale n hearty June to now? It's begun crawling.. And I assure you that apart from me actually having been busy and out of the country and on vacation and stuff, a part of it is certainly attributed to the ripple effect. Everyone else has given up writing and my own motivation to keep the wheels moving is winding down. Earlier I used to find bloggables on all sorts of situations... now I am having to hunt.

Come on fellow bloggers... let's rise again!

For the people who came here hoping to read something fabulously interesting, I am sorry. But here's a peace offering. I promise you won't regret reading this one - 20 weirdest craigslist ads of all time. Enjoy!

September 16, 2009

That elusive balcony

Forever it's been my desire
To watch life go by from some place higher
And how it skipped me is a mystery
That elusive balcony.

To sip my chai undeterred
Even as my mind wandered
How I wish that could be
But for that elusive balcony.

To always live on the ground floor
Oh no, what a bore..
Through apartments aplenty across many a city
I haven't yet had that elusive balcony.

Surely next time I hope n pray
That finally fate will give way
And so it will come to me
That elusive balcony.

September 11, 2009

Of flattery and tomfoolery..

Surely you've gone for a haircut sometime or the other. Let's be honest. At least 50% of the people I know of aren't satisfied with their hair. Be it length, texture, colour, style... If it's straight, you think its drab, if it's curls, you think it's messy. There is a greener side to most arguments. But what happens when you sit on the hairdresser's cutting throne? The hairdresser runs his/her expert fingers through your not-so-satisfactory hair and mumbles under his/her breath - you've got such nice hair. Those golden words. They vary with every customer. For me, it's always been - You've got such beautiful natural curls. So many girls would kill for them. At that instant, you want to believe them. You want to be vain enough to think that maybe to someone else's non-critical eye, your hair looks good. Now substitute hair for just about anything else - eyes, clothes, shoes, blah. It is true that somethings start to feel better once it is appreciated by someone else. Take the birthday present you don't like but everyone else is gushing over... take the movie you hated but everyone's all praises for - you start to wonder if your mood wasn't right to appreciate it. That figment of doubt is what makes everything seem brighter the second you have someone else's approval. That which is desired by someone else makes something entirely desirable. Ofcourse the purist would argue that this is mere insecurity and that one should be able to tell the difference between what's good and what's not for themselves without being influenced by other people's opinions. But let's face it... who is that secure of their judgement? A very few. The rest of us just rely on our basic instincts and the reflections of those close to us. And there's no need to be a realist at all times. Indeed, what's so wrong in getting a boost of confidence from some harmless flattery? Nothing at all.

September 10, 2009

Not single, hence not ready to mingle?

I had a rather interesting discussion with a friend yesterday. Whilst talking about something else, he pointed out that I had no real friends in Paris... as in, none that were my own. I'd just walked into S' friend's circle and sort of adopted them. Of course, that was true. And I started thinking about it a bit myself. True, I didn't have any chaddi-buddies here... add to it that I walked into a country with as less Indians as I've seen (btw none in S' close circle has taken a wife yet). So make that no girls in the hang-out gang. And my PhD isn't exactly conducive to making a tonne of friends either. With no classes, I have no purpose to hang around with everyone else after school hours - no assingments, nothing to study for, nothing. And the main thing is that all my colleagues (and me) have lives to go back to and this isn't like grad school where most people were yet unattached, all alone in the country and had time to kill in the evenings. Then of course, there's the mild language barrier and yes, so that makes it no real friends here.

Once I began thinking of it obsessively I started panicking a bit. Could it be really that because I was now married and had a husband to go home to, I was no longer new-friend material? Then I started talking to VR and SM about it. We concurred that after marriage our friend expansion had dwindled. But there was something else. Now that we were in couples, we looked forward to making new friends together. That restricted the number of interactions. But the biggest epiphany was this - I was content with the friends that I already had. It didn't matter that they were in the US or in India. I already had a certain number of absolutely tight friends with whom I shared everything no matter what their location geographically and I realized that at this stage in life I wasn't going to make any new friends who would eventually match up to the ones I already had. As VR pointed out, we were past the stage where all the life-altering changes had taken place- living alone, getting married, blah and we'd shared each of these experiences in parallel with one another and the bond that held us together was very strong. I was just happy with the chance encounters with a few and became friends with a handful whom I only met where we first met. Though probably vaguely related, marriage wasn't the real culprit. Maybe I'd just maxed out after the trillion friends' circle over the years. Or maybe the two were related. That was the epiphany.

September 7, 2009

Hit n run

Hit-on: The slang for being approached by someone at the outset with not-so-platonic intentions.

Have you ever been hit-on by someone? No, I mean, really... And this question is no longer restricted only to the female folk.. The women these days have become as brazen in their ways and do not hesitate hitting on the men either, though I must admit they probably have more class than most men. I am not here to discuss the "art of hitting on someone". I am here to discuss the repercussions. Who's more embarrassed? The person being approached or the approacher? Logically you'd assume it's the "approacher" considering they are making the first move. But after a few incidents, I am convinced that's not the case. Almost after "incident", everyone I know of is left embarrassed wondering what it is about them that they are singled out to be hit-on by random people? And I don't know if the rejection makes them squirm, but it sure doesn't make you feel any hotter (in most cases). So while discussing a recent "incident" that happened to a friend, we decided we didn't understand it entirely. So, help me out here. Have we not understood the concept of the "hitting on" game? Take this snippet of conversation for example -

Him: Hi, my name's XYZ. What's yours?
Her: Do I know you?
Him: No, but I'd like to.
Her: Sorry, I don't talk to strangers.
Him: We won't be strangers if we became friends and went for a cup of coffee.
Him: What's your phone number?
Her: Excuse me?

Is it this the usual way? Is it so cut and dried that people no longer have the interest in finessing things over? No chance meetings... no small talk, just a cut to the chase. In some ways this is probably better. All the chance meetings and small talk might otherwise create an illusion of "friendship" which most certainly doesn't exist (look at all our Tamil movies for examples - most plots are chance meetings ending in sappy love stories). Does it happen in real life though? Or are all these moves inspired by movies? (I used to think it was the other way around). Maybe it does or maybe that's what the "approachers" are hoping for. And hey, they'll probably never find that elusive person unless they hit-on everyone else in the vicinity. And that means that people like us become the carnage along their road to their dating destiny.

September 4, 2009

The realization...

After 18 solid hours of my ill-informed resolution, I realized the most painfully obvious thing - I wasn't addicted to the internet at all. I had nothing better to do! Today, with all the IMs logged out, FB never opened, 10+ news websites browsed past, I got it... I wasn't online because I was addicted. I was online because it was available and effortless and let's be honest, during the first week of school, I had nothing better to do! So, I go back on my resolution (the premise has collapsed) and all you people who missed me for one whole day, can see me back. Au revoir!

PS: For all the wise folk, who didn't join me in my silly "resolution", good job!

September 3, 2009


Is it possible to go lite on technology with everything that we are used to at this stage in our lives? By that I don't mean going into antediluvian realms of writing reports on actual office paper and using calculators to make scribbly calculations on the margins. I mean something far simpler.. Logging off all the IMs, the Orkuts, the FBs (sorry, Blogger isn't included) for a week... perhaps not touching the laptop at home unless a 2-time email-check break per evening (yeah yeah, I realize there are a lot of concessions on this whole thing but you can't go cold turkey!). I remember my brother surviving an entire month like that. I am only going to try this for a week from this Friday to the next, to try and purge my system from the unwanted net-addiction. I bet it'll put things in perspective for me and show me what I need to survive and what I really, really don't.

Anyone else in on this with me? Do leave a comment.
PS: If you want to reach me, GMail me (no GChat for the next one week at least)!

September 2, 2009

New-age "writers"

At the pace technology is going, I am afraid that none of our children are going to identify with the art of "writing". And by this, I don't mean the content of the text, the grammar, the puns, the insinuations or none of the finer nuances that make a good write-up. I mean, quite literally, the process of "writing" itself. Though every article/blog or anything has been made out to be a "write"-up, isn't it really just a type-up? The other day I was trying to write a letter (snail-mail) to someone and I found that after about 4 lines of my neat, semi-cursive hand, my wrist had an annoying ache which I've never had in my days of 20+ pages Madras University answer sheets. And on closer inspection, my handwriting was progressively deteriorating. After just 4 lines. It was shocking how used to typing I was now, that my hands refused to hold a pen long enough to complete a letter. If after over 20 years of actual writing, the past few have obliterated the need to, I can't imagine how our next generation is going to be... And to think I was big on ink-pens and had a collection boasting Sheaffer, Waterman, Parker and what not. Good that I gave it all back to Appa who bought them for me in the first place. At least I know that the generation before us are still used to scribbling on notepads and writing out lists and sending out postal letters. In fact my bro n I used to go stationary-shopping in Kuwait where my father was and bought all sorts of fancy notebooks (the paper variety and not the trendy laptops) and what not. And that's how I started writing a journal in the first place. And remember those 4-line books? The ones that were the practice books for cursive writing? I won't be surprised if they are out of production by the time the next generation goes to school. Somethings are best left unchanged... and writing particularly has a big, old-world charm to it, something the future isn't going to appreciate much. Sigh!