Did you know there is platform no 9 3/4 at our own Chennai central Station? Only it is called platform number 2a. The notice board shows Platform no 2A against your train. You follow the signboard and reach the platform between 2 and 3 only to find a few shops. No tracks!So you stand there confused as people either point to platform 2 or platform 3 as 2A. There is comfort in numbers as a few others are also looking to board the same train. Then a porter tells you to keep walking and voila!

If you have to leave home by 6 a.m and hate the food available on Brindavan Express - idli vada/pongal-vada/masala dose/bread-omelette/soupu-soupu/masalavade/ molaga bajji/ veg biryaani/ boli-obbat - there is a tastier option. You can pack tasty takeaway food from Hotel Saravana Bhavan at the station . Sambar sadam + VAT @ 2% at Rs.38.24 with a packing Charge of Rs.2.50 along with banana chips. Yum and filling. Of course you can opt for curd rice, puliyodharai, idli-vada or khichidi!
And if you have to buy food from IRCTC, make sure you are charged right. Have you ever noticed the price list nailed near one entrance to the coach? I hadn't till yesterday and I have always paid Rs.5 for tea while I should only have been charged Rs.3!

You are welcome!

If you know where to find the standard luggage charges to be paid to the porter based on the number of boxes please do share. And is there a place where you can fill in a complaints form about the status of the coach - snack tray falling down, backrest adjustment lever not working, bathroom taps leaking etc? Where can one find the guy who walks with a huge screw driver before the departure of the train?
Some people genuinely go to the gym for the sole purpose of attaining fitness. But most, I suspect, are like me. I make sure that I go to the gym at least 5 days in a week. But I never push myself beyond my comfort levels. I will not do weights because of my doctor's advice; In 1985 when I had severe neck and back pain I had been advised not to lift any weights. And to this day I don't! I walk on the tread mill for about 20 minutes carefully ensuring that I don't ever increase the speed beyond 6. One has to be slow and steady to win the race, remember? On days I am in a good mood I use the cross trainer for about 10 minutes - that is on a couple of days a week. This is enough to assuage the pangs of my conscience and to nonchalantly tell the doctor during my periodic check-up that I am 'pretty regular at the gym' eliciting a nod of approval from her. In fact last time she even said that she admired my perseverance at my age while she herself rarely exercised. And I gave a very smug smile acknowledging the compliment. Well, it wasn't like I was lying to her. It is true that I am regular at the gym and she never asked me what I did there.

Since it is that time of the year when you begin to think of new year resolutions I was trying to make a list of areas where I needed to improve so I could choose the least difficult to work on in the coming year. That is when I had to admit that this is an aspect I could easily work on - one gram at a time. So I decided to observe my co-gymmers and see what I can learn from them.

This morning, by the time I reached the gym, two members were already there on the treadmill loudly arguing in Bengali about something. It was only after 5 minutes when they laughed together that I understood that they were having a cordial conversation. They always come together and throughout the time they are in the gym they have a conversation in Bengali. I suspect they are colleagues from the same department and this is an official meeting. Taking multi-tasking to new levels!

Then there is this other gentleman who walks into the gym, grabs the remote and sets the television to a news channel. E.v.e.r.y. morning - as though he is worried that during his one hour in the gym the world will change in ways he wont recognize when he steps out. I cannot believe that he cannot stay away from news even for the duration of his exercise. Or may be it is the news that helps him sweat more than the jog on the treadmill. He seems to suffer from a pain in the back as the trainer has to massage his back every morning at the end of his session. I can understand. When I watch news channels regularly I suffer from such ailments myself.

Some days I go there in the evening and that's the time the younger boys come. It warms the 'cockles of my heart' to see a few high school kids who prefer to spend time in the gym rather than on the internet. Observing them for a few days, I noticed that they did not progress beyond holding 3 kg dumbbells and moving their arms up and down while spending over 90 minutes in the gym; which is when I noticed the television again. Glamorously (un)dressed girls crooning love songs in a sexy voice - this would certainly not be a channel their parents might be happy to let them watch in their houses. It is even possible that the cable has been disconnected in their houses during their board exam years. Here they are - working out to their preferred music; Happy parents, happy kids, win -win!

Finally there are those who come to the gym, work out on every possible machine losing about 500 calories per session, hang from bars, pump with weights, top it with 5 minutes of skipping and 10 minutes of stretching and finally leave the gym dissatisfied that there are no more machines left to work on. This type scares me but mercifully they are very few in number.

At the end of these observations I have decided to increase my time at the Gym by 10 minutes from next month onwards. I have also identified the equipment on which I will spend these extra minutes - the foot-massager!
It is one thing to be sensitive about the implied violence or hurt to people in usage of certain terms and refraining from such usage and another about simply trying to be 'correct' and sweeping the underlying issue under the carpets. With most people I meet it is the latter. For example when people try to describe my complexion as dusky I do get irritated - why not call it dark and what is wrong with being dark anyway? That is the complexion of our race in the south of Vindhyas. It is genetic, it has to do with our ethnicity and I have no problem being that. So don't invent nicer names to describe it and make me feel bad. It is the same with a nice, plump figure - I suppose ethnically we are not an anorexic, thin race. Look at our statues on the temples. They are nicely plump and curvy and it was considered beautiful. I think there will be a lot less implied judgement if we freely used the words, 'fat', 'dark', 'old' etc rather than hushing them as if they were some kind of bad words. It is when you people try to go to great lengths to avoid using a term that you begin to get a feeling that it is not an acceptable state. I am pretty sure that people felt nice and beautiful in the dark and plump glory until some fair -skinned people came and started using 'dusky' and 'rounded' in hushed terms.

I noticed another dimension of the same kind of this 'correctness' violence in some American shows. Any reference to the ethnicity of people is considered incorrect - for example this white couple meet a doctor of South-Asian descent and one of them tries to make references to Asian culture and cuisine in the conversation much to the embarrassment of his white companion. The doctor herself coldly responds that she is not familiar with the Asian dishes he mentions as she is from Denver and NOT South Asia. To me the South Asian's refusal to acknowledge her ancestry seems more embarrassing than the White man's reference to her culture. Unless she feels that 'being American' is superior to 'being South Asian', why would she be upset by the man's South Asian references? And what is wrong with acknowledging your ethnicity/ ancestry/ origins?

Say it like it is and it is just a plain name for it. Try to tone it down, wrap it in semantics, used hushed tones and correct terminology - I know that you have contempt, pity or simply don't think it is alright to be that way. The term Devar adiyal were used for the temple dancers who were supposed to be servants of God. They were married to the temple deity and had some privileges during temple festivals.
Writer V. Sriram in his biography of a famous devdasi bangalore Nagaratnamma titled The devadasi and the saint writes:
The concept of dedicating women to temples, a common feature of most ancient civilisations, was well-known in South India. Devadasis, the handmaidens of God, were dedicated to the arts outside the temple precincts too, attached to kings and rich patrons and entertaining masses with music and dance. Many of them were literate, learned and enjoyed absolute right over all properties bequeathed to them by the temple, protected by a matriarchal system which ensured property went from mother to daughter. Girls were the preferred progeny here. "Chastity' was redefined by these women and they were never seen as common prostitutes.

It wasn't a bad word - it just meant handmaiden of God. When royal patronage stopped and their sources of income dwindled, girls of these families had to seek the patronage of wealthy men who expected favors from them and soon the term began to have a contemptuous connotation in society. Growing up I only knew of this as a bad swear word and never knew the origin of the word until I read about the devdasi tradition in South Indian temples. So when Nagarathnamma renovated the samadhi of the saint poet Thyagaraja in Tiruvaiyaru and had a function to open it to public she thundered into the microphone: I am a devar adiyal! She was one and she clearly felt no embarrassment being one. Oh, I would have given an arm and leg to see the faces of the judgmental people who were in the audience that day.

Thin, tall and fair are not universally normal.People come in all shapes, colors and sizes - just see the animal kingdom. If you want to feel good about how sensitive and humane you are , start by accepting diversity rather than hushing issues that you consider are not normal or not so good. Just let people be without making them feel bad about the way they are.

P.S.:Just read this myself. It seems almost like an extension of the topic of previous post! Well may be I am just a little too obsessed by this topic. Might as well publish and get it off my system!

A few days ago there was outrage over a Supreme court judge's use of the word 'keep" to describe the relationship between a man and a woman in a relationship the contract of marriage. An upset additional Solicitor general Ms.Indira Jaisingh condemned the usage and asked:
"How can the Supreme Court of India use the word 'kept' in the 21st century against a woman. Can a woman say that she has kept a man?"
It is true that the usage would shock the educated and independent women of today as they are not dependent on a man to 'keep' them or provide for them.. If they enter into a live-in relationship with a man it is for reasons other than needing a man to provide for them financially. In fact, it is only women with a high sense of independence who seem to prefer this kind of an arrangement over a married relationship.These people probably do not care to define their relationship in any terms - partnership or live-in or cohabitation.

On the other hand there is this vast other India which is totally patriarchal where the malice of men 'keeping' a woman been in practice overtly and covertly and we have all come across instances of the same. Inexperienced, helpless women taken by wealthy, influential men under their wings gradually settling into a relationship with these men . They are well provided for and protected and even enjoy a degree of respectability because of their association with the influential man but still they are not their wives. They are “andha veedu’ or ‘chinna veedu’. or simply WOH. Many temple dancers of South India have had wealthy patrons with whom they have been involved emotionally and physically without being married to them. It was probably necessary to get into this kind of arrangements for several reasons. In some cases it was not possible for the man to marry the woman because of distinctions of caste, class etc. In some cases it was also because the man was already married and could not legally marry another woman without divorcing the first. In most other cases it was because the man wanted both the women and this arrangement was convenient. In these cases both women were dependent on the man for their respectability; ironically their respect depended on a philanderer who by this very act should have been deprived of any respectability.But in a patriarchy, men get away with a lot.

Such arrangements are not uncommon even today especially among the disadvantaged sections of our society and the women involved in these relationships are entirely dependent on the man who ‘keeps’ them. These women lack education or self confidence and are not capable of fending for themselves. They do not have a family whose support they can count on. And because they do not have any property rights these women have sometimes been known to manipulate their men into transferring financial benefits to them depriving their wives and children. These relationships have been held in contempt by a society that holds marriage as a sacred institution. Since they want to secure the interests of the wife and children from a married relationship, they have refused to grant any recognition to these add-on relationships and the disrespectful and contemptible term ‘keep’ is just a reflection of the status that our society accords to these arrangements. So if we agree that it is not right for a man to cheat on his wife or use his power to exploit women, why do we want to dignify the ‘other’ relationship or sugar coat it with semantics? The contemptible term ‘keep’ simply symbolizes the contempt that society has for such relationships and perhaps will only act as a deterrent for women who may be tempted to get into such a relationship with a man? These are not’ significant others’ as they would probably not even find a mention if the man was interviewed, they are definitely not’ live-ins’ as the man lives elsewhere with his wife. The ‘other’ woman, 'Woh' , Chinna veedu, andha veedu –these terms are here to stay whether they are expunged from official documents are not. We can hope for them to disappear only when our women are educated and acquire financial independence and can tell the man to take a walk if they don't behave.

Until then I have no problem with the term ’keep’ to call a woman in such a vulnerable situation my only grouse is that the man who is at the bottom of all this problem gets away without any pejorative label – the CAD!


I am not a foodie . I will eat anything that is set before me at mealtimes. For me , it is too much effort to undertake a trip to the other side of town to check out the food in a restaurant even if it receives rave reviews from connoiseurs. On the rare occasion that I do get to dine in one of these places that come highly recommended, I still look forward to the conversation rather than the food. Last Friday I met my friend Asha at a nice restaurant in UB city and later when Akila asked me what we had for lunch, I struggled even to describe it to her leave alone remember the name of the dish.

I would have imagined that a non-complaining consumer like me should be the favorite of any cook. But that is not the case. Good cooks want their creations to be criticized, appreciated , evaluated. The older women in my family cooked sambar, rasam and vegetable on a daily basis but eagerly waited for feedback from those who ate it. “sambar sariya irukka?’ (‘is the sambar ok?’) my grandmom would ask as you took the first mouthful of sambar mixed with hot rice and ghee. That was your cue to savour the mouthful and tell her how good it tasted. To be fair to her and most of the ladies of her generation , they turned out delicious sambar and rasam with unfailing consistency. She would have been delighted with a response a la wine tasters about the full body and the delicious blend of the spices and the divine aroma. Or at the minimum, a comment about the balance of salt and spices in the dish. Naturally she would be disappointed with my insensitive treatment of her labor of love as just a means to whet my appetite -no more, no less. No wonder she preferred to seek the opinion of my sister who could say that one-eighth of a pinch of salt would make the dish perfect.

Looking back, what amazes me about the cooking of these women of earlier generations is the consistency in taste. My grandmother’s rasam tasted the same every time she made it. Not once have I seen her put a spoonful in her mouth to check for taste while cooking but the finished product always had the same taste. We called it “kai manam” or the taste of the hand that made the dish. And we ate the same dishes most of the days of the week – a sambar, a rasam and a curry or kootu and yet the meal was extremely satisfying to the palate and stomach. It was simple, tasty and healthy. In recent times I have watched several cookery shows – Indian and international– on the television and that is when I realized the amazing simplicity of our cooking both in terms of the ingredients and in terms of the processes. We just boil, steam or fry. The basic ingredients needed were coriander seeds, chillies and tamarind and a set of spices stored in a box with 5 containers (anjarai petti) for mustard, fenugreek, cumin, pepper and asafetida. This is all they needed to keep their family fed on happy meals most days of the year.

A few days ago, my cousin gave me a cookery book containing recipes of everyday dishes cooked in our family handed down the generations. Today I made a kootu (vegetable and lentils gravy) based on a recipe from the book and when I ate it, there were tears in my eyes as it tasted just like the kootu prepared by my mother. It brought back so many memories of her moving about the kitchen, making these dishes and serving us hot food at every meal whether she was sick or tired or sad. In my mind, the taste of the food that she used to make was so much a part of her - as much as everything else she was. As the author calls it in this article, that taste was a part of my ‘food ancestry’ and it moved me to tears.

This experience is probably something that the younger generation cannot relate to. With the demands and pressures their careers impose on them, there is very little cooking happening in many houses of younger couples these days. It is true that today we have an endless range of food options within our reach and so there is no reason to confine ourselves to the traditional recipes of our ancestors. And whether people want to cook their meals or not is a matter of individual preference. But when the hearth no longer symbolizes family togetherness, children of coming generations will not have memories of growing up intertwined with watching their mom/dad cooking and the medley of smells from a warm kitchen, the signature taste of the way mom used to make this dish or that. With the rise of take-out, eating-out culture, a lot of traditional recipes may soon be forgotten too.

Since these recipes are so much a part of our tradition and culture we could probably make an effort to save them from total oblivion. Do you have any traditional recipe or cooking tip specific to your family that has already disappeared from most kitchens? Please do share as a comment or mail me at

One way to get the most reticent of ladies to open up is to ask about their child. I have noticed that mothers are always enthusiastic to talk about their kids even if it is to complain about them. With pet owners, a sure-fire icebreaker is to ask about their pets. I have known the most curmudgeonly persons open up on the subject of their most wonderful pet . It is the same during morning walks. When I am at the other end of the leash, I find other dog owners, total strangers, nodding to me or smiling. By virtue of owning a pet, we all seem to belong to a club which has no physical existence but whose rules and by-laws we all know instinctively - the non-existent association of pet owners everywhere. These are the people who identify people as 'Munni's mom" or 'zoozoo's dad'. The other day someone in my colony was saying something about Mr.M, who used to be the chairman of XYZ bank and I found myself responding: 'who is this now - oh ok, you mean Simba's dad?" To some of us, even Barack Obama might be better known as Bo's dad.

When friend's call me the conversation invariably veers to the subject of my dogs somehow or other. I have a couple of friends whose children insist on visiting us every time they are in Bangalore just to spend some time with the dog/s. One such friend was in bangalore last month and he was enquiring about Munni. He had met her last when she was about 4/5 months old and remembers how hyper she was. In case you have read this post you may not have forgotten what a psychotic pup she was. I never thought she would grow to become the docile, laid-back character that she is. Now Zoozoo makes me think that Munni was an angel. This one makes me want to feed her Prozac to calm her down and pop one myself after chasing her all over the place . By contrast Munni appears totally zen. When my friend heard this he laughed and said "I think pets tend to reflect the personality of their owners. They are probably the way they are because of you and your spouse." Well, this friend knows us for over 30 years, that is from the time of our restless youth. I have to agree that there was a period in my youth when I was as hyper as munni and zoozoo. That this period may have lasted for about 20 years doesn't really give him the right to make that comment but you know how friends are.

His comment made me think about the personality traits of the dogs I have had and how unique each one has been.
First of all there was Patta. She was a tiny pomeranian who was primarily my aunt's dog but spent quite some time with me whenever my aunt travelled. This was one dog with an attitude. One of her legs was damaged at birth and she walked with a limp but that did not deter her from facing up to the fiercest street dogs that dared to cross our house. To prevent her from running away I had her tied to a cane foot stool thinking that would be sufficient to hold this tiny dog. one day I had left her like that and gone in. When I returned she had disappeared and I found her a few meters from our house. There she stood with the leash still attached to the stool and there were 6 street dogs around her and she was scaring them all with her persistent bark.
Such was her spirit!
This was a dog who wanted to go for a walk and once she finished her business, she would ask you to carry her back. Now Patta had clear ideas about where she wanted to sit, sleep etc. If she wanted to sit on the chair you were seated in, she would simply sit before you and stare until you get up. She used to love tomatoes and cucumber and go and stand near the fridge if she wanted some. Coming back from work and finding her sleeping inside my wardrobe is one of my sweetest memories of this totally fearless white pomeranian. And I wasn't allowed to raise a hand (in jest) at my son - she would jump between me and Siddharth shielding him and barking at me - all this when she was just a foot in height and my son was well over 5 feet!

Then there was Sabha 1. He had been rescued by a French student who left him with me when it was time for her to go back. He was with me until I found a home for him. This guy would sing himself to sleep. And he thought Patta was a joke. He could not believe that such a furry, fluffy, fussy character was really a dog. So he would go and pull her tail and Patta would be neurotic. He was too small to climb on to chairs so Patta used to jump from sofa to sofa just to avoid being caught by this fellow. When we sat outside the house Patta would be tied and Sabha, being small was free to roam. The rascal would sneak behind Patta, bite a clump of her fluffy hair and when Patta would start screaming, he would quietly run away behind the plants. He was quite a rascal who went to guard a farm a few weeks after being with me. I do not think Patta ever forgave me for bringing him into HER house.

Munni 1 was actually a wolf in dog's clothing we think. We picked her up from Cartman Animal Shelter. She had been in a street accident and Cartman people had rescued her and put her up for adoption. The accident had damaged her spine but that did not deter her from running at lightning speed. She was capable of squeezing through window bars and getting out of the house when she wanted. She did not bark much but she would BITE. She would bite first and then wag her tail. she had bitten me, the plumber, electrician, painter - just about anyone who came to the house. She would look adoringly at you and just when you bend down to pet her, she would bite and run. When her spine got worse and when she began to need constant hospital treatment, X-rays etc, the doctor advised us to send her to CUPA. I can't forget the surprised look in her eyes when I left her there and walked away. I cried for days after that.

Sabha 2 walked into our house on his own. He would sneak from under the gate to look for milk in Munni's bowl and would linger within the compound. If Munni bothered him too much he would quietly sneak back the way he came in and this would make Munni hysterical as she could not catch him. He would return when he thought Munni had calmed down. So it was more a case of him adopting us than the other way around.
He was the sweetest dog I have had so far. His tail just didn't stop wagging. He was happy with everything in the world. He had no grand plans of guarding the house and he acted like a polite receptionist welcoming everyone into the house. But they had to be older than 10. To him, humans below the age of 10 or less than about 3 feet in height were the worst menace to the world.
He got a bit ill-tempered after he started getting epileptic attacks when he was about 4. We could not believe that our sweet dog could break the jaw bones of a Rajapalayam dog when they got involved in a street fight. He used to love riding in the car and truly believed the car was his. This is the guy you see here. He was with us for about 6 years.

Munni2 : we thought this one would win the world's worst dog pageant considering that she was a one-dog demolition squad in the house. As a pup, she could not be left unsupervised for one minute - running, breaking, digging and stealing food. I wrote a detailed post on this terror here.But surprisingly she has turned out alright. She actually understands commands and even obeys them when she feels like it. Today at the ripe age of three and half she leads a totally retired life eating three square meals a day. She thinks her job description is to follow me around everywhere and to make sure that she gets her share out of anything I eat. She can be found sitting forlornly in my porch whenever I am away. Rest of the time she is never more than 10 feet away from me. She protests vociferously if she asked to stay outdoors. Generally she can be found stretched in the most comfortable spot in the house depending on the season. Considering how possessive she used to be about me and everything in the house, it is a great surprise that she has accepted Zoozoo into the house so gracefully.
She seems to have outsourced all barking and guarding duties to the able junior - Zoozoo, who barks and jumps for two dogs anyway.

Zoozoo; is the latest and possibly the last dog I will own, simply because I am not sure that I am going to survive bringing her up. Within the span of 5 minutes she can be found digging a huge pit in the garden, running after Munni, peeping into the dustbin for anything she may find to drag to her bed. I have already changed her bed 3 times as her favorite pastime is to tear the cover cloth and spread the cotton all over the porch. And whenever she is excited she tears up some cloth, any cloth that she can find. There is hardly a towel or a bed spread that is not torn in the house. Other casualties to her sharp teeth include my Reebok shoes, power cord of the laptop, Akila's (D-I-L) branded handbag and my spectacles. For her speed and destructive capabilities, I should have named her Tsunami.
She might have a great career in politics because she can flatter anyone with by bestowing her adoring looks, licks and furious tail-wagging as long as she can get what she wants.
Some people don't approve of Bonsai culture. Zoozoo doesn't like growing plants in pots. She systematically pulls out plants from pots and leaves them on the ground. Perhaps this is part of some environmental movement that I am yet to understand completely. But she is a dog with civic sense - she will do her potty only in our garden. She jumps up and down until she is taken for her walk in the morning but will always hold and come back to our garden and do it inside the compound! With proper training I think she can be trained to be a goal keeper in one of the ball games - such is her obsession with balls. She runs after them and catches them with the kind of passion I have seen only among players of these games.

Each of these dogs had/has a distinct personality but despite being so different their modus operandi is the same: They all know how to manipulate their way into our hearts.They take one look at me and they know 'here's the loser I want to adopt". Then they go about charming me with an overload of cuteness and slowly move into my house. Once this is accomplished, they go about doing exactly what they want to do. And whenever they hear me say "I am the owner of these dogs" they smirk inwardly and think: 'Ya,right.'
I am sure that's the story of every dog owner's life!
It was a discussion on safeguarding of individual rights among married couples.
A lady complained that her husband wants her to vote for the candidate of his choice. She feels that he has no right to interfere in her right to vote - a right given to her by the constitution as a citizen of this country.
Husband retorts that the wife does not know the P O L of politics. She doesn't even read the newspapers. So he is only trying to be a responsible citizen by ensuring that her vote is not wasted on the wrong candidate. It is his duty as a responsible citizen to guide her.
This elicited a lot of disapproval from the others present.

In as much as we enjoy rights in a democracy, do we not have a responsibility too - to be aware of the political system, the parties and their policies or at least know about the candidates in order to understand if they are the right candidates to represent us? I hear many youngsters say that they only read the sports page or the entertainment pages and do not want to know about politics. " I am not interested in politics' is a refrain heard among a lot of youngsters. Is this even a choice in a democracy? And they have the right to vote by the time they turn 18. Who do they go and vote for? what criteria do they use?

If this is the case, is it even a case of interference in their rights if a more informed person tries to advise members of their family on the best candidate to vote for? Of course the ideal situation would be to enlighten the ignorant about the parties and their programs and then leave the choice to the voter. But if the person says that he/ she doesn't want to know about politics, why is it wrong if a better informed person interested in the politics of the country tells l them to vote for a certain candidate/ party?

While I am all for individual rights, I don't see this a s a case of interference in one's rights. It would be an interference if he prevented her from voting or if he punished her for voting contrary to his advice. But I think the advice per se doesn't amount to interference. I would assume that we all have such a duty in a democracy.
What do you think?
And .... I am back!

First of all, my sincere thanks to all of you who wrote in to ask if I am o.k and why I wasn't posting. And since you asked:
People go to chennai and come back with saris or snacks from Grand sweets or surya sweets but I have to be different you see. So I come back with strange viruses and promptly fall sick the day I arrive. No offense intended to my beloved Madrasapattinam as I could be catching these viruses somewhere between Bangarpet and Bengaluru. I usually ignore this as a part of my life, suffer from a combination of cold+ cough+high fever for a few days and then get back to my levels of normalcy. Not this time. First there was high fever and body pain; then the fever abated but joint pains remained. With medication the pain subsided but left me feeling a bit drugged all the time. And I have a suspicion that like these computer viruses, this bug was destroying the ideas in my head every time one cropped up. I remember having quite a few ideas for posts in those few seconds of lucidity between high fever periods but cannot recollect a single one now - so how do you explain that!

It was here that I was about to thank you all profusely for your continued support and encouragement and take your leave until I am able to come up with an idea for a post when I heard a voice from the television say: Things your toothbrush might say!
I have no idea which program it was or who said this because the channel had been changed by the time I turned to look at the television. But it did give me an idea for a post and I began to wonder what my toothbrush might say if only it could speak:

Helooow good morning! what, grumpy and sleepy again this morning? mmm...
ow ow could you please go easy on the amount of paste that you are smearing on me? All that salt in it is making me want to puke. Why cant you be like other normal people and buy toothpastes with mint or peppermint flavor? Just my luck, I end up in this house!

'you know what, that one time you put a nice smelling cream on me thinking it was toothpaste? that was heavenly - for days after that I was smelling of sandal and turmeric and felt so good about myself. And I even remember the gentle warm water rinses I got during that period. That is when I got a glimpse of life on the other side. I wish you'd lose your head often like that.

'What bugs me about this house is the inequality and injustice I face. Why does my colleague with an identical CV get to sleep comfortably in your travel pouch while I am left standing in a bowl in your bathroom all the time? And she works just a few days in a year while I have to work everyday two or sometimes even three shifts? And this other one just cleans your remotes and other gadgets while I, I get to do the dirty work. This is really unfair. So I did not say a word when your maid mixed us up and put your gadget cleaning brush near the wash basin and put me in her place. I watched you with wicked glee as you picked her up sleepily and nicely cleaned your teeth. It wasn't so much fun when you finally spotted the difference and threw us both into the dustbin.

'Now I miss standing in that glass on your wash counter. I miss being picked up by you every day. I used to feel happy every time you used one of us to clean the dust off some tiny gadget and then declare: 'The toothbrush is probably the most useful thing invented by Man.' I already see my replacement standing proudly in that glass eager to start work from tonight. May be you will never think of me. Or may be you might say: 'that blue and white one with those gentle bristles? She was the best toothbrush I ever had. I haven't found one like her since I threw her away.' Just may be, as I tried to be the best toothbrush that I could be.
'It is time for me to go. I don't know where I shall go from here. Perhaps I will end up in a dog's mouth or in a little boy's hands or perhaps I will get buried and e simply forgotten.
'Farewell and may you have strong and healthy teeth for many years to come..

If any of the stuff in your house could speak what do you think it might say?

P.S.: And thanks to the reader who met my husband in Singapore and told him how popular my blog is in Singapore. I had no idea about this. Made my day.
And my husband had no idea that I wrote a blog - it is going to be seven years now and he gets to know about it now from someone on the streets of Singapore. What is it they say about the spouse being the last to know! hehehe...
Sandhya and TheIndianhomemaker tagged me to state 10 things that I do that are normally not considered feminine.
I grew up in a family where women did all the work and men analysed, criticised and paid the bills. I was considered a Tomboy because I had no problem speaking to strangers, I always spoke my mind out, never blushed, did not care about what I wore or how I looked.
It is a little tough for me to do this post because I really am not aware of what is supposed to be 'feminine' but I will try.

- I don't depend on a male to change bulbs or fix minor problems relating to TV antenna, cable, telephone etc. The other day there was no power in the house for about 4 hours and husband was trying to reach the electricity office. I opened the fusebox and found that the fuse had fallen and voila! I am a bit more mechanical than most women that I know who need help even to change their gas cylinder. I am generally comfortable around gadgets although I don't make it my life's mission to own each of them.

- I drove a scooter to work for about 8 years.

- I was the manager of a bank branch - at that time I was the only lady manager in the whole region although it is fairly common now. Some of the boys in the office insisted on calling me 'saar' just to rile me.

- Since husband had a heart surgery a few years back, I am the the one who lifts all the heavy things around the house. Come to think of it, I believe it was the case even before the surgery.

- When our son left for distant shores for the first time, it was the husband who was wiping away tears. I just said good bye, came home and slept. Not that I wasn't hurting. it is just that I tend to approach these things a little less emotionally and more rationally.

- I used to be able to change the punctured tyre of my car. Haven't done it in a while. Don't know if my hands have the strength still. Will try it one of these days just for fun.

- While at parties or weddings I tend to look at the women especially the good looking ones. I can hear your thoughts, hahahha. I just think that women look much nicer than men in general. That is all. And since I have no idea about the right stuff to wear and the accessories, I am in awe of those who can do it all and carry themselves well.

- Cannot understand why anyone needs more than one handbag or two pairs of slippers.

- will not wear something uncomfortable just to look good - e.g. high heels or stilettos. Will quite happily wear my walking shoes with my silks if only people would have the decency not to point it out and comment.

- I do have a slight beard these days which I often forget to pluck and I allegedly snore. Is that manly enough for you?

Now I am not tagging anyone but please feel free to pick up the tag and I assure you that you will have as much fun as I did.
I actually don't mind those TV remotes and beer mugs in Navy blue wrappers. IHM, where do I send you the details so you can mail them to me?
Have you read chetan Bhagat”s “two states’? Did you notice that he talks about the meals on banana leaf at his prospective in-law’s house? Does it sound so very South Indian to you? mm. But, unfortunately most of us do not eat our meals on banana leaves any more since we discovered the convenience of stainless steel plates and that was over fifty years ago, I think. In cities most houses do not have the space for their own kitchen garden and if they need a leaf for their meals they’d have to buy it from the market and sometimes it may not even be available in every market.

On the other hand banana leaf meals are indeed an important ritual at our weddings and special occasions when special feasts follow a family function. I call it a ritual as there are rules regarding the placement of dishes on the leaf and the order in which they are served in several courses during the meal. People who are in charge of serving the meal are supposed to observe the leaves and serve the side dishes as and when they disappear from the leaves according to the preference of the guest. Since it is difficult to know the preference of all guests before hand, this system did involve cooking enormous quantities of all items on the menu and sometimes food was wasted both on the leaf and as leftover food. Buffet system has come to be considered as a better option to avoid wastage but a typical Tamil feast does not lend itself elegantly to this. As it involves mixing rice with several gravys a plate is rather small to contain the spread of a typical Ilai sappadu or banana leaf feast.Several of my relatives look down on buffet system where one queues up with a plate to have the meal served – they think it is like a soup kitchen for the homeless!
Well, they are like this only – have I not told you about my Thanjavur roots and the sharpness of our tongue!

The problem with Banana leaf meals at weddings today is that the service is rather impersonal which takes away the essence of such a meal. Meals are contracted out and served mechanically at breakneck speed. Side dishes are served with tea spoons and if you are lucky they may come once again to check if you need any more. Otherwise it is a race against their serving speed. By the time you are halfway through your sambar rice , a guy appears asking if you need rice for rasam followed closely by the guy with rasam. Two minutes later, while you are still delicately negotiating the rasam from flowing on to your lap, a guy wants to know if you want more rice for the next course with buttermilk. It is indeed tough even for seasoned banana leafers. And there is an additional torture in some halls. To prevent the appalam from flying away they switch off the fans. Draped in silks in a mid summer afternoon, trying to eat hot food keeping pace with the servers and no fan? To an outsider it might indeed seem like a case that merits reference to the National Human Rights Commission.

At a Palakkad Tamilian wedding that I attended recently there was a Punjabi couple seated opposite me at lunch. It was a typical Palakkad feast with exotic stuff like Avial, Olan and erisseri and of course Paal payasam. Most of the North Indians I know who tell me that they enjoy South Indian food once in a while actually mean Idly and Dosa – nothing more. Avial and Paal Payasam? Oops they’’d need an orientation course even to pronounce their names.. So naturally this couple looked totally lost . They tasted tiny bits of everything and gave up early in the battle. Since they had nothing to do after the first two minutes of the meal they were watching those around with great curiosity – up to our wrists in the leaf, quickly shoving in mouthfuls in order to keep up with the pace of the service, all this while admirably controlling the rasam's flow within the boundaries of the leaf; sweating profusely while consuming the hot food in such huge doses but not letting go of a second helping of olan and erisseri. As I surveyed the leaf of the couple and saw that it was practically untouched, I wondered if they’d go home and make a few paranthas for lunch.

And the bride at this wedding was from Orissa. I hope there was some way her family had found to order in some Pizza unobserved by the groom’s side. Or perhaps they just sat and fumed at the banana leaf lunch and had their revenge at the Oriya reception?
Remember Aesop's fable about the stork and the fox?

P.s: Wrote this originally in Tamil - yes I have a Tamil Blog here. Please visit and tell me what you think.And please be kind...
I found a mail in my mailbox a couple of days ago. It started thus:

We are shutting down DesiPundit effective midnight (CST) June 15th, Tuesday. It has been a fun five years and we have enjoyed every moment. We wish to thank all Community Members for sharing your content with our readers and I hope we managed to win you some readers.

Over at DesiPundit, people have moved on to other things and time & resources haven't been as plentiful for those who have remained. The Indian blogosphere and presence on other social media networks has expanded greatly and in our experience, it is no longer possible for human-powered aggregators to keep up; at least on a part-time volunteer basis.
It is sad that they decided to shut down . Particularly for me as I had just become a contributor a few months back. For years, Desipundit had been something I could only read as an outsider. Occasionally when a post of mine would be featured here it was a great honor - a validation of my blogging efforts. I remember the first time when I saw that my site meter had crossed the 300 mark for the first time and most of the traffic was from Desipundit. It was for this post and I
wrote to my son:
Hey, I can now die in peace. My post made it to Desipundit!
Over the years a few other posts had the honor but it took 6 years of blogging before I was invited to become a regular contributor. And then the sudden end.

Or perhaps not all that sudden - Over the past year, blogging seem to have lost its sheen somewhat. Many of us don't seem to feel the urgent need to blog about the minutiae of our lives. Some of the bloggers on my reader haven't blogged a word in months. And there is also the diminished interest from readers who don't not seem to have the time to read long posts and react. Twitter, the microblog, which allows you to express yourself pithily in blocks of 140 characters has taken over the space and time as a more convenient options for sharing opinions and ideas on the go. Rapid fireworks, less responsibility of sustaining a longer conversation. More in sync with he pace of our times unlike blog which demands a more in-depth elaboration of ideas.
Why use 400 words where 140 would serve the purpose? And it is more glamorous too - you share the space with the who's who of journalism and bollywood. You are no longer dependent on tabloids to know what the stars are up to - they tell you themselves through their tweets.
There is Shahrukhkhan telling you:
am shooting a dish tv advt right now. wrapped in india..just the fotoshoot rest of the shooting in london & sum in india
scary plane ride...200 km/hr headwind knocked us all over. thought was going to die so covered my face & hid under thin blanket. felt safer

And when you can overhear Bachchan senior in a tete-a-tete with Karan Johar (or should we call it tweet-a-tweet?) it feels like you are part of that crowd!

By contrast blogging is a medium where unknowns bond across barriers and share thoughts and ideas and many times scenes from their lives. Like friends who meet for a cup of chai and sit down to chat. They do not need to react immediately. they could think about what you said and come back later to give their opinion unlike twitter where morning tweets are forgotten by the end of the day. If your reflexes aren't sharp enough the moment is gone and you have lost the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Many of my old blogger friends have moved on to twitter and so I have signed up just to follow them. I personally do not have the flair to say anything in 140 characters. I need so many just to clear my throat. And then another 140 to warm up to the topic. I cannot say smart things at short notice. I have realized that tweeting requires skills that I do not possess while blogging has no such demands except the ability to string together sentences grammatically.

When you want to review a book or a film or rant about a social or political issue or share the cute things that your child says or does or just share interesting moments from your lives - blogging would still be the more convenient and appropriate medium. The reduced activity in blogosphere is a damper but I hope my favorite bloggers will not totally abandon it and will come back to post at least once in a while.
Meantime Desipundit, You will be missed.
Usually it takes an enormous bribe or dire threats to get me agree to a road trip.I am quite content to pack the picnic basket for others and receive picture postcards or photographs in return. One of the main reasons for this is that traveling in diesel cars on rough roads has never been much fun for me. I keep rolling the windows down to take a bout of fresh air to combat my queasiness, while those around sit on the edges of their seat waiting with supplies such as sickness bag and cold water in case I throw up. Not exactly anyone’s idea of a “FUN” outing. So it was with much reservation that I chalked out the route for a day trip to Channapatna, Mallur and Melukote with my sister and daughter-in- law - something do-able even for a terrible traveler like me and close enough for us to turn back if my tantrums got really uncontrollable. The plan was to leave by 7:30 and return by 5:30 p.m.

Armed with adequate supplies of water, gelusil, Eno, churan varieties, lemon drinks, paper bags and music CDs, we left home by 7:30 a.m. We were to stop for breakfast at Kamat Lokaruchi at Janapadaloka in Ramnagaram which, according to blog reports, serves unlimited quantities of idly, Vada, dosa, akki roti, pongal etc. apart from fruits, juice and coffee/ tea for a mere 80 bucks. It seemed worth making the trip just for this. Thinking of this breakfast had made us quite hungry but it was 8:45 by the time we were actually there.

Our driver Suresh must have been an ambulance driver in a previous avatar as he could not bear any other vehicle between our car and the destination. Although the car did not have a siren he compensated for it by honking all the way despite our vociferous protests. I explained that we had all day and we were in no hurry to get to any of these places. The idea was to see what was possible within lunchtime and then head back. It seemed that his desire to get ahead of all vehicles on the road had nothing to do with our plans. It was just the way he operated. But for this he was in control of the vehicle and knew the way to all the places we had in mind.

Breakfast was nothing exceptional but definitely value for the money paid. The dining hall had thatched roof and was surrounded by trees. The place was swarming with monkeys who seemed not a bit threatened by the hordes of tourists.
The toilets were wet but clean.

Once our bellies were full we became serious tourists looking out for places of interest on our way. One such was a board pointing to a road leading to the Government Lacquer ware Craft Complex where we decided to stop on our way back. The idea was to visit the temples before they closed for the afternoon. In a few minutes we were at the Shri Aprameyaswamy Temple at Doddamallur. It is an ancient temple about 1500 years old. One of the priests informed us that Lord Rama stayed here and had worshipped Lord Aprameya. Hence the deity here is known as Sriramaprameya. His consort here is called Aravindavalli. Both the idols are very beautiful, especially the way their eyes were done up was very alluring. The other main attraction at this temple is a very beautiful idol of Lord Navaneetha Krishna in the form of a crawling child holding butter in his hand. At the shop outside the temple we saw pictures of the idol decorated with butter and in another dressed up as a king. There were just a few other visitors at the temple. A couple had come with a prayer for a child. Before performing the special prayer for them the priest asked them to pledge that they would return to the temple with an offering of a toy cradle after the child is born. We saw many cradles hanging from the roof of the sanctum.
It is said that Saint Purandaradasa composed the song ‘jagadhodharana” inspired by the form of the crawling Krishna (Ambegalu Krishna) and outside this shrine is a stone on which the song is inscribed.
Despite its ancience and associations with Rama and Purandaradasa, the temple has managed to remain relatively less touristy. We did not see many tourists probably because it was a weekday. It seems a lesser known destination even to people who have lived in Bangalore for generations.
By 10 am we were back in the car and asked our pilot Suresh if we could reach Melkote by 11. He readjusted his fingers around the horn and feet around the accelerator and happily nodded. It helped that the road was good until 30 km. before Melkote and then we had to turn into a mud road which slowed us down a bit. Undaunted, Suresh jumped over sugarcane and straw spread over the road and zoomed through the curves and narrow lanes so we were outside the Tirunarayana temple a little past 11. This is a very sacred shrine for the Vaishnavites as Sri Ramanujacharya had stayed here for a few years and worshipped at this temple. In fact both the main image and the one used for processions are supposed to have been lost and restored back to the temple by Sri Ramanuja. Again the images of all the deities are extremely beautiful in this temple. The temple has a beautiful tank or Kalyani Theertham which has featured in quite a number of kannada films. (We were told that the song “Barso re’ from Guru was picturized here.)
Melkote has another important temple for Yoga Narasimhaswami which is on a hill and which is reached after climbing 250 steps. Legend has it that the deity was installed by Prahlada. There were too many partitions in the Darshan area forcing the visitors to crowd together to get a good view of the shrine. And although there were about 4 or 5 priests, it was surprising that none of them would oblige us with the holy water despite our repeated requests. It seemed that all of them were having a bad day.
From the top, there is a nice view of the town and its neighborhood.

All the way down there were beggars on the steps, some singing Bhajans and some just begging. We made a brief stop at the Temple tank before heading back towards Maddur for Lunch at Adiga’s Hotel. Although I was quite pleased with the behavior of my digestive system so far in the trip, I decided not to push my luck and settled for a Roti and Corn masala and helped myself to some payasa and gulab jamun from the South Indian and North Indian Thalis ordered by others.

Post-lunch we went to meet the Painted storks and pelicans at Kokkare Bellur. We followed the directions on the signboards and were surprised to see one board which just said Kokkare Bellur with no arrows pointing anywhere. So we looked around for a lake which is where we expected the birds to be gathering. Not finding one, we casually looked up and found them right there – perched on the trees. As we walked around the narrow street we saw every tree covered with hundreds of them and a few babies in their nests too. They were beautiful and seemed completely at peace among the residents of the village who were having a noisy prayer to drum beats at their temple. I could not get much information on why the birds chose this particular spot for migration every year. One reason could be the proximity to the river Shimsa which might supply them with all the fish they need. The trees were nothing special – ordinary tamarind trees. So that doesn’t offer any explanation. The villagers seem to consider them as harbingers of good luck and the bird droppings acts as good manure for their crops. Apparently the villagers treat the birds as their own and prevent them from being harmed. So perhaps the birds feel secure here. I wish they would open their beaks and speak.
A few children ran to our car and pointed to other trees with birds. One of the boys showed us a wounded Pelican and said that it ate 6 kg of fish everyday and drank huge volumes of water, I forget how much. Then he asked me if I could give him some pens. He looked about 6 or 7 and so I asked him what he would do with a pen. He said he needed it for school work and a three year old next to him nodded. I knew for sure that they did not use pens for school work but took out the three pens from my bag and handed it to them, By then more children had gathered demanding pens. One girl even offered: ‘Give me money, I will buy pens from the shop’. We did not want to give them money so we gave them some biscuits and they were happy. It was also funny that they kept calling us "teacher' but at least that is a sure sign that they all go to school. or is it?

Passing through Channapatna, we stopped for tea and some shopping for the famous Channapatna toys. There were a few shops on the highway but when we went in they did not seem very interested in selling stuff to us.
Since we did not particularly fancy anything either, we decided to look for them in the government craft complex but at another time. My experience so far even gave me the courage to announce: ‘I think we could drive down on our own.”

So we started homeward stopping briefly at the Kengal Anjaneya temple at Ramnagaram on the highway. We could not take the road to Kanva reservoir about 5 km away due to road repair work. We looked at our watches. It was about 3:30 and getting back home before the horrible city traffic started sounded like a great idea. So we let our driver Suresh step on the accelerator while we dozed in our seats. At 4:45 we were already home drinking tea.

A very short and pleasant day trip via the NICE road and the Bangalore-Mysore expressway (SH17). The drive is quite smooth except when you drive through the villages to reach the spots. Food is not a problem. There are plenty of restaurants. Fill up the tank, pack water and music, fasten seat belts and just follow the road signs. It is that easy if you are in Bangalore. I can’t believe that I did not do this before!