Yesterday, there was a message on the answering machine from someone called Manjiri. Normally I would have ignored any call from strangers . Must be one more person selling me credit cards or home loans – but Manjri? The name was too classy to be associated with someone who would call you at odd hours and pester you to take a loan. Though everyone says almost reflexively that oft abused statement, “what is in a name?” and feel good like they invented the phrase, names do carry their value at least for me. I find it impossible to be rude to people with names as sensitive as Charulatha, Chitralekha,Kalpana and Madhulika.
It is the same when it comes to ordering drinks. I invariably end up ordering something with a name like Green eye opener, Pink sunrise, Blue Sky, Electric lemonade or frozen passion without caring to see what it might contain.While you cannot force me to have even a drop of grasshopper or screwdriver - no, not even with a gun pressed to my temple!
And when it comes to desserts and sweets, while I am indifferent to the laddoos and Mysorepaks and Jalebis , it is entirely impossible when you offer me something with a name like champakali or abor khabo or rum n raisin,death by chocolate or wild n reckless.
Very highly creative minds must be working at naming these for the likes of dumb me. But there is a down side to this too. Names such as this tend to set the expectation level very high and can put off the customer if they do not live up to it. For example I would be more disappointed with a Manjiri selling loans or slimming capsules than if it were a Geetha or a Sudha.I would feel very cheated with Manjiri for not living up to her name.
My aunt tells me that I am not alone in this - she asked her son, my cousin, to buy snakegourd from the vegetable market. He refused to ask for something with a name as slimy as snake gourd. She tried persuading him with its Tamil name " Pudalangai". No go!! equally bad or may be worse! He saw her disappointment and tried to meet her halfway. May be it had abetter name in Hindi? She said "Chichinda." That was the final straw! she never got to eat her favorite pudalangai as long as he did the shopping!!!
Looks like this runs in the family!
Life is so strange – sometimes total strangers leave a mark in your memory forever.
Like the song that floated from the window of a house in a street where you went just once for something.
Or the warm smile of an old lady after you helped her cross the road
Or a scene outside a house where you had stopped the car during a traffic jam – a father and daughter sharing a joke or a little girl with a dog .
There is something intense and captivating in that moment that your memory just captures it like a photograph. You never knew these people but they have touched some part of you.

Today Julie Tisdale, a complete stranger , whom I shall never meet, came into my life for a few moments.I shared a whiff of a special moment from her life through a thank you note that she wrote which found its way into my hands after many years.
I had picked up “Still Life with Woodpecker” at a used book store yesterday. This morning as I turned over to page 39 this card fell from the page. I should have thrown the card away and proceeded to read but somehow it had the fascination of a clue in a treasure hunt. So I tossed the book aside and read the card in stead:
A tiny elegant personalized card used for thank you notes or short private notes, the top flap announced the sender’s name in a stylish font:
Mr.& Mrs William E.Tisdale, jr.
Inside was a handwritten note:
Dear Kar-Kar,
You guys are the greatest ! What a perfect gift you chose in the T.V. In fact, it really was my favorite. The shower was so much fun; I couldn't have asked for a funner evening. Thanks for everything.
P.S. Bill loves the T.V. too. So, now he can cook & I can watch Knots on the big one!

This note gave me the thrill of a cryptic clue in a treasure hunt. I tried to see what clues lay in the letter about the person who wrote it and the background of the note.
There was a shower where Karkarand company had gifted a T.V to Julie, currently Mrs Tinsdale Jr..- More likely a bridal shower .
Julie is English or American? “favorite” and “funner” are certainly American and then the reference to Knots – most certainly American!
Knots Landing, television's second longest running drama (after Gunsmoke), ran from 1979 to 1993 on CBS television. Produced by Lorimar (owned by Time/Warner) the 14 seasons focused on the lives and loves of neighbors who lived in a southern California cul-de-sac.
So Kar- Kar used the thank you note as a bookmark, which found its way into the used book store along with the book.
Kar-Kar, very thoughtful of you! Btw,how did you like the book?
Julie, I hope you still love the television as much. Which soap do you watch now that Knots is over?
Bill, how is the cooking coming along?

This is much like watching one episode of a long running soap – you don’t know what happened before and will never know what happened afterward.
This tiny card and the 4 lines told a story better than some of our 2 and half hour movies.
Recently I read the biography of a living legend in Indian Music – an icon whose name is pronounced with a near reverence by one and all. She is held in esteem not only for her lovely voice and her contribution to music but also for her personality. There is an aura almost spiritual about her. She never seemed to even know the magnitude of her success. For her, singing was just something she did naturally from her soul like the lark and the cuckoo – she did not do it for money or fame.
She was born into a caste which did not have much acceptance in society – they were called the “entertainment class” but her marriage, her dedication to her work, her personality and her way of life raised her completely above her birth and totally “Sanskritised” her that no one cares to mention anything disparaging about the class she came from. She is celebrated and loved for what she is – the person, the singer, one of the rare gems of India, yes, a Bharat Ratna..
As a twenty year old, she too had a great love; a handsome and brilliant young man who was another musical phenomenon of her time. She thought there would be no purpose in her life if she did not marry him.
But fate had other plans and she married another man who was deeply in love with her. This man polished her, drew the career path for her, steered its course to the last detail, found the powerful backing for show casing her music in the right arenas and managed the publicity and literally created her brand equity. She just knew how to sing and sing from her heart and he did the rest. Without him, her biographer says, she “ might just have been a face in the crowd, a great voice among several great voices. With him she became the “queen of music, a title bestowed upon her by Jawaharlal Nehru.
But in the end was she happy? Would she have been happier had she married the man she was so much in love with? Hypothetical questions for which one will never know the answers including herself. Who knows what might have been?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the woman in her might have been fulfilled and contented if she had followed the course of her love but the singer would have had a brilliant few years and then become a footnote in musical history. Voices like that are not created by God to be lost in a crowd . She deserves every bit of all the adulations, accolades and adoration that she has enjoyed all her life, sharing space with presidents and princes. We should be grateful that she chose the path she did for what she gave to the world and what the world gave back to her.
What might have brought her more happiness than the contentment of having served Man and God well during one’s limited life and be recognized for one’s worth during one’s lifetime?