Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Wedding Invitation! I am on the subject of old again, here is something that is pretty old. What you see above are invitations to the wedding of my grandparents! Both are in Kannada. My granny told me this morning that the second one was printed first. But it did not mention her father's name properly and the groom's family called off the wedding! Thankfully, amends were made and the first one was printed!

The wedding was held on 19th May 1946, one year before Independence. Next year, it will be 60 years since gran first came to Madikeri! That is just wow!!!

Those were the times, she tells me! Madikeri was a dozen times colder than it is today, her mother-in-law was a very traditional lady, though not a tyrant. She had to cook for at least three dozen people every day along with the rest of the womenfolk. Festivals were great fun, cooking during days when they had to fast was a torture, people were always in and out of the house. She would go to the temple for musical nights, the books she would buy on the sly, God the stories I grew up listening to!

My gran is an amazing storyteller. As a kid, I would make her tell me up to 4-5 stories every day, from the mythologies, stories of kings and princesses and witches. The best were her stories of her childhood. She has the ability to bring the entire scene before the eyes with her imitations. My cousins and some of my friends will vouch for her skills.

It is sad that the kids of today are too busy trying to outdo their neighbour to sit and listen to a good story. I have nothing against Pokeman or Harry Potter, but I really think kids need to learn their history and stories of their country too.

My mother could never tell stories well, I am no better. So my grand plan for my sem holidays is to record at least some of my granny's stories and preserve what is in itself a lost art.

Monday, November 28, 2005

OLD!!!!The Key Word Here!

Waiting for my this is going to be a short one. At 10.32 AM, the time some nurse said I was born, I completed 22 years on the face of this Earth and am stepping on to the 23rd. The day started with midnight calls and some more starting at 5 AM. To be frank, it doesnt feel abit like my birthday. It is just another day, I suppose. I remember how I would count the days to my birthday when I was little. The excitment is no longer there. And growing old is not that big a deal, everyone around me is growing old too.

I am going to start this year with good cheer. So here is to happiness, joy, love and peace and here is to me!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Exquisite Hoysala!

Its been a while since I put up a picture.
The above is of the Somanathapura Temple near Mysore. It is an exquisite example of Hoysala architecture. The pic, however, doesnt do the least bit of justice to the place.

Hoysala dynasty ruled in Karnataka from about 1006 AD to the mid 14th century and were most known for their architecture and patronage of the arts. The most famous queen Shantala was an accomplished dancer who modelled for the sculptures in their temples. Such was her famed beauty. The establishing of the dynasty has a history too. I have forgotten most of my history but I do remember that there was this brave man who was instructed to kill a tiger that was troubling people. The war cry given was 'hoy-sala', meaning kill the tiger. That is how the dynasty got its name and its emblem of a man killing a tiger.

Coming to Shantala again, there is a book by that name by G V Aiyar, one of the few Kannada books I have read. I fell in love with the book. I love antique silver jewellery and got myself a thick silver anklet for one leg that looks like it came straight out of the book! They would call it 'toda' and wear it after taking a vow to die for their chosen person, the soldier in defense of the king, brother for the protection of his sister, etc. I dont have such intentions but it is my favourite piece of jewellery and I rarely remove it.

The temple now. I think I have written about Belur and Halebid, my most favourite places on Earth. I shall write about them in detail when I have the pics to go with them. The temple in the pic above was built in the same style in 1268 AD by the army commander of the dynasty, Somanath. It is star shaped and covered with sculptures all over the place. The temple has layers of elephants to support the temple, floral designs, stories from the epics, etc.

Compared to the busier Belur and Halebid, this place is more laid back and much quieter. The lush green lawns are a sight for sore eyes, a welcome relief from the harsh tropical sun. A lazy dog, actually there are many, looks at you from a corner and is good enough to wag its tail when called. Like every tourist spot, there are souvenir shops that are overly high priced. But the temple is beautiful, much more than that in fact. Go. Get immersed in history and come back inspired.

By the way, the slogan for Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSDTC) is "Theatre of Inspiration".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

This Guy is Good!!!

Like I was saying in the last post, I have been reading Indian authors lately. Yesterday, I picked up two books by Chetan Bhagat, thought I would gift myself something for a week of hard(ly) studying! :-)

Chetan Bhagat is a IIM, IIT alumni who is currently working in Hong Kong. About the books:
His first book 'Five Point Someone- What not to do at IIT' was released about a year ago and became an instant best seller, it still is. The book is about that Mecca for engineers in India, the Indian Institute of Technology. Every year thousands of aspirants of a guaranteed future try to get but only a handful do. The book tells the story of Ryan, Alok and Hari, three former brilliant students who have managed to get into IIT but have failed to keep up their scores. A lot of fun and their GPAs stay at five point something, making them the 'losers'. That doesnt really bother our heroes. They booze, they do dope, hari falls for Neha, the prof's daughter and by the time they pass out, they manage to almost get expelled, attempt suicide, eat paranthas at two rupees...classic college stuff. There is however nothing about funny incidents in classes, except a few, or anything much about other classmates. The story is almost only about the three guys and Neha .

The story is an ordinary one about college, even though it happens to be about the best one in the country. The writing is extremely simple and very funny in some places, especially some one-liners. There was this one place where two of them pile up some un-identifiable stuff on their plates in the hostel only because they want to have some colour on their plates! That is so like what I do in hostel too where most of the time I do not know what vegetable I am eating!

The boys try to play sports, lose weight, look at porn, listen to Pink Floyd, cheat, flirt, watch movies with mindless fights and sloppy Hindi ones, the stuff that boys do. I had heard my guy friends talk about such stuff and this book reaffirms my views about them (let me keep them to myself for now!).

Last night, I was tired and had decided to sleep early. But this book was too good and I sat up till two AM to finish it. I was also giggling throughout the book and my roommate had begun to think I had finally lost it! There arent many books out there that can make me lose sleep. But Bhagat is good enough to lose sleep over!!(his book I mean!)

His second book 'One Night @ the Call Centre' was released a couple of weeks ago and has become a best seller too. It is about six people who work at a call centre and what happens when they get a call from God. I am just 70 pages into the book. It is good too but I think I like the first one better. If at all you can lay hands on these books, grab them without a second thought. They are not serious works of literature but could be just what you need after a boring, monotonous day. They are cheap too, compared to other books in the market, just Rs 95.

If ever there was good value for money, these are right on the bull's eye! You can also check out for more on the author and his books. Take a word of advice, read them and be entertained!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Five Point Someone

I admit it. I am a little biased when it comes to Indian authors. Having grown up on Victorian literature and Russian masters, with Mills and Boons, Sidney Sheldon, Wilbur Smith, Erich Segal and the rest of the motley crew thrown in for good measure, I never gave much thought to Indian writing in English, until recently. Ruskin Bond, though his books are largely meant for children, are very lucidly written. I dont somehow like the late R K Narayan's books. He is the greatest of the Indian writers. Maybe I should read him again.....

There are others too like Vikram Seth (his new book 'Two Lives' is out), Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Deshpande, Salman Rushdie (never liked his works much), V S Naipaul, Anita Nair and so many others. It was my English lecturer (and a close personal friend of the family) who got me reading on Amitav Ghosh. He thrust Ghosh's 'The Glass Palace' in my hands. I could not move past the first 20 pages but he urged me on and boy, was it good! It was unputdownable then on. That is he case with most of his books.

There are also hundreds of others who write one great book and disappear in the night without the world coming to know of their genius. I read this one book called 'Sunlight on a Broken Column' by Attia Hussain. It was about a Muslim girl who rebels against tradition. The story was ok but the way it was written was amazing. Some metaphors were such that I have never read their equivalent in even the best books. Then there was 'Cinnamon Gardens' by Shyam Selvasundaram about life in Sri Lanka. All good books, all unheard of... There are also the new age writers like Chetan Bhagat, about whom I am going to write in my next post.

There was a phase in life when I thought I could just not handle fiction anymore. I had always been way ahead of my years as far as the books I read was concerned. I had finished with Hardy Boys, Secret Seven, Famous Five, Nancy Drew by 12, Mills and Boons by 15, Sidney Sheldons by 16. I had started with Tolstoy, Dostovesky, Bronte sisters and other literature works by 10-11 years!! So by 19, i was sick of fiction and promised myself that I would only read serious works of non-fiction. i do, but I have also discovered Indian writers. So maybe a few more years....

My World This Week!

Ok, am back, after a while. Was busy. Here is whats been happening....

1. My tests got over today. Yes, I actually studied after a looooong time and got a slight headache in the process! The tests were ok. The finals start in a week and I have to study again... :-(

2. Our hostel cat littered about two days ago. There are three little kittens, all black and white. Am not really big on cats but the kittens look so helpless. I never cease to be amazed at the wonder of creation, about how we are blessed with the power to give a life to something!

3. Third semester is almost over, one more to go and I am done studying for the time being! Yeah!

4. Nothing ever happens when exams are going on. Actually, nothing ever interesting happens here anymore!

5. The biggie now! My birthday is in two days, on the 28th! No major plans to mourn my growing old but my parents are coming down and I have some shopping to do..... :-)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Brisk Walk

People who know me personally might snigger all they want, but I actually started studying today for my internal tests that start on Monday (I usually start just the previous day!). I was in the library and studied two Acts, Official Secrets Act and Press Council of India Act. They were quite interesting and I am just going to type a quick post and go read some more of Media Law.

I was walking back from the library when the silence stuck me as so uncharacteristic of uni. There is usually a bike going at top speed, someone laughing out, a shrill voice, wierd vehicle horns... There as nothing today. Looks like the exam fever has caught on. The walk was beautiful though.

From the library to my hostel, it is a walk of about five minutes, through a dim-lit road. Even though the road looks very eerie, it is quite safe to walk alone. It is not full moon day today but nevertheless, the moon with a yellowish tinge was beautiful against the hostel lights. There it was, looking like a protective angel over the building. The stars gave it company. I even saw an aeroplane blinking its red tail light against the dark sky.

On the whole, it was a lovely walk. I just wish I could have taken a longer and slower walk, just me and my thoughts...aint got the time though. Next year, I dont think I will miss studies much. But I know I will miss the uni campus with its familiar trees, knee length grass that always makes me want to lie between its cold strands, the sophisticated-looking double road in front of the library, the Pentagon office-shaped hostel I stay in and of course this cyber centre where I have typed out many a blog post from!

I claim to be a workaholic, with good reason. The only things I regret is the lack of time to enjoy such simple pleasures.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fourth Estate

Dont remember if I have written about this new blog that I and Mahesh were to create. It was put up quite some time back but we sent out press releases only yesterday. It is called Fourth Estate. It will have stuff about journalism, mainly academic (we want to help the rest of the journalism students, good na?) and other information, something of a media shop.

The link is

Friday, November 11, 2005

Development: the Indian conundrum

Remember that special issue of our lab journal that I kept talking about a couple of months back, the one that gave me many a sleepless night? Below is an editorial I wrote for that issue. A taste of my "real" journo writing!

Enough has been said and written about it. Revamp the political system, throw out the bureaucracy, chase out the MNCs, subsidize agriculture and India will shine, they say. We have tried, with promises and resolves, one day each year. Then, it is the same story again, feeding the bureaucrats, drawing obscene salaries from MNCs, killing farmers...until time comes a full circle once more.

The parameters of social and economic development have become cliched today. Following up on such resolves, even hypothetically, has become out of the question. India is too vast, too diverse and too independent for that. The next obvious question would be 'what then could make the nation developed in the real sense?'

India is already a power to reckon with in global terms. Surge in forex reserves, a possible UNSC permanent seat, albeit without veto, improving relations with the neighbours...aren't these developments real, however contrary to the traditional theories they may be? Again, who determines development? The term could never mean the total abolition of poverty, unemployment and the like. If that were the case, America with its teeming populace of destitutes and rate of crime could never be the 'superpower' it is known to be today.

Someone once said, 'In India, we do not think who we are, we simply know who we are.' People make the country and this could not be truer than in ours. We might do well to realize that for the majority of the citizens, foreign policies towards distant East Timor or West Bank or economic indicators are of little significance. What concerns people is security, physical, economical and otherwise. What they need is the dignity to live life.

Indians have become too diverse, too intellectually and economically scattered to call themselves united at any single point of time. But the entire country has been one large caring family during the Mumbai floods, in the aftermath of the tsunami and during the terror attacks that often follow days of an almost surreal peace. The fortitude, the display of unity and faith is what makes a nation strong and capable of making it through the tunnel.

The determinants of the level of development may not essentially agree but India stands united in the need of the hour, sans any barrier put up by vested interests. If this is not taken as development, maybe it is time we changed the parameters with which we measure progress.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Licking My Fingers (and West-bashing a little!)

Of late, this blog seems to be taking wierd turns, from philosophy to films to what not! Ah well!

Think I will write about the art of eating today. In my time, I have met quite a few people from the West. For most, India is just Taj mahal, Aishwarya Rai, snake charmers, elephants and maharajahs. For someone I know, born in India and brought up in the US, the chief concern was whether Bangalore had beauty salons! This as in 1998-99, after the IT boom, mind you! Oranges have worms, mineral water to wash the face, believe me, I have tolerated much. Granted India is not advanced (maybe I should put up an editorial I wrote about this issue) from the Western perspective, but come on.....!

I am in a good mood today, so let me not get US (the NRIs are the worse) bashing. Will save it up for black mood days for that extra punch!!

When I was in school, we had this exchange programme with a school in Milwaukee. Two students would come every year and work, teach and spend a few months in Madikeri. They laaaved India (typical again. Sorry, cant help slipping in a little sarcasm!) but found the idea of eating with hands disgusting. That is what I want to write about.

We Indians believe that food is just not something that is eaten to fill your stomach. It is a treat to the senses, the taste to the palate, the smell to the nose, the colours to the eyes and the feel of food to the skin. Most foods are based on these. They are not meant to be eaten with a fork and spoon. The utter joy is in breaking off a piece of dosa with just two fingers, dipping it in slurpy curry and putting it in your mouth as it melts like butter. The idea is to feel the food. Eating is an art. We have this very unique way of eating food in portions, first one type of curry, then the next, then something sweet and so on. In fact, there is a method to be followed when you serve all the dishes in a function. I had written in detail about this too, will post it when I go home next (hope I remember!)

The best thing about eating with your hand is the smell that stays on long after you have washed your hand. There have been many days when I smelt my hand and felt the taste of that food on my tongue all over again. Eating is a ritual, slowly followed, each gesture a symbol of your approval or not of the food, of the hostess. Though quite disgusting by the standards of my Book of Table Manners (I tend to be very irritated with people who slurp and burp), a person buring after a meal is supposed to mean that he or she enjoyed the food. Slurping is supposed to enhance the taste of the food!

See, this is the one thing I love about India. There is so much to learn. Life is so complexly interwoven with the intricacies of fine living. The colours, the food, the sheer variety of life, can a person ever tire of life here. They say, if you tire of India, you tire of life and I echo that. I have complaints against the West, against the government, against so many things. But in India, you are free to live. As the slogan of the consumer brand LG goes- Life's Good!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Bit of Philosophy

"Death is more universal than life;
Everyone dies, but not everyone lives."

So true isnt it? Most people are so caught up trying to simply exist that they forget the art of living (and I dont mean the Ravi Shankar way!)

You know, I used to read a lot of philosophy once, so much that ma had started to get worried. I still do like philosophy. So maybe I will just tuck in little nuggests of my wisdom ;-) here than there between posts!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Its a Simple Life

I sometimes wonder, dont we so unnecessarily complicate things in life? I mean, there is so much of beauty in the world, yet we resort to petty behaviour. I guess I am just being naive, but it miffs me to see how difficult we make things for ourself.

I was home for a week during Deepavali and got a reminder of the simple life people live. My mother and I went for long walks and I became esctatic at the sight of mist that clung lovingly to the mountains behind my house, the cold cold breeze that is very bad for the skin, the lazy cows grazing and lying royally in the middle of the road, the smiles... Now by no parameter is Madikeri a village, in fact, Konaje where my uni is, is more of a desolate place. But it was whenI was home that I realized how distant I had become from the Earth. Going home was good for me to realize what I was missing, and also to sadly acknowledge that it was only going to get worse and there was nothing I could do about it.

Anyway, we are re-modelling our garden. It looks good now with lawns and a lotus pond and plants planted in the shape of sun's rays. We have this part-time worker called Hoovanna (I have never seen a person work that well before) who loves talking. The other day, he was asking ma how people in Bangalore could be so foolish as to venture out in the rains. The issue here is that he just could not comprehend that water actually came into houses. He has no idea what a lakh or a hundred thousand people is or what a big city looks like. It is sort of.... I cant think of right word here. Human civilisation is so advanced, yet we have people who are so simple that it almost breaks my heart.

Then there is Shailaja, my maid. She is by no means simple, she has lived in Mumbai, understands a number of languages and can speak a number of them too. Her husband is a drunkard. She looks after her three girls and husband. Inspite of everything, I never fail to be amazed at her fortitude, her cheerfulness, her survival instinct. She is so chirpy that my otherwise dead silent house comes alive when she comes in for work. I was talking to her youngest kid the other day, a very precocious child. She was very excited because her parents had gone to the market and had promised to get her ice- candy. How innocent. She has never had icecream before, we, the so called rich people, take such "luxuries" for granted.

When we were working on designing the garden, these people started telling me ghost stories. Now, I dont believe in ghosts one bit. Some opine that if you believe in God, you have to believe in ghosts too. But I dont. The stories they told me were very amusing, though they believed in them absolutely. Maybe I will tell those stories some day. Today I can only reflect on their innocence.

I imagine how life would be like if they would ever have to migrate to a city. Coming from their tiny village to Madikeri is in itself a big deal for them. Life is so unfair, they are millions of deprived people, animals and people are killed for no fault of theirs. I guess the only way is not to think of them, take the easy way and look in the other direction. It would not be a simple life to feel guilty for the pleasures you enjoy, for the things that you take for granted. I think I am sounding like a communist, communism in its original form, not the politically distorted version that you see today. It is a very sensitive issue in India but I am not one. But like Che, I am seeing things that I am writing about. These are not theories I read.
Siddhartha had a way out, so did Che. I am but a prisoner to my way of life, trapped by the trappings of having to lead a live, albeit the way I want to.

Gosh, this post is so serious!!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Walking the Path of History

Let me warn you in advance that this is going to be a very sentimental piece. Okay, resume reading now! :-)

I went to my old school Kodagu Vidyalaya today. Met some teachers from the special school there (will write about that separately) and had a great time. Went to the main school and met all my old teachers.

Kodagu Vidyalaya is where I literally grew up, having studied there for nine years. It is the place where I became 'Deepa' from just another girl in the crowd. It is where I became an individual, learnt how people could be good or bad, learnt to live, to survive... The best thing was that my school never gave too much of importance to studies. It was up to us to study or not to study. Development of personality was more emphasised upon. Also the ambience was superb. The school is situated on top of a hill with a small forest around. It looks more like a resort than a school.

I walked around the school today. Every stone, every secret path that only we students knew about, every brick, every turn of the road has a memory strung through it like a little delicate flower in a chain of a long, well lived past. The basket ball court where we shed tears when we thought our team would lose, the graveyard on which we would lie on hot afternoons, just to prove we were brave. The place where we would have lunch... So many incidents! When I was walking back, it was almost as if the years had slipped by. I could actually see myself sitting there with my friends, enjoying life, growing up, having petty fights and making up, all of us with big dreams in our hearts while putting up a devil-may-care attitude up front!

The year I left my school, my Principal Mr Shreedhara Murthy (a very very interesting man) had asked me to write an article about my years in the school. I did write but like then, even now I find it impossible to condense nine years into a few hundred words. Memories are too precious for that. My school is a part of my history, my past that has shaped my today. So much of what I am today is because of the kind of upbringing I had both at home and in school.

Someone recently described me as a maverick (I took that as a compliment!). My school did that to me. It taught me some of the most important lessons I know today, and that does not include academics. Something I wrote in that article seems appropriate here: '...When I reach the last station in my journey of life, I will only look back, reminiscence and say to KV, Thank You.'

PS- This morning I had written this post very well. The nostalgia was fresh in my mind and the words just flew. But just before I could publish the post, something went wrong and the entire matter vanished. Technology sucks! This piece is not as good as I wanted it to be.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sirigannadam Gelge!

Today is a special day. It was exactly 50 years ago in 1956 that the state of Karnataka was formed as per the Reorganisation of States Act 1956. Every year, November 01 is celebrated as Kannada Rajyotsava. We usually get a holiday and in school we had to go and take part in marches and stuff. It is not really as big a deal as Independence Day and has been reduced to empty protocol but its a nice feeling to celebrate Kannada. The post title above hails Kannada too.

Today is also the second day of Deepavali, the festival of lights. The festival is one of the most important in Hindu tradition. It is largely a festival to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. There are actually a lot of stories, a lot of versions as to why it is celebrated. Like everything Indian, it is too complex to explain, too beautiful to describe.

Basically, Deepavali is a three-day festival. On all days, at dusk, we lit little mud lamps and decorate the house. Sadly, gross plastic lamps and candles are replacing these but they are the most beautiful for their delicate nature. We burst a lot of crackers (I dont. Its been years since I did that. Too noisy, other personal reasons.) as a celebration of life.

We are supposed to wake up at the crack of dawn and take an oil bath. The day is spent in feasting, an integral part of Indian festivals, prayers, card games (This is a tradition only in the northern parts of India, we dont follow it.) and crackers. There is no particular God that we ought to worship though cows, so sacred in India, are worshipped on the day of go-pooje. Deepavali is more of celebrating life than anything spiritual.

The Deepas or lamps are the most important part. I get my name from them. These lamps are not just to bring light in a dark place. On a higher level, these are lamps of knowledge that are lit through education and life (to a large extent) to dispel the darkness of ignorance! Earlier, no house could be without a lamp around a tulsi plant after dusk. Such beautiful traditions have been eaten away by the trappings of modernity.

So, here is wishing you all a very Happy Deepavali. May the lamps of prosperity, love, happiness and health always burn in your lives.

Deepavaliya Shubhashayagalu!


San Nakji had a baby and he is simply adorable! This gave me the idea to put up my pics too.
The photos look much better than when they are scanned. Somehow the above dont look very clear.

I was a very chubby kid. (Thankfully not anymore!) The first photo was taken in my present room at home.
The second one was taken in our estate. The white flowers are coffee flowers. After blooming and giving out a divine smell, the coffee beans are formed.
This second picture makes ma laugh hysterically every time she sees it. What happened was she had taken me to this person to get my hair cut. The concept of beauty parlours were not much in vogue then. That person showed her a poster with different hairstyles and said that he would do a 'step cut'. It turned out that he had no clue what he was up to and I came out near bald!!
Dumb story but my parents and all my cousins somehow love it. At every family gathering, my baby pics come out, the same old stories are told (there are many, I was sort of the family entertainer! There is even a tape!) and everyone laughs like its the first time they are hearing it! Highly embarrassing!