Archive for August, 2015

The perfection of creation

August 30, 2015

I decided to take a close up of a dragonfly:


What complexity there is, in those eyes, and those wing parts, which allow the insect to hover motionless in the air, or zip along at great speed!

Creation, and creatures, are amazing at all scales.

Oorvasi, and Koopsie, STL, 230815

August 24, 2015

Here’s the original song:

and here’s the version by the Enright Ave Dance’n’song Band (K2 calls it Koopsie!)

Do not miss the enjoyment of the audience!

For luck, maybe?

August 23, 2015

When he comes down to breakfast/ Be it eggs, or toast/ He hopes it’s good, and so/He has his fingers crossed! STL, 200815. (I really don’t know why he does this so often.)


Power and light, STL, 140815

August 21, 2015

We worship power, but we need to see the light, too!


What would you do?

August 20, 2015

Would you light up my life
In many glowing facets?
Would you turn bits of my days
To gold?
Or would being with you show me
The holes in the fabric of my existence,
The black doubts
That riddle my mind?
Would I shine
Or would I feel the shadows
When I’m with you?


Walk around a pond, 120815

August 15, 2015

A wanted to take K1 and K2 to play, and so we went to

Lewis Park

While the children played, I just walked along the edge of the small pond there, and found enough to keep me riveted.f

The founatin


and the Cycling Goldfish


started me off, but I noticed these beautiful dragonflies:



There was also this water beetle (at least, that’s what I think it was) which was tough to capture because it would keep zipping to and fro:




solitary hunter wasp

was looking for a place for its nest, or for prey to stun:


There was death, too, in the pond, where this dragonfly had met a watery end.


Cicadas had left their old selves at the edge of the pond


The very grass was beautiful.


Monarch butterflies were migrating:


Meanwhile, one mammal had decided to get water from the level most suitable…


As the mosquitoes got active, we left the park to the cycling fish.


Sarada Lakshminarayanan, my mother’s younger sister.

August 15, 2015

Letter to my cousin, Guru:

Sarada Chitthi got independence from her life on earth, on this
day…thinking of her many talents. I remember how she managed crowds
of relatives who were houseguests all the time, and a large number of
domestic help, too….she was as good as any corporate manager!
Managing the family politics was also something she was very good at.
(It used to scare me to death, and still does.)

She had excellent musical “gyaanam”, too, like your father; but sadly,
in those days, the Semmangudi paani was considered “superior” to MS
(“manodharmam poraathu!” your father would say) and she willingly took
a subordinate role. I remember that on the sashti abda poorthi day,
Chitthappa was given a garland of two-rupee notes, and she was given
one of one-rupee notes! This subordinate status was something that was
accepted, but she was the undisputed queen of her home.

She created a home where so many people gravitated, first at 88 and
then at 51.I can never think of just the 5 of you as a family; it was
always an entity inclusive of Meenu Mami (I often think what a tough
life she must have had before your parents offered her a home),
Suppini Mama, Su Mama, and all the rest of what we used to call the
“Nagapattinam kudumbam”.

She had so many interests. She would write to many of the political
leaders of the day. I remember her letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, saying,
“You are the ‘jawahar’ born to the ‘moti’…” I also remember a list
of “mani”s that she had, a list of names that ended in “mani” and
their translations; eg. “Jayamani= Victory Bell”. She dubbed her
tailor “Kuttravaali” because whenever she would point out a mistake in
his work, he’d say, “Naan kuttravaali illeenga”. She had a strong
sense of humour…and an earthy one that was not restricted by undue

I have very faint memories of the one year Chitthi and Chittappa spent
in Kolkata, before coming back to Madras for good. I also feel that
they had one of the happiest marriages I have seen.

Oh well…the pages of time flutter by, and memories fade….I realize
that now we, who were young and watched our elders, are now the elders
who can tell stories of the past (and bore everyone to death!). Just
thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.

Thoughts about financial hardship

August 13, 2015

Discussions about hardship and privilege (of the financial kind) remind me of the story about poverty, written by one little girl from a well-to-do family. “Everyone in the family was poor. The father was poor. The mother was poor. The children were poor. The butler was poor. The maid was poor. The gardener was poor.” It took me quite a while to realize, coming from India, that a family could be dirt poor in the US while owning a car, a TV set, and a phone. These material possessions spell prosperity in India.

A friend was appalled to hear that well-to-do people in big cities in India are used to several hours of unscheduled power cuts per day–in the villages, there might not be power for several days; that I cannot follow any bus timings, because there just aren’t any, and one must maximize on opportunities, because there are hardly any.

KM was interviewing candidates, and things were running very late. After he finished with one candidate, the young man asked, “Can I go home now? My father died this morning.” Shocked, KM asked, “But then, why did you come for the interview?” “Sir…I need the job, especially now that my father is no more,” said the young man quietly. There are people in my country who would call that young man privileged because he is living with his family in the big city and not in a poverty-ridden village. Financial privilege (well, other kinds too) is relative to the baseline we take.

Parthasarathy Vilas: a recent video, and some nostalgia

August 12, 2015

My nephew (cousin’s son), Rakesh Raghunathan, is a very versatile person; he is, amongst other things, the “sutradhar” for

Recently, one episode that was featured from ThiruvAnaikkOvil (near TiruchirApaLLi) was this one:

This was shot in an eatery called “Parthasarathy Vilas”, which is on the outer perimeter of the very famous JambukEswara/SivakAmasundari temple in the town.

My own connection with Parthasarathy Vilas is something that Rakesh may not know.

When my parents shifted to Kolkata from Kumbhakonam and Nagaipattinam, in 1949 or so, they employed a young man called Mani to cook for them. This was because the family was talented at this; indeed, the young man’s elder brother, Parthasarathy, had set up an eponymous eatery in 1943.

However, as my mother hosted many musicians who came to Kolkata to give concerts, it was increasingly apparent that Mani was very keen on pursuing a career in music, especially basing his music on that of our family friend,

Madurai Mani Iyer

who had a very distinctive style of vocal rendition, especially swaraprasthAram, in which he avoided the “ga-ri-sA-ni-dha” mathematical “theermAnam” at the end of swarams, but would have a rollicking, rhythmically appealing style.

So, very soon, off went Mani, back to ThiruvAnaikkA (as it is popularly called), where he set up in business with his elder brother, and also with him, started giving many Carnatic music concerts in and around the area.

Whenever my parents and I (and in later years, my husband, daughter and I) visited Tiruchi, and went to the temple, we always made it a point to visit Parthasarathy Vilas. Mani was like a younger brother to my mother, and indeed, even his nephew (featured above in the video, sitting at the “kallA” or money counter, where the proprietor traditionally sits) extended warm hospitality to us the last time we visited. Then, as now, the “ghee roast” was the speciality of the house.

Let me describe a visit to Parthasarathy Vilas. It was a large, rambling house; one would enter the front porch and come to the place where Rakesh meets the proprietor. There were more rooms inside, lit only by the dim sunlight filtering in through small skylights in the roof. Large wooden tables with marble tops and benches were where patrons would sit, and I cannot forget the cupboards let into the age-old, smoke-darkened, thick walls.

A washbasin was fitted later; before this, one would wash one’s hands at the “mittham” (open courtyard in the middle) and then sit down. Food was always served on plaintain leaves, and it was brought in from the very large kitchen where firewood was the fuel, as you can see in this video.

After we had the darshanam of AkhilAndEswari at the temple, we would go around the “mAda veethi” (roads surrounding the four walls of the temple) and would enter the “hotel” as eateries are called in Tamil Nadu.

After the mandatory ghee roast, which I personally could never like very much, as I couldn’t digest it (or elai sAppAdu if it was dinner time) we would go to Mani’s home, where he would sing, and I would, too. My brother’s talent on the mridangam was as much a source of pride for Mani as it was for my mother!

These vignettes came flooding back when I watched the video above…thank you, Rakesh, for unlocking one of the pleasant memories from my childhood and the many visits I’ve made even after I grew up and married! (I think our last visit was in the 90’s some time…I cannot remember.)

I’m glad to know that Parthasarathy Vilas is still going strong. May the eateries of our small towns continue to provide good food for decades to come!

What lies behind the facade?

August 12, 2015


Forest Park, 110815.

Appearances can be deceptive.

न जाने हसीं के पीछे कितने आँसू पिए जा रहे हैं
न जाने दिल पे कितने भोज उठाए जा रहे हैं
न जाने कितने दर्दों पर होंठ सीए जा रहे हैँ
न जाने कितने मुश्किलों को छुपाकर बस यूँही जिए जा रहे हैं….

(Perhaps, behind the smile, tears are being shed
Perhaps, within the heart, loads are being borne
Perhaps, swallowing hurt, lips are tightly sealed
Perhaps, hiding difficulties, life is being lived….)