Aug 30, 2005

The Two Mrs. Nairs

Those of you, who have seen the Vanitha women's magazine, must be familiar with the last page cartoon strip about a pompous house-wife called Mrs. Nair. This post however, has nothing to do with that character. This post is my tribute to two ladies who make my 'Sun'days in an otherwise bleak Raipur.

I'm talking about Srikant's and Shrijith's mother's. They are the silver linings in clouds of home-sickness that form around me while I'm in Raipur. They are my stomach's hope when it rumbles in protest against the food served at the HNLU Mess. They are the closest I get to a mother, quite like my own, despite being in Raipur.

I am at my jolly best when I'm on a visit to any one of the Nair homes. They happen to be my favourite hangouts in Raipur. I start cracking my best jokes the moment any of these houses come into sight. A smile takes over the major part of my otherwise gloomy face. My mouth waters at the thought of the good Kerala style food that would be awaiting me at the Nair home. Cloud Nine never felt this great.

I step in there and greet the Lady of the House with a smile, enquiring whether everything's fine. They smile back and enquire the same of me, in that infinitely concerned tone which God seems to have specially given to mothers. I am hugely comforted by those smiles. It is the closest thing to Mummy that I'll experience before my paroles, once in every six months. Then I sit down to conversation with the Mr. Nair, while Mrs. Nair goes to the kitchen to finish the preparation she's made, I'd like to think, especially for me. Though she be not in the room, the absence is covered by the aroma that emanates from the kitchen.

In about 5 minutes, I am only just keeping the saliva form dripping. Then she re-enters, inviting me to the dining room and to the feast she's prepared for me. Again the motherliness of the whole thing deeply comforts me. An expectant me enters the dining room to the sight of steaming rice on plaintain leaves set on the table, frilled on the sides with the varied Pachdi's and Kichdi's, Erisseries and Pulisseries, Aviyals and Theeyals and all those sadya mandatories. I forget washing my hands and fail hopelessly in trying not to be in a hurry. But Mrs. Nair understands all this, and starts serving.

The feast begins! This could be heaven for all I know! She urges me to eat more. Motherly intuition tells her its time for more sambhar or pappadam. She asks me whether the food is good. I reply incomprehensibly, owing to the enormous amount of choru mixed with sambhar, moru and pulisseri and pappadam in my mouth. In about 15 mins, my stomach is a balloon. Mrs. Nair brings on the Payasam. Do I say no? No! I take extra helpings with renewed vigour!

I would thank Shrijith and Srikant for selflessly introducing these wonderful ladies to me. I would pay my tribute to the two Mrs. Nairs for being what they have been to me. With them around, it's Onam everyday!

Aug 25, 2005

Dirty Details

When I came back from Australia, silverine asked me to give the dirty details. Many posts hence, since I've got nothing better to talk about, I'll give you one especially dirty detail.
I would not have told it to you then... but I guess it's ok now. I won't go back there again... I'm sure the past will not catch up on me again!

That morning our rounds were scheduled in the early morning session. That meant we had to catch the CityRail at 7:10am. As luck would have it, we woke up at only around 6:40am. It was a time for sacrifices and I wholeheartedly sacrificed the cold-shower to my team-mates. My sacrifice just about did the trick and we ran into the 7:10 CityRail just as the doors were closing. Whew!

After a very good morning session, we started feeling hungry (breakfast was another sacrifice we made). We went to a nice place called Australia Square where we had the Sydney kind of breakfast. Halfway through the hamburger, my stomach reminded me that there was one another thing I sacrificed early morning... My mandatory biological waste disposal! The pressure was enormous (heavy supper the night before) and I had to do something!

Not to worry! After all this was Australia, where cleanliness is a way of life! That meant the public toilets were also bound to be clean (contrasted from Pay and Use ones in Rlwy Stations in India)! So I made my way to the sign for gents toilet (swear, didn't glance at the open ladies' door), smiling at everyone (they all seemed so accomplished) on the way.
I opened the door and lo and behold, the king among toilets I'd ever seen! Spirits rising, I opened a cubicle and sat down to bliss!
(I'll leave you guys to imagine what bliss could've been!)

Now comes the dirtiest part of the story! I finish my task and look around for water to clean myself. Horror of Horrors! Terror of Terrors! There isn't any water anywhere, except under me! The horrible truth dawned upon me! This was Australia, where people didn't like water the way we did in Kerala! They'd rather not get wet, what with the cold climate and all! Precisely for this purpose them westerners (aquaphobics) had invented the Tissue Paper!

My eyes searching desperately, fell upon a roll of this thing, Tissue Paper! No... Oh no! There has to be another way! Maybe I could just rush out and get myself some water from the basin outside! Not that... Don't wanna get caught with my pants down in Australia! Another way... another way... Give up!

I reluctantly submitted myself to the imperialists' designs and wiped myself with the tissue paper. I tidy myself and come out of the cubicle. All ok, except for the dirty, slimy, sticky, sleazy feeling in between my legs! It gives chills up my legs! It affects the way I walk! I'm all self-conscious and unsmiling as I open the door... I walk the corridor out, the guy who's got a world of trouble between his legs... an odd one out in a place where others come with troubled stomachs and leave with a sense of blissful accomplishment!

I reach the end of the corridor (jumping to avoid the open door at the ladies'), and as the noise of the crowd hit me, there in the middle of all those foreigners in Down Under, I realized i had another reason to be proud of my country... We've got water in our toilets!

And hey, my stomach wasn't troubling me anymore! That's what mattered after all! I'd achieved what my teammates could never dream of achieving! That's Padayatty! I gain the accomplished look that missed me on the corridor! I smile!

P.S. I did the same thing two more times in different places in Sydney and one time on the aeroplane! I believe I can venture to call myself an expert 'tissue culturist'!

Aug 11, 2005

'The Rising' Early Morning For 'Mangal Pandey'

Well, believe it or not, but when all my friends back home in Kerala have just made it to the queue outside whatever theatre Amir Khan's much awaited movie Mangal Pandey - The Rising is being released, Padayatty is back online to blog his review of the movie! For once Raipur was of some use to me. It so happens that, the first show on the release date of any movie is at 5:00am in the morning. What do you say to that, eh?

An Amir Khan movie coming after such a long gap, especially when his last two movies (DCH, Lagaan) had endeared us so much to him, is bound to create the kind of madness that would cause blind fans like me to get to the cinema hall at any unearthly hour, even if the chances of getting any tickets were virtually non-existent. Despite these odds, me and a few other crazy guys (Achu, Sherin, Shrijith & Tapan) decided the gamble was worth a try, and stayed awake the whole night, and found ourselves an auto (with help from Sandeep Agarwal, my dear friend and junior), only to find at the cinema hall(3:50am) a battalion of fans crazier than us, who had camped overnight and were already in queue for the tickets! Tough luck. We'd have turned back not wishing to get trampled to death so far away from home, if it had not been for Sandeep who found someone on the queue who was willing to go to any limits to make sure that we got some tickets, if, we would give him a commission for his troubles. This was a better option than the stampede!(4:15am)

Time moved slowly as all of us waited, keeping an eye on our benefactor so that he wouldn't turn traitor. Meanwhile, people were doing all sorts of things to get to the front of the queue. They were all scared away by a guy with a lathi who kept waving it viciously, ocassionaly poking the odd guy who tried climbing to the roof of the ticket counter, or the guys sitting on top of the grilled corridor on the last lap to the ticket counter( they looked like monkeys). In between, one guy with his hair styled like Amitabh Bachchan(man did he look funny?) kept waving at the crowd below, from the roof of the theatre where he had somehow got to!

In between all these funny going ons and close shaves from being beaten with the lathi, we lost our benefactor in the crowd. But, there he was returning from the counter, beaming all over after having accomplished his mission. We grabbed the tickets and get on the queue for entering the hall.(5:00am) Here too a stampede is on. We wonder what the hurry is for as the show has not started yet. It is only after we make our way into the theatre that we find the reason.

The talkies people have sold more tickets than the total seats available. We see a crowd of people spilled all over the theatre, some standing on the chairs, some standing diretly in front of the projector hole projecting obscene gestures onto the screen. Well, what the heck... we got this far from nowhere, what's to standing andwatching the movie.

And so it was that my good friends and I, stood through the whole 3 hour long movie, dedicating our pains maybe to the spirit of fanhood!


Mangal Pandey - The Rising is the story of a man who probably was India's first ever martyr and freedom-fighter. A man about whom we have heard mentions in History classes as the man who started off the First War Of Indian Independence, but unfortunately about whom we do not know any further. A man who awakened to the possibility of being free during a period of ignorance that had blanketed the country. A man deserving to be equal in stature of any of the much filmed freedom fighters, but who till 'The Rising' has not. An unknown hero in a nation that loves its heroes. Ketan Mehta with his Mangal Pandey - The Rising pays tribute to this man and martyr, in an attempt to belatedly give this great his due.

The movie tells the story of the friendship between Capt. Gordon, an officer in the British East India Company and Mangal Pandey an ordinary Indian Sepoy who saved Gordon's life while at war in Afghanistan. They wrestle each other to tide over their differences, they get drunk together to play pranks on the bad Briton(i think he's the Smith guy from Lagaan), save damsels in distress from the sati pyre's, during the course of their at odds friendship, which as Mangal says is because of their skin-colour.

Mangal takes his trusted friend's word and bites off the rumoured-to-be-greased-catridges, forcing his fellow sepoys also to use the catridges. But later they find out that the rumour was not a rumour. This coupled with earlier incidents like the time when he had to shoot at agitated Indian villagers, causes Mangal to see the true colour of the Company.

When the Company fails to give due regard to the sentiments of the sepoys, they decide not to use the greased catridges anymore. An angry Company general threatens to shoot them. Mangal marches forward and stands in front of a cannon. This does the trick and the dissent starts spreading. Soon dissent spreads to other batallions. The soldiers take over the Company arsenal. The proud generals still do not gauge the seriousness of the situation. They try attacking the rebel sepoys, but end up having to turn back.

The sepoys from this point on see that they have it in them to be free. Mangal speaks of a government of the people to the visiting kings, who want their help in a all India struggle against the Company. They plan to launch all their attacks together and end it with a capture of the Red Fort.

The Company is also not keeping low. They divert a regiment from Rangoon towards India, which arrives earlier than anticipated by the Sepoys. The Sepoys all run away frightened, leaving a determined Mangal Pandey to take his stand against the Company's vast army. After firing a few shots Mangal shoots himself, in the hope that his blood would at least spark a revolt. Though Mangal survived, he was sentenced to death despite passionate arguments by Cap. Gordon on his behalf.

Mangal Pandey is hanged to death in front of a crowd of villagers. At Mangal's death the people awake to their power and the rest is what we Indians call the First War Of Indian Independence.

The music by A. R. Rahman is nowhere near the magic he's known for. The Mangal Mangal song raised spirits in the theatre. Me Vairi Vairi was also ok. The background music was at places western style and not quite fit for the scenes.

All the actors did their job well. But Amisha Patel still has to learn to cry.

The direction is not anything superb. So's the script. The movie has nothing artistic about it either. With respect to playing to the masses, instead of concentrating on patriotic moments and spirit dialogues, lots of time is wasted on the bollywoodkind of sex. Totally unnecessary. Some of the songs felt like planted without purpose. The climax, where the emotions should have been upped, was video footage of Mahatma Gandhi leading the masses and Nehru lifting the National Flag. That's not the way Lagaan ended... That's why it felt so good after coming from the cinema hall after that one!

Despite this, I liked the scenes where he faces the Britons alone, where he stands in front of the canon fearlessly and the one where he twirls his moustache at the Court Martial.

Verdict: Not up to the hype! Watchable, but nothing great to report.
Padayatty Rating: 2/5

Aug 6, 2005

Books and Padayatty!

I am a bookaholic! My parents imbibed in me a good reading habit, which has not left me till today. Started with Grimm Brothers and folk tales, then abridged versions of the classics; Tintin, Asterix, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha in between; Enid Blyton... then the 18-till-they-die Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (that was a race for who among frinds would complete the whole list first)... mention Three Investigators and Sherlock Holmes; then onto the Best-seller Paperbacks (John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon and the list goes on...); I was into the wonderful world of books, reading at least 2 books a week till I reached the 10th class.

Then on, other masculine and teenage distractions affected my reading habit. Though I have not given up on it, the number of books I read, has been minimum in the last four or five years. But I read most of the books that I consider my favourites, during these years.

Vacations was the time for reading. After roaming all around the city with friends the whole day, I would read late into the night some book I took from the Eloor Lending Library. Now that I have mentioned it, I might as well commend Eloor for being a very good library for fiction lovers, who cannot afford to buy New York Times Best Sellers with their hefty price tags (guess most Indians belong to that list). The Loyola School library was another place where my list of 'books I read' grew long. Another factor contributing to my interest in books, was certain people around me who were as excited as I was to discuss books; my sister Neena; my best friend Faiz Ali Mohammad, who I concede, defeated me in Hardy Boys, though I suspect he only read the summary given on the cover and the last chapter!


Angeline's been bombing me with tags! Been delaying it for no reason at all (read lazy)... so here goes my book tag!

1. Total number of books owned: Well, I come from a middle-class family, which is rich when it comes to bookish wealth. I don't think I can make any sort of guess as to the number of books owned. I personally own very few books (me and my sister got no mine's, only ours!).

2. Last book bought: Don't tell this to anybody because the last book I bought was a xerox copy of the Half-Blood Prince (bourgeoise publishers down! the proles need all the fanatasy they can get!).

3. Last book read: Same as above. Was lucky to find a copy(actually) in bloody Raipur!

4. Books that mean a lot to me:

1. Catcher In The Rye - Describes a state of mind I often find myself in! I face 'em phonies everyday, and I sure have a soft-corner (not the self-righteous take-you-to-heaven-with-me kind) for 'losers' as the conventional world calls them.

2. Catch-22 - Yossarian says they're all shooting at him. Somebody corrects that to they're shooting at everybody. Yossarian asks, in all simplicity, what the difference is! That's what Catch-22 means for me. My favourite anti-hero(conventional sense) deciding to live life for himself, forgetting country and all the liars who churnout Catch-22's so that simpletons like me and Yossarian end up dead for some cause which is not there!

3. To Kill A Mockingbird - My favourite hero, who decides to make a stand for what he thinks is right, when the society at large persecutes him. He becomes a role model for his young children, revealing to them and conditioning them to live by what their heart says is right in a world so wild. If I ever be a father, I'd be modeled on my own Papa and Atticus Finch! Also probably at the back of my decision to join law school.

4. Swami And Friends - I read this one long back. The friendship and the innocence of the boys felt very Indian and close to my own. Swami is just like me. He wastes time just before the examinations drawing up elaborate lists of things he might need while preparing for the exams. He edits and re-edits them and ends up getting very few of the items in his painstakingly made list. A wannabe organised guy, who loses himself in the finer details! I too have done the same things. Preparing schedules for my study leaves, which included minor details like the paragraphs in the books I had to study, tea-breaks, stretch-breaks. By the time I had finished the first schedule, I would be late by at least ten minutes on the grand opening. This meant another list. Poor Mummy has thrown enough schedules into the waste-basket!

6. Franny and Zooey - I'll do it for fat-lady! I recognize Jesus's presence in every individual, howsoever irritating they might be. For that reason, I might even put up with them! Salinger's style of writing definitely influenced me a lot (The bracket syndrome)!

7. Animal Farm - Helps me bear HNLU Farm! Enlightens me on how the majority of the people are, how they forget the past very easily. I loved the cynic, Benjamin the donkey, whose world view is probably best!

8. A Christmas Carol - Tells me not to go the Scrooge way. It's the spirit of Christmas for me!

That's all I can think of now!

Now, as the tag must go on, here's to...

Achu, Adarsh, Anjali, Anish, Anurag, Debanshu, Jiby, Madhvi, Praveen and Vishnu.


Don't expect to borrow any books from me... I chew and digest them!