Friday, November 13, 2015

Attempting dialogue

on Women's rights almost always leads to whataboutery. "What about women who file false dowry harassment cases, false rape cases", etc. etc. etc.
While I sympathise with the family and the persons involved in such false cases, the harassment when someone is wrongly legally victimized, in my opinion, should not be gender sensitive. 

There aren't enough women in politics. Not enough girls in schools. Still not enough girls remain in wombs. Those who survive are malnourished. Not many women in the boards of huge corporates. The average woman still makes 60% less for the same job, qualification, experience than a man. (I can send the data if you like. I got the data during the mentorship program). Women owning lands, property are still a minuscule minority.  The numbers are scary even in 2015. Rape cases, I am inclined to believe has thankfully found more reportage though the crime itself is nothing to be proud of. I wonder if there is a sudden surge in incidents or if there have always been as many cases but the women and their families come out to lodge complaints only now. However, the number of rape cases in countries like the US far outnumber India's. 

I often receive this advice about not to tweet about 'serious' issues being someone involved in the film industry. It will affect my 'image' they'd say. I was told, I should be tweeting about make-up (which sadly horde and not use), cute puppies (I do tweet about) and other 'fluff'. More fluff, less serious. More girl, less feminist, I am advised. 

Though it is difficult for me to be this 'fluffy' person on social media or otherwise, I got a tweet the other day advising I must put an end to this "over feminism". I fail to understand what "over feminism" is.

So many of us don't read much, don't listen enough to others PoV, have a frail idea about history (which also involves reading conflicting accounts, coz as someone remarked, history is what some historians agree upon) and a lack of curiosity / inquisitiveness on various things. Weren't we all curious as children? When did latent curiosity die to lame acceptance of what is shoved down our ears and packed into our grey cells?

Today, the average man reacts negatively to a woman who tweets her opinion on an issue that is assumed to be in the man's domain. He reacts negatively to a woman's tweet on getting unwanted attention with "Oh, she is doing this for more attention". However this is not just a man's problem. I have seen women react similarly. "She is asking for it" is used way too often. 

Why is feminism a bad word? Why do so many react negatively to it? Men like Jyotirao Phule and Mahakavi Bharathiyar were examples of early feminists but sadly, not many men chose to follow their footsteps. If they had, perhaps India today would have been an example on the equal society many believe is utopian. Someday perhaps. Someday.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


brings some memories from not too long ago flooding into my head. To put things mildly, there have been Deepavalis when the perfect festival was but a dream, a faraway one it seemed at that time. But now, those days seem like yesterday. Time is a strange thing. The passage of time, even more so. 

There was one Deepavali when, for the first time, mom could finally get me the crackers that we wished I could buy. And I went crazy bursting a small bucketful of those. I later gave up bursting them due to a campaign in school. 

Paatti had a way of wrapping some money in a paper->rubberband->plastic cover-> rubberband-> purse-yellow bag-> which would be knotted to the handlebar of my cycle. I would cycle back home with it. 

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like for thatha who, I am told, lead a pretty luxurious life until he lost his lands, to seeing his daughter/s go through pretty tough times. One lost her husband to cancer. The other to divorce. He was most worried about my mom coz she didn't have a job, that gave her a salary each month; or one that he understood.. They were supportive. 

Today, I wish I could bring my grandparents back together, for one day. Take them out on a drive. Maybe take them abroad. My thatha wouldn't really fall in the category of being a good looking man at all. But he had such 'gethu' in my opinion. Suave, had a splendid way of speaking English and a tremendous bearing. My grandma was the exact opposite. '3aam claas padicha Alamu' as she used to call herself. Knew zero English. And had not much clue about things like finesse and the like also didn't bother learning about them :)

But she was my mom when my own was absent working to put food on the plate. 

When I met my grandma a couple of years before she died, she told me that rarely, on our way to my school in Bombay she'd often wonder what it'd be like to fall in the wayside well and end the misery that was her life, but would be reminded of my hand holding on to hers and that she could do no such thing. Plus the usual 'Perumaal othukka maattaar' etc etc. Must have been very tough for her. They never really see me or mom do well, at least according to their definition. 

And today, I wish they could see us. Wish I could take them out. Wish I could get her, her favourite aaranji mittai. Wish I could take thatha on a lovely walk, in London perhaps. He walked at a pace and gait that would put a 20 year old to shame, even well into his late 80-s. Until one day he fell down the stairs and it rendered him immobile. His insistence on not letting anyone watch anything on the TV until his news was over. Something we all cribbed about. He'd have a field day today with all the news channels screaming for attention, this would have been his 'kid in the candy store' moment. Would have loved to hear his account of his involvement in the freedom struggle and how he produced a movie that never released and who the actors were. 

Someday, on the other side, I hope I ll get to know that they were watching us.. From somewhere. 

Miss them terribly. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

American Express India (Credit Card) and they perhaps hire trained rowdies for bill collection :)

So here is an experience with American Express India that I need to talk about. 

Several months ago I had made a high value transaction *and* made the full payment into the card through NEFT. For some random reason that both my bank and AMEX haven't been able to explain, that payment had returned into my bank account and I didn't realize that my payment has returned, thinking one of the cheques I had deposited, has been credited. (Who ever heard of a payment made into a credit card returning into one's own account?)  

In addition, my AMEX card showed a zero balance for months and have received bills to that effect that there was a zero balance. I primarily use my card to make payments to translators. (AMEX is a card that doesn't get accepted by several merchants in Chennai either because their fee is too high or some vendors, like a local grocery store that is famous for serving expats, have not had their claims settled for several months)

After about 5 months from this said incident AMEX calls to say I need to make they I need to make the payment again and after several rounds of verifying with the bank and AMEX we sorted this out.

Now, there are times that my travel keeps my away from Chennai and I had told these guys that they need to give me an extended period by when I can make they payment into the card and where I am happy to pay the late fee. Simply because by the time the OTP arrives on the phone while you are roaming the prescribed 180 seconds are over. Sometimes overseas concert schedules last over 2 months away from India. I had explained my circumstances to the man dealing with us from AMEX when he was selling us the card. Plus my mother travels with me and no one other than her or I handles my financial transactions. 

It is unfortunate (in this context) that I developed a sort of a soft corner for the company, even though this card has insanely high fees plus doesn't get accepted at most merchants (even online) because I got mentored by AMEX for my US State Dept / Fortune program in NYC a few years ago and 

It just so happened that AMEX sent a typical rowdy type guy home to because my credit card bill was overdue. Not to mention he had an amazing style of using expletives to ask us to pay the bill. 

I hear there is a court order that credit card companies cannot hire people like this but since this is India, who cares about court orders?

Now that I am on terra firma, I cannot wait to end the relationship with AMEX. Severely disappointed and hassled, to say the least. So yes, stay away if you could, from AMEX cards (India).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shanthi Panchakam

Here is my rendition of Shanti Pancakam.

There were a few tracks I wanted to release and the Shanti Pancakam is the first of the few.

Credit due to Mr Hari Tirumalai who very kindly corrected the Sanskrit pronunciations.

Recorded at Seed Studios, Chennai
Sound Engineer - Hafeez
Music Produced by Prashanth Techno
Mixed and Mastered by Navneeth Balachanderan of TheRedPencilCompany
If you wish to buy, it is available on this link

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Association with House of Talent

Things have been great on the work front lately and this blog is an announcement to announce my association with House of Talent. 

I have heard a lot of people in the recent past complain that they are unable to reach me when it comes to work, especially with regard to concerts. It also came to our notice that there are touts of sorts who charge insane amounts of money, without any authorization from our part to just share contact details for professional purposes.

Hoping this would put an end to all that. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The aaranji mittaai.

Alamelu alias Jayalakshmi. Sometime if we wanted to make fun of her, we'd call her Boguloor Jayam. A lady who hadn't gone to school past 4th standard. Or maybe 3rd. I am not too sure right now. Someone who wasn't a great cook at all. Yet, I loved her watery sambars. It was a standard joke in our family - when we'd remark that the rasam wasn't good that day (or any dish for that matter),  pat came her response "Yaen dee... nannaa dhaane di panninaen"? As if something had magically gone wrong between the time she had finished cooking and brought it to the dining table. 

My Paati. I hadn't seen her with teeth at all. I remember her toothless, baby-like grins. And when anyone in the family came home angry, upset, or anything on those lines, her standard response would be "saadhatha kalandhu vaaila adaicha seriya poidum". Feed the anger. Feed the sadness. Basically feed and there shall be happiness. I remember the time we all sat around her in a semi circle and she would give food on our hands. It required very special talent to have rasam saadham that way. 

She was married to my very suave, english speaking, regal-in-bearing sort of a man in my grandfather when she was 10 or 12. Theirs was a mismatch in every way. But their marriage lasted their entire lifetime. My grandfather died at 92. Until then he'd keep calling out to her "Adiyaaaayyyyy" and she'll respond, "varennaaaaaaa". She was as tired or old as he was. But unlike any of the women of her generation or her age, she didn't wish to die a sumangali. She always said no one would be able to cope with the demands of thatha other than her. "I'd rather die after him", she'd say. I think she probably had a true vacation in life only after he passed on. I could never talk to her much after thatha's demise as she was sent soon after to my uncle, having harbored the wish very typical of her generation - to die in her son's hands. My greatest regret was none of us were allowed to see her for the last time. Each family has their share of quirky members. It was a different story that I had never known my mama. He was always referred to. I never got to really see him until my grandfather died. And he didn't inform any of us when paaati died. Several things in life can never be explained. 

While growing up, when mom was struggling at several levels for several things, my paati was my mother. Mom used to say that I used to refer to paati as amma and mom as "Padmasini". And to this day, I can never figure out how she managed with a child who spoke only marathi. I cannot figure out how she took me to school and brought me back in a city like Bombay. 

I remember one day, she excitedly told me that she now reads Chemistry and Biology. I was like what??!!!!! And I asked her how, because she spoke no English. The one thing she could manage was "see dooooooun". This was her version of "sit down" if she tried to show off her skills to a visitor and then follow it up with a pretty proud smile. I tried to teach her the a b c d-s when she was in her 70s perhaps. So, when her announcement came to me about Chemistry and biology I was curious to know how she suddenly learnt so much and what I'd missed. Turned out she could now identify the difference between the Chemistry and Biology textbooks my cousin had. "C-H-E-M...istry. Correct aaa?" she'd ask. "Bi-law-gy. Uh?"

She was definitely not someone you could define as matriarchal. The best fit would be 'paavam'. She had neither supra intelligence nor power to make an entire family obey her orders. She was rather the docile person who ended up being the wife of one of four brother and the willing obeyer of the family matriarch. Life wasn't kind to her really while she was younger.

By the time she was was almost 70, one of her two daughters lost her husband to cancer and the other, to divorce. 

She worried the most about my mother and I, much to the irritation of others because they believed that she prayed for and wished well for *only* for us. To the mother that she was, she saw her son and her eldest daughter employed in regular jobs, and draw a salary, whatever it may be. She never understood the concept of her other daughter's work with Music/research/documentation and she would pray that her daughter be 'settled' financially. I loved my paati more than my thatha when I was 10 or 11. I grew to love and admire thatha much later. I was alleged to be their favorite grandchild. I fell sick the most. I was in and out of hospitals for a good while when I was a child and she worried about me a lot. 

I had a song taught to me in school and I came back and sang it to her. She dutifully took down the lyrics and learnt it from me and sang it as best as she could. Thiruve en illam varuvaaye... She had a battered book where she wrote down stuff like this. She also had a pretty bad handwriting. But she taught me to read and write Tamil and made me transition from Marathi to Tamil. 

Paatti had limited desires. At least she never told me what she wanted to eat or what she liked to eat.  Or perhaps she did and I don't remember now. I didnt know where she liked to go. Nothing. But what she did like the most in the world, was the aaranji mitttai as she said it. The orange candy that one would get for probably 10 paise when I was in kindergarten. If someone asked her what she wanted, she'd say "aaranji mittaai". If my mom bought her a box of Fox candies, she'd remove every other color and keep only the orange. She said this was what she loved the most and the one sweet she could truly enjoy without teeth. I don't know why she never wore dentures though. 

A couple of days ago, I realized that my favorite, in spite of all the types of frozen yoghurts, ice creams and etc that is available today, is the orange popsicle that we used to get for 5/- but now costs 10 or 15/- depending on where we buy it from. I go on a good 10-20 km cycling expedition each day and a lot of time I go searching for the orange pop. It struck me then that I have probably carried her love for something aaranji too :) No other ice-cream, even the one that I churn myself at home gives me as much joy as the orange pop. 

It is sad I could not see for the one last time. Neither could my aunt, cousins or my mother or other relatives, so I actually have a lot of company in that misery. 

I remember her from the last conversation that we had. A video of her that I recorded on Sony Ericsson P900 that I still hold to because I couldn't download the video from the phone. 

And every time I go searching for the 10/- orange pop over the fancier stuff, I can't help but remember her toothless grin and her love for the aaranji mittaai. I wish she were here to see that we are well off today. Perhaps she knows.... my paati. Alamelu alias Jayalakshmi. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

10 years in the blogosphere

and one year of being happily married, warrants a blog, I thought. At least it is an excuse to sprinkle some water in this area which is slowly beginning to look like land that may become arid. 

Some of the things that draws us to our inner circle, especially with people that we choose to spend time with could be similar value systems. Similar ethical codes. Or mindsets. It could even be with people with whom we know we disagree on several things but still it may be a connection that we learn from, at times mutually, at times not. More so, we may be wiser, more accepting or become more self aware. 

I believe we meet people for a reason. Various people, I think fulfill a role in our lives. Including parents, siblings - people we spend significant parts of our life with and people that we did not consciously choose. (There is a metaphysical force at play when we are born into a family, some say. There is a karma theory. Past life regression practitioners vouch that our closest ties are those that repeat across lifetimes. That we choose our family and others for us to learn lessons). Friends and acquaintances. Bosses and colleagues. There is a lesson everywhere. Perhaps, in some unseen goldsmith's hand, we are all specks of gold, constantly undergoing 'sphuta' or the uncut diamond that is being chiseled till we attain the brilliance that our soul has to.

Every couple, from the beginning of their relationship may find themselves in situations that seriously tests their commitment toward each other. Whether we crumble or survive happily, God willing, to see another day together is the question.

People like me, have random people taking it upon themselves to "test how strong" our marriage is. What did I deserve for such extreme goodwill? :p Like yesterday, someone tweeted to me and tagged Rahul saying, "you are way ahead of his league. Perhaps love is the answer". I did respond asking why he would insult someone like that. Stranger responds "So is that how strong your marriage is, after all?". 

Now, I sometimes shudder to think what in the world would have happened had I married a man who was even a tad insecure. Yes, I am married only for a year. It is early days. But I see several insecure men all around me. Men who are quite successful themselves, but they really don't have it in them to accept, leave alone celebrate their spouse's success. Rahul is my one of my most indulgent audiences. So much so that my mother worries that his praising me when he listens to song of mine will get to my head and make me lackadaisical and "egotistical". 

Marriages today.. actually every relationship today is brittle. Everyone is out to disbelieve everyone else. Mistrust others. Actually there are enough people around us, well-meaning and otherwise, to blindly believe random gossip and hate someone for a crime they might not even have committed. All it takes is one spark to create a raging fire. Needle someone enough, keep needling them and it will create insecurity. "I know stuff you don't know..." 

At times I wonder if people are made to find joy in creating insecurity for others. They just wont let people be happy in their relationship with one another. 

When I see those who are 4-6 years younger than I, lamenting "there will never be a right person...", I wonder if they make/made their choices well in the first place. And if they want to make a decision to live the rest of their life (because most of us want to find that *one* person with whom we can have our happily-ever-after) do they know what they want ... what they themselves are made of? What they can compromise on, what they can let go and what is not negotiable? Of course, all of us do get warning signs when things are not right. And more often than not, when we ignore the gut instinct, our own inner voice, is when we perhaps don't find our peace of mind. 

Eventually there are some lessons that I have been taught and have learned through the years. 

Do not get involved in gossip. Those that gossip to you will gossip about you. Don't even stand where people are negatively discussing someone you don't know. You become guilty by association. It is true of every social group. Being a mute spectator in the presence of gossipers makes you a participant regardless of contribution. 

It is OK to clarify when matters get to head. Communicate. Always. Let us not assume and make someone a villain without their even knowing about it. Of course those who want to make a villain out of others will do so regardless. No amount of convincing will work. They will find ways of assuring themselves that xyz is a terrible person and if the sun rises late tomorrow, it will be their fault. Those are lost cases. When there is a misunderstanding, count to 100. Or chant a mantra. Sleep over it and think it through, honestly before discussing with the other person. 

Now, I don't know if finding the 'right' person to our 'right' and 'wrong' selves is a stroke of luck. Sometimes we may falter. Some eventually work on it. But at the end of the day, I am wiser and happier because of this thing called trust. I'd rather not jump at every warning, every "prediction" and every other negative information that may come to me about my relationships and ruin my peace of mind today. If we work on keeping our minds and hearts pure, we can hope that what we put out will come back to us. 

One of the things I like most in Rahul is that he seems to have somehow reached the zen level of "not gonna waste time wishing that people suffer for wrong doing.. I'd rather keep my mind pure". I knew I wanted to admire the person I would end up with. And like they say, the Universe conspires to give you what you want. 

We are all works in progress. Beings that are in a constant state of evolution. In this realm and perhaps in parallel realms too, who knows?

Today, more than anything else, I am grateful for a great friend who is also my spouse, a marriage based on trust (with free strength tests that I didn't sign up for) comfort in the loyalty - we end up spending more time apart than we do together - mutual respect, admiration and being each other's greatest well-wishers and cheerleaders  and the sense of security we are able to give each other. And I hope and definitely pray that I would be able to say all this and hopefully more nice things 50 years down the line (ill-will, 'drishti' and negativity notwithstanding). If the first year is anything to go by, it should be a breeze :)

And yes, I also wish everyone finds the person that is most right for them.