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. 

:)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Public shaming

Here is an article I got to read thanks to @beastoftraal. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=2

It is, as he says, a very compelling read and something that makes one introspect, i.e. if he has the tendency to.

Please read the remaining of this blog after you have read the article. 

What I took away from the article most was this line "Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so"

There have been various studies that have been published on online troll behavior. They are said to be mix of sadists, narcissists and psychopaths. 

In our attempt to bring about 'justice', using social media as a tool for public shaming, in a situation where we believe a person has erred, are we, the ones who believe ourselves to be sane and compassionate/empathetic (add any positive adjective that you would love to describe yourself) exhibiting troll tendency at some level ourselves? Especially the sadistic aspect? Or are we all closet bullies? 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Whose fault is it anyway?

Following news on Twitter is at times the most depressing thing. You'd much rather be happy following comedic handles, cute puppy photos, tweets of friends who RT cute, baby animal GIFs.. well you get the drift. 

Ever since the Nirbhaya case, it seems like there is an avalanche on reportage of rape cases. Victims are of all ages. Babies, old women. Nirbhaya was a horrific incident. Shortly after, when I visited Delhi, enroute Maha Kumbh Mela, I remember the driver justifying what 'prompted' the rapists to rape. Something about the couple making out in the bus. There are people who I heard agreeing to, oh, yes. How could they behave like that in public? She put herself out there and asked for the rape. The issue here is, how the justification for rape swiftly happened while sympathetic cluck-clucking continued.  

On another note, I attended talks, which crunched numbers on violence against women in developed countries as against those in India. And how we aren't even 1/84th as bad as the media claims us to be. We are *not* a rape nation. At least, the speakers vociferously claimed, we are not as bad as the Americas of the world, where the number of violent crimes against women were (a certain number I don't remember now) as against India's numbers of *just* (another certain number I don't remember now).

Yesterday morning, tweet-news was about the rape of an 8 year old. Today the Rohtak incident comes to light. I'd daresay there are thousands of cases that go unreported. Some don't even know that they are being raped. Forget even discussing marital rape. Forget coercion. On this topic, I have heard some doctors tell me about the worrying number of women/girls that come for abortion that work in construction sites. Abortion after abortion after abortion where they are used by the 'maestri' or the contractor, or any other 'higher official' who fancies them. Of course, she is a woman. Why bother about protection. Let her get another abortion and come right back to work at the construction site. Look around the developing India. You'll find enough and more spaces where a woman is coerced. She is unwilling. But she does it anyway. Because she is told. She is told to obey. For 'her own good'.  This, of course, cannot be rape.

We Indians will outrage if we talk about safe sex. About sex education in schools. Why tell them what is right and wrong? Between forced and not? This information will make the woman choose. Oh no!! We cant do THAT!! 

A Japanese tourist gets raped and a gentleman's tweet is primarily concerned about India's 'image getting dented abroad'. 

The problem is in our celebrated Indian culture. As much as we have celebrated Goddesses (guilty as charged for typing down a cliche typed down a gazillion times over, right from school essays to newspaper OP-Eds) we don't care for the girl child. The girl child's primary business is to be married off and produce male progeny. Thats all her space is in India. She is a liability. I know of a neighbor who said she'd like to marry at 20 because she didn't want to be a 'burden' to her father. This is an 'educated', forward thinking household. Or so I thought. They didn't fail in inculcating the values of life in their daughter including the concept that she was a burden that was unfortunately placed on the unwilling shoulders of the parents who will later be transferred to the willing/unwilling shoulders of the inlaws/husband. The parents, poor things, need to earn and save to eternity to marry off their daughter in a certain manner, or else the groom and his egotistic family would have a problem. 

Eventually that is all there is. We watch it in movies. We watch it in our families. We watch. We love watching. We love watching serials. Watching outrage tweets. Watching Op Eds. Watching people discuss issues which we'll also participate in because, in our mind's eye we are watching ourselves being very intelligent and a participant in the thought process of our country. We watch the news. We watch our daughters with a hawk's eye. But don't care a damn what our son does. He is a son after all. The society will accept and forgive/forget every behavioral anomaly of the man. He is, after all, a gift. The daughter is the curse.   

Those who work for change, have done so silently. How many of us could claim to know Kailash Satyarthi till he was awarded the Nobel Prize? How many claim to know Sunita Krishnan? There are many, many more, I am sure, working in villages and Panchayats and even the Khaps we love to hate, working for the safety of the women and the people of their own small communities. 

Rapes have been happening for ages. It is the easiest method men and societies have used for subjugation against a woman who is proving to be powerful. What else can a worthless man do? It has been used in war. Religions talk about keeping the children and women safe. But no. At this point the religious will forget their Gods. Children will be killed. Women will be raped and killed and mutilated. And there are others who will take to social media and tweet about wanting to rape/have sex with/ molest/ attack a woman to silence her voice.

Now, on Twitter, it is about "if Congress were ruling during this rape case, such-and-such would have happened". "AAP wouldn't want to fast and do a dharna because election is over". "Where are the BJP's promises about safety for women? They can install cameras for Obama but not for the women". 
As much as I abhor the sanctimonious holier-than-thou bullshit solely directed at women alone, I abhor those who give the issue of rape, and for that matter, any serious issue that has plagued our society for ages, a political angle. This party, that party. Every party, for most part has truly raped this country. The minds of the people. It seems impossible to weed out corruption from the minds of the average Indian who just wants his job done, go home and live his life. 

It will take quite a while to work at the grassroots level to change the collective minds of all the men and women who think a woman's business is to be subjugated. Parade her naked. Rape her. Beat her in front of a panchayat. Disrobe her to teach her a lesson. Rape of the tribal woman / dalit woman has been happening for aeons. No one really seemed to care. It was all hushed up. In rural India, the higher 'caste' man can subjugate/erase/taint a woman or an entire family by using rape as a tool to show his power. Sadly, there is no Krishna to prevent this woman from the Dushasanas of the world. Then there are those who say it is in her karma/ destiny/ horoscope. Oh lord, Oh lord. 

The men and the women of the country hate the women in this country. That has to change. But will it? Is it going to be education that will change minds? Is it going to be God? TV Serials that dole out even more subjugation bullshit? Religious bodies? Lets not even get there because their sole aim will be to take offense and file a case against films or anything in the mainstream media. I don't see religious bodies sitting on a dharna when a rape happens, coz, lets face it, there is neither money nor publicity to be made in championing a cause. Only films are worth their while to file a case on, and be in the news. 

And when will that change happen? When will the women in this country be safe? I wish I had a darn clue. 

Some ask is it enough if you outrage on social media? I don't think so. I wish for a vigilante. For instant justice. For preventing the crime before it is done. What does one do to *prevent* eliminate rape? It is not like Polio, is it? Where a vaccine can be administered? Every solution seems long drawn. Changing the mindset, especially. Then there is the age-old, thirudane thirundhaa vittaal... Adhan avan thirundhi tholaya maattengarane?! 

And how many more women will have to be brutalized? I, like most others wait, seemingly in vain, for the solution. And more than anything else, political parties using 'rape' for tu-tu-main-main is the rape of us all together. Leave the woman in India alone and help her if you can, dear political parties. The country is getting jacked anyway.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blue Elephant and the experience with Accenture - An Update

Running Blue Elephant since 2005 and the experience of working with various corporates and linguists translating content, understanding cultures, languages and in-toto, the process of translation has been an enlightening experience. We also ventured into assisting some companies recruit linguists with specific skill-sets.

In this particular case, like most queries, a gentleman from the Business team of Accenture contacted us stating the requirement of linguists for a few languages. We had a meeting and after several exchanges via Phone and Email, We were happy to assist and looked forward to a great working relationship. 

We were asked to send documents for vendor enlistment which was subsequently completed. 

A candidate was recruited (Initially her offer letter had her named mistyped which was corrected later and a new one issued) and now we are informed that we didn't go through Accenture's HR, the Finder's fee due to us will not be paid. The lady has taken a long time listing out the several processes that a vendor is supposed to go through. I don't understand why the Business team did not inform us. The HR also says that each candidate recruited by them must have a unique CID that is generated by the system. I have no idea under on whose behest a CID was created for a candidate we referred. 

I told them that we were not informed of any of this and through the entire long drawn out process of vetting resumes, that fulfilled the criteria they had asked for in the first place which lasted about 3 months, we had absolutely no idea. I am just informed of the same rules again and again like a tape that is stuck. Two Emails and a couple of phone calls that say 'This is the system here'

I also did not smell anything afoot because this is a procedure normally we have followed with all the companies we worked with and none of them are small ones. In about 6-7 years of doing this, we have understood the process pretty well and it is similar across all corporates we have woked with, if not identical.

I also do not understand this extremely one-sided 'duplicity' concept that I have come to know thanks to them. Vendors really have no way of finding out if the resumes of candidates they refer already exist in a client's system. 

The only advantage of this all is that I have the entire mail exchange, the asking for candidate details,  ID documents and everything else including the offer letter that was issued. 

I blog this experience to find out if someone can shed light on this. Please help and let me know what I can do. 

The issue I had faced with has been verbally resolved by a gentleman from HR as of 30-12-2014. He got in touch with us and we supplied the information he wanted on the 31st.
He was miffed about us posting on social media and said we could either choose a one-time resolution or a long term collaboration wherein we agree to remove all the posts from social media altogether. I said I'd rather not have a long term collaboration after this experience. 
Nonetheless there is a promise of settling what is due to us and for his time and the promise of resolution, we are grateful.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

A long overdue blog

Sometimes I forget that my blog is my favourite place to write. The cathartic effect hasn't faded even after close to a decade of blogging. 

The process of getting married is an experience. I'd also advocate it if you manage to find someone right enough for you. 

I wanted a ceremony without leaving out even one ritual. Now a demand like this in this day and age is usually met with consternation. 

Something I haven't really worn on my sleeve is my love for rituals. To know the why-s and how-s. Mom found a scholar in the true sense and I wanted a no-ritual-left Iyengar ceremony. 

Rahul and his family preferred a registered marriage. They'd rather have had a simple court wedding or a temple wedding and so did Rahul. He believed that it is not fair that the girl's family should have to spend on an expensive wedding. Mine was ritualistic and was not a show of wealth. I remember people asking me "You are getting married at Savera ????!!!!" Apparently for my 'status' only a 7 star would befit. I must place on record here how much of a support Savera was for all our religious demands. They made food without onions. Complete madi thaligai. 

My dream wedding would have been at home. Not in a hotel, or a mandapam. But at home. If I'd owned my home I'd have had  few people over and gotten all the ritualistic havans and the auspicious veda ghoshas in my residence so that my house could benefit from the positivity. And have a reception at a hotel. (Though inopportune to mention in this context, people somehow conduct shraardhams at home and  somehow every other auspicious ceremony and its associated veda ghoshams happen in a building built by someone else.) However because one needs to invite a lot of people a mandap or a hotel today, makes sense. Nonetheless I couldn't have my wedding at the house we were renting. 

Prior to my wedding, around April, I undertook a fast of 12 days - the austere Payovrata - for Lord Vishnu. A time when I subsisted on Cow's milk alone. My in-laws were horrified. My mom had given up. The vaadhyar who was to officiate my wedding did his best to gently dissuade me, saying such a terrible fast with less than a 3 weeks to go for my wedding wasn't advisable. (Plus it was only my mother and I doing the rounds of distributing the wedding invites. I went about the exercise for about 5-6 days during my fast and took it easy for the final leg after my mother protested. There would have been no way mom could have completed this inviting round all alone. Plus, for all the support the industry had been through the years, we only thought it right to invite as many as we could personally. I did miserably fail to invite a few important people, though. Recordings did continue during this time)
The Vaadhyar said, from his sthaana, he has the right to advise (something my mother said she would do beyond a point because it is wrong to advise someone against undertaking a fast. Only the aacharya could she said.)

The Payovrata is to be observed only in the month of Phalguna (Panguni) during the waxing moon. I thought if not now, I would have no idea what I would be doing in April 2015. April 2014, I was very much in India and no hectic concert schedule. And I could do this Payovrata. I had first come to know of the Payovrata from Amar Chitra Katha (Tales of Vishnu) and I dreamed of doing this for years. Each time I would realize just after Phalguna. Some years I would forget. I realized this was my chance. After almost 13 days of fasting, your stomach cannot take any solid food easily. My mom-in-law came home and helped with my paarana. And sternly advised me to never undertake a fast like this again and put my health on line. She said none of this is necessary and simple devotion is enough :) I am more like a rakshasi with devotion :p

Coming back to some minute details - my wedding also involved no idlis - because it is 'paththu'. Our vaadhyar said this concept was introduced recently and if we could do away with it nothing like it. Right from homa kundam to the choice of wood for the palagai on which we sat was chosen and made with care. No iron nails were used in the making of the palagais.

My mom called a goldsmith and got him to melt the gold during a muhurtam as close to the wedding as possible (the maangalyam is to be bought/forged in a muhurtam as close to the wedding date as possible as it is reportedly not right to keep a "thaali waiting" or one shouldnt hear any sad/bad news while the maangalyam for the bride is stored in the house. This is the reasoning I was given when I wanted to know the reason why) and forged the thaali. This was wrapped thereafter in that pink-colored paper and kept safe. 

I had always wanted a shankh and a chakra as mogappus on both sides of my mangalsutra and thankfully my mom gave in to this demand as well. I wear the metti and the mangasutra all the time and hence it was made long enough so that it can be pinned inside a garment if I end up wearing a gown. My mom didn't buy the Aandal Kondai that one gets in the market. She said she didn't want readymade ones. And got the conical piece designed by a jeweler in silver and plated it. My hair was gathered in a small side bun and the Aandal Kondai piece was fixed. I didn't think of all this. I also realized that the kind available in the market was too big for my head and unwieldy. This piece had to be changed a couple of times and redesigned but the silversmith was surprised at the effort and kind enough to do the iterations.

The saris were made to order from a store in Kanchipuram, who have been in the business for generations. Mom had always had this idea that buying a 9 yard from stores in the city may mean that they would have been leased out to models on some occasion. And she didn't want a sari that someone else may have worn. She gave the design to the store and asked them to make the koorai the way she wanted it. The thari had to work in super speed to get my sari done. The veshtis came from the same store.

Someone who was the greatest support through this entire exercise was this man called Thanigai. He was our chauffeur for 2 months. In him I found a brother I never had. He looked out for me when I was fasting and looked out for my mother. He was calm, composed. And at times advised me on how to adjust once I got married, in my new home. His lessons included "how to argue with your husband in a way that he wont know it is an argument" :)
He brought the koorai and the veshtis in the ceremonial manner from the store and took it to a temple along with my mother in Kanchipuram. In my life I'll never forget Thanigai anna.

I wanted to do it all and told Rahul that he doesn't have to follow the customary rituals as I do and he is free to do what he pleased. He however was kind enough to oblige even though he is not a believer in such hectic-ness, pariharams just because someone says so and the like :) 

There was fasting involved during my wedding as well, wherein I and Rahul ate only fruits, milk or more saadham (not even curd rice) until the day after the wedding. Yup. We didn't have the ceremonial Kalyana Saappadu that all brides and bridegrooms partake of. This was also met with shock and surprise from most relatives and friends as they hadn't heard of a 'bizarre' concept like this, apparently :) My vaadhyar warned me of enough number of times that everyone may not accept what I was asking for.

There was another ritual that involved a bullock cart and a horse drawn carriage. We couldn't manage it. The bride brings the agni for the first 'homam' from the one started at the residence to the location where the wedding ceremony is officiated, traveling in a bullock cart. Mantras are chanted specifically for the bullock cart and even for the wheels so that they don't creak. (Yes, you, the reader, please don't gape!!) And the groom was to arrive in a horse drawn carriage for another ceremony. Rahul did have a janavasam of sorts around the hotel precincts. Something the management was kind enough to consent for us. He said he had fun in this one. 

Once we were married we could partake of proper kalyaana saapadu only the next day, which has to be ceremoniously prepared by my mother (mother of the bride), the bridegroom and the grooms family partake of it on the day after the wedding. My mom was exhausted and nonetheless it wasnt like there were a million people back at my home who would help her cook for 8 people the day after the wedding. Thankfully Savera fed us that day. The traditional sammandhi virundhu after that came from Sangeetha :) 

The consummation of the marriage also does not happen on the night of the wedding ceremony as is common and happens only on the following night, after a homam. {Please ask learned vaadhyars you know for more details :)} Our vaadhyar suggested that people (other than closest family) don't touch us unnecessarily until the homams on the day after the wedding are complete (maela padaama paathukkongo-types). This would not have been possible if we'd decided to have the reception on the same day. Hence we had our reception the day after the wedding. 

I heard enough of 'Indha maadiri kaelvi padaadha vishayathellam yaaru onakku kathu kudutha? Edhukkaaga oor paer ariyaadha rules ellam follow panre?' Apparently some people even refused to have the wedding lunch in protest, since the bride and the groom didn't eat. My vaadhyar was also questioned. Enna, neenga ipdi dhaan kalyanam pannindela? Thankfully my Vaadhyar's wife was present (they are a very young couple) and she explained in detail to those who interrogated about her own wedding and what she does on a daily basis.

My vaadhyar is the type who eats nowhere except at his own residence. His food has to be cooked by his wife and he'd apparently told her before he got married to her that he would not take her out to dinner and all that and if she was OK with it. She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. She is in her late 20-s and wears a madisaar everyday. Incidentally she draped my koorai. 

Sadly enough, traditional vaideeka rituals are not followed by most. Most people don't even know these rituals exist. Let's face it. To most even with complete families, it is a hassle. People wont agree to go through so much trouble. Edhukku idhellam will be a standard response.

However priestly families still follow this tradition. Yes, logically, it is perhaps not necessary to go through such a strict ritualistic wedding like mine, because truth be told, I don't lead the life of a Brahmani. I am not on the path to realising Brahman, though I do hope that I will, one day, taking the path of music. Naadabrahmam after all. 

My mother too, had to face some flak for this because people believe she is the one who drives the religiousness in me. Little do they know :) She spent her savings on this exercise because she was too proud to use the money I'd earned. And thankfully God has kept us well enough to keep us from taking loans from people.

Now post my wedding and knowing my religiousness and fasting procedures, Rahul has come to know firsthand :) I did tell him that I have very hectic beliefs, but I am sure he didn't really believe me :p

I later realized that the vaadhyar community was quite surprised as they hadn't expected someone in the film industry to follow norms like I did. While I attended other ceremonies shortly thereafter, the officiating vaadhyars would come to me and say that they'd heard of my wedding and the manner in which was conducted. And blessed me. I hope those blessings will count if and when I face tough times.  

I'd only told my mother that I wanted an extremely religious wedding. She went from pillar to post looking for the most learned vaadhyar that she could find. 

Other than this I neither indulged in a Mehendi ceremony nor a Sangeet. I had no time. No time to pamper myself and all that jazz. I even forgot I needed to hire a make-up artiste and found 2 different people the last minute who were available. They of course gawked when I said I was getting married within a week.  You could ask now - Why not a wedding planner? No point simply because of the tremendous ritualistic aspect involved. Savera took care of most of our needs.

My Mehendi was pretty weird affair. My mom was out slogging like a donkey doing last minute work and I was starving. Our closest friends were helping her. No one was attending on me, like I had seen in other people's weddings and I was starving. Or like I myself had done for friends. I decided to wash off my mehendi within an hour of applying it because I was both hungry and thirsty. I went in, made some coffee and sat looking at the dull orange colour on my hands and swept and mopped the hall off the mehendi dust. The stickiness was getting to me. I got an earful from mom saying thodappam thodalaama and all that. But then, I was no princess and I hated the unclean floor. Mom and I have been sweeping and mopping our floors and doing dishes all our lives and it made no difference. The colour deepened, thankfully. Simultaneously the sweets for the seer-thattus were being made at home. Technically there were people. But somehow it seemed like there weren't. 

One of the fun, beautiful sessions after the maangalya dhaaranam was having Chinna Ponnu over. The afternoon of the ceremony, she sang traditional, naattupura wedding songs that had the family in splits and everyone was up dancing. Chinna Ponnu has such a lovely heart. She started with Vaazhthuren Vaazhthuren... and continued the song as is sung in the villages. 

A couple of days back, the gentleman who printed my wedding invites happened to tell me "I'll never forget the amount of effort your mother took in printing the cards. How many trips she made here!" It was her idea that we donate the wedding gifts (rather urged people to make that as cash/cheque donations) to 17000ft of Ladakh. The first cheque incidentally came from the printer who printed our wedding invites.

The reception was well attended. Everyone who wasn't shooting came. And for that I am grateful. 

A lot of important events in our lives happen carrying a mixed bag of joy and sadness, at times regret. I have a similar bag stashed away. It wasn't happy-happy jingle bells all the way for everyone involved. But I have come to know that this is what makes an Indian marriage. I learned true friends from the others. I saw people who did their bit to see that my wedding would be called off. Words spoken leading to enough and more misunderstandings, leading me to even question the foundation of what my relationship was to be built on. Probably during a wedding is when you see who really wishes well for you and who wishes the sky should shatter on your head if possible.

And I also saw people come in, play the role of brother and sister, uncle and aunt, made my mother feel like she wasn't alone and saw this marriage through. A very close friend had come down from Australia and she was a huge support. Some people stood by like rocks. Maybe they would have been family in a previous birth. They know who they are and I am grateful.

This was also a ceremony that saw my father give me away during Kanya Daanam. I had wanted my mother to do so.  (a vaideeka ritual I'd asked, hadn't I?. And somehow destiny made sure that it was perfect as ritualistically only the father can give away his daughter)

Whatever that could go wrong went wrong. Everything that could go right went right. 

In the end, it is all worth it when you are married to the right person. I am happy today. 

I pray and I hope that this feeling grows and that I will be able to say this at the end of a fulfilling life. And I hope Rahul would be able to say that too. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

A state of musical quandary...or, is it?

A highly learned gentleman told me today that even if the legendary singers of yesteryears were to audition on any of the current day music competitions, they would be 'disqualified'. Only because they'd only be immaculate singers. "They'd be told 'oh you aren't performing' 'Why aren't you moving..?'... also what they are wearing how they look is more important than how they sing, he said. 

At the Mirchi Music Awards in Mumbai earlier this year, Mr Sonu Nigam demonstrated how a 'non-singer' could be made to sound like he sings really well. He asked Manish Paul to hum a few lines and a sound engineer was called on stage to demonstrate how he corrects flaws (Manish was asked to sing as bad as he could.. I am sure he can hum decently like most of us) and ....voila! A singer is born. 

In the same event I heard Mr Sonu Nigam and also Sri Udit Narayan sing and couldn't but help feel joy that I get to hear perfection. 

We are in a time when anyone is told he can sing and it is definitely cool. The listeners hear a badly sung song on a sound track but they like it anyway, because I am told, they feel like the singer they are hearing on the radio/CD sounds as good/bad as they do. Is it like identifying with the boy-next-door characters in films?

I sometimes question, why aren't learned musicians saying anything? Is playing to the gallery so important that the concept of good singing, drastically compromised? Songs which would until a decade earlier classify as 'scratch' tracks (in recording parlance) now find limelight on the official track-list of a film. 

Have people stopped respecting the talent of a trained singer? I remember when I hosted Super Singer, a special guest on the show said it is not necessary to learn singing to sing in films. "Paattu hit aana porum" they said. I was worried wrong advice was being given to aspiring singers but in less than 5 years, I saw it play out. Terrible singing is being celebrated. A layman perhaps doesn't know/care if something is sung well or not. He just needs to identify with some emotion in the song or lyrics as I have been told. 

Many say, songs don't 'last' like the used to. Its always about the next catchy number. "We still listen to Viswanathan Velai Venum and Dum Maro Dum without getting bored, don't we?" they ask. And they say, they can't remember the dance number that was popular 5 months ago. 

(Let me tell you here I love tracks like Kaasu Panam Dhuddu ... It is fun. It is quirky. Makes me smile and shake a leg. Such songs have existed through time)

I don't know if I should be worried as a musician because of the film music the next gen is listening to. Or I can just switch it off and go. 

But not just as a professional singer, but as a listener I would like to listen to good music, to be honest. 

The emperor walks naked. And he will be celebrated until perhaps a child .... plays a fiddle brilliantly, I guess.

P.S.: A lot of comments have been asking if it is about actors who sing. This post wasn't about actors who choose to/are asked to sing by the producers for the sake of a film, really. I am talking of bad singing in general and how bad singing is encouraged / not critiqued.