Sunday, December 29, 2013

What-to-name-this

The past several weeks have been one of the most stressful periods in my life. And mom's. This time owing to my mother's health. At various points she and I thought my mom won't be alive to see the next week.

And finally a couple of weeks ago, a biopsy triggered allergic reactions which led to bronchial and laryngeal spasms. I saw a scene which was similar to one imprinted in my memory from 5 years ago. 

Mom and I'd gone to Canada for a concert and for the first time, my mom developed what we think  was an allergic reaction to milk there. It could have been because the milk was stored in an open container in a refrigerator where they'd also stored raw meat. We both are not really clear what how, but the day we landed my mom had shivers and fever for the entire span of 10 days that we were there. 

Once back in Chennai we got her admitted into hospital straight away and a battery of tests were on to check everything from malaria to leptospirosis. All of which later came clear. During the course of her treatment, between she was administered a drug on IV, which triggered allergic reactions, her body bloated and she stopped breathing. All this had happened when I was out to buy her juice. I came back to doctors running all around, she was being wheeled into ICU. The next 24 hours I was subject to questions like "Who else is there in your family?" to "Can we speak to someone else?". I thought my mom was gone. They were doing a lot to revive her. And they eventually did. When I finally went into the ICU to see my mother, all I saw was a person resembling a samurai wrestler. Funny as it may sound, her body had bloated to that extent. I had this sense of not telling anyone that my mom was unwell because I didn't want sympathy and wanted to be able to manage things on my own. I was an RJ then, I didn't  bunk work nor tell anyone what was happening. I would go from the hospital and come back from the hospital. It was only after the ICU incident when I had to call in and say I couldn't come the next day that my boss knew. And of course, he chided me for not asking for help.

I am proud that way. A pride that has passed down from my mother. Of not asking for help or letting anyone know that we are in trouble. 

Cut to the recent past of 2 weeks ago, she developed allergic reactions to the anesthetic administered for the biopsy, which is said to be normal apparently. And if not for the team of great doctors and a really great friend who I now call "savior man" - Manoj, my mom would have been history by now. To Manoj, I owe a lot more than gratitude and I wish him only the best in the entire world. 

During the course of the past few weeks, I saw my mother become a child. This, from a lady I have known to be a pillar of my strength, who'd braved battles, who'd taken on the name of a "Tyrant" to protect me and herself (because you see there is no other option that the Indian society offers you. A single woman who is friendly is immediately said to be of loose morals. I think a lot of that tough exterior percolated to me too. I remember friends of mine telling me that no one would ever date me if I have a shield around me that is thicker than a concrete wall. Anyway, that's another story) I saw a lady who thought it would be better to give up. I saw in her eyes that she no longer wanted to be alive. Keeping my sanity was tough. Behaving like everything was normal, tougher. 

I had a couple of close people I'd talk to. Who were there when needed. And there when they weren't really 'needed', just to silently say, "I am right here". All my life I thought I hadn't had the time to make friends. I have a handful now. And am I glad for them. 

To you reading this post, I wish you all the happiness in the universe. I also wish you peace of mind, good health to yourself, to your near and dear, enough money to buy whatever you desire, so much love from people that you feel important and wanted, great jobs and in all, a great life. 

Godspeed to you. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Detachment and surrender...

A few days ago mom happened to tell me that it was easy to speak about the Maarjaara tatva or complete surrender to God, but difficult to actually follow it. Similarly I have often - for lack of a better word - romanticized the concept of detached attachment. To be there in situations but not get attached or affected by people and circumstances.

Many a time, life presents us queer circumstances which we may encounter for the first time, where so many aspects of our character are tested. Patience, response to stress/pressure, emotional reactions - the decision of guarding them or not, so on and so forth. I remember a dialogue from a film that 'response under pressure is the best judge of character'. Though I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all sort of  a advice, I don't know why this line usually comes to my mind when faced with, say, what I think may be a tough situation. And again how 'tough' a situation is also subjective. People react to instances based on their own life experiences, their past, based on accounts from others in their family or their circle of reference. Should we judge someone or something based on trace elements of similarity with an encounter or an experience in the past? Perhaps not. A point in time like this may be where we listen to a higher force, intuition, or the inner voice; some of us may resort to prayer, some others may just know the right thing to do and they may do it easily. 

However, what I am learning, with each passing day, is that people will do a lot of things. It might be an unthinking, flippant act, or premeditated. One may react or feel a myriad emotions even or just a couple of significant ones. Blood may rush to the head and we may be able to hear only that noise loudly in our ears. 
And perhaps one of the ways of redressal is to spend time with oneself and accept what we are for who we are first. Identify our own failings, our responses under pressure and try not to be acidic in self criticism and forgive ourselves first. Thereafter one may reconsider and revisit decisions. And I definitely believe if one can be honest to oneself first and never compromise on knowing the truth about oneself things could be easier. 

A journey called a lifetime. Several paths, crossroads, dead ends and intersections, highways and flyovers, speed limits and speed breakers. And choices. The learned know what lies in the end. And they say that we know about the things that were truly worth it, only in the end. If only we could have the wisdom early on, things'd  be simpler. 

However, maintaining a graceful bearing, poise and dignity is paramount to me and my upbringing.

Life. And learning. Or so they say :)

I am trying to see and learn how it is to walk the talk of detachment that I romanticize about. Would that hurt people closest to me or would they understand, I wonder. Of course to even get to that zen like state I guess I must be some sort of a yogi :p


Friday, November 08, 2013

Breaking 'news' on Social media


This article caught my eye because a friend tweeted it about this yesterday.

Last year, when I was going through a social media issue, two people with active Facebook accounts also joined in with wild accusations. One was a cartoonist and another, a guy who called himself an 'investigative journalist', Anbalagan Veerappan. At that time, his profile claimed that he had worked with Sify. It also claimed that he was a real estate agent.

Amongst a lot of things, this guy said he taps into people's phones because it is investigative journalism. Now he has the wherewithal or the authority to tap into phones, (he also said he was tapping my phone and my mom's), is a big question. I, of course, did mention this later to the authorities and we had given screenshots of these threats, to back our complaint. Friends also joined in, some of whom had also worked with Sify, to report his Facebook Page and it was deactivated.

Now it is interesting that this guy's FB post of SB being bought over got noticed by a Bangalore based techie, Suseendran, as reported here by ET and journalists and finally led to an IT department raid.

http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-11-06/news/43733531_1_kalanithi-maran-tweet-journalists

I am not really a person for conspiracy theories, but if a man like Anbalagan claims to tap people's phones and spread wild rumors which actually do have an repercussion, I am wondering if there are a group of people who randomly write random stories like this.

I am wondering where this leaves us and our personal responsibility before tweeting a news story. Are we now in an age where people crave to be famous/important for a few seconds by breaking news? Even if it is false? It seems like it.

Even in my case, last year, it was a bizarre rumor one guy tweeted, to attract attention, which a cartoonist working with a 'respectable' publication shared without verifying. Clearly, as some informed people watching social media behavior say, it is the age of the "creepy Indian male social media celebrity". I am quoting an informed friend  "Freedom of expression in an immature society makes for a disruptive combination"

I cannot begin to wonder at all the people who said it was 'wrong' to go the authorities.

I am quite sure, this post is like a literal bait for the same trolls all over again. IMO there is more to these tweeters and social media "rowdies" (as they want to proudly call themselves) than meets the eye. Eventually time will tell.

Another way of looking at this could be that there are some people who seem to like the influence, perhaps, or the power, (of sorts) that the few hours of attention that their blogs/FB Pages/Tweets get and take things too far. A case in point is also people who rush to tweet that a celebrity has passed away, when they are still in hospital. I know of several celebrities who have been given RIP messages on twitter when they had completely recovered and were on their way back home.

Sooner or later there will be laws that will be introduced, modified to suit new menaces such as these.

Bottom line - do not trust a social media post blindly. Always verify, double-check. Especially when it involves people, their families and their livelihoods.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A lesson at the goldsmith's workshop.

The other day I visited a goldsmith's store in Mylapore to repair a pendant. In my usual curious self, I pulled out a stool and saw him get to to work, watching him align the pendant on some sort of a white colored, slate-like material, lighting a miniature gas cylinder, lighting it and then directing the but flame through a right-angled metal pipe on the pendant so that the materials fuse. 
As the metal came in contact with fire, I saw it gaining sheen immediately. 
And he said most metals become brighter when they come in contact with fire. 
I wonder if we too are similar in some way. A lot of times when we go through a trial-by-fire sort of a situation, we (at least most of us) come out unscathed, emerging brighter than we were before. 
Maybe there is a lesson to learn from a metal. Or even from a conch shell. Sangu suttaalum venmai tharum.. Have heard this in school when I heard students repeating in chorus after the teacher, from an adjacent classroom. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rituals and etc


The past several days mom and I have been hearing various anecdotes related to weddings and rituals and customs and practices. 
One of the strangest accounts our therapist told us, where her son-in-law belonging to a smaller town down south had an interesting demand. It was the first Deepavali after the daughter had been married. Hence they had gone for the customary visit and to deliver gifts that are expected of their family. On the day of Deepavali they offered oil for the traditional oil bath in a bronze bowl to the son-in-law and he would just give the bowl a look at it and refuse to take it from them, without giving any reason. "Etti etti paathutte irundhaaru... enna nne sollala she said". The lady then felt something must be wrong and by the time they got it out of him that the oil must be offered to him (as was the custom in their town/family) in a silver bowl, which must contain sesame oil and a gold ring of a certain weight, it was late afternoon.
Being Deepavali, they had to go and ask a jeweler to open the store, buy these in a hurry and give it to him. “Andha aattam poattaaru avaru” she said. She somehow has a very hilarious way of narrating such stories that most of her listeners would be laughing.
What struck me most is (opinion based on personal accounts I have heard) that a lot of people in the lower economic strata have unfair demands on a girl’s family. As a society with its various rungs, don’t we all by default know how much another family of our own strata would be able to afford?
With a wedding, a girls’ family falls into debt, (not from banks mind you, coz banks won't fund them) but with the usual kandhu vaddi, meter vaddi kinda lenders. Small wonder Indians would rather not have girl children, because the society punishes a family that has a girl child. I tweeted about this yesterday and got a few responses on the affluent and the dowry system prevalent there specifically naming some social groups in India. My tweet was more in the lines of people who can ill-afford expenses. 
A marriage, for me, is only a social custom that recognizes a man and a woman as a couple so that may  now legitimately procreate. A social custom 'sanctified' according to various beliefs. 
Various customs and practices have been introduced in society and as it changed some more introduced/eschewed tailoring them to the cultural or societal needs at a given point in time.
Culture/Society is one of the most dynamic aspects IMO, constantly evolving. Nothing is, or can be written in stone. Sati was an accepted and endorsed social custom. The women of a land considered it better to die than be ill-treated by the enemy. How that went on to become an aberration until social activists changed the face of it, we studied in school, albeit briefly.
At some point women were educated too. I am yet to understand when people started saying women no longer need education. However, I presume the upper echelons of most world societies continued to educate their women to a certain extent. 
Somehow this concept of dowry baffles me. How a lot of groups in India believe that, the sole qualification of being a man or having a male child is enough to keep demanding one thing after another of the girl’s family when it comes to marriage. 
Unless the mindsets change, no law or lawmaker can do much, I guess.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

#Butterfly / Sitakokachiluka

One of the best songs that happened this year is the single with Shekhar sir that will release tomorrow, October 11.

#Butterfly or Sitakokachiluka has lyrics by Rakendu Mouli.

Shekhar sir has been making singles for charity for the past couple of years, namely Saazni  featuring Bela Shinde and Saavli, featuring Sunidhi Chauhan, both of which are in Marathi.

Sometime earlier this year he happened to mention that he would like to make a single in Tamil/Telugu and he sent me the tune of the song he has in mind. We got the lyrics written and recorded the song in August in Mumbai.

Shekhar sir spent a lot of time on his diction and wanted to make sure that his pronunciation was perfect. It was heartwarming that a composer like himself was taking so much effort to sing in languages he doesn't know and I was humbled when he asked me to sing in the song with him. 

Sitakokachiluka talks about love that comes in silently, beautifully and unexpectedly as the butterfly that flies in through a window that someone forgot to close.

As with Saazni and Saavli, the proceeds from the legal downloads of Sitakokachiluka will go to Ma Niketan, a home that takes care of abandoned or uncared for girl children in Thane, a charity that Shekhar sir has been supporting.

The Press conference for Sitakokachiluka is scheduled to happen at Radisson Blu tomorrow.
The song and the preview will be available on http://www.shekharravjiani.com/ from tomorrow.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Singing for Joy of Giving Week

The Joy of Giving week is happening between October 2-8 and several organizations and individuals are pitching in to do their bit to promote philanthropy, charity and the concept of giving.
I have previously shared with you about 17000ft.org

My very dear friend, Meera Sridharan, an extremely talented and dynamic person, has been volunteering for Joy of Giving week and she put together a press conference (with other volunteers too, of course. I am mentioning her here as I know only her personally) and asked me to participate, along with other panelists, including Mrs Rekha of Downs Syndrome Federation of India, Courtyard Marriott, Chennai Runners, Mr Mahadevan, Euro Kids, United Way and Aram Seiyya Virumbu.

For my part, I will be releasing a single in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu which will be available for legal downloads on iTunes and several other stores worldwide during JGW. The proceeds will go to 17000ft.org

By helping an organization that I trust, by doing what I do best, I am doing my bit for Joy of Giving week.
17000ft has lofty goals and I wish they reach their goals and find the financial support to see them through as soon as possible

Here are the teasers of our single for Joy of Giving Week

The teasers for the #JoyofGivingWeek single we are releasing are available via the Chinmayi Sripada App https://t.co/mtcYWZGjHF

Also watch it here
Sneha Saandvanam - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q562d9lWoNM

Anbil Thooral - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX5GoiuvhMk

Prema Chinukulu - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9Ybjc2nB0Q

The proceeds from #JoyOfGiving Single downloads will go to @17000ft. To know more about 17000ft visit http://17000ft.org/

#JoyOfGiving Singles will be available in all major publishing and streaming ecosystems all over the world. I will update the links here very soon.  

For your part, I urge you, to do your bit, whatever it may be and do something special for someone, anyone for Joy of Giving week. And perhaps soon enough, we'll all promote a healthy, happy community and an environment that the children of tomorrow can be proud of.

Let us remind ourselves that we have not inherited this land /resources from our parents but we have only borrowed them from our children. Let's leave this place better than how we found it. We can, can't we?
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Older and yes, definitely wiser

I remember the last birthday only too well. And the months that followed unleashed experience after experience that immediately made me a 'grown up'. It is amazing how you can remain a child at heart for a long while until one incident comes along that kinda changes it all. 

It definitely is nicer when I am safely cocooned by my mom. But really the cocoon can take only so many cannon balls :) Someday the butterfly will have to face them on its own and choose to either survive or succumb. This, only time will tell.

I don't know when birthdays ceased to be something I looked forward to. Or I wonder if I ever did. It remains yet another day in my calendar. Another day, I hope I ll wake and find out I can still sing. And that I am still alive. As a child I remember my grandmother saying pozhachukadandha I ll have to do this, that and that. To me Pozhachukadandha was a word that meant 'morning'. Until just a few years ago, I realized how that generation kept saying, if I am alive (by God's grace) I shall do this, this and that.

If there was one thing I have learnt, even more so the past year, was the fine art of detachment. Maybe some zen master came and taught me in my dreams. :p And the concept of expecting nothing from anyone except from music of course .... But I think this life kinda reinforced that in me more than anything else.

Taking off from here, music continues to be the one thing, (which I think any serious musician will tell you) that gives you as much or more in 'return' than what you give to it.

People have come and people have gone. Some have left a mark; some a scar. And am grateful for both. Last year I felt grateful for the solid support that came in through unexpected quarters. For the beautiful songs that came my way as a blessing. For the love. For the prayers.

For everything and more, I am grateful.

Thank you Universe.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Titli - Chennai Express

Sometimes they say that sighting a butterfly is an omen. To me the butterfly came in a song. 

First week of November 2012 and I got a call from Shekhar sir asking me to come and sing for him here, in Chennai. Off I went to Gopi Sunder's studio seriously doubting how I will be able to pull this off, when, that week, and the couple of weeks prior, it was a personally harrowing time. 

I recorded this song with a migraine that was killing me and somehow I hoped that I didn't look too sick and that I would come across as an affable person to work with, inspite of the frowns crinkling my forehead. Shekhar sir dictated the lyrics and taught me the song. I went in and recorded and it was done. Thereafter of course, I had no idea if my version would be retained and left it to the will of the universe, as I always have, with every song that I have sung. As Yesudas sir once said, slightly modifying the popular adage, Gaane gaane ke upar gaanewale ka naam likha hai. The song chooses the singer.

When they released the teaser on last week, there was a mixture of a lot of emotions. Of gratitude mainly and relief.

And then Mr Shah Rukh Khan tweeted this to me
 

At that point, somehow I got so emotional that I bawled. Called up a dear friend (or perhaps she called, I cannot remember now) who was also bawling on the other side and said she was so happy for me. And she said that this is for all that Ma has done for you. And we bawled some more.

Amma wasn't too expressive to me, but she tweeted. 

Shekhar sir invited me to the audio launch on the 3rd July and I landed up. I felt lost initially, though I have attended numerous ones here. Thankfully spotted Jitesh (Pillai) and I heaved a sigh of relief that I finally saw someone I knew. 

Shekhar sir introduced me to SRK and I, for one of the first times, asked him for a picture. He obliged and said he was touched by my mother's tweet and asked me to convey his regards to her. Though the word "mindblown" is soo easily thrown about these days, that's exactly what I felt at that point. One that he read my mom's tweet, two he remembered and three he enquired about her. I said I am humbled and cannot imagine that a superstar of his stature would do all that. 





Deepika was extremely sweet and told me that she loves Titli and yes she obliged with a picture too. 

Post event party, SRK said said he'd like to talk to my mother and I thought it would be one of those polite conversations and I said sure whenever you want. And he said I'd like to talk to her now. Call her. And I did. He took my phone, went off someplace quieter where he could have a conversation for a few minutes and returned. 

I kept telling Shekhar sir (Vishal wasn't present at the launch and I hadn't been able to meet him during the recording session here in Chennai) how grateful I am for the opportunity of a lifetime. 


Sometimes, life gives us gifts. Like the rainbow after a storm. Or like the rain itself through thunder and lightning. And because life is the way it is, the gift is carried by someone. This time round God was kind enough to send it through this song. 

To be able to continue doing what I like doing best, which is singing and to be able to meet some of the most creative, brilliant minds and musicians is the greatest gift that has been accorded to me. And I believe that each song that comes my way is a blessing. And it is impossible to not feel immense gratitude for the people who make it possible.

This time it is for Shekhar sir (and Vishal sir as well). None of the good reviews or the interactions with SRK / Deepika would have been possible but for him.

And of course to the creator. Grateful. And a lot more. But nothing less.




Sunday, June 23, 2013

Carry me

dear stream over a small winding path
carry me
gently over jagged rocks and moss
Un-entangle me from the roots
of the woodland tree
carry me
away from a hand that seeks me
carry me
away even as I bask in the spotlight of a under a sunray
carry me
away from the ships on a voyage
carry me
away closer to a horizon
carry me
away, farther away from mighty civilizations
carry me
away, unbeknownst to me into the surging sea
carry me
away to ride on a wave
carry me
away closer to a dawning sun
carry me away
from raging storms
carry me away
like the dusky dream
carry me away
wee as I am
Carry me away
Buoyed as I am by hope
Carry me away gently
For I am but a paper boat.

I stand...

in the eye of a storm. Surrounded by walls of thunder. I see dark grey all around me. Streaks of lightning. Desperate, I look up. To see a seemingly calm sky. Drops of water fall gently on my face, tracing paths streaked by tears. Somewhere do sweet rain and bitter tears mingle... disappearing to a nowhere. 

Rooted do I stand. In the midst of a paradox. Serenity encapsulated in mayhem, silence walled by claps of thunder. Rooted do I stand trying to hang on to the calm around me, despite the walls closing in. Deafened do I stand, unable to tell, if it is because of the thunder applauding so hard or the column of silence right above.

My heart races and blood sprints through my veins. And then, in a single epiphanic moment does it dawn on me....Just like the sunlight that chose to part the curtains of clouds and peek through... that storms raged within and not without. And the silence I ought to seek wasn't on the outside but within. 

All I see now is the silent, peaceful drizzle on a ravaged ground. Sunlight courses through. 

There is a light within. As there is light without.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A blank page

and I begin writing. With a quill. My fingers and nails stained in cobalt blue. A blue that has bled deep into my fingertips. My fingers move, forming shapes and curves, dots and dashes...forming words. Guided by a force called the heart... perhaps. Once in a while the quill stops. To dip in and write again. And then, there is a blotch of blue. A blotch that spreads into several pores of the paper, washing over a word or two on separate lines. The blotch seems to make a couple of lines meaningless. Or perhaps, they didn't have much meaning earlier either. But I followed the dictates of my heart. My fingers wrote on, guided for what seemed like an eternity. On and on I write, I believe. In my mind I had written reams, while, in reality, I had barely filled a solitary sheet. I dip the quill again. This time the pot of ink spills over. On all the words I had written. The paper is soaked. Little by little do I see my words and the intervals of ivory turning into a brilliant cobalt blue.. I watch, while the ink carries my words along, dripping on to the hard stone floor. A short journey that was, from paper to the floor. My words now rest in peace. So many of them. Or maybe, not so many. Completely contained in a few drops of cobalt blue, as they were before. More so now. And like a scar will the stain remain, containing and reminding me of words that once were, neatly arranged, on a piece of paper. 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Marie Claire 2013 Influencers List

I have been featured in the list as one among 25 women from all over India. 
The women featured in this list are terrific achievers and I now have a few more women to look up to after this article. 
For now, I am grateful and humbled for the graces of God :)