Thursday, April 29, 2010


            A friend of mine who is forced to acquire the habit of reading my blogposts (no doubt due to my constant nagging) commented that I need to take a less serious view of life.  Another friend expressed the diametrically opposite view that I ought to stop being flippant about serious issues.  Now, that set me wondering-do I lack a sense of humor, or more generally speaking, is the funny bone missing in women?  My friend probably thinks that when God made Eve out of Adam’s bone, He definitely did not choose the funny bone for the job!
            Mention comedy stars and that immediately brings to mind mostly male actors like Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, whereas female actors like Whoopi Goldberg are far and few in between.  This is not the case in Hollywood but even in Indian movies irrespective of the language, the situation is almost the same. 
           Commuting to my college a couple of decades ago was made incredibly interesting and exciting by the incomparable evergreen literary genius P.G. Wodehouse.  Many a day have I laughed out loud unmindful of my surroundings after reading the adventures of the eccentric Lord Emsworth, the scatter-brained Bertie Wooster, the ingenious Jeeves, the resourceful Psmith, an assortment of domineering aunts and bumbling uncles, and of course, the prized pig, the Empress of Blandings.  There are quite a few writers who handle humor with ease like Henry Cecil and Terry Pratchett, not to mention the classic authors like Mark Twain and Jerome K. Jerome.  But no female writer comes to mind immediately with equal fervor (well, after thinking for a while I could come up with Nora Ephron).
         Not only in the kaleidoscopic world of the rich and famous celebrities, even in real life rarely have I come across women who can see the humor in everyday life.  Why do women take themselves and the world seriously-or atleast more seriously as compared to men?  Is their genetic make-up to blame? Or are they so burdened with their worries that they forget to appreciate the humor in their life?  Viewing this from an Indian point of view I would like to think that it is more about the way women are brought up. They are expected to behave in a certain way in society and the transgressions/deviations from the set path are not viewed charitably.  It would indeed be a rare sight to see a woman guffawing in a public place. 
          A woman may view the world humorously but still not be confident enough to express it in public.  It is only when she is comfortable with and confident of herself that all aspects of her personality blossom fully.  That may be the reason that, more often than not, it is the middle-aged women who come across as humorous.   May be I, along with my sisters need to let our hair down more often, treat the burdens we carry on our shoulders a little lightly, learn to ignore the swords of life’s uncertainties over our heads and unlearn our conditioning by this society.  Well, this is my serious take on humor!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


            Do you know how the end of the earth looks like?  It requires no great imagination to conjure up a vision of the end of the earth.  One trip to Dhanushkodi can give one a pretty good idea of what it is to be perched at the very tip of the earth and stare into emptiness.  Acres and acres of sparkling white sand winged on the perimeter by the sea as far as the eye can see-that is Dhanushkodi.

            Dhanushkodi is now a ghost town which was once upon a time bustling with activity typical of any small town.  It had a railway station, railway hospital, post office, school like any other small town in Tamil Nadu.  That was before the floods of 1964.  Before launching in to an account of the cyclone of 1964, the geography of the place also needs to be touched upon, for that is the prime reason for Dhanushkodi to have acquired its present status of a ghost town.

Dhanushkodi is at the south-eastern tip of India, in the island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. On one side is the Bay of Bengal and on the other, the Indian Ocean, the two converging at Dhanushkodi. It is 18 km long from the border of Rameswaram to the tip of the sea. This tiny strip of land is surrounded by water on two sides and the broadest part is no more than half a kilometre wide.

Until 1964 Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage town in one of the southern tips of India. Since Sri Lanka is just 18 miles away, frequent ferry services were operated between Dhanushkodi and Thalaimannar of then Ceylon, transporting a large number of travellers and goods across the sea. There were many hotels, textile shops and dharamshalas catering to these pilgrims and travellers.

The calamitous cyclone on the fateful night of December 22nd, 1964 left over 2000 people dead, destroyed or marooned all structures in Dhanushkodi and tidal waves moved almost 10 km into the island and rendered the town bereft of any noticeable traces of human civilization and was declared as a Ghost Town by the Government. The place is sacred to Hindus, as they believe that Lord Rama had built a bridge to Sri Lanka over the sea from this point. Today, pilgrims visit Dhanushkodi for a sacred bath at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

The drive from Rameshwaram town to Dhanushkodi is an unforgettable one.  A narrow strip of land on which a ribbon-like road snakes along, lined by coniferous trees, with the Bay of Bengal on the left and the Indian Ocean on the right of the road-what a view!  As dramatic the view is, the road comes to an end abruptly. A few more miles in a four-wheel drive on the slightly marshy barren land brings one to the middle of nowhere and is enveloped by an eerie silence broken only by the shrill cries of the birds and the waves lapping against the shores. It is a remote and barren place, without any permanent human settlement. The only natural dwellers are a large number of sea birds. A roofless church stands as a mute testimony, a silent reminder that nature can be deadly as well as beautiful. It’s a land of visual contrasts, stark and at the same time incredibly stunning.   The farthest point of land that merges with the sea is a sight to behold.  On the left is the Bay of Bengal and on the right the Indian Ocean, referred to as the male sea and the female sea, respectively. While the former appears calm, shallow and brown, the latter looks rough, deep and blue.

            A place unspoilt by humans, or rather, claimed back by nature for itself from humans.  A place where you can hear the sound of silence. That is the rare beauty of Dhanushkodi-it is a wee bit magical and surreal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


         Once upon a time there used to be people who would yearn for their mobiles to beep/ring/screech/tinkle/sing/vibrate, or whatever it is that it is set to do when there is an incoming message.  With a smile on their lips, a crinkle in the corner of their eyes and a song in their heart, the tiny button on their mobiles would be pressed.  And out would pop a message, clever/funny/silly/rude/motivating/mushy/inspiring/informative-depending entirely on the tastes and interests of the sender and the receiver.  When the mobile turns mute for long, it leads to anxious moments.  The button gets pressed at regular intervals and checked to confirm, if indeed, the instrument is alive and kicking.  The SMS tone was literally music to the receiver’s ears-well, melody lies in the ears of the beholder.

        Then came the second stage, when it moved on from purely personal purposes to business purposes also.  Realizing the reach of the short messages, the pesky marketing chaps started peddling their wares and assorted services.  Everything from health hints to career guidance to love tips was compressed to fit your mobile screen and made available at your ‘finger tips’.  That is when the mobile started turning from an object of pleasure to a monster of hate.  Desperate situations call for devious solutions-and solve them, we did.  Haven’t we mastered the art of barely glancing through the sender’s name/number and decide the worth of the message and trash it promptly without batting an eyelid, that too, without even reading the message fully? 

            Now we have come a full circle and back to the days when SMS is always welcome but now, it’s thrill of a different kind.  Most of us have moved on to the bigger, better Twitter/Facebook/Orkut/MySpace and so, mobile messages which notify the status updates/tweets/scraps/comments/pokes from family/friends/co-workers to us are eagerly awaited.  The older version of SMS restricted interactions to just two people, whereas Social Media Networking brings many of our friends within its folds and leads to interesting exchanges.  We can hardly wait to catch up with our friends’ latest adventures, wise-cracks, photo albums, heart-breaks, gossips-all in real time.  It is quite obvious that the world is indeed shrinking.

            That brings me to my part of the story. I am on my eighth mobile now in as many years.  Don’t let that make you hastily conclude how fickle-minded women are.  I’ve sort of squared up on the law of averages which says that a rare occurrence will happen, given enough time.  So I have finally stumbled upon my perfect mobile-one that keeps me connected with my network of friends, family and colleagues, helps silence those bothersome callers, block out unsolicited messages, capture memorable moments for posterity, doubles up as my very own music and video player and most importantly, shake me out of my de…ep sleep with its alarm.  That was until last month...until Apple released its iPad last fortnight.  Now, I feel the familiar stirrings of restlessness…will history repeat itself…can I resist the temptation of the Apple?

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Time gallops at a blinding pace
            who knows where it will stop?
Neither have we the reins in our hands
            nor our feet in the stirrups

Youth has vanished but
            we remain unaware
We search eternally for it
            our backs doubled with age

Friday, April 9, 2010


            The video posted here is ‘The Game of Survival’ from ‘The Bear’ filmed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, the French film maker.  We have been captivated by the survival techniques employed by the enterprising bear cub to wriggle out of a sticky spot.
            Haven’t we all been faced with such tricky situations in our day-to-day life from time to time?  Would it be an exaggeration to say that it is a jungle out there we navigate everyday?  May be not, for I certainly can spot quite a few ferocious lions, cunning foxes, cowardly lambs, chattering monkeys and squealing rats around me.  We regularly learn to side-step potential quicksand and find our way through the unknown wilderness with lurking dangers in the jungle landscape of our careers.
        Our social lives are a different game of survival altogether.  A potentially threatening situation for many of us is striking a conversation with strangers.  The English are blessed that they have a tailor-made topic for initiating conversation-the weather.  The glorious vagaries of the English weather are a fool-proof conversation kick-starter.  With weather like the one Chennai enjoys (!) what does one ask? “Isn’t it hot/hotter/hottest today??”  Forget anyone responding favorably to that, it would be a definite conversation-stopper.  Many thanks then to our unctuous politicians, swash-buckling cricketers and vainglorious movie stars for being the fodder to keep our small-talk going on forever. Religion, caste and language may separate us but these netas, princes and badshahs bridge our differences.
            Well, for many of us (yours truly included) the biggest survival game would be the daily challenge of arriving at work on time and leaving work before time.  Hmm, a tough life, indeed.