Thursday, January 27, 2005

Super Pick up lines in Grad School

Here are some of the most amazing pick lines that I have seen commonly used by many Desi(Indian)/Male/M.S students in Grad school. This is probably based on the people I have seen in my school (nearby places). Disclaimer: This does not include *all* the people who go to grad studies in the US. This is an extrapolation from a sizable chunk and this is littered with lot of poetic license to exaggerate .

Note: Usually these are lines said by sex starved, high-on-harmones 2nd year Masters students. These are said to new girl students who just landed in America.

The top 10 is as follows

10) I can get you an RA position with Prof. Bethylkymertor. He owes me a personal favor.

9) I will show you around the university. I will show you the gardens, the library, the computing center. You will be amazed by the gothic architectural constructions that are there in this university ( and only in this university). btw our university is ranked # 1 in student population. We are the best..you know. In the Mid-west regions, among schools that have trees with just 4 branches we are ranked number one. In the left half of america among students who do research standing on one leg, we are ranked # 1. ( more praises heaped on the university)

8) I will escort you to these amazing, magical places called Target, Wallmart and Meijer.

7) I will explain to you the differences between American and Indian English

5) I know of a friend who has a GA position and who is graduating, maybe I could get you that position.

4) I know the professor who grants TA positions.

3) I have a car.

2) I will help you do your grocery.

And the # 1 pick up line that almost always never fails is

1) I will help you do your homework assignments.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Heist

Time: Sometime in 1988-1989
Place: Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India
Age: 7th Grade.

It was around 9:00 PM in the night. I was with 3 other people. We were a gang (had been so for about 4 months). We were stealthily crouching up a compound wall/fence and peeping inside. We were planning to raid a "thoppu" ( A grove where many fruit bearing trees are grown). The house was going to sleep, the lights were getting switched off and we thought the time was ripe to loot. There was no one but an aaachi ( An old grand ma who wears white dress) guarding the trees. In those days especially in villages, old ladies slept outside. They were frail creatures with nothing but a single piece of white cloth on (like manisha koirala in kuchi kuchi rakkamma, except much older) but they were as fierce as tigers.

Guava is fruit that is popular in India. I don't think its popular in the US. It is available in some Indian stores though. I don't know if it has an American or English name (like Lady's finger Vs Okra) so that people can say "oh! Ya ! I get it". Even in India many people don't understand what a guava is. I guess Paeru is the rough equalant for it in Hindi. So...coming back, we were going to raid a guava grove. This grove formed the backyard of a large house. Its not like we were robbers or something who were going to steal for money or even worse hunger. Our parents would have bought it for us if we had asked them. Moreover one of my gang members(who became one of my closest friends and is so until now...lets call him oz dude) had the biggest guava grove in the town and we could've plucked fruits from his backyard and eaten for an eternity. No! that was not it! hunger or money was not the reason (they are just too dull). We simply had nothing worthwhile to do and we thought "hey why not steal some fruits". Plus there is an old proverb which says stolen fruits taste sweeter.

So I jumped in with my friend into the grove ( no special feeling when I jumped over the fence) and sneaked near the tree and we also took care not to make even the slightest of noises. My blood was racing like anything. I had never done anything like this before. I was actually praying this would be broadcast live in TV so that the world will appreciate my heroics. But unfortnately even the half-dying aachi was not aware of my heroics. Me and the Oz dude were chosen to climb the tree and pluck the guavas. I am not much of a tree climber and By god ! I was afraid of heights. I live in the fifth floor and I wouldn't let anybody lean too much over my patio. But still we both climb like monkeys to the strongest branch. The other two gang members had a blanket like cloth with them and they stood below us with the cloth spread out so that we could drop the fruits on it.

I am a crazy fellow! ( you are smiling a knowing smile ...aren't you?). I hate ripe Guavas. I like them to be as far away from ripe as possible. Semi-ripe is okay. But completely unripe is a wow! for me. So I moved towards a branch that has the smallest fruits that were crying out " i am unripe and sour!!! pluck me please!!!". I oblidgingly plucked them and started throwing them down. My friends below started noticing this and said " are you crazy? who will eat this? we will get stomach ache! Pluck the ripe ones you idiot!!". But I was not listening. I was in the zone. I kept plucking the small unripe ones and throwing it down thinking "they won't eat it..its all mine". Oz dude gets very angry on seeing my bandwidth being wasted on stupid unripe fruits and he crawled angriliy towards me and I moved to the farthest end of the branch.

Unable to bear my weight (surprising because I was pretty puny then), I could see the branch sort of go down a litttle and then suddenly SNAP! it breaks! and I fall down with a CRASH!. Next thing I know I hear the aachi, the old lady asking " yaar da angaa" ( who is there) the lights go on in a flash and I can see the 2 friends who were standing down were now already jumping across the compound. The screaming voice of aaachi might have confused me slightly but only so slightly. I pulled myself together, got up and ran as fast as I could. I still don't know how I jumped the wall and ran across the thorny bushes clinging on to my very life. After 3-4 minutes I realized Oz dude was up in the tree. "Oh! my god!" I thought and turned behind.

Two grown up adults were chasing us and I saw oz dude running fast towards me with a bicycle. ( ya! I forgotten. He had bought his bicycle with him and had parked it by the side of the wall). The funny part was, the two chasers were gaining on him and if he had to mount the bike and start pedalling it, he would have to slow down considerably and in the process get caught. So he was sort of towing his bike on his right hand side. He was running fast and had both hands on the handle bars and was dragging his bike along.

This cracked me up. I can still remember that scene vividly. I don't think I can ever forget it. I ran fast joined my other two friends pointed them to the sight of Oz dude running with the bike (he was now running in a different direction with both the chasers folowing him), he was still unable to get on the bike. (We laughed so loud that i still laugh when I think about. We made sure we told everybody we knew about this incident and embarassed oz dude until he turned red.) Finally Oz dude got on the bike and pedalled his way to freedom. What was more cool was that 90% of our loot was unripe fruits. It was all mine. My friends couldn't believe that they had been through the entire ordeal (well to tell you the truth! if we had been caught, our biggest punsihment would have been no-dinner-for-you-tonight) for nothing.

The next day, the owner of the house visited my house. I almost pissed in my pants at the sight of him. I thought by some sophisticated finger printing gadgetry he had nailed me down. Thankfully he had come to see my dad for some other purpose (hey it was nellai.. the only gadget was aachi's hearing aid). I was releived. apparently he had not seen me well in the dark ( or he had seen me and chose to be silent about it).

Yesterday..I was watching some old movie and some scene sparked a flashback in my mind ( you know with the spiralling white circles and all that stuff). This happened way back in 1988-1989, I was in 7th grade. The incident took place in Thirunelveli. Oh God! bless the country side for providing such amazing adventures. Thirunelveli (or Nellai) is a small town in the southern tip of India just an hour away from Kanyakumari ( which is the southernmost tip). Its known for its Halwa, Thool Bajji ( pakoda) and the veecharuva folks ( They sorted misunderstandings by chopping off people). But otherwise ( :-) ), it a friendly town and even a 80 year old would stand up before addressing me.

Many times when I flash my stupid I.D card at my work place to the security dude, I think about the many incidents from Thirunelveli. I think "Whose gonna steal anything from this boring concrete building? Why would anyone want to steal some bytes. Have you got guavas inside? You keep guava in their dude and I'll make you earn your money. Even aachi was a better guard than these fancy uniformed people ". Unknowingly a smile runs across my face. That was life! Carefree! and reckless. Sometimes these modern corporate scanario appear just too dull and dead.


Edit1: I changed the name to Heist. This was the name I was actually searching for but did not get it yesterday. Poaching is more animal specific and since we weren't bagging the aaachi but just the guavas, I thought Heist was a better name.

Edit2: Another interesting this was that oz dude's cycle was a Ladies cycle. You know the one with no bar in front. This made it all the more funny as he all he had to do was get on the bike like he would sit on the chair.

Song Playing while I wrote this Blog: Rock Me Armedeus by Falco

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I have a Digital Camera

Haven't been this excited by technological innovations since I bought a cell phone four years before. I have always been reluctant to use certain "new fad" things. I resisted mobile phones for two years before I decided that a mobile phone might be of some value. I bought it when I "earned" the right to buy one. Ofcourse I abused it like crazy after I bought it.

I did not actually resist the camera so much. However, I had this self-perceived notion of being a super-hero cinematographer, a P.C Sreeram incarnation. I thought I'll buy the 1.324zaix 16.7 * (10 power 3) Mega Pixel, Giga zixel, new-year resolution, christmas resolution, SLR, bi-focal cosmic zoom, boom focus, funky, sleek sexy camera, which will make my photographs extremely awesome. So sexy that the viewers will sink in their knees in orgasmic pleasure. But I never bought such a camera. Instead I broke the only camera my dad gave me.

So now a combination of divine intervention and the love of two well-meaning souls has left me gifted and richer by a digital camera. I am clicking to my heart's delight. I literally shoot at sight :-) This thing can be connected to the TV. I Have clicked about 600 pictures so far. My laptop is overflowing with pictures. Anybody who comes to my house is snapped and then shown on TV. I live on the fifth floor ( don't laugh its the only five story building in my neighborhood)so I have a good view of things. I have been photopgraphing people walking on streets, sunrise, sunset, people sleeping (i am told all of the last three is supposed to be bad omen/inauspicious...). Experimenting with a variety of angles and poses ( we are still on the topic of photography) has been quite interesting. I notice people dont "live" life nowadays. Ah.. the pleasure of simple things in the world is just awesome.

So from now onwards watch out for pictures in my blog.

Song Playing while writing this blog:: Champagne Supernova by Oasis

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Seinfeld DVDs

Atlast I got to see the Seinfeld DVDs. The "specials" in the DVDs are worth the price of the DVD set. It comes like a big box set and it has a salt n pepper stand etc. It even has a book that has the seinfeld script. There is a "notes about nothing section" where some trivia appears as subtitles when the episode is going on. Each episode also has a run along audio commentary by Jerry or Larry David or someone.

The best is the "Inside Look" on almost every episode. where the cast and the crew explain certain interesting incidents surrounding a particular episode. There is a Mega three part "How it all Began" at the end of season two DVD, where the writers and actor talk about how they assembled the Seinfeld team.

Sometimes its amazing how destiny unites completely unrelated people into a single path. This never ceases to amaze me. Apparently they'd decided to cast Jerry to play Jerry himself and they were looking for someone to play George. Seeing this DVD confirmed to me that George is indeed a caricature of a specific personality aspect of Larry David. My impressions on the following key members of the cast are as follows;

Jerry Seinfeld:: There are a lot of praises said about Jerry but the thing I like about Seinfeld is his complete detachment from all emotions and sensitivities. Again it falls in the "easier said than done" category. This fellow seems to be untouched by the mediocrity other human beings undergo by becoming emotional. I was raised to believe that "emotions maketh a human being". Jerry was apparently not taught that. He seems just too rational. I saw snippets of Jerry appearing on the tonight show and boy! was he raw and rusty?

George / Jason Alexander:: Seriously! I have always said George carried the Seinfeld show on his back. He dominated the screen presence in Seinfeld and would have probably spoken atleast 40% of the dialogs written for Seinfeld, the maximum by an individual actor. The way he parses the words when Jerry says a girl might be dropping in to stay with him. He says ""Had to come in" and "maybe we'll get together"? "Had to" and "Maybe"?". This is an actor par excellence. The man is really really talented. It seems he was selected for the show after he auditioned through a video tape for the script written for the Pilot Episode. He thought this show will never pick up anyway and so did a "Woody Allen" imitation. No wonder he is a theater actor brought up in the classical school. Nobody can accentuate the words like the way george does and bring out the range of emotions like the way he does. To me he is the best in the Seinfeld ensemble. I heard he never got an Emmy. Well too bad for the Emmys.

Kramer/Michael Richards:: So I learned that Kramer is modelled on Larry David's real next door neighbor called Kramer. The real Kramer was an equally whacky fellow. Again the DVD showed Michael Richards at the time he appeared in "The Tonight Show" , he was more the Jerry Lewis slap stick variety and he definetly made Jay Leno laugh. He seems pretty articulate though in the interviews. He also was nice when he expressed genuine fear of being written out of seinfeld when he didnt find a part in the "The Chinese restaurant".

Elaine/Julia Lewis Dreyfuss: She got picked up becuse Larry David knew her from SNL days. She reminds me of my ex-professor Joanne Degroat ( Degroat was more plump). I am sure some ( atleast one) of my readers will disagree (you know who you are) with this comment. But I got that feeling when I saw the interviews.

Larry David: This fellow is the Howard Roark of the television world. I respect him more after seeing these DVDs. Here is a fellow who did not compromise easily and was willing to say "up yours" to NBC executives if they didnt accede to his demands. The DVDs are not clear how much of the show was the way Larry David wanted it to be. But the parts which the said was forced on them by NBC seemed to be the weakest parts of the show. Most of the episode plots were from Larrys own experience. "George shouting at his boss and quitting and then going back to office the next day as if nothing happened" - real life incident :-) SO larry David is a whacky guy for sure.

The NBC Executives: I do not know why usually the management ( or the guys with the money) become "them" in the "us" Vs "them" battle. NBC executives come off pretty poor in the creativity section of seinfeld. It appears they were conservative and opposed every creative/radical move by Larry David. I am not sure how good/successfull the show might have been had they (a) allowed Larry to have his own way (b) ran the show their own conservative way. Larry Speaks of NBC executives in a bad light (" the creativity superssors"), whereas seinfeld (as usual) takes the practical approach and says, " they gave us a shot! thats all we could ask for".

This is definetly the most radical, rebellious TV series I had seen. Simpsons maybe in the same wavelength but that its animated takes away some of its credit. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of DVDs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Wedding Rituals ( A Comprehensive Research)

The previous blog on my "Conversations with God" seems to have upset a few people. The irreverence of it all, is not going down well. My future-to-be-significant-other shot an email that (apart from other expletives) had a link to a web site, which has explanations on the rituals surrounding marriage. Having attended hundreds of weddings, most of it 2 days long, there is definetly a feeling of a void. Not in my stomach ofcourse I made sure the 2 days were always well spent. I never knew what was going on up there. You know.. they light a fire and say a lot of stuff and do a lot of stuff. Over time I have been thinking that knowing what goes on during a wedding and the meaning and purpose of such rituals and hymns might not be a bad idea. So this email prompted a research of my own. Note This blog is enormous & long. So you might wanna read this in installments or spend considerable time reading it at one go.

I was surprised to find this in the link I got. What it says is true.

Author's Note: This material is intended to be circulated in the Internet for the benefit of Young people (residing outside India and ) who may not have much knowledge of the wedding rituals and their significance in marital life. It might be worthwhile for young unmarried people to recall the meaning of the respective mantras so as to be fully involved with the rituals and derive the benefits of reciting these.

Before attempting to present the above, I have consulted authoritative books on the subject and people who are well versed in Sanskrit literature and Vedas. I shall appreciate suggestions to improve its contents.

The following is not only extracted from this specific author. Its the Megamix. I took a look at what the author SGV Ramanan and other authoritative sources have to say on the subject of marriage rituals. The following is a collection and collation of information I obtained from various sources.

The Hindu Marriage:

Most of the Hindu marriages conducted in India and elsewhere are both social and religious functions. There is no uniformity on their social side. These are based on local customs and traditions. On the religious side, with minor variations, they follow some specific rituals as indicated in the Vedas. Veda mantras or sacred hymns playing a key role in every step of the traditional Hindu marriage. The mantras for this ceremony come mostly from the Rks housed in the tenth mandala of the Rg Veda, where Suryaa, the daughter of the sun god, is given in marriage to a bridegroom by the name of Soma. These mantras are mostly from section 10.85. ( The wedding ceremony and the mantras chanted therein follow scrupulously the text of the Hymn 85, Mandala X, of the Rig Veda. The marriage ceremonies are called Vaidika ceremonies as they follow the Vedic Scripture. )

Many Divya Desams have references in their traditional histories (sthala puranams) to the Lord seeking the hand of Maha Lakshmi, who is raised by a maharishi after finding her as a parentless infant (ayonijaa). For instance, in Oppiliappan Koil, Markandeya Maharishi accedes to the request of Sriman Narayana who seeks the hand of his daughter Bhumi Devi. She was found as a child in the tulasi forest by the Maharishi. At Kumbakonam, Sarangapani weds Komalavalli, the daughter of Hema Maharishi. At Thiruvahindrapuram, Hemambujavalli, the daughter of another rishi, marries Devanathan in a Vedic ceremony. At Tirupati, Srinivasa marries Padmavati after seeking her hand from her father, Akasa Rajan. At Tiru Idavendai, the Lord got the name of Nitya Kalyaanar through his marriage of the 360 daughters of Kalava Rishi. He married them each one a day and made them all into one named Akhilavalli Nacciyar.

The most celebrated one is the wedding of Andal and Ranganatha. Ranganatha seeks the hand of Andal from her father Periyalvar and weds her in a ceremony at Srivilliputtur. Andal had previously dreamt about this marriage and recorded the wedding in detail in her Nacciyar Tirumozhi, Varanamayiram section, exactly as prescribed in the Vedic ceremony.

The following sections describes the steps of a Vedic wedding and their significance.

Nichyathartham/Pradhanam: The engagement / Exchange of Thamboolams: The engagement ceremony takes place once the horoscopes of the bride and the groom are matched. The couple's parents exchange 'thamboolams' or platters filled with betel leaves, betel nuts, fruits, flowers, 'kumkum' (vermilion) and 'pasupu' (turmeric) along with the 'lagna patrika' (marriage document). The 'lagna patrika' is read aloud by a 'pujari' (Purohit) to the elders, conveying the acceptance of the alliance between both families, and the date, time and venue for the wedding is finalized at this time.

Kalyana Rata: Fixing the first pole of the marriage 'pandaal'. An auspicious time is arrived at for fixing the first pole of the marriage 'pandaal' (canopy erected for the wedding rites).The 'kalyana rata' or pole is adorned with turmeric powder, mango leaves and 'rangoli' (coloured rice flour) designs. The 'pujari' performs a 'puja' by sprinkling turmeric, 'kumkum' powder, yellow rice and flowers amidst the chanting of Vedic mantras. The 'kalyana rata' is then fixed very firmly into the ground and an 'arathi' is performed. Prayers are offered so that the 'pandaal' should remain strong and firm throughout the ceremonies.

Nalugu with Mangala Vyadham: Ritualistic oil bath for the bride and groomFrom this day on the 'nadeswaram' (wind instrument similar to the clarinet, only larger) accompanied by a 'melam' (drum) is played for all the auspicious occasions till the wedding ceremony is completed.This is purely a ladies function, and takes place one or two days prior to the wedding. The bride and groom, in their respective homes, are anointed with oil by the elders, blessed and given an oil bath, after which they are dressed in silks and adorned with the 'Kalyana thilakam' (a mark made on the forehead with vermilion).Subsequent to this they are not allowed to move out of their homes until the wedding ceremonies are completed. The same evening, the ladies congregate once again and the 'sumangalis' (married ladies) pound turmeric. The bride gives 'thamboolams' consisting of bangles, 'kumkum', flowers and fruits to the ladies and they in turn bless the bride, wishing her a long and happy married life.

Marriage ceremonies last two days, one day prior to the Muhurtham day and the day on which the actual wedding ceremony according to Vedic rites is conducted.

Janavaasam: The day previous to the marriage, it is a customary practice to visit a nearby temple, offer prayers to the presiding deity and take the Bridegroom (hereafter referred to as BG) in a procession to the hall where the marriage is conducted. The Lagna Patrika, (a document indicating the details of the BG & Bride (hereafter referred to as B) and the timing and place of marriage, duly signed by the parents of BG & B, is read out and signed by the two sets of parents. This takes the character of a contractual document without stamp paper. Though this does not take the character of a legal document, it serves the purpose of a formal agreement binding on both the parties. In many cases, this formality is completed much before the marriage in the form of Nichiyathaartham, which is done to commit the parties to the marriage indicating a specific date for the marriage.

The next day ceremonies start with Kasi Yatra, Malai Maatral (exchange of garlands) and Oonjal (Jhoola). These have no religious significance as such. Secondly, these rituals vary from community to community, depending on the established custom and traditions.

The Kasi Yatra ritual which is peculiar to Brahmin community is the one when the father of B symbolically weans away the BG from the pursuits of Brahmacharyam, which is symbolically represented by his journey towards Kasi (Benares or Varanasi), the seat of Vedic culture and knowledge, and requests him to enter Grahasthasrama by marrying his daughter.

Note: This apparently counters the very ceremony conducted thereafter (Kanyavaranam), where the B's emissary is sent to seek the hand of an identified girl from a specific family. Even then, this is continued as essential part of a marriage. Probably, this incongruancy can be explained as follows. In the ancient period, it is the boys' side which took all the initiative and was searching for a suitable girl for the boy. This has reversed amongst the Brahmins now. It is the girls' parents who search for the boys and seek their alliance. In most other communities (example: Gounders family in Tamil Nadu), the ancient system still continues. I would appreciate, if any one who reads it can offer better and more authentic explanation for it.

Oonjal, is a ladies ceremony, where BG & B are made to sit in a swing and propitiation is done, to ward off the effect of "evil eyes" (bad peoples evil thoughts or curses) on the couple.

The real and important Vedic side of the ceremony starts only thereafter; the following paragraphs indicate briefly the meaning of some of the most important rituals and mantras recited at the time of the wedding ceremony. (No attempt has been made here to reproduce the mantras in original Sanskrit or Anglicised version, as it will only confuse readers who do not have knowledge of Sanskrit.)

The very first ritual is started with mantras soliciting the bride (Kanyavaranam)

Sequence of events following this are:

(1) Seeking the bride from an identified family through the emissary of Brahmins (Kanyaavaranam);
(2) Promise from the brides side to offer the girl in marriage (Vakthaanam);
(3) Invoking the Holy waters to purify and protect the girl from evil forces. (Here a water pot Kalasa) is established and waters of the sacred rivers and all the gods and goddesses including, Thrimurthis and Varuna, are invoked in it. The girl takes a symbolic bath with this Holy water (Kalasa Pooja);
(4) Worship of the divine power that causes sprouting (ankuraparna);
(5) Worship of ancestors (Nandi);
(6) BG receives directives from the teacher (Sama vardhanam - Kasi yatra);
(7) B escorted by bride's maid enters the hall and stands facing the BG;
(8) Meeting of the eyes (Sameekshanam);
(9) BG & B garlands each other (varmaalaa).

Note: The order in which 5 to 9 are performed has changed over a period of time and now Kasi Yatra and Maalai Matral are done before Oonjal.

vaak daanam: This step is a part of Kanya Varanam, where the groom-to-be (brahmachari) sends two elders on his behalf to the father of a girl whom he wishes to marry. The elders convey the message of the brahmachari and ask for the daughter's hand. The two mantras in the form of brahmachari's appeal to intercede on his behalf come from Rg 10.32.1 ("pra sugmantha...") and 10.85.23. The first mantra begs the elders to proceed and return quickly with success back from their mission on his behalf. The second mantram ("anruksharaa Rjava:...") asks for the gods' blessings for the elders' safe journey to the house of the father of the would-be-bride. The mantra prays to Aryama and Bhaga for a marriage full of harmony. The father accedes to the request of the elders and the resulting agreement for betrothal is known as vaak daanam

Kanyaadhaanam (Giving away the bride): Here, the brahmachari meets his prospective father-in-law. The latter seats him facing the eastern direction and washes the feet of the future son-in-law, considering him as Lord Vishnu Himself. All honors are given including the ceremonial washing of the feet of the groom by the father-in-law and offer of madhu parka (a mixture of yogurt, honey and ghee) to the accompaniment of selected Veda mantras

This is an important ritual wherein the girl is gifted away to the BG's family; B loses her family identity completely. Even the Gothram (family lineage/heritage) to which B belongs till marriage is changed to that of the boy. At that time, BG recites a mantra which says:

"Let the holy water which is poured on my feet safeguard me against all enemies and let me glow in splendour equal to the Brahma. He then takes a mixed liquid made of honey and curd (and sometimes ghee is added to this)."

vara prekshanam In this ritual, the bridegroom and the bride look at each other formally for the first time. The bridegroom worries about any dosas (defects) that the bride might have and prays to the gods Varuna, Brihaspati, Indra and Surya to remove every defect and to make her fit for harmonious and long marriage life blessed with progeny and happiness (mantra: Rg 10.85.44). The bride groom recites the mantra and wipes the eyebrows of the bride with a blade of darbha grass, as if he is chasing away all defects. The darbha grass is thrown behind the bride at the conclusion of this ceremony.

Then BG looks at B directly and prays to the gods (Devas) to protect B from all defects and deficiencies (in word, thought and deed) and recites mantras addressed to B by which he expects B to look beautiful, be loving to her husband and his family, be of good heart and do good things, be pious, protect the animals and the family of BG, and get good children. He then recites another mantra which removes (destroys) all bad qualities in her.

Placing Yoke on the Head of B:

B's father makes B to sit on his lap. BG places a rounded Dharbha(I) and on that places a small replica of a wooden yoke. This is expected to be witnessed by the sisters and mothers of both BG & B. When he places the right end of the yoke, he recites a mantra to indicate the following meaning. "As Apaalai was cleansed by you of all her sins and purified through the holes of a wheel, a rath(am), and a yoke, Oh, Lord Indra, cleanse this girl of all her illnesses and make her shine in splendour."

He then places gold coins on the holes of the yoke and pours Holy water in one of the holes reciting a mantra with this meaning:

"Let these gold coins bring you prosperity and happiness. Let the Holy water purify you and bring happiness to you. You can thereafter offer your body to your husband."

Mangala Snaanam:

Five Veda mantras are recited to sanctify the bride in preparation for the subsequent stages of the marriage. This aspect of the marriage is known as mangala snanam. The sun god (Surya), water god (Varuna), and other gods are invoked to purify the bride in preparation for a harmonious married life. Next, the bride wears the marriage clothes to the accompaniment of additional Veda mantras. The bridegroom then ties a darbha rope around the waist of the bride and leads her to the place, where the sacred fire is located for conducting the rest of the marriage ceremony. The bride and the groom sit on a new mat in front of the fire. The groom recites three mantras which invoke Soma, Gandharva and Agni to confer strength, beauty, and youth on the bride.

Thereafter, Bride is (symbolically) given a bath in Holy waters with 5 mantras which seek Gods blessings to give B purity, happiness, closeness and understanding with husband, and good company.

Koorai (Wedding) Saree:

The wedding saree is worn specially for the marriage ceremony. The type and colour of the saree depend upon family custom. It is usually in red (arakku) colour. It is given to B with a mantra by the priest. After B comes back wearing the saree, BG ties a rope made of Darbai around her waist with a mantra which says: "With a good heart and praying for good children, long life for the husband and good health, B is sitting near Agni. Tying this rope I take her to the sacred wedding ceremonies."

He, then, holds the right hand of B and takes her to a carpet spread near the Agni and recites mantras to indicate and acknowledge the boon given by Soman, Gandharvan and Agni in giving her strength, beauty, and youth to B for his enjoyment.

Mangalya Dhaaranam:

In South Indian Brahmin families, Mangalya Dhaaranam is considered to be the most important ceremony. Though there is no special mantra for this, the BG recites the following sloka:

Maangalyam thanthunaanaena mama jeevitha haethunaa /

kanttae bathnaami supahae sanjeeva sarasa satham:

The meaning is: "This yellow rope is managala suthram. This is a sacred thread. This will help my longevity. I tie this around your neck, O maiden having many auspicious attributes! May you live happily for a hundred years (with me). "

With this sloka, he ties the rope around B's neck and puts two knots in it. The third knot is usually made by Bride Groom's sister. The explanation of the three knots is common knowledge 1) First knot of relation ship 2) Second knot given the groom right over the bride and 3) third knot tells the world they are married.

The next two rituals namely Panigrahanam and Sapthapathi are very important for all Hindu marriages. Do not offer to shake hands or try and gift the newly weds at this point. They shall remain untouched until Sapthapathi is over:

Panigrahanam:

After maangalya dhaaranam, the groom lowers his right palm and encloses it over the right hand of the bride. He covers all the five fingers of the right hand of the bride with his right palm through this act of paani grahanam. He recites mantras in praise of Bhaga, Aryama, Savita, Indra, Agni, Suryan, Vayu and Saraswati, while holding the bride's hand. He prays for long life, progeny, prosperity and harmony with the bride during their married life. The closed fingers of the right hand of the bride is said to represent her heart. The paani grahanam ritual symbolizes the bride surrendering her heart in the hands of the groom during the occasion of the marriage
The Groom lowers his right hand and catches Bride's right hand with all the fingers together. Four mantras are recited at that time, to convey the following:

1. I hold your hand to keep you with me to raise good children and till you become old. Devatas including Indra have offered you to me to become the Lady in charge of the house.
2. Sun God/Lord Agni, who have been powerful when they were having their "Grahasthasrama" has given you to me.
3. Oh, Goddess Saraswathi, you should protect us well. We will offer our oblations to you before all the creatures of this world.
4. Let the Vayu God who cleanseth and pervades all directions and corners, and who holds Gold in his hand and is the counterpart of Agni, unite you with me in mind and thought.

After this, Sapthapathi is performed. This is the most important of all Marriage rituals. The marriage is considered complete after this point.


Sapthapathi:

During this ritual, the groom walks with the bride to the right side of the sacred fire. All along, he holds his wife's right hand in his right hand in the way in which he held her hand during the paani grahanam ceremony. He stops, bends down and holds the right toe of his wife with his right hand and helps her take seven steps around the fire. At the beginning of each step, he recites a Veda mantra to invoke the blessings of Maha Vishnu. Through these seven mantras, he asks Maha Vishnu to follow in the footsteps of his wife and bless her with food, strength, piety, progeny, wealth, comfort and health. At the conclusion of the seven steps, he addresses his wife with a moving statement from the Veds summarized below:

Dear Wife! By taking these seven steps, you have become my dearest friend. I pledge my unfailing loyalty to you. Let us stay together for the rest of our lives. Let us not separate from each other ever. Let us be of one mind in carrying out our responsibilities as householders (grihasthas). Let us love and cherish each other and enjoy nourishing food and good health. Let us discharge our prescribed Vedic duties to our elders, ancestors, rishis, creatures, and gods. Let our aspirations be united. I will be the Saaman and may you be the Rk (Saaman here refers to the music and Rk refers to the Vedic text that is being cast into music). Let me be the upper world and let you be the Bhumi or Mother Earth. I will be the Sukla or life force and may you be the bearer of that Sukla. Let me be the mind and let you be the speech. May you follow me to conceive children and gain worldly as well as spiritual wealth. May all auspiciousness come your way.

This series of Veda mantras starting with "sakhaa saptapadhaa bhava ..." and ending with "pumse putraaya ..." are rich with meaning and imagery.
This important step in detail is explained as follows.

The bridegroom(BG) gets up from the seat holding the right hand of the bride(B). He then goes round the Holy Fire (Agni) from the right side, by lifting the right feet of B step by step. This is done for seven steps. With each step, he recites a mantra addressed to B, with the following meaning.

"Let Lord Maha Vishnu follow each one of your steps for the following specific purposes.
Step 1: To give you unlimited food.
Step 2. To give you excellent health and energy.
Step 3. To make you perform your vrithas (rituals) as ordained in Vedas, during your life time.
Step 4. To give you happiness in life.
Step 5. To make your cows and good animals to grow in strength and in numbers.
Step 6. To make all the seasons be beneficial to you.
Step 7. To make the homams (sacrifices to be done in Holy Fire) to be performed by you in your life as ordained in Vedas, successful and free from hindrances."

Obviously, the idea behind this is to pray to Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, for his blessings in marital life.

BG then recites a mantra to convey the following meaning: (Alternative Summary of Sapthapathi)

"After crossing seven steps with me thus, you should become my friend. I too have become your friend now. I will never discord this friendship and you should not also do that. Let us be together always. Let us resolve to do things in life in the same manner and tread the same path. Let us lead a life by liking and loving each other, having good heart and thoughts, and enjoying the food and our strong points together. Let us have undivided opinions. We will perform the vrithas united. Let us have same and joint desires. I will be Sama (one of the vedas); you will be Rig (another Veda). Let me be the Heaven; you be the Earth. Let me be the Shukla (Moon) and you be its wearer. Let me be the mind and you its spokesman (Vak). With these qualities, you be my follower. You the sweet tongued, come to me to get good male children and wealth."

Note: These are pregnant with meaning and it would have a better effect, if the these mantras are explained to BG & B in advance; unfortunately it is not done now. In fact, both BG & B go through these rituals as a matter of routine. Even the visitors show least attention to the ceremonies that follow Mangalyadhaaranam.

pradhaana homam After sapta padi, the couple take their seat on the western side of the sacred fire and conduct pradhaana homam. During the conductance of this homam, the bride must place her right hand on her husband's body so that she gets the full benefit of the homam through symbolic participation. Sixteen mantras are recited to the accompaniment of pouring a spoon of clarified butter into the sacred fire at the end of recitation of each of the mantras. These mantras salute Soma, Gandharva, Agni, Indra, Vayu, the Aswini Devas, Savita, Brihaspati, Viswa Devas and Varuna for blessing the marriage and beseeches them to confer long wedded life, health, wealth, children and freedom from all kinds of worries.

One prayer -- the sixth mantra -- has a sense of humor and provides deep insight into human psychology. The text of this mantra is: "daSaasyam putraan dehi, patim ekaadaSam kRti". Here, the groom asks Indra to bless the couple with ten children and requests that he be blessed to become the eleventh child of his bride in his old age.

Ashmarohanam (Treading the Stone)/Stepping on the grinding stone :

After pradhaana homam, the husband holds the right toe of his wife and lifts her leg and places it on a flat granite grinding stone known as "ammi" in Tamil. The ammi stands at the right side of the sacred fire. The husband recites a Veda mantra when he places the right foot of his wife on the ammi:
May you stand on this firm stone. May you be rock-firm during your stay on this grinding stone. May you stand up to those who oppose you while you carry out your time-honored responsibilities as a wife sanctioned by the Vedas and tradition. May you develop tolerance to your enemies and put up a fair fight to defend your legitimate rights as the head of the household in a firm manner, equal to the steady strength of this grinding stone.

Lajahomam:

In this ritual, with a view to ensure long life to her husband, B offers puffed rice to Agni. The rice is poured into her hand by B's brother and with the recitation of mantras BG adds ghee to the rice and together they offer the rice to the Agni. BG goes round the Agni and once again keeps her right feet on the stone. This is done three times. The meaning of the mantras recited during the Lajahomam is summarised below:

B says: "May my husband live long for a hundred years and may all my relatives prosper."
BG says: "Oh, Agni, bless me, my wife and children, as you blessed Savitri and Soma. Oh, Agni, bless the couple with perfect mental accord. Oh, Agni, leaving her parents, my bride who is going to set up home with me, has performed all the ordained rites. Please bless us with safe travel through a path of life free from misfortunes. (Addressing B), May Heaven, wind, the Ashwins and all the divine forces protect you on all sides and the children you bring forth until they are old enough to take care of themselves."

BG then unties the Darbai rope from B's waist and promises a happy married life for her.

Grahapravesam (Establishing of the new household or entering BG's house):

Certain mantras are recited for the safe passage of BG & B up to BG's house to establish a new household. These have no significance in marriages conducted in marriage halls in cities. In most marriages, logistics do not permit BG to take bride to his house. The function is symbolically done in the room allotted to BG's family members. BG enters his house with B, carrying the Agni in a mud pot from the Homa Kunda(m) in the marriage hall. B places her right foot first while entering the allotted place.

BG then creates a homa kunda(m) on the north-east side and invokes Lord Agni in it. With B touching his shoulders through a Darbai, he then offer ghee in the Agni and recites certain mantras to convey the following:

"May the Lord creator grant us progeny.
May the Lord anoint us together for longevity.
The auspicious Lord has given you to me. Let us enter our home.
May you bring facility to all living beings.
May we both be together in our home and never be parted.
May we both attain long life."
B there after says:
"With full willingness, I enter this holy house having plenty of food and flowing ghee and resided by good minded and brave people with lot of good will and pure mind and thoughts."

praavisya homam
After griha pravesam, a fire ritual known as praavisya homam is performed by the couple to the accompaniment of thirteen Veda mantras from the Rg Veda. Jayaadi homam is also part of the praavisya homam. This homam offers the salutation of the newly married couple to Agni Deva and asks for strength and nourishment to discharge the duties of a grihasthas for the next one hundred years. After that, the bride shifts her position from the right side of her husband to his left side. At that time, once again, she recites a Veda mantra invoking the gods for blessings of children and wealth to perform the duties of a householder.
At the end of the above homam, a child is placed on the lap of the bride and she offers a fruit to the child, while reciting a prescribed Veda mantra. Yet another mantram asks the assembled guests to bless the bride and then retire to their own individual homes peacefully. During the first evening of the stay in her new home, the couple see the stars known as Dhruva (pole star) and Arundhati. The husband points out the pole star and prays for the strength and stability of the household thru a Veda mantra. Next, the husband points out the Arundhati star to his wife and describes to her the the story of Arundhati and her legendary chastity.

Placing a Child on Bride's Lap:

So far, B has been sitting to the right of BG. Now she shifts and sits to his left side. A male child from a family in which no death of a child has taken place, is made to sit on the lap of B. ( The idea is B should get such healthy male children.) The child is given fruits with a mantras which convey the following meaning:
"Oh fruits, as you cause growth in those who eat you, bless this girl with good progeny."
"Let the children so born bring love and affection."
Addressing B, the mantra says:

"Be aware of your duties to your husband and guests; propagate good deeds to all those you have contacts."
"Let this pure girl be blessed with happiness and prosperity."

Other Rituals B looks at the Pole Star and says:

"Oh, Pole Star (Dhruva Nakshatram), as you are fixed for ever, let me be similarly fixed in this home; Protect me from my enemies."

BG and B looks at the Arundathi* Star in the constellation of Great Bears and BG says:
"Keeping Arundathi* star in view, let my wife be like Arundathi and grow to be the eighth of the (model) pathnis."
(* Arundathi was the most sacred amongst the wives of the Saptha rishis and a model to be followed by all the married women.)

Wedding Vows
BG and B look at each other and feed each other with curd and fruits. BG says:
"My wife, with bonds of the food that we eat together, with the many hued threads of life, may we bind our minds and heart with the knot of truth."
BG and B touch each other's heart and both pray as follows:
B says: "May our hearts be in harmony with our mutual aims and resolutions. May our minds be in accord. United in mind, may we be pleased with each other's words. May the Lord of wisdom wholly unite us both."
BG says: "This, which is your heart, may it my heart and this, which is my heart, may it be your heart."
B says: "From that which makes the ocean holy, the air vital, all actions complete in cosmic order, may we derive harmonious thoughts and the power to realise them."

BG places kumkum in the middle portion of the hair at the top centre of the forehead and says:

"We are freed from all the bonds in our lives up to now, bonds which ordained by the Supreme Lord for our protection in our unmarried state. In this Universe of righteous order and righteous action, we have become each other's life partner."

Concluding the Agni worship,

BG says: "Oh Creator, cleanse us from all sins and confer on us what is auspicious."
Water is sprinkled around the Agni.

"Oh Lord Adithi, Anumathi, and Saraswathi, you gave us leave to do this worship. Oh Lord Creator, you bless us. Our Salutations to you Oh Supreme Lord."
BG and B fold hands in prayer and say:
"Oh Glorious Lord, lead us in the righteous path to enjoy the riches we earn. You know all our thoughts. Destroy the hidden tendencies that could lead us astray. We worship you with all our heart. with all the worshipful words, that we have at our command."

BG and B walk around the Agni three times and each time bow in reverence. Aseervath(am)-Blessings The priest and elders bless the couple with several mantras to convey the following:

"Let the mantras, the holy chants, uttered during this ceremony be true and bear fruit."
"Let this period of time when these two were married prove to be very auspicious period in their life. Let all the benefits that the celestial powers can confer be conferred on this couple."
"Let all the inauspicious planets confer benefits as if they are in auspicious position; let all the auspices planets yield manifold benefits."
"Let this couple who is setting up a household be blessed with long life, health, fame, vitality, material wealth, steadiness of purpose, fulfilment, blessedness, compassion, spiritual lustre, impeccable virtue and happiness and let this couple be ever engaged in celebration of happiness, ever filled with happiness and ever immersed in happiness."
"Let the people all over the world be free from illness and other distress, be followers of righteous conduct, be strong, be without jealousy and be compassionate."

Auspicious indeed is the bride. "Oh all of you assembled here come and see her. Bless her with all felicity before you all go to your respective homes."

When these mantras are uttered by the priests, every one present says "Thathaastu," meaning "So it be."

After these, Mangala Aarthi is performed by ladies; this concludes the vedic rituals concerning Hindu marriages.


Marriage Registration:

It is a practice now a days to get the wedding registered as per the provisions of the Hindu Law. Though the marriages conducted in the manner described above are conclusive evidence and are acceptable in a court of law, in most marriages registration is done as a matter of abundant precaution and to meet the requirements of law requiring proof of marriage.

Summary:

The rich and meaningful ceremony of the Hindu marriage (Kalyana Mahotsavam of the temples) is thus carried out in concert with sacred Veda Mantras. The bride and bridegroom should enunciate clearly the Veda mantras and reflect on their meanings during the different stages of the marriage ceremony. This way, they can be sure of a long, happy and prosperous married life and play their appropriate role in society to the fullest extent. Srinivasa Kalyanam is performed in the temples to remind us of these hoary Vedic traditions behind a Hindu marriage.

lokA: samastA: sukhino bhavantu
sarva mangaLaani santu

Monday, January 17, 2005

Conversations With God

Bharath: Oh! My God! Oh! My God! Oh! My God!
God: Alright! I am here..shaddapp!
Bharath: oh! you are here.. queer! I was just calling you on rhetoric!
God: (thinking to himself) another nut case ..oh! man! (?)
Bharath: I am freakin! out here ..What are you doin to me maan?!!
God: First of all make up your mind, you are either calling me God or man, if you interchange it I get into this vague avatar mode and I dont know if I am man or God. Second, there are several things I am doing to you, like for example yesterday's ant bite.. I was demonstrating to some newcomers in heaven my new-fangled ant behavior remote control.
Bharath: Whaat??!! the ant that bit me was because of you! I am some sort of test bed! thats scary dude!
God: dude??! my man! you have no respect for God! Neways.. now that I am here! Anything you want to ask me..anything at all?
Bharath: ah! thats a nice gesture. I didnt think about asking stuff!
God: oh! yeah! (sneers) 3 nights before you were begging me for a night with Bipasha Basu.
Bharath: well.. that was a weak moment!
God: your whole life is just one big weak moment.
Bharath: (hangs his head in shame)
God: Ask me! Anything at all, I have bandwidth now to spare for wretched lives..so go ahead!
Bharath: okay! Here I go!
God: Shoot!
Bharath: Why do women in India say "cho chweet" instead of "so sweet". Did they change the spelling and pronunciation recently?
God: Irritates you doesn't it!
Bharath: Makes me wanna curl up and bite someone like a dog!
God: ya! I can see some traces of dogginess in you! Anyway I don't know! I didn't intend to make this happen. But I can transfer your call to the language department and talk to Andy up there. He is usually updated on spelling and pronounciations.
Bharath: Naah! chuck it! its not worth jumpin the Red tape!!
God: okay! Anything else?
Bharath: In movie theaters, the arm rest between two seats. When you are competing for the arm rest with a stranger sitting next to you! How do you win the quest for the arm rest?! Do you just come 30 minutes before the movie begins and keep your hands nailed to the arm rest or is there some other way?!
God: I use ants to bite the arm of the neighbor. But.. you cant do that! Anyways, I have my own theater.
Bharath: yeah.. some perks of being God.
God: Seriously man! its awesome. No taxes howz that?
Bharath: I never pay em either.
God: Well! bad karma to you!
Bharath: (suddenly remembers) Heyyy! I was freakin out before you came!
God: Its about the marriage isn't it!
Bharath: ya!
God: You silly goose! With the amount of pre-marriage freak-outs! I have seen so far! I think I need to put a special God on it! But with so many Gods in Hinduism, its difficult to create an opening in the Periodic God Table. Let me see... Eric quit last month so there maybe a spot available after Manganese!
Bharath: What? you have Western sounding names for Hindu gods?
God: well! we are becoming global! you know.. with the BPO, outsourcing, call center boom. We thought we'll have dual names to stay competitive.
Bharath: right on dude..err God.. so you think Hinduism will kick-in in the west.
God: Not sure I am new to the marketing department. I used to work down at Sales.
Bharath: uh...hm.. hey! Can we get back to my marriage?
God: Sure.. ya thats the point of the whole thing.
Bharath: I feel.. I am hurtling in space towards a point of no-return.
God: (sneers) On the other hand ..you feel if werent geting married you would be makin-out with hot babes in Hawaii or Goa? humph! ..Loser!
Bharath: What did you say?
God: I didn't say anything...
Bharath: No I thought I heard..
God: Tweezers! thats what I was thinking of..(man! close call)
Bharath: you called me Loser? ..oh! ya!..Hey! its not Hawaii.. In my days I used be a chic magnet!
God: hey..hey! one more word ....I'll snap my fingers and make you gay!
Bharath: Can you do that? Can you make Mark Wahlberg gay?
God: He is already Gay.
Bharath: Wow! How about Vivek Oberoi, Salman Khan, Bruce Willis, Sun TV Comperer Archana's husband.
God: Gay! Gay! Gay! and Gay!
Bharath: Wow! I feel so happy. But...hmm..okay! I am still freakin' out marriage! Things change forever. Everything's different!
God: Sit down my child! Introspect and focus on something specific thats troubling you!Bharath: I want to burp/belch loudly after eating. I have a feeling she does not like that!
God: sigh.. granted!
Bharath: My ponch ...
God: Yea I can see you have been feeding youself nicely. But I have seen bigger ponches. Just suck it up son! it doesn't show!
Bharath: I want it made bigger
God: But... it could pose certain logistical difficulties. Its for your own good!
Bharath: Bigger.
God: Do you want me to set up a tele con with Vatsayana? He could help you decide.
Bharath: Bigger.
God: okay! granted!
Bharath: Can I still watch TV before I go to sleep?
God: Thats askin too much!
Bharath: ya! I thought so. Worth a shot though!
God: Not many people have tried and won that battle so far!
Bharath: hey it just occured!!! I want to ogle at other girls after marriage. There is no compromise there.
God: Are you kidding me? Thats like pre-granted! if I had a paisa for every guy who ogled after marriage, I'd pay back Kuberan in no time. Ogle away dude! Men have to look at other-girls. Down at Sales & Services we call it "energy distribution". Marriage has no relevance to the whole thing! Men are programmed that way! You think Men dont look a hot babes after marriage! hah! You are out of your mind.
Bharath: But Asha was telling me the other day that although other men ogle, her husband never looks at other women.
God: My sweet little lollipop! Women are programmed that way! Thats the secret of life. they are programmed to think their husbands look at nobody except them. But I know all men are Dorks!
Bharath: (incredulously) But... thats not true?
God: (emphatically) ofcourse not! Men invent subtler ways to look at other women after marriage. I have a name-2-name ogle-count mapping with me . Everbody's name is checked. I have never seen a man not ogle after marriage.
Bharath: But Asha was so certain. She almost put some reverse-guilt pressure on me.
God: Child!.. we all like them to think of men that way! Otherwise its quite horrible to withstand men ..what with the farting in the middle of the night!
Bharath: But.. when they read my blog the women will know the truth.
God: Don't worry! I have programmed men to say " no! honey! Bharath has written it just for fun" ( thinks to himself.. actually i have asked them to say "don't believe Bharath. He is an idiot" but why get into details)
Bharath: You are a Genius.
God: well yeah! It comes with the designation. You less freaked out now!
Bharath: More or less yeah!
God: Very well.. I'll bless you with 8 daughters.
Bharath: I'm suffocating already.. oh! My God! oh! my God!...
God: leaves

Friday, January 14, 2005

Pongal

Here, I am staring at a sugarcane with a Thirupaachi in hand preparing to peel it off. I finished off 1 full stem of sugarcane yesterday and plan to finish off three more by the weekend. When the will is strong the sword ( thirupaachi) will fly my way. People have different techniques of peeling off the sugarcane before getting to the pulp! There was a time when my mom did it :-). But now I have to go through this painful process of peeling it! Pongal in Madras sux! No seriously, it sux! Nothing happens here. As per the tradition, some stuff was burnt on Bhogi and the smog it created stopped trains. So people were promptly arrested for that.

Celeberating the arrival of the harvest season through the Pongal festival is more prevalant in farming-based villages. In villages (okay..towns) down south like Palayamkottai or even Thanjavur my neighbors white-washed their houses on bhogi. It was a big thing there. When we were there, we Madras folks were considered not refined enough to celebrate Pongal! We were just staring at our neighbors, who kept pongal pots in front of their houses and shouted "pongal O pongal" like Axl Rose in the last few segments of sweet child o mine. They wore new dresses wished each other. Pongal was deepavali in such places. We just did this in our kitchen banging the stainless steel vessels against each other to make the requisite noise.

I have never seen the "Jallikattu", the pride of Tamil Nadu. The south indian equalant of the Spanish matador taming. I have never participated in "Kanu Pongal " outing. I often wonder if I missed something there. Although the idea of taking mixed rice and other food items to a zoo or some open space and eating it with zillion other people sounds like a nice idea, the crowd is a nuisance. Everybody is somewhere outside and that makes insides of the houses empty and the outside pretty full ( seinfeld ki jai ho!). The colors of the dresses people wear 'outside' is the butt of all jokes in Madras. But if you are in the villages don't make fun of it! The thirupaachi will peel you off! Just say " ah!..mmm colorful". The bullfight (or is it bull taming) , it seems, is representative of man's power over the Bull. The Bull is used for ploughing and if men can tame a bull, it indicates that they can do so in the fields and so all is under control. Now this was too much for Vivek, the comeian, to take and he suggested that since nowadays tractors are used to plough fields, why dont people tame a speeding tractors instead.

BIG SideNote: Reading the novel DaVinci Code has surprised me with a lot of information. Man! its a scandalous book!!! How did they allow this book to be published. Its the Satanic Verses equalant of the RC church! Since I read this book only once a week in the train for 20 minutes, I am moving at a very slow pace, but still the book is dynamite! I usually don't take the side of the author because, he is heavily biased towards the opinion he is presenting and so he will set the mood, the bias and the events to validate only his opinions (which is what this book does. it creates an environment where things like sun rises in the west is an accepted fact). He does so by having an incredulous woman (representing the readers point of view) asking question we, as readers would ask, and two "experts", indulging this lady ( and indirectly us) with a lot of "factual information". A virgin is what they describe her(and us) because she doesn't know the facts. So I reserve judgement until I talk to some really sensible people, to find out if this book is anything beyond fiction.

Anyway the reason for digression was that The Egyptian god of sex is Amon ( which is apparently resulted in Amon condoms). The symbol for Amon is the Bull with its pointed horns showing the masculinity of man. Which is how the words horny (the horns) came from ( you are all saying...aaaah! so thats where it came from! aren't you?). End Side Note

Anyway Pongal to Amon was a big jump! So half my apartment folks have kept the traditional Kanu podi (food items) in the terrace for the birds before taking bath. The other half keep it after bath. "It is meant for our brothers", says my dad. As per tradition; Girls and ladies get lot of moolah from their brothers today.

So I am off to take my bath and dig into the mixed rice things like puliyodarai, lemon rice, cocunut rice etc. I am not sure if people can go to the beach today! I wont go anywehere near the beach today, thats for sure. Too colorful is reason :-)

Went to Mayajaal yesterday, they had pongal special things going on. For 20 bucks you can sit on a elephant. For a 10Rs parking fee, you can get to see the Elephant's dung also ( no seriously). But let me not go into the elephant dung part. Its too risky a topic. Saw an elephant after nearly 10 years (?). They havent changed much! :-)

To all the readers wish you Happy Pongal . May your Bulls be true, the ploughing deep, and the sugarcanes sweet! :-)

Song Playing While writing this blog: "kurai ondrum illai" (instrumental version in Global Space Satellite Radio)

P.S: (
inspired by a fellow blogger..I'm planning to start this neat little tradition of putting this 'song playing ..' )











Wednesday, January 12, 2005

War of The Worlds

Its Steven Speilberg and Thomma Cruise again. I thought Minority Report was a good movie. There were some subtle things with the way the movie was taken, which probably got lost in the "oooh! its cruise + speilberg " hype.

But this one is a biggie. I am kinda weary of the boxoffice letdowns by big names in the recent past ( Oliver Stone, Manirathnam to name a few). Alexander releases this weekend and I probably find out if it was really that bad.

Anyway I guess 1 trailor for the movie is out already. I love H.G. Wells. The Time Machine really was a big influence in my life ( the movie sucked). As a school kid, I used to imagine how it would feel like if I was transported to a future where the Sun had become too old and the earth was disintegrating. Much like Verne's 20K Leagues under the sea and Journey to the Center of The Earth, Time Machine brought out the right emotions and plot sincerity. Ah! the classics.

I have also noticed that Speilberg has developed a negative reputation over time. With everybody naming him as their best director or most favorite celebrity or biggest hero, he has become more cliched than "honesty is the best policy" or "east or west my underwear is the best". I think he follows Gandhi and Mother Teresa as the most cliched international celebrities of our time. Ofcourse, within India Amithabh and Sachin will beat these three aytime. One more advt where Amithabh shows his Suit and Sachin his Airtel card, I am quitting from their fan clubs.

Even after a bad bad bad insulting movie like The Terminal, I have not lost faith in Speilberg. I can't decide which of the two, "Catch me if you can" or " Terminal" was worse. However, when I think of Saving Private Ryan, Duel, Batteries Not Included, Jurrasic Park and the Raiders of the Lost arc, I feel, if at all anybody deserves trust its our Speilberg.

Everybody talked about the bullet time sequences in The Matrix, but I guess it takes a keen eye to notice that Minority Report had more bullet time sequences than the Matrix. It was so wonderfully integrated with the movie flow that you almost did not feel it. Isn't that the marvel of technology? You should not feel it!

War of the Worlds is something I am looking forward to. Primarly because I am a H.G Wells fan and also because I think if anybody can do justice to HGW novels, its Speilberg ( a few other directors fall into the mix as well). I hope he takes 20K L.U.T.S also and hopefully before he dies, a decent Time Machine movie.

Apart from this I guess we should also watch out for Batman Begins . Its by Chris Noolan of The Memento fame. I guess we can see some more of those hazy Black and White kinda imagery. Noolan's choice of colors with lesser contrast worked well in setting the mood for both Insomnia and Memento. Batman movies dont require colors :-). I hope Christian Bale ( He was the hero of the brit movie where Dragons attack England, forgot the movie name) does a less whiny Bruce Wayne and instead plays a the real Caped Crusader.

Oh! Ya I will definetly see Star Wars III, The sith movie. I just love lightsabers, and you can call me a geek for that. I dont care! Anyway here are some trivia about War of the W that I found on the net.


  • Initially estimated to have a 2007 release date, this film was abruptly greenlit in mid-August 2004, for a 2005 release, causing substantial delays in director Steven Spielberg's and star Tom Cruise's other projects.

  • While filming in Bayonne, New Jersey, studio Paramount Pictures offered quick cash to residents who lived on First Street and Pointview Terrace to move their cars off the block, between a Tuesday and Friday. This was in order for the film crew to resume shooting.

  • The crew started filming only seven months prior to its release. In order to finish all 500+ CGI effects, Steven Spielberg did all the big action scenes in the early stages of shooting.

  • While scenes were being shot at the riverbank on Connecticut River, in Windsor, Connecticut, two life sized mannequins being used as extras had gotten free and drifted into the river. The production's water safety crew performed a search but weren't able to recover the mannequins. Police departments along the river were notified of the missing, according to Windsor police Lt. Shannon Haynes who said "We just wanted them to know that if they got any calls about bodies floating in the river."

  • The voice-over dialogue from the first trailer for the film paraphrases and updates the first paragraph from H.G. Wells's novel. For example 19th century is changed to 21st century.
  • While filming nearby, Tom Cruise along with a 20 member entourage including Steven Spielberg visited a Lexington, Virginia, Dairy Queen. Cruise saw a jar on the counter with a photo of Ashley Flint and her story. Flint was in a go-cart accident a few months earlier, leaving her family with a mountain of hospital bills. Cruise put $5000 cash into the jar.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

My visit to an ATP Tennis tournament

The game was Carlos Moya Vs Garcia Lopez ( a freakish cross between Andy Garcia and Jennifer Lopez). I went to Chennai Open yesterday, which enters its fifth year (?) as India's only ATP tournament. The tournament was held in a pretty awesome stadium in Nungambakkam. Night lights, cool breeze, Amazing crowd, I had one of those super evenings! Personally I would have liked the tournament to be named differently than Chennai Open. Nungambakkam is not a bad idea for a name ( like Wimbledon) and my personal favorite ( a safe one too since this stadium won't be shifted to ..lets say.. choolai medu). But since names like Salem open exist, Chennai Open seems to have its own merits.

There was Charu Sharma, the Krishnans , the Amrithrajs, Paes (lost the first round.. was hanging in there because of the doubles) , Mahesh Bhupathi ( ditto) and some cool chics from spain and other places in Europe.

The crowd was pretty vocal. Surprisingly Carlos Moya was not getting that much support. The C'mon garcia's meant that the Chennai crowd was going for the underdog again. As soon as Moya took the first set, people got behind Garcia like anything. Toddlers, Children, hobbits, Sareess, Veshtis all were chanting for Garcia urging him to make a comeback. He did make a comeback and we all went delirious. After being 4-6 down, Lopez ( feels good saying this name ..I always liked the second half of jennifer.... jennifer's name that is) came back 6-2.


Hearing the song-like the chants "Garciaaaa Garcia! C'mon Garcia", I felt like throwing some of my own c'mon's, like for example " C'mon Rajinikanth", " C'Mon Meenakshi Sunderrajan", ' C'mon Thalaivar MGR", " C'mon Vijaykanth". But then realized this was Chennai. Strict parents crowd here. Parents chaperone their kids in this part of the world till the kids are 30 years old. I was almost afraid if I made noise, some parents would take a notebook out and ask " what is your father's phone number?" Parents here are bold enough to take over the cricket stadium and start moderating other people's children ( I was not suprprised at all when there was no crowd trouble when Pakistan came visiting.. just too many parents inside the stadium). And this was tennis so you had to shut up when they started playing ( a hard thing to accomplish in India), so when some enthusiastic 8 year olds didn't stop their c'mon-garcia's in time, you'd hear a dozen parents shouting " Sridhar keep quiet", "AVINASH ( pause) SILENCE ( pause)"

90% of the kids were from the Padma Seshadri school ( the snobs). The PSBB'ians as they call themselves were ball-boys, cute " your seat is on the 3rd row sir!" girls, toddlers, c'mon garcia'ers, sometimes even parents. I was almost searching for their ex-principal YGP to see if she had also come. For all the snobbish, boasting tennis training and facilities PSBB seems to offer, I don't see many PSBB'ians in the circuit. Paes is from Madras Christian College, Sr.Krishnan was from Thirunelveli and Jnr Krishnan definetly looks more Vidhya Mandir or P.S than PSBB. I am sure the Amrithrajs never went to PSBB ( if at all they studied in Madras). So I am thinking " hey snobs! So whats the fuss all about". Given that even the cricket arena is mostly St. Bede's Vs Santhome ( the sriram's and the badanis) and even Cheeka was from Vidhya Mandir. Don't know where Umps S. Venky or Saddu Ramesh schooled in. PSBB simply has no claim to fame ( I'll think of some more anti PSBB things... hey ya ! Viswanathan Anand also is not PSBB.. or is he ?).

Okay digressing too much here, I almost spent a para on PSBB. But they are the high-society snobs! SBOA rocks any day :-) ( we had a couple of Miss. Madras way back in early 90's)

So when Garcia began to go neck and neck with Moya on the final set, it was interesting to hear some crowd discussions ( I always listen to what the crowd is discussing). There was no empty " play backhand " or "Play forehand" discussions ( I was half-expecting to hear that). The quality of discussions reminded me of the intesity of Tennis focus around here. For example a argument in the crowd, for which I am stll struggling to find an answer to is; The speed gun which shows the speed of the serve in the Electronic Display. There were five such speed guns, two people were arguing on how it measures the speed. Over what distance does it get measured. The speed when the ball leaves the racket should be around 320 Kms/hr and the speed when it reaches the receiver should be around 100 kms/hr . So is the average taken and put as 200 odd km/hr. Do all the 5 guns measure the same thing? The discussion turned to be more interesting when the conversation veered to how many samplings were done by the speed gun. Just two! ( server and receiver.. then what if the receiver takes the serve within the baselines.. 1 sample is lost ? ) or some N thousand smaplings and the average of the 5 X N thousand samples was given as the speed. Interesting! discussion maybe I should google for this!

Anyway the final set went for the tie-breaker and suddenly Moya fans from nowehere came into action and pumped him up. He took the tie-break and the match with ease. Well ! I was rooting for Moya. The Garcia dude was too flashy and played some awesome strokes once every 2 games and then just seemed to hang around. The only pity was Garcia won more games than Moya in the entire match. So maybe if he had spread his high points more evenly, he could have had the game. To inconsistent to deserve support.

As I walked out there was gigantic board that had the tournament progression in diagrams, looked kinda cool. Mercedes Benz is the official sponsor. Man! what cars!