Saturday, May 29, 2010

Beating The Dead Horse

Sometimes there is a personal agenda associated with blogging. You impress a wide-range of audience with strong sense of humor, maintain a neutral stand, and gain traction on writing funnily about fairly innocuous topics. Then over time, you begin to interlace your personal agenda with humorous posts and subtly slide in your POV. Over time the humor takes a vacation and the posts are unabashed personal agenda promotors. Krish Ashok's latest post falls into the last category. Here is why I disagree with the post

Firstly, if you do not believe in a system - investing a lot of money, time and effort in participating through the excruciatingly painful steps of the system is the first thing you'd like to avoid. However, if you did not have these "internal organs" (of the reproductive kind) and as a result of that you were forced to particpate in the system, several points made in the post appear self-contradictory. Apparently a vedic priest was hired to conduct a marriage per Rg Vedic procedure and he recited mantras from Rg Veda that he uses to conduct any marriage. This appears to be a great sin on part of the priest. For the first time in an employer-employee relationship, employee doing exactly what he was hired to do is considered bad. Purely because Employer had expectations A and hired employee who only performs to capability B. "Gotra" is a matter of simple communication to employee that capability B is not required. Saying "Manusha gothra" like stuff everytime employee performs capability B is not even in the repartee-chappathi category. By the same logic, Nathaswaram vidhwan attending the marriage and playing Nathaswaram should have been very shocking. Cooks coming and cooking food must have been terribly offensive.

Secondly, contemporary wisdom always asks us to "consider the source". Asking a barber if you need a hair-cut is probably not the wisest thing to do. And since this is the central topic of Krish's post - I am hoping this is not ad hominum. Here is a person who is doing an inter-caste marriage and judging by his stated belief system and his remarks around his caste/extended family - this has not gone down well with eitherr in his immediate family or extended family circle. There seems to be this self-stated system (caste, smarthism, iyerhood whatever you may call it) that is opposed to his choices/opinions. This person has 2 options. (a) He can state categorically that the system is correct and pass good remarks about the system. (b) He can make disparaging remarks about the system and point out every possible negative aspect about the system. Doing (a) means the person's decisions/opinions and choices are wrong (person has opinions -> system says his opinions are wrong -> person says system is correct -> person says his choices are wrong). Doing (b) - means person's choice, opinions and decisions are correct. Take a guess as to whether this said person will align with option (a) or option (b). Impartial observations is probably a rare commodity here. Social commentary expressing personal opinions is useful and welcome. The vedic system could be flawed and incorrect independent of Krish Ashok's observations. The point here is about the flaws inherent in the process of the observation rather than the observation itself.

Thirdly, the hint of TPT. Conducting an inter-caste marriage is not a big deal now. I may be sticking my neck out here by saying this - but I am guessing not believing in brahminical rituals is probably not the most revolutionary thing done in the 21st century. While thar-perumai is always welcome and tolerable to an extent, much like anything else, overdoing it is a bit boring. We have had Ramanuja to Subramanya Bharathiar to Rammohan Roy who have "kann'la veral vittu nondified" the system. Not sure if the level of challenge Krish in today's world faced is even comparable to the challenges faced during times of these people. Inability to resist the ego masturbation of "look - how rationalist and 'murpokku sindhanai vaadhi i am " is the reason this post unimpressed me. There have been more people who have done this better, with less advertisement, and without betraying "my culture is so poor let me make fun of it and treat it with scant respect but remember.. my wife's Nair customs and rituals need to be treated with respect". This is too much 'sound' for not so great achievements.

Lastly, on throwing in things like "sanskrit pronunciation" is like pretending to have expertise in the system to comment about the system. Sure, there are many priests who do their job in a less than satisfactory way. Just like cooks who over-cookify potatoes, nathaswaram vidhwans who miss a sruthi or two, software engineers who browse facebook and twitter in their office computers during work time, citizens who spit on the road, employees working for companies which subtly violate visa regulations, students who answer a couple of questions incorrectly in plus 2 exams - vedic priests do make mistakes. They do mispronounce sanskrit words. Especially when you have a nosy groom around doing a ball-by-ball 'complaintary' at them when he shouldn't have hired them to start with. They are as flawed as Hawkeye, krish-ashok, kandasamy, munnusami etc. Normal human beings who selectively expect 100% perfection on stuff is a kind of futility that one shouldn't even waste time writing about.

To close - brahmins trying to pivot and distinguish them around the variable of 'anti-rituals' and 'anti-priest' things are now passe. Kamalagasan made a lot of money out of it and in the process made himself repetitive. Krish makes that category look extremely boring by flogging the dead horse beyond belief. Pointing out flaws in some aspect of the culture/caste/system/state/country you are a part of has lost its credibility and probably died with noisy NRIs who complained about India till the cows came home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Ventures

It is interesting to see your childhood buddies take up different careers and try out new things. Whats interesting is the ideas they choose to execute on.

Take the Chennai start up Fix-All for instance. This is a cool idea. Apartment Complex in America have their own maintenance staff who fix everything from plumbing to electrical faults to other odd things. If you are a house owner in Amrikka, you can contract with a company (at a monthly rate) to get any house infrastructure work done. Fix-all is bringing that concept to India. In essence, it is trying to move people away from calling a plumber or a electrician on an ad-hoc basis and instead, simply outsource - (a) finding labor , (b) negotiating labor rate and (c) timing - part to a 3rd party. If you think, with some pros and cons, this is a good idea to try out - you would be amazed at the things my friend tried and discarded/failed in. Quite fascinating. What I liked the most about this boy's efforts is that when he made the R2I decision he refused to settle down anywhere except Chennai. I abbreciyaate that.

How can I not mention, another friend, thanga thalaivar, anja nenjan, ponmana chemmal, a person who is at least 2 steps 'higher' than everybody else - Panchabuta . His company deals with energy/environment related consulting. This web page "aims to bring to the global audience, the latest news, articles, features and featured companies in the clean tech area in India".

Looking at these people, I am reminded of an S. Ve. sekhar's dialog to his father : "un kooda padichavangellam, nalla padichu, pass aagi, principal aagi, collector aagi, sila per sethhe poitaanga. Nee mattum innum school'aye padikare"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stage Drama: Marriage Made In Saloon

Finally went and saw the play live on stage. As I have mentioned in this blog quite a few times, I have listened to almost all popular Crazy Mohan and S. Ve. Sekhar dramas several hundred times over the last 10 years or so. I badly wanted to see a few plays on stage and 'Marriage Made in Saloon' was one of them. There are these images you form in your mind when you listen to dramas in an audio cassette. And you badly want to watch the play to find out how the director of the play visualized the scene. Crazy Mohan's drama are visually more pleasing and there is some choreography involved in making the actors do gestures and moves that look very entertaining.

Marriage made in saloon, is one of Crazy's more popular works. It is certainly among the A list of dramas that Crazy has created. Personally, I would rank it behind Meesai Aanalum Manaivi and Return of Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam. Marriage made in Saloon was so popular during its time that K. Balachander decided to make it into a movie "Poi Kaal kudhirai". The stage drama revolves around a 'bet' between 'bet' Padmanabhan and Maadhu. They keep this 'bet' in a Hair-cut Salone where they accidentally bump into each other. The 'bet' is that Maadhu has 1-year to make 'Bet' Padmanabhan's daughter - Janaki - fall in love with Maadhu. Failing which he has to tonsure his head and move around as a 'pandaram'. If he does succeed, Padmanabhan agrees to marry off his daughter to Maadhu. The "gentleman's agreement" is that Padmanabhan does not bust Maadhu when Maadhu tries to lie/cheat/pretend-tobe-someone else in the process of woo'ing Janaki.

The real hero of the drama in ‘Advocate’ Subbu who plays 'Saloon Kadai’ Muthu. Subbu is a fantastic actor and a total live wire who can get you into splits of laughter in no time. I so loved his voice and character in "Return Of Crazy Thieves". In this drama he has makes the audience literally burst their stomach while he sends them into fits of laughter. I have heard the dialogs so many times and in spite of that the quiz scene had me laughing uncontrollably. That scene alone was worth the price of the ticket. His voice is so unique and awesome that I am totally obsessed with “Maadhe.. naan dhaan unga appan vandhukireen…rrrrammmsaaamiii”. His instant voice modulations are beyond awesome. During the break, I made sure I had Maadhu-balaji introduce me to Subbu. I had asked him several hundred thousand times if Subbu was coming for that day’s play – that Maadhu said “ivan dhaan ba unnoda periya fan.. nee varuviyannu kettunde irundhaan”. I then had the “jenma saabulyam” of telling Subbu that I was his biggest fan. I am still cursing myself for having forgotten the Camera.

The other characters in the drama are Janaki’s maternal grandfather, Mythili (Janaki’s mother), Gopi (Janaki’s boyfriend), Chellappa as cinema-crazy brother of Janaki, Madhu’s friend Cheenu and Madhu’s father Ramanujam. Janaki’s grandfather and quiz master was played by Ramesh (the ‘I am ramanujam… I am ramanujam’ fame person from Meesai Aanalum Manaivi). ‘Cheenu’ was not played by Mohan, who is the most popular ‘cheenu’ (at one point he was the most popular among the drama troupe cast). I so missed Sumangali in Janaki’s role. Both Mythili and Janaki were new faces. Chellappa was played by a new and upcoming actor. While overall the drama was good. This was more because of the quality of the original script. The the execution was poor. Especially by the lady who played Janaki. She not only missed her lines (in that she used different words instead of the actual ones and made the lines sound less impressive ) but also called Chellapa as Cheenu (sacrilege). The she jumped off script and said “oh!.. sorry sorry.. its cheenu”. Subbu made the error of not deviating from the script when Crazy Mohan was improvising the drama. The original script has Crazy Mohan’s character as ‘bet’ Padmanabha Iyengar. Crazy had apparently changed the character to ‘bet’ Padmanabhan Iyer. This was obvious to everyone as he had come on stage with a big pattai on his forehead. Subbu still called him ‘bet’ Padmanabha Iyengar. After a point the characters began to start laughing at their own errors. They also edited out the scene where Maadhu dresses up as Hanuman.

Yesterday’s show was a double-bill with Marriage made in Saloon being the first drama and ‘Chocolate Krishna’ being the second one. I chose the skip the latter. Crazy and S. Ve. Sekhar aren’t today, what they were in their heydays. I would recommend ‘Marriage made in Saloon’ any day though. It is worth catching it on stage.

P.s: 'Kulla' Gopi, the dimunitive actor (who said the classic lines in MMKR "kameshwara ...mmm..mmm.." while scratching his armpit) was in this play as well playing his traditional role. He is now very old and from the looks of it partially blind. The other actors did a fantastic job of supporting him, keeping him in play and making sure he knew where he was standing and when his lines were up. But, just as it was with Crazy Venkatesh, it was very sad to see him age and wither.

Friday, May 21, 2010


Since idiocy is not the birthright of America, India puts its stake in the ground by naming its cyclone Laila. And every 'maramandai' media outlet repeats the word Laila like a parrot with news items like "Laila spreads her legs in Andhra" etc. Why not rename Andhra Pradesh as Majnu. The twain shall never meet again. We'll be rid of Laila forever

Since we've started naming weather related events with cine actress names, maybe we should also name bodily functions after cine actresses. Start naming slow silent and smelly 'farts but no shit' after Revathi and Suhasini. The thunderous ones will of-course be called Namitha Ghushboo etc. So people who get excited by these current affairs gimmicks will talk to each other, "remember my Namitha after Ramesh's kalyana saapadu.. That is how big cyclone Laila is".

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Polished off my first Banganapalli. Looking forward to 3 more weeks of Mangoes.

p.s: Strangely headlines/news for the day was "cyclone to hit TN". My grandma kept pointing this out!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


There are days that you will never forget. You remember the same date year after year. A year ago on this day, I was getting ready for the most important meeting of my work life (up until that point). I don't think I could put into words on how much was riding on that meeting. I was presenting to an audience of about approximately 10 people, and almost all of them were kind of senior level people in the company. I was making a case for a very sensitive/contentious project to be approved. The audience were expected to get very emotional about this project. 1:00 PM was the meeting start time. A colleague of mine and I had put together obscene amount of time in getting a deck to a presentable shape. I was dressed very formally for the occasion. I was also very nervous. Various play-outs of this meeting had gone on in a recurring loop during my previous night's very disturbed sleep. That was my fist big presentation to such a senior audience. Since my management chain was going to be in the room, I was extra keen not to screw it up ( My default style is to screw it up - I am generally an expert on that subject). Not to mention, I am generally not good with presentations at all.

12:58, I set up the projector (connect my colleague's laptop to the projector) and set the presentation to the first slide. I rehearse within my mind, how I'll begin the meeting. Typically the firs mistake I usually do in every presentation is over-engineer what I should say. So at the least I was doing my mistakes in the right order.

1:00 PM - I speak and say "let us give a couple of more minutes for people to walk in". Then I breathe hard. Its now a habit. I dont want to forget to breathe and then figure out 5 words into the meeting that I need to breathe. For some reason I feel good about this meeting. It was hard to get time on so many people's calendars. Even harder to align their calendars to one single slot.

1:05: I start the meeting and say "thank you all for making time to join this..." and I see an Instant Message in Skype pop up in my laptop. I hesitate.. stop mid-sentence. Stop speaking. Go read the IM. For a moment, I am unable to process the information. Then I type in skype:

Me: "can you give me 30 minutes"
Wife: "what do you mean.. what are you saying... enna olarare.. "

I am aware of quite a few eyes looking at me. I go to my colleague and whisper into his ears ".... what do you think. should I go?. and his reply was "hell..ya! you better leave !". So I look up to the meeting attendees and say " I will have to excuse myself now....

..I just found out that my wife is going into labor. "

P.s; By the time I found my way out of the building, my wife had already driven the car from home to the front of the building. Only for me to say "I think we have to stop on the way, I need to pick up the cord blood papers and fax them. I forgot."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The movie I am so looking forward to watching.

Raavanan/Raavan Songs

Easily the worst Soundtrack-album among all Manirathnam movies ever made. That by inference means that this is the worst effort from ARR-Mani combo. Beating Guru takes some effort and they managed to suck so bad that Guru looks better now.

I am thinking - is this also ARR's worst album ever? Or has ARR made albums worse than this?

Either way Mani needs to find a new Music Director, he has waited too long to dump ARR. Yuvan Shankar Raja would be my recommendation.

p.s: don't even try the thamizh version. I thought DilSe(Tamil) < DilSe(Hindi) and DIlSe (Hindi) was awesome. But Raavanan is so bad that it reminds me of songs from 80s tamil movies that were dubbed versions of telugu movies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 5 Thamizh Nursery Rhymes Countdown

This list is as a result of "Naan petra inbam.... "

I have had to endure these rhymes 7 billion times a day before I get to squeeze in 1 small spoon of this thing called "formula" or this concoction called "Yo! baby" into my daughter's mouth. I thought why not publicize the 'maaaberum' efforts of the people who put these rhymes together in YouTube. Also since I will (a) have dictatorial rights over my off springs for the foreseeable future (and beyond), (b) make choices for them & (c)determine whats right and wrong for them before they have a chance to intercept me - I will go on to pick what my daughter's the top 5 favorite nursery rhymes are:

5. Kai Veesamma

This ultimate rock style song is so peppy that I can squeeze 2-3 tablespoon worth of 'formula' by the time this song ends. The great thing about the way this rhyme has been rendered by the artists is that - I now don't get Sivaji Ganesan's image in my head everytime this rhyme is referred to.

4. Pambaram

I loved this song so much that I plan to buy a Pambaram during this India trip. SOkkan and SOmu - suber appu.

3. Odi Vilayaadu Paapa

Dude Bharathi makes an appearance in this song. The reason why he is cool is because he wants children to play ALL evening. The way he has proportioned education in the day's schedule will strike terror in the hearts of desi parents who send their kids to [897325612 crore billion raised to the power of billion] classes every week.

2. Dosai Amma Dosai

Dosai is pretty much the best tiffin in the world. It is very appropriate that this be one of the first things a child is taught. Its sets the correct priorities in life. The appa character here is the perfect Thamizhan. He has a paunch, sad face, and eats the most in the family. I found myself humming this song on most days.

1. Kuva Kuva Vaathu

By far the cutest rhyme in town. I used to think I was not one of those characters who go 'awww..'. I was more or less a 'eewwww..' person. But this 'vaathu' makes you go the former route. Cartoonist zindabaad. My daughter has this rude way of demanding for this song ALL THE TIME. Every single second of the day is time for 'uva uva'. That, ladies and germs, is a testament to the power of the 'vaathu'. A mere reference to this song will shut bawling babies. Another nice thing about the song is the open outdoorsy feel. Baby is near a lake and is playing with ducks. How awesome is that?

Across The border

Special reference has to be made to Malayalam nursery rhymes, which we stumbled upon as a result of random Youtube references. And 2 of them stood out.

A. Midimidukkan

What a delightful song. Very energetic and catchy tune.

B. Kiyam Kiyam

This song is like a super favorite. Maybe because its easy to understand for the average thamizhan. These malayalis from across the border love their banana trees.