Thursday, April 24, 2008


The other day I was watching the movie Bombay on TV. Now the only way you wouldn t have heard of or seen the movie Bombay is
1. if u have been living under a rock for the past 15 years
2. if u don’t appreciate good movies and prefer to watch movies like veerasamy etc.

Jokes apart, It is one of the most beautiful Indian movies I have seen. It has mani ratnam written all over it. The story is impeccable, the actors are impeccable, the direction is mind blowing and I am not even going to talk about the music. It speaks for itself. After all God composed the music for it. its gotta be great!!! :)

Anyway as I was saying I saw the movie (for the 7th time I think) after a very long time and it took me back to 1992. The babri masjid riots. On December 6th 1992, the babri masjid was demolished by hindu extremists and the whole of Bombay was burning. At that time we were living in surat- a city which is 5 hrs from Bombay and hence was affected by the riots. My dad had gone to a god forsaken place called babrala for a 6 month trip from office and my sister, mom and I were alone in surat when the riots struck. We were hindus living in a muslim area then, and my sister and I were attending a muslim school near home. Our muslim neighbors were extremely nice people who helped us when our area was attacked by muslim extremists thirsty for hindu blood and I don’t think I would be sitting and typing this if not for them.

I was a six year old for whom riots meant no school for ten days. It is only now that I realize what my mother would have gone through without having my father for support and living in a muslim area. My mother was a 30 year old woman with 9 and 6 year old girl children. It is only now that I understand what she would have gone through, what a struggle each day must have been. A struggle for food, struggle for milk, struggle for life and existence and yet there wasn’t a single day when my sister and I went hungry or a single time when my mother actually made us realize the seriousness of the situation choosing instead to keep all the troubles of herself than let us know. Sometimes I wish I had at least half the courage and fortitude which she has. I would be a very different person today.

I remember there used to be no vegetables or bread or milk at home and my mom would be scared to leave home to buy it because she was afraid that if she was attacked/killed, we would be alone. So if she went out anywhere she took us with her and I have vivid memories of sitting on a policeman’s motor bike and going to buy milk and veggies (due to curfew no vehicles were allowed to run and only police jeeps and motorbikes dotted the empty roads). I also have these disturbing images of entire buses being burnt and curfew being declared. On the roads where we usually saw children playing, vehicles zooming, people buying vegetables etc we saw skeletal remains of burnt buses, police jeeps and absolutely no souls on the road. Some of these images are etched and ingrained in my memory and I am not likely to forget them for a long time to come.

During the riots a part of our school was burnt by hindu extremists and many of my friends lost their parents. It was appalling. The massacre of innocent people in the name of communalism makes my blood boil. Also people who make statements like all muslims are terrorists or terrorism is rampant because of the presence of muslims irritate me to no end. All terrorists might be muslims but not vice versa. Someone rightly said that it is only in times of adversity that the true colors of human beings show. And in times of adversity you are neither hindu nor muslim. You are just another human being either capable of helping or in need of help.

To all the extremists and fanatics who are ready to take innocent lives and demolish prayer houses in the name of religion I have only one thing to say to u. The primary difference between animals and us is the fact that we have the ability to think. If u cannot think, cannot value another life, cannot understand that terms like hindus and musilms are trivial and are of no consequence whatsoever in a world where relationships and human bonds matter the most and not caste, creed or nationality than u most probably shouldn’t have completed evolution and your very existence is a shame on the human race.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's in a name? Sigh!! Ask me!!

For the past 21 years I have had 2 names and when I say 2 names I mean 2 good names. It would have been all right if I had one good name called Revathi and the other one called chintoo, mintoo, munnu, chunnu, babloo, or something. That way at least people would have been able to differentiate between my good name and my pet name. but in my case I have 2 good names namely Revathi and Shruthi. And let me tell u for a perennially perplexed person like me its quite a confusing thing to have 2 names. When I was born my parents named me Shruthi. For the next two years I was called shruthi and I have a birth certificate which says I am shruthi. In the year 1988 my family suddenly decided to change my name to Revathi. I have asked all the members of my family why my name was changed but haven’t got any concrete answers. Some of the answers I got were

1. When I asked my sis she told me that I wasn’t the own child of my parents and that mom and dad had adopted me from the milk man who had 10 daughters, was in abject poverty and my parents decided to adopt a daughter of his (me!!) and since the milk man had named me shruthi my parents didn’t want to change it and hurt his feelings so once we moved to a different place my name was changed. For a long time, I think till class 12th I believed that I was adopted and would pick petty fights with my parents thinking they were being unkind to me because I was adopted.

2. Shruthi in Sanskrit means good sound or pleasant sound. My cousins tell me that two years after having named me the family realized that naming me shruthi was like naming TR Rajender Azhagu Sundaram or like naming a child of laloo Prasad yadav and rabri devi as Einstein. There is a saying in hindi which goes aankh ke andhe naam nayan sukh which would describe this situation perfectly!! Anyway my cousins said that my name had been changed because it would have been ironical if I had been called shruthi because I cried all the time and croaked like a frog. And that’s why my name was changed to a harmless revathi which doesn’t mean anything and is the name of a star in the sky.

3. My uncle tells me that he named me because he loved the movie mouna ragam and decided to name me after the heroine in the movie called revathi. Till date I shudder to think of what would have happened if my uncle had watched some other movie and decided to name me manorama or jayalalitha or something. Sheeesh!! The way my family members have played with my name!!

Anyway like I said the problem of having two good names gave rise to a lot of confusions and errr. Heart breaks in my life. Now at home no body knows that I am called revathi in school, college and office and outside of home no one knows I am called shruthi. I remember in school I had this huge crush on a guy and once he told me that he would call me and come home in the evening and collect my history notebook for some notes. I floated all the way home and all evening I waited beside the phone for his call. As fate would have it the phone rang when I went to get a drink of water and dad picked the phone. Now my dad is really absent minded. He forgets our birthdays, his own birthday, his anniversary, which class we study in, where we work for everything. The only thing he does remember is the name of latest version of linux. Ubuntu, edubuntu whatever. :-\.. Anyway this was the conversation between the cute guy and my dad

Cute guy: Hi uncle. Can I speak to Revathi

Dad: Revathi?? There is no revathi here. Wrong number

Cute guy: is this Mr.Ramanan’s house

Dad: yes, but no revathi here. (click)

Me looking at dad: (thinking). Not only have u ruined my life, u also just lost a great son in law.

So u get the drift. I had a tough time managing two names. And to top it all in one of the schools I attended there was a girl called shruthi and that gave rise to confusions galore. I would answer her attendance, collect her papers and was mortified when I saw “Shruthi loves nikhil” scratched in big bold letters on one of the trees in school, only to realize later that they weren’t talking about me. Personally I love the name shruthi. All my life I have hated the name Revathi and sometimes I wish things had been the other way round with all my important documents and birth certificates bearing the name shruthi and revathi as a pet name. I have never been able to relate to the name revathi. It reeks of sophistication and panache two words, I would never associate myself with. :)

Whats in a name said Shakespeare. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Yes sir it would smell as sweet no doubt even if it were called sewage but then the name defines the identity of a person and having two identities is not something which I like. Sheeesh. I wish I was alive in the year 1498 so I could have explained to Shakespeare the importance of having a name and a single name at that. I mean seriously would he have taken lightly to the fact if we changed his name from William Shakespeare to a Billy Shakeabong or something? :-\

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Trip to Bombay - Part II - Train journey from malad to churchgate

Having spent four days in Bombay I have come to the conclusion that Bombay is a hugeeeeeeee city. But hey!! That’s like stating the obvious. That’s like saying anupam kher is bald or saying TR Rajender is animal like. Anyway where was I?? Ah yes!! Bombay. Bombay is a beautiful city. . After reading shantaram I wanted to see the city with the eyes of one having read shantaram. Having been in Madras for almost 7 years now I am loyal Chennai-ite and I completely love it because of its people and kind of life it radiates. Bombay I noticed exudes the same life. Delhi and Bangalore somehow never charmed me. Maybe it was the lack of beaches or the people I saw. I dunno what. They somehow seemed beyond salvation but Bombay is still so Indian and a very charming place. If u really want to see Bombay I would say take the electric train. Even as I write this I am traveling in an electric train from malad to churchgate in a first class ladies compartment to catch my train back to Chennai. I am surrounded by 10 women and since I love observing people and for lack of anything better to do I start looking at them and start sizing them up.

The 55 something woman sitting near the window has prayer beads in her hand and is praying fervently. I try to guess what it is that she is praying about. Maybe she is praying for her daughter to get a job or for her son to get married. :P or maybe she is just praying for the general good of the world.

Near her is sitting a woman not more than 28 or 30 who is so made up that I cant resist the temptation to go touch her and see if she is for real or is one of those mannequins u see in these clothes shops. She has so much lipstick on her lips, so much kohl in her eyes and so much of foundation on her face that even if u dug a feet deep into her face you wouldn’t touch skin. Ok I exaggerate. Make that half a feet. She is carrying a Gucci handbag, has fast track sun glasses on her head and is screaming of brands. She is wearing a funny kind of skirt. I mean in my humble opinion it looks like she left home wearing a complete skirt with a proper hemline and on the way was chased by a dog which managed to get a bit of her skirt and she was left with a skirt with a ragged end. I mean I don’t understand. Why else would her skirt be of different lengths at the sides and different lengths on the front and back? Aren’t skirts supposed to be of the same length throughout? Fashion. I never will understand it I think. Anyway this porcelain doll doesn’t smile and I guess it must be difficult to smile when u have so much of weight on your face. I mean imagine having to push layers of make up, curl up both sides of your mouth and attempting to smile. Phew!! Must be tough!! I quickly lose interest in her and concentrate on the woman sitting in front of me.

She is one of those “i-can-manage-everything” kind of woman. One of those super moms I decide. She carries two cell phones. On one of them she is giving instructions to her son named Ashish telling him that the dal is in the microwave oven, curd is in the fridge, asks him not to fight with his sister and dirty the house as they are having guests for dinner at night. On the other phone she is giving instructions to someone asking them to pick her up at Hyderabad airport. “GTL - 143” she says “G for go, T for tomorrow and L for lucky 143 is the name of my flight”. Just looking at her makes me tired and I wonder how these women do it.

As I finish writing about super mom and look out the window I pass this station called marine line and I can see the beautiful marine drive before me. Of course since the train is moving I can’t see much but I love what I see.

I shift my interest to the woman sitting next to me. She reeks of cigarette smoke and some kind of mint. The smell is far from pleasant and I guess she realizes it because a minute later she takes out a can of deo from her bag and sprays it liberally on herself. It only results in people moving further away from her. Bagon cockroach spray smells better than her deo I decide as I turn to look at the woman sitting diagonally opposite to me, next to the super mom.

She is a nervous 35 something woman, whose eyes keep darting here and there and she is biting her nails so fiercely that I am surprised that she is not drawing blood. She seems to me like one of those insecure people who keep worrying about what people think about them, try desperately to fit in and fail miserably. I dunno why but as she smiles nervously at me, I feel sorry for her. I smile back and avert her gaze. The other women in the compartment are not doing anything interesting. Two are sleeping and one of them is reading a book. This interests me and I try to look at what she is reading. I am deeply disappointed when I discover she is reading something called “the power of your sub conscious mind”. Such books bore me. Suddenly I wonder what each of these women is thinking about me.

old aunty: (she hasn’t opened her eyes even once during her prayer so has not seen me yet).
porcelain doll: God!! Just check out her fashion sense. Totally wrong. Who wears a yellow kurta over blue jeans? Yellow is so not the color of the season. She is approximately 20 years behind times. And why cant she use a little bit of lip gloss. Would do a world of good for her sad face!!
Super mom: (I dunno why but this is what I think super mom would have thought about when she looked at me.)Sheeeesh!! I forgot to ask Ashish to feed the dog. Should call him and tell him that. :D
Bagon Spray: why the hell cant she keep her bag on the rack above. There is no place for me to keep my legs. (in my defence I had all my original certificates in that bag and didn’t want it out of my sight)
Nervous lady: I wonder what she is writing. Maybe she is writing about me. I wonder what she thinks about me.
Of course I could be totally wrong in my interpretations but something tells me this is precisely what they think of me. By this time I have reached churchgate. And my 20 minute walk from churchgate to Victoria Terminus deserves a post in itself. A lovely walk. Made me feel like Lord Emsworth going for a walk to see the Empress while admiring his garden on the way. That reminds me. I added two more wonderful wodehoueses to for my collection during that walk and I am as happy, to quote a popular saying ,as a dog with two tails!! But more about that on my next post!! :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Trip to Bombay - Part I - TISS!!

The TISS campus is beautiful. I wouldn’t call it a sprawling/huge campus or anything but it is an extremely handsome looking campus. The miute I eneterd I felt at home, felt one with nature. It is the kind of campus I have always wanted to be a part of. One of those really old campuses which is wild and completely overgrown, with these huge peepul and banyan trees whose roots snake on the ground and make their presence felt everywhere on the campus. Each of these trees must be a hundred years old and would tell stories, maybe narrate epics if only they could talk. It is a campus where the canteen benches bear the names and remarks of batches and batches of students who have passed out, who I imagine would have sat there, and had some great conversations over piping hot cups of tea and a plate of samosas. A gentle breeze which caresses my cheek and naughtily tousles my hair blows and makes me feel comfortable though its noon of a very humid day and the temperature is a sweltering 38 degrees. A couple of age old buildings (built in the british era I think) with the paint peeling off tower over me and they have these old doors with lovely knockers. As I walk on the old leaves crunch under my feet and I wonder if they too have something to tell me. Suddenly I wish each of these inanimate objects could talk and tell me stories of life at TISS, a life which I so want to be a part of. I have completely and hopelessly fallen in love with the campus. My first love. Poets have very often said that there is nothing more devastating and painful than unrequited first love. Something tells me I am gonna experience that pain soon.