Friday, December 18, 2009

P.S The Morning After...My Snow White Countryside...

I went to sleep at about 2 AM...But was wide awake by 8AM, stole a glance outside the window, and had my mouth turn a big O at the sight that greeted me... I promised you pictures with a P.S And here they are... I'm snowed in, just heard that my friends were caught in 4 hour traffic jams while I was cavorting in the snow...That's how unprepared the Brighton and Hove City Council is for snowfall...Like they kept warning me, it hardly snows in Brighton..So literally no contingency plan. I wonder if the only option is to wait for the snow to melt and flow away... The white rooftops, the red brick cottages... You have seen this tree before...In autumn and later without any leaves in winter...And this is how it looks on a snow-covered December morning... I'm off to sleep some more...In my warm toasted room...under my thick duvet...Its still snowing outside... So surreal, I tell you...Wouldn't want to miss it for anything... Here's to spreading the wintry cheer....


They said when I landed in Brighton..that it hardly snows...That I'll be lucky to catch a glimpse of snow, maybe in January or February and that too fleetingly for a day... I have never seen snow before...This is my first winter abroad....So I prayed and prayed for a chance to glimpse snow...Two days back, my friends in London wrote euphorically about the snowfall that happened there... And like a miserable wretch cursing her fate seeing her prosperous cousins flaunt their riches before her, I taunted Brighton and its sunny winter days for not wooing the snow...... Perhaps the weather gods took my taunts to heart and decided to let it snow...and they didn't do a half-hearted show...It was a mega production....A full-blooded snow storm...that painted my campus white.... The few remaining people on campus did indulge in some snow fights...and build a snowman or two...while I was busy clicking away my first experience of snow.... From a gently shy shower to angry an hour's time..the green grass disappeared under the white shroud.... I wonder if I will wake up to a white morning...If I do, I will add a PS to this post.... Meanwhile check out the album I have put together....Some pictures are sheer emotion...not techinically any great shakes...but I just couldn't cut them out... They are my first snow good or bad, they are special... These moments too are like snowflakes...You feel them as they hit you, you can taste them..but the moment you try to hold them...they melt and disappear... Now I'm greedy....I want a white Christmas....and snowman....and then maybe I'll close my eyes and wish for Santa and Rudolph to appear...Maybe like this snowstorm came visiting..they will too....I am the eternal optimist....:)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Story He Told

Being on the University during the breaks is like being in a Ghost town...the deathly silence unnerves you...makes you feel as if you are the last human being left on earth as Armageddon approaches... So to ward off holiday blues....two strapping women from two parts of the from the Pacific Island of Tonga..and another from a coastal city in India set out to explore the boundaries of the campus we live on....The idea was to take a brisk walk and work out the excess lard that the winter insists on layering us up with....But little did we know, it would be turn out to be a story in itself.... Off we went, huffing and puffing our way up the uphill trail, past the gymnasium (nothing can make me enter one, I'd rather walk my calories off!!) when we spotted the vast expanse of meadows...Acres and acres of it... stretching all the way yonder... And just as we turned the corner, we came across one of those old English wasn't a cottage...but a corn barn... Curiousity indeed got the better of us, and though somewhere, both of us knew that this can't be public thoroughfare, we decided to indulge our curiousity....walking along the old building, that did seem abandoned....We turned another corner and realised that there was indeed a very very old cottage nestled behind the barn...
And that's where I met my story teller....An old English gentleman, clearly lonely...happy to have a conversation with two freezing but very inquisitive young women - who were clearly trespassing across his property....So we put on our best smiles and apologised for stumbling through his land...And when our politeness was returned with some cheery conversation, we pressed on...asking about the old barn that had caught our attention.... It was over a hundred years old...just like I'd imagined it would be..Our friend ( despite my asking him twice, he never told me his name..wonder if that was deliberate?) interrupted his afternoon walk long enough to tell us how the barn was very important to store the corn that was grown in the land by the meadows.... There were atleast a couple of huge was still in great shape...the other had been replaced...and depending on the direction that the wind blew in, one was opened, so that the chaff could be beaten away from the corn and the husk could be blown away....And just outside the barn, there was enough space for the animals of the barn to be tethered.... Even more interesting was this hand pump...Now old and disused for atleast half a century I imagine.... Just by the pipe was a broken cover to a well...and look closely, by the spout, you can see a hole...that's the opening to a tank that served water to the barn....So when it poured, water gathering in the tank could be let out through here into the well near the pump...and when the tank went dry, the handpump would be used to draw water and fill the tanks so that the barn animals could drink their fill.... I closed my eyes for a moment, and I could picture the scene...straight out of a John Constable one of my all time favourites...The Hay Wain.. The English cottage, with its own barn and animals....and the men and women letting the barn doors open while storing the corn grown in the fields nearby inside...letting the wind help winnow the chaff from the grain... But our friend was not done with his story yet....He had moved into this house about 60 years ago...just after the Second World War....and he spoke about how this countryside had been taken over by the Army during Wartime.. This tree, that now stands gnarled and old in the winter, he said had once been young...He remembered it in its glorious youth...His voice was robust, but you couldn't miss the nostalgia...He took pleasure in getting us to guess his age...We were off the mark by about a decade... He was 83, and clearly enjoying reliving his memories of the War for us...He had served in the Army himself...talking about how the guns were lined up in rows by the trees near his land...pointing out where the young soldiers were asked to fire across the meadows for target practise... Later apparently he had a chance to see a 'bit of the world too'...Egypt and Palestine, he said...much before you were born, he joked with me.. Then he smiled that wistful smile at he spoke about how time seemed to have just flown by...He shared little about his life or family....but when we wished him Merry Xmas...he brushed it away saying the season wasn't special anymore...He was more like the Scrooge of Christmas... Our hearts ached...It can't be fun to be old and alone on a property as old as time itself....Though he repeated that he loved the isolation that his property offered, I doubt if I was convinced.. I don't know his name...I wonder if he will remember me if I look him up in a week or so...I don't even know if I will have anything to converse with him about.....But by giving us a peek into the history that lies sleeping in this land, he did give me a wonderful story....a wonderful memory..... ( P.S : I have discovered that my mobile phone camera gives me pretty decent picture resolution..So till the time that I hoard up for a new camera, my mobile phone shall be put to good use..:)

Monday, December 14, 2009

How far will India be Telanganised?

For a year now, I will be a Non-Resident Indian....But that does not prevent me from being as concerned as I would be, were I there...Every day as I read papers, I wonder if, by the time I return, there would be a minimum of ten new states that I need to know....Maybe the question I framed in my mind needs to be put out there....How far will India be Telanganised? The question I have been grappling with for some time is whether it was all about a two week fast by a politician who had lost mandate even within Andhra Pradesh, to force the Centre's hand..Is this man, K Chandrasekhara Rao getting more credit than he actually deserves? I remember covering Andhra Pradesh elections in 2004, when Telangana was indeed a burning issue that KCR (as he is called) cashed in on... Then he had the voice of the 'people's mandate' to press his case...Then Sonia Gandhi and the Congress had turned a blind eye... So what changed? Was it that with the untimely death of Andhra Pradesh CM, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the last big hurdle in the way of moving for Telangana was removed? I refuse to believe its as simple as that... The struggle for Telangana is over four decades old....The Centre has refused to cow down to pressure long enough to know how to put issues on backburners and get adamant politicians attempting to resurrect their nearly spent careers on such separatist pitch to toe the line..But this time, it does seem like KCR's fast was like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, doesn't it? But what about if we think of this as the Centre's way of trying to find a political solution to the the growing Naxal Insurgency in not only Telangana but choose it to make a role model for an anti-Naxal initiative that is not just a militaristic endeavour? The Prime Minister has spoken about how concerned he is about Naxal insurgency - the biggest threat to India's internal security...attacks that have been bleeding the Indian democracy economically and socially....With a shrewd Home Minister like P Chidambaram by his side, this could be a mastermove to tackle some fundamental issues that large, cumbersome states have not solved their way through.. So could be the Centre's first step towards seeking a political solution...agreeing for separate states to hasten concentrated progress in these regions? Perhaps the initiative of state building could be a method to divert some much needed focus to Telangana's festering wounds... But then I wonder, what about Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand? Those mineral rich states still remain just that...mineral rich, cash strapped, naxal hit and with little progress shown as far as improvement of the poor tribals go...only politicians like Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren have reaped the benefits of earning separate statehood...They turned multi-millionaires, accumulating more money than what their respective state's budgetary allocations were...Is KCR the next in line for similar political and financial largesse? I hear now Mayawati wants atleast four new states to be carved out of a mammoth UP....I would, in an ideal scenario, encourage the formation of more states - throwing away the logic that fewer states would mean stronger bargaining power...Let power be devolved...let more people get a say in how this democracy functions...Many have not even got a chance to save their lands as governments chose urbanisation and modernisation at high costs, with little heed paid to securing them an alternate livelihood... But if the end result is spawning more Kodas and Sorens and Mayawatis..I am certain Telanganisation is the solution...Today Telangana, tomorrow Rayalseema, Vidharbha will follow soon after....Pot is already boiling over Bundelkhand and other UP separations...Gorkhas want Gorkhaland... When I was taught India's political map in school, I was told India has 25 states and 7 union there are 28 states and 7 union territories..By the time I have kids and they start school, it could well be 35....The more the merrier, lets say, if the goals were nobler... But who's checking intentions? Votes count..but who's checking how fair the way it was polled was? Should one politician's whim be reason enough for such a mammoth decision..or should there be referendums? Time for some answers in this democracy...

Sunday, December 13, 2009


There's a block...I have hit it...and I believe I was priming towards it...The writer's block..

But what perhaps pushed me over the brink is the loss of my camera...Now there are no pictures to write to..and thats how I have always written...Now there are no pictures...and no views to describe.. You know that dirty feeling at the back of your head, that tells you when you misplace something that you know exactly where it is, but that part of the brain which should help you locate it, is numb...was in fact looking the other way, when you left it behind...when it slipped out of your bag...

Even now, nearly a week after I lost it, I still feel its just about the 'moment of click'..that time when it suddenly dawns on you, where exactly it could be...Im still waiting for that moment..Refusing to bury the memory of my Canon digital camera, a Southern Rail train, that was running late between London Victoria and Brighton last Saturday couldn't have swallowed my camera, could it? What about the much famed Lost and Found where most things misplaced or accidently or deliberately forgotten turn up? No such luck with me....

Perhaps its the karma I have scoffed at that people talk about that haunt you through your life...Perhaps its my unwelcoming aura that make people who manage to retrieve things I have lost not want to return it or let me find a way to recover it..Well, the truth is if my mother and I were to sit down and recount the number of valuable things I have lost...that would be a very very long list indeed...Not enough to buy me a house in England, but enough to clothe and feed me for a couple of months in Europe for sure...

So what is it that makes some people so unlucky with their possessions? Especially when they earnestly want to treasure every thing that they possess? It can't be argued that they don't value it, can they? I spent some good money on many of these possessions...and I have cried bitter tears each time I have discovered my loss...But then again, I dust myself up and carry on..and soon enough lose something else.. Well, forget the list I was making earlier....of gold ear rings and bracelets and watches.....and a couple of mobile phones...just hear this out... Two days after I lost my camera, I lost one did I manage to do that?

Well, beats me...I was so sure I had removed one, slipped it into my coat pocket to retrieve my keys when I got home....and then the memory is blank......I remember getting to my room, untying my scarf and throwing my coat off and discovering I had one black glove on....So I took it off and then began searching for the second one..that I was sure it was in my coat pocket...

But it had been swallowed by nothingness....flushed to the Land of No Return to the wink of an join my camera and the assortment of mobiles, and the earrings-bracelets and watches... Well, my optimist being believes the Land of No Return to Me is not going to win the battle against me and my few remaining precious possessions....

And I believe the first sign was when my flatmate managed to hear the clink of my favourite silver earring as it plonked into the muddy grass in the University....Im not sure I heard it too, for if I did, my instinct was to ignore it and walk faster to get out of the bitter evening cold...But she turned back and her eyes fell on it...and till she handed it over to me, I was not prepared to believe I had lost it...
 What's with me?? Maybe what I need to do is find the way to blur the distance between the Lost and the Found...

P.S: Statutory Warning: Till I don't find my camera or get myself sufficiently enthused to buy a new one with my thrifty pounds...the posts could be lacklustre and moany..

Thursday, December 03, 2009


This post happened to me...I didnt plot it, didnt think it through...And its thanks to a friend of mine, Chandresh Narayan and a really gut-busting laugh riot it produced. I don't know if it will tickle others as much as it did me..but hey, the opportunity to tell the tale can't be missed... So let me begin by introducing the protagonist of the piece...Chandresh..who at 30 (i presume) single and very ready to mingle...But who does he want to mingle with? Well...the world is wide and there are a lot of young nubile nymphettes out there... But our man loves UK...and someday wants to settle there and sing Lord Save The Queen in his true Tam- Bram baritone and perhaps the accent(?) while sitting on his comfortable sofa in his countryside house... So immediately, the now UK-expert me, tries dissuading him from leaving his Amma's tair-sadams and rasam-vadas for the 'land of the stiff-upperlips' by painting a bleak picture of what he could expect... " Do you want to pay taxes through your nose, and drink weak tea and have food without salt and ration the sugar?" To which pat came the reply : Or be like Mittal...( Read super rich LN Mittal...Now that means he's aiming super-privileged life, isnt it??) Just as I was LoLing over it, came the bouncer : Prince Charles also has no daughter..( Now where did that come from? Was he thinking of luring Mr.Mittal's daughter only to realise she is much married? So then turn on British blue-blood?) It did look like that, so I played a good friend and suggested he tried for Prince Andrew's daughters...and the probability increases, coz remember he has not one, but two daughters....( Thats a Daily Mail pic, by the way) But darn, Tam Bram has a problem with it.." But they won't get the crown".... So I rationalised it with grave Indian practicality " But there will be enough estate, and because Prince Andrew is not like the king in waiting or something, there won't be too many fancy dresses that you will have to go to..:) and you still get the 'Royalty' treatment.." That seems to have raised his sagging hopes, " I could be the Duke of Cornwall or something, First Tam Bram..." And then he took a dig at me...nothing unusual...8 years of being a broadcast journalist has thickened my hide to the texture of a baby rhino's ( no offense meant to those darling animals of course) precisely to deflect such jibes And the little rambler continued: " Imagine Times Now will do a story..NewsHour topic" So although my intial "hahaha" to his cheap dig was brittle, I soon remembered that I was no more a loyal defender of the Times Now brigade- I could take a couple of digs of mine... So there I went, like a good deskhand that I was before I threw in the towel, planning an entire EXCLUSIVE coverage of the First Tam Bram ( also read first Indian) marrying into British royalty.." Yeah, you can even do lives, and talk to Indian audiences" By now our protagonist is already in character thinking up his moment of fame and the big question Arnab would ask him: " Chandresh, we want you to tell us, on your channel...." and I pipe in " Using Times Now as your platform to send the first royal message to India"....Now the sports journalist in Chandresh also gets into the game...and ambitiously he pitches in for Times Now's Cricket Expert Boria Majumdar to also be thrown into the NewsHour Panel to speak about how " In 1920, Ranjit Singhji said the same thing" ( Rejoinder: I hope Ranjit Singhji's soul will continue to rest in peace and Boria won't fume at our fertile imagination) By now Im laughing hard....and the optimist that Chandresh is, he predicts " One day, it will all come true" And then the conversation takes an even more hilarious turn...and I now plan to reproduce it without paraphrasing any more...( Warning: There are overlapping thoughts and at some places, we seem to be at cross-purposes.. but honestly, we weren't..) chandreshn: Yes yes
I jst love the queen
I can say that again and again
Put it up on facebook also
me: hahaha
yeah i sure shall
so that more people read it..
3:47 PM would you like to be identified by name or should i keep u anonymous?
chandreshn: Name name
me: u know you can wait for my friends to devise a plan on arranging your meeting with the princesses and then we can reveal the mystery man trying for Eugenie
I think thats her name
chandreshn: Ok
me: the second one is too young..
you know who im talking about right?
3:48 PM what was the mother's name?
chandreshn: That dutchess of york?
me: the happy slutty woman? ahhh sarah fergusson right?
chandreshn: Who is now a us tv celeb?
me: beatrice and eugenie
yeah those are the names
chandreshn: U described her well
me: ta daaaaa
hehehe, yeah the tabloids here are free and so trashy
3:49 PM they make an art out of trashy writing
chandreshn: Eugenie now speaks tamil!
Headline in the Sun
me: everytime i go to brighton i pick some up
hahaha..yeah and it all points to the stars leading her to u
chandreshn: Who's that mystery man
Debate on ITN
3:50 PM me: on bbc question time?
that too!!
chandreshn: Imagine my relatives in trichy being mobbed
3:51 PM me: super...imagine dhanya rajendran doing a live outside the trichy house of ur relatives
maybe a mama or ur thatha itself
chandreshn: Ha ha ha
me: man, i tell u we have the next mills and boon love story
The Sun buys marriage photo rights
me: and we shall peg u as the descendant of the local dewan of tiruchirappally
3:52 PM yeahhhh where u wear a veshti ( I'm referring to the wedding that the Sun will want photo rights of)
chandreshn: Ha ha ha ha
me: and she sits on prince andrew's lap and is in a chela ( thats the typical Tam Bram 9-yard sari)
chandreshn: Ha ha ha
me: isnt that what its called?
3:53 PM chandreshn: Yes
me: this is going to be soooooo much fun
chandreshn: Then I am giving the trophy at wimbledon
That's another dream
me: hahahaha
chandreshn: Where that moron holds the ball girl's hand for so long
As if he has never seen one before
me: yeah man, imagine kuzhnetsovas and the ivanovas of the world curtseying before you
3:54 PM chandreshn: I will insist on speaking on tamil like raj( Read: Reference to Raj Thackeray's Marathi fetish)
me: hahaha..yeah
3:57 PM we have our storyline done..and with your permission its going on the blog
and as per ur request on fb too
3:58 PM have been itching to write something funny and this conversation is the perfect material
4:01 PM chandreshn: Chal I will catch you later
Have to watch arnab now So now Chandresh and Deeps have a royal for plotting the plan of action...Does anyone know anyone in the royal family or a butler or a valet or a driver...Just about anyone who can get an intro of a nice single-ready-to-mingle Tam Bram boy to the British Princesses? If there is then we have the perfect story line for the Love Story of the century - followed by the Marriage of the Millennium ready...One protagonist is waiting...the hunt for the Princess..thats all that's left!!!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Two Month Stock Taking..

Just this morning, as I was walking back home from class...on a chilly but sunny winter Falmer Brighton morning, I was making mental notes about this post... The campus already looks different...Its been exactly 2 months since I set up temporary home in Falmer - atleast for the year.... No more leaves left on the trees...that follows that a sunny day no more lets you walk around in a top teamed up with a warm Tshirt... t... The mufflers and the scarves, the gloves and the hat and the coats and the socks are out...its quite a ceremony indeed preparing even to pop out to get milk and eggs..very often these days, I have learnt to do without things..than make a trip through drizzly freezing lanes till the nearest Student Union shop on campus.. And even the initial thrills of letting your breath out as thin wispy smoke trails no more evokes giggles over the newness of it all.... I keep my head low if its raincoat buttoned up till the neck - which by the way has become my distinctive Indian fashion statement- thats all anyone can see of my 'sartorial elegance' if they were to run into me on my way to class, with the cape unflatteringly tightened with a cord under my chin to keep the icy drizzle's shameless invasion.. By the time I get to my University Block, and my numb fingers are searching through an assortment of metal in my purse to come up with a dull brass heavy coin, that could get me a cup of now I have coded my moods to cappuccino, latte and moccachino after having flirted 'accidently' with espresso that left a bitter aftertaste - imagine paying a pound for that little shot of coffee??!! I have also by now learnt to traverse successfully through Bagels and Crumpets and Doughnuts and Strudels and Danish....A great bargain buy on fruits and vegetables struck at the local Asda or Sainesbury's has come to be included in the highlights of my days some weeks.. When I'd landed here, I wanted to be just another student...not particularly interested in standing out as an Indian in the pack or seeking out other Indians out of compulsion...That could explain why it took me about a month to discover that the Student Residence that I was living in had atleast ten Indians residing in the same lane... But I realise now that you can take an Indian out of India but not the India out of her - it was a distinct kick of joy that I felt when I accidently stumbled upon the Taj Grocer - an Indo-Pakistani place in Brighton - let me try to explain..when you are picking out tender okra for your favourite bhindi bhaaji, while listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or even any sidey Bollywood number, you forget to wince at having to pay nearly 3 pounds just to travel about 20 minutes out of the University - this pleasure suddenly seems worth it... Just two months into my new life...I have nearly forgotten the busy professional cutthroat world I left behind...But mind you, its not all rosy...if the winter is not dampening my mood or raising my sense of loneliness...there's the 'pinch of the purse' factor.. I look back at nostalgia at the easy manner I had fallen into of not checking tags before indulging in a spot of retail therapy back home...Then I needed it to relieve the stress...I had the money but time and energy were rationed commodites...Now tables have I have no stress, I have time and a lot of pent up energy..But money is now on the ration card.. Its not a bad life at all...Its as bright as the carousel that I stood watching some time ago at the Brighton Pier Sometimes I find it tough to be thankful for the little pleasures that I have in life now..And then, all it takes is another walk through the chilly winter sunny afternoon for a quite note of thanks to be despatched up with the thin trail of wispy smoke that I blow out of my mouth... The fickle mind of an international student, I tell you....:)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Comfort of Mulled Wine and Cinnamon Bagels...

With leisure comes the will to appreciate wining and dining... One thing I'll forever be thankful to England for will be the opportunity it gave me to experiment with my cutting boards and knives, spatulas and masalas... The first day that I lugged in my two suitcases into my new residence, I remember my flatmate asking me if I wasnt carrying any kitchen stuff...And like an airhead diva, I laughed my professional laugh and said, I think I will just maybe grab a sandwich or a salad perhaps..Don't think I will be using the kitchen much really....She had smiled wisely at me then- little was I to know that in under two days,I'd be eating my words, literally... When all I could see on menus in eateries around Brighton was Fish and Chips and Bangers and Mash..and supermarket aisles filled with red meat, redder meat and some more red meat...realisation dawned that making my own sandwiches and salads along with a little rajma and a few rotis and some bhaaji in the little cozy kitchen that five of us share... might suit my taste buds and (more importantly) my rather constricted student budget better...Moreover, when the weather gets really cold, theres nothing like a spice-soaked curry to pull you out of the blues... I can't say I endorse the Brit motto of keeping their food far away from the salt and the spice that yearn to cling on to them..But then, when Im not tucking into my cooked-at-home fare I have discovered some things here that are to die for... Coming right at the very top of my favourite comfort food these days is a hot toasted cinnamon and raisin fresh out of a bakery.. but even the supermarket ones can be made to taste like chunks of divinity if you cut it perfectly into two equal halves, spread a neat layer of butter and toast it brown inside, slap on some blueberry preserve and eat it even as the buttery vapours rise from it.. And of those little fluffed up omlettes..not that they are essentially Brit, but the lack of too many breakfast options like what's rightly demanded by my South Indian palate, makes my mouth water these days for a well done omlette filled with little bits of mushroom, garlic, peppers and maybe even some slices of chicken... also could you please toss on a couple of potato wedges by the side, provided the salt that I add over them is not frowned upon... and while they do that, How I wish to introduce the Brits to the marvels of sprinkling Chat Masala onto anything and everything.. And that brings me to my humble declaration...Im in love...I'm a sucker for the festive spirit already in the air and one spirit in particular...mulled wine...and this is just the season to indulge in one too many glasses... The other day, I went on an expedition literally to taste mulled wine across Brighton..from the little eatery outside Churchill Square which served me a really mean one to the pubs of the city, where the measly glass served got a frown - that was chased away by a smile as the hot drink glided smoothly down my throat.. So now I have decided that through the month of December, I shall have a little pot bubbling on my stove...a few barks of cinnamon, some cloves and some brown sugar caramelised before the red wine is liberally added along with orange juice and some chunks of fruit and mulled right....Has anyone got a better tasting recipe? So next time someone says British food like the weather is insipidly unpredictable, Ill ask them to try my favourites..And then, let them tell me I have not discovered the best things British yet...Oooh talking of which, I have not even talked about the cakes and the assorted English tea accompaniments...Lets save that for another rainy day, shall we... Cheers to the festive spirit and the warmth of the mulled wine in my system..

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Interpreter of Dreams Needed...

I am no dreamer, I have never been one... Dont get me wrong,I have those grandiose plans for the future that are wrongly catalogued as 'DREAMS' that someday I shall loftily sum up for my dog or my child - at the rate at which Im going looks like it will be the former, declaring things that could possibly begin : 'When I was ten, I sensed that this was the destination that I will reach'.... Ok, so now that we have established that's not the kind that Im referring to in this post....but to the variety that Sigmund Freud and his gang interpreted...I shall go on... Couple of my friends suggested its perhaps that I might be those that don't remember the adventures I embark on when asleep..Now that's possible, but the truth is every morning I normally wake up, like I have returned from 'The Dark Abyss' street marks or sign posts to denote that I travelled anywhere else... Once in six months or so - I see a dream...And it stays with me...I see it, feel it, hear it, smell it and sometimes the after taste is so strong, Im sure that I lived it.. Some months back, I remember seeing a very ordinary dream...But then i saw the sun and felt the rain and remembered having a very fluffy omlette as I sat filling the crossword, and the dream was so colourful, right down to remembering to buy flowers that many of my friends who read about my dream even tried to locate the cafe that I dreamed about..It was that palpable.. But yesterday, I saw another one....I can't say it was rosy as my last one..In fact, it was right out of one of those Doomsday Hollywood films.. (Image Here I was sitting at my desk,stumbling through the reams of reading that have now become part and parcel of my life...when I felt like hardboard cracking inside my mouth...I felt around with my tongue and realised there were jagged edges of my teeth and some pieces that came away as I did my little survey...So I picked them up and put them on the white paper in front of me..Went back to my reading....locking my upper and lower jaw against each other to prevent any more voluntary destruction.. And suddenly my mouth caved teeth just disintegrated, they just broke away..I had brick like white pieces in my mouth felt like a demolition drive had just happened...and I panicked... I skyped ma, and she told me wisely that perhaps I had inherited poor dental structure too from my Dad's side, along with most other traits....She didn't even seem overly concerned...and there I thought we go again, listing out what each of us got and from whom...another latent power tussle between Dad and Mom to take credit for the arguably 'wonderful creations of theirs'.. Here I was like panting and breaking into cold sweat at the sight of my ruined oral cavity, teeth looking like jagged pieces of asbestos in my hand, and my Mom was trying to see if this was something my Dad's family genes were responsible for... Huge plops of tears were rolling down my eyes and I know it was leaking into my mouth too, mixing saltiness into that steely metallic feel of blood in the mouth.. And I woke up like that, with my hand cupped, ready to see the pieces of teeth I held there, in the morning light.. I'm not a dreamer...not at all.. (Image Even when I saw no blood and gore in my hand, I was sure it was no dream... The metallic taste was still there in my mouth..and my mouth kept twitching with the remembered violence as I stood before the washstand, checking out my teeth...They seem undamaged, physically..wonder if they can be psychologically damaged.. What did the dream mean? I tried checking up on the Net...No answers forthcoming..It can't be dismissed as just another ordinary dream, if I lived a lifetime of fear and worry and tasted blood, can it??

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Terror Remembered..One year Later..

My reporting days for television are perhaps over for good... But I can't help revisiting a coverage that left a huge scar behind...the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai last year.. After putting in nearly 60 hours of non-stop vigil outside a burning Hotel- that had many innocent civilians still trapped in there..many of whom were charred or suffocated to death...or brutally gunned down - for no fault of theirs.. I had broken down completely after returning home... Had come completely undone...wept loudly- deep wracking sobs for over an hour, when the truth of what I had witnessed and reported on, sank in....hours after the NSG claimed that the Operation was over...the last terrorist holed up inside the Taj was gunned down... I wonder, how I stuck on, battling waves of fatigue and lack of the non-stop coverage of the Taj Seige continued for three days..
At about 4AM on the final day, I remember being asked to sound 'less dead' - slightly more animated over air, about the shellings and the blasts I could hear from the hotel, that was just about a few hundred yards in front of me.. But the truth was that I was so dead on my feet that even the dangers of being this close to actual gunfire and possibility of it being fatal never occured to me...Any one of the reporters could have been sitting ducks for sniper fire, we were well-within range..No reporter shirked. We all sat there, waiting for the war to be won and for the satisfaction of witnessing it ( Photo courtesy: Dinesh Parab, Outlook)
My heart was in my throat literally, emotion choking me as I reported the rescue operations late into the night.....seeing guests in shock escorted out by security forces and bundled into waiting buses, even as covering gunfire raged on in the background... the discomfort at the sight of white bundles being brought out- that they were dead bodies were clear in the way the bundles jutted groundwards....the siren of the ambulances...the smell of gunpowder that wafted with the sea breeze.. What are the images that will stay on with me? Moments after I saw a charred dead body falling out of a window of the Taj Hotel, I can still see the NSG commandos walking out of that ruined shell of a hotel...if their body language was not indication enough as one of them fished their phone out, yards ahead of me to talk to his daughter, I got a confirmation from a very tired soldier, who smiled through his fatigue and braved imminent death - ' hamare liye kuch bhi mushkil nahin hai' - that was what I remember of the Taj ordeal, a year later...The Indian forces won...but at what cost? Taj's General Manager Karambir Kang lost his family in one night even as he battled to save the lives of many others....Children whose parents went out partying that night, found themselves orphaned..Many innocent commuters at the VT station who were just hurrying home to have their dinners with their families never made it off that platform that night...The policemen...and then the little angel Baby Moshe Holtzberg who was saved by his nanny from the Chabad House at Nariman House...Wonder how he is doing, a year later...transplanted to Israel, growing up never knowing his parents...who were tortured to death - in the name of religion?
This sight of the smouldering Taj burning with the fires that raged on for hours,still rankles me....I have it on my desktop, this picture, clicked on my mobile phone.... Will the end of the Kasav trial be closure enough? Has the Indian government guaranteed that we wont be gullible targets for another such audacious attack in the future? Or should we, as Indians often do, believe that till what's pre-destined for us in the lines that run through our hands and heads or drawn into our horoscopes gets extinguished... we shall survive..
Grim prognosis...but in a struggling country like ours, do we have the right to demand that more premium be placed on our safety?? I dont know if I support a Global War on Terror...I don't know if I'm willing to blame Pakistan for every evil thing perpetrated on the Indian soil...I don't know if aggressive posturing through mass media or denouncements of every peace initiative that never succeeded are solutions.. But I do know that the answers I want, that I seek are currently with no one really knows how dangerous the terror game we find ourselves entrapped in, is..... Till then remember we are pawns....blindfolded, clueless... This photolink of by the TIME magazine is worth a click...

Friday, November 13, 2009


They joke about Englishmen always talking about the weather...It took me to get to England to realise why..Now I empathise, I also often catch myself talking about the weather...

The rains appeal to me a lot.. I remember, one of my English teachers in school, who taught me to romance the words, gave the class an excersise..She would say a word and you needed to find associations...the words would be abstract, what it rings in your mind had to be a concrete image...if she said yellow, then the person who said the egg yolk that i love to dip into in my bulls eye would get cheered while whoever said the traffic light or the sun would be smiled and moment of glory in class came when she said bliss...and my reply was a soak in the rain....Thats how I feel about rains...

Every time I post a status update with a mention of rain in it, my friends have started to chide me, saying 'Ohhh there she goes again with her rain talk...' And can't fault them, its true...When it thunders, the weather says things to me, when it drizzles, I feel nature is whining...when there is bright sunshine with the rains, my heart hums a merry tune...but all the pleasure stops the moment the rains turn rowdy and start to pelt heavily...I hate getting wet, hate getting dirty even more...The rain is pleasure so long as Im dry and sitting by the window, watching puddles form and little streams flow...Walking in the rain, and resembling a drenched cat is what my best buddy, Prachi loves, not me...

So...coming back to the weather...I have a theory why the English talk so much and so expansively about it...Imagine you are Peter and I'm Pam..We work in the same office, we have been meeting everyday for the past 30 years that we have worked know where I live, who I live with, how I live and all that assorted crap that follows...Now there is one thing in our lives that change everyday, that give us some common topic to whine about every day...and that is..the weather..

And now imagine one more scenario...You are Jack desperately trying to open a conversation with this girl (me) you always see at the coffee shop, as you rush in and I rush out...So as you look around the room to find an excuse to talk to me, there plops out of your mouth...Hey, is this umbrella yours, and I say No...and You say, well then looks like you will sorely need one...Its going to rain badly you know..And I look at you with adoration for your intelligence and puppy love for your consideration...Deal done!!!

These are how I see scenarios develop...and when the variable is as unpredictable as the weather in England..which never bothers to play by the rules-  like it shouldnt rain more than this in autumn or that there should be two more hours of sunshine this time of the year, but darn..dont know why the Sun refuses to work the scheduled hours - it makes for memorable conversations...

If in India, the weather update, is like an unwanted tag-along to news bulletins because some sponsor promised to pay for a 5 minute slot, in UK, it should easily be the most watched segment...People ensure they catch is as they bite into their toast before deciding to pick their umbrella on their way out...I also know some who have the BBC's weather link as a bookmark on their screen...How many weather possessed Indians do you know like that?

Its raining as I write with thunder peppering the atmosphere...Reminds me of this little romantic interlude I always imagine on a night like this...

Thunder grumbled to the Sky all night...
She heard him out patiently,
Silently sending out the clouds 
Spreading them wide to muffle the argument
Now, the Sky is pensive and Thunder grumbling in his den..

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ohh..for that hot steaming cup of milky Chai!!

I now have a new 'brrr...' factor that helps me decide if the autumn nip is turning into winter chills....a month into my life here, I know why the Englishmen begin and end their conversations with weather...But the truth is the forecast is still like our daily horoscopes in our afternoon tabloids...too wide open to offend anyone, but with nuggets that might hit the bulls-eye with atleast one of the thousand readers glancing through it religiously....

So that's about the brrrr...factor...Now with the brrrr...factor, comes the craving for chai..Now to be perfectly honest, I fancied myself as a coffee gourmet, till a time when my mother decided to end the nonsense of making a separate cup of coffee, every day before breakfast while the rest of the clan had tea - convincing me in her 'steel coated with silk' tone that tea drinking was healthier and more economical - in time and effort- for a working mother..

So there I went from a staunch coffee drinker to an occasional tea dabbler to slowly, a confirmed chai guzzler...The state, I belong to in India, Kerala, is known for its tea plantations and Malayalis who down cups of tea endlessly, perhaps even more than water...Politics is discussed in the local 'chai-kadas' or tea shops - leaders are made and slandered over cups of chai....Photo Courtesy

I have never been fond of dip-tea( though my name has often been mangled and brutalised into that phonetic form) - I associate it with the evil brew that is spewed by the vending machines every media office invests in..preferring their exotic coffee concoctions over this vile abomination..So every morning, before leaving home, whether I have breakfast or no, one whole mug of steaming tea, made really strong, with one whole teaspoon of tea leaves, and a teaspoon of milk powder( another indoctrination by Amma) and just a dash of sugar( indoctrination by Health magazines) and I'm ready to conquer the world. Meanwhile, the green tea fad also had caught on sufficiently for me to try a couple of mugs conscientiously every day in the hope that soon, I would be one-jean-size smaller.

On 28th Sept 2009, when I set out from Mumbai to London, little did I realise that the hot cuppa chai that I made at my tiny Mumbai apartment would be the last bit of nectar I would consume for an eternity to come...I never realised that those red cartons of Red Label Tea that I used to automatically pick up, from among the plentiful lining the shelves in my local supermarket, would become a packet that I'd yearn to lay hands on, in chilly Brighton...Something hot to constantly warm the freezing innards is essential and the weak and insipid dips that I see people around me indulging in boils my very Indian blood..

So now, I drink green tea infused with jasmine and camomile and dream about the time when my life had endless cups of chai on demand...made at home the old fashioned way...or with ginger and tea masala at the local tapris or at homes of North Indian friends...

Then, I had complained hard about how milky some people make their chai, the milk nearly thick enough with cream to gag on and sugar to cloy my tongue for a good hour...Today, when I sit shivering in my layers of clothing sipping the fine 'tea drinking' experience of the Earl Grey or the Green 'Healthy' Tea, my soul cries....Ohhhh for that hot steaming cup of milky Chai....

Ok, before I go, one last question to ponder this and the other picture ( and don't be lured by the fancy trappings..which cup would you stretch your hand out for??

Monday, November 09, 2009


History was not my favourite subject in school - blame it on unimaginative teachers, rotten error-riddled NCERT textbooks and to a much lesser extent, my preoccupation with geography....So much so that history and the mandatory civics classes ( people outside CBSE, ever heard of it?) became evil step-sisters who had to be tolerated...

When I became a journalist - toying around with incidents and precedents and patterns -I started re-discovering some bits of the Indian story over the millenium and farther old, only for the realisation to smack me in my face that it wasnt history's was the way I was introduced to it...

So I went on the overdrive ( typically hyperactive!) making up for lost time and wasted opportunities..

There were so many stories badly told and more often never told in Indian history classes that cheat students of the rich heritage and culture that we alone can lay claim too...

And it couldnt have been more obvious, as I walked through the streets of Westminster in London, where every building had a tale to share....Monuments to every imaginable incident memorable, narrating stories that I barely knew - a monument to commemmorate the War Dead, another to record how the nation weathered the Black Death...and some others...that brought back unpleasant memories( atleast for me) like the one at Marble Arch for General Dyer who was responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre...Guess one person's hero is another's terrorist...

But one person, who has been getting burnt on a stake for a long time now, atleast once a year, for four centuries now, is this Catholic plotter, Guy Fawkes, whose famous Gun Powder plot to assassinate the king was discovered on time...

Now remember, the monarch is a divine figurehead for the Church of England and the Protestanism that its a flagbearer for....(

So with banners that read God Save the King/Queen, in towns across Britain and also across many nations of the Commonwealth ( India is not a part of this league) the Guy Fawkes Day is commemmorated on Nov 5....

This year, I was at the epicentre of the celebrations across Britain, atleast thats what many claim...The Lewes Bonfire.( for more check the link out..(

The town of Lewes is quaint, so are the people who have been proudly participating in the parade every year...

Its as if on that day every year, the town quietly hitches a ride on a time machine, to the times when the robes of the gentry and the cassocks of the priests and the beacons of fire were the ways of the world..

And we stood by the pavements, me sipping on some expertly prepared mulled wine (its such a delicious feeling as it goes down your throat)- something to warm the innards as temperature plummeted rapidly soon after the sunlight faded by 5 in the evening...

And soon enough, there poured onto those very stones of the cobbled streets, like it has happened every year for over four hundred years, men, women and children - holding beacons of a proudly guarded tradition, some dressed in costumes that have been handed down generation after generation.....

And many 'Guy Fawkes and his fellow Catholics' were burnt at stake...a throwback to the days of Grand Inquisition and the subsequent Reformation that moulded European history and culture...

Also represented, on the streets in grand processions were clans from every region that Britain has placed her imperial feet on.....

So there were the Zulus and the Indians, the Chinese and the Australian convicts...all the colour of British history spilling out from the pages onto the roads by the light of the fire of the beacons they carried..

And as the flames grew larger, the crowds swelled....My feet cried in protest, we had been standing watching the processions for nearly 5 hours...Some good wine and the frazzled feeling from dodging firecrackers gamefully thrown your way made us decide to call it a day, before the competition of the bonfires began...

I hear its a sight to behold...But I had had my fill of history for the day...watching Lewes ablaze with the emotions and sentiments lovingly treasured over hundreds of years

More Brighton chronicles will follow...For now, enjoy the slideshow of my bonfire...Ill keep it on my blog page till the end of the month...So enjoy the fireworks...

Thursday, October 29, 2009



About a lifetime ago, I picked up paints and an easel and some raggedy old brushes to try my hand at oils...

So that when the Sunflowers happened to me...My first attempt at getting the symmetry right...I failed miserably..but then realised if I got the aesthetics correctly, toss the symmetry out for a bit...Can you believe I spent nearly two days perfecting that core of the flower...My very first painting...

Soon enough I gained enough confidence to attempt others....

Thats an SS Sheikh painting, suitably improvised to fit my canvas size and as usual, i screwed up the sizes, so my focus of the painting varies from his, quite a bit...but I love the dog in this painting, looking at the bullock cart so yearningly...

Some others I feel are definitely better in style and technique..But remember all are copies of good artists....I realised my art lay in interpreting theirs in my way - no offence meant to them...

This one is a personal favourite...the foam that sprays as the waves hit a rock...and the growing darkness as the sun hides behind the clouds..

And then there are some of the later paintings, once I had mastered the techniques of colour mixing and dividing my canvas spaces right...

The deer caught in a clearing...startled by something..Its a powerful imagery...and as usual, I love the way sunlight streams in, that wasnt easy, but the result is also so wonderful

Ohhh... there was this one, that I had specifically created for my favourite aunt, as she built her own dream home...I never thought I'd end up in a countryside like the one I had painted for her, five years ago.

The Brighton countryside with the lavender tinted hills in the yonder, the cottages so similar..the colours just the same...just that I see in autumn what I painted in spring..

This one was done at a tumultous time in my life. That could be why this has a special place in my heart.      It's a much reproduced painting, but I love the blue hues, the choppy ocean and the efforts that are evident to steer the ship through the turbulence. The white foam rising from the sea was so wonderful to paint..making the sea look alive was the challenge.

And there were many more, some I forgot to photograph, some others lying around somewhere, when I do manage to photograph or locate them, I shall include them in this blog..For now, here's one more...My Amma's Favourite, one that occupies a place of pride in our living room...

In the hot, hot Kerala summers, a look at this cold frozen landscape perhaps gives Amma a sense of comfort..I love the lilac colours of the sunlight reflected against the white and the comforting warmth of the red brick cottage with its own water wheel...I remember how I struggled to paint the waterfall...Each ripple has to be created...But I definitely count this my best re-production to date..

So thats my little collection for now...Promise to add more...Soon, I hope...