Friday, August 11, 2017

Cerebral and Positive Out, Banal & Negative In


I recently decided to switch off my phone on Sundays all day and every night before I go to sleep. This decision came from the realisation that I was spending endless hours consuming information that was negative, banal and addictive as against loving, cerebrally nourishing, positive information. Recently when someone I look up to wrote about how social media is killing the very purpose of friendship and fanning negativity, I couldn’t help but nod in approval. This also got me thinking about why negativity is so appealing? The simple answer I could come up with is this: Negativity sells. Nothing better than money can  fuel the negativity fire so much. 

Let’s take the case of popular media like cinema and television – these industries thrive on negativity. When was the last time we saw a blockbuster that did not showcase pain, defeat, suffering and war to elucidate even positive issues such as human rights, success or love?  I mean don’t even get me started on the small screen crowd pullers... conniving wives, cheating husbands, foul mouthing middle aged women, mother in law sagas, dying children, stalkers and child abuse – there is no end to negativity on the small screen. Cerebral content went out of the window and threw doors open to the banal the day we  welcomed reality shows like Indian Idol to entertain us. It is so bad that even humour cannot be conceived without sexual innuendos and gender biased slapstick! This is true of the so called opulent firangi channels too! Reality shows stooped down to their worst when they started featuring crying children losing out on India’s best something titles, desolate couples seeking justice from an all knowing host, fading celebrities losing it in an insanity fare called Big Boss and endless reels of obscene displays of vanity on prime time. We had some great spirited content when we were restricted to good old DD 1 DD2 channels. I mean even until we moved to Sun TV & Zee TV we were okay. Great shows entertained us for limited hours and there was a feel good about  entertainment. But today 653 channels to choose from and still we are left with a sense of boredom and restlessness once the day is done.

News and Infotainment are no better. The louder a talk show host shouts the better he/she gets paid, the more tarnishing a news item is the more number of adverts they earn, I don’t know of any channel that starts the day with news that makes one feel like life is worth a second chance. Even animals need to be killing each other or be kinky to get our attention. Negativity entertains us and we are not protesting. I mean are you there just to tell me what’s wrong with the world and nothing else? Why should someone dying or losing be entertaining to me? This is just a 21st century version of the Gladiator arenas. 

We elect a government, we choose leaders, some of them we choose come to power some others don’t; that’s just how democracy works... but how many positive campaigns do we see around us? How many intellectually stimulating debates do we get to be a part of? Hate campaigns and sensational exposés are lapped up way more eagerly than narratives that are encouraging and warm. We have made great progress as a nation, as a global entity, but we want to keep ranting about what is going wrong than right!  We keep dismissing good ideas just because we dislike the source or its political leaning. 

Insecurity is an industry in itself. Case in point fidget wheels, wonder bras, muscle shakes, insta likes, rule our lives. People are beginning to live for status updates and likes. Like a harrowed cousin who took an FB sabbatical puts it a “gloat fest” is out there for all the weak willed to partake of. First days at school, birthdays, flower in a garden, new shoes, fitness regimes, travel, even honeymoons are pasted all over cyber walls in an attempt to deal with an underlying insecurity fed by negative self images. New age social media  phrases  like cyber stalking, body shaming, friend zoned, dorky duff and PM me have occupied our mindscapes so much so that we hardly have any bandwidth to deal with anything positive. Every other discussion online has its generous sprinkle of cuss words and phrases such as “be ma bitch” “ u got swag dog” are accepted like an initiation ritual crown. Call me old school but I just can’t see how swearing can be positive or welcome.

Why should we as consumers of this media accept so much negativity into our lives? I mean wouldn’t we all like to trust that the cabbage we are eating is healthy and the cotton clothes that we wear is not the result of a debt ridden farmer’s death? I am not saying I want to be ignorant of threats and dangers that lurk... all I am saying is that don’t keep saying that there are only threats and dangers and absolutely no scope for sham like peace, coexistence, courage and kindness. Who is to bell the cat though? Well... who else but you and I the end consumer. If you remember the stimulating lecture on supply and demand that we heard back in our days... the minute demand drops supply will have to heed. Can we try and not feed this negativity?  Can we encourage cerebral content, more books than TV,  more actual compliments than Sarahah posts, more walks in the park groups than WhatsApp camaraderie, more happy thoughts than paranoid fences, more encouragement than sarcasm,  more of what’s good than what’s not, more of laughing together than laughing at the other, more we than they... Why Not?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vennilavae - ARR's Love Language

Yesterday when I was clearing out my trash (read as memorabalia) I found a movie ticket from 1997. Minsaara Kanavu -Jyoti theatre :-) memories came flooding by. 20 years later, I managed to catch Minsaara Kanavu playing on TV today and was once again swept away by the sheer magic of a Rahman-Vairamutthu combination. The year was a year unspoilt by CDs and MP3 downloads, a year where adolescence was just about brimming over and even the slightest hint of attention would send the heart aflutter. Minsaara Kanavu is a movie that one would like for absolutely no reason... it is like this childhood crush you have and wouldn't know why. No logic... it simply was. But the music... ahh! What bliss! I still remember being haunted by Vennilavae for months after the audio cassette was made available to us, no infinite loop play nor repeat mode, it was good old rewind forward, 'tape gets stuck? get a pencil to fix' type of time. Today when the song played, it still did something to me. This is a brilliant composition layered with meanings and generously sprinkled with oodles of love. Hariharan and Sadhana Sargam come together in this poem penned by Vairamutthu

Watch the song here:


This is the song comes at the point where Kajol falls in love with Prabhudeva and therefore the song is saddled with the responsibility to make believe in a love like that. Delivers it to perfection. The very opening is an allegory to the hero's plight... he is falling for someone way above his league thus  the well phrased "Vennilavae Vennilavae Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya" and the fear of being found is imminent as he says "indha boologatthil yaarum paarkum munnae unnai adhikaalai anuppi vaipom..."

The romance blooms as he talks about a time which is neither darkness nor light, and appeals to his love not to bat an eyelid for some flowers may bloom in a wink... this part reminds me of Tagore's Gitanjali 47 "The night is nearly spent waiting for him in vain. I fear lest in the morning he suddenly come to my door when I have fallen asleep wearied out" and then the plea of the lover asking her to partake in his ecstatic exchange of love, "boologam ellaamae thoongi pona pinne pullodu poo veezhum osai ketkum penne naam iravin madiyil pillaigal aavom paalutta nilavundu..." nature is the only one who understands this spontaneous love, this helpless romance and therefore he invites her to become children in the lap of the night where the moon would nurture them only after the earth has fallen asleep and in that great stillness one can hear the flower fall on the grass. Lovely!


Continuing the image of that which is within the reach yet not withing one's grasp, the lyrics move to ask "ettaadha uyaratthil nilavai vaitthavan yaaru kaiyyodu sikkaamal kaattrai vaitthavan yaaru" Kajol's bad footwork complements her state of mind and shock at the discovery of sudden love. Then as if to answer these questions and add to the rhetoric she says "poongaatru ariyaamal poovai thirakkavendum poo kooda ariyaamal thenai rusikka vendum" and dispensing her worries to do things in secret he holds her in abandon and says "ulagai rasikka vendum naan un pondra pennodu" . The camera pans, zooms in and there they are locked in a moment that feels like eternity, lovestruck and carefree. The world around them is no more asleep, it is alive with onlookers, the night, light, darkness, the sky and their own half souls. We almost forget the purpose of the two coming to that dingy sit out as we watch them dance (to a choreography that earned Prabhudeva his National Award) happy, in love and carefree. Vennilavae is surely A.R.Rahman's love language. The story might have taken a twist at this point but for us even after twenty years we remain frozen in the aftermath of that moment, that unkissed, undeclared moment under the moonlight where darkness, light and love come together to tempt us into heeding to the call of "vinnai thaandi varuvaaya"

Monday, April 24, 2017

Maruvaarthai - An ode to the incomplete

Every once in a while there are melodies that are unheard when they first surface in the music scene, and then suddenly the rendezvous takes place at the opportune moment. Maruvaarthai Pesaadhe is one such melody that captured my imagination a little late. A mysterious Mr.X composes a tune that showcases the romantic oodal of Reetigowlai and Desh raagas... skillfully written by Thamarai, soulfully rendered by Sid Sriram. As the melody grew on me I just had to celebrate the lyrics.

Maruvaarthai Pesaadhe is an ode to incompleteness. I mean notice the opening lines:

மறு வார்த்தை பேசாதே!
மடிமீது நீ தூங்கிடு!
இமை போல நான் காக்க
கனவாய் நீ மாறிடு !
Maruvaarthai Pesaadhe madimeedu nee thoongidu. Imai pola naan kaakha, kanavaai nee maaridu...


Words are interrupted, all she needs to do is place her head on his lap and sleep, she would become a dream which is probably the most experienced motif of incompleteness.

மயில் தோகை போலே விரலுன்னை வருடும்!
மனப்பாடமாய் உரையாடல் நிகழும்.
Mayil Thogai Póle Viral Unnai Varudum! Manappaadamai Uyraiyadal Nigazhum.

His hands would touch her, not like the way hands should but like a peacock's feather, ever so gently without the completeness of a human touch but just enough caress to invoke love's passion.

விழிநீரும் வீணாக
இமைத்தாண்டக் கூடாதென..
துளியாக நான் சேர்த்தேன்..
கடலாகக் கண்ணானதே..!
Vizhi Neerum Veenaaga Imaithanda Koodathena… Thuliyaga Naan Serththen… Kadalaaga Kannaanathey…!

The conversation is a ritualistic one, not focussed, there is a trance that invokes tears that cannot cross the threshold of the eyelids and the eyes become an ocean. Take a moment... visualise it. Beautiful incompleteness right?!

மறந்தாலும் நான் உன்னை
நினைக்காத நாளில்லையே ..!
பிரிந்தாலும் என் அன்பு..
ஒருபோதும் பொய்யில்லையே !
Marandhalum Naan Unnai Ninaikkadha Naal Illaiye Pirindhalum Yen Anbe
Orupodhum Poi Illaiyae!

Incompleteness is taken a notch above with the unabashed hero saying there isn't a day that he doesn't remember her despite forgetting her. Forgetfulness is also unable to complete the task at hand.

விடியாத காலைகள்..
முடியாத மாலைகளில்..
வடியாத வேர்வைத் துளிகள்..
பிரியாத போர்வை நொடிகள்!
Vidiyadha Kaalaigal… Mudiyadha Maalaigalil…. Vadiyadha Vervai Thuligal…!
Piriyadha Porvai Nodigal…!

The song tugs at your heart as images of a newly discovered love are woven by Thaamarai as he talks about mornings that are not dawned and evenings that don't end. As he quickly alliterates the previous line with Vadiyaadha vervai thuligal, Piriyaadha porvai nodigal... the listener smiles secretly imagining the lovers in embrace. Every image suggests the closure that's amiss; poetry thrives.


மணிக்காட்டும் கடிகாரம் தரும்வாதை அறிந்தோம்..
உடைமாற்றும் இடைவேளை அதன் பின்பே உணர்ந்தோம்!
மறவாதே மனம்..
மடிந்தாலும் வரும்..!
முதல் நீ...! முடிவும் நீ...!
அலர் நீ...! அகிலம் நீ...!
Manikaattum Kadigaram Tharumvaadhai Arindhdhom! Udaimaattrum Idaivelai Athan Pinbe Unarndhom…!
Maravathey Manam… Mudindhalum Varum!

I don't know if any other language can describe lovemaking in such a poetic manner. Look at the use of words like vaadhai and the beautiful rhythmic quality of arindhom and unarndhom and again showing us the perfect incompleteness by saying mudindhalum varum :)

The next two lines and the word Alar in particular is what I suddenly realise is the literature connect. Whether deliberately or not Thamarai uses the word Alar. This word appears in சீவக சிந்தாமணி, if reading aids me right, to describe the face of the beloved. Alar is simple terms means just blossomed... but subtitles in the official single translate it to happiness. Either ways it is the ecstatic state of her face that he describes and extending that noment of ecstacy he says agilam nee... aptly preceeded by mudhal nee mudivum nee... juxtaposing the beginning and the end with the beginning of ecstasy at the fully bloomed face of the beloved which then is dispersed into the entire universe.

Mudhal Nee! Mudivum Nee! Alar Nee! Agilam Nee!

தொலைதூரம் சென்றாலும்...
தொடுவானம் என்றாலும் நீ...
விழியோரம்தானே மறைந்தாய்..
உயிரோடு முன்பே கலந்தாய் ...!
Tholaidhooram Sendralum… Thoduvaanam Endralum Nee… Vizhioramthaane Mataindhai! Uyirodu Munbe Kalandhai…!

And then as if to contract the joy of calling her the universe he goes on to say even if she is afar or if she be the horizon itself, she is no more distant than a corner of the eye, infact she has disbursed into his life life itself. I mean who writes like this? Who sings praises like this?

இதழ் என்னும் மலர்கொண்டு..
கடிதங்கள் வரைந்தாய்!
பதில் நானும் தருமுன்பே
கனவாகி கலைந்தாய் ..!
Idhal Ennum Malar Kondu Kadidhangal Varaindhai…! Badhil Naanum Tharum Munbe Kanavaagi Kalaindhai…!

Almost as if complaining that about her impulsiveness, he brings in the image of a letter and an unsaid response. I simply loved the use of the word idhazh here... idhazh meaning lips and paper or letter.

பிடிவாதம் பிடி !
சினம் தீரும் அடி!
இழந்தோம்.. எழில்கோலம் !
இனிமேல் மழை காலம்..!!
Pidivadham Pidi! Sinam Theerum Adi! Izhandhom Ezhilkolam! Inimel…. Mazhaikalam….!

After the praise comes the plea. Poetry serves the cause of the pining lover. I simply cannot translate the last stanza and let the outstanding imagery and imagination fall prey to something less meaningful. For reasons unknown I was reminded of Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" as the song reaches refrain. The lover effortlessly has his way through his song, the lyrics leave you with a world of imagination thrown open and the MONSOON and its aftermaths are HERE TO STAY. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Kaatru Veliyidai - an expanse of the senses



"You had me at hello" was the first thing that came to my mind when the frames started rolling out... and when Karthi does an Arvind Swamy rendering Bharathiar's நெரித்த திரைக்கடலில் நின்முகங் கண்டேன் [neritha thiraikkadalil ninmugang kaNdaen] to his wronged damsel, one wants to swoon at the husk of the voice despite his exceedingly boyish face. The lost lover's face, visible in every nuance of nature seems to warn the viewer of an impending search later in the narrative. 

Mis en scene, Mise en place (setting the stage for thought and action) - absolutely no complaints. Maniratnam is the master. Ravi Varman true to his name spells magic with colours & sweeps you off your feet. One may begin to get restless for more defined action, more character impact, but the sheer awe inspiring visuals quickly distract you. 

Mirrors are an important prop of the narrative. Literally and figuratively. Whether it is the mirror where the bridal party sees itself in Sarattu vandilae, or when Leela is in a candid mood and her grandfather (played by Delhi Ganesh) appears at the far corner, the scene where Leela first says "I love you" or the defining "thottu sollatuma" scene that is both unpredictable, free of clichés and outrightly honest; the mirror is there (think of Alaipayuthe, Roja, Mouna Ragam where mirrors make a cameo). Not to forget the typical black telephone, tasteful duppattas and teakwood furniture as recurring motifs as well. The costumes are tasteful, elegant, and stylishly beautiful - despite being real. The make up is natural, especially when Aditi does not sport a perfectly done hairdo, her nails are cut like that of a real doctor;  found it difficult to digest the clean shaven look of Karthi though. 

The music lends itself to the film's poetry and romance; so do the lyrics which capture exactly what Maniratnam wants captured and the protagonists want shown. When Karthi tries to woo his lady with the breezy and playful Azhagiyae penned by Karky, one taps foot and is reminded of the period textures of Hello Mr.Ethirkatchi from Iruvar. Rukmini Vijaykumar's excellent footwork in the tango inspired Kelaayo more than makes up for the missing long stem rose. Vaan varuvan is another Pacchai Niramae visually. The purple and brown hues please the eye and when Aditi dons the peacock colours to perfection one readily forgives the confusing dance moves. The fleeting bhangra bit at the flight take off is catchy. Saaraattu vandiyil is loaded with Vairamutthu's trademark subtle innuendoes; be it the vetthala potta udhatta enakku patthiram panni kodu or  katthazham kaattile matthalam kottudhu parts, one smiles secretly but never squirms. But then that's not just because it's Vairamutthu, Tamizh as a language of poetry itself has that quality.

I was obviously looking forward to watching Nallai Allai picturised in all of Maniratnam's glory but alas! Karthi though, does win his lady love's forgiveness and your heart with his pleading eyes and unshed tear. Aditi Rao Hydari is picture perfect with her snow induced blush. She manages to lip sync almost perfectly too.

What I absolutely loved about the film's screenplay was that it never, even for a moment, gets preachy. Whether it is speaking about war and the nation's soft stance on offensive attacks or when the larger discourse of women and their voice surfaces repeatedly. The script is clear that its focus is love, loss, VC and Leela. One does not see any other preoccupations.

Performance wise everyone does their job well. Karthi's best performance till date. One nods in approval when real life is played out in scenes like when Leela  asks "sattham podalaama" and hesitates, Karthi says "kenji kekaren" or Ilyas (RJ Balaji) longingly looks at Leela. Delhi Ganesh may have been utilised a little better than just the rum induced slur. K.P.A.C.Lalitha as Achamma is yet another grossly underutilised character. Why the hero has a family that is the way it is and a brother who has developmental issues is beyond my ken. Also the dialogues in the beginning have inflections like Malayalam where the characters talk about each other in the third person or by using names; in organic Tamizh one would simply use the pronoun nee/neenga. I watched the movie twice and both times there were scenes where tears would arrive at the threshold of my eyes but they wouldn't flow... some scenes are like that, you would expect them to overwhelm you but they would simply glide by without expected impact. There is also a lot left to the imagination of the viewer, the car scene during the avalanche or the scene after the sortie ride for instance. 

The light is a character itself in the film so are the planes, the snow and the sky. To sum it, Kaatru Veliyidai is for those who love poetry in any form. Go without any yardsticks and the film will not fall short of anything. I came out of the theatre with a smile and so did my real life hero who swears by Behind Enemy Lines, Top Gun and Shawshank Redemption, he also gave a rare thumbs up and meant it. Now that's a sign of a good film. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Nallai Allai... That Poetry and Lost Love Go Unspoken

Every once in a while there comes a poem or a melody that leaves you smiling for no reason. Nallai Allai from Maniratnam's latest, is one such rare combination of a song of simple being yet complex meaning. A chance switching of channels caught me watching Karthik, the hero of Katru Veliyidai singing the opening lines of the song. It brought a smile instantly. Later that evening a "sangam poetry" exploring cousin messages asking if I heard the song and talks about a specific stanza where Vairamutthu pens stunningly a lover's yearning to touch the evolving face of his beloved by using the analogy of the stages of a flower blooming.
"Mugai Mugil Muthendra Nilaigalile
Mugam Thoda Kaathirunthen
Malar Endra Nilai Vittu
Poothirunthaal Manam kolĺa (மணம் கொள்ள) Kaathirunthen
Magarantham Thedi Mugarum Munne
Veyil Kaattil Veezhnthuvitaai"

I was hooked. I just had to hear the song and reckon. The obvious classic poetry reference in the haunting refrain "Nallai Allai" was enough to set my senses soaring. Sheer beauty that image from the 47th song of Kurunthogai invokes... Nallai Allai simply put means, "This is Not Fair"

The context of the Kurunthogai song is that a young girl sings to the moon for her lover who comes to walk by at night. She just scolds the moon that the nature of the moon and the illusions it conjures are simply  not fair.

Here is the text if the 47th Song from Kurunthogai:

பாடல்

கருங் கால் வேங்கை வீ உகு துறுகல்
இரும் புலிக் குருளையின் தோன்றும் காட்டிடை
எல்லி வருநர் களவிற்கு
நல்லை அல்லை நெடு வெண்ணிலவே!


Roughly (even badly) translated to : The moonlight makes believe that the image created by the huge Vengai tree whose flowers shed and cover a boulder that lies close by look like a young tiger cub... similarly the moonlight camouflages her image to the eyes of the lover who comes in search of his lady - this is unfair.
And Vairamutthu uses this larger image by simply using the two words Nallai Allai. Beauty!

This is not the first time the Kurunthogai inspires Vairamutthu. The ethereal melody Narumugaiyea draws from the 40th song of the same work. He seems to be the bridge connecting a lost era in poetry to an era of empty noises so the discerning, verse starved listener can actually negotiate life. His use of the words "yakkai thiri, kadhal chudar anbe... piravi pizhai kadhal thiruttham" in a disco number fetured in Aytha Ezhutthu is another fine example of bridging the classical with contemporary.

Moving on... back to the rest of Nallai Allai...

Vaanil Thedi Nindraen
Aazhi Nee Adainthaai
Aazhi Naan Vizhunthaal
Vaanil Nee Ezhunthaai


The word aazhi... root of the lovely utterance aazham meaning depth of the sea. What better way to describe pursuit than use the images of the abyss and galaxy! And when Satya Prakash with that husk and plea says "Ennai Natchathira Kaattil Alaiya Vittaai... Naan Endra Ennam Tholaiya Vittaai" one wants to rush to the aching heart and light a lamp or two for him to find his way back to life. Kudos Satya Prakash for that unperturbed, silky rendition. You do complete justice to ARR, Vairamutthu, Manirathnam, and Karthik's unmistakable glint of eye charms.

Just when you recover from the plight of the distressed, bewilderness the next stanza hits you with...

Oligalin Thedal Enbathellaam
Mounathil Mudikindrathe
Mounathin Thedal Enbathellaam
Gnanathil Mudikindrathe
Naan Unnai Thedum Velaiyile Nee
Megam Soodi Odi Vittaai

An extension of the search in the sky metaphor... the first and last line are brilliant. Juxtaposing silence, knowledge and bereavement.

Then comes the lines that actually introduced the song to me, made me take notice. I would have entirely missed the point had my cousin not brought it up.

Mugai Mugil Muthendra Nilaigalile
Mugam Thoda Kaathirunthen
Malar Endra Nilai Vittu
Poothirunthaal Manam மணம் கொள்ள Kaathirunthen
Magarantham Thedi Mugarum Munne
Veyil Kaattil Veezhnthuvitaai

In his words I quote "We were breaking our heads on why mugil( cloud) has to come here when he is talking about flowers. Google panninappo vandhudhu arumbu, mottu, mugai...So adhula mugai denotes the phase when petals start to just open up out of the bud . That process is called "mugizhdhal"

Unquote.

How beautifully the yearning of a lover who wants to touch the face of his beloved is described! But alas! before he could wed his priced flower, just bloomed, she is lost in the forest of aridness. Heart wrenching!

And then the last few lines extending the flower metaphor...

Nallai allai naaarum poove nee nallai allai. Mullai kollai nee nallai allai....

Still trying to understand the "naarum poove nee" bit. Is it simply referring to the fragrance of the flower or a reference to the bird naarai which thrives on the water lilly? Adding to the uncertainty is the closing part which uses the term Mullai kollai nee nallai allai. I am still figuring it out. And I am reminded of another beautiful melody in which the same Vairamutthu says "kavidhai vadivin suvai arttham puriyum varai" the flavour of poetic lines last until comprehension... I beg to differ. This song simply gets more beautiful as I decipher the meaning of each word layered rooted and drenched in sheer beauty of sangam.

Vairamutthu aiyya you have outdone yourself. And thanks to the Mozart of Madras for the simple melody that allows the poetry to thrive.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Paavaadai Dhaavaniyil...

Nostalgia means a lot of things to lot of people... I was lost in my routine or sporadic tasks so much that nostalgia seemed a luxury. But  sometimes, some luxuries have a way of slyly finding their way towards the unsuspecting routin'er'; and that's exactly what happened this evening.

I tend to play random music on my phone or switch a music channel on when I do mundane tasks and today was no different. I was busy in the very important task of making sure nothing in the household was even remotely dusty -
Windows - Check.
Side table - Check.
Electronic equipments - Check.
Doors & glass flauntees - Check.
Soul and memories - Pending.

Suddenly the music channel dished out a golden number from yesteryears - paavadai dhaavaniyil paartha uruvama. I smiled the second I heard the song. The song and the image of the attire in question brought back so many dusty memories in a nostalgic flood. I had to stop and let the memories do what they came to do.

The paavadai dhaavani is a beautiful attire capable of invoking a lot more than dusty memories. A playful long wavy dhaavani draped around a paavadai (skirt) that is ankle length or flow-y with a matching short blouse; this attire is the ultimate embodiment of overflowing youthful radiance.

"தத்தி தத்தி நடபதர்க்கு சொல்ல வேண்டுமா நீ முத்து முத்தாய் சிரிப்பதர்க்கு பாடம் வேண்டுமா"

As the first interlude of the song played, the memory of my first and absolute favourite maroon & cream dhaavani flashed before my eyes. I could recall the day amma taught me how to drape one and how there were appropriate postures to be followed to pull it off modestly. I remembered that 10×10 room that became my dress rehearsal space whenever I felt like trying on a makeshift dhaavani with my sister's stolen duppattas and draping it around on a skirt. I remembered the one rupee my thatha lovingly placed in my hand and saying "lakshanama irukku"

I remembered walking around Srirangam temple wearing the same dress accompanied by my cousin during our 10th standard mid term vacations and as she cursed her school for having introduced dhaavani as their uniform, I remembered how I secretly envied her opportunity to drape the beauty around her every single day.

I could almost hear the chaos of the Maada Veedhi where another cousin during another vacation took me on a TVS 50 to Meenakshi temple and I insisted on  draping a dhaavani for the visit. The tough time he had balancing me as I sat precariously on one side of the superbike 😆... a memory we both won't forget. I eventually slipped and almost fell but managed to land on my feet. "What happened" asked my startled cousin I simply said " I said stop, thought you heard and got off. I have to buy flowers" "Romba mukkiyama ippo?!" He retorted... the lady selling flowers sensed her business op and coaxed him in her chaste Madurai Tamizh "Akka kaekaraanga illa, vaangi kudunga"

இங்கே என் காலமெல்லாம் முடிந்து விட்டாலும் ஓர் இரவினிலே முதுமயை நான் அடைந்து விட்டாலும்...

The song made its way through some more inroads of memory and I recalled a random wedding where I wore a dhaavani and got my first glimpses of male attention and novice poetry. I was happily playing with a bunch of kids - not realising that the dress so easily revealed my first teenage moorings - an attention seeking sprightly walk, playfully fuelling stolen glances, the subtle signs of womanhood!

I recalled draping a borrowed green dhavani hastily on a visit to a distant relative's farm and struggling through the entire journey to keep it fastened. It brought also to memory the special relationships with people who helped me drape it right that day.

மங்கை உன்னை தொட்டவுடன் மறைந்து விட்டாலும் நான் மருபடியும் பிரந்து வந்து மாலை சூடுவேன் 😊

I remembered the first poems I penned sitting in my uncle's backyard after a warm summer rain dressed in my cousin's dhaavani. The attire was borrowed but with it came out a blush I did not know I owned.

And of course the song did reach its last stanza and the time when 'he' had things to say flashed before the mind's eye. Random ethnic wear at a random fest. I must've been 17-18 dressed in my new pink dhaavani fresh out of Deepawali shopping. Decorating the stage was my responsibility and I couldn't get the screen to stay fastened to the wall meant be the backdrop of the stage . He noticed me struggling "not the right clothes to deal with ladder, string and wood sweetheart" I heard him say... my heart skipped a beat as he tugged at the dhaavani playfully. I smiled secretly but quickly retorted with fake irritation "I am perfectly capable of doing this on my own" "I am sure but do come down the ladder for a second" I made my way down, released the dhaavani from his hands and said "what!" He simply smiled and pulled a chair, signalled me to sit and held both my hands and said " You look gorgeous and I can see you better when you are seated, let me do this for you" I blushed... and let him be chivalrous - Ten years later when I officially had to renounce the dhaavani and drape my wedding saree - he went on to be the same man who would marry me and would be allowed to order me around #termsandconditionsapply# and be chivalrous on select occasions. (He tries!)

As I sighed and heaved at the frocks and gowns I had just gift wrapped for my nieces, I wondered if they would ever know the joy of owning an attire that could invoke so many memories and reflect so much of a person. I also wondered if the legacy of the attire is lost in the evolution of wardrobes when almost as if an afterthought attempting a reassurance; one last memory of handing over my first and favourite maroon and cream pattu paavadai dhavani to my 'poetic' daughter came to mind and the picture of her reflecting the same emotions as I did at that wedding responded to my wonder.


Life, I realised is afterall made of "tastes not tasks" and this tasteful attire's memory reminded me of the innocent girlhood I was still capable of despite the overwhelming tasks demanded of my womanhood. I got back to dusting the kitchen shelf as the song continued to play in my head and I tucked the helm of imaginary dhavani to my waist

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Krishna and I




There are some instances that you just can't forget – no matter how young you were when it happened. I must have been ten and little Sri less that two. My grandmother sat on the floor in her signature posture with one leg folded and the other stretched, as she busily rolled out the little seedai spread and with a watchful eye monitored the frying of the same. Sri was a charming young lad who lived next door. Just so you know back in my time a child of one house was free to enter any house within the neighbourhood and spend carefree hours of play and mischief, and if it was meal-time it was only natural that the child would be fed without a second thought or sanitised diet charts - by anyone who is engaging the child. So as my sister and I sat wide eyed listening to my grandfather – the most charming man one can ever meet - narrate Krishna's mischief, Sri crawled from his house to mine, my grandmother chattered with him and he in his monosyllables responded to her and when she wasn't looking put his curious hands into the freshly made vella seedai and put it in his mouth, "Grandma, look! Sri is eating the prasadam before the offering is made to Krishna… it is wrong, isn't it, neivedyam has to be done right?" I shouted in distress "Vidu, He is my Krishna today, I am sure it is Krishna here in Sri's form and he has come to eat whatever I have made" Said my grandma who always was clad in a nine yard saree, had never broken a religious rule, was accepted in marriage simply because she could chant the sahasranamam… I smiled and helped myself to a few savouries myself and when she gave me the sharp look I said "Why? Am I not Krishna too?" my grandfather laughed and said "Yes! You are! Everyone is Krishna" and there it was my first lesson on the divine. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt9UgG_lLHU