Monday, June 27, 2016

Those extra 15 minutes...

Today I started for work 15 minutes earlier and what a difference it made to my day!!!

On a Monday the usual commute of 10 odd kilometres takes a little more than 50 minutes if I hit the peak hour traffic after 9 AM.  Today I started just 15 minutes earlier since the newspaper came late and it was quite an interesting experience. The beautiful Chennai weather helped to elevate my mood and I started my commute. Since there was no rush I settled down and started to enjoy the ride.

Driving was always therapeutic to me and years ago I used to go for night drives in Chennai to just chill out. The cool breeze on the face with the windows down (no convertibles here!!), good music (if available), empty roads make a wonderful cocktail that is savoured leisurely. Drive where the heart rather than the road leads and come back refreshed. Office commute was however devoid of all these and was a chore that got unbearable at times due to the traffic jams, idiot motorists and silly jaywalkers.

Today I had a great drive that lasted only 30 minutes; there was traffic but not enough to hold up movement. The first track on the radio was “Rasali” and that made the lovely morning even better. An uncluttered mind, cool breeze ensured that even two or three idiot motorists did not dampen my spirits; since I was driving at a leisurely speed I noticed the pedestrians waiting to cross, I stopped a few times to let them cross and saw to my surprise that other motorists also followed my lead. For this a few pedestrians actually expressed their thanks with a smile which is contagious and made me smile back at them.

I reached my office early in a good mood and I am ready to eat the frog of the day which I may have postponed had I come in with a bad mood. It is a good start to the day.

To sum up, we are in control of probably 10-20% of the sum total of things / events that happen during the day. If we can control what we can control our day will be a better one than one where we go with the flow. We cannot control the idiot motorists, the silly jaywalker, the chaotic traffic but we can control our responses to all of them. 

We can do something simple as start 15 minutes early…

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Epilogue - 34 to 45

This is the epilogue for a story that is in the depths of my mind. If you have missed the prologue, you can read it here. If you want to know what happened in between the two keep watching this space.

August 22nd 2015

“Machan! You have not changed! Except for this funny accent Melbourne has not changed you, you are still the man from Mount” said Edwin as he disengaged from the affectionate hug. He gazed at Rajesh with mixed feelings. It was after all a meeting after over 15 years and the first since he heard the news.

“Come home man, I am still not sure why you want to meet here?” said Edwin. “Today would have been our 10th anniversary and I wanted to be here where it all started” said Rajesh.  They both paused as the Beach Tambaram local pulled into the station and people rushed to disembark or board the train. In a few minutes the train pulled out and Rajesh resumed, “Iniya said yes to me here at this soft drink shop when I proposed and I wanted to be here again today”.“I am sorry man, I really am. We never knew what happened. You completely disappeared ever since we heard the news. What happened?” asked Edwin with concern.
“Child birth complications…doctors battled to save one life…I would like you to meet Rajini” said Rajesh looking around to see the curly haired little girl reading a book on the platform bench. “Rajini meet Edwin uncle” he said.“Good morning uncle!” she said with a beaming smile and the resemblance was stunning. Edwin saw that she really was a mix of her parents Rajesh and Iniya. She had the face and eyes of her mother but the nose was unmistakably from her father. She really was RajIni.

“So what are you going to do now?” Edwin asked Rajesh after shaking hands with Rajini. “We are planning to take a train ride to Tambaram and then back to Mount” Rajesh replied. “Shall we go then?” asked Edwin. “I… er… we…” hesitated Rajesh. “I am sorry I just realized I have some work to do, tell you what you go together, I will wait for you when you return” said Edwin.

This was a ride for two persons only. It was only two persons then, it will be two persons today…

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lessons from the waters...

I was moving some things in my cupboard when I came upon some unused batteries still in their packaging and next to it this radio. For a moment I paused and in a flash the memories associated with both these things came back to mind from the deeper recesses of the brain. Some things cannot be forgotten and the Chennai floods will be one such.

So much has been said and written about the floods and the destruction that it brought along but there is also another dimension to the floods that is overlooked. The floods brought people closer to one another and we have seen it all in the spirit of Chennai but the floods also brought people closer to themselves. It helped people discover themselves and thereby discover each other in ways that had not happened before.

Our home was safe and relatively unscathed in the floods but we did have some of its effects; power shut down for over 3 days, lack of essentials and food items, complete shutdown of telecommunications and so much more. Was it a bad thing? Not really.
During the days of the flood at home:
-         We actually started speaking more to each other
-         We played indoor games and had a good time laughing over silly jokes
-         We conserved things that we would normally scoff at including candles that were rationed
-         We ate meals together, in the light of a single candle
-         We saw each other’s faces and had great conversations instead of staring at the idiot box
-         We read books, many books, in the old fashioned way (not on devices)
-         We did not get worried about calls not coming on the phone or trying to stay connected with the world through the World Wide Web. (Though the social media played a huge part in rescue and rehabilitation wherever it worked, for others its absence it worked in a different way)
-         We managed to purchase a radio despite the deluge thanks to a brave soul who opened his shop. We listened to the radio which was the only source of information and reassurance
-         We enjoyed the simple things of life that we usually ignore
-         We realized that it is possible to disconnect from all the phones, internet, television and other hindrances and still have a good time
-         We lived life simply and fully with each other

In a few days, the rains stopped, the city bounced back, the radio was hidden in a corner of the cupboard and normalcy resumed.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bon appetit

“How much is it for a day?” he asked. When he heard the amount he made some mental calculations and then handed over the crisp notes that would feed all the 20 inmates of that home for one day. He collected the receipt from the grateful lady at the desk and started his bike.

The next day he met his friends at their usual hangout and over their large pizzas and unlimited colas they were having a great time when he suddenly remembered the receipt. “Hey guys I have the receipt of the Helping Hands food payment with me. Let’s pool in the cash guys, I am running dry as I paid for all” he said. “Hold on, let us finish dinner and then we will discuss it” replied his friend.

“Guys I got the bill, its 2890, including taxes, split five ways it is 600 per person including the tip” he said after looking at the bill and making yet another mental calculation. He collected the money from his friends and placed it in the bill fold along with his share and signaled the waiter. Tummy full and feeling satisfied he said “lets finish the other collection also, we are paying for three meals for 20 inmates in Helping Hands for a day and the bill is 2000, split five ways …” his voice trailed off.

Suddenly he felt empty inside.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

தலைக்கு மேல வேலை

தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை, when you hear this then the usual understanding is that the person is working very hard. There are times when தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை for me means sitting and enjoying the labours of someone working on my head once every 40 odd days.

The humble saloons have been replaced by glitzy parlours and the barbers are called hair stylists these days. There were days when a visit to the saloon was a thrill because of the large turning chairs that for small kids was something close to an amusing ride. The barbers were patient when small kids after the hair cut merrily used their precious chairs as merry go rounds. The barber also was a veritable source of information usually having a few periodicals for his clients and also having his own share of gossips collected from the visitors.

Someone told me that you should give your head to one person only and for many years I had the same person cutting my hair and since he knew what I wanted he never waited for any inputs each time. I miss the good old days. These days things have changed with the advent of unisex parlours my visits are combined with the visits of the others in the family. The staff is also constantly changing so getting a familiar person may be tough unless an appointment is booked. I know one place that declined my appointment as they were fully booked. Another had three levels of trained stylists and their professional charges increased with every level of qualification to eye brow raising levels. My scale for my haircut is what I pay for the friendly neighbourhood hair stylist and how much more could be done to my head I always wonder.

Once I decided to try out a senior stylist in one such place and it was a pretty young woman who cut my hair. I understood why they were called stylists as I saw my hair being bunched up and clipped in all imaginable ways and the stylist wielded her scissors with so much flair swinging the scissors around that it looked more like a performance than a haircut. After the session my hair did look different and nice and I was able to convince myself that the eye brow raising bill complete with service tax was worth it. The stylist showed me how I should comb my hair and I left with a smile.

Alas the smile disappeared when I tried combing my hair later and found that it just did not work. No matter how I tried to replicate what she did my hair stubbornly went back to its old avatar. I went back to my old saloon and normal service resumed because the hair cut may not be as spectacular as the stylists but there is one thing the barber does that is simply unbeatable, the head massage.

Many of the older barbers have added the head massage as an upselling tool and it is something worth trying. I was introduced to the cooling hair oil by one barber earlier and I became a convert for life. The barber uses large amounts of this oil and then proceeds to massage or pummel or mistreat the head. Trained hands can actually give a very relaxing feeling; one barber actually eases out the knots in the back and almost puts me off to sleep. Off late he has added a mechanical device to his repertoire that creates a tingling sensation and makes you feel sleepy faster.

தலைக்கு  மேல  வேலை may not be a bad thing at times.

P.S. A Gounder classic - a barber and his assistant

Sunday, June 12, 2016

After the floods - An anthology on the Chennai floods by the Chennai Bloggers Club

This is a special post; it is special because this is about a compilation of short stories. It is also special because I have also written one of the 21 stories in the compilation. Without much ado I will jump right in and focus on the other stories that are in the book.

I will refrain from focusing on the individual stories because they span various genres, styles and timelines. They are tied together by a few threads; the first being they are set in Chennai, this book was spurred by the Chennai floods and each of the authors had been affected by the flood in one way or the other, the majority of the authors are amateur bloggers and this is possibly their maiden published piece.

Let me first get the good things out of the way:
-          The compilation merited a publisher and this shows that the book has touched people even before it hit the stands
-          The beautiful foreword by RJ Balaji who has accepted the Award for The Indian of the year on behalf of the people of Chennai for the same floods. Enough has been said on Balaji and Chennai Micro so this is a boost to the book and the effort at large
-          The editor has done a decent job and it is no mean effort to get so many disparate woks together in one complete whole
-          The compilation work by Mahesh Lakshmanan who juggled so much to see the book come out
-          The admins of CBC who believed in the concept and worked tirelessly to get the book out
-          The authors who have all given their perspectives of the floods which takes the reader through a variety of emotions but ensure that there is a lump in the throat when the memories of the floods come back
-          The wonderful art work, cover design and the design in the book which makes the book stand out.
-          The stories: some stood out, some breezed past, and some tugged at the heart. Some of the stories brought smiles, some trepidation, some even memories of the losses that were suffered, most of them brought pride in the spirit of Chennai, the spirit we gloriously celebrated when the city rose as one from the deluge to reach out to the other.

Now let me come to the not so good things:
-          The typos, there were quite a few and at times mar the reading. I am sure that we will get a second print with these removed
-          The mismatch in the index page
-          The fluctuating genres and quality  tend to take the reader on a roller coaster and may throw off a few

What did I miss?
-          I really missed a group photo of the CBC that is the reason for this book. Maybe the names of the authors could have been sacrificed on the back cover for a great group photo?

Should you get the book?
Most definitely yes and here are some reasons why:
-          At 150 Rupees it is light on the pocket and at the book fair it is only 135
-          It is a compilation of 21 different authors with 21 different views
-          It tells the world what a wonderful city we live in
-          The stories may be fiction but they are from the heart
-          It is a debut for many of the story tellers so your support will be much appreciated
-          Part of the proceeds of this book are earmarked for the flood rehabilitation, there are some parts of the city that are still rebuilding and this little bit will be a drop in the pool

P.S. Words cannot be enough to express the gratitude and appreciation that is due to the admins of CBC, Mahesh Lakshmanan, Sindhu JP and Bragadeesh Prasanna for getting the book out and the entire support team of CBC that backed them.

Chennai Book Fair 2016

I am an irregular visitor to the Chennai book fair but this year there was a special reason to go to the fair but more about it later. This year the book fair has relocated to the Island Grounds instead of the other old venues. So the first challenge for four wheeler users who were not privileged enough was to park in the grounds near the Munro statue. The organizers had arranged vans but they were insufficient on Saturday and I used the autos available to reach the fair. The auto drivers made a killing for the short ride charging Rs 40 flat each way.

The fair has enough non book options to interest people and besides the usual food stalls I even saw a stall that sold pickles outside the hall!!!  A large food court also ensured that food for the stomach will also be satiated with food for the mind at the venue. The fair charges a nominal entry fee of Rs 10 and the ticket is eligible for a lucky draw where the prizes are book vouchers so for a bibliophile nothing can be better.

The Book Sellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) has been organizing the book fair for close to 4 decades and it is a veritable magnet for those who love the written word. There is a good representation to works in Tamizh and I think this may be the biggest showcase for many authors in the local language and home grown literature. The book fair is also an opportunity for several organizations to connect with the people and sales may be incidental. The Reserve Bank of India was one such along with some other government entities. There are others from various religious, cultural and maybe even political affiliations having stalls among the book stalls aiming to connect with the people.

If you a book lover then the book fair is the place to be but a good bank balance will be very useful because it takes a lot of effort to restrain oneself to a few books. Spanning genres from the usual fiction to academics, self-help, personal development, religion to many more there are enough options in the 500 0dd stalls stacked high with books to satiate nearly everyone. There are also CDs for those who like multimedia experiences and some non-book items that were quite popular. One stall that had a blow pen that sold well based on the wonderful art work by the sellers. I hope that it does not become like the flutes sold by the vendors on the streets which work only in their hands.

There is a 10% discount on all books in the fair though I saw some stalls offering more based on certain books so bargain hunters with a good eye could also get some good deals. I think that the fair this year is missing out on other events that I remember happened in earlier shows and there is an old toy train that provides some amusement to those who choose to ride it.

Finally the other reason that drew me to the fair this year apart from the general love for books is the release of an Anthology of short stories titled “After the floods” by members of the Chennai Bloggers Club. This is a special book because the book is based on the momentous Chennai floods that changed the city of Chennai. I am immensely proud that my contribution was also chosen to be a part of this compilation. Buying a book with my name in the author list is a surreal feeling and heightened the happiness that I usually feel in the book fair.  If you have not visited the fair this year, rush it closes tomorrow.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Chennai is changing...

Chennai is changing and changing for the better. There are different changes but one change that I have noticed off late is the response to ambulances on the road. There have been days when an ambulance has been stuck in traffic and the other drivers not conceding an inch of room despite the blaring signal, but today it is different. I have observed on a few occasions when jam packed roads have opened up magically to allow an ambulance to pass. The motorists usually the cars and even LCVs pull to the side and patiently wait for the ambulance and then they resume. Sometimes the traffic cop also helps if he is around.

Another thing that you will notice is the rapid mushrooming of restaurants of all kinds, from the humble all stars thattukadai to fancy five star joints there is one restaurant to suit each one. One reason for this is that food has now become a form of recreation and beyond. Functional eating or eating to live is passé it is now living to eat and living it up large eating. The other reason is people are cooking lesser for want of time and the advent of the app based food delivery services ensures that the best restaurant food is available at home. The trade-off that comes with all this is health.

You may not have noticed that the next craze, that is laundries. The laundries of old were cramped dingy places that operated near water bodies and in fact Chetpet still has a large dhobi ghat which is largely obscured by the newer and larger buildings around it.  Today the laundries are bright, colourful, modern and in tune with the times are app driven. You can book the clothes to be collected, washed and delivered at the touch of a button on the phone. Whether it is water scarcity or time paucity, there seems to be lesser washing of clothes than before.

An after effect of December, the very mention of rains brings a sense of unease in the minds of many a resident of Chennai for obvious reasons. The floods left a lasting effect in the minds though if you were to pass by once flood ravaged areas you may not find any trace of it. The city has bounced back very quickly and many homes now look new and fresh thanks to the repairs undertaken, the scars however remain, unseen but felt. Chennai always had a tenuous relationship with water and this was highlighted by the Metrowater trucks and the emotions it caused during water scarcity times. We also had the tsunami but the floods impacted almost all, causing a change that will not be forgotten easily.

The last change that you may have noticed is that Chennai has become a fertile ground of infertility treatment; this branch of medicine seems to have equalled the number of mushrooming diabetes specialty clinics in the city. Changing lifestyles have caused a drop in the fertility rates and though it is a touchy topic especially among men these clinics are now becoming very fancy and are now in the mainstream. Assisted reproduction is a big time business and if you pass by any of these clinics the crowds in them will attest to their popularity.

Chennai is changing.

Image courtesy Internet. You can check this out

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Idiots on the road

I look down upon two wheeler riders; they are probably just above the level of filth in my lexicon. Do not get me wrong I ride a scooter at times and so do my family members, so this is not a general statement. I am talking about one particular set of two wheeler riders who are a burden to planet earth and make me burst a nerve at times.
Why do I get so emotional? How else do I react to those who:
-          Break every rule in the book at great risk to self and to others
-          Trespass or encroach upon others space and think it is their rightful due on the road
-          Cause traffic jams by driving everywhere else except on the road
-          Ride around with a defiant look on the face flouting every rule and yet not having the spine to look at the other person face to face
-          Despite being parents who will instruct their kids to be good and when dropping their kids to school flout every rule that normal human beings adhere to
-          Act worse than the normal sensible human beings who also breathe the same air
-          Seem to lack some faculties and do not bother to take any corrective action
-          Think they can get away with any nonsense because there is not enough police force or they will just bribe their way out
-          Are so irresponsible that they do not care for those who will get affected by their recklessness
-          Are so cheap that when other conscious motorists make way for ambulances they either do not care or simply tail the ambulance recklessly to reach faster
-          Do not wear helmets, but wear face masks and other fashionable accessories

I have suffered a few times due to errant two wheeler riders at great personal cost, once I had to replace the hatch back of my car because a biker crashed into a slow moving car and escaped.

Tell me really do they still deserve to share our roads?

Are you a responsible two wheeler rider?

(Image courtesy Google Images / Hindu)