Madras Things

I am not a fashion blogger

The Swedish fast fashion giant H&M finally opened its doors to Chennai yesterday after a year and a half of having a presence in India, and a few months after it opened in Mumbai. If you’re from here, you’d that this is astonishingly quick. We’re still waiting for Forever21 to start shop, and for Zara to stop selling fur lined jackets during Chennai summers. I had no plans of going on opening day for the same reason I avoid zoos during school holidays, but after swiping through the barrage of posts on my instagram that morning, it became increasingly difficult to resist, and I caved in at around 4 pm. My sister, who has as many opinions as she has clothes, came with me.

Out, Damned Spot!

The store covers two floors, with one floor (ground) stocking women’s clothes and accessories, and the one on top for men’s and kids. We entered through the ground floor, and the first set of clothes we saw were from their Autumn Winter ’16 collection. Think sateen bomber jackets with patches on, short, sparkly lurex skirts and jumpsuits, sheer blouses and other clothes that are categorized under party/festive. I personally categorize them as ‘clothes I’m too old for’. My sister picked up a beautiful, slinky emerald dress from their conscious collection but closer inspection revealed a medium sized, murky stain. There was only one more piece in her size (small), and unfortunately, even that had a stain. My sister loved the dress so much that she tried scratching at the stain in the hope that it would go away, but it didn’t. Later, when we explained the situation at the billing counter, the sales assistant had a go at scratching it as well, and then put it away. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. In hindsight, we could’ve just asked for a discount.

Such Fashion Much Wow

What really surprised me about the H&M store was the crowd there.We knew we’d encounter groups of squealy girls (who were squealing about finding clothes in extra small sizes), but we had no idea that everyone there would be so…well dressed. Like I don’t think I’ve ever encountered so many well dressed people from Chennai per square foot until that day, and it didn’t help that my sister and I were in old kurtas and pants because well, it was H&M. Who dresses up for going to a shop that’s renowned for selling cheap, trendy clothing?

h&m chennai, h&m, H&M india, H&M chennai review
Aren’t they the prettiest earrings?

Clothes in, Clothes out

Between my sister and myself, we got a dress, a pair of pants, three tops, and a pair of earrings, all from their conscious collection . It’s also worth noting that they have their conscious bins in the store. If you bring in a bag of old clothing (brand no bar), they will recycle it for you and give you a 15% discount on your bill. So if you’ve a lot of stuff that you want to get rid of, I’d recommend this approach! I’d also recommend you read about the dangers of the fast fashion industry, minimalism, and the growing tribe of women who are adopting the capsule wardrobe approach. I’m personally a huge fan of a particular sustainable shopping method called ‘steal from your sister’. It really works.

A Small Sizing Problem

The store stocks an impressive collection of basic dresses, tops and tees in their trademark you-can-see-my-bra-in-this-right jersey and nasty-but-will-last-a-long-time polyester blend materials, and clothes from their sporty/nautical LOGG brand. There was also a nice denim section, a compact plus-size section, and a lingerie department which we couldn’t see much of because the massive queue for the few trial rooms had invariably spilled over there. We did see some cute swimsuits, though. I hope they plan to restock them more often, and that it wasn’t an opening day thing where they never restock and the stray bottoms that don’t sell just wilt on the hangers for years to come. The store has a decent selection of work wear, active wear and maternity clothes as well, but it must be said that the smaller sizes are fewer in number (we feel you, squealy girls), although I’m not sure if it was because the morning crowds snapped them all up.

Now, do they have the full collection from their catalogue? No. If you look at the website, you’ll know that only 40% is in store. Like, their shoe selection was bleak – apart from a few basic pumps, the only other option was shearling booties, which make zero sense unless you’re a trendy sherpa taking a break in Chennai. Still, it’s not entirely hopeless, and knowing this city’s luck with fashion, that’s as good a start as any.

Humans of Chennai

My in-laws’ driver, a DMK Party worker, took today off to be at the party headquarters. “If there is a victory,” he said, “there’ll be a big feast”.

“If there is a loss?”

“They will need men to go yell in the counting centre to count again”

Never Can Say Goodbye

I was at the Apex Plaza Landmark last Friday. Not surprisingly, they didn’t have the book I wanted. What was surprising, however, was the fact that the staff seemed fully involved in what looked like a major moving operation. Finally, I’d thought to myself. A renovation that was long, long overdue. Unfortunately, the next day, I read in the news that the moving operation was not because of a renovation, but because they were shutting down. The news really killed me, it did. Landmark was my childhood.

I’d always read the occasional book when I was in preschool and such, but my reading habit really began when I was about 8. I had met with an accident that left me bedridden for about a month and a half, and the only way to kill time was was by reading. My mother got me new books every week, and I read, and I read, and read some more. I had never been the sporty kind, and after the accident, I loathed the outdoors and everything connected to it. My friends were my books, and books, in 90’s Chennai, were Landmark*. I grew up between those shelves. Every time I returned to the store to get another book by my favourite author at that time, I’d discover a new one, and again. I went to the store every month, without fail, to the point where Amma would whine about how my father would have to work extra hours just to feed my reading habit.

Landmark was more than a store where you went to to buy books. It was a place that you went just to spend time in. Sometimes, you enter the store, take a look at the Best-Sellers shelf, flip a few pages from the books there and put them back because who reads popular stuff anyway, and head to your favourite shelf in the store, the shelf you know so well, occasionally stopping on the way to look at other books that aren’t particularly your favourite genre, but they’re books, and all books deserve a look, because who knows what you’ll discover, maybe it’ll even be your new favourite author. Some other times, you go to the store telling yourself that you have come here to buy one particular book and that book only, and you enter, and head straight for that shelf ignoring the other books on the way, pick the book out, feeling victorious and then you pause for a second, look around, see yourself surrounded by books, and you’re like, NO I’LL TAKE THEM ALL, but then realize that even if you can afford to buy the store out, it wouldn’t be the same to have all of them at home so you decide to just sit in the little chair between the shelves and get lost in the stories that surround you.

The last five years, with the change in ownership, online retailers taking over the scene, and brick-and-mortar bookstores all over the world shutting down, Landmark deteriorated. The books were old, the selections, dull and the place had the air of a graveyard. The penultimate time I went there to pick up a couple of magazines, the girl who did my billing told me I had Rs.250 in my loyalty card and asked if I wanted to use it. I’ll use it the next time, I told her.

If only.

* (or Fountainhead in Mylapore but it’s a well known fact that Landmark was much better) 

Happy Holidays!

One of my favourite December memories was when my sister was 7, and she had just seen her first “Christmas Celebration” show in school. The show has been pretty standard all these years – carols and the nativity play with Pre KG Gabriel groupies (I am also very disappointed to say that I had never been chosen to be one of the Gabriel groupies despite being one of the cutest kids in my batch. There are some people who think that it was probably because I might have bit Baby Jesus but like hello, Baby Jesus is a plastic doll! Plastic dolls were made to be bit, and most importantly, BITING IS A TOTALLY ACCEPTED HABIT WHEN YOU’RE FIVE, OKAY. Moving on).  

Ofcourse,  my sister’s LET’S GET A CHRISTMAS TREE! enthusiasm for the festival was put off by my visibly flustered mother who told her it wouldn’t really be possible because Jesus Christ wasn’t Iyengar.  
“Is Santa Claus at least Iyengar?” prodded my down-but-not-out sister. 
My mother answered in the negative, but when I think about it today, my sister’s question has incredible possibilities. 
Merry Margazhi from Santhanam Claus of North Mada Street

Also, since you didn’t ask for it – Santhanam Claus Stothram:
Oh you better watch out
Learn Thirupaavai 
Do Sandhi three times
I’m telling you why
Santhanam Claus is comin’ to town! 
He’s making a list 
And checking it twice,
Been spying on you
Since the last Chittirai
Santhanam Claus comin’ to town!
He sees you when you’re smoking
He knows it’s meat you ate 
He knows if you’ve been a-bhishtoo
So be good for umaachi’s sake! 
Merry Margazhi and Happy New Thai!

Golu

Golu was very well done this year. My mother surpassed the standards which she had surpassed the previous year. It was grander, more colourful and very besh-besh worthy and with the exception of Abhiramapuram maami who had upstaged everyone by substituting sundal with bruschetta (no kidding! we plan to one up her next time by serving sundal bruschetta, and yes, you heard that here FIRST!), it was safe to say that ours was one of the biggest in our circuit. The thing is, Golu is more than just a part of Navrathri for my mother. It is a competition, and my mother wants to be sole owner of the “my golu is bigger than your golu” prize. Every year, apart from running about town collecting “rare” dolls to her already mammoth collection, she goes around houses looking at golus, making painstakingly detailed mental notes about what she could have done, what she couldn’t have done, what she should have done, what she shouldn’t have done…you get the picture.  

Front view, Golu 2010. On the left side there was the mini krishna leela and on the right, the dinosaur village park. Both are missing due to lack of space in the frame and general laziness of the photographer.

A couple of days back, I was talking about the festival with one very favourite akka of mine, when she brought up the topic of theme golus. It brought to mind a rather distinct memory, which I didn’t share with her then, but thought I’d write about. 

It was Navaratri of 2005. My mother had dragged me along to go Ayodhya-Mandapam-adjacent-street Maami’s. She had kept a theme golu, the theme being “the 12 alwars“. It was quite a creative display, really – she had five small padis with the regular golu and the alwar stories going around it. 

Now, every golu that I visit, I usually have this policy of looking around for a minute and then going “waaw”. It is painless, and always ensures that I get extra sundal to eat so that I’d have atleast have something to do while the older people gossiped about that maami’s daughter. Unfortunately, I was unable to exercise my patent charm at Ayodhya-Mandapam-Adjacent-Street Maami’s simply because of the fact that she insisted (read forced) us into listening to her tell the story of all 12 alwars in the same tone I use to recite tax provisions when I mug. Not very pleasant, to put it mildly. As if that wasn’t painful enough, maami gave us a paper with, wait for it, a QUIZ. It had 12 questions (keeping with the theme, apparently) and the one (out of the two of us – me and my mother) with the most number of correct answers would win a prize, namely the pink plastic boxes that she got as vethlapaaku from some other maami the previous year and decided to recycle. Which was pretty smart on her part, come to think of it, although it might have been weird if said maami had found out what she was up to. 

I digress. 

On our way back home, I wasn’t too happy – apart from “losing” the quiz (which wasn’t much of a surprise. I had written “Andal” as the answer to all the questions) the sundal that maami had so affectionately stuffed me with was already giving me stomach trouble. Neither was my mother. Just as I was about to ask her if she was experiencing the same amount of pain that I was, “How di?” she interrupted. 

“I think she gave us leftovers from yesterday, ma”
“Chi! not that. How do people keep golus like this? Theme and all. Everybody will talk about her golu, I’m sure.”
“Somebody should talk about her sundal. It’s a potential lawsuit.”
“We should keep a theme next year.”
“Are you kidding? Too much effort. Our golu is nice the way it is. Besides, nobody cares, ma.”

At that moment, there was a flash in her eyes and I knew exactly what was coming. 

“We are having a theme golu next year”  
“Maaa…” 
“Enna? You want gelusil?”
“Noo! This theme business is torture!”
“It’s simple enough. You just have to think of something. We can’t do alwars. What about ramayana?”
“Too much work.”
“Mahabharata?”
“Too much work.”
“I know! Nava-rathri! The number 9!”
“Too much.”
“No di. Nava thirupathi. Nava grahas. Like that. It’ll be new! It’ll be different! Everyone will talk about it! What do you think?”
“I think I need gelusil maa”

By the time we came back home, my mother had pretty much visualized the whole set up of how her golu was going to be next year. She was very excited, in fact, the only thing she didn’t do was jump out of the car in her very pattu podavai and run around saying “Eureka! Eureka!” which might have resulted in a vaccuum cleaner or two being aimed at her direction. But still, as far as she was concerned, she had achieved a new pinnacle in creativity and couldn’t wait to share it with Paati.

Amma! Maami aathla enna theriyuma!
(“Amma! Do you know what they had at Maami’s house?”)

Paati stared for a bit at both of us. It was hard to ignore the excitement on my mothers face and the nausea on mine. 

Oosipona sundal” 
(Bad sundal)

“Aiyyo. Theme golu!”

“Theme golu a? Oh, they just showed it on TV. Some Maami in Adyar had also kept theme golu.”

“Apdiya? What theme? Even I have an idea for a theme.”

“Oh, it was nice. Nava rathri no? So she had kept number 9 as the theme. Nava graha set she had, then she had kept Nava thirupathi, one padi for nava rasas. Like that. It was very nice.”

Sometimes, people ask me how I so consistently bulb all the time. It takes a great amount of effort to not say hereditary. 

The Non Co-operation Movement

Last week marked my first on-road fight. Usually, I’m a staunch follower of ahimsa on the roads – I always give way to the motorists and other odd vehicles that cross my path, I don’t honk for no apparent reason, I wait for the signal to turn green (which qualifies me to be somewhat of a rare breed on the roads of this city) and hell, I even smile at the auto guys who curse me. Come to think of it now, it’s only resulted in more cuss words thrown at my direction. Which is pretty dumb, I mean, hello, auto anna, ever heard of chivalry?
I digress – point being, I’ve never really allowed myself to get into a fight on the roads of Chennai the one and a half years I’ve been behind the wheel.
Anyway, last week, I was taking my car out of the street but I was stopped halfway because of a Metro Water Tanker Lorry that was supplying water to one of the houses at the beginning of the street. Like most sane people, I waited, after which I honked.
No response.
Not even for my extremely annoying don’t-take-your-hands-off-the-horn-for-10-full-seconds-honk. Clearly, this guy wasn’t going to to budge and I was getting late for work. By this time, there was a buildup of traffic on both sides.
One auto guy stepped out of his vehicle and tapped at my window – “Maydum, reverse pannunga. If you move, atleast us smaller vehicles can go through”
I don’t know about how you guys would have reacted, but I was extremely ticked off. More than the request, it was his tone – the man was acting as though he was running late to present his acquisition proposal to Mukesh Ambani. DEI. Besides, I wasn’t holding up the traffic, the lorry was!
Mudiyadhu sir. Are you the only one who has work? I am also running late, I also have a million things to do. Ask the lorry fellow to move, we can all leave together”. The auto guy was a little taken aback (In all honesty, so was I. I had never raised my voice on the road to anyone before), but he continued his monologue about my reversing and him getting his way so that he could meet Bill Gates by which time I was in total mortal kombat mode.
“I understood the first time, sir. But why should I move? He’s the one blocking all of us! Make him leave this place and we can all go.”
“He will take an hour! Reverse now!”
The auto guy had upped his decibel levels some 10 times now and ofcourse, a mini congretation of other auto drivers similarly stuck in the road had assembled around him.
“Don’t shout, sir. I should give you way and wait for an hour? How’s that fair? Either you ask the lorry driver to move and we all go or you wait for one hour with me. I am not moving, I am not giving any of you way.” I finished.
Severe Bhagat Singh Feel.
By this time, my driver,had also traipsed to the spot. Clearly, he had been seeking some early morning entertainment but the moment he noticed that I was the reason for the auto kaaran’s blood pressure, he jumped to open my door – “Amma, vella vaanga ma” he said to me before he turned to the Autokaaran General Assembly.
Venda anna, don’t mind her. Periya edathu ponnu*”
Periya edathu ponnu it seems. If there was one thing my driver was better at than driving, it was giving buildup. Initially, I didn’t want to give way to my driver either, because of the burning desire to continue fighting for my noble cause, but something told me that if I didn’t budge, I might be subject to some extreme autokaaran abuse.
I got out and let him do the reversing, trying my best to maintain my Damn-I’m-late-for-my-breakfast-meeting-with-Karunanidhi look as I waited. Eventually, the traffic cleared, and I even smiled at the at the auto guy who cussed as he crossed my way. I’m nice like that.
Finally I landed up in office and told my colleague T about the morning’s events (with a hint of pride, may I add).
“Wait.” she said as I finished narrating my heroics. “You invited the wrath of around a dozen psycho autokaarans for what purpose, exactly?”
“To clear the traffic?”
“And do what?”
“Come to office on time?”
“And do what?”
I don’t like these experiences with morals.
* Periya Edathu Ponnu – crudely translated to “big place girl”, if you know what I mean.

Goodbye Tuesday

I am aware that it’s been a while since I updated. There’s been quite a bit of pressure from the work front and hence I was compelled to spend most of my time pretending to analyze a bunch of spreadsheets.

The week was quite eventful, I must say. It opened on a rather morbid note, with the date of my results being announced. I had my trademark I’m-done-for face the whole day in the client’s place and the accountant, P was visibly concerned. When I explained the reason for my twisted expressions, he was only too happy to explain that he too had written the same exam as I did and spoke about passing the exam in the same manner as one would about passing an LKG addition test. “Vaazhkayila edhuliyume na thothadhilla ma” (I’ve never failed in my life) he said, in a manner that Rajnikanth would have been proud of. P may be 40 and fat, but you gotta hand it to that guy for his never think twice attitude – whether its to pass an accounting entry or scratch his crotch in public. In all honesty, if that guy clears and I don’t, I’m taking a day off to go and throw bricks at the Institute building.

But more than my results, the issue which is seeming to cause tsunami like waves in the household is the whole swine flu scare. My mother seems to have taken full impact of all the ZOMG-swine-flu-we’re-all-done-for type stories that have been doing the rounds in television news channels and papers, so much so that she has gone on a disinfecting spree. Amma actually bought one of those jumbo Dettol bottles and sanitized every last pillow cover, as a result of which our house smells like the corridor of Apollo Hospital. I understand the whole better-be-safe-than-sorry deal but I sincerely feel that allowing me to bunk office, err, avoid possible swine flu habitats would be more effective.

Come to think of it, I’m actually happy that my mother didn’t prevent me from going to see Kaminey because of the flu. The deal was that we would be seeing it in Ega due to budget constraints among the peer group. Although Ega is renovated (read – no more compass holed seats), 99.99% of the crowd continues to be, Maarvadi. In the Shahid-Priyanka kissing scene, there were multiple hoots and whistles all around for a solid 2 minutes. I mean, I understand that they’re a cute couple and all but this was absurd. My friend helpfully explained that almost all of them would sit for a second show just for this one scene. When I inquired as to why, he told me that they were too “excited” to see anything the first time and would actually watch what was happening only the next time. On a completely unrelated note, I thought Kaminey was a very fun movie.

Moving on, the week also saw a sharp increase in my s/km (no of vicious stares/kilometre) measurement. For all those who haven’t driven in Chennai before, anyone who drives a car in this city are subject to vicious stares for no apparent reason from guys on bicycles who are convinced that their road presence is second only to the Chief Minister’s, and other random people who insist that the middle of the road is the best place to stare at shop windows. While them plebeians may insist that the apparent cause of the increase is my complacency in the acceleration department, I would like to think that people only stare in my direction because I’m cute. But then again, why they would do so venomously is something one must ponder about.

Keeping with the whole theme of traffic, if there’s anything that I find more pissing off than the woh-my-baby-be-my-sexy type english lyrics in Tamil songs these days, its these morons at the traffic signal who skip the signal when the orange comes on or get ahead when there’s still around 10 seconds of waiting at the Stop sign. As if that it isn’t obnoxious enough, these guys also honk incessantly in case your vehicle is blocking theirs.

Not judging here, but I’m pretty sure the guy in the TVS 50 whose path to glory I was blocking wasn’t James Bond/a Heart surgeon with an emergency appointment/an international drug smuggler who is being chased by Interpol. Then maybe, his haste was understandable. But here’s a man, whose emergency at the max, is meeting his attu girlfriend in Nageshwar Rao park for some lunch time louwings, who was honking as if his life depended on it! I didn’t give him way though, which meant that 6 seconds later Mr.KLPD would overtake me and then turn around and shout at me in the same manner the Indian cricket fan would whenever Sreesanth comes to bowl. 3 seconds later he got caught by the Traffic Police for not wearing a helmet. It’s at times like these that you’re all the more certain that there is a God.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you are allowed to be jealous of my glamourous lifestyle.

A PCC Week

Advanced Accounting: I am currently in this client place in Nungambakkam on audit. The accountant there, lets call him PSH. The reason I write about him is because of his amazing ability to have gone for the past 10 years without taking a shower or brushing his teeth. Despite the man being a walking bio harzard, I do feel I should thank him, for he’s the reason my Yoga skills have improved by leaps and bounds. Most notably, breathing exercises. Inhale, hold.
Auditing and Assurance: I have been assigned to do this audit, alone. The lack of having anybody to talk to about the universe and everything in between has basically has resulted in me actually working, and I am pretty much on the cusp of completion. This not only surprised PSH and the director of the company, but even me! The team which went last year comprised of 2 people, both very smart but they took an extra week more to complete it. Clearly, I am either smarter than I give myself credit for, or I’m missing something.
I’m going to go with smarter.
Law, Ethics and Communication: I got into trouble near Khader Nawaz Khan road for parking my car on the side of the road where I was apparently not supposed to park. I walked out to the car only to find a big clamp, well, clamped on my tires! Wonder of wonders, the police van stood 100 metres away. I walked up to the police van with my best I’m-so-lost face and peered into the van where two traffic policemen were enjoying Bajjis.
“Sir”
Yennama?” [What ma?]
Sir…enoda..vandi…lock potrukku” [Sir…my car…it’s been locked. Notice the strategic uses of the pause to display apparent lack of knowledge regarding traffic rules. Strategy strategy.]
Aama ma, wrong side parking. Fine dhaan” [At this point, I wanted to say that since it was fine, he could remove the lock. But I didn’t]
Sir…receipt kadaikuma?”
Aama ma! Enna lanjam nnu nenachiya? Cha cha, elaam legal procedure ma. Naan dhaan SI, rules padi na sign pota receipt dhaan unakku kadaikkum” [Did you think this was a bribe? cha, everything is legal procedure. I’m the Sub Inspector, and as per the rules you’ll get the receipt signed by me. The man was completely ticked off at me as I had suspected the kadamai-kanniyam-kattupaadu-ness of his actions]
I continued to give him my pained puppy dog eyes.
Ennama? First time a?”
“Yes sir…” [Not counting the 3 times I’ve gotten caught near Luz, the time I got near Nandanam and scared the policeman by crying (long story) and a couple of times I ticked off a policeman near Alwarpet, this was very much my first time]
“Seri ma, chinna ponnu maari irukka, first time-nnu vera solra, 150 kattu, porum.” [Ok, you seem like a young girl, and you say it’s your first time, I’ll let you off for 150]
Clearly, saying “first time” has its benefits in more places than one.

Cost accounting and Financial Management: Lunching in Nungambakkam for the past week, I have been thoroughly spoiled for choice. The first day I had been sent there, however, I was completely unprepared, which meant an empty wallet and the “emergency” 50 Rs note in my bag. Hunger pangs are classified as emergency, ofcourse. But that also meant that my choices would be severely restricted. I figured my best bet would be a milkshake at the Fruit Shop On Greams Road’s tiny outlet in the BPCL Petrol bunk next door. That was probably the only day I was ecstatic to have been broke. The outlet is operated by this completely completely gorgeous man! Since then I’ve been going there everyday, so much that he doesn’t give me the menu anymore. And grins at me. And says bye. And completely makes my day.
The juice is pretty good too.
Taxation: The day the budget came, I went home to quite a surprise. My baby cousins were visiting. One of them, S, is quite the 2 year old. She had just started attending pre-school and was only too intent to put up a mini show (starring her) comprising of all the rhymes and other kindergarden-y stuff that she had been learning the past few months. After going through itsy-bitsy-spider, humpty dumpty, a hindi rhyme about moti haatis, she started started singing this rhyme about her fingers. It started well. “whev is thumbkin, whev is thumbkin” she went and promptly lifted her thumb. We applauded. This only made her even more excited and she started saying the next verse even more loudly. This particular verse, went “whev is pointher, whev is pointher” and well, she showed us her middle finger. While the entire family was in splits, her mother was mortified. “No, no, its this finger” tried her mother, showing her index finger. S just wouldn’t agree. According to her, the “pointher” wasn’t anything else but the middle finger and pretty soon, she threw a tantrum (which involved a lot of um, finger lifting) until everyone in the room (including her mother) agreed that the “pointher” was our middle finger.
Kids these days!
Infotech & Strategic Management: The past week also saw the Upanayam of my cousin A. A is every bit the NRI 11 year old – very cute, very smart and yea, annoying as hell. He was staying with us until his “oopanuyyanum” and as much as we adored him, managing a kid who ran around saying stuff like “My body is on a schedule” was very, very difficult. Soon enough me and my sister learned the perfect way to handle him – the computer. After A discovered Pocket Tanks, he was much more bearable since he didn’t have to spend all day trying to get us to pull our hair out. We were a wee bit worried as to how to handle him during the actual ceremony, which required quite a bit of patience in an environment that was pretty alien to him. However, managing him during the oopanuyyanum was not a hassle at all, because the purohit had him completely petrified with his enormous bulge and hence, had him eating out of his hand. The end of the day, A came back home, completely exhausted, albeit excited at his new acquisition. “I now have a POOnol” “Yes, congratulations!” “Hey, can I ask you something?” “Sure”The effect was pretty much immediate. His eyes widened and a wide grin spread across his face. “Now that I have a POOnol, am I like, married?”
I said it once, I’ll say it again – kids these days!

An Almost Magical Evening

After much convincing (and some mild threatening/fit-throwing) I had dragged my family to the Chennai Sangamam in Venkatanarayana Road on the 13th. To cut a long story short, it was brilliant, something that one doesn’t see too often in the city. It was probably the closest that one back home can get to an authentic Village Thiruvizha. The crowd however, was extremely large and my mother immediately began fretting – Kozhandhellaam kaanampona enna aardhu? Yaaravadhu kidnap pannita? (what if one of the kids get lost? or get kidnapped?) to which my father, like always, had a reply – “Yevan kidnap pannaporan unoda pasangala? Apdiye panninaalum avan rendu naalula bondi aayiduvan. In case tholanju pona…” (who’s going to kidnap your brats? Even if someone did, he’d become broke in a couple of days. In case they get lost…”)
Tholanju pona?”I interrupted. “Oru kudumba paatu vechukalaama? Na tholanju pona edathulerndhu paadren, vandhu kandupudipeengalaa? Ilena oru dollar-a renda odachu…” (Get lost? Shall we have a family song? If I get lost, I’ll sing it from one end, will you find me? Or shall we split a pendant into two….) 
“I was going to say I’d  call you on your cellphones, but andha kudumbapaatu idea pudichirku. Edhavadhu TR paatu set pannikalaam!”
However, before we could actually decide upon a family tune, the sound of drums beating blasted our ears, the evening had begun. The performances were something none of us had seen anywhere, except maybe in Ramaraj’s Karagattakaaran movies. What was amazing was the continuity of the performances, how they followed one another in an extremely smooth flow, we just didn’t have any time to look away from all the colour. 
There was this one particular performance of Dappankoothu which was noteworthy. Upon further investigation, turned out these gentlemen were from the very prestigious TASMAC school of dance. However, the performance had to be cut short since one of their key dancers (and singer) had the sudden urge to run towards the nearest dustbin and stick his head in. Which was a pity, because they were extremely entertaining. 
At around 9.30 pm, we had to leave since my sister was really really hungry and when she is really really hungry, she tends to snap at people and talk like a rhino with a stomach disease. Hence we had to cut our little field trip short and head towards a restaurant nearby since the queue at the food stalls looked like it’d take next Pongal for us to get anything to eat.
On our way back, there was a line of Jakkamas (Fortune Tellers, usually old women). I had always always wanted to get my hand read by a Jakkama. Even my sick-rhino-sounding sister was intrigued. The Jakkama took my hand and let a deep sigh, in an attempt to sound mysterious and all-knowing and took my right hand. 
Unoda raasikku…“she began. “Aayisu getti….padippu, velai elaam nalla varum, pannathukku korachalle illa…” She looked at my face for a minute and continued “Amma appa sella ponnu ma nee….Mangalam on vazhila vardhu…..Ameriga-la settle aava ma..amma appa sandooosama irupaanga” she finished with a special flourish on the sandoooooosam. 
(For your sign, long life…education, work will be good, you have always been spoiled by your parents,  auspices are coming your way, you’ll get settled in the US, your mom and dad will be verrrrrry happy) 
My father, who was standing next to me hearing the whole thing with a rather amused look on his face,  quietly handed a 20 Rs note to me to give her, which I dutifully did. 
As we walked back to the restaurant, I was still on my good-prediction high. What disturbed me was that my father still had this cheshire cat grin spread on his face, which was quite undutiful-fatherly since he was supposed to be happy in a non cheshire cat way if his daughter had a good prediction.  
“Nalla vishayam dhaan sonna la? Apdi enna sirippu unakku?” 
(She said nice things right? What’s the grin for?) 
“Nee paakala?”
(Didn’t you notice?)
“Enna paakala?”
(Notice what?)
“Ava frauddu di. Ponnungalakku left hand dhaan paakanum, ava baatukku thapaana kai-ya paathundu edho olarina, nee vera adha nambitta. Mothathilla 20 Rs donation.”    
(She’s a fraud. For women, you have to see the left hand. She just said something and you believed it. On the whole 20 bucks donation)
Like I said, an almost magical evening.

Something nice

I went to office today in an auto. After I had signed in the attendance, made small talk with the receptionist (apparently he was having a lot of work transferring calls) and went upstairs to the articles area to catch up on the office gossip with my seniors, I got a call from the ground floor. The absent minded monkey that I am,  I had left my lunch in the auto and the auto guy had actually returned it. I was really surprised and before I could thank him, he had left.
I like days when something nice happens unexpectedly, it makes me feel special.

“Na madras auto kaaranangalaam kettavangannu sollala. Nallavangala irundha nalla irukkumnnu solren.”

Flashback:

Chennai Autowallahs