miercuri, 9 martie 2011

A few scrapings

Nothing much to write about, so here are a few scrapings:

Two days ago there was a Jain holy day. A Jain friend called from Calcutta to ask forgiveness for any wrong she might have done to us. It’s something Jains are supposed to do on such occasions – ask forgiveness of everyone they know.

(Note: Ditch the Raft has a very interesting post about this Jain holy day, Paryushan, and about a similar tradition in Judaism.)

We sometimes go to a tea pub in Adyar. The last time we went, we had continually to swat flies. When we mentioned it to the owner he said, “Actually, we don’t kill flies: we’re Jains.”

We’ve acquired a new car. I mention it because of the way it was delivered: with a flower garland strung across the front, and accompanied by a box of sweets.

It’s customary to give sweets to people on happy occasions. When I was a student here, you knew people’s birthdays: they would come into the dining hall wearing new clothes, and carrying a box of sweets, which they would hand around to all.

Chauffeur Training

We bought a new car last week. Today I received a letter from the company which sold it to us, signed by one Mr. Heavenly. I love that name! It's obviously a Christian name, since it's in English, but it's one I've never encountered before. Mr. Heavenly writes, in part:

... We are sure your car will give you years of trouble free motoring pleasure to you & your family.

As part of our endeavour to continuously provide value added service to our customers, we have initiated a chauffer training program specially designed for your chauffeur. This aim of this training program is to enrich the driving knowledge of your chauffeur in areas of vehicle knowledge, driving habits, safety feaures, maintenance schedules & self-help. Experienced staff will conduct the training of 04 hours duration...

I prefer to drive myself, though many people we know do have drivers. It's a nice idea. I could use assistance in several of these areas myself, especially self-help.

Newspaper Stuff

A few things from this morning's The Hindu:

Monumental task: Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore gets a facelift - another article in connection with the temple's upcoming Mahakumbabhishekam -- a reconsecration and general sprucing up. The huge temple tank, which has gone dry in recent years, has been filled with trucked-in water for the occasion.

Sena 'treatment' to Mani Shankar Aiyar - Politicians beat an effigy of another politician with shoes. This is one of the most insulting things you can do to someone here. Sometimes a perceived miscreant will be garlanded with a chain of shoes.

Operation Cobra Rescue in Sriperumbudur - this caught my eye because the Irula tribals who rescued the eponymous cobra family (32 babies and their parents), and who are expert snake and rat catchers, have here been euphemised into "snake trans-locaters."


Today's New York Times Magazine has an interview with Meera Nair, in connection with the release of her new film, Vanity Fair. (Filmography) The interview seemed disjointed and perfunctory to me, a handful of sound-bites. It contains this, which should be obvious, but probably isn't:

As an Indian citizen living in New York, do you see the U.S. as a force for good?

No. Islamophobia has completely raged in the Western world since 9/11. Americans are only given one very biased point of view about the Islamic faith.

You seem to be suggesting that Americans view all Muslims as terrorists.

Living in New York, we never felt foreign. After 9/11, we felt foreign.

Have you been mistaken for a Muslim on the streets?

Last time I checked, Muslims looked like every other human being. My parents are Hindu, and I married into a Muslim family. I would be happy to be mistaken for a Muslim.

My Sister's Chair

I meant to write something for the blog today, but instead I painted a picture of my sister's chair.

I've always admired my sister's ability to live in a certain way -- to cook beautifully, to assemble small things that one would not expect to see together, to put colours together with a flair that I lack. The chair was in the attic guestroom of a house she doesn't live in anymore: an early 20th C. house in a Boston suburb. She painted the wide old floorboards sky blue, and the walls white, with a big yellow sunburst on the sloping ceiling. Most of the room was blue and white and yellow, with a bright poster of a beach somewhere, so that you didn't feel that you were shivering in a New England winter.

Vinayaka Chaturthi and a Song

I came downstairs to music blaring from a public loudspeaker – A. R. Rahman’s Vande Mataram. Today is Vinayaka Chaturthi, the festival of Ganesh.

(AFP photo)

Hearing Rahman’s music reminded me that I’ve been wanting to put up an MP3 of a song of his that I love: Porale Ponuthaye, from the Tamil film Karuthamma. It’s a song of sadness and longing, just a woman’s voice, with almost no instrumental accompaniment. (The file size is 7553 kb, the playing time is 6:23. I'll keep it up for a week.)

The tune of this song appears twice in the film, the second time in a faster, happy version. Rahman used the faster version again for the album Vande Mataram.

The woman who sang this song, Swarnalatha, won a National Film Award for it in 1994.

You can hear the fast version, and lots of other Tamil film songs on streaming audio, at Tamil Songs Page (the link is to the page containing songs by Swarnalatha, including Porale Ponuthaye). I prefer the slow version, but the fast one is catchy; it’s interesting to compare them.

If you do download this song, please tell me how you liked it.

(And here's the Tamil Songs Page for the Top 10 Songs -- listen to
what Tamil popular music sounds like these days.)

Three Days Offline

On Sunday morning the line which brings the Internet to me was cut -- or "cutted," as the voice on the other end of the phone said, when I called to complain. The Voice told me that the line would be restored by four o’clock in the afternoon. That was specific, and therefore comforting... but in fact the line came back only on Tuesday evening. So here are some highlights of the last three days offline:

Mary bought the weirdest snake gourd I’ve ever seen. Usually they are long and straight. This one would scare me, if I came upon it in the dark:

I drove out to do some errands on Monday, and just outside the gate many water buffaloes were sashaying down the middle of the road. I’m used to one or two, so this show of strength was pleasing to me. Buffaloes are attractively ugly, with their used-inner-tube hide and knobby hindquarters. I drove past them very gingerly in my new car.

I squished a dung-beetle while playing badminton. It was inevitable: it’s apparently their mating season, and every day I see them cavorting ponderously in the grass beside the court. They are quite cute. They have black flattened-oval backs, with three white dots on each side and one in the middle, so that they look like half-dominoes in a funhouse mirror. Lost in the throes of passion, they keep scuttling onto the court. And I was trying to score a point. Alas.

It has been raining off and on for the last several days. The covered atrium in the center of the house magnifies the sound, so it’s like being inside a drum. The drainage on the roads is poor. Temporary floods appear immediately on all the low-lying roads. After the rain there are puddles, and the humidity is 100%, but seeing grey skies, instead of that endless blasted pale-blue, is a great pleasure.

This morning Lakshmi told me that many ant-like insects had entered the drawing room. All insects have been burgeoning because of the rain. I rushed in to see, and found a heap of half-inch translucent tan-coloured wings on the floor by the French window. When I looked out at the verandah I saw drifts of them, and realized that these had blown in through the slight gap between window-frame and floor. Some colony of insects held its mating ball last night, while we were sleeping.