Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking back on the Threshold

Looking back, trying to grip memories is like trying to catch something in water. Every time you get close to it, it seems to slip away. As I dip my hand into the remaining pool of memories, I try to describe the few that have nestled in my cupped hands.

2011 began in the midst of my fourth semester. A rather dismal prospect because, by unanimous note, it has been the worst semester till now. The only thing I seem to recollect from January seems to be my sister's birthday. What a day it was! The food, the cake, ah... nostalgia. oh yeah, we went for an I.V. to Infosys. The highlight of the trip? A golden opportunity to mine money from my friends for Autumn Sunshine's birthday.

February was a far more eventful month. TEDxSSN was conducted, I was an official blogger, and it was a huge hit. (P.S. I met Krish Ashok!!! ) Autumn Sunshine's birthday was a grand success. Black-forest cake, ferrero rocher, The Lost Symbol. And then, I won the poetry prize.

March was gruelling. Deadlines drew near. Still, sunshine was there in patches. I enjoyed writing about Women's day. I also had a wonderful time doing a project which I thought would drain me completely.

April was spent in exam preparations. By the end of May, my family went on a trip to Mysore which led to the genesis of this. It was an amazing trip, especially for historically inclined me. I went on an in-plant training in June, not very significant, just remembered. Oh yeah, dad's birthday. And a long time meet up of my school friend studying in Trichy.

July marked the beginning of my fifth semester which was far far better. We all geared up for two things - the tour and Paradigm - our symposium. Unfortunately, I fell ill just before the tour and had to miss it. So, I was determined to make up for it on the symposium. I can say, without doubt, Paradigm was the hugest success! (And I just might add, my third entry in a Saree wasn't that bad). In between, I attended Orbitce and had an awesome day, met my school friends and came first in Be a Prof. Ah, the ecstasy kept me on a cloud for days. (I hate a certain someone for teaching me stuff about innocent words that make me want to re-structure sentences.)

Toward the end of August, I was thoroughly depressed. I thank three special people for helping come out of it, my gentle Autumn Sunshine, my obedient Genie and my omniscient Kutty. September, of course, brought the usual excitement that the proximity of my birthday brings. I counted the days off, slowly. I had a nice time at a symposium a day before my birthday ( even though I got into trouble for going without permission). So I didn't expect much from my parents on my birthday. Though, in a strange turn of events, they were the ones who made my twentieth birthday so memorable, with the best birthday gift, always telling me that my mistakes are just that, mistakes and that they love me for ever more.

October. It started on a rather dismal note with the famed accident in our college. As Ms.Sunshine was also one of the few rushed to the hospital, it was rather a black day for me. All was well in the end for all, but the brutal dose of reality was unsettling. On a lighter note, highlight has to be my mum's birthday. She actually said she had never cut cake in her life. It was simply splendid. And, it was special in a variety of ways. I also found that Autumn Sunshine's dad shared birthday with my mom. And, the scholarship day was nice.

November again was the month of examinations. It culminated in a well-deserved break. During that time, I met up with some school friends at citi-centre and watched Tintin. And ROS has been the obsession on the run-up to new year.  And, today, this December I sit, doing the thing I love doing, catching my thoughts and putting them to words.

Now I know I am not a VIP and my story probably bores everyone. This post is not meant to entertain but is dedicated to all the people who make my life beautiful. So to all those who are reading, there are only three things left to do.

Thank you, for being there for me, for contributing to my life.
Sorry, for all he times I have hurt you.
And Happy New Year 2012 to you and your family.

P.S.  Don't be afraid the world will end. You won't be around to discuss it if it does anyway. Enjoy life to the fullest when you have it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Journey

I raced in search of the fair, fair maiden,
afar , as had many of my brethren.
Alongside me were other noble knights
on their own dark and treacherous flights.
But alas! Fast as we were on this path,
her brother struck many aside in wrath.
He cast a veil on her, yet I triumphed.
Missing him by inches, I then skirted
around him and with a burst of speed,
reached her. She was beautiful indeed,
Yet, so close, her face was riddles with pores.
As though aware of my discovery,
she pushed me away, I fell with the very
speed I came , staggering with the impact.
I fell through a glass pane, still quite intact,
right into a dark abyss. From my hole,
I could still see her, scorning every soul.
As I watched, her veil was slowly lifted
and many knights who followed, were gifted
with that momentary glimpse. It was then
that it hit me, she was pretty only when
we knights told her story to everyone,
not when we crowded over her. At once,
I whispered it to the screen at the end
of Sowmya's hole before my journey's end.

Signed, the enduring and the Red Photon,
just before passing into oblivion.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action

So, today, the 8th of December, I woke up thinking that the most miraculous day was at hand, today I will meet my friends after a long time, today I will tell them such cool stories, today I will have the best day ever.

And promptly fell asleep again.

Now, if my day ended as flat as that I'd have nothing to write about. I had a wonderful yet strangely bizarre day.

Part 1: Being a dodo!

I was late. I was over-dressed. I would think of a wonderful story and lose thread of it. In short, everyone had nice time making fun of me (including me!).

Part 2: Having Fun

Then, we really settled in, having a nice time. We watched Tintin. First I realised, I couldn't make out anything and realised that I had to wear my 3D glasses. I still couldn't make out anything. Finally, had the sense to wear the 3D glasses on top of my own! Nice time and food. And of course, awesome movie.

Part 3:  The Question

As a person who delegates all festival planning to naturally-endowed-feminine-beings (subtitle: I am too lazy and you are my younger sister and I have universal rights to lord over you), I ventured to ask my mother what we celebrate during Karthikai Deepam.

*Pausing for a fabulous story on some hitherto unknown myth that is yet to be uncovered in my quest for history that may hide a nugget of true fact or wisdom*

Mom: "I don't know!"

*Never mind, ask Wikipedia*

Part 4: The Attack

Serenely googling on Karthikai Deepam, I sat on the sofa when I heard a bone-chilling blood-curdling scream.

Then, I saw the source. I hoped it wouldn't be what I thought. Alas!

I saw it.

It. It is a jointed-legged, bilaterally symmetrical, arthropod. It. It is a species that can strike terror into my soul. Worse, it had evolved to a form most feared and most detested...

A pair of diaphanous wings.

It was a flying cockroach.

Defying the laws of aerodynamics, it flew around the house causing havoc. It was in the kitchen first, causing my sister to scream. Unaware of the devious plugin, I had been exceptionally calm. And then...

It flew. It flew in a lopsided manner right at my mom. Scream. Then, it flew right at me. I could almost imagine its fiendish high pitched voice say "I am going to get you, mwahahahahahahaha". Scream. Very soon, the flat was filled with three, identical feminine screams. I am sure we would have beaten that opera singer in Tintin. It bordered on ultrasound. Thankfully, god sent our saviour, my dad. He entered, by the use of mystic Himalayan powers, the being submitted dolefully at his feet for judgement.

Part 5: Karthikai Deepam (Lights)

My sister, emboldened by her success at making Krishna's feet out of rice flour, she decided to make a kolam and I was to draw a suitable design for her. Why draw, when you can google? Anyway, I chose one with straight lines and decided it would be good enough. My sister threw tantrum saying she will not draw a swastik as it's Hitler's sign. Curse you Hitler, I have to google search more. Finally, we decided to use that one without the swastik in the middle.

So, we swept the floor and got down to work ( she did the work, mine was to supervise). She put the dots so close together that it was beyond the resolving power of my optical lens to distinguish them. Confident of my intuition with spacing and engineering drawing, I deigned to help her. Soon, we were done, it was so beautifully laid out. And as I got up, she fervently asked me to help. I decided, why so much scene, just join her and have fun.

It was far from fun. No matter how slow you did, how you held the powder, it always fell in lumps and not the straight line I envisioned. I used to do it so nicely when I was small and of that same smug conviction, I entered into the fray. Next to me, my sister was no better. I gave up after one row and thought it looked good enough anyway and decided to stamp out the remaining dots. But no, my sister would persevere. I went inside and got the lamps out. Now the mysterious things about our lamps is that they always disappear into the crevices of our tiny flat that we end up buying before the festival anyway. So, as I continued the oil-filling and wick-placing, I had only five of them, wondering whether all the others had been lost in shifting. Outside, my poor sister was ragged by neighbours and even the watchman. Finally, she was done.

Then the usual, she sang, I rang the bell. We prayed. Or at least, my mom and my sister prayed and I closed my eyes wondering if some miracle was possible to convert the ghastly rice-flour-doormat into something more presentable. We placed the lamps, facing our house and it did look pretty pretty when you switched off the lights.

Part 6: Camera

Infused with a sudden desire to capture it in photograph, I eagerly brought out my camera. it looked pathetic. My Machiavellian scheme was that the kolam intricacies wouldn't be visible in the dark anyway! My sister gave up after sometime, but this time I would persevere. I messaged our class' photographing/photoshopping expert how to do it. He told me to reduce the exposure by going to manual mode. Right, my camera did not have any manual mode for sure. Finally, I tried fireworks and sunset. It was slightly better and accepting defeat I came back inside.


It certainly was an action-packed day. I wrote this blog entry and was so exhausted, I traipsed straight to bed and had nightmares about scheming Nazis, Haddock singing "Why this kolaveri kolaveri di?"  and thankfully no arthropods!

P.S. Sehwag scored double century. Woo hoo! But then. my blog I am far more important. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Tiger

As the the slanting rays of dawn made their way through the tiny window, she shook the vestiges of sleep and gradually woke up. She had no premonitions, no warning that today was going to be any different. She was wearing the deep purple ghagra choli to bed, which meant that the green was the one to don today. As there had been so much haste, she had been able to being with her just three sets of clothes, her two ghagras and her burqa.

Outside her room stood an Angrezi guard, impassive and stern. She knew from the thud of the regular treads outside her room, the discipline of the steps portraying his diligence. She awaited her mother's arrival soon. She was an only daughter. Even though her mother had aspired for a son, her chief concern was to keep the only soul that love could latch itself onto, cared for, as her father had passed away a month ago.

Predictably, at eight in the morning, her mother entered the room. She looked forward to her mother, her only remaining conviction that sanity and care prevailed in this world.

The door closed. Her mother seated herself on a chair. She removed her hijab to reveal her face.

She gasped.

It was not her mother.

"Do not scream and do not be frightened", said the stranger. Yet, her instinct drove her to do exactly those two things. Born in the tumult of war, her trust was not easy to gain, though she was a mere child of fourteen years. 

"Where is my mother?", she demanded, wishing her voice sounded commanding like her father's, even though she herself realise, the only power her voice was communicating was that of the grip fear was having over her.

"Your mother was taken away by the guard. We have very little time. I ask you to give me the inheritance that your father left me and I leave you in peace.", the stranger said.

"What do you mean taken? And what inheritance are you talking about? All I have inherited is a painful childhood and an unrecoverable loss", she lamented.

"Your mother is taken. I do not know for a Sahib or for himself. She will never be allowed to return to you. You brothers have been isolated, kept unaware and protected. She is suffering the same fate many of my kin have had to.", her listless eyes, cold as steel.

"No! God will not take away the only person I loved away, she will be back for me no matter what", the child whimpered.

"I have no time for your emotions, give me your inheritance and I leave", said the stone-faced stranger.

"What kind of a woman are you? You are informing a daughter of her mother's kidnapping and calmly expect me to conjure some non-existent inheritance, like a magician", this time tears accompanied her mournful voice.

"Listen, I have no time for this pleasant talk. Save it for other women, I have come here for a mission and nothing more", intoned the stranger yet again.

"I have all the time in he world. I have nothing. Nothing makes sense. I know not who you are. ", she climbed onto the bed.

"Give me all your possessions".

"The only things I own are the two other suits of clothes apart from what I am wearing"

"That cannot be, I thought I translated the riddle correctly."

"There is no bigger riddle than your presence."

Silence stretched between them. A lot of unspoken things were said. Finally the stranger said, "All guards have vacated the women's premises. There were talks of taking them to England. By the Hooghly, it would be easy. Celebrating your father's victory, I have a shrewd suspicion that none of them will return, overly confident in wine and what not! I will tell you my story, Fathima. I do not think a ten year old can help me, but your lack of inheritance is disturbing and I, like you, am an orphan. I also have nothing.", the stranger's eyes displaying the first hint of human life.

Curiosity seized Fathima. "You know my name?".

A laugh. Silvery and pleasant emerged from the hitherto spectre of misery. "Of course I do! You are Fathima, named after your grandmother, daughter of Tipu Sultan. I am Mary d'Souza."

"You are a Christian?!", asked Fathima eyeing her perfect burqa.

"Yes, a Mangalore Christian", said the lady with a supreme smile. Fathima knew not how to react. She thought any person who would boldly announce that they belong to that traitorous clan in front of Tipu Sultan's daughter, must either be very brave or very foolish.

As though her thoughts reverberated in the humid air, Mary said, "And what does this teenager, vestige of the royal blood who condemned our race, thinks is a befitting punishment to our existence?", sarcasm coating every word Mary spoke.

"I do not know. I should not even be talking to you. You are a traitor to the ruler", stated Fathima with an emotion that would have made her father proud.

"Since you have decided not to talk, listen at least. Perhaps if you have been imbued with some rudiments of logic, you will empathise with me. Otherwise, well it will not be a disappointment.", she said, preparing to recite her story with a more comfortable seated position.


"I was praying. The church was razed. I did not have time to think. I simply ran while the building was turned to ash. All of us were taken prisoner, from all parts of the coast, and were forced to walk to Srirangapatnam. There were 30,000 of us. Walking. Men. Women. Children. Through the most arduous route of all, the fort route. We ate little. There were pregnant women among us. Forced to walk as well. They gave birth and if, God willing, they survive, forced to walk with their babies. Walk. Walk. Eat. Walk. People died and were buried on the same spot. People were harassed. When we reached the fort finally, the men forcibly converted. Women forcibly taken. Men isolated so that their race died out. And you expect me to respect your father?"

It was Fathima's turn to be bewildered. She knew of the capture but did not know its exact gory details, perhaps deemed inappropriate for her childish age. Mary, however, had thrown such reservations to the wind. She seemed to  have lost control over her anyway, speaking things that had been locked away for so long.

"I agree it sounds harsh. But my father would have never taken such a step if your people hadn't betrayed us.", she said, her voice quailing as she cowered under Mary's glare.

"So you believe, 30,000 of us, most of whom are not even aware of the Sultan's existence over the entire coast, communicated and plotted against the king? And what did we women do to deserve such treatment? ", Mary spoke with anger.

"Honestly, the betrayers were from your clan. And, b- "

"Do you know who betrayed your father at the final battle?"

Fathima lost. She knew the answer. She did not want to admit it. She knew that the one who betrayed her father was none other than his most trusted courtier, Mir Sadiq, who called the entire army for salary at the same moment the British stormed the fort. Silence struck again.

A wry smile came unto Mary's lips, "Is the daughter of Tipu Sultan a coward?". Fathima answered fast and furious, "My father may have erred on this occasion but that does not mean he is not worthy of respect. He built the first church in Srirangapatnam and he is not as cruel as you believe. Do you know? He protected a temple from attack. He donated regularly to the Sriranganatha temple. And he did not raze the church that was under my grandfather's best friend's hold."

It was Mary's turn to be surprised. She had often visited the church of Srirangapatnam, but had merely thought it was a relic of British architecture. Also, she viewed Tipu as an intolerant ruler, certainly incapable of  protecting people of other faiths. 

Fathima continued, " Do you how many women my father had rescued from oppression? I think my father is the finest man in the world. Have you ever seen buildings as beautiful as the ones he built? Most of all, do you know that my father and grandfather are the only Indian rulers to defeat the British in war?". She waited to catch her breath.

Mary whispered," I only know his atrocities. There were rumours of that alone in our camps. Whatever said and done, he is a ruthless man."

"My father was ruthless to the people who betrayed his trust.", mused Fathima.

"Did your father actually defeat the British in combat?", asked Mary in wonder, forgetting for a moment, the debate, the hurt and being replaced by an insane curiosity.

It was Fathima's turn to laugh. "Of course, the first thing the British did on entering the fort was blowing up the artillery, but not before the carefully storing one of the indigenous rockets".

"I see", muttered Mary.

Fathima continued in earnest, "Please do respect my father. I apologise for your people on behalf of his dear departed soul. I know I cannot erase the consequences, but I hope to tell you his good attributes too. He was an able ruler, kind. He was rash and he hated being betrayed. There were people from all faiths in his court. Ranga Iyengar was there. Shamaiya Iyengar, his brother, was also there, in charge of Post and Police."

At the mention of the words "Shamaiya Iyengar", whatever little colour Mary possessed left her. She started to weep.


"What happened?", asked the astonished Fathima.

"He was to be blinded right?", Mary asked subdued, her face in her hands. Fathima rushed to reassure her, "Oh but he was forgiven, didn't you know? He was forgiven because his son died in battle. Also, he was in trouble because of Mir Sadiq. He declaimed Shamaiya as a traitor."

"Well, it is about time you knew what happened to me. I was preparing to escape from my camp. On the route of escape, we got enmeshed into a battle. As we hid, I noticed a wounded man, dying from a gunshot, whimpering. They had abandoned him for dead. After the sounds of battle ceased, I made my way to the wounded man, cautious. I tried to help him, stop the bleeding. He smiled, a smile that I will never forget. He held my hand and said, "My name is Murali Iyengar, I am grateful for your help. A war feels honourable when you win it, deplorable when you are forgotten. Please take this with you, I know I cannot live any longer, it is  the key to the king's inheritance, I would have liked to find it, not to steal it, to prove to him that in his arrogance to punish my innocent father, he counted his riches to early. Yet, now as death approaches me, my thoughts of revenge disappear. I give this to you to do whatever you want to make of it. Thank you.", he passed away, serenely.

"This was the what was written:

As was before, so shall be.
Like a flower in a desert,
blossomed in peril was she.
The ruler's treasure does lie
at the helm of the tiger
striped rule, always guarded by 
the dark angel of power,
which gains strength by the Sultan's blood.

It was a riddle. A classic Victorian riddle. I wanted to find it. I returned to Srirangapatnam, braving the fact that the next person to be kidnapped could well be me. I believe I survived merely due this disfigurement", revealing a scar on her neck. "They only wanted the most beautiful. I did not catch their fancy thankfully. And then, it fell. I did not know why I went groping with the riddle, I convinced myself it was due to the dying man,  was merely carrying out his plans. But now, I think it was my revenge. Mine alone."

Mary paused for breath. Realisation crashing on her, like a wave that woke her up from a dream. Fathima sat quietly. For the third time, they spoke in silence.

"Anyway, I thought the riddle referred to you. You were the last child, born during war, Tipu Sultan was known for his tigers, you are dark and of his blood. It all seemed to fit. I travelled all the way to Bengal, following them, noticing their plans to keep the next heirs isolated."

"I am sorry, I honestly have no idea what you are talking about".

"That is well, come live with me here, we'll travel from this hovel in Tollygunge of Bengal to the jewelled city, Calcutta. I've gotten a certain liking for you."

"I would like that", answered Fathima shyly. "Is there no way I can see my mother again?", she asked.

"I am afraid so. I am truly sorry."


"Well, we better go now", said Mary. "Here I'll take your clothes. Come along now." Fathima obeyed. She realised she was not very old, perhaps twenty five. Yet she sounded so many years older. "My god, your burqa is heavy, and what are these lines?".

"Oh my father had a huge fondness for tigers. Just a few stripes. Actually if you look on the inside, you see an entire sheet of orange and black at the foot of the robes."

"Oh... Oh my god! The riddle!", exclaimed Mary.
"What about it?"
"It wasn't the helm of the tiger's rule, it was the hem of the tiger striped rule."
"Your inheritance is in the dress!", she said examining the cloth at the bottom. At one place, she cut the the padding, to Fathima's horror. 

Only to find the Navratna pendant in her hand.

Mary did not know what to do. Half jubilant and half scared.

Fathima said quietly, "I understand if you want to take it, you can have it. I want nothing to do with it. By depriving my family of this, you fulfill your vow of revenge."

"Yes, I will take it. But not for the reasons you said. We will go to England and sell it. We will live there in style. I will come back, surely. I need to answer to my race. We have nearly died out. I did not need to take revenge, I think God takes care of justice"

As they walked out of the house, preparing for their daring escape, Fathima said, "I do not care what my father's soldiers thought, I think you are the most beautiful woman on Earth".


They successfully made it to England. Mary worked odd jobs to get the ship's ticket. She was moderately educated. In London, they sold the pendant to a General. They were quite happy and content. Mary, however, wished to return to her country whereas Fathima wanted nothing more to do with it. Well-educated now, she decided to remain in England. Mary went back to India, even raised a family. Fathima, always remembering Mary's story about war, about unattended wounded, affected women, joined Florence Nightingale at the age of sixty-four and returned to Mysore during the last few years as a nurse. The Tiger reigns supreme.



This is a pure work of fiction. I simply wanted to write about Tipu Sultan. But there are so many divided opinions. Partly, some exaggerated to undermine his authority, to enhance divide and rule. There is no doubt his father was more tolerant, yet some accounts how that he is not as cruel as he made out to be. Arrogant, but still a force, an enigma. The British were frightened of him. And he portrayed that with his mechanical toy tiger. So I first thought I'll put the two points of view. But my over-active imagination wouldn't let me. All the above could have happened, because Florence Nightingale did come into the scene fifty years later and the fate of Tipu's daughters are unknown, that of the sons are highly documented. The only unlikely thing is whether Fathima and Mary would have been able to communicate, give Mary's native tongue would have been Konkani and Fathima's Persian or Kannada. Still, I had a nice time writing it. Hope you enjoyed it. The facts of the battles are true. The three Iyengars are historic. Though I made up the son's name because I couldn't find it. And I've taken the extracts of diaries for the great march of Mangalore Christians, it seems to tally with most other facts. Also, the navratna pendant was auctioned recently. And I am not sure whether Tipu built the first church in Srirangapatnam or in Mysore. And Genelia D'Souza is a Mangalore Christian, inspiration for the name. I saw the name Fathima in the Mausoleum. AND, this post is a testimony to the fact that I can write about Indian history also.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All?

"Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony", cringed Snow White's mother. And her wish was granted for the drops of blood that fell, when she pricked herself with a needle, fell on the white snow on the ebony window sill.

And then we know the story, blah blah blah, vetti step-queen with way too much time on her hand and suffering from the same SOS (self-obsessed-self) disease as me, admires her carefully crafted looks in a truth-telling-mirror until her step-daughter surpasses her beauty. She tries to get her killed, instead of sending a Golden deer, she sends an over-sentimental soldier who lets her escape. Snow White meets seven guardians who will all go to work but draw a Lakshman-Reka anyway to protect her. Then, in true Tamil-villain style, she dons one big macham on the left cheek and a evil grin and tricks her into eating a poisoned apple. 

So we build a glass coffin as they don't want to bury her. Who will save our damsel in distress? Enter prince Charming stage left, who falls in love at first sight and delightfully marries when the apple gets dislodged. The queen dies of heart attack.

And all the good people lived happily ever after.

OK, this was one of my favourite stories when I was small, but let's review the characters shall we?

The Queen: By far, the most realistic character in the story. Apparently she didn't grow up in India, where chants of "idan na mama" will claim to drive every particle of self-obsession in your body. Anyway, scheming/plotting/revenging is quite exciting in Kaliyug but for what? The oil fields of Kuwait.. nope.. to be Miss Universe with no competition.

Snow White: Beautiful, serene, child-like and innocent. Completely cute except for the child-marriage ending. And if she really fitted the descriptions, she'd look like this

It's kind of scary even with a smile attached.

Dwarves: We're supposed to believe that these little descendants of Vamana are completely careless but caring. Honestly, the first thing they say is if you will keep house for us, and cook, make beds, wash, sew, and knit, and keep everything clean and orderly, then you can stay with us, and you shall have everything that you want. And they don't bother to stay at home anyway. That doesn't sound caring. That sounds like, "Machi, this cute girl does all the homework for me da!".

Prince Charming: Convenient person to marry Snow White. All secret-female-infanticide-practicers probably pray for Prince Charming. All you'd have to do is doll your daughter in shoe-polish, paint her lips red and black hair is the norm anyway, lay her in a casket and voila!, a no-dowry asking, promptly falling-in-loving guy will be there to relieve you of your "burden". 

Let's come to the twenty-first century. A land imprinted by Einstein, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and so many other revolutionary rationalists, where spirituality and science tend to a delicate balance.

Apparently black hair, white skin, red lips are not enough to fall under the category of beautiful women. So, if a guide to look beautiful for twenty-first century girls/women came out, it would be like this.


The skin must be completely blemish free. No spots/pimples/pores/acne (and these are all very different things mind you) shall disgrace thy face. And, yes in true OOP concept, we inherit the white-as-snow skin as well.

Well happens to people born with an overdose of skin-cancer-preventing-melanin. Not to worry, to attain the spiritual realm of perfect skin to cater to your spiritual societal needs, cosmetics, a trillion dollar industry, is there to help.

So we have toners, cleansers,  conditioners, foundation, concealers, moisturisers and sunscreens (and again these are all very different things). That's just for the skin. You also have lipsticks, lip gloss, rouges and other make-up a well. Apart from these wide range of oh-so-magically-convert-#deb887-to #fffff, you have beauty parlours. 

Beauty - the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.
Parlour - an audience chamber

A beauty parlour - like a compound composed of elements - does not exhibit any of these characterisitcs. It is a catalyst that does absolutely nothing to an individual's beauty but increases the speed of understanding prettiness is far different beauty and the law of expansion - the price of the service will expand to the size of your wallet.

So anyway, you get facials - of type saffron, gold, platinum, diamond, flowers, and add-fancy-greek-names.
Have we really changed?

Ancient priests believed diamond dust will cure bubonic plague.

People believe that diamond dust will cure societal plague.

Now the face is composed of eyes and eyebrows. Eyes shall be perfectly outlined in kohl. Eyebrows shall be perfectly shaped by the process of carefully selecting each mischievous naughty hair out of place, placed caressingly in the fond embrace of the loop of a thread, only to be betrayed and violently jerked out.

And as if all this isn't enough, we have waxing, the wonderful cure for removing body hair. Why? because its beautiful. And no force on this planet can convince me to lay myself as balikadu, anoint me with strips of wax and rip the paper on top. Come on, I had enough of that mini-version when my luxurious hair on my hand got caught in cello-tape.

Waxing meant:


Witch Torture Involving Hot Wax


It shall be curled, straightened or teased to the whims and fancies of rich,old,heavily-made up ladies who dictate fashion. It shall be tangle free, thick, lustrous and shiny. You have shampoos and conditioners and dyes. You have hair spas as well.

Marie Antoinette - Later beheaded on the guillotine - Take a hint

Silly vetti queen takes a hair style, then silly vetti subjects also take the same hair-style.

Similarly, popstar takes a hair style, silly fans take same hair style. And pay for it too. 

Average hair cut for boys : Rs.75
Average hair-cut for girls - Rs. 300
Average hair-cut for barbed-wired-frizzy-long-haired-traditional-doofuses-refusing-to-reduce-length - Rs.500


Of course, a simple nail polish doesn't suffice. 

If thou art a girl, thou shalt be a princess.

You deserve the pampering touch of exotic soaps and cleansers and massages. You deserve the best nail-art in the century, you are special. Just as you allow your madly whirring brain, calculating the peculiar scents to be that of combustible acetone and cleansing ceramide, to slip into sub-consciousness, the bill arrives.

Manicure - Rs. 400
Pedicure - Rs. 300

This was the regular package madam, do you want to try our premium peppermint services?

*Insert appropriate swear word*


From aunties of previous generation: You are absolutely right, chellam. All I ever did in my youth, was empty the talcum powder box with cute powder puffs imported from Turkey (Or are there only towels from Turkey?"), touched up grey hair with mai(kohl), swathed myself in lipstick and a facial, only once a week. I wouldn't have dreamed of cutting my hair.

From my mom's colleagues:

Until I was in school : Sowmya romba chammathu, make-up laam interest kidaiyaathu, verum padippu thaan.
Now : I think she has a social disorder, absolutely refusing to enter a beauty parlour.

From my fellow college girls:

Category A: Hey ya, what you say is correct only but I use face wash because my skin is oily.
Category B: I totally agree with you dude, can't understand what all the fuss is about. (Autumn Sunshine)
Category C: Hey its my personal wish, I quite like it. Come on, it gives me confidence. I should like looking at me first.

These three categories are quite fine. The following categories irk me.

Category D: Girl obviously made up claiming haven't done a single artificial thing in life.
Category E: It is the destiny of women to suffer pain. If you can't bear so much for beauty...

My response: Precisely the reason I feel it is unnecessary to invite more pain

Category F: Don't you want to look good? To impress friends, family, enemies? Don't you want to look, to die for, unreachable, a prize?

Who the hell assumed I don't look good???

My fellow college guys:

Guys are far simpler. Only one category.

Hey there is a girl over there.
Matter over.


I am dark, body-haired, curly-tangled, pimpled/pored/acned yet I am beautiful. I do experiment with hair-styles, eye-liners and nail-polish for a change. It's merely a craving for change and some attention. Its not a norm or a necessity or a path to attain beauty-nirvana. Its the colour of your heart that counts, not your skin. And I believe, the people who I would like to be friends with, will notice me for who I am, and like me for that beauty. I find the money pointless. Its insane to expect men to change their attitudes about dowry and female infanticide and not teach women to evolve.

Even people very close to me has commented, that grace and beauty are not important in a man as it is in a woman. That's like saying, "Your record and observation are far worse than boys'". How on earth can you expect equality when such comments are in practise? Scold me for a bad observation. That is about the line I draw. What's with all the advertisements also? Fair girl gets noticed by all, dark by none? 

I believe in looking presentable. Because that communicates your willingness to communicate your intelligence, talent and so on. That includes a supreme level of confidence, that I ask every girl who is reading this to have, which cannot be bought by a make-up artist. And if make-up gives you that confidence, go ahead. A conscious choice is alright, not like a herd in a rampage.

Because, girl, with your smile, you are beautiful.

Agatha Christie
Helen Keller
Marie Curie
ME B-)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I Am - Hilary Duff

This is a Hilary Duff song I recently discovered. Every line resounded with an echo of familiarity and was pleasantly surprised to know her birthday was off by mine by one day. A true Libran!

I'm an angel, I'm a devil
I am sometimes in between
I'm as bad it can get
And good as it can be
Sometimes I'm a million colors
Sometimes I'm black and white
I am all extremes
Try to figure me out you never can
There's so many things I am

I am special
I am beautiful
I am wonderful
And powerful
Sometimes I'm miserable
Sometimes I'm pitiful
But that's so typical of all the things I am

I'm someone filled with self-belief
I'm haunted by self-doubt
I've got all the answers
I've got nothing figured out
I like to be by myself
I hate to be alone
I'm up and I am down
But that's part of the thrill
Part of the plan
Part of all of the things I am

I am special
I am beautiful
I am wonderful
And powerful
Sometimes I'm miserable
Sometimes I'm pitiful
But that's so typical of all the things I am

I'm a million contradictions
Sometimes I make no sense
Sometimes I'm perfect
Sometimes I'm a mess
Sometimes I'm not sure who I am

I am special
I am beautiful
I am wonderful
And powerful
Sometimes I'm miserable
Sometimes I'm pitiful
But that's so typical of all the things I am

I am special
I am beautiful
I am wonderful
And powerful
Sometimes I'm miserable
Sometimes I'm pitiful
But that's so typical of all the things I am
Of all the things I am
Sometimes I'm miserable
Sometimes I'm pitiful
But that's so typical of all the things I am
Of all the things I am 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Joan of Arc

Jan 6 1424

On this day, twelve years ago at midnight, I was born, the cries of my mother lost to the roar of heavens that welcomed me. Whether it was a herald or an omen remains to be seen. I am sewing beside my mother, trying to make stitches as fine as her. She likes me best I know, for I am her first daughter after my three brothers. Little Catherine is but a happy-go-lucky baby, with wheels instead of legs and no time to spare. My mother recites stories. Stories from the Bible, stories about the Church, fairy tales, anything. After I am done, I start to tread to the familiar path down the garden and into the village. Our house is big and strong and made of stone and so close to the Church. As I skip down the pebbled path, my friends join me and we laugh and chatter and make our way to the Ladies' Tree. It is a special tree you see, filled with fairies they say. We go there trying to spot one, perhaps it is green like the leaves where it rests.

As we play around the tree, I hear the distant rumble of the Church bells. I go down on my knees and pray, pray for my family's well-being and forgiveness for my sins. Lost in my reverie, I am disturbed by smothered giggles and snorts. My friends find my piety amusing. I do not know what is entertaining. It is what my mother taught me. Once when I believed I was perhaps, doing something amiss, the Voice told me, as clearly as though He was speaking to me, to continue and keep going to Church as much as possible.

As the sun began to dip across the horizon, I make my way home. I am quite early so it is alright I am alone. As I approach the door however, I am snatched by my mother inside. The last time her calm face registered such fear and distress, it had been the Soldiers, sons of France given to the enemy. As a tiny stem of fear grows within me, I heard the sound of skirmish already. The horses in the stable whinny and I imagine the cattle to be frightened as well. My family is seated around the table, appearing calm. Suddenly, the smell of smoke seeps in through the crevices in the closed windows. Alarmed, my father cautiously leads us out to witness a gruesome sight. The entire village is on fire. As my brothers try to help our neighbours, the efforts are becoming futile as wooden rafters cleave, as fire leaps from thatch to thatch. The soldiers have long gone, but by the time the last flame is put out, our beautiful village is lost.

Tears sting my eyes, as I see my friends wounded and in pain. I wonder, have we committed such horrible sins? We return home quite unenthusiastic. The next day as soon as I finish all my chores, I allow my feet to take the road that they wish. In the field next to house, I sit down trying to relieve the varied thoughts mulling in my mind. 

Is this God's Will? To keep France in poverty and war, all these taxes that father keeps complaining about? Nearly for a hundred years? 


What is this? Is it the Voice?


If it be not God's Will, then what be it?

It is God's Will.

I do not understand.

It is also God's Will that you do not remain here.

I am confused...

You will crown the uncrowned prince at Reims, away from Domremy. It is your destiny.

And who be you?

St. Catherine.

I awake, my heart easier than it was and trundle back home.


I am about to sin. I cannot think of anything else. I try to brush aside my fears as I do to the dust inside my house. I thought I would tell my parents openly about my mission but only yesterday I heard my father tell my brothers that if he finds me in the company of men-at-arms, then they ought to drown me. 

I am about to lie.

I tell my parents, I am leaving to help my aunt who is pregnant. I know my uncle will be more persuasive. My heart thumps so loudly, yet they fall for my ill-formed lie and I make my way to the nearest town. I bid adieu to all those that are dear to me, my friends, flowers, birds, everything. I request to see Mr. Baudricourt who is my father's friend. My uncle is dismissive at first, until I look right into his eyes and tell him, "Do you not remember, a woman will ruin France and another Maid will rescue France?". My superstitious uncle relents but am met with scorn and ridicule by Baudricourt. He advises my uncle to return me home with an advertisement for a sound thrashing. Finally, I get my escort, Jean de Metz who is devoted to my cause. The change of heart caused partly because, I said I felt trouble brewing in Orleans which was true and partly because he had priests examine me and declare that the Evil One doth not reside in me.

As if!

I disguise myself as a page, partly for my own safety and partly because of my comfort on a horse. There are some who disapprove of me, but on hearing the prophecy they grant me resources and I make my way. Through Burgundian and English hands. And at court of Chinon, I recognise the King who attempted to disguise himself, but no disguise can cloud the eyes of God's follower. Slowly, I bend their unbending opinions, d'Alencon has become my closest friend and I even managed to convince La Tremoille, a Baudricourt in image. I had to be examined by priests and those fools, the Doctors. They actually asked me whether the Voices spoke in French? What other language do I know, not being as learned as they. The method I used to convince the Dauphin, will be my dying secret as he took me under oath.

I am granted my army, who work without wages for God, and as I march out, the guard insults me. I curse him to drown, only to hear a splash moments later to learn that indeed, he did slip into the moat and dragged by his armour. I make up my mind never to curse anybody else ever again. I go to Tours and ask for a sword which I feel will be found in the altar of the Church to St.Catherine. It is found with the fleur-di-lis and returned to me, repaired and restored. I get an armour that weighs my own I believe but I wear it, wear it with pride. I go to Orleans, to free it and clear the path for Reims where the king is to be crowned.

May 1429

I entreat my men-at-arms, who have swollen in their ranks to fight the English at Orleans. I ask the English, thrice to surrender and they have the audacity to insult me and kill my messenger. As tears moisten my eyes at these incidents, my heart grows stronger, my faith in God protects me and I attack regardless of night or day.

My people are roused. They believe that I am their leader. We attack. I do not kill, it is true. However, I am upset. The sight of blood nauseates me and the wounded arises my pity. However, my time is not that in safety. True to my foreboding, an arrow strikes me. I can see it sticking out of my chest, dangerously close to my heart. I cry, I who have never experienced pain, cried so vehemently. I still hold onto my standard and that arouses my men. Half in anguish and half in frustration, I pull the arrow out.

Pain. It dissolves me. I know not where I exist. I know not what is holding me. I know not the very air I am breathing. Yet I do not sleep, nor do I become unconscious. I am the slave of pain.

Somewhere, from the depths of my memory, I hear my mother tell me, that wounds ought to be dressed in olive oil. During the afternoon respite, I hasten to do so to feel immeasurable relief. In the aftermath, my men are invigorated and we drive the enemy out!

July 17

The Dauphin is crowned.

I meet my parents in embarrassment but they are so proud of me. My father heard of my mission before I left from my confidences to my brother, but had hoped Baudricourt would have restored me to my senses. I smile spontaneously on hearing this. Baudricourt is no match to me. My banner is displayed with pride. Also, I set my father and my neighbours free of a burden. When asked for a gift, I request for the removal of taxes from Domremy.

However, things are amiss. The Dauphin is quite on the path of his insane father, negotiating with the Burgundians. Does he not see it is but a ploy to get more troops into this nation? France, France is suffering and the royal blood is not doing his duty. And that fool, Tremoille is encouraging him. As much as I am put off by the lust of blood in La Hire, I'd rather he chop off the head from this conniving diplomat than entertain him.

I prepare to free Paris.

I march in confidence. Yet, my men show signs of doubt. Even de Metz is surprised at my haste, disrergading the King. I have not time for such things.

We fight at Compiegne and Paris. However, the enemy has grown in size and skill and my men are not what they were. Surrounded by my brothers, as I tried to reach the drawbridge to freedom, my accursed cloak, the one symbol of vanity I possesed, was used to drag me off my horse and I was captured. Rather than be tortured, I hoped to tempt death, refusing to surrender to no one except God.

I am imprisoned. I pray. I try to escape once by jumping off the tower to safety only to be brought back to it. I stay, I live and nothing. Perhaps the King has run out of money to ransom me.

And then begins the trial. A sixty-year old Cauchon is called to question me. I am questioned and interrupted and questioned in hopes of  a mistake. I laugh inwardly, my extraordinary memory helping me as always. I decline to comment on the King but everything else was for them to know. I merely say "next question". They find fault with my men's attire, my friends, even the poor Ladies' Tree at Domremy. They question me about me running away from home and my speedy recovery from war wound. How can they not see the purity of the soul within?

After a few days, they ask me whether I am in God's grace. Sensing the trap I answer, "If I am, may the Lord keep, if am not may God take me there." All those learned lawyers adjourn as they are surprised that I escaped unscathed from a question where either yes or no would have convicted me. I am supremely confident.

Yet at night, I cry. I cry for the filth in my room, the insulting English guards and most of all, my beloved France. I am forced to wear women's clothes.

The circuitous trial continues. At one point, they actually ask me whether my Voice will disappear after marriage. Disconcerted, I reply God only knows. What is it with women and marriage? And am finally given a long document and they ask me to sign. They assure me that they will release me once I do. Unable to both read and write, I make a small circle with the pen, smiling that I have at last won, and I am not condemned by God.

It is not to be. I am condemned for wearing male attire again. And my petitions that it was because my other dress was stolen by my insulting guards falls upon deaf ears. They maintain it is my own doing. Absurd and illogical, I burst into tears again at the injustice.

May 31 1931

They are escorting me to the stake. Fear haunts my heart. I was confident of my escape. I trusted in these men. One of them even claims that he would have freed me if I had been English. No, France is the Lord's fiefdom. Ah, how many times I heard my father say, he'd drown me or burn me. His words sound so ironic. I am alone and friendless in an unknown land. My courage fails me, it finally loses. These are my final tears, and I let them flow. Can they not see I am a woman, so susceptible to tears am I. I curse Cauchon, curse him for his injustice.

I am taken to the stake and tied. I cry Jesus. I know France is saved. I believe in God. My death means my mission on Earth is over. Paradise awaits me.



She is heralded as a Saint and Martyr. Her mother fought for her at the Rehabilitation trial. Her name was Jeanne d'Arc that was falsely translated to Joan of Arc. She died at 19, her ashes spread on the Seine river to prevent any relics. Her intelligence and intuition were extraordinary. And she did not know how to read or write except for her name. 

In retrospect, why this story moves me is because, she performed such spectacular feats for her nation at a time where women had no say anywhere. They were property carted from father to husband, meant to serve and not served. Joan for example, had to both keep house and farm. Yet her awareness of the politics, war and the nation was impeccable.

And her duty to her Voices. As metaphysical it may seem, I believe we all have a Voice within us, a conscience or God or whatever you choose to believe, a sub-conscious that goads us to do impossible things. She saved France. So much so, that a 19-year old girl in India is writing about her nearly half a millennium later. 

I often fret at being a girl, at being trapped, at being restrained. Come on, if an unlettered peasant girl followed her heart and conquered destiny 500 years before, I had better do better.