2 States… by Chetan Bhagat – A quick review


Just finished reading the book and found myself in 2 states- smiling and not too disappointed! That said, his previous 2 books had taught me a good lesson on not to expect anything in the first place. Back then, i was again in 2, but different states- clenching my teeth, and disappointed. So, if you have not read the book yet, well you are not missing much. If you do plan to read, toe my lines, dont expect anything awesome.

It feels like walking out of a theatre after watching a usual Hindi or Tamil flick. A girl and a boy, obviously from different cultural backgrounds, rise and fall in love and the end is a mega ‘Shubham’. This is 2 States for you in a nutshell. And Chetan Bhagat has got his acts right when it comes to appealing to the young minds by liberally using a good mix of girls, booze, sex, sentiments ,a little academics and work life. The IIT, IIMA backgrounds add color to the book and the characters, while the places Ahmedabad-Chennai-Punjab serve as nice back-drop with deep contrasts- literally Red-Black-White in that order!

2-States
2-States

There can be no spoilers when reviewing this book, so let me go ahead and say it! Krish and Ananya are the two people brought together, as you know, by fate. The relationship predictably starts as a ‘friendship’ which the whole of India understands, and grows up into ‘deep-love’ and culminates in a ‘we-marry-a-family-in-india’ marriage that we are all so used to. Ananya and Krish do all it takes to win over each other’s family and Chetan spices up with all the cultural masala, and it does add some taste to the tale.

The upside is that every Romeo and Juliet in India can relate to the characters all so well and am sure there must be many parallels! Which is yet another reason why his books sell like crazy and so fast! 2 States.., like his earlier works, is a quick read and a notable positive is that you’ll not get bored. What I personally liked, (yes, i liked a few things) is the subtle humor, the all too familiar South vs North digs, the Indian obsession with ‘fair’ skin and food. I was caught laughing twice in less than 30 minutes on my bus ride home:-) Worth, since I borrowed it from my friend!

Recommendation:
1. Good way to kill time.
2. Can be a good start for those with a ‘Reader’s Block’ (if there is such a thing)
3. You will like it if you’d once upon a time read Mills & Boons
4. Those aspiring for IIT/IIMA: You may feel pleased to know that life is colorful out there
5. If you are looking for some value, something to satiate your literaray appetite, then am sorry. This book is not for you.

Women’s Day Out at Yelagiri


Some laughed at us, few mocked at us, while some others sincerely dissuaded us. But we had made up our mind and were all set to make the trip. And what a lovely trip it was. The month of May is hot anywhere in South India and some ‘regulars’ told us that the weather at Yelagiri sucks big time during summer. The big idea was to ‘dump’ the men-folk (dads and spouses i mean) at home and have a get-away of our own. Not that anyone would have missed us. On the contrary, it must’ve been a break they were looking forward to, and we ladies were magnanimous enough to LET THEM BE:-) We were 6 ladies and 4 children in addition to a nice driver.

We had hired a Qualis and started very early on a Friday morning, carrying a light breakfast, plenty of water, some games and books for children, cameras, plenty of money, some medicines just in case..The Bangalore highway towards Vellore is like a neatly stretched-out ribbon. Our agenda had just one item, and that was to just chill out and enjoy. And that we did and after 2 full days of ‘peace’, returned home wishing that the trip had not ended!

One, the weather God pleasantly surprised us by being doubly nice and other folks back at work or home could hardly believe it was Yelagiri-in-May. Two, the resort was very homely and quiet, with very hospitable staff, and three, the food was simple and clean and they cooked based on what we ordered. This custom menu went well with the kids too and there was hardly a cranky moment. The only disappointment the children had was a strict NO-NO to their request to bathe in an artificial water-fall in a park. The water was not clean and was re-circulated. Children forget and forgive very soon and that makes them extra-sweet…

Our trip to Yelagiri
Yelagiri at its best
Here are a few pictures from our trip, clicked by the ace photographer from our group- Jyoti. She also doubled up (and still does) as the best friend of all the 4 chotus in the group! While a 2.5 yr old Harish kept asking his mom, JC, ‘amma, Jothi enge’, the then 5 yr old Vyas called to her saying “Jyoti and deepa! Why are you locked up in this room? Come lets play cricket. You will bowl and I shall bat”. Little Hemant and Diya discussed camera angles and other ‘grown-up’ stuff..

Let me know if you have seen Yelagiri like this! For those who had bitter experiences with this place, all we had to say was, “everything around nice people turns out nice:-)” and derived a lot of kick out of it:-)!!

PS: Was not able to embed the ppt. View it full screen..

Great Grand-ma’s famous Kadamba Bajji


My MIL’s mother, turning 81 this month, has never cooked anything that tastes ‘okay’, or ‘bad’ in the last few years that I’ve known her. And she does not hold a record to that effect in the past too! So, anything she cooks is exemplary. Anything she touches with a ladle and spoon turns into edible gold!

Vyas and his Kolla-Paatti (that is how he calls his great-grand ma!) derive a lot of pleasure in provoking each other, while also enjoying each other’s company. The little one never misses an opportunity to tell her that the food she cooks is very spicy and will do no good to her health, and that she must cook like amma, with less spice! A compliment from Vyas to kolla-paatti is hard to come by. But last Saturday, it was a *Vasishtar vaayal Brahma-Rishi moment’ when Vyas ‘certified’ Paatti’s famous bajji. He helped himself to a plate heaped with this speciality and queued for more after emptying the plate. Well, I take the credit for christening it as Kadamba-bajji, while paatti simply calls it ‘bajji’.

I can go on about the paatti’s looties, but that deserves a separate post. Here’s her recipe – minus her touch:

KADAMBA- BAJJI

Ingredients:

1. For batter:

    Gram-flour – 1 cup (besan or kadalai flour)
    Rice-flour – 2 tsps
    Cooking soda- a pinch (i don’t use)
    asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
    Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
    Chilli powder – 3/4 tsp (or as desired)
    Salt – 1/2 tsp (or as desired)
    Ghee- 2 tsps

2. Vegetables:

Potato, plantain, brinjal, chow-chow, cluster-beans(kothavaranga),broad-beans (avarekkai), capsicum, big green Chilli (the ones used for making mirchi-bajjis) peas, regular beans, carrot, green chillies, coriander leaves, curry leaves.

3. Oil for deep-frying

Method:

1. Wash and cut all the vegetables into very small pieces.
2. Finely chop a green chilli, coriander and curry leaves.
3. Mix gram-flour, rice flour, soda, asafoetida, turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.
4. Add the chopped vegetables to this mix along with the ghee.
5. Add water to make it into a thick batter. The consistency can be a little thicker than idli or dosa batter.
6. Heat oil in a pan
7. Drop small balls of the batter into the oil and deep-fry.
7. Savor them hot on a rainy evening.

Paatti treated her grand-children, their spouses, and the great-grand children, about a dozen of us in all to this wonderful bajji last rainy-Saturday. The best part of her bajji-making is, she lights the stove only when we are ready to eat and serves us one-by-one. Paatti cooks every dish in a kumutti aduppu (charcoal-grill if you may call it). All the dozen of us would have emptied 2 plates each in less than 30 minutes! And she thoughtfully asks each of us if we had it to our heart’s content and is only happy to make more on request or demand!

Hail Paatti and her bajjis!

*Very rare for a sage to be acknowledged as ‘Brahma-rishi by sage Vasishta. Hard to get a compliment from someone.

Trysts with ants and random things..


A baby is just an extension of the mommy till it learns to turn over. Life is fairly a simple affair the first few months where all the baby needs to do is let out a small cry. The mommy knows if its a hunger call, a tummy pain, sleep, or well, a wet diaper! How do the babies grow so fast?!!

Time never ceases to amaze me! It seems like it was just a few days back that he attempted to turn on his tummy and failed! And like Ghazni, succeeded after several attempts! He is turning 9 months old next week and is all set to take on the world, which by the way is a small one for now. His world now comprises of his doting brother, mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, the maid, the telephone, anna’s small chair, grandpa’s spectacles, and big black ants among other things!

Doors and door-stoppers fascinate Varun. He drags himself on his tummy at a lightning speed, turns around to see if anyone is catching him in action, and makes one big dive at the stopper and thrusts it into his mouth. We dare not rush up to him to stop because he still has an eye on us and moves even faster and bangs himself on the door. We device a strategy not to notice him and casually walk-up to him and pick him up! This goes on in a loop until we are tired of distracting. But he seems to have his goals clear!

The phone rings, and you see him making an about turn with the eyes lit like a 1000 watts bulb!. And makes a dash at the person picking the receiver! And insists on holding the receiver and licking it, or holding it at his ears and smiling at no one in particular! The person most affected here is the grandpa, who is a person on a trapeze balancing Varun on one side, the receiver on the other while also trying to save his dear spectacles. His spectacles make a crash-land at least 2 dozen times a day. He is seriously considering switching to contact lenses!

The yellow-colored Winnie-the-Phooh on the red wooden chair is his dear friend. He’s still not got his acts of sitting right, but crawls up to the chair and manages to hold and stand. While he manages to get on his feet with other support systems like us, or other furniture etc, this chair is special. He can be at it for an hour at a stretch or maybe more, trying to lift his feet off the ground, going around it, pulling it down, falling on it, tapping Winnie et all!

But the game he best enjoys is chasing the big black ants, which for some reason seem to be breeding too fast this season! Like a cheetah on a prowl, he spots the ants going about their business, and makes a dash at the one nearest. His anna is going mad with his little brother’s trysts with these giant ants because he has taken it upon himself to chase like crazy and smash the ants, lest it gets to taste his baby brother. The other day, tired of hunting down the ants, Vyas desperately tried driving sense into the 9-month old head, telling him how dangerous the ants are, only to find his cheeky brother holding 2 ants in his hand! Enjoy baby. You will soon know what it is to be ‘licked’ by an ant that size. If you are lucky, the season will pass through and the ants will mysteriously disappear. So what’s the next on agenda?!!

The Tea-maker..


Often, at around 3.30 PM on a Saturday or Sunday, you will find a little man perched on a little chair, handing out instructions to his dad. The place of action is the kitchen and if you are wondering what’s cooking, it is the little man brewing tea for his mom & dad. The dad is only too happy to play an ‘assistant’ to his son, and happier still because he is spared the effort of having to make it. Vyas is very obliging when his dear mummy or daddy request a cuppa tea!

“Appa! Come, let us make tea”, he says and drags his small wooden chair to the kitchen. Appa has to play along and ‘help’ him with a few things. He picks the right vessel to make tea and fills out the water required to make exactly 2 cups of tea. “Appa, light the stove”, and appa readily helps. “Bring that tea dust, yes, the one in that dubba”. He adds the tea powder neatly and casually adds another small pinch like how his amma does, and hands back the dabba. “Now, sugar” he tells his dad. Adds sugar when he sees the tea boiling. “Pour out milk in this cup for me” he requests, and is quick to add “podhum, podhum (enough, enough)”. Waits for the tea to boil till the aroma tickles his nose and then carefully adds the milk. And gestures ‘wait’ at his dad with one hand, with his other hand on the hip, looking all serious and supervising the tea-in-making.

Last weekend, he insisted on making ‘adhrak’ tea to surprise the dad. So, he conspired with his mom and got her to pound a little adhrak (ginger) to make tea. So, I swapped places with his dad and heeded to his instructions! Once done, he announces proudly, “Dad, your tea is ready. Can you guess what I’ve added?”. Dad of course has to pretend ignorance and let the son reveal the secret. A nice ‘kadak’ (strong) chat-pata chai it was.

Tastes heavenly, specially if you don’t have to make your own tea! Right? He in return gets squeezed into a tight hug with a kiss and a huge THANKS! The little busy-body Varun looks on in wonderment, and these days he gets to taste the tea too. He approves strongly.. Wait baby, just a little more time, and you’ll team up with anna and bestow this favor on your dear appa and amma!

tea-maker

When we were expecting Vibha,


Varun came. As is usual with any household that wants the second child to be of the opposite sex.

In a family where Vyas’s aunts and uncles all had a boy and a girl each, it was kind of assumed that we’ll follow the pattern! Everyone around us ‘saw’ signs of Vibha coming, what with so many old wives tales to support their theories. But nay! The little one marked his arrival by proving every single person in the house wrong and had already taken sides with his Anna who wanted only a brother!

Our immediate concern though was not whether it’d be Vibha or Varun, but to get Vyas used to the idea that he’d have to share his amma, appa, paatti, and thatha with another tiny being. In a society where you commonly find people generously advising the elder child not to go anywhere near amma, to sleep away from her, and tease the child saying that they will take away the baby when it comes, or predict that the sibling will be a boy when he wishes for a girl, or that it will be a girl when he wishes for a boy, etc, my husband, parents-in-law, and I made conscious efforts to let him know that all will be fine.

Vyas and I had a one-to-one talk and here are a few things I discussed with him so that he does not have any bad surprises.

1. That I’d have to be in the hospital for 2 or 3 days and the stay may extend by a couple of days if needed.. that is, if any medical intervention was needed for the baby or me… it might be something simple like a vaccine, or a routine observation.

2. He’ll be able to visit me only for an hour or two as long as am in the hospital. And that either dad, grandma, or grandpa will be with him all the time.

3. He must not believe or get provoked when anyone annoys him by saying that they will take the baby away. They are just trying to tease him.

4. He will continue to sleep on the same bed and that he will not be displaced. Just that the baby will also share it now..

5. He must not feel bad about any color differences cited by anyone, be it a family member or any acquaintance. Does not matter if the baby shares the same skin color, or is a shade fairer or darker. (Undue importance is attached to the ‘color’ factor in our society! And this must be the last thing to haunt a 6.5 yr old.)

6. I might feel stressed and therefore experience bouts of bad temper and he should not mind, but forgive me.

7. He might have a lot of questions to ask once the baby arrives which he must ask me and not generally discuss with random people.

8. Not to pay much attention when anyone tells him that a competition has arrived. What is to arrive will be a great companion for life.

Among few other things….

Am happy to say he’z held the fort well and is still putting up with his mom’s mood swings. And what’s more, our little Varun has been an adorable darling and his eyes follow the brother like that cute puppy in the old Hutch ad and he glues on to the mom when back from work, licking all over the face, tugging at the hair and refusing to let go…. And that is all this mommy seeks…

Learning to Share..


The best place to learn about sharing your space with fellow humans is but a Share-auto. That is, among other things like optimum use of real estate, balancing act, patience, journeying with closed eyes, and of course experiencing cattle-class first-hand even before you board a flight.

I have no special fondness for the share-autos though, but at the same time do not dread them like my folks at home do. Its yet another convenient transport system operating between different points in Chennai besides the regular, popular Chennai autos, and ideal for short distances at a fair price. I do not mind using the service once in a while. A tactful auto driver neatly packs about 7 to 9 passengers into his vehicle and if you are one of them, you’ll be lucky to catch up on the roller-coaster ride that you missed the last time you went to a theme park. On a boring day, you’ll find just 5 or 6 passengers with a lot of leg-room and more zip-zap-zoom action.

Am one of the privileged users besides the famous PTC buses, and believe me, you are missing something if you have’nt tried a ride yet. Really. But what called for this post is an interesting auto-driver whom I met sometime back. I had the choice of waiting for another bus from where I alighted, or cover the distance by foot, or take a regular auto or a share auto. I got into a share-auto as the sky looked threatening and just stopped at that without an actual show of torrential rains it portended! And the regular autos were having a field day charging 2 times the usual fare, thanks to the weather. The auto had barely moved a few meters when we were stopped by two friendly traffic police. Yes, you got me right. They were on ‘duty’ and were ‘working’. The auto-man had violated the rule (which by the way is the norm!) by sharing his seat too with a passenger (the sharing lessons are for the drivers also..).

What ensued was interesting. The driver and the police engaged in an animated conversation for a couple of minutes, where the driver was trying to convince them and was willing to ‘let-go’ a passenger. Sincere that our system is, the police would hear none of it. The driver was requested to step out and fill in some ‘forms’. Read ‘harassment dressed as duty’. Just as I was contemplating on whether to wait for the process to get over or just look out for another bus or auto, I heard a police telling the driver to pay Rs.50/- and get moving or pay a fine of Rs.100/-. The driver promptly offered to pay the fine! Those of us watching this scene from within, were zapped! This must have upset the men in uniform for they were not making the process any easier and an intentional delay was quite obvious. The driver politely requested us to alight and take another vehicle. He was not embarrassed, not upset, and seemed to have a hold on the situation. I liked it. Not to say that such violations be allowed. But, his ‘No’ to bribe was a bold stand.

Long live such auto-wallahs! I wish the other small vendors selling food, flowers, toys etc follow suit and say NO to maamools. Now start sharing to learn…

Peace of mind…


An exchange of ghyan on what everyone in this world is after- P. E . A . C . E.

Vyas: Ma, we must have a lot of peace. We don’t need anything else.

Me: What piece?

Vyas: Ayyo, i mean peace of mind (makes a meditative gesture, drawing in some breath).

Me: (little skeptical) Absolutely right. But, do you know what it means?

Vyas: Of course I do! Its, its, its a calm…

Me: Wow boy! You are right again. From where did you learn about ‘peace’? (i was already impressed)

Vyas
: (Ignores my question and proceeds with his) Ma, who are Buddhists?

Me: They are followers of Gautama Buddha. Why? (I ask intrigued)

Vyas
: So, are they Bodhisattvas?

Me: Well.. yes, yes.. (recollecting that he read a short story book on the life of Gautama Buddha)

Vyas: I want to be a Buddhist.

Me: What!?? Why?

Vyas: They have a lot of peace. I read an Amar Chitra Katha about the Bodhisattvas (using the word repeatedly to sound grown-up).

Me: You need not be a Buddhist to find peace. Everyone can find peace with a little effort (I reason). Why should you be a Buddhist for that?

Vyas: They always sleep. And so they are peaceful!!

Me: No, they don’t. They work.

Vyas: No, they always close their eyes and meditate and mostly sleep, and seek alms.

So much for the illustrations in the story book he picked up….. At the end of a hard evening trying to explain ‘peace’, we finally made peace and dropped the subject with a resolution to discuss this much later in life….

Excuse me! Ladies Seat Please!


One of the innumerable blessings Chennai has is the PTC bus service. Between, is’nt Chennai one of the best cities to have a wonderful local transport system, both by road and rail? I personally think so.

Coming to the bus transport, you are doubly blessed if you are a frequent user of this service. Am one. Besides being let into interesting conversations, you also get into interesting situations. Like the other day, which like every other day, was eventful. The seats on the left, reserved for ladies, was fully occupied and few were seen standing. Still, hopped into the bus because I’d already skipped two buses because of the crowd and was running late. The little one at home has a biological timer set and goes off as timed if he does not see his mom moving about inside the house at that hour.

The last seat was occupied by a few ‘gentlemen’. Good. I walked up to the seat and requested one of them to give me the seat. He gave me ‘that’ look and turned away. I then ‘gently’ reminded him that it was reserved for ladies. And showed him the text written in Tamil which was a little over his head (pun intended). He made a face and reluctantly got up and I caught him muttering, “vandhuruvalungalae ladies seat nnu sollikittu” (a sarcastic comment to the effect that these women come demanding as if.. I don’t know how exactly to translate this ). I simply glared at him for it was not in me to pick up an argument with him at that moment.

Just as I sat down, I heard a lady standing there sympathize with the men-folk in general, and a rant aimed at me in particular. ‘Kaalam kettupochi’, she said. Which loosely translates to ‘Its a bad world’. “Do you know that men also have a hard day at work? They are prone to sickness and sorrow. They also age like women”! Wow! I mean it was a revelation. I had a good mind to ask her if men had their bottoms pinched or their person groped as often happens (read everyday) with women, specially in a bus? I ignored her rant and call me selfish, was happy I got a place to sit. I have a feeling she was irked because she had till then not requested anyone to move and give her a seat. And as if this was not enough, the men next to me got up one by one and made way for the other ladies, the silent spectators, who for some reason thought that it was the right moment to demand the seat. And this woman, who was uttering blasphemy, was one of them to occupy a ‘vacated’ seat!

Touting for women’s rights is not on the agenda when I demand the seat which is actually reserved for ladies. I understand that an old man deserves the seat more than I do. Am not saying that every women gets ‘feeled-up’ in a crowd, or that all men are bad. Sexual abuse is common in a crowded bus and is very very annoying. Every other person appears decent and the culprits have a knack of becoming invisible. Given a chance, I’d even sit on the right-side which is ‘common’, if all the seats in the left and the last row are occupied that is. And it is not that I don’t travel standing. I do, but avoiding a crowded bus to the extent possible seems to be the sensible thing to do.

I often sulk and curse the buses and the routes like every women does. But there is a bus every few minutes and 9 out of 10 times, you’ll have a comfortable ride home. And that is the positive, wonderful side of public transport in Chennai. A blessing even if there is a price to pay.

What say you gals and guys?

PS: Edited a typo.