Appa sends his app(a)reciation

Posted in Uncategorized by Jayasri on January 10, 2016

Memories of Amma get better when Appa sends his appreciation 

No time for Amma-nesia.

Posted in Uncategorized by Jayasri on January 9, 2016

A regret that I have to live with every day is now four years old. Two weeks from today, Jan 9, will be four years since Amma left. Today, she’d be 79. Up there in Amma heaven, I suspect, she must have roasted up several pans of Dibba Rotti, and invited everyone to sink their teeth into this crusty -what is it exactly?  

It looks like an XXXL idli trying to pass itself off as an extra-thick dosa that has been roasted to a crisp , and it has flecks of red chilies and the Telugu people’s best kept secret that the rest of the country has not yet discovered.  

And my life-long regret, that is now four years old, is that I postponed asking Amma how to make this Dibba Rotti, which , she knew, came second after upma in my list of much-reviled, nevertheless eaten tiffin items, but made it any way and them called me imperiously drop by for a chomp. Eaten with a slosh of onion chutney or ginger chutney, I never knew when Dibba Rotti wormed its way into my affections, or rather addictions-must be an eating equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome , I’m thinking, and I finally decided I must ask her for the recipe . 

Having decided, did I reach for the phone and ask ? There was always going to be time, wasn’t there? In a day or two. She isn’t going anywhere, is she? 

Well, she was. She went without a fuss, quickly. Without even waiting 20 minutes to see her siblings Rama and Venkatesh who had called to say they were dropping by. She did tell them joyfully, though that they were going to have a great time talking the afternoon away. We’ll never know why she went without that last conversation with her siblings.
I haven’t even seen a Dibba Rotti since then. When cousins get together, and talk and Dibba Rotti figures, with much derision for its pretensions to being worthy of a place alongside idli and dosa, we remember that when Amma made it, we just ate it, because it pleased her, and she reveled in being Annapurna, feeding everyone who came within her orbit, even if it happened at 2 am . My friend Sharada, is , I think the last one to have eaten an Amma-made Dibba Rotti. 
Of course, as far as Google is concerned, there is no such thing as a secret. A search for Dibba Rotti will throw up dozens of blogs and videos that show you how it’s made. I’ll probably download one of those someday soon. The pity is I cannot download Amma. 
But she is here. I roll chapatis with her rolling pin, and in a jam jar that sits among the spices and powders, is a green powder. It is the karivepallai powder (curry leaf powder) that she made and sent with the Spouse, in 2011. It’s no longer the fresh green, aromatic powder that I can sprinkle generously on a tiny mound of ghee-soaked , steaming rice, and eat. 

ButI like knowing its there, I look at it often, and yes, I talk to it sometimes. I think of all the times she annoyed me, and how often I disappointed her by not visiting, and dashing about being too busy to visit, or call. She never complained, and when I asked/demanded minimula pachadi, or vendakkai gojju, she’d was so happy to be asked.  

She was nuts about bottles of all kinds. Bournvita, Nescafé jars, Afghan Snow jars, Charmis bottles with its ribs and blue lid. ” Six of those bottles will look good,on the shelf, ” she’s say, and employ all kinds of tricks- buy all the six and hide them , out of Appa’s sight, beg from siblings and cousins and friends.  

I am not surprised to see myself pick up 6 or 12 of anything-mugs, jars and bottles, plates, cushion covers . It is a round, even number that leaves me contented.

Amma would approve I think. Of the way she is remembered, spoken of, and spoken to. And surely she enjoys living in my kitchen, making food, and memories happen. That Dibba Rotti,when it’s made, will be exactly as she would have made it. Indeed it will she who made it


A Birthday, And Serendipity

Posted in Uncategorized by Jayasri on December 9, 2015

December 8 was  Grandfather Ramabrahma’s 132nd birthday. From his diary entries, we know he enjoyed birthdays, his own , or  that of his children and grandchildren. He noted in his diary the gifts he gave, and received, and the visits of his daughters and son, with their families, to mark anyone’s birthday. I serendipitously chanced upon two of his diaries among  Big Brother Bunty’s things a couple of years ago.

That’s why I’m pretty sure he’d have  enjoyed knowing how his 132nd birthday turned out, and that stiff upper lip ( it’s a prominent feature of my picture of him, for he died when I was four, and I remember nothing of him ) would’ve uncurled the teensiest bit to smile, and  Vasanthi’s name would have entered his diary entry for December 8, 2015.

I woke up to a Facebook message from Vasanthi, who is a busy, busy, busy journalist, anchor and friend . She had sent me three photos, and I was to guess what they were.  I failed, and the suspense was killing me. “Your Tatha’s school, Belgaum,” Vasanthi shot back, and  I kicked myself for being such a forgetful chump.

Forgetful, but a thilled chump, I happily told her it happened to be said Tatha’s birthday, and she said,  it’s serendipity! There it was again, that  happy-making word. The pictures were of Sardar High School, where Ramabrahma was Head Master, in the 1930s, and his two sons,  Pandurang and Sheshagiri ( the Dad of us)  were students.

Vasanthi had  been in Belgaum a few months back, on work, and I’d suggested she swing by Sardar High School.I forgot all about it, but she apparently, had not.  When she was next in Belgaum again, she  swung by  Sardar High SChool and took pictures for me. Which she has sent me three months later, to arrive exactly , serendipitously, on  the Grandfather’s birthday.

I called Appa,  and sent him the pictures to see,  and he went back 80 years to the time he was 12,  playing rough and getting dirty with his brother, and friends at Sardar High School, where the burden of being the Headmaster’s sons weighed down their young shoulders, not that they were aware of it.  He said  it had changed a great deal,  though he recognized the steps to a stone building at the far left corner.

But yes, that was the flag pole around which they had run, and played, and done  stuff that boys do.  Like win a prize for general proficiency, a book in Kannada titled “Nanna Himalaya Yatre” and the  certificate is signed by the Headmaster, who is also the Father.

Ramabrahma’s  diary entry for Dec 7, 1964, the eve of his 81st birthday, reveals his eager anticipation of  the celebrations, and  the plans he made, which was mostly to fall in with my mother, Thulasi’s plans.

“As decided yesterday night, I went to the Gandhi Bazar and placed an order for plum cake at Harsha Stores and  khara mixture at the Sweet Shop,” Tatha writes. As I read it I remember Harsha Store, and the treats we used to get – cake with yellow and pink icing, fruit cake, and badam milk, and  this man with peaches-and-cream complexion, with ruby studs  glinting in his ears, who served, with a smile. Harsha Stores has been history for  three years, or more.

I see, too . where Amma’s  love for plum cake came from – we always had it from Christmas to January 9, her birthday, and in my day it came from Nilgiris. Not Harsha Stores.

Ramabrama notes that Thulasi has invited all his daughters (Kutti, Mangala, and Vimala ) who are here, and Pandu and family , to tea after 4 pm tomorrow.(Pramila, his youngest daughter, lived  in Ahmedabad).

In the evening, he went back to Gandhi Bazar, to pick up the cake and the savories .

He received two invitations,   one for the wedding of R . Ananthasubramanyam’s grandson , and another for tea at Woodlands on the 11th, with S.S Kumar.

Who are these people who the social diary of Rambrahma in the Bangalore of the sixites?

The following day, Ramabrahma enjoyed his 81st birthday. My Birthday, he underlines, adding I completed 81 years of my life. “My neighbour K.S.Ramaswamy was the first to offer me birthday greetings, ” . Him, I know, Ganga’s Tatha,  who, I beleived then was mine too. He was a journalist, and known as Hindu Ramaswamy. Though I too became a journalist, and was with The Hindu for 13 years, no one called me Hindu Jayasri !! But I feel blessed, because long after Tatha died, he was the grandfatherly presence in my childhood, when a grandfather is most needed.

I digress. Ramabrahma , says his diary, then met Lakshmi, and her children, who also greeted him . Lakshmi Maami,  I know now, used to come in every day and read  to Tatha from the Upanishads or other texts .

He went to Canara Bank, and withdrew Rs. 115, and noted that his pension for November had come in. He received greetings , by post, at 4.15 pm, from Bharathi and Bala from Sweden ( Bharathi is the daughter of  his second daughter Mangala. Who brought me the gift of Githa Papa, my little shut-eye doll, a couple of years later)

He then had tea with all those who came home at 4 pm,- how he loves to note the time that anything was done!- Mangala and Nanjundaiah, Kutti, Vimala and Bobby, and Pandu came at 8 pm, had (dinner? .. one day I will figure what these scrawls mean)  All his sons and daughters gave him useful  smoething, while Vimala gave cash.

Two years later, in 1966, he is still counting his birthdays,  with  underlining. His 84th year begins , and he was wished by the children ( that’s us) and Thulasi when he came for his morning coffee. We were given Parry’s toffee, he says. At 8.15 am TVS Iyer came home and wished him. He gave my dad a cheque for Rs. 140, of which Rs. 100 was for household expenses, and Rs. 40 forhis needs. Kutti came at 11.30  bearing a gifit of one (umbrella?) and two packets of biscuits. Nanjundaiah, Mangala, Bharathi and children came and offered  birthday wishes. Oh. and he ate food at 10.45. No cake and tea this time.

I wonder if, up there, he’s  noting  in his diary that Vasanthi sent pictures of  Sardar High School, and  his 132nd birthday was celebrated with much nostalgia by  all of us.

Some day, serendipity will let us know.



















Grandfather’s Gandhi Jayanthi

Posted in Uncategorized by Jayasri on October 2, 2015
Ramabrahma Diaries

Ramabrahma Diaries

Rambrahma’s Gandhi Jayanthi

Grandfather Ramabrahma , who famously lived by the clock, and loved to note the time he did anything, also wrote a diary. probably every day of his life.
We chanced up two, for the years 1964 and 1966. His children mostly remember him as a self-centred man-in a positive way, if such a thing is possible! And it is!
I mean, he writes of the comings and goings of his sons and daughters, and their spouses, the birth of his grandchildren, and their cradle ceremonies and birthdays , and the little
presents he gave. The letters he wrote and received, neighbors and siblings, and festivals , and how my mother, Thulasi celebrated his 80th  birthday. He writes that he went to Harsha Stores to pick up the cake that was ordered, and that Thulasi had invited the family over for afternoon tea!
Basavanagudi, Kanakapura Road, Ratna Vilasa Road, Gandhi Bazar and MNK Park, were his little universe, as he lived his twilight years at Mahadev Vilas, and to us, it brings back the Bangalore that once was.
There is gossip, though he’d be surprised to hear his entry about his brother’s cook being ill, due which said brother Dr Subramanyam had to take his meals at our house, being termed gossip.
Somehow, the image springs to mind of Ms Marple of St. Mary Mead putting away this important factoid in a corner of her mind, while solving a murder mystery which nobody asked her to solve, any way!

Here are his entries on Gandhi Jayanthi in 1964 and 1966
Friday, Oct. 2, 1964
Gandhi Jayanti
A national holiday ( Government, bank and postal holiday)
Went in the morning to Vimala’s place

Lakshmi came in the afternoon, and read the yoga niti ( I think) chapter in Gita Sandesha.
( note from me :these words are scribbled in Kannada and the niti bit is unclear)
Finally a very mundane note , which however, must have comforted him exceedingly, for his self-centeredness mostly involved following doctor’s orders faithfully—
The Bread man gave bread for today and tomorrow.

Sunday, Oct.2, 1966
He has wrongly entered on the page for Oct. 3, and making no mention of Gandhi Jayanthi, it goes like this-
Pandu ( Appa’s elder brother) and Leela , Girija and the baby, will leave this place by Madras Express at 7.20 (p.m?) they will have their food here today. Ashok will take his food here during their absence.
Went to the doctor at 9 am for,injection and dressing of foot.

Kutti came here at 1.45 pm and took Sheshagiri , Thulasi and the children for a film show.

There was a little rain at 3.30 pm went for a short stroll at 5.30 pm Went to Usha’s place too.

Thanks Tatha.
The baby who went to Madras with Pandu is cousin Anand who had just been born in Jan. that year. They were headed for ‘Calcutta’ and Jamshedpur  , I’m guessing, to visit Leela Periamma’s sister.
The kids who went to watch a film is us. Subri, Bunty and lil me. And probably Manjula, and Ashok .
Now the mystery is which movie it was. Must ask Manjula. Will update on that soon.

A Wedding & A Scramble For A Selfie -1955

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on August 12, 2015

A 1955 Wedding Reception

“What was  the color of Amma’s reception sari? ” I asked, wistful, and ruing the fact that I  had never thought to put the question to Amma. Now she is gone,  I am frantic in my efforts to retrieve every memory and make my story whole. The 11 black-and-white photographs of  their wedding  are peopled with more siblings and cousins than , I suspect, the Mahabharata, every face with its own history and sub-text.

Its easy to see that the sari has a solid gold zari border, and  zari checks, and her toes coyly peep out, with a coat of nail polish( or is it mehendi- gorintaaku?)  Just the minimum of jewellery, and no make up.  But the color of the sari,  I can only guess, or ask  Appa, which i just did.

“It was blue, cobalt blue”,  Appa said.

I have sent him back 60 years in time, I realize, and  I jump in for a ride, reflecting for the umpteenth time, that its not fair that we don’t get to attend our parents’ wedding.

Sheshagiri(Appa) and his eldest  sister Kokila, fondly known as Kutti, and  cousin Ramachandra, were tasked with purchasing the trousseau to be given to the bride from the groom’s side.  They picked Rukmini Hall,  in Chickpet, Rukmini Hall History Here  and went shopping a few days before the July 20 wedding in 1955.  They were a party of very modest shoppers, and  no more than three or four sarees were selected, and they left with their small booty.  Our aunt Kutti being a doctor, a gynaecoligist  who later retired as Superintendent of Bowring Hospital,  was a familiar figure in these parts, and this ensured special treatment . OF course, those were days of languid leisure when life was lived in slow motion, and wedding saree-shopping was a pleasurable activity for all concerned, the shoppers and the shops.

Outside, they suddenly  found they’d stepped into a , well, a film show , only it was  very real, and all the denizens of Chickpet had gathered to gawk.  Well, who wouldn’t want to stop and  stare if  they suddenly found, in their midst,  legendary  film  star Ashok Kumar  and  the Andhra beauty, Suryakumari  equally legendary Telugu actress/singer, whose rendition of Maa Telugu Thalliki in the film Deena Bandhu went on to become the official song of Andhra Pradesh

Appa says they were shooting together for a new film. I googled, but I found nothing about a film  of them together. This scene they had stepped into was in the aftermath of  Udan Khatola, in which she acted with Dilip Kumar. She did a few more films later, and went, as part of a delegation of Indian film industry to America , where among other things, she researched Indian stories for Alfred Hitchcock.  She ultimately moved to England where she did significant work in theatre and the arts  founding India Performing Arts, a project to train performers and mount productions. Annual performances by Surya herself, her students and fellow artists followed at the Purcell Room, in the South Bank Centre, for the next 40 years. The British press paid fond tributes on her death in 2005 Obit Here

The film was probably abandoned, but if Appa says a scene was shot in front of  Rukmini Hall, it was.  Of course, there’s a way of finding out.  When the owner of Rukmini Hall learnt that stardust was at his door, he got into a fine tizzy, and  shouted for a photographer,  frantically tried to get the celebrities into his store. They might , just might have some pictures in their archives, beside the photos of Minugu Taare Kalpana shopping at their store. . A the picture which is the 1955 version of  the selfie.

Appa , Kutti and Ramachandra oozed out of the scene, unnoticed and Wooster-like and went home.

Too much history in this post. I think. First, the shop. Rukmini Hall has been around since the 1930s.  We have these wedding photos, with Thulasi (Amma) giving Suryakumari a run for her money, wearing the  sarees bought at Rukmini Hall.

I need to hotfoot it to Rukmini Hall asap, and show them these pictures, and ask if they have any of  that starry morning. 60 years ago.

My cousin Manjula, Kutti’s’ daughter,  tells me she remembers  the saree, which Amma wore at my ear-piercing ceremony when I turned one.  I was taken to the goldsmith’s on Reservoir Street, Basavanagudi, and  Manjula said I cried and drooled all over that cobalt blue saree.    Well. Babies cry. They drool. Moms just take it on the pallu.  Amma , I think  wore her wedding sarees out, used them well, at other weddings, and when they were worn thin and threadbare, gave them away. Probably exchanged them for stainless steel vessels with the steel paatrakaran  — which went into the  steel trunk , which was marked for my “dowry” .

Once again I say, what a shame we can’t attend our parents weddings.  If I had my way , I would keep the sarees, threadbare or not. But the paatrakaran was a chief source of entertainment in those days, when there was no TV, and all we had was a moody radio (Bush) that needed a lot of coaxing  before it sang or spoke.

Now even that radio is gone.  It’s criminal how we throw precious memories away. All the more reason to retrieve and cherish the ones we can. For in them,  those who have gone, will never leave.

A Wedding in the Year of Manmatha

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on August 4, 2015
Wedding of Amma and Appa

Wedding of Amma and Appa

The year 1955, was the year named Manmatha, for the God of Love in our pantheon. Sixty years have passed, each with its own name, and now in 2015, we begin again, with The year named Manmatha.
It was a good year to be married in, and now it’s a good year to remember the person you married 60 years ago, and lived with, for 57 years.
As their wedding anniversary dawns on July 20, I asked Appa why his parents ( Ramabrahma Tatha and Venkamma Paati) are not to be seen in any of the 10 photographs . ” it was taken by Thambi Mama” he explained. That would be Amma’s eldest brother, M Venkatakrishnan, known as Thambi . I remember Thambi Mama, the bachelor uncle, chartered accountant who was well known in the Madras music and dance circle, for encouraging young artistes who needed an introduction into the Sabha circuit , and taking them under his wing.

Appa then said, ” may be you shouldn’t post the reception photo, don’t we look funny sitting far apart, almost hugging our corners of the two-seater”

Too late, I responded, we have already shared all the photos last year, and told the story of your wedding , of which I’m very proud.
All right then, make sure you highlight that we were married in Manmatha Samvatsara and it is Manmatha Samvatsara again this year, he said.
Yes, and also it was the year of the movie Mr and Mrs. 55, I promised.
Two people I know as Appa and Amma, have something between them ( other than the three kids) that only they can define – as love, as life. Mother was always talking – there was humor, annoyance , intolerance, gentle ribbing that actually hid a deeper anger at some imagined hurt or slight, devilish glee in harassing the spouse with small demands that were not really small. Father was the quiet one, who got his way with his silence, whose simplicity and seemingly undemanding nature were the bane of her existence. Don’t we know that last bit- he currently annoys the niece, his only grandchild, with his daily morning order for coffee- chooda irukakkanum, full-a irukakkanum . Hot, and full cup. When it’s cloudy with a chance of leftovers for dinner, he’ll quietly say ” I’ll have just one chapati” you feel guilty, and rustle up an onion-tomato dish-dash, and bingo, three chapatis disappear so fast, and I get a pat for making divine chapatis just like Amma made!

Now we recognize that Amma’s little outbursts were nothing but love’s little liberties, born of long years of sharing , well , everything.
Here follows the little piece written last year, about being how Amma and Appa were wed-
July 20, 1955:- the wedding of Thulasi and Sheshagiri was celebrated at the grand residence of Mamidipudi Ramakrishnaiah and Indira, at Nellore. This evening, the eve of their 59th anniversary, my father , who is a youthful 91, told me that on July 18, 1955, when the groom’s family had arrived, and the bride’s home was abuzz with wedding-related rituals, and the house was beginning to look like it was in Malgudi instead of Nellore, an elder know-all pointed out that the next day, the wedding eve when the groom is welcomed was going to be a day of Amavasya. No one had thought of this, and there was momentary consternation. But soon enough , someone (else?) suggested that the ritual could begin on 18th, and that’s exactly how it was done. Thanks to Amavasya, another day of wedding revelry came to be enjoyed by everyone!
Our mother, The bride of the day 59 years ago, is in Amma Heaven . Has been for two-and-a-half years. Here absence has become a presence, and she talks to us in everything we do. Appa and I have pored over these photographs, and he remembers little nuggets about the wedding . His cousin Baba travelled with him from Madras I remember him telling us when Amma died, about what Grandfather Ramabrahma had said of the bride chosen for Sheshagiri- he had got the most beautiful one of the seven daughters of Ramakrishnaiah.
How simple,and yet grand, a wedding could be in those days! It’s just not fair that we never get to be at our parents’ wedding. I notice my mother’s bare feet at the reception, and how e bride and groom are seated as far away from each other as the two-seater permits! No visits to the beauty parlor, no make-up!! A special blouse with with Jalebi Neck in pink, and a maroon Kanjeevaram with gold border is what she is wearing in the photograph clicked by GG Welling. They went again to Welling twenty odd years later to have another picture taken for Dad’s pension purposes.
I remember playing wedding games , with Amma looking indulgently, and telling me the bride must sit with left leg folded up, and the left arm around it, and that’s what, I thought it took to be a bride!
Amma often laughingly told me about how the daughters of Ramakrishnaiah learnt of their impending marriage – suddenly, the house would begin to buzz with activity. The head cook of a party of wedding cooks would make several visits, a priest who conducted weddings would go into a huddle with the grandparents. A set of. Imposing parents would arrive, and after they left, wedding preparations would begin. The oldest un married daughter would soon realize her turn had come to leave her parental home. The bride and groom would probably get to throw furtive, glances at each other .
Father it turns out, had seen his future wife much before their marriage was decided by the elders. At the wedding of his cousin in Madras, he was a dapper 21-year-old when he first saw her, a seven-year-old, running around in a little pavadai and blouse, with no idea whatsoever that she would wed this man 11 years later. She probably had no idea he was even there at that wedding, nor interested ! Glad to know she did marry him, for if not , this tale would never be written!






And So, Uranus

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on February 20, 2015



And so, Uranus, here we are at that golden shresht birthday hubb . I got there a few months earlier, but you knew I’d wait there at the corner till you caught up, didn’t you? I have with me every little gem that we made together, and  I’m sure you do too.  You started out all those years ago as the shorty sitting in the first row in the class photo, while I beamed sheepishly standing three rows behind. Niether of us noticed , when you grew those inches and when I stopped,  what with my drawing a tray with two doodh pedhas and two tumblers of water on the margins of my rough notebook, pokerfaced, while you cracked up in Silvie’s class  and ended up being asked to “get out of the class” for your troubles.

And how clever of you, to improvize, and inflict on Ms Jayashree the little essay in Hindi, about  Deepavali ek shresht hubb hai. Kyonki hum nayi kapde pehente hai.  And further,  hum nayi kapde pehente hai kyonki Deepavali ek shresht hubb hai. Sigh, that must be the first of our gems,  though I can scarcely remember  when we got started.

Soon , though, we had everyone thinking we were twins, and we still do that even now, like when I walk into Arushi, looking at all the magic that you are making, and  the nice lady draped in one of your designer sarees widens her eyes on seeing me, and asks, “your sister?”

Do you remember that time a year ago  at  Jeanne’s the girl giving you a pedicure asked us that question,  and you , put on my poker face, and replied, “we’re twins”?  And we are, too.  Mostly I’m the quiet poet, and you are the charming friend magnet. Everyone wants you for a friend. And many must wonder why you have me for a friend.

But I wonder how we can be anything else.  You and I, we both  know there can be no better best friends than us. We have our gam-gala,  and  Iskanta and Ammallidoddi and a thousand things in-between  to prove that. I have that mad urge to pause  at the french door of that restaurant here in Herndon, and laugh like the grannies of Onida  KY Thunder Series ad, rolling on the ground, thinking about a flag-march in a Jaipur Hotel that never happened.

I am sorry I have killed your love for “aye mere watan you ki logon” by saying  Nehru wept because he wanted her to stop singing. But, as your best friend, your honorary twin, I knew it had to be done.   Call it my revenge for shooting up and growing taller than me, if you like.

Can you think of anyone else you’d rather be with when the little Road Runner surpasses your expectations in her 12th standard results, and calm her down, soothe her,and tell her you’ll be along home immediately, hang up, and  laugh, rather diabolically for a mother? Are  we not the cool mother-aunt duo who do cool things and  the cool things are cool because we do them?

Oh, I’ve loved our trips to Okalipuram, and can still laugh at the day when it rained on us, sitting in the back seat of the beat-up Fiat, while it respectfully bowed as it passed Basha from his window!  And coming upon good old Ammallidoddi on our visit to Kabbalamma.  Very naughty of you though to call out loudly to Raja and tell him, brightly, that I  remembered your dad’s name for him. Kari Dore  is not offended, I know, but still………….!

But it’s been a privilege to watch you grow from the lady who gave motifs and patti and talked  to picky custombers politely, through clenched teeth,   to the designer in demand that you are today. I have tormented you by playing it back to you after they left, but  I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I haven’t yet actually heard anyone say “Nee daggara Arushi cheera leda?” but I know what I’ll say when I do.

Through school and college, you were the smart,  cool lady I wanted to be. and then I saw how you were with little Jenu, the joy that you brought to being her mother, and the fierce love that drives you defend loyally everyone you hold dear, when you have to. That , I know includes me.  and knowing that, I certainly don’t wish to on the other side, at the receiving end of the fireworks!

So, today, on this milestone huttid hubb, let me say, how grateful I am that we are in each other’s life,  how rich I know myself to be.

Gulab jamuns shall be made today. Tale tale mein gol gol, you know, and  eaten to mark the occasion, the next best thing to being there with you, and falling off the chair, laughing about nothing , and everything!










Laahiri Laahiri Laahiri Valentine

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on February 13, 2015

Today, I watched, for the umpteenth time,  a bit of  that adorable movie, Mayabazar,  which has been, ever since I watched it for the first time in a tent ,  when I was about  ten,  the movie that has answers to every question that you would have asked your  grandmother , if only you could. When the  Laahiri Laahiri  Laahiri Lo began playing,  it struck me that this song from 57 years ago was telling me a thing or two about Valentine’s Day.  Pointless and silly as the concept is.

Consider the scene in which  Abhimanyu strolls up the garden path to stand under  Shashireka’s balcony. The  young lady has been  grounded by her mother for  daring to  spurn the gifts sent by her mother-in-law to be, and she is moping, wondering how to get the word out to  Abhimanyu, the love of her life.

An arrow suddenly lands at her feet, and  within minutes, the son of Arjuna builds a “staircase of arrows” for Shashirekha to descend, and they make off for the  riverside, where they are soon ensconced in a gondola, singing  “Laahri laahiri laahiri lo, oho jagame oogenuga..”  A palace guard chances upon them and  gleefully runs to inform Shashirekha’s parents, the imperious Balarama and his domineering wife, Revathi.

However, when they arrive on the scene of crime, they see it is Krishna and Rukmini romancing each other, for the all-knowing Krishna has sensed that the young lovers need some avunclar rescuing, and  drags wife Rukmini to an unscheduled  gondola ride and some mutual serenading.  Walking back, Krishna slyly suggests that the boat ride is a great way for couples to reconnect, and no one is too old for a bit of romance. Well,  the boat was there, and  love was in the air,  and Balarama needed his wife to forget their  rebellious, opinionated daughter for a wee bit,and so they went ahead and  finished the song. And felt all the better for it.  Although they didn’t see their way to relenting  on their daughter who , they believed, was locked up in her room, her tantrums for company.

Silly and pointless, clearly,  love’s little games are not.  Krishna tells us so. He orchestrates the Raas Lila, and every girl comes away thinking Krishna is hers alone. The older Krishna then orchestrates another kind of   love lila- be it uniting Arjuna and Subhadra, or  as in Mayabazar, Abhimanyu and Shashirekha. The artful organizer of happy-endings  has everyone thinking  everything is going according their plan, until the end.

With Gatotkacha’s help, some magic and lots of  good humor,  he has Shashirekha transported to  where Abhimanyu is hiding under Gatotkacha’sprotection, and the affable, adorable  rakshasa son of Bhima  returns , takes on the form of Shashirekha, and terrorizes Lakshmana , son of Duryodhana and the groom intended for Shashirekha.   Once the wedding muhurtham passes, he reveals himself  , and the wedding of Abhimanyu and Shashirekha is presented as fait accompli.

So it all boils down to this. There are those who see Valentine’s Day as evil,  and will foil the plans of those who celebrate the day. There are others who wish to make it special, and some others who  serendipitously,  come upon a gondola ride down the river, and choose to  take it.

I confess that I find Valentine’s Day a nonsensical idea, and  the closest I came to marking the day was last year, when I got the spouse to take me out in the morning sun for a romp in the snow , where a snowman was already melting. It just happened to be  Valentine’s Day , February 14, 2014.  But my heart is in the right place, and I  wish that today,  Krishna has planned happy-endings for everyone who wants it.

Bye. I now need to urgently go back to  Mayabazar.  There is no such thing as too much Mayabazar.

Baby Shower Babble

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on April 29, 2014

Baby poems



When my cousin Neeraja invited me to a baby shower she was hosting last week,  I immediately said yes. I did not know the mother-to-be, but Neeraja told me she is the grand-niece of  D.K Pattamal, she of the  Female Trinity of Carnatic Music.  There were going to be other interesting women, and it would be an enjoyable evening. When you are a journalist,  sans the cynicism, and  listening to people, watching them, and  talking to them is what you do for a living,  you  generally find that any gathering can become as interesting or as boring as you make it.   

The real reason Neeraja didn’t have to persuade me was  the fact that it was a baby shower.  I never cease to wonder at the power that a baby exudes over adults. Even when it’s not born. The mere news of a baby’s  imminent arrival, somewhere in our orbit, does strange things to the mind. Happy-strange things. Normally serious-faced people go about with goofy smiles, or act extra tender when they come within ten feet of the mother-to-be, and  the father-to-be gets his shoulders thumped, and silly things are said by people who are not normally expected to  be affected by such news.

At a baby shower,  there are no inhibitions. Everyone is allowed, rather,  expected to  be goofy, and  indulge in baby-talk  freely, perhaps even try to outdo each other in talking baby, exclaiming over teddy bears, rompers, blankies, bassinets, crib, bib, lullabies,  picture-frames and the like.

And why not.

At Neeraja’s on Sunday afternoon ( we couldn’t miss it, with all the balloons, and buntings that announced this was the place, and  she had even drawn an auspicious kolam for the touch of  the Tamilian home) all menfolk were banished. Gladly, I suppose. The husband had offered to drive me to Rockville, and  hang about the nearest Barnes & Noble’s for the next couple of hours, chiefly because he loves me very much, and also, I suspect, due to the fact that a baby was involved!

Is it necessary to add that the day before, we had great fun picking out a present for Ishu, the mother-to-be, and  even chose the most adorable card, with a rocking horse and some beautiful verse.

I think I was the last to arrive, and the fun and games were in progress. You’ll meet some really neat people, Neeraja had said. Of course, It turned out that I was one of those “neat people”–The moment Neeraja introduced me,  everyone asked me how my writing was going on, and what was I writing about.

It didn’t feel at all like I was meeting everyone for the first time.  It was truly “neat” to meet  Chandra,  Uma, Latha, and of course, Ishu, the hero of the evening,  who it turned out was having twins!  I just hoped  the two little bundles of joy would learn to share the toy I had got them.

Though there were more than a dozen women, for about a quarter of an hour, there was quiet, barring some loud-thinking by someone trying to find the words in the game grid, and unscrambling the jumbled words- the games that Neeraja had set for us to play.  I learnt a new word-  onesies. It was the only word ( of 24) that I failed to get. This was a baby-themed puzzle, and everything else had been a breeze. This proved to be a toughie even for those who’ve had babies!

I was chuffed when Neeraja announced I’d won a prize.  And the other prize was won by Raji.

When Ishu opened her presents,  there were a couple of onesies! (an infant’s one-piece close-fitting lightweight garment, usually having sleeves but leaving the legs uncovered and fastening with snaps at the crotch, says the dictionary) most of them had known about the twins. Uma had crocheted and knitted  two  lovely blankies that I’m sure the two babies will never outgrow.  There were bibs and booties, little day suits and stuffed animals, who I’m sure are going to come alive and  have the most exciting adventures that a child ever imagined, in the coming years.

I had taken along a loaf of banana bread , and was pleased that it was pronouced “delicious”.  I gorged on the lemon rice ( Chandra’s) and  quinoa salad (Uma’s) and  samosas. I brought back some strawberries, which Neeraja said, had been sliced by her husband.

Neeraja had meant this evening to be about women bonding, and  a baby shower, is a great way to make it happen.  A baby shower detoxes you of cynicism, and accords you the luxury of  guilt-free enjoyment of  the pure innocence that surrounds babies like an aura. Apart from the unadulterated joy that the presence of a baby brings into one’s life. Any baby, not necessarily your own.

That  private world that little Chichu and I  lived in for a few months, when each day, he’d wander into my apartment, and we’d  go through the ritual of  playing with my doll, Gita Paapa, rubbing her face with baby lotion, and admiring our handiwork, and holding her , standing  before the mirror. That  gasp of  anticipation and the  joy that lit up his face as he ran up the corridor asking to be carried.  They chase the blues away.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through your hair once every day, Audrey Hepburn advises.  Let a baby walk through your thoughts once a day, to feel beautiful all day, she might have said.


Eat No Meat Here, It’s No Maas Media

Posted in FrontPage by Jayasri on April 22, 2014

IT’s been a few days since the meaty lunchbox was banished from the precincts of The Hindu. Everybody has an opinion on the matter. There are people who would take up cudgels on behalf of the meat-eating employees who, they allege, are being forced to become vegetarian and “Brahmin in their thinking”.

People who have never entered the portals of  The Hindu and by virtue of their  tweets, , probably never will,  suggested, ” The Hindu should rename itself  “The Brahmin”, and  urged the proprietors to  display a signboard to say “Only Brahmins need apply”, and a third suggested wrapping chicken kebabs in  the newspaper would be the Gandhian way to protest.

Now,  I have been a The  Hindu insider,  and you don’t need to be one to know that all  vegetarians are not Brahmins , employed at The Hindu or not. The second suggestion  is  absurd. The accent  at the Hindu, in fact, is on diversity. As for the final  suggestion, being kebab wrapper I’d say is an upgrade from the days a few decades ago, when grandma’s wisdom suggested   yesterday’s newspaper made cheapest baby wipes.

I admit I am a vegetarian and until this  advisory  came up, I never really considered what might be going on  in the mind of  the non-vegetarian employee of The Hindu. Or  what the vegetarian in The Hindu canteen might be thinking. Speaking for myself,  the only thing that’s important to me is what’s on my plate. My best friends are non-vegetarians. When we eat out  they order what they like, and I order what I like, and of course we all sit at the same table.

I am trying to  recall what  my colleagues at the Hindu did at the canteen. I don’t remember  anyone  opening their  dabba of chicken biriyani, or anything non-vegetarian. In fact most of us  did not carry a lunchbox from home at all most days, because it was more convenient to eat at the canteen.  Our colleagues from other newspapers frequently asked if they could come over and lunch at our canteen.

In the newsroom, lunchboxes often got opened and passed around  if someone got hungry, or  brought something interesting,  or   Ramesh Vangipuram  brought his sack of Krishna Janmashtami goodies, or someone had a birthday. or ordered pizza (vegetarian, I admit)

There might have been at some point someone who brought some non-vegetarian  food. No one asked, or said anything.  I’m guessing  they’d have ordered  non-vegetarian if  it was available in the canteen, and were  generally happy to eat whatever is available- viz. a  decadent spread of saapad with sambhar, rasam, palya, appalam, pickle and curd. On the other hand, I’ve known many of them to order vegetarian at the Press Club, even though a non-vegetarian menu is served there. There was none of the offending or offense-taking  that is being implied between  colleagues.

What if anything has changed, after the   advisory was issued?  Very little, I’d say.  The HR manager is not necessarily speaking for every vegetarian in the building, and  he has doubtless verified facts before saying that non-vegetarians are in the minority.  This minority knows what to expect, and  abstinence while on the premises is not asking for the impossible– most non-vegetarians  often abstain even when they are not  at work, for  personal, spiritual, and health reasons..  Besides,  what are the chances of someone  actually bringing a non-veg meal into the building, and that some vegetarian/non-vegetarian tattletale is  going to  spill the chicken on a meat-chomping colleague?

This is  more akin to a case of  telling  non-smokers  to refrain from smoking!

Meanwhile conversations on FB are meandering from The Hindu canteen into Hindu spaces. “The notice of the Hindu management is nothing but insulting the Dalit-bahujans and non-Brahmin castes and their food cultures” says  someone on a group that I desist from naming here.

When will the day come when Dalit journalists conduct beef festivals in media houses in this great democracy! exclaims another, while someone else compares it to  the ban on sale of eggs at Rishikesh-Hardwar. 

When will the day come when Dalit journalists conduct beef festivals in media houses in this great democracy!exclaims another!  

I think my takeaway from here  is “beefing up the media house equals Dalit empowerment”



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