Friday, September 28, 2007

A book... and how my life changed!! - II


Mythreyi gets married to her cousin(I know this is a rarity nowadays, but fifty years ago, it was a common thing, especially in India) without knowing if she really loved him and always felt insecure despite all the love that was showered on her because she felt that she was an orphan, all said and done. So she has lots of expectations on her husband and expects to have a home of her own where she can find her roots and feel more secure. But her husband is a very shy person and though he loves her very much, doesn’t tell her about his love for her. This is the state of their wedlock. Everyone else in the family assume that the couple love each other very much and have fun. In between all this, there are various incidents like one of her maternal uncles losing his sanity, her brother’s marital problems, the tiffs between Mythreyi and her sister-in-law, her friends and their teasings, etc. which she has to deal with care and maturity expected beyond her age. She takes everything as an experiment and learns different lessons from each of those incidents. She wins over everyone in the family and outside with her patience, quick thinking and hard work. But, finally, she loses heart(Niantha ullam, in tamil) and one of her closest aides finds it out. He sets things right between the couple and things end well. Her heart is full of happiness now(Niraindha ullam, in tamil :))

Though this sounds like a fairy tale from the outset, it is basically a bit more. It tells about the Indian family system and the expectations, responsibilities and other complexities that are ever-present between the family members. For example, though Mythreyi’s aunt is her mother-in-law and knows that Mythreyi is going to wed her son, she does not encourage too much socialization between Mythreyi and Seshadhri(her son). This does not mean that she doesn’t want them to have fun as all others but that she places more importance in each of the family members maintaining their present relationships(i.e. cousins, in this case). She is also concerned about the society’s opinion and wants everyone in her family to follow the societal norms. Though our Indian family has developed a lot from that portrayed in the story, every family still sticks to some of the core values shown in it. More on it in the next post.

Till this book came, I’ve read loads of English and Tamil books and novels that have dealt with a variety of themes ranging from murders and mysteries to humor and hazards. I’ve also read a lot of family-based novels, even some of Anuthama’s. But none of them touched me as this one because this novel is very simple(without being simplistic), clear in its approach(some of the authors try to connect different incidents to make up the final story), lucid in writing(all of Anuthama’s novels are, this one is more so...) and doesn’t make love as the be all and end all of life.

[to be continued]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A book... and how my life changed!!

This post is basically the result of a challenge that I had with one of my friends. He said that I am supposed to write three consecutive posts on one thing(nothing alive... only articles allowed). And that the thing has to be something general(no personal objects allowed). So, being the brave girl I am, I accepted his challenge and here I go.

The topic I've chosen is, what else, books. Books have been my best of friends from my young age. I've seen happiness in them when I was sad, solace when I was hurt, good advice when I was confused, fun when I was bored, companionship when I was lonely(not alone, but lonely) and comfort whenever I needed it. I know everyone reads loads of books. Our generation reads more than our parents did and certainly much more than our grandparents' generation. I read around five books per month making it roughly one per week. But there are a few books that I go back to and find comfort in them all the time. Everyone connects to a few books in their lifetime. Among my five most favorite books, four of them are popular and contain loads of links in the net world.(You can see their names in the "My favorite books" list). The fifth one is a recent favorite of mine and I couldn't find much about it on Internet(amazing! I never thought I would find something which google can't give much info about... at the time of writing this post, I found only one link :() And, that book taught me so many things about life in a very subtle way.

The book is "Naintha Ullam" by Anuthama, a renowned tamil author who dealt with life and family, in particular. Though I've read some other books of hers(like Ketta varam, manal veedu, ondrupattaal, alangaana kathaigal, arpudhamaana kathaigal, etc.), I was not as impressed with them as I was with this one.

The story revolves around Mythreyi, the protagonist who is a young girl at the impressionable age of 14 and comes to Chennai(yes, our Singara Chennai ) from Sri Lanka(none other!!), leaving behind her foster parents and foster brother and family. She comes to her uncle’s house where her brother is. She is, at first, very scared of all the happenings around her because of the variations in the lifestyles between her house in Sri Lanka and her house in Madras( Doesn’t Madras have a more nostalgic feel to it, compared to Chennai?). She was brought up as the “apple of the eye” by her foster parents and her uncle and aunt do the same too. Her brother worships the ground she walks on and everyone is partial towards her. But, she has to learn the various nuances in the relationships and gets to learn so much about people and their relationships with one another and the complications that arise due to even seemingly simple happenings. She also understands the complexities that are present in each relationship due to the very nature of such relations. She experiences the changes that come with her transition from childhood to teenage to young adult and finally, an adult. She also enters into marriage without knowing what she wants out of it and learns to take things in the stride.

[to be continued]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

One Black Coffee!!

This is one of the most interesting forwards that I have received in recent times. One of my friends sent it. When I opened it first, the subject didn't intrigue me at all because I was fully expecting a forward that spoke about the virtues of black coffee(I'm sure all of you would have received forwards extolling the virtues of this and that). But after reading the entire thing over, I reread it :). Do tell me your comments on it.... And, now, here goes:

One Black Coffee

"One black coffee. No sugar please" He told the Café CoffeeDay employee.

Every day at 1:30 in the afternoon he ordered exactly the same configuration as dessert after lunch – sometimes after skipping lunch.

The girl standing next to him eyed him curiously. "Americanized!" she remarked with a smile on her face.

He was jolted. It was a clear intrusion into his privacy. She had no business accosting him like that. He wanted to tell her how annoying her remark had been.

But he didn't – mainly because the girl in question was Monalisa Kumari. Twice she had been unanimously elected the Crown Princess of SoftSol, the company both of them worked for.

Monalisa was part Indian part Deutsch. She was fluent in Hindi, Spanish and French apart from Deutsch. She was so beautiful that it was difficult to describe her beauty in words.

He would accept any word spoken by this girl. Guys considered it a privilege to talk to her.

She was still looking at him. He realized he had to respond.

"Not exactly. I love black coffee."

She nodded, "So you are saying, you loved black coffee ever since you were a kid!"

He thought about it, "No, only in the last five years"

"That is – after you visited the West"

He was surprised, "How do you know I'd been to the West?"

"Oh, that's pretty easy!" she replied casually, "One: you said Black Coffee. No Sugar and not Black Coffee without Sugar. Two: You said Please! Three: You look quite old. Everyone in this firm of your age had visited the West at least twice."

He laughed, "One and Two are quite good. But I think it is Three which gave me away!"

"Right Dr. Watson. So you started your tryst with black coffee after an expedition to the West! Am I correct?"

"Yes" he responded.

"Quad Erat Demonstrandum" she smiled.

"That doesn't prove that I am Americanized" He retorted, "It only proves that I was introduced to black coffee's virtues in America"

"Same difference, ain't it?" Monalisa gestured him towards a table nearby.

They walked to the table and occupied it.

He sipped his piping hot black coffee and started talking, "You know! It is not the same. Americanization means – a paradigm shift in the way we think and operate. Just liking your coffee black does not mean you are Americanized. It just means that you are familiar with certain Western practices. I don't see anything wrong with that."

She stared into his eyes.

"Whatever it is. I still believe people drink Black Coffee just because it is the in thing you know… and not because they love the taste of it. Who would love that bitter liquid anyways."

He was offended. She might be the most beautiful girl of the campus. She might be a swift driver of a Swift. She might be a 99 percentiler. But she still had to respect the tastes of her colleagues.

She knew at once there was something wrong. "Oh I am sorry Srini. I didn't mean to hurt you. You know I really don't know why people like this black coffee."

He composed himself and came up with the most daring proposition of his life so far.

"Why not give it a try?"

She was surprised, "Black coffee? Eeeks! Thank you very much. I am pretty much Ok with my Latte – full of Sugar – Soulful!"

He asked her, "Have you ever tried it?"

"No!" came the emphatic answer.

"Alright. Let us play a little game. Tomorrow onwards, every afternoon at 1: 30, we will meet here and have a cup of black coffee – for five days. I suggest you don't drink any other type of coffee in this period. If at the end of the fifth day you still don't understand why people drink black coffee, I will stop drinking it."

There was silence. Pin drop. She eyed him suspiciously. It was evident that he wanted to spend more time with her. She knew it.

"Tomorrow at 13:30. Same place." She said.

Day 1:

Monalisa examined carefully the contents of the cup.

"Do I really have to drink this?" she asked no one in particular. He didn't respond. He knew she cared a damn for his answer.

And then she took the first sip. Her facial expressions changed at the speed of light. He waited. She eventually came back to this world.

He didn't say a thing.

She silently walked over to the trash can and threw the coffee cup into it.

"Let us get out of here. I want to show you something." She gestured him to follow her.

Half an hour later – they were seated in a dilapidated dhabha off NH45 twenty kilometers from the office.

He sipped the three rupee coffee sans sugar. It was delightful.

"What do you infer from this?" she asked him.

"That coffee in a NH45 dhabha twenty kilometers from the office tastes really good?"

She laughed, "You do have a sense of humor"

He smiled, "Maybe yes. What is the point?"

She sighed. "One way of looking at it – pay 3 rupees and have a lovely coffee. Or pay ten rupees and drink the rubbish you've been drinking till now."

He was stupefied, "you want me to drive twenty kilometers to this dhabha just because it offers me coffee at 3 rupees?"

"Think about that" she took her purse out.

Day 2:

Srini was curious. Monalisa sipped her black coffee and told him, "You know! We don't have to do this. I am most certainly not going to like this liquid."

"We decided. We follow." Srini was adamant.

Monalisa winked, "All this just for black coffee?"

Srini thought for a moment, "I am enjoying these meetings"

"Friends?" she extended her hand.

"No" He was firm.

There was a stunned silence. She was swept off her feet. "What did… why?"

"I don't think we can ever be friends. You are too beautiful to be a friend."

She stared at him, "When Harry Met Sally?"

"Partly yes" he responded.

"More than twice?" she asked.

"More than twenty times. I own the DVD."

"Aren't you taking it a little too seriously? It is possible for a girl and a boy to be just friends. Give me a break. We see so many such friends in the food court everyday."

He shook his head, "I don't want to talk about others. Myself – I am attracted to you. Wait! I am not saying anything wrong here. All I am suggesting is that we can never be friends."

She finished the black coffee in three quick gulps, "Goodbye Harry!"

Day 3

She was dressed in a black chudidaar. He couldn't take his eyes off her.

"You are staring." She said gently.

He was caught off guard. "Not my mistake"

She smiled and sipped the black coffee. "You know what! This is turning out to be a very interesting incident."

"Drinking black coffee?" He asked her.

"Drinking black coffee with you." She looked into his eyes. He lowered them.

"Why are you so nervous when I am talking to you?"

He looked up. "I told you yesterday."

"Srini, you do realize this is not a movie."

He nodded. "Yes"

"Real life is not reel life."

He cringed, "Thanks for the cliché Monalisa!"

Her face turned red. She kept the black coffee cup on the table and stood up. "What do you think you are Mister? Just because I am drinking coffee with you – doesn't give you the right to say whatever that comes to your mind."

He was surprised, "All for that pathetic cliché?"

For a while neither of them talked. "Coffee's on you." She said.

He agreed.

Day 4

"As such life is a great mystery." Srini told her.

They were driving down the highway NH45 to the dhabha. It was a pleasant afternoon. Traffic was scarce.

Monalisa laughed, "What a cliché"

Srini shook his head, "It is the truth."

"So you speak truth and nothing but the truth. When I say something I speak cliché and only clichés"

He smiled. "You have a way with words."

She didn't reply.

"What are you thinking Monalisa?" He prompted her again.

"Mona. Call me Mona." She deftly swerved right throwing Srini off the seat.

"What the hell was that?" He was dismayed.

"I was avoiding a speeding buffalo you idiot." She yelled, "God! I hate driving in India."

Srini was silent. They reached the dhabha.

She ordered two cups of coffee. He observed silently. She knew there was something wrong.

"OK. What is it?"


"Why are you so silent?"

"Nothing. I am OK."



"Can't I call you idiot, dear?"

"How can you? I want to be treated with dignity...." He abruptly stopped and stared at her. "What did you just say?"

"Can't I call you idiot, Dear?" She ruffled his hair, "Can't I?"

"Wait. Whatever happened to being platonic friends?" He asked her.

She didn't reply.

"So Harry met Sally?"

She nodded. "I saw the ending again yesterday."

Srini couldn't suppress his quirky smile. "A lovely little fool I know told me sometime back that real life was not reel life."

"Yes. Don't push it though." She sounded cold.

Day 5

"I still don't like this black coffee. Will it really make a difference? It is the final day – right?" She pleaded with him.

"The agreement is binding Ms Monalisa Kumari" He was ruthless.

"No way out?" She wouldn't give up.

"There is" he smiled.

"Great! What is it?"

"Number one: Since you don't want to finish the fifth day black coffee, I need not stop drinking black coffee"

"With no sugar?"

"Or without sugar."

"OK. What is number two?"

"You tell me what made you talk to me on the first day."

She didn't expect that. "What?"

He was serious. "Tell me Mona. Why did you initiate the conversation on the very first day?"

"I thought you were cute"

"Bulls. There were many more cute guys around. More handsome and dying to talk to you."

She looked around. "I can't see any?"

"Don't change the topic. Tell me what made you talk to me? A bet with your friend?"

She stared at him. "You knew!"

"Yes. Unfortunately your friend is my friend's girlfriend. He told me last night when I was raving about you."

She stood up; held his hands and said, "It all started because of that bet I agree Srini. However our black coffee encounters introduced the real Srini to me. The bet did not govern my actions after the first day. Please believe me."

He shook his head. "And all the time I thought you were really interested in me."

She was horrified to see tears in his eyes. "Srini please. I like you. I really really like you. I am extremely sorry. I shouldn't have done that. But tell me Srini... How would I ever have known the real Srini if it were not for the bet with my friend? You are an introvert. You don't talk to girls. How could I have found you otherwise?"

He kept his black coffee on the table and walked away. "Srini. I said Sorry." She shouted completely ignoring the other people in the cafeteria.

He stopped, turned back and told her – "Convince me."

She went to Café Coffee Day and said – ""One black coffee. No sugar please"

Monday, September 10, 2007

Back with a Bang!!

Hi friends,

Ok! Ok! I know I've been too long away from my dear blog of mine... so much so that I missed one of the most important days:my blog's first birthday. Well, I'll write a belated bday post later. Now, back to important stuff! I know I should have stopped by and written something for the past two months. But a bad case of serious work, a worser case of travel and settling down and the worst case of writer's block and commenter's block(both attacking at the same time is the worst possible thing) have put me off for this long. There was one thing I wanted to add to the Voice series. That was the only time when I could break out of these blocks and write something. Now that I have done the 'breaking out' part, I hope I get to do it more often... so often that these blocks don't attack anymore.

A small update: In these two months, I've traveled over oceans and mountains,met loads of people(some fun, some not so fun but all of them interesting in one way or the other!) and had some amazing experiences throughout the way! I've changed my place of living, style of living and the people I live with. But the core values and the love and friendship that remained earlier remain the same. For all who know me personally back home, I miss you people! For all those who know me only through this blog, I've missed you as well. So, I only hope to God that no more sabbaticals come along the way.

Coming back to my own lair(if you can call this blog that :)) is always a satisfying experience. It is one place where I know I make a small difference in the world, a difference of a thought, a smile, a tear, an emotion. It is the place where I discover the world, surprising myself in the process. When I started this blog, it was just for fun. Now, its a part of me, a part that speaks to the world without any limitations and inhibitions.

I'm sure you will find more posts coming along this month. And, do give me some time. I'll catch up with all your blogs too. Till then,

-Alpine Path