Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chetan Begets

When he threw the ball back to her, he said, “Change your point shooter.”
Somehow he managed to put it across in correct English.
”What?” – She exclaimed and surveyed him top to bottom.
That was the moment he wished he had worn better clothes.
I salute that thought came from Chetan Bhagat, not because of any aesthetic excellence, but for a sharp shoot of thought in which a reader enjoys the same wave-length of a writer or even vice versa.
Chetan Bhagat is not one of my favourite Indo-Anglian writers. But I like him, and the writer in him who doesn’t claim anything. He knows he wouldn’t be strong enough to wrestle with the many stand outsize. There are umpteen writers in India who can draw and paint in warmer tones than Bhagat.
That makes me talks to him.
While talking to Karthik Kumar, at the Hindu Lit for Life in Chennai, Chetan Bhagat said, “I know that I’m not a good writer. I’m not in line with the many authors who fill your bookshelves. I do not want to be remembered for ever; I want to be forgotten!
That again makes me closer to him than any Titan who carries the false celestial sphere of languages and looks at all others scornfully. (Reminds me “A little disdain is not amiss; a little scorn is alluring” by William Congreve – The Way of the World)
Before the session started live, a video screen opened with a lady throwing several brickbats at the writer.
” I hate Chetan Bhagat. He’s trash. He’s not rich in words. He doesn’t know how to write in English.”
The concert hall of Lady Andal School was packed and thicker than the many sessions it had earlier. Not because of any box-office hits on the Three Idiots, Two States, Kai Poche. Not because of his latest book, The Half Girl-friend. It’s just Chetan Bhagat, who didn’t have anything to hide from us or claim over anything. It was a hearty talk. A talk from an ordinary human being who thinks he’s one among the millions who lives here.

Bill, the Wood-whisperer

Bill Le Blanc is an artist unsung. He is often spotted during casual morning or evening strolls somewhere in the Hamilton Beach Strip of the Confederation Park area. Most of the time, he is found engrossed chiseling wood to carve distinct images out of tree stumps.

I saw him first on a warm Sunday morning; sweat dripping across his eyebrows while he was chipping away the unwanted stuff stuck to the Roller Skater sitting in a Poplar stump that could only be seen with Bill’s inner eyes.
I walked down the road to greet a few more interesting characters in his wooden story. A Beaver – who took almost 50 hours to be conceived – dedicated to his lovely great granddaughter Nicole. Another one is a Turtle that also took the same sweat of his brow. The ‘Sirens of the Sea’ consists of four mermaids, took its shape from a Manitoba Maple Stump after 160 hours.

The Beaver is the first of a kind experiment for Bill and that gave way to the subsequent themes, restoring confidence.
Bill’s humility never prompts him to claim to be an artist and continues his free service to the City of Hamilton. The decades he had spent as a steel-worker did not help in tapping his buried creativity, but he soon realized how he would be spending his retirement years.

                                                                 Bill’s ‘Sirens of the Sea’

Bill never tires of explaining his unique hobby to the intrigued passers-by. In fact, he’s extremely happy to converse with them about his plans adding beauty to the nature. Only a true woodwork artist like him knows what sleeps in the stump to be resurrected later, even after the death of a tree.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Soup’s on

It's not that I expect my son to answer me how the coriander powder looks like, amidst the one hundred and forty eight similar-looking-smelling small containers in the kitchen rack, but one of the three and a half walls would do so. I started believing in God like anyone who clutches at a straw when sinking. The guys at home are on hot-line to India, running a commentary as to what happens in the kitchen, only if I'm there holding some vegetables. Not even a benefit of doubt given to a poor neophyte entering the culinary pitch! The listeners are so happy to hear the screenplay, walking tall through the streets of Goa, arm in arm, beaming at all the extra salt or chilly falls in a Canadian kitchen.

Suja gave me a demonstration on various easy-to-make dishes before setting her foot into the homing instinct.  She had shown me what all are the contents and where all those have been kept. Her vacation was for 6 weeks, and the longer it goes the more would I be besetting with difficulties, the situation foreshadowed me. The funniest thing is that all the powders kept in the containers had been changed in to a single colour, on their own volition, giving me a tough time when I took the rein. I smelled trouble ahead. My nose picked up fenugreek and cumin seed powder with same smell. I became color-blind in front of turmeric and chilly- powder. Why the cilantro and parsley are playing bopeep in double role with hardly any differences in their looks. Is it my reluctance in cooking crept into my nerves in the form of this phenomenon?

The dayspring of my activity, by the tender mercy of God, taught me a big lesson. It’s not that easy like we cook the books in the office. I was wondering how my wife used to use all the hotplates at the same time for making four different curries in addition to the tutorial guidance given to the next door monster and the intermittent phone calls coming in from her students. By the time I turned my tails from the humdrum and came out of the kitchen, I encountered a giggly young creature telephoning to his mom.

‘’Here is the wounded chief of the Third Punic War…. Talk to him.’’  He said.

‘’What’s up? Where are you now?’’

My wife, over the phone:’’ We just had an awesome sea-bath and now waiting for food at Taj Vivanta’s restaurant.’’

Oh God, they’re in Goa, taking long walks and tasting all the exotic food they can grab. Blessed souls! She’s enjoying with our daughter’s family.

The formidable prospect of making a maiden Sambar in my life gave me a sharp shock and it was not visible for her being at the other end of the phone in India. Thanks to the Sambar Masala Powder and its magic spell and smell turns any worn out rubber slippers into Sambar! Stepping up the initial smirk bloomed at her face my sister-in-law said to me that my Sambar deserves a top star. I know, it’s not that deep from her mind but just a thanksgiving for my dropping her to her office and picking up from there. It’s no different from her comment that I drive very well when I know that it’s possible only when there are no vehicles and signals on the road.
What I infer from the experience I’ve just had is a good cook invites others to eat and finds solace in his efforts in doing so. I remember having tasted a few dishes bland and insipid just because they do not have a flair for cooking but are forced to invite for dinners just to repay for the tastes they had at our place. Many of the items were tasted like warm cardboards. But there were some tough species who ordered food from out well in advance and conveniently transferred all to their own utensils to show that those are all home made. A question or two could easily make the cat out of the bag in such cases.

To put it in a nutshell, it was just reifying a concept which had been believed to be impassable for me so long. Usually dilatory in work habits, I wonder how I got accustomed to this art that requires extreme patience and research.

In my childhood days there existed a misconception among the male highhandedness and children that only ladies cook. Or rather to say that it is their duty and theirs only to feed the rest of us in the family. Of course there were exceptions for men only when they prepare big feasts. That also was based on a ‘generally accepted belief ‘ that ladies are unable to handle ‘wholesale feasts’. If a male is found to be with his ‘daiiy cooking affair’ within no time he would have been notorious that he’s a good-for-nothing guy only to be fit for kitchen slots. Maybe because of that low-graded status quo we never offered our helps to moms in their chores. Instead, we used to fight with her if food has not been provided on time or a bit less in taste. Looking back to those days is indeed painful as we never understood the sweat and toil she had gone though in bringing us up, especially in a time of no cooking gas or stove.

Come hell or high water, a day or two in a week henceforth would make my wife free from her toils by me as a dedication to her prodigious skills of cooking I had been enjoying all these years. 

But I do really feel like I'm that unfortunate cat who happened to land on the proverbial hot tin roof, when in the kitchen, and walking a thin line in the dead of a summer!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Tale of a Dish Best Served Cold

It was a hot but breezy day of summer. To say precisely, on a day exactly 107 years ago. June 25, 1906. A gathering of the elite on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, in New York City, to watch the musical revue, Mam'zelle Champagne. Men in dapper suits and women in beaded ones topped with feathered hats, all around. An event of socialization with variable rhythm of sundry talks and clinking of glasses. 

A man in his fifties, with a fashionable mustache, appeared there mesmerized by the show-girls. He was very generous in his applause, grinning and winking at the beautiful girls singing. He was none other than Stanford White, a born rich architect and designer. He was the man behind the designs and decorations of many a spectacular Fifth Avenue mansion. Stanford White was devoted and addicted to luxury and sensual pleasures. The wealth he enjoyed had properly supported him in getting intermediaries to get around the girls he had marked. His multi-story apartment on 24th Street, in Manhattan had its interior designed and intended for carrying out his lechery unleashed.   
The song was 'I could love a million girls. Immediately another young man in a black jacket, which he refused to remove even at the request of the hatcheck girl, appeared in front of him, took out the pistol and fired three shots at Stanford White, point blank. He fell dead with his face contorted.

There was an eerie silence at the outset for a moment, a raucous laughter followed by thunderous applause, as many of the audience took it as a part of the show. There were practical jokes like this in such gatherings, in New York, those days. No sooner was the frost off the floor than the turmoil started. An overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety spread across like a dense cloud.

A stunning, copper curled woman in white eyelet dress, saw the pistol in her husband's hand, shouted, ''Gosh! Harry, what have you done?'' It was Evelyn Nesbit Thaw.

''It's all right, darling! I've saved your life'', said Harry Thaw. 

The killer had been identified as Harry K Thaw, a millionaire. His profligacy, by all means, had been a subject of talk quite often for the public. His family's abundance of wealth could buy the silence of those who stood against him. He remembered that five years prior to that, White, 47, had seduced the 16 year old showgirl, Evelyn Nesbit. White wanted her rollicking naked on the red velvet swing which could not be pushed back into oblivion for many a girl came into his life, in his apartment on 24th Street. She was on her career growth after a long patch of hardship. Although the affair was long over by that time, the apparent stain to her reputation remained and Thaw was quite disturbed on that score. Revenge was a dish for him to be best served cold. He decided to carry it out that day, when he saw White sometime in the same morning at another restaurant.

There were two sensational trials. 'The Trial of the Century' became known to the public and piqued great curiosity. Eventually, Harry Thaw had been declared not guilty by reason of insanity, thanks to the various treatment he had undergone earlier. He was held in a mental asylum until 1924. Later he died of a heart-attack at the age of 76, in 1947. Nesbit died in a hospital in Santa Monica, California, on January 17, 1967, at the age of 82.

The films, The Girl on a Velvet Swing (1955) and Ragtime (1981) are based on the events connected with the life of Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K Thaw and Stanford White.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rain in June

Rain, like cold tears
Evanesced from a hot face,
Stopped for a while.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

മൂന്ന് മൂന്നുവരിക്കവിതകള്‍

വല കോരിയെടുത്തത്
ഒരു മീനിനെ മാത്രമല്ല,
അവള്‍ക്കുള്ളിലെ കടലിനെക്കൂടിയാണ്‌.

ഒരു വീടുണ്ടായതും,
അതില്‍ കുഞ്ഞുകൂടുകളുണ്ടായിരുന്നതും.

അന്നു കാത്തിരുന്നത് അമ്മയായിരുന്നു.
ഇന്ന് കാത്തിരിക്കുന്നത്
അമ്മ പറഞ്ഞേല്പിച്ചുപോയ വീടും. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Dress-down Friday

by Suresh Nellikode

Another Friday to idle away!

Normally Friday mornings are dedicated to the cruciverbalist in me. But this this time it was destined to be framed in a different way.

The rich aroma of fresh Brazilian Santos cup. That was lovely enough to start with a lustrously coloured holiday. Life, at times, look iridescent!

Nanda was telling me about the incorrigible flirt of her husband in the drama school, which abruptly got switched over to the Tudor Architecture, tucked away down the main streets.

I, in fact, loved that grey page she dedicated to her son for a legacy he has to cherish in future. He was resting peacefully on top of his father's tummy.Both slowly slid down to a snooze serene.

Many a wakeful night was leading her to a host of barren days where the other one had to face the rough realities impeding life.

I consoled her, " sorrow is always the twin sister of joy; and it was only to be looked for that we, who just now were over-rejoiced, should next have something to make us sad."

We were planning to lunch out on the patio, along with my Friday guests, a broad tailed cardinal couple.