Monthly Archives: March 2017

Song of the day – 2

Rob tagged me to this:

The rules are to post the lyrics of a favorite song five days in a row, explain what they mean to you (if you like) and add the video if available. 

I am also supposed to nominate two bloggers to carry on the meme, but I would like to leave that open.  Anyone who blogs, reads this post and wants to take it on, please do, and link back to this post so we can all read about your choices of songs. You may also leave your choice in the comment section here.

**

People born in TamBram (which is short for Tamil (language), Brahmin (caste)) households in South India during the last few decades of the past century, grew up listening to the honeyed voice of M.S. Subbulakshmi singing the Suprabatham, Sahasranamam, Bhaja Govindam etc.  Her perfect pitch, the way her voice blended with the background tambura (pitch setter), her accurate diction in any language, and that blissful face that comes to the mind’s eye the moment one hears her voice – for many of us, MSS’s voice flows through our veins, and triggers an automatic “coming home” reflex in the brain.  At least in me.

My favourite of MSS’s pieces is “Kurai onrum illai“.   “What regrets have I in this world , when the Lord gives me everything”, to me, is the essence of “Bhakthi yoga” – unquestioning devotion and faith. More recently, I read that the composer, Dr. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) , faced many adversities in life, and yet had it in him to sing that he had no regrets. I read that

As Rajaji lay dying in General Hospital, Madras, in December 1972, all his regrets must have crossed his mind, all his sorrows. But also, all his reconciliations of those emotions with his faith in the “rock”. The last words spoken by him from his death bed, when asked how he felt were simple: “I am happy”.

That upped my love for the song a bit further.  I reproduce below, the translation made by Gopal Gandhi and Gowri Ramnarayan. And of course, the immortal voice of MSS singing it.  The video is of a rather aged MSS singing it, I could not find a video of a younger MSS singing Kurai onrum Iillai.

No regrets have I
My lord,
None.
Lord of the Written Word,
My light, my sight,
My very eyes
No regrets,
None.
Though you stand
Where I behold you not
My light, my very eyes,
Protector of all earthlings
I know you sustain me
Lord of the Venkata Hill so pure
You meet my hunger, my thirst
My hope, my prayer
You keep me from harm,
Lord of the Sparkling Gems,
I need naught else
Father of the Seven Hills,
Naught else.

* * *

You stand — do you not? —
Veiled by a screen
Only the learned can part
For they are the learned
Which I am not
But no, no regrets have I.
Crowning this hill
You stand as rock
Giver of Boons
Immutable God
Father to these hills
No regrets have I
Govinda !

* * *

In this benighted Age of ours
Lord —
The worst of all the Four —
You have entered
The sanctum
A shaft of granite
Where though I see you not
No regrets have I.
Boulder of strength
With the Ocean,
Heaving on your breast,
Of the purest compassion —
My Mother,
My very own, who grants
Anything I ask of her
Can I possibly have regrets?
The two of you, I know,
Stand there for me
Eternally
No regrets have I my Govinda
None, none whatsoever
Govinda! Govinda!
Govinda! Govinda!

Song of the day – 1

Rob tagged me to this:

The rules are to post the lyrics of a favorite song five days in a row, explain what they mean to you (if you like) and add the video if available. 

I am also supposed to nominate two bloggers to carry on the meme, but I would like to leave that open.  Anyone who blogs, reads this post and wants to take it on, please do, and link back to this post so we can all read about your choices of songs. You may also leave your choice in the comment section here.

**

I studied in a convent school.  Every morning before classes started, we had “assembly” in the grounds.  Until class five, the entire student body would chant “Our father in heaven, holy be thy name” prayer, and the music teacher would start a song that the rest of the  mob would join in on, in various pitches and tunes, followed by announcements that no one would pay attention to.  The “senior assembly” was in the adjacent ground.  Each class took up a week of assembly duties, design a thematic ten minute program that involved formulation of an appropriate prayer, leading the congregation in a related song and an orator from the specific class would “make a speech” about the topic before the formal announcements were made, to which no one paid any attention.

On the last week of my 12th class, our class took up the theme of “farewell”.  We pestered our music teacher (Mrs. Alice, who also was a math teacher)  to suggest five farewell songs.  The songs she suggested were :  “auld lang sine”, “good bye, farewell” (from The Sound of Music), “we thank our God for you”, “I believe” and a fifth song that I had completely forgotten.

Yesterday, stuck in traffic jam and station-hopping on my car radio, I stumbled upon a song that sounded vaguely familiar.  And then it struck me.  This was the fifth farewell song we had learned.  The last time I sang this was twenty five years ago, and I still remembered the lyrics.

The lyrics:

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we could do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la…

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la…

 

 

Feminist fatale

Am I getting hypersensitive these days for whatever reason  (adolescent daughther, perimenopausing body…we can always blame the woman, you see), about the rampant and abject misogyny in India, or has India indeed gone from bad to worse?

**

An ad on the radio (Bosche washing powder or machine or some such thing).

Man:  Darling, can you please hand wash my shirt?  It is new and delicate and  I don’t want it ruined in the washing machine.

Woman: But dear, I just got a manicure.

Man: Oh no.

Woman: But not to worry.  With Bosche (washing powder or machine, by now my BP is shooting and I don’t hear the rest of it too well), both your shirt and my hands will be saved.

What the frack, man.

***

Another FM ad:

An irritating female voice:  If you cook well, you not only please your husband but also your mother in law.

Seriously,  what the frack ?

***

See below, a WhatsApp conversation in the only group to which I belong(ed).  I am dead against groups for this very reason, that all kinds of idiots post all kinds of things without thinking.  The only reason I got into this group was that my very good friend (GN) begged me, because according to him, “it is hugely entertaining to see how our classmates have deteriorated over the years”.  I keep telling him that he would be the reason I would go postal.  See below, a recent conversation.   The players are SG, me (LG), AJ and of course GN, LG being the only vociferous woman in the group of 18 (9 men, 9 women), all post graduate degree holders.  Some Ph.Ds (e.g. SG), some in the national civil services (e.g. AJ) and others in various levels of career and domestic life, distributed across continents.

3/28, 7:18 AM] SG: .

🌳 *தினம் ஒரு கொன்றை வேந்தன்*🌳                                        .                                                              🌲 *ககர வருக்கம்*🌲    🌴 *கற்பு எனப்படுவது சொல் திறம்பாமை*
*கணவன் சொல்லுக்கு மாறாக நடவாதிருத்தலே கற்பு.* 🌴

[interjection:  This is an excerpt from a twelfth century Tamil work by a woman poet called “Avvayar”.  This poem says this:  “chastity for a woman lies in obeying her husband”]

[3/28, 7:22 AM] LG: Really ? In this time and age, SG? Hmmm.
[3/28, 9:53 AM] SG : That’s the way she has defined the non-physical aspect.  I have lot of respect for Avvaiyar. She has not probably experienced it. You (Married women) can differ because  you know what it is to live with non-ideal husband.  One more point, ஆண்களில் ராமன் கிடையாது.  உள்ளத்தால் உள்ளதும் தீதே பிறன் பொருளை கள்ளத்தால் கள்வேமெனல்.

[Interjection:  He says “There is no Rama among men”, meaning, no man is perfect..although I have no idea where that came from or why that is relevant to women needing to obey men]

[3/28, 10:08 AM] LG: “married women can differ”?? Where do I even start tearing that to shreds? So, men concur? Your daughter and mine are not married. Tell them this. See if they agree. There is no such thing as ideal human being, leave alone husband. Even if my husband WERE ideal, why would I want to “obey” him. Forget man and woman. Why must any human being “obey” another? Are we so arrogant to believe that one human being is better than the other to lord over?

Also, where does Rama come into this at all? But assuming it is true, and Rama is not a fictional character from an epic, and he is “perfect” (banishing wife on hearsay of a dhobi is perfect?), and that no man can be like him, what stops one from aspiring?

And if a person were indeed perfect as “rama” the wife should obey him?

But yeah…At the risk of instigating a war, the y chromosome is weird enough to justify an outdated, misogynistic opinion.

[3/28, 11:01 AM] SG: Rama figured in this just because he had supposedly not set his eyes on other women.  I am not saying that he was truly perfect….  There nothing wrong in obeying others (irrespective of their age, status, etc). If they are right in that particular issue.  …. Of course, we do aspire to be like Rama in as many aspects as possible

[3/28, 11:02 PM] AJ: Please don’t get  serious about it..not to hurt anyone SG and lg.

At this point, I gave up mainly because the veins in the head threaten to pop.  Don’t get serious about someone saying “a good wife should obey her husband”.  Besides, my friend, the idiot who made me join the group , writes to me privately :

[3/28, 11:02 AM] GN: Chill, LG. Take a break from WhatsApp today. I should have told you that before you responded.
[3/28, 11:02 AM] GN: It’s not worth it. Remember… They just forward without reading anything.

So, I gave that up.  This morning, SG sends this to the group.  From the very same sangam literature by Avvayar

[3/29, 8:02 AM]  SG:

*தினம் ஒரு கொன்றை வேந்தன்*🌳         🌲 *ககர வருக்கம் 🌲           🌴 *காவல்தானே பாவையர்க்கு அழகு*
\   *விளக்கம்*     *காவல் மற்றும் கட்டுப்பாட்டோடு இருத்தலே பெண்களுக்கு மிக அழகு.* 🌴

Being controlled is beautiful for women.

  1. I am out of the group.
  2. I used to think Avvayaar was a good poet.  Now I think she must be banned from being taught in schools.
  3. There is no hope for anything even remotely near gender respect in the foreseeable future in this country.

 

 

All that’s white ain’t milk

My father was apparently a sickly child, prone to fevers.  Every time he was delirious, his mother would mix hot, sweetened milk with carbonated water (aka club soda, sparkling water, seltzer, fizzy water) and make him drink it, and as lore would have it, the fever would disappear.  I was thankfully a healthy child, and even the few times that I did end up with fever, my mother had enough sense to not let my dad treat it.

In grad school, my neighbour in the run-down grad-student housing was a North Indian grad student, whose name I have forgotten.  I once dropped into his house to pick up some candles (there was going to be a blizzard that night and the power always fluctuated during blizzards), and he offered me a drink. Since it was non alcoholic, I accepted it with thanks.  The drink was cold coca cola mixed with cold Vit D milk.  I actually liked it  (I like anything with milk) and continued to have it for two years of my life.  Two decades since, I have forgotten the taste of it,  and don’t intend to remind myself of it – do you know coke really cleans your toilet bowl to a shine?  With a pH of 2.53, why wouldn’t it?

Again, in Grad school, in an attempt to put on weight (I was uncharitably addressed as “2D LG” by the juvenile Indian grad students that my university was infested with at that time), I tried the eggy-milky-occasionally rummy drink of egg nog and was hooked.  The egg nog of my grad school days still stays with me, especially around my hip area and refuses to budge, aided by the tubs of rum-n-raisin ice creams of yore.

I have had Irish coffee back in grad school, but had not particularly liked it.

Life in the US killed my relationship to lactose – I suspect it was because grocery store milk in US was reconstituted, and never natural (this was before the “organic” tag gained respectability or was affordable to a grad student).  I became severely lactose intolerant and stayed off all forms of milk products for many years afterwards. Only recently, after 20 years of de-americanising my stomach and re-setting it with what passes off as milk in India, has my tolerance to lactose and diary returned.

My forays into alcohol began only after marriage, but lest you think of me as an alcoholic needing intervention, my frequency of having any form of alcoholic beverage has been once or twice a year.  The last time I had wine was in Italy, last summer, and it was divine and very feebly alcoholic, except for one occasion that made me giggle uncontrollably.  The summer before that, my sister-in-law had brought us vodka and Scotch, both of which I hated because less than a sip made me throw up and gave me a phenomenal migraine for hours afterwards.

Yesterday, I met my BFF over coffee.  The precious woman got me Bailey’s Irish cream and rum-chata, probably sick of my WhatsApp rants about how hard it is in India to get a decent bottle of alcohol that does not give me a migraine, at price that does not require sale of body parts.   After expert advice from Rob on how best to consume Irish cream,  last night, I tentatively sipped the iced milky beverage, almost sure that I was going to head to the sink to throw up.  Caramel, milk and whiskey?  What kind of combination is that?

A few many hours later, as my afternoon coffee with Rumchata fills my being and takes me to almost orgasmic ecstacy as I type this out, I can only be grateful that we don’t get Bailey’s Irish cream or rumchata in India.  I’d probably need an AA membership if we did.

 

Sharing my world

Through Cee:

Does your first or middle name have any significance (or were you named after another family member)?

I don’t have a middle name.  But in the TamBram community, a baby is given multiple names, usually an odd number of names.  I have three such.

My “main” name: Lakshmi: I was born on a Friday at dusk, the auspicious time for the Hindu goddess of wealth.  Besides, I suspect my dad, being a salaried employee, was always strapped for cash and hoped that naming me Lakshmi and calling me that would bring home the goddess of wealth.  Hence my name.

I have a theory about names.  The name usually never fits the person in character.  For example, I knew a girl in school who was named after the goddess of learning, and she wasn’t very academically inclined.  Another aquantance, named after the goddess of valour, is more cowardly than me, if that were even possible – she once stood on a chair screaming because there was a baby bug somewhere in the vicinity! “Lakshmi”, apart from meaning “wealth”, also personifies “beauty” and “auspiciousness”.  I don’t think I am endowed with too much of all three.  I, however, have enough of them to lead a satisfying life, so I suppose my name is justified.

My second, never used name: Ranganayaki – this was the name of my paternal grandmother who had died way before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye.

My third, never used, and I wish I was never named this, name:  Sailatha – my grandmother belonged to the Sai Baba cult and insisted on naming me this.  I do not subscribe to that cult (or any cult for that matter), so thank heavens it was not my main name.  Isn’t it a little sad that we have (largely) no control over our own names?  Thankfully, I like my main name.

My daughter has seven names, believe it or not. All and sundry named her on the day of her naming ceremony.

Music or silence while working?

Pin-drop.  And not just while working.  I love love love silence.  I don’t get enough of it.

If you had a special place for your three most special possessions (not including photos, electronics, people or animals), what would they be?

I don’t have any special possession.  I am fanatic about not having any special possession.  My possessions are functional.  When they outlive their function, I would have no hesitation throwing them out.  I don’t have any photos – not even of my daughter anywhere in the house. I periodically clean out the photos in my phone, perhaps after sharing appropriate ones with appropriate people.  I gave away my wedding saree to my sister-in-law.  I don’t know where my wedding album is – perhaps my dad has them.

My daughter thinks I am a monster.

The Never List: What are things you know you never will do?

Bungee jump.  Drive a race car.  Go to space.

All of them are intimately related to the fact that my stomach would want to defy gravity and escape from my body through my mouth.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Last week: Decisions made (hopefully).

This week:  Tranquil life (hopefully)

Picture of the day:  I cannot understand why in ancient Indian literature, deer eyes were considered beautiful; many a drama heroine has been named “mrugnayani” or “deer eyes”.  Actually, deer are ok, I guess. Stags look positively uncouth and their eyes, vacant and dull.  This was taken right outside our house.

IMG_20170328_065415

Monday Medley

Would I jinx it if I wrote about the peace I feel in my mind after a really long time?  Perhaps I would, but considering that I have not hesitated to rant here, it might just be fair to put this out there too.  A little voice in the background reminds me that this too shall pass, but might as well dwell in it as long as it lasts.

Perhaps this is an outcome of my internal (relative) tranquility – the weather seems to have improved as well.  While summer is here for all intents and purposes, it has not been as sweltering as it was the last time I complained here a fortnight ago.  Either that, or the body has adjusted to the rise in temperature.  I am not complaining.

This week offers me a mixed bag, like always.  A few sensitive matters are yet to be discussed and decided on home front, and a few not-so-exciting chores remain on the work front. But all that’s fine. I hope.

My other best friend, SI, (SA, SI and I were BFFs from kindergarten.  I met SA last week when she had come down for her mother’s funeral) is in the country and I have a coffee date with her this evening.  I feel like a kid in a candy shop.  SI is a hilarious woman, and I look forward to an evening of tummy-ache laughs.

**

Me:  Why don’t you put away the notebooks that are lying all over your room?

Kid:  I can’t find a place to keep them.

Me:  If you can’t find a place to keep them, I will show you one – the trash can.

Kid:  Get away from me, you psycho.

**

Picture of the day.

dusk