Sound of my Music

Arjun's post inspired me to write this.
Before returning to India I insisted that T take us to a Dwarakadisha temple in Parlin, NJ. The temple which is managed by Gujaratis has a live band or should I call it live solo performance of vocals along with the noise of harmonium. I have never seen much good with that noise. While we waited for the curtain to be raised and reveal God to us I had this uncontrollable urge to go and fiddle with the harmonium. T, unable to bear the haunted look in my eyes, encouraged me to run fast in front of all the wee toddlers who had thronged the temple and "koyon-koyon"-sify the instrument and come back but shyness took over me and I declined the tempting offer. I then proceeded to tell him the story behind the urge. Ho hum...but it did make waiting for God interesting!
Once upon a time, there lived me in Hyderabad in a house which had a long and narrow balcony where I spent most of the time hopping at top speed.(I am not sure I can categorise it as hopping. It was a skillfully developed mechanism of putting one foot way out sidewards, then getting the other foot close to it and then moving the first foot far again always moving sidewards and very fast.) So there I was hopping away gloriously till one fine day my parents decided that I should do something more useful in the evenings. Without so much as a look see at my vocal chords they got me enrolled into a music class. A music class is like the esteemed learning centre albeit as a hobby in many of the South Indian families. Only with the advent of so many music competition shows on tv that parents now are willing to forego studies of a child if it would mean fame on the music stage. I am not sure if my parents had any high hopes for me to become a proficient singer, I feel that my mom kinda knew they were wasting their money. So there I was at the ripe (old for music) age of 9 walking down the road to my jaunt with singing. My teacher was a rotund,yellowfied-from-too-much-turmeric-application middle-aged lady. I remember always hesitating in front of her house's door, thinking of some vague reason which one could give and escape the torture of an hour. But when I thought of all the explanations I would have to give her and my parents my practical mind always forced me to go the easy way, bray. Once I was inside though it was easy. I would hand over my big fat music notebook to the teacher who would look at her previous notes and write the next lesson(I dont remember the distinctions like varna,keerthana and all that). I did not know to read telugu and hence my song book is in Hindi. (I still have it with me). Then she would ask me to sing to her the previous day's lesson and I would oblige. She would make me sing the same thing over and over again with varied speed which I looked at as fun time. Sometimes there would even be a fast paced chorus. Like a DJ-mix. I never dared to look at the other pupils for fear of encountering aghast faces. The only friend I made was a Langa Dhavani clad tenth standard girl who never talked to me about music. For me, the most intriguing part of the music class was the harmonium. They say a singer uses the harmonium for Shruthi. I have never understood why given that her harmonium always made jarring loud noise. I hated it. I hated having to sing along with it with my teacher clapping out the Thala loudly. One couldnt make out which was worse. But I always wanted to play it just for the fun of it. I was always intrigued abt the flap which could generate such a hideous (according to me) sound. I got my chance one day when the teacher went to serve evening snacks to her son. I was the only pupil in the class and I worked up enough courage to go near the harmonium and just as I was about to fiddle with it my teacher's voice boomed out "what are you doing?". She always spoke to me in English. I was so taken aback that I did not even blabber a response but came and sat back in my seat scorching under her glare. That class we sang angrier than ever. In between all this was our visits to Bangalore where my uncle and aunt would make me sing! It was always Lambodhara and it was always sadly out of tune. To top it all I had to sing it right after a melodious rendition from my much accomplished cousing. I could only hang my head in shame even as my relatives clapped enthusiastically. From thenceforth music was my nemesis. (Please do not start psycho-analysing my personality) One day I learnt that we were to shift to Bangalore on a permanent basis. My joy knew no bounds only for one reason. I decided then and there to stop going to the music class. Never finding a reason to, I did not inform the teacher about my decision till one evening I heard the same booming voice calling my name from our gate. We lived on the first floor but the decibels were booming. When I went to the gate I was asked why I wasnt going to the class anymore. I remember shrugging and telling her about our move and therefore having no need to continue since it would get discontinued eventually anyway. Small me thought she might be understanding. In return I got one of the longest and loudest scolding of my entire life! The teacher spewed fire at me and I stood there going red with embarassment as the neighbours listened. She even finished off the tirade with a redundant "never come to my class again". That was the end of all pretensions about music for me and all the dreams of my parents. They could never again convince or force me to learn music ever again! (No you still are not allowed to judge me)

Nowadays I listen to the Morning Raaga version of "Mahaganapatim" and also whisperingly rendered Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma in front of people at our housewarming!

Child labour

When I turn around in my seat I see a construction site in the distance where around 40% of the workers look like children to me. Playful, adventurous and having fun. And I am not talking only about toddlers playing with mud and stones in the scorching sun but also about the teenagers who are lugging around heavy stones,displacing mud, watering the newly built cement walls while carrying heavy pails of water.
Its a shame. This area is supposed to be the information industry belt. And people who work here are supposedly well educated. Yet when it comes to construction and hard labour matters they seem to turn the other way as these young adults strive hard. Even though it is against the law in India.
But if you see the other side of this coin, these kids are striving to improve their living by sacrificing their childhood and education. They are constantly trying to help run their household. There is nothing that will force them to go attend schools while their parents scrape a livelihood all day. Not even free food works in most of the blue plastic cover wrapped on-the-move communities. Some of them have circumstance beyond their control due to which they have to work in order to be able to eat. Some live alone. Who will look after them if they dont? Wouldnt they resort to begging? Or get lured into doing acts against society which dint care about them in the first place?
Five years back I sent a mail of objection to the CFO of my previous company regarding one of the cleaning staff being a kid who definitely did not look 18. Although he assured me that the administrative staff check the age records before hiring he did start another check. I felt good about my community spirit till the evening when I started despairing for the kid's family. What if he was the only breadwinner for them? I felt extremely miserable and guilty for the next few days. The next week however I ran into the kid again near the stairs and I was so happy to see him back that I gave him a huge smile to his astonishment. He might never know that I could have been the villain in his life. But I still dont know whether he used a fake age record.
Should we allow the children to choose to work while we think that they should be going to school?


Indian on a Chinese tour bus around America - 3B

T's Humour for the special occasion

Day 2
Las Vegas here we come! The day started with a lot of wishes and hugs to each other and from all our family for T and me. It was our second wedding anniversary. We made the day special by wearing new clothes. My brother made it even more special by gifting us a huuuge bar of chocolate. T is weird but I loove chocolate! We all then boarded a bus which would take us to Las vegas and Grand Canyon over the next three days. We made friends with a middle-aged couple from Zurich, I fondly refer to the husband as Asterix because of his moustache. Before reaching Vegas by around 5 PM we made a stopover for lunch and thats when I brought out my little surprise, a cake that I had baked for the occasion. T and me cut it rather shyly I must say! We reached the city of neon lights before they got switched on. It isnt as impressive in day light as it is by night. No bling! I expected to see mafia dons in long coats and hats with their entourage carrying suitcases of money. But I was a tad disappointed. All I saw was hollow faces all around me. Some who had lost money, some who were plain drunk. Once inside a casino though one is totally cut off from the outside world, the scent of money and smells of alcohol and ciggies of the casino overpower you.The first thing we saw was the MGM Grand where we just in time to see the Lion Show. Two slobby sleepy lions (they do sleep for around 18 hrs a day) were being prodded by a couple of trainers to show some interest in entertaining the folks who were standing all around the thick glass enclosure.
The trainers hand fed them and finally one of the lions got interested in playing "catch the ball" with the trainer. It was awesome to watch the burly creature cuddling up to the trainer or going after the ball like a little kitten! At one time he stood tall, on two legs, on our side of the glass to retrieve the ball and I can swear he must have been 12 feet high! The teeth could easily have been half a foot long!
We went to the hotel from there and after freshening up we ventured out into the sin city by night. The whole strip and downtown is well connected by buses which come by every five minutes, so getting around is no problem. You could do casino hopping by hopping in and out of the bus and not dispense with any of that precious energy you need at the roulette table. But we decided to walk.
Venetian too my breath away. The whole Venice atmosphere is recreated inside with houses on water and front and Gondolas rowing along with romantic couples in them. But the couples themselves look embarassed because there are a whole lot of people taking their photos just to get the Gondola (no romatic seclusion this)! The whole evening sky is done with a canopy and lights.
Some of the higher ceiling is painted and gilded in gold coveringand one gets the feeling of being in the Sistine Chapel. It never gets dark in there! We loitered through the Grand Canal Shoppes but did not blow away our money on the collectible items. We also got to peek at the entrance of the Tao Lounge, one most exclusive in the world.
We walked along the Mirage and Caesar's Palace which abounded with a look alike Fontana de Trevi and Colloseum.
We entered the Bellagio and the opulence of the place hit us immediately. I wondered how much the interior decorators make in this casino and how insecure their jobs might be. We walked along a glass lotus leaf roof towards a huge hall which was adorned with the theme of Autumn!
Everything orange and green and red. The only complaint I had was of low light. It made taking photos extremely difficult. I think thats the idea, dont capture moments and flood the web, everyone should come and see for themselves.
On the way to see the famous dancing fountain of Bellagio we decided to try our luck at gambling on our anniversary. There is something about a casino that gives me an adrenaline rush, as though I know I might regret this later but I cannot stop myself from doing it. Excitement! We headed to a roulette table and began. First round, we won. Second, we lost. Third, we lost again. Our whole family was gathered around the table since we were the only ones playing at that table. You cannot imagine how morally difficult it is to gamble with your parents looking on. Never to be tried again! We pulled out after the third round and I consoled myself that we had atleast won the first round. The magnificent dancing fountains made me forget my despair. Astounding harmony of water and music. In sync. It was beaiutiful. I am falling short of words to describe it. We have something similar at the Brindavan Gardens in Mysore, Karnataka with colours giving it a more glorious feel along with dance and music. By this time we were all hungry and tired and decided to call it a day. It was an anniversary we will always cherish!

Day 3
We saw the Vegas strip again the next night. This time we headed to the Paris casino first. The outside is adorned with the Eiffel Tower and the inside was similar to Venetian but a little jazzier and not so classy I thought.
The reason could be that the casino was also right there under the lit canopy in the Paris whereas it was separated at the Venetian.
We went past the Excalibur which looks more like Disney Land. I wonder what was behind the name.
We entered the Luxor which has an Egyptian theme but there was nothing much to gape at apart from stiff bob-cut soldiers and good looking ladies in stone. There are very nice murals just like you would find in their palaces or pyramids maybe.
We got back to the hotel and T and me made a secret pact of going to the hotel Casino and trying our luck again. But as luck would have it, we did not have the inclination nor the charm to make us millionaires and we gave up.
I had blogged a year back about wanting to see vegas. I have fulfilled one dream in my life. Like so many others :)

Indian on a Chinese bus tour around America - 3A

This post is long due. Infact its a month overdue. I have been putting off writing about it for various reasons of laziness. Today in a burst of enthusiasm defying the rainy day greys I decided to finally bring our third tour to life. The packet of Lays Lightly Salted is also providing enough food for thought (ouch...cliched).

We love money especially the kind which converts to 38 of our country's. We do not like blowing it away on extravagance but we reckoned that this could be a once in a lifetime chance to just eat the cake with the whole family (T's parents and mine along with my brother) and not bother about the piggy bank.We upped and went on a 6 day tour headed towards western Amerikya, that haloed tourist attraction area.

Day 1

We all flew down to la la land Los Angeles from whence our bus tour would commence! Poetry...wah.

The first day was all about getting people together and since we reached in the afternoon (thanks to flying back in time), we had a whole afternoon and evening at our disposal. Unfortunately the hotel we were in was close to nowhere and we were holed up in the room without a car at our disposal. But fortunately there was one family friend who we were all eager to meet, since vice versa was true he came and took us all to explore the beach front of LA.

We went to the Venice beach as the sun was setting. It was a sight to behold the orange ball of fire on the fiery cold water. The Pacific Ocean was peaceful alright but it was freezing co-oh-ld.Two mins barefeet in the water and I got solid cramps.
We walked near the water's edge for some time and then went to see the Main Street in the town. It had a very European feel to it with the no vehicle cobbled street lined with trees strung with serial lights and a concert happening under a canopy right in the middle of it. Somehow the street dint look like it belonged to the very american LA.
The next stop was our friend's house which was very neatly kept surprising because it was inhabited by bachelors. Nice guys! We also felt rather proud to see the Indian tricolour hung on the wall, even if the reason was some Cricket World Cup. The next stop before getting back to the hotel was dinner. When Indians meet other Indians where do you think they would go to eat? At an Indian restaurant ofcourse! We went to Annapurna where we feasted on delicious food and downed it with Masala Chai. By the time we returned to our hotel room my parents and brother had arrived and had already gone to bed. After bidding them good night we retired, with bounding excitement for the next day. It would be T's and my second anniversary!


Festival of Lights - Light Stove, Camera On, Action!

I am noticing that these days a lot of google ads about self defense and spyware software are appearing on my blog, when I have never talked about anything apart from stabbing myself and I havent even mentioned about watching online dvd rip movies! Google ads has strange ways. Spooky more like it. It seems to be putting away in memory what all I do in virtual and real world!
Now that I got it out of my system (I have a pretty big fear of the spook), I can tell you about celebrating Diwali this year. You know how Diwali is all about spending someone else's money on flashy clothes, flashier crackers and flabbygetter sweets? Well this year was the same for me....except homespun money got replaced with greenbacks and all the crackers we heard was one hour of daam-doom-das-pus on GTalk. And I PREPARED the sin food for all 3 days. They turned out lip-smacking, if I may say so myself (and given that T doesnt blog so often I have to!). The preparation of sweets was all about excelling minimalistically. I did not have access to ghee, nuts (hyuck hyuck)..no really and all the dramatic spices we use back at home like kesar, cardamom blah blah, because of self imposed cost cutting. I have to blow my own trumpet again and tell you all what a fine job I did! Like an answer to my prayers, some of us Indian friends decided to throw a party to ourselves. Instead of burdening one hapless housewife we all decided to pitch and make it a potluck produce. Now I had the chance to show my cooking skills to "other" people, people who were not obliged or bullied into telling me what I make is good, ha ha ha! At the end of the day, after the gobble-click-lol-athon I stood vindicated that I am a budding good cook. Nobody is going to stand between me and my stove muhahahahaha. T....MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA



My food blog gets a new URL

For reasons of global understanding
(I had to explain to many people what Bendekayi = Lady's finger and Karimb = curry meant, that doesnt say a lot about clarity)
I have changed the url of my food blog to http://thebravecook.blogspot.com/
I request you to update all your favourite links and blogrolls to this new url (Yeah right, like I have that many visitors)
But Pleeeeze do update your links gang!