Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Son's Favorite Set

This is the Clipo set which my son, Jyotiraditya loves to make designs with. He loves this set. He makes shapes and designs using this set.

My Son's First Design

When my three year old son, Jyotiraditya, came running to me and showed me this design, I thought some one must have helped him make it. It didnt seem possible that he did it on his own. Truth is that this is his first design that he made on his own. Now, he makes more and more designs. I feel so good to see him come up with new ideas, color schemes and shapes because it gives me insights into his imagination and his world. Cut off as I am from his world most of the time, these designs tell me about a brilliant mind that is unraveling its might in little ways. God bless.

Puttaparthi: A Peek into My Favorite Place

This is the gateway to Prashanti Nilayam, the physical abode of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This is where I grew to believe that God doesnt exist in rock temples and crucifixes but within me. This is where I have seen Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews treat each other not with tolerance but with genuine love. This is the only place in the world where I experience love that is without artifice and selfishness.

Welcome to Prashanti Nilayam, my only home in this world, right in the heart of the Lord.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tasting Wine Without Wine Doggy Bags

Thanks to friends who said they loved reading my blog and especially about wines, I decided to write a little more about it. Another very good friend wanted me to talk about what wines I got 'drunk' on. Truth is, I grew up in Kerala, where the society is definitely conservative about drinking wine. You cant simply drink wine at a restaurant without inspiring raised eyebrows about the kind of 'character' you have. But, it was permissible for Christmas Eve and New Year's parties. It wasnt part of a daily dinner though I am sure I wouldnt have minded that one bit.

Later when I shifted to Delhi, I saw that it was no big deal to order wine for nearly every meal coz people accepted it as part of a good, evolving culture. Most restaurants and fine hotels always took care to recommend their wines. What stays in my memory was one or two occasions when my friends and I lunched at NUdelhi in GK2. We just stepped in and it felt like sheer bliss. There was such serenity that welcomed us that we knew we wanted to be there like forever. We ordered a delicious Spanish paella that was cooked in wine. I can tell you that just thinking about it makes me go all mushy coz it was so tasty. When we got back to work, I felt 'bubbly' for sure and was definitely in high spirits.

Another time, we ordered a Spanish paella at one of my haunts in Connaught Place, but it tasted so bland and was utterly dissappointing. I will never ever order a Spanish paella again at any other place other than NUdelhi in GK2.

I had noticed in many places in Delhi that guests are expected to finish the bottle of wine there and then. Or, they can buy one and take it home. In the US, the state of Iowa went ahead and endorsed a bill to let guests of a restaurant have their half-full bottle of wine packed properly to take back home. I think thats a good idea. More interestingly, these bags are sealed so that if cops stop you, they can check and find that the wine was well sealed and that whoever is driving isn't drunk but is just carrying that forward back home. There is also a perception that this would reduce growing incidents of drunken driving. And by the way, those of you who are wondering about that bag, trust me, it sounds apt. It's called wine doggy bags. Now, dont laugh!

Another saucy news for wine lovers, I read news that 12 of the world's most famous experts on wine set out to work. It's not like typical jobs where you can sit in front of your desktop and start your day's work and prioritize. Their job is one that I definitely envy. You must have guessed it. Yes, their job was to go out there and taste amazing varieties of champagne.

Herve Deschamps, a famed cellar master, featured about 20 remarkable vintages spanning years from 1846 to 2002. Isnt that a historic tasting experience? Better still, I feel wonderful and warm just thinking about
the Perrier-Jouet which dates back to 1825. It is the world's oldest vintage champagne which continues to be in existence. In fact, the Guiness Book of World Records has officially listed it.

When I read this news, my first thought was that: what must it feel like to taste that Perrier-Jouet, which is the world's oldest bottle. John Stimpfig, a British writer tasted it and said that it tasted like notes of caramel, mushroom and truffles. That sounds like heave to me. What about you? Can you just close your eyes and imagine it? Another person, Serena Sutcliffe, described it as having the flavor of figs and a slight 'nose of the sea' which defies understanding to me. Does it mean fishy? I dont really know. Sometimes experts on wines may not exactly be experts in words. You tell me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Purple Beauties



Just look at these purple beauties at Lodhi Road, New Delhi. It looks so eye catching. It looks awesome, riveting and much more. Once again, I clicked the snaps.

Green Crisp



I am not a plant or flower expert but i couldnt help taking this photograph. It looked beautiful, green and so crisp.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writing Style and Craft, Part 1

“Craft” is a word that reminds me of St Andrews School in Malawi, where we had art and craft classes. I can't remember enjoying those classes much because i had no eye for detail when it came to dealing with ribbons, glue, fabrics and things like that.

My sister used to be great at it. I still treasure the flowers she used to make from fabric. She used to knit, sew and make paintings with an artist's eye for things. It's amazing how different siblings can be. However, her love for crafts stayed at a hobby level.

Some one in my team asked me today what I would define 'writing style' as and to be honest, I felt stumped. I was reminded of the wise words of Dr. Joseph Schlessinger, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Yale's School of Medicine and the founder of three biotechnology companies in the US who stated "....... it's very hard to manage science when you have huge teams of people."

When it comes writing style, I know what it is but when i think about the hundreds of different writing styles that one comes across, the word “craft” is what immediately pops up. It is hard to define coz the writing style differs from person to person and subject to subject. If it is law that you are writing on, a specific technical style comes into play. If you are writing a novel, the boundaries are limitless. If you are writing a travel brochure, a creative but engaging style is what you need to focus on. At the same time, writing becomes priceless for the writer when it becomes craft.

"Craft" has a new meaning now because it is something I want to bring into my writing. We can't forget how lonely a writer's world is, though it is populated with thoughts about people, events and interesting scraps of conversations. Despite all of this, I truly believe a writer's job is very lonely.

In Maya Reynold's words( Source: http://mayareynoldswriter.blogspot.com/2009/03/self-doubt-and-writer.html), "We sit in front of a desk or table and pour our hearts into a manuscript. While I was writing that first novel, I didn't seek any feedback. But it wasn't so much self-doubt as it was shyness. I was embarrassed to share the fruits of my labor with anyone."

I think I can relate easily to this. When I sit down to write, there is so much i want to write about but the loneliness bogs me down and gets to me. Writing is never easy because it takes me hours to conceptualize and grasp why I want to write something and why that effort should translate into something enjoyable or meaningful for the reader. I work on honing techniques over and over again till I feel like I can't think another thought without feeling pain.

The famous writer Virginia Woolf talked about missing parties because she couldnt combine it with "keeping my imaginary people going.” Bingo! Now you know how lonely it can be, even for the really famous writers.

In Victoria magazine (January 2009, visit the source http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/2009/03/the-work-of-writing/#comment-634) Jan Karon says, “When I write, I dive headlong into the work as into a river, where I swim for my life, or, depending on the tenor of the story, float on my back, gazing at the clouds. I inhabit that river for five hours or two minutes, ten or thirty, whatever the day may yield. When there’s nothing more to say or conjure, I make my way to the shore, trying to separate fiction from fact, and get on with the business of living.”

I think this is very relevant because that is how intense the process of writing really is. I come about this topic today because nowadays I am dealing with so many queries from team members about writing and I consider myself a bit of an amateur writer even now. I look at an article and usually say to my team members, “Good work, please do it again.”

I think I do that because I know writing is a way of constantly evolving yourself. It can never reach an end. You have to go on trying to make it perfect and be grateful when it does turn perfect.

Over two decades, I am still struggling with my craft. People say they love to read what I write but I dont and that means I havent found my craft yet. But someday, i know i will.

Here are some links that are worth visiting for writers who are keen to work on their 'craft:'

1. http://robustwriting.com/how-to-write-error-free-a-10-point-checklist
2.http://robustwriting.com/the-1-rule-for-writing-with-style
3.http://robustwriting.com/how-to-write-more-creatively-by-acting-like-a-musician

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Are Indians stuck in a Victorian era?


I started working on a project that involves flower names and meanings. I found it really interesting to read that the language of flowers first developed in the Victorian era where people were pretty hesitant to express their feelings. I dont know if much of that has changed, at least in India, i think its still a Victorian era.

In India, not every one expresses their love through flowers. No body i know does that. Maybe i know the wrong people. Whatever, the thing is sending and gifting flowers is talked of but I havent seen that happening much around me. People prefer to gift each other candles or food items, things like that....reminds me of Taslima Nasreen's novel, French Lover, where a character says that Indians can think only about food because they had been a much starved population. But yes, food is the most important aspect of any social gathering in India, that much is for sure.

When I was a child, the Onam festival was something I looked forward to. Children had to collect flowers to make 'pookallams' or floral arrangements in a circle but it wasnt as easy as that. It was lots of fun coz you needed kilos of specific kinds of flowers to use for the pookallam. Things have changed now and everything is so readymade. In a way, I think it was my father who taught me to understand flowers. He loves describing flowers and their meanings. He loves to explain poems about nature and i've heard so much from him about flowers.

Nowadays, you can find information on the Internet but it wasnt like that when I was a kid. Your source of information was either your family, friends or the school library.

During Onam, collecting flowers was a wonderful feeling. The flowers we used were called thumba poov(Lucas Aspera), Mookuti (little tree plant), and the different varieties of the Chemparathy (Chinese shoe flower). Oh, how can i forget the crimson colored, frail thread line Chethi poo or Ixora. I've spent ages plucking these flowers. They are so tender, delicate and easy to pluck. They resemble crimson threads. I wish i had snapshots of these flowers to show you how it looks.

What I loved best was to collect the flowers, sit with my dad and make pookallams. Be it advertisements, songs, or festivals, flowers have an important place in Kerala. The funny thing is that no one grows flowers there but every one loves to wear flowers. A wedding, for instance, is where you can find women wearing lots of jasmine flowers in their hair. For festivals, everything is imported from Tamil Nadu.My son doesnt know anything about Onam. He doesnt get to pluck flowers or celebrate Onam. He is interested in butterflies, squirrels and rabbits more than flowers.

Those days are gone and I feel sad that work and city life make it impossible for me to recreate the same magic for my son....who knows, maybe i can do that for my grandkids....let me stay optimistic.

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India is my Country & my Pride