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Travel Diary.

A trip to remember

1. A long car journey after a long time. Was quite excited by it. Heavily armed myself with lots of music, a big fat book that had to be squeezed to fit into the handbag, water bottles, snacks and was the first one to jump into the car. Occupied the last seat by the window and rolled down the glass first thing to let the wind blow against my face. As I marvelling at the lovely feeling of the morning breeze wafting across me, everybody else settled down and we took off. There was this general scrutiny of how comfortable the car was, how the audio system was out of order, how the pushback didn’t push back enough, how the AC didn’t cool the car at all. But I was of course, oblivious to all this since I was too busy trying to pat my hair that was flying in all possible directions, back into order. Then there was this loud commotion and could see dad argue with the driver but I couldn’t be bothered, I had Alphonse screaming aaromale into my eardrums. I watched the entire fiasco like it was some deaf-mute news bulletin until I saw the driver pointing out at me and say something to dad. It took me a while to realise that dad had been asking him why the air conditioner did nothing to condition the air and the driver was retorting that it was because I had my window wide open. Ten pairs of eyes shot murderous looks while I hastily shut the window close. I was definitely thankful for one thing I realised there. Looks couldn’t really kill. For sure.

2. A few hours into the journey, I knew this one was going to be something beautiful and different. I had gone travelling into small towns and cities before but none offered me the kind of total bonding with nativity that this one did. Far away from the maddening traffic of the city crowds, far away from the still quietness and the occasional whirring of cars and trucks passing by on the suburban by-pass roads, the car snaked its way through narrow muddy roads that raised huge cloudy puffs of dust. Coconut sellers dotted the roads at regular intervals, selling freshly plucked tender coconut from the nearby groves. Long stretches of peaceful bumpy ride interspersed with colours from a local market that we crossed. Rows of vendors sat hawking roasted cashew nuts mixed with spices and fresh plump jackfruit. Fruity odour assailed the nostrils giving a pleasant heady high. Fresh green cucumbers and guava fruits lay piled on low stools on either side of the narrow lanes. Good music pouring into the ears, nature soothing the eyes, munching on cashews and cucumbers, laughter and occasional leg-pulling, nothing short of absolute bliss.  

3. The visit to Thanjavur Peruvudaiyar Kovil was an unplanned treat. We were crossing Thanjavur and decided to visit the Periya Kovil on an impulse. It was my first time and it was love at first sight. What an imposing majestic structure! I felt like a speck standing in front of the main temple complex. Tried sitting, standing, rolling on the ground, etc to cover the Gopuram in whole for a picture, but still couldn’t do justice. The entire temple complex is a photographic delight. From one side, the Gopuram stands tall amidst a squeaky clean white sky speckled with blue like print on a toddler’s frock. From another side, it stands framed by a sky multihued with violent pinks and orange. From yet another view, it is all dull, sombre and mystic. It looked like the temple had a mind and a mood of its own. I could have sat for hours on those hard stone steps looking at the temple framed by the sky. It was truly a sight to behold. And yeah, the Nandi was darn cute too. Felt like hugging it tight and giving a peck on its shiny black granite face. Cho Chweeeeeeeeet! 

4. Stopped on the way at a family friend’s place for some refreshment. It was around five in the evening and it was already getting dark. It was an old, traditional home with huge wooden pillars, tiled roof and a lot of warm people. The women were frying golden onion bajjis in a huge kadai as we entered the house. “Kai kaal kazhuvitu vaanga. Light ah tiffin saapdalaam”, they said. ‘Light tiffin’ was the major understatement here. We were served rava kesari dripping ghee first, followed by the mouth watering bajjis, steaming hot idlis with vengaaya chutney and huge adais with sambhar. After polishing off the entire meal with some fragrant tea in dabaras, we couldn’t even get up to wash hands. The warmth and fondness that they showered on us was heart warming. Such amazing people make life worth living. Err, ok, the amazing food makes life worth living too.

5. The Velankanni Church seems to keep growing like a boy being fed on ten glasses of Complan each day. Each time you see it, it has more buildings, an additional prayer hall here, a memorial building there and so on. Loved watching all the religious pray vociferously, kids bawling out while having their heads tonsured and foreign tourists thronging the knick-knack shops for souvenirs and holy oil. Was amazed to see the diverse kind of people who were there. Some with ash smeared on their foreheads, some with burkhas covering their heads, all kneeling down in silent prayer to the One they believe. It was a classic example of God transcending religion. Now if only more people realised this.

Take-aways: Tons of photographs to cherish, a huge jack fruit, packets of roasted  cashews, warm memories, body pain.

Regrets: Not having time to visit the Nagoor Dargah and Thanjavur Palace. But, enough reason to make another trip along the same roads, right?

P.S. It’s meltingmasks’ first birthday today! This blog is a year old and I’ve grown along with it. This birthday song is to you meltingmasks. I remember singing this version from way back in school. I even sing it now for a few best buddies birthdays. So here goes baby! This one’s for us.

Happy Burthdae to youuuuuuuu

You were born in the zooooooo

With the monkeys and donkeyssss(!!!)

And you stink like a pig!!!

On a more serious note, I love you meltingmasks. You’ve helped me cope up, vent frustration, be overjoyed, be distraught. You’ve helped me make friends and learn along the way. Hope we go a long way together. To all of you who’ve been here, thank you. To those who haven’t, I’m sure you will 🙂

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“எத்தன தடவதான் மா சொல்லுவ?? ஒரு லிட்டர் பால், அரை கிலோ ரவை, ரின் சோப்பு, புரு காபி. வாங்கிட்டு வரேன் நீ phoneஅ வை.” கட் செய்துவிட்டு கடைக்குள் நுழைந்தேன். ஒரு விஷயத்தை குறைந்தபட்சம் பத்து முறையாவது ஞாபகப்படுதவில்லை என்றால் அம்மாவுக்கு நிம்மதியாக இருக்காது. முன்பிருந்த அண்ணாச்சி கடைகள் ரொம்ப ஈஸி. துண்டு சீட்டில் எழுதிக்கொடுத்தால் போதும். கடைப்பையன் ஓடி ஆடி எல்லா சாமானையும் எடுத்து வந்து பில்லை போட்டு கையில் கொடுத்துவிடுவான். கடைக்கு முன்னால் கலர் கலராக தோரணம் போல தொங்கும் கவர்களையும் பாக்கெட்களையும் மோட்டை பார்த்துக்கொண்டு நின்றால் போதும். இந்த சூப்பர் மார்க்கெட் கான்செப்ட் எனக்கு பிடிக்கவே இல்லை. அலைந்து திரிந்து வாங்கி பில் போடுவதற்கு specialஆ சாப்பிட்டு விட்டு வர வேண்டும் போல. வாசலில் இருந்த ஒரு கூடையை எடுத்து கொண்டு ரவையை தேடி அலைய புறப்பட்டபோது தான் அவளைப்பார்த்தேன். 

ஒரு நிமிடம் எதுவுமே புரியவில்லை. Mind blank ஆகிப்போனது.அவள்தானா அல்லது எப்போதும்போல வேறு யாரையாவது பார்த்து அவள் என்று நினைத்துவிட்டேனா? அதே சாய்ந்த நடை. அவளைப்போலவே யாருக்கும் பணியாத சுருள்முடி. கருநீல நிற சுடிதாரில் அவளேதான். கூடையோடு திரும்பியவள் என்னை பார்த்து வேறு விட்டாள்.

“ரவிவிவிவி!!!! What a surprise! எதிர்பார்க்கவே இல்ல!! எவ்ளோ நாள் ஆச்சு மீட் பண்ணி… 4 years or more?? நான் திருப்பி சென்னை வந்து மூணு மாசம் ஆச்சு. ஒன்ன விசாரிச்சேன். London போயிருகேன்னு சொன்னாங்க. எப்போ வந்த?? என்கிட்ட சொல்லாம கல்யாணம் கூட பண்ணிகிட்டனு மட்டும் சொன்ன.. கொன்னுடுவேன்…” பொறிந்து தள்ளினாள். பெரிய புன்னகையுடன் அவள் பேசியதை கேட்டுவிட்டு சொன்னேன், “நீ கொஞ்சம் கூட மாறவே இல்ல.” “எதுக்கு மாறணும்? என்ன மாறணும்? இரு bill  பண்ணிட்டு வரேன். ரொம்ப நாள் கழிச்சு மாட்டி இருக்க என்கிட்ட. சீக்ரத்ல எஸ்கேப் ஆக முடியாது.” அவசர அவசரமாக நானும் வாங்க வேண்டியதை வாங்கி விட்டு வெளியே வந்தேன். “Coffee??” “என்ன வெளையாடரியா? Treat வேணும் எனக்கு. கல்யாண Treat” பெரிதாக சத்தமாக சிரித்தாள். “எனக்கு கல்யாணம் ஆகி நாலு வருஷமாச்சு. கல்யாணத்துக்கும் வராம இருந்துட்டு இப்போ Treat கேக்ற. ஹ்ம்ம்.. ஒனக்கு இல்லாத Treat ஆ ரவி. அசோக் out of station. அவன் திரும்பி வந்ததும் ரெண்டு பேருமா சேந்து Treat வேக்றோம் ஓகே வா? Let’s catch up over some coffee now” 

அவளை நான் முதலில் பார்த்தது மண்டையை கொளுத்துகின்ற உச்சி வெயில் அடித்துக்கொண்டிருந்த ஒரு மத்தியான போழுதில்தான். பரிட்சை முடிந்து பத்து நாட்கள் நிம்மதியாக அம்மா கையால் நல்ல சோறு சாப்பிட ஊருக்கு கிளம்பி, ஹாஸ்டல் வெளியே இருந்த பஸ் ஸ்டாப்பில் நின்றுகொண்டிருந்த அந்த நாள் இன்னும் ஞாபகம் இருக்கிறது. கையில் ஒரு பெரிய பையுடன் கண்களை சுருக்கி பஸ் வராத அந்த ரோட்டை நொடிக்கொருதடவை எட்டி எட்டி பார்த்துக்கொண்டிருந்தவளை ஓரக்கண்ணால் நோட்டம் விட்டேன். First year ஒ?? காலேஜ் ஆரம்பித்து ஒரு வாரத்திலேயே First year பெண்கள் அனைவருக்கும் rating கொடுத்து மார்க் போட்டாயிற்றே. அப்பொழுது கூட இவளை பார்த்ததாக ஞாபகம் இல்லை. அப்படி பார்த்தே ஆகவேண்டும் என்ற அளவுக்கு அழகியும் ஒன்றும் இல்லை. சுமார்தான் என்று நினைத்துக்கொண்டே மறுபடியும் நோட்டம் விட திரும்பியபொழுது அவள் என்னையே பார்த்துக்கொண்டு நின்றிருந்தாள்.

“Excuse me, அடையார்க்கு டைரக்ட் பஸ் இருக்கா இங்கேர்ந்து?? நா First year. இப்போதான் மோதல் தடவை வீட்டுக்கு போறேன் தனியா… ”

இப்படிதான் ஆரம்பித்தது அவளுடன் பழக்கம். கொஞ்சம் பாட்டு பாடு, school rhymes சொல்லு என்று எனக்குத்தெரிந்த ragging செய்து விட்டு அவளை வீட்டுக்கு பக்கத்தில் இருந்த பஸ் ஸ்டாப் வரைக்கும் போய் இறக்கிவிட்டுவிட்டுத்தான் அன்று வீட்டுக்கே போனேன். இப்போது நினைத்துப்பார்த்தால் என்னை கொஞ்சம் கேவலமாகவே நினைத்திருப்பாளோ என்று தோன்றியது. லீவ் முடிந்து வந்ததும் முதல் வேலையாக அவள் பயோடேட்டாவை அலசி ஆராய்ந்தேன். பின்பு லைப்ரரி, கான்டீன், பஸ் ஸ்டாப் என்று சில பல எதிர்பாராத சந்திப்புகளை எதிர்பார்த்தே உண்டாக்கினேன். அப்படி ஒரு நாள் காம்பஸ் உள்ளே இருந்த கடையில் கும்பலாக உட்கார்ந்து கூல் டிரிங்க்ஸ் குடித்துகொண்டிருந்த போது தனியாக ஏதோ நோட்டு வாங்க வந்தாள். இன்னிக்கு இவள அழ வெக்காம விடமாட்டேன் மச்சி என்று நண்பர்களிடம் பெருமை அடித்துக்கொண்டே அவளை அழைத்தேன்.

“Hi Senior!” பளிச்சென்று சிரித்தாள்.

“என்னது hi ஆ? இதுதான் நீ சீனியர்க்கு குடுக்ற மரியாதையா? ஒழுங்கா ரெண்டு கையையும் சேர்த்து வணக்கம் சொல்லு. தமிழ் பொண்ணு தான நீ?? என்ன பத்தி ஒனக்கு தெரியாது..  ” வாய்க்கு வந்து வீண் சவுடாலை எல்லாம் உளறிக்கொட்டினேன். இரண்டு நொடி என்னை உற்றுபார்த்தவள் கண்களில் பெர்மநென்ட் ஆக குடியிருக்கும் அந்த குறும்பு திரும்பியது.

“ஏன் தெரியாது உங்களபத்தி. நல்லா தெரியுமே. நெறைய கேள்விபட்டிருக்கேன். ”

கூடியிருந்த நண்பர் கும்பல் ஓ போட்டு தொண்டைகளை கனைத்தது.

“என்ன? என்ன கேள்விப்பட்ட??”

நேராக என் கண்களைப்பார்த்து சொன்னாள், “நீங்க பெரிய பொறுக்கியாமே.. காலேஜ்ல ஒரு பொண்ணு விடாம எல்லார் கூடையும் flirt பண்ணுவீங்களாம். உங்ககிட்ட பேசறதுக்கே பொண்ணுங்களாம் பயப்படுவாங்களாம்.. இப்டி இன்னும் நெறைய. இதெல்லாம் உண்மையா சீனியர்??” எங்கள் கூட்டமே கப்சிப் ஆனது. “எனக்கு டைம் ஆச்சு சீனியர். தாத்தா ஹாஸ்டல் கேட்டை பூட்டிடுவாரு. See you all some other time. வணக்கம் சீனியர்.” கை கூப்பி சொல்லிவிட்டு திரும்பிப்பார்க்காமல் நடந்தாள். எப்போது காதல் வந்தது உனக்கு என்று கேட்டால் சொல்லத்திணறுவார்கள் என்று கேள்விப்பட்டிருக்கிறேன். ஆனால் எனக்கு துளிகூட சந்தேகமில்லாமல் தெரியும். அவள் வணக்கம் சொல்லிவிட்டு நடந்த அந்த ஒரு நொடியில்தான் அவள் மீது எனக்கு பித்து பிடித்தது.

காதலிக்க ஆரம்பித்துவிட்டால் உலகமே அழகாகத் தெரியும், கவிதை கூரையைப் பிய்த்துக்கொண்டு கொட்டும், பூக்கள் கொஞ்சம் அதிகமாகவே வாசம் வீசும் என்றெல்லாம் பிதற்றுவது பைத்தியக்காரத்தனம்தான். இப்போது நானும் ஒரு பைத்தியக்காரன் ஆனேன். பெண்களுடன் தினமும் சகஜமாக பேசிப்பழகினாலும் இது என்னவோ வித்தியாசமாக இருந்தது. அவளுடன் பேசுவது ஒரு பக்கம் சந்தோஷமாகவும் இன்னொரு பக்கம் பதட்டமாகவும் இருந்தது. வயதிற்கே உரிய இனக்கவர்ச்சிக்கும் மேலாக, அவளுடன் கழித்த பொழுதுகள், தெளிந்த சலசலக்கும் நீரோடை ஒன்றில் காலை நனைத்து விளையாடும் இனிமையையும் மன நிம்மதியையும் தந்தன. அவளைப் பார்க்கும்போதெல்லாம் அந்த நொடியே அம்மாவிடம் அழைத்துப்போய் , எப்போ பாத்தாலும் என் selectionஅ கொற சொல்லிட்டே இருப்பியே, இப்போ சொல்லு பாப்போம் என்று நெஞ்சை நிமிர்த்தி சொல்ல வேண்டும் போல் இருந்தது. ஆனால் அவளோ அவள் classmate சிவாவுடன் சிரித்து பெசுவதைப்போலவும், சங்கர் காலை வாரி கிண்டல்  அடிப்பதைப் போலவும் தான் என்னிடமும் பேசினாள் பழகினாள் சிரித்தாள் முறைத்தாள். I was nobody special to her. Or to put it better, everybody was as special to her as me. அது எனக்கு நன்றாக புரிந்தது. அதனாலேயே அவளிடம் கொண்டிருந்த நட்பு என்ற அந்த வட்டத்தை தைரியமாக தாண்டி உள்ளே சென்று என் காதலைச்சொல்லவோ, அந்த வட்டத்தை உடைத்து வெளியே வந்து விலகிச் செல்லவோ என்னால் முடியவில்லை. சொல்வதற்கு நான் சுத்தமாக முயற்சியே  செய்யாமலோன்றும் இல்லை. ஜாடை மாடையாக நீதான் எனக்கு எல்லாம், ஒருநாள் கூட உன்கிட்ட பேசாம இப்போலாம் இருக்கவே முடியறதில்ல, பாக்கலனா என்னவோ போல இருக்கு என்றெல்லாம் சொல்ல தான் செய்தேன். பலமாக சிரித்துவிட்டு கூலாக சொன்னாள், “என் friends எல்லார்க்குமே அப்டி தான். I become indispensable after a point, you know?” நிஜமாகவே இவள் இவ்வளவு மக்கா இல்லை புரியாததுபோல் நடிக்கிறாளா என்று பல நாள் யோசித்திருக்கிறேன். ஆனால் அவள் எனக்கு புரிய புரிய அவள் மனமும் புரிய தொடங்கியது. அவளுக்கு உண்மையாகவே நட்பு, நண்பர்கள் என்பதைத்தாண்டி யோசிக்கவேத் தெரியாமல்தான் இருந்தது. அவள் சிந்தனைகளை நட்பு என்ற ஒரே கடிவாளத்தைப் போட்டு காலம் முழுக்க ஒட்டிகொன்டிருந்தாள். அதைத்தாண்டி காதல் என்ற ஒன்று அவளுக்கு இன்னும் பரிச்சயப்படாமலே இருந்தது. அவள் பாராட்டிய நட்பின் தூய்மையையும், ஆழத்தையும் பக்கத்தில் இருந்து பார்த்து ரசித்து அனுபவிக்கும் போது, அதன் பயங்கர அழகிற்கு முன் என் காதல் கூட எனக்கு கொஞ்சம் கொச்சையாகவே தெரிந்தது. இருந்தாலும் செக்கு மாடு போல அவளைச் சுற்றியே மனம் அலைந்துகொண்டிருந்தது. என்றாவது ஒருநாள் அவளாகவே புரிந்து கொள்வாள் என்ற, நிறைவேறாது என்று எனக்கே தெரிந்த, நப்பாசையில் நாட்கள் நகர்ந்துகொண்டே இருந்தன. 

எதிர்பாராமல் நிகழும் பயங்கரங்களுக்குதான் வலி அதிகம். அவள் கல்யாண பத்திரிக்கையை நீட்டும் போது மனம் ஏற்கனவே மரத்துப்போய் இருந்தது. காதல் தெரியாதாம் ஆனால் கல்யாணம் மட்டும் கரெக்டா பண்ணிக்க தெரியுமாம் என்று அவள் மீது கோபம் வந்தது. கல்யாணத்துக்கு போகவில்லை. லீவ் போட்டு வீட்டில் ஒரு வாரம் அடைந்து கிடந்தேன். Gtalk, Yahooவில் அவள் sign in செய்தால் உடனே offline போனேன். போன் செய்தால் எடுக்கவில்லை. அவளைத் தண்டிப்பதாக நினைத்துக்கொண்டு என்னையே தண்டிதுக்கொண்டிருந்தேன். நாட்கள் செல்ல செல்ல காதல் என்பதை சற்று தொலைவில் வைத்து தெளிவாக யோசித்த போதுதான் புரிந்தது. I missed being her friend more than anything else. அவளை அறிந்த அந்த நாட்களில் அவள் காட்டிய பரிவு, அன்பு, பேதமற்ற பாசம் அனைத்தையும் நானாகவே வலிய சென்று தொலைத்து விட்டேனென்று தோன்றியது. தொடர்பு கொள்ள முயற்சித்தேன். அவள் அதற்குள் பறந்துவிட்டாள் வெளிநாட்டிற்கு. நான்கு வருடங்களுக்குப் பிறகு இதோ இப்பொழுது இந்த காபி ஷாப்-இல்.

நிறைய நேரம் பேசிக்கொண்டிருந்தோம். அவள் கணவர் நலம் விசாரித்தேன். அம்மா பற்றி கேட்டாள். குழந்தை பெயர் அனன்யா. சதா cartoon networkதானாம். வீட்டுக்கு கண்டிப்பாக வர வேண்டும் என்றாள். Address குறித்துக்கொண்டேன். Phone number, mail id யும். “Let’s keep in touch Ravi. ஒனக்கு எப்டினு தெரியல. ஆனா எனக்கு நீ always special. One of my bestest friends”

அவள் கண்களை நேராக பார்த்து தெளிவாக சொன்னேன். “Of course. Always.”

I Do Not…

I Do Not “wanna make fraaandsip with you”

I Do Not want free love alerts every day.

I Do Not want to ‘hurry!!!’ to see Namitha in a green top.

I Do Not want to save my tax money. I wish to pay as much tax as possible and help alleviate the poor from their poverty and make sure they get their share of  free colour tv sets, cable connection, one rupee rice and ten rupees pulses. So Bajaj Alliance, Tata Sunlife Insurance, LIC and everybody else, LEAVE ME ALONE.

I Do Not wanted to be reminded 20 times every day of  all those lovely lovely latest new hot songs that I could have set as my caller tune instead of the old Ilayaraaja number that I’m sticking to. Yes, I Do realize that ‘Yen uchchi mandaila surrrrrr’ is a better choice. ‘Puli urumudhu’ still better. I understand I’m outdated. Vodafone, I beg you to kindly bear with me and stop calling me at 7 in the morning and 10 in the night to remind me to change my caller tune. STOP.

While on the topic, I’m going to sue to Vodafone, for breach of privacy. I know your dirty little secret. You have 2 armed detectives follow me and note all my moves 24*7. How else would you know all those intimate details about who the love of my life is, the alphabet with which his name starts, who my best friend is, which business I would be successful in, what my lucky colour is, how I would die, etc etc. And to top it all, you are blackmailing me with all that priceless information and want me to send messages to you, paying 3 bucks for each of those and find out from YOU all the juicy tidbits of MY life. The guts! And just while I was typing out this post my mobile beeped and again, a message from Vodafone.

Easy to get Rs.15 lacs prize. Answer simple questions, win exciting prizes. Q. Tamil Nadu’s classical dance. (X) Bharatnatyam (Y) Salsa. Sms X or Y to 58888. Rs.3/sms

Keep those millions ready. I am definitely sueing.

I Do Not want to know how you hogged like a pig and ended up with dysentery. Or how your wife nags you to death every evening. Or how your punnaaku vyaabaaram is not doing too well. Or why Rinku forged your signature on his report card. On the phone? Talk to the person on the other side of the line. Not to the whole world. Spare us the morbid details.

There are a million other I Do Not’s but listing them down like this pisses me as much as experiencing them. So I’ll exert supreme self control and cut it out. Holy crap! Another message from Vodafone. No kidding!!!

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என்ன கொலகாரியா மாத்தாம விடமாட்டாங்க போல இருக்கே!!

1)    Rahul, Raj, Karan and Arjun. The names, I mean.

2)    Switzerland pastures and Interlaken masqueraded as the wheat fields of Punjabi heartlands. Historic building in London passed off as Mumbai boarding schools.

3)    Aaja soniye/Naach kudiye/Tu hi mera bale bale kind of ‘rustic’ songs.

4)    Pati, patni aur woh stories. We’ve had enough of them to last a lifetime I think. Also those in which husband and wife go together in search of his/her ex-lover like it’s some kind of holy pilgrimage.

5)    Himesh Reshammiya acting, err.. appearing onscreen. I would add singing as well but heard he does have a following, so who am I to deny their pleasure?

6)    Wannabe Shahrukh Khans/Wannabe Hrithik Roshans.

7)    Titles with more than three words in them. No ‘Humara dil aap ke paas hain’ , ‘Hum tumhare hain sanam’ and ‘Aa ab laut chalein’ please. And no la-la-la title songs for these movies in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice either. Do these movies run at least for as long as it takes to spell out the titles?

8)    Children bringing estranged family/divorced husband-wives/boyfriends-girlfriends-best friends/long lost pets back together. Actually children should just do what they do in real life. Eat, sleep, go to school, play, be pests.

9)    Priceless title taglines like ‘some love stories have blood on them’, ‘it’s all about loving your parents’, ‘the real hero’, etc.

10) Men acting gay unless they’re actually gay (atleast as per the script).

11) Ten stories/sub plots/sub-sub-plots in one movie.

12) Any movie on Devdas. Why can’t we just leave the poor fellow alone?

13) Bare bodied men. Yes, you too Mr. Salman Khan. Button up now. You started something that just doesn’t seem to end now.

14) Movies on 9/11 and muslim terrorists. At this rate, there will be more muslim terrorist hindi movies than muslim terrorists themselves in the world.

15) Vidya Balan in anything but a saree.

16) Size zero. Some more weight loss and Kareena Kapoor might vanish into thin air.

17) More than 4 songs in a movie. Are you listening Mr. Gowarikar?

18) Priyadarshan comedies. Bhansali tragedies. Bachchaooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!

19) Twin bother sagas. One good, one bad. Both love/hate each other. Separated, family song, tattoo… No, please. PLEASE.

20) Kiron Kher playing Punjabi mother. Can we audition somebody else for the role atleast now? The poor woman has played it approximately 157 times.

21) Sequels to Krish, Dhoom and most importantly, BLUE. There is a limit to what the audience can bear. Kindly consider.

22) There should be some law against producer fathers launching their pampered sons. Especially horrible ones in horrendous movies like Love Story 2050, Jimmy,etc.

23) Kangana Ranaut from playing psycho/drug addict/evil spirit roles. Amitabh Bachchan from playing 12 year olds. Aishwarya Rai from playing sweet-sexy-sixteen-something. Aamir Khan from playing college student. Mimoh Chakraborthy and Jackie Bhagnani from playing ANYTHING at all.

24) Garbage-worthy copies of well made English films. They ruin the reputation of the originals themselves.

25) Last but not the least, RAKHI SAWANT. Not just from films but from television, newspapers and any public domain. Amen.

1) Red pant and yellow shirt. Blue pant and yellow shirt. Yellow shirt with anything. Period.

2) Hero introduction song featuring sickles/painted potbellies/pierced navels of out-of-work heroines/directors cum dance masters/hero’s son.

3) Switzerland/Chiffon sarees.

4) Directors in cameos like paalkaaran, pichakaaran, velaikaaran, car driver, etc.

5) Lyrics like sexy-baby-shake-your-body in item songs. Make that any wannabe rap lyrics in item songs. Make that any rap lyrics in any song. Thank you.

6) Heroines falling down from scooter/ladder/staircase/perfectly non-slippery floor and hero falling on top of her.

7) Transgenders doing seductive moves or the usual kuthadi-kuthadi-sailaka in a circle.

8 ) One blow. Ten people. Four directions. Flying.

9) Heroine slapping hero. Hero slapping heroine. Love coming. Duet singing.

10) 30+ years old heroes as college students. 40+ years old comedians as their friends.

11) Titles like Sivakasi, Thirupaachi, Thiruthani, Thiruvannaamalai, Koyambedu, Vadapalani. You get the drift right?

12) Punch dialogues. (Exception: Superstar)

13) Shriya Saran or any other 18 plus, opposite Rajni, Kamal, Sarath, Gabtun or any other 50 plus.

14) Jyothika style 100-expressions-per-minute = acting.

15) Ravi Krishna style block-of-wood = acting. Wait, I don’t want to see Ravi Krishna itself on screen hereafter. Please. *Shudders on recollecting his earlier films*

16) Amma/appa/akka/thangachi/maama/machan/purushan/pondaati/nanban sentiment songs. Phew!

17) Amman movies.

18)  ‘Pei/aavi inside small child’s body’ movies.

19) Rain fights. And rain songs. What? The men are all going to boycott my blog? Ok, I give up. Only rain fights. Hmph.

20) Gabtun singing Amul baby kind of songs in phoren, chi, foreign locations. *Falls on the floor, begs and weeps*

21) Heroines/heroes suffering from cancer/brain tumor.

22) Naataamai scenes. Naataamai comedy scenes.

23) Kids talking beyond their age, like 50 year old thaatha paatis.

24) Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi movies remade in Thamizh. Oh, then we wouldn’t have any movies made at all here? Sigh, I take that back.

25) Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Any friend singing horrible melody song in jam packed railway stations, bus stands, football stadiums, etc to locate the other Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Any friend.

P.S. Please feel free to add your lets-please-get-rid-of-these-too items in the comments section. Nandri.Vanakkam.

Long after it was over, I was left wondering why the movie had been named Aayirathil Oruvan. Now I see only one way to justify the title. The director has named the movie for himself, after himself, for he is indeed one man in a thousand. A man who had the vision and the conviction to not play safe after blockbusters and churn out the same stories of love, action and sentiment film after film. A man who did not see the need to follow footsteps or copy stories but instead chose to spin his own yarn in his own style, however flawed it may be. A man who would not be bogged down by the expectations of a million people. A man who does not rise or fall below those monstrous expectations that break many, but instead, defies them. A man, who now I pray, has the strength to not be crushed by the brickbats thrown his way. Aayirathil Oruvan.

Let me get the point first. I’m not here to say that Aayirathil Oruvan is a masterpiece or brilliant unparalleled cinema. It is as flawed as we make them here. It has extreme gore as some have already pointed out. It has loopholes the size of the quicksand pits the lead trio once come across during the course of their journey in the movie. But inspite of all this, I say Aayirathil Oruvan deserves to be watched only because someone dared to make it.

*SPOILER AHEAD*

The story follows Anitha (Reema Sen), Lavanya(Andrea Jeremiah) and Sugumaran(Karthi) as they embark upon a journey to discover the lost Chola descendants in exile in a far away island off the shores of Vietnam. Lavanya’s father and many others who went before them were either found dead on the way or never heard of after. Their adventurous journey through water, forests and deserts to make it alive to the destination of their quest forms the first half of the movie and what happens after they make it, unravels in the second half.

*END OF SPOILER*

I haven’t been a fan of Selvaraghavan before and I’ve hated some of his earlier works. So it’s very surprising even to me when I see myself rooting for this so called misadventure of his. Though the basic premise of the film is built on an extremely silly and flawed premise, there were many moments of sheer brilliance in the movie. What I liked the most was that the adventure did not end up in a treasure hunt copied from Hollywood but delved straight into our past for inspiration and to carry the story forward. The bloody feuds between the erstwhile Pandyas and Cholas which result in the Cholan prince running away to safety along with the Pandyan deity in tow forms the crux of the story. Salvaraghavan shows how the exiled Cholan ancestry along with the king and royalty live a famishing life in the middle of nowhere waiting for word to go back to their motherland and boy, how! People, if you watch Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana on TV and think all exiled people live like the Rama and Sita in it, with perfectly manicured eyebrows and women in designer clothes then AO shows how exactly it would be in real life. The hunger and filth that the people live in, the fight like animals for a morsel of food, the cannibalistic tendencies and gory sacrifices, the yearning to go back to their own land of milk and honey, the unconditional love for their king despite the fact that he is reduced to live like an outcast, Selvaraghavan shows the pain and the pathos of living a banished life like it has never been seen before. The unconventional war sequence where one side fought with the most modern of the weapons and the other side with those from 800 years ago and the following atrocities committed were deeply subtexted. Isn’t this happening in Sri Lanka even today? Aren’t men, women and children forced into exile, robbed off the rights of their own land, raped, maimed, mutilated and buried? Isn’t it happening in Afghanistan? I heard sneers and giggles from the audience when they saw men protect themselves with spears and shields against machine guns and rifles but our brothers in some parts of the world do not even have those, my friends. They infact, have nothing but their integrity and respect as shields which are eventually ripped off too like it happens towards the end in the movie.

The performances were awesome to say the least. Karthi must be best new talent which Thamizh cinema has seen in ages. He makes acting look so effortless. If he goes the usual way with 5-songs-5-stunts routine (like I heard he already is) it’s a terrible and criminal waste of prodigious talent. There are hordes of others for that, Karthi. His character is estremely vulgar and sexist but as a woman I haven’t ever seen a coolie who would not try to brush against or make crass comments on a woman he passes, so it’s completely justified. The women here are no delicate dolls either and are potrayed as strong, dominating, arrogant and powerful. Reema was good too, especially in the second half , but in some of her close up shots the lip sync was mighty bad. Her lips say something and the voice says something else. It’s my opinion that a better actress, one with basic Thamizh knowledge, could have done more justice to the role than Reema. Andrea had nothing much to do but did what she had well. And what does one say of Mr. R Parthepan? He ‘lives’ (clichéd but yes) the role of the King in exile with such dignity and poise. His portrayal of the vulnerability and heart break  on seeing his people suffer, the happiness on knowing that they would finally be back to their homeland and the pain on discovering the treachery that means doom to his people, that man is simply mind blowing. G.V. Prakash does a better job on the BGM than I expected him to, though it’s interesting to think what Rahman or Raaja would have done given such a subject. Selva has made a lot of effort to replicate the dialect of Thamizh spoken from the Chola period. It actually backfires since the audience at large isn’t able to understand such chaste thamizh spoken and that too for more than an hour at a stretch. (One front bencher comment: Machan, Yenna da pesraanga? Sri lanka lerndhu thappichu vandhutaangala da??)

As for the negatives, the film is long by 30 minutes at the least. A large portion of the second half is used up to depict the way of life in exile, the miseries and their plight, but it does nothing to hold the interest of the audience or keep them riveted. The story that the present day descendants of the Pandyas who hold high positions such as a Union Minister, Military head and Archaeological head would bring down military troops and ammunition enough to bomb down a small country all for the sake of revenge on their enemies(Cholas) from their past and to recover their deity is laughable. This is where Selva slips big time. A better premise would have worked wonders. The CG is poor. We’ve seen much better CG in Jaganmohini movies with white tightsuited aavis. The climax scene, though it has a brilliant touch by the director, is a damp damp squib.  As for the complaint that the movie is not realistic, is illogical, unexplained and so on, hey, did you know that this genre is called fantasy/adventure?  It is MEANT to be unrealistic and illogical. For realism, go back to Pasanga and Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu please.

Till the interval, all I heard in the movie hall were positive comments. But at the end of the movie there was an uncomfortable silence and people walked out talking that Kutty (that dhanush movie in which he acts all cutie-pie again) would have been a better choice when compared to this. It pains me to think that if this movie fails, it means death to a hundred other creators who want to break the shackles and come up with new themes, ideas and genres. If this movie fails, it means that the usual thamizh cinema routine wins over a bold different attempt. And let’s be ready not to sulk and say people don’t attempt anything different anymore. Aayirathil Oruvan deserves to be talked about, hated, debated on or loved. All it doesn’t deserve is being ignored.

The night under the sky

I sat crouching on the bed in Shruthi’s room. I watched the blood supply being cut off and the pale whiteness spread onto the tightly clenched knuckles and fists. I could hear excited screams and hushed whispers outside. I closed my eyes shut as if it would block out the noise. My mind went too numb to even pray. What would I tell amma appa? Serves them right. Didn’t I plead and beg that I didn’t want to study this stupid course? Serves them right for being so adamant with my life, I thought bitterly again. Serves me right too. All those bunked sessions, marathon sleeping, unit test cutting, phew. It made me tired to even think of it. Even if it was some interesting paper, I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again. But Artificial Intelligence with all those mind numbing algorithms? Yuck! And if I failed Probability and Statistical Analysis too, that would be THE END. The probability of me clearing it ever in my life was a huge fat zero. I’ll have to flunk all other subjects next semester to clear these two alone. Shut up, I told myself. You don’t have to do badly to fail these University exams. In 2nd semester, I’d read so well for that Semiconductor Physics paper, taught the entire hostel till 3 in the morning and still ended up flunking the exams. So what if by some macabre twist of fate, I manage to clear these papers now? Shut up again. Very unlikely. I heard footsteps rushing towards me and stop uncertainly near the door. There was some whispering and a few shhhhh’s I could hear. I knew at that very instant that I had definitely flunked something. I felt like throwing up. The girls came in one by one sans the usual screaming and shouting. Moti hugged me and sat next to me. Aki stood at a safe distance ready to run away if I cried. Shruthi held my hand with one hand and kept pulling out strands of hair from her head with the other. Something she always does when she’s tensed. JP looked on wide eyed, ready to cry along if I did. I kept my eyes on the opposite wall.

“Guys I know I flunked. Just tell me, ok?”

Moti said in a small voice. “It’s only PST, Mi. We’ll apply for reval. I’m sure you’ll clear it. It was…”

Shit! I CANNOT WRITE THAT PAPER AGAIN!! My mind screamed but I put on a show of calmness and nonchalance outside. “ Oh, only one? I thought Artificial Intelligence would be a goner too. Free. I expected it. Though I was more hopeful about clearing this than AI”.

I looked up to see five anxious faces peering at me, waiting for me to burst into tears and run out of the room any moment. The nautanki I made when I failed for the first time in second semester must be haunting them even now, poor things. They tried comforting words and cracked mokka jokes taking turns looking at my face to see if I was really cheering up or just faking normalcy for their sake.

“I’m ok guys. Seriously. It’s not like I did well and ended up failing. I did badly. I deserve it”

I got up and walked out. The night was cool and dark outside the hostel doors. Inside it had been stuffy and hot. I could hear excited chatter and calculators being passed around for GPA calculations. I could see silent sobs and long faces as well. Ashwini was hysterically screaming into the phone that there was no way she could fail DSP. Degree Stopping Paper. Otherwise known as Digital Signal Processing. I sat on the entrance steps facing the gate. I could see the classroom buildings at a distance. They seemed too distant now. Slowly it all sank in. I was a failure. Yet again. Once could have been chance. Could have been luck. But again? I knew my failure had nothing to do with luck or chance. It had everything to do with laziness and lack of interest. All those algorithms about searching length first and breadth first in stacks and heaps interested me as much as religious sermons on television did. What was the point? What was I going to learn all that and end up as? Frankly, I was scared to think if ever I was going to end up as somebody in life. I hated the education I was getting, was trapped in it, was a failure at it but expected a future with it. Placements would come up in another year or so. All the corporate would arrive with their larger than life presentations and mechanical smiles. I hated the very idea of a corporate job. Hated computers. But I still wanted a corporate job that paid well. After all that is the only reason I was forced to take up this course right? A well paid IT job. Now even that seemed to be in jeopardy. The tears which had stubbornly refused to come out till now gathered on the brink of the eyes ready to spill out any minute. I looked up quickly and blinked. No, I was not going to cry. I walked out through the hostel gate towards the small lawn we fondly called ‘the Triangle’. Even watchman thaatha who hits the roof if we step out of the gate after 8 didn’t say a word after he took one long look at my face. Probably he didn’t want to be blamed if I started wailing. I sat on it staring at the starless sky. Suddenly Moti materialised out of nowhere and stood next to me with her hands on her hips.

“Mi, Come let’s go for a walk…”

“Hmmm.. Now?”

“But I haven’t even got slippers on. And am in these torn pajamas…”

“So?”

“Ok. Let’s go”

Once Moti decides on something, it was IMPOSSIBLE to stop her from doing it. She would bulldoze her way into anything and everything. And I was too weak to be bulldozed now. I could smell a lecture cum pep talk on how this wasn’t the end of everything, how I’ve been plain unlucky, how the University correction sucks, how unfair this was to me, etc and I wasn’t ready for it. Cuz all of it would be outright lies. I deserved all of this and much more. But poor Moti was doing all this to only cheer me up, I knew. I braced myself for the long walk and accompanying pep talk. The long walk happened. We walked and we talked. About food, movies, music. About who was seeing who and about how the same who was seen with a different who two weeks back. About dance practise for culturals. About how many days OD we can milk out of the management in the next few months. About what movie to see that weekend and where to eat to escape mess food. About how to rag those dumb juniors without it technically being called ‘ragging’. The one thing that never came into conversation was the pep talk I expected. I could hear the crunch-crunch of soft gravel beneath my bare feet. We had reached the Stores building, our official provisions place for food, stationary and mobile recharge cards.

Moti stopped suddenly. “Let’s go in for some cup noodles. I’m hungry”

“Mad moti? We don’t have money remember?”

“Juniors irpaanga stores la” She said with her heavily hindi accented tamil. The kind of Sowcarpet tamil that Mumbai import heroines speak in tamil movies. A wicked snort escaped her lips.

I laughed and we both walked in.

“Moti look who’s here. A better option than the poor juniors. Namma Songi” I couldn’t hide my glee as I saw the tall, lanky, gawky Songi buying chips and soft drinks inside the crowded shop. “Let’s wait till he finishes buying all the stuff and then pounce on it once he comes out”

Moti approved my shameless plan with a grin and a “Done”.

Songi’s real name wasn’t Songi but we called him that for as long as we could remember because, well.. because he was a songi. His perpetually slouching shoulders, stupid smile and clumsy Suppaandi-like nature made Songi the perfect nickname for him. He didn’t mind us calling him that way initially cuz we were only two, and we were his best friends right from first sem. But slowly the name spread and now almost everyone who knew him called him Songi. It infuriated him and delighted us, egging us on to taunt him more with the name.

We waited in strategic position and plucked the chips packets out of his hands once he came out of the Stores.

Moti began in the usual bullying tone she reserves especially for him. “Songi! Yenna? All clear ah?”

His wide smile on seeing us dimmed as if someone had just switched off the bulb. “Illa Moti. 4 gone ” He said with a sad face as if he remembered that he failed just 5 seconds ago.

Moti continued in her galeej Tamil. “Ariv illa onku? Fail ayitu jolly ya chips eat pannitu irka? Shameless. Vetti. “ She popped the spicy tapioca chips into her mouth, chewed well and spat out massacred tamil.

“Chi Pah.” Songi gave her his staple wisest reply and turned to me.

“Ni all clear ah loosu?” For some unknown reason, he chose to call me loosu from the second he knew me. It however, has no correlation to my mental capabilities or IQ, I swear.

“One gone” I became self conscious again and the chips I was going to put into my mouth stopped half way through.

“Cha, onnu dhaana?? Me only maximum this time too? Po loosu. Ni yaavadhu company kudupa nu nenachen” He kept his face like his biggest issue was not that he failed four papers but the fact that I failed only one. I burst out laughing.

“Ni thirundhave maata.”

We walked to the huge lawn behind stores. Couples sat at every dark corner and whispered sweet nothings. We sat on the lawn and passed the chips and drinks, cracking PJ’s and taunting each other. Songi polambified about how the system was totally messed up, how it should be made illegal to fail someone in a subject for more than 3 times, how all his profs gave him such measly internal marks and so on. He said he was going to apply for reval and clear all the bloody papers this time. We laughed as usual. He was sure he would. We were sure he wouldn’t. Stars popped up from behind the dark clouds and glittered in the night sky.

As we finished and got up to walk back to the hostel, Moti whispered in my ear, “Mi, reval apply pannu. Tomorrow”.

I smiled and nodded. All was well with the world again.

P.S: I did clear that PST paper on re-evaluation. Deep down I know I shouldn’t have cleared it though.