Posted tagged ‘chennai’

Hindustani Concerts in Chennai

June 26, 2013

In the past, a few of us have informally discussed the creation of an organization to bring more Hindustani music concerts to Chennai. We have begun working on this idea in earnest now and come up with following rough outlines for this organization:

  1. It will be run primarily using subscription funds paid at the beginning of the financial year, although we are not averse to small unobtrusive sponsorships. The dues will be in the neighbourhood of Rs. 5000/year and will entitle a family to attend all concerts organized during the year. We will start activities with a half-year’s subscription to take us through to March 31, 2014, and then move over to full subscription years thereafter.
  2. The number of concerts organized will depend on the number of subscribers, but at the minimum, we will need 40 subscriptions, which will enable 4 concerts per year. 
  3. Concerts will be held both inside and outside IIT Madras; the ones inside will be held during the semester so that students can attend.
  4. The organization will be registered, most likely, as a society, and its operation will be completely transparent and accounts will be audited yearly as required by law.

The purpose of this post is to get a preliminary headcount, so please fill in this form to let us know that you are interested. And please forward this link to others who may be interested. Thanks!


King Khan in Identity Crisis

November 24, 2009

In a revelation that is bound to send shockwaves through Bollywood fandom, doctors in Mumbai have admitted that the real Salman Khan is trapped inside a thick layer of hardened muscle.  The information was found in a classified document, which had mysteriously found its way to a Chennai peanut vendor.

Ram Kanakasabapathy and his friend, Visesh Rao, made the stunning discovery yesterday during a visit to their avicha-vaerkkadalai [1] vendor in Saidapet.  ‘I thought the Times of India celebrity supplement and Sun News were the only sources of authentic information.  I never knew that my peanut man had them beat for quality news coverage,’ said Ram.

‘First of all, I would love to send a shout out to my homies, Rickster and G’Nesh.  Salman is da bomb and I luv Salman.  He is way more talented than that over-rated prick Shah Rukh.  There is only one Khan, and that is Salman’, Visesh rhymed in an unexpected, but oddly endearing moment of candour.

‘We are here every evening, but this was actually the first time I had paid attention to the print on the package,” continued Sesh, as he likes to be called.  ‘Ram and I were standing here tweeting each other on how difficult it must be for Deepika to have to act with her ex’s best friend’s cousin in her next movie.  That’s when I saw the name SALMAN KHAN on the sheet in my hand.  OH MY GOD!’  As luck would have it, Ram and Sesh had the first two sheets and for an additional Rs. 1000 worth of peanuts, they secured the rest of the explosive report.

The rest, as they say, is His story.  The friends then got on Facebook and one of their friends alerted this reporter, who was able to get a first-hand look at the report.  It appears that the discovery was made during what seemed like a routine visit by the doctor.  Salman had complained of an itch under his scalp that he couldn’t quite scratch.  Although everyone experiences this sort of a thing occasionally and for short durations, Salman’s itch had not gone away for a month.  While attempting to inject the Khan with anti-histamines, the doctors broke seventeen needles, at which point they realised that something was seriously wrong and a different approach was required.


Salman Khan in happier times, flashing some bling.


X-rays taken at the Tata Memorial Hospital revealed a one-inch-thick layer of unknown material covering Salman’s body.  The layer was particularly thick around the skull, chest and upper arms.

‘It is fair to say that the medical community, not just in India, but worldwide, has not seen anything like this before’, said Dr. Atul Apte, a renowned neurosurgeon at the hospital.  ‘We have repeated the tests and yes, these results are real.  At this time, we are getting the opinions of our colleagues in the West, but it will be a while before we can come to any conclusions’.

The leading hypothesis is that Salman, in addition to the usual skeleton humans possess, has for some reason, started growing an exoskeleton.  Exoskeletons are normally found in the insect kingdom — the cockroach is a good example.  ‘While this hypothesis could explain what we see, it really doesn’t explain the why part of it at all,’ added a visibly agitated Dr. Apte.  ‘The high-steroid, high-fibre diet Salman has been on for the last several years is suspected of causing heart failure, liver damage and regularity in bowel movements, but is not known to cause this type of side effect.  We are still working hard on this, and hope to come up with some testable explanations soon.  But, realistically, we are probably a decade away from understanding this issue’, he opined, eerily reminding us of the last paragraph.

Dr. R. S. Srinivasan, a prominent dermatologist in Chennai, had this to say: ‘This is terrible for Salman, but if you are a lover of science, (and frankly, who isn’t?) this is what you dream of.  In the 80s and 90s, we had the AIDS epidemic, which created a huge buzz and captured the imagination of the entire world.  But, this one is something else altogether.  It is almost straight out of a bad science-fiction movie — Superhero develops exoskeleton after being bitten by a cockroach.

‘Unfortunately, a real-life exoskeleton throws up a host of dermatological, not to mention existential, issues.  In a sense, I feel cheated.  I took up dermatology mainly because I didn’t like the inside.  Who are we kidding?  It is gooey and gross.  But, with Salman, the outside has gone inside and something else’s outside has become his outside.  Rama! Rama![2].  Our sages said it right.  Ellam maayam[3].  Is he supposed to go to an entomologist now or what?’

What is the cure for this ailment?  ‘It is premature to talk of a cure when we don’t even know what the problem is.  However, if the exoskeleton idea is right, there is a chance that Salman will moult and lose the exoskeleton after some time.  But then, he might also regrow one right away and we need to have a plan to prevent that.  He might also want to eat the proteinaceous exoskeleton once he comes out,’ Dr. Apte’s voice trailed off into the breeze.

‘I am now worried about the epidemic angle to this.  Salman was the pioneer of the buff revolution that has since swept Bollywood.  A lot of our youngsters have followed in his footsteps.  If this problem has anything to do with this new lifestyle, we will have a full-fledged swine-flu situation on our hands’.

To obtain an alternative medicine viewpoint on this story, this reporter spoke to Sadhu Sundaracharya of Kedarnath.  ‘I rarely agree with Madrasis or doctors but I do like what that Madrasi doctor said.  Yeh sab maya hi hai[4].’

‘ What is inside?  What is outside?  What is in?  What is out?  What is side?  Where are we standing when we ask the question?  Are we inside?  Are we outside?  If you are inside, the inside is the inside and the outside is the outside.  If you are outside, the outside is the inside and the inside is the outside, nah?,’ the Acharya queried in response to this reporter’s question on whether he might come inside, causing him to seriously reconsider greeting the Godman with a ‘What’s up?’

‘I recommend that Salman spend a few months at my Ashram.  I can guarantee that he will be a new person when he emerges,’ Sadhu Sundaracharya beamed between tokes of his food-less diet.

1. boiled peanuts; fantastic Chennai street-food, no kidding.
2. One of 330 million Gods! One of 330 million Gods!
3. It’s all an illuzhaan, baby!
4. It’s all an illusun, indeed!

Men at Work

November 20, 2009

Let me be, let me be
Why can’t I just be me?
On any old wall
When nature does call
In plain sight, I must         

If Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me were to do a Chennai-themed show and they invited people to submit limericks for their contest, this might be my entry.  The word that fills the blank describes a feature of Chennai we have all grown to tolerate.  Please indulge me as I belabor the point a bit.

You are out there bustling away with the rest of the bustling Chennaivaasis on a not-too-noisy street.  Perhaps, you are busy plotting your next sad pun to torment that adorable special someone walking alongside.  On a Bollywood-style whim, you nuzzle, trying to get a whiff of the fresh flowers she is wearing.  Dang!  You recoil in horror.  How can such pretty things smell so much like day-old pee?  Turns out that they can’t. Well, not unless you peed in them yesterday.  You just happened to take the fateful breath near a semi-dark spot frequented by Chennai’s itinerant urinators. 

Or how about trying this scenario for size?  You and your special someone are coming back from dinner.  You are feeling all is right with the world because the dude didn’t throw Nescafe powder into a davara and call it filter coffee.  A great meal AND great service!  Wow!  Who’da thunk? You run your hand lazily around your bellybutton as you head towards the corner where your car is parked. Your meditations on the most efficient way to dislodge that last bit of saunf from your molars are rudely interrupted by your normally peaceful partner swearing like a Chennai auto-driver with Tourette’s.  Apparently, the special someone stepped in a small puddle and got some freshly painted toenails wet.  You quickly assess the damage and state confidently that it is just water.  I see this all the time, you say.  Someone probably bought a bottle of water and realizing it is fake-RO and probably from the nearest open sewer, poured it down in disgust.   You hope that the bizarre detail will make the explanation sound authentic, but you know better.  This was not fake-RO-water, it was ex-fake-RO-water, as Monty Python might say.  Yeah, one more turgid Chennaivaasi at work, those naughty devils.  Their handiwork is everywhere, especially in dark corners where cars and dumpsters might be parked.   

People (almost always men, actually) in Chennai seem to pee in all places and at all times.  How deliciously ironic is it that we frown upon kissing in public (just ask Richard Gere), but not on public peeing?  The rest of the world breathes, we seem to breathe and pee.  You eat, we pee.  You kiss, we pee.  You pee, we pee.  The thought seems to be that there is a whole lot of peeing to be done, and someone better get to it.  We reserve special scorn for places with signs that say ‘Do not urinate here’.  I don’t know why people even bother with these signs any more; they are like the warnings on cigarette packs or those that should be on orders of french fries

This large-scale participation in public peeing seems to be one of the differences between the Chennai of today and the Madras of 15-20 years back.  It is often said that cricket is India’s true religion.  Peeing in public merits at least an honorable mention on the list of desi religious persuasions.  Considering the number of enthusiasts, it should be clear above Jainism but well below, let’s say, the Art of Living.  One might even argue that this act gives more personal pleasure than watching Tendulkar drive through the covers on the up or savoring a single grape for 30 minutes while cogitating on the meaning of ‘is’.  A good cross-section of Chennai is involved in this ritual, in which there is such apparent comfort that it is not hard to imagine important decisions being taken over a communal whiz: “Let’s shake on that!”  One of my friends tells me that we are actually lucky in Chennai; in Mumbai, the peeple (sorry!) face you. 

Being the pesky idiot that I am, I have been known to walk up to the pee-artists on occasion and ask them what they are up to.  One man quickly sized me up and said matter-of-factly ‘saar, naan urine pass pannren’ (Sir, I am ‘passing urine’), which is the sort of term your avuncular doctor might use when you go for a drug test.  As soon as he said that, I found myself saying ‘Oh, that’s what that is! For a second, I thought you were giving yourself pleasure in the middle of the street.  Thanks for clearing that up.  Sorry for intruding, please carry on’. 

In another instance, I found this really pious-looking guy peeing on a wall of the mosque opposite our flat.  The conflict between the mutli-color smearings on his forehead and his desecration of a place of worship seemed to float comfortably over his head.  Of course, the pest in me wanted to find out more and duly put forth the question.  He looked at me as though I had just told him that Dr. M. K. Stalin can’t really prescribe medicines.  Mistaking his silence, I repeated the question, upon which it became obvious that he had heard me well enough the first time and he was merely using the moment to prepare his verbal onslaught. A pretty nice lashing it was, too.  He started off by expressing some strong opinions about how I might have been conceived, after which he proceeded to command me in chaste Chennai Tamizh to offer oral comfort to the offending appendage.  I hadn’t seen that coming.   On a first date?  Come on!  The bar having been set so high, my comebacks were understandably tamer, consisting primarily of comparisons of him to various barking, ass-licking animals.  Pious Dude was not impressed with me ‘upsetting his mood’ so early in the morning.  Thankfully, the situation broke up when my equally annoyed neighbor joined me in asking him the same annoying question.  PD became really upset then and promised to return with his buddies to set me straight. 

Two days later, as I was leaving home, I saw PD walking on the street.  He saw me too and things got a little interesting.  He arrested his forward progress, turned around, gave me a defiant look, did a quick 180 and started to …  you guessed right, go.  Prior to this incident, I wasn’t quite sure that a person could pee on command, but I guess you learn something new each day.  This time around, there was no confrontation.  I just started laughing; noiselessly, I will add, so that I didn’t upset PD any more.  Have to say though, this passive-aggressive high-road-taking is over-rated!  It is not nearly as gratifying as a punch in the gut, but stupid ‘consequences’ get in the way of some good old-fashioned retribution. 

What is the cure for this epidemic?  Live wires in favorite pee-spots that hit them where it hurts?  Genetically modified Venus flytraps that grab and don’t let go?  More public restrooms in the neighborhoods like Mr. Toilet recommended?  Public service messages from celebrities — maybe Rajinikanth could do a spot in which he magically makes the pee arc back into the dude’s pants and then gives him some brotherly advice on how to use a toilet?  It doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy to put this genie back in the bottle.  Thankfully, there are some committed minds hard at work, so don’t give up just yet.

My pet peeves

October 31, 2009

Teaching is a funny thing; all idealistic notions and peachy worldviews can crumble when confronted by the raw idiocy of immature 20-year-olds. The world was a leaky urinal yesterday and I was asked to stand in front of it and pee. As relief washed over me after the initial dribbly discomfort, I thought spreading my misery to the rest of the world might be cathartic. What better way than to tell anyone and everyone about the sundry things that annoy me? Here are a few of my favourite least-favourite things (glossary of italicized Tamizh terms at the end):

1. Percentages greater than 100.
Yes, we get it, you want to emphasize that you are expending mind-boggling amounts of effort. Really! I mean stupendous amounts of energy, commitment, integrity and never-say-die-attitude are involved here. But unfortunately, the math skills that you possess that might help convey said urge meaningfully are not commensurate with said commitment, energy, etc. Reason being that you missed that class in elementary school where Ms. Meenakshi had taught percentages and the star pupil (was it Mottai?) who usually bailed you out had do-vittufied you because  you stole his balpam and wrote ‘I love you’ notes to the evil girls. In the interest of the welfare of our already confused kids, let’s keep it real, 100% real.

2. Honorary Doctorates and epithets like ‘nadamadum paralumanram’.
Is this only a Tamizh epidemic or does this kind of awesomeness exist in other parts of our glorious desh? Even things that are normally associated with the gentler sex like thenral are used for supposedly macho Tamizh-veerar types. Particularly interesting are non-Tamizh epithets like ‘Captain (in English)’ for people projecting intense mara-Tamizhar feelings.

3. People saying ‘noocular’ for nuclear.
Oh, come on moron, you can definitely say ‘new’ and ‘clear’ as separate words, so what’s the problem in putting the two together? Which part of your ass did noocular come from? No, don’t answer it, it’s a rhetorical question.

4. Filling out forms in quadruplicate.
When faced with this, I make like Saroja Devi in that movie where she has just got her vision restored by charming doctor with pencil moustache (you remember, right? The one that almost climaxes in his pants while saying ‘Abhithakuchalambal, oh what a booytiful name’). Blinking my eyes so rapidly that fruit bats take uncalled-for left turns, I say: ‘Naan enda kaalathuley irukken? aen mister, onakku ‘technology’nu onnu irukkunu theriyada? Stoopit!’

5. People pretending to still not get the concept of eclipses and seeking divine intervention.
Umm, this stumps me. I am done with this witness, Your Honour.

6. Athletes (mostly US) using the word ‘adversity’.
Dude, Lost Boys of Sudan trekking thousands of miles through Africa to reach safety, now that’s adversity. Trailing by 2 points in a regular season NBA game with 10 seconds to go, hmm, not so much.

7. People praising the Lord after a good performance.
It could be a century, a touchdown, or a good tillana. Every time any of these happens, the happy performer starts thanking God immediately and profusely.  Kissing ground, air, or pendant is common.  Crossing oneself into knots is known to happen.  As these events unfold, the Lord pauses on his chillum and says to his peeps: ‘Who the fuck in Memberships signed up to save assholes like this one? I had to help this overpaid Adonis get that one meaningless run in a T20 match before I stopped that child rapist?  Shit, who came up with that list of priorities?’

8. Movie re-re-re-…-productions:
B(T,K)ollywood routinely introduces Hollywood movies to desi fans. Kamal Haasan, perhaps, can be called the driving force behind the breathtaking copy-exactness that is seen in this enterprise today. One can witness his work in several masterpieces: Nayagan (Godfather), Avvai Shanmugi (Mrs. Doubtfire), Tenali (What about Bob?), Magalir Mattum (9 to 5), to name a few. Fans of these (con) artists claim that they have done a phenomenal job ‘Indianizing’ it, which will be fine and dandy if they choose to give credit to the original non-Indian version.
My favourite, though, is the more insidious statement, usually by the perpetrators themselves, that they have been ‘inspired’ by it, which makes the blatant plagiarism okay. Before getting all wound up, people not comfortable with this inspiration movement must note that there is also hierarchical inspiration a.k.a. artistic clusterfuck. For example, Surya (or the director) was so inspired by ‘Memento’ that he inspired (as in inhaled) the gist of it to inspirationally star in a monumentally more inspirational masterpiece called ‘Ghajini’. This inspired the hitherto uninspired Aamir Khan so much that he immediately went into an extended Surya-namaskar for a few months. What emerged was the fantastically inspirational movie called … wait for it …  ‘Ghajini’! Gee, I wonder who is getting the passed parcel next. Ooh, (accompanied by frenetic rubbing of hands) pray tell me, who will be the next inspiree?  I can scarcely hold my inspiration!  How many more such inspirations will I be able to witness before my expiration? As my imaginary Chinese friend might say, may we all live in such inspirational times!

And, saving the most infuriating for last
9.  Nighties as formal wear:
I had to rub my eyes a few times when I started seeing this around town. Used to be that maamis stepped outside their homes to get chinna vengayam from vaadikai vegetable seller’s cart and the nightie helped avoid a dress-change prior to the shower. Perfectly understandable in the Chennai heat. I guess the cart must have stopped coming or something, so Mohammed had to go to the mountain, so to speak, at the end of the street. Soon, the kazhudai thenjufied and became the kattai-erumbu it is today. Little did we know then that this seemingly harmless wardrobe malfunction would shake the hot couture of Chennai. Yesterday, I saw an elegant maami in Saidapet at 8 a.m. walking on the street clad in pretty sandals with a nice handbag and sunglasses, but in a FUCKING NIGHTIE! What the hell? What would make someone think this is appropriate to wear outside? The sad thing is that I have seen other variants that make you want to cover your kids’ eyes immediately.

a. Nightie with a dupatta for the karpukkarasi.
Yes, the real problem with the nightie is not that it is a grotesquery, but that it shows off the voluptuous, sin-inducing two inches between your neck and the top button to unassuming and grossly unprepared strangers. For their protection, it is best to cover up the offending part of the anatomy with a mismatched rag from yesteryear.

b. Nightie with a towel for the karpukkarasi in a hurry.
This is rare, but I have had the misfortune of witnessing this once. Psychologists tell me that this is as traumatic as catching one’s parents in a compromising situation. Aah, perhaps a shower in concentrated sulphuric acid might help cleanse.

There you have it, some of deshvaasi’s pet peeves in black and white.  Now it’s your turn.

GLOSSARY (at the risk of losing stuff in translation)

1. Mottai: Literally means one with a shaved head: a common nickname for almost every (Hindu?) boy in Chennai for socio-religious reasons.
2. do-vittufy: Tamizh schoolyard slang for ‘on the outs with’.  Usually conveyed with a nose-twist and index-finger-middle-finger intertwine
3. balpam: old-style chalk used on a slate-board in elementary school (I am dating myself by saying I have used this)
4. nadamadum paralumanram:
literally, walking parliament.  Yeah, seriously!
5. thenral: cool breeze, there is a dude who is called ‘Tamizh thenral’.  Wish I could make up stuff like this.
6. veerar: warrior, brave dude, something like that
7. mara-Tamizhar: hardcore Tamizh dude
8. tillana: a rhythmic piece sung in Carnatic (south Indian classical) music that is commonly used in Bharathanatyam (south Indian classical dance) concerts.
9. ‘Naan enda kaalathuley irukken? aen mister, onakku ‘technology’nu onnu irukkunu theriyada? Stoopit!’: Have I been transported back in time? Why the heck can’t you use technology, you son of a thousand hamsters?
10. chillum: ganja pipe, I am told.
11. maami: of the female kind (generally), mental age between that of girl and grandma
12. chinna vengayam: pearl onions
13. vaadikai: customary, usual
14. kazhuthai thenju kattai-erumbu: a turn of phrase indicating gradual but substantial decline (literally, a donkey wearing down to an ant)
15. dupatta: scarf-like thingy originally worn with salwar-kameez, but has since started to freelance as large handkerchief, tourniquet, and mother-in-law strangler.
16. karpukkarasi: literally, queen of virtue.