Thursday, 29 January 2009

Thamizha Thamizha (Roja)

O Tamil! our tomorrow is all our tomorrow
தமிழா, தமிழா! நாளை நம் நாளே
O Tamil! this land is all our land!
தமிழா, தமிழா! நாடும் நாடே!

Say that my home is the Tamil motherland.
Be firm that my name is always Indian.

The Community may vary, but the Values are one
The Place may vary, but the Country is one
The Language may vary, but the Meaning is one
The Staff may vary, but the Flag is one
the Direction may vary, but the Land is one
The Music may be different, but the Melody is one
We are all India, we are one.

O Tamil! Don't shed any tears
O Tamil! It will dawn, don't be fade inside

Isn't there Indian blood inside you?
Then won't united India protect you?
Our India is common to all
It is born out out of hard toil.
Diversity was the fertiliser used to create it
We are the roots that make it strong.

O human!
It is strong
There shouldn't be division on this land.
O Lord!

Lyrics by Mahakavi Bharathi
Translation bibliography:

  1. Benjamin, Sonia. (2006) A rose by any other name: exploring the politics of Mani Ratnam's Roja. Contemporary South Asia 15(4):423-435. (,
  2. Benjamin (2006) cites help from English subtitles from Roja DVD (Ayngaran).
  3. Youtube video description by ganesh25883 (

Thursday, 10 April 2008

30Qs Tag

I was tagged eljo eons ago. When I came back to the blog I was surprised to see that I still hadn't published this post. I thought it'd be interesting to see whether my answers have changed at all.

1. LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATRE: Transformers in IMAX. Can't remember.

2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING? The Best of Saki, Better (Atul Gawande), Audacity of Hope (Obama), The Veteran (Forsyth) are my current assortment pickles in my staple of textbooks. Dreams from my father (Obama), Classic Feynman, The Boy with Striped Pyjamas.

3. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? Monopoly. Best played when no one is sure of the rules and there is at least one newbie. The first time I felt empathy for Don Corleone.

4. FAVORITE MAGAZINE? Do Journals count?

5. FAVORITE SMELLS? Onam, Christmas & Easter kitchens.

6. FAVORITE SOUND? Bach. Her voice.

7. WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? Going to sleep without doing something that needs to be done.


9. FAVORITE FAST FOOD PLACE? Kitchen with Amma in situ on a weekend afternoon.

10. FUTURE CHILD'S NAME? I don't know. It doesn't matter.

11. FINISH THIS STATEMENT. "IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I’D...? Put it in many safe investments.

12. DO YOU DRIVE FAST? Occasionally. (i.e. on the occasions that I drive)


14. STORMS-COOL OR SCARY? Cool until the electricity goes off. Amazing sound effects afterwards.


16. FAVORITE DRINK? Lemon juice. Water

17. FINISH THIS STATEMENT, "IF I HAD THE TIME I WOULD - make music, read more, spent




21. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? I like watching any sport where the best are in form.


23. WHAT'S UNDER YOUR BED? Things I need but I can't find.




27. FAVORITE PLACE TO RELAX? Between a pair of headphones playing Bach. Wherever I can talk to the best people I know.

28. FAVORITE PIE? easter appam

29. FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Mango, lychee. Not a huge fan of ice creams.


Adoreable Pancreas
Hope and Love

I'm pretty sure you guys have been tagged already.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Kala kala coca cola kolamayi!


kaLakaLamiLakumoraruviyilalakaLilorukuLirorukuLakam, karaLilumalarithaLudirumoraLikulamiLakiyachurulaLakam!

Does anyone know who wrote those lines and the rest of the verse, if it is indeed from a poem?

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


When I read Jiby's take on blogging, I was reminded of the stimuli behind the creation of this blog. At a time when I felt acutely stressed for the first time as it wrapped around me like a bell jar vacuum, at a time when the desired outcome was solely square within my reach, I alt-tabbed to searches on things close to my heart to assuage whatever -algia was tearing me inside. Link after link, hungry for information, I pored over every word and punctuation and even the html sources in some cases, to try and precipitate from the amalgam of bloggers' thoughts and memories a smelling salt of sorts which would jolt me back to a past I had left behind.

Reading through the posts of a network of core bloggers, I found incredible solace and relished drowning in the memories that came flooding back. I wish to forget everything else of those few days save for those blogs I read. After that trying time, I began to regularly follow those five or so blogs and now that list has grown to around thirty. Whether they were anecdotes hanging onto the pallu of the recipes posted, or Pinteresque surreal humour fused into tales of appachans and muthashis of yore braving technology and culture in the new century, or picturesque word paintings of childhoods and college years at a time when paisa coins were actually worth something - at least enough to buy narangamuttayi or a chaya, or impassioned and reasoned pleas for reform of unfairness and injustice still endemic in the social and cultural milieux, or just valippu scenes from the mill of daily routine still tickling the spot and eliciting giggles years later; I savour each word with a fervour some might call homesickness or nostalgia and some others might cynically mutter "Mutathe mullake manamilla".

If at least to add my share to those tiny portions of life (real, imagined or exaggerated) spewing forth into the blogosphere, I started this blog. I, the entity which precipitates out from the stories and thoughts in the posts, am slowly being created with each post out there. My main motivation is enjoying the reminscences and being party to moulding life into prose... ordinary lives, but saddled with meaning: a personal meaning conveyed through each of a blogger's posts, that often gets lost otherwise in the thick of surviving the day.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Witty Nambiar

Kunchan Nambiar is my favourite Malayalam poet. My first encounter with Nambiar was an excerpt from his 'Kalyanasaugandhikam' in our Malayala Padavali which made me just laugh when I read it aloud:

Nokkeda nammude margey kidakkunna, Markada neeyangu mari kida sheda.

This roughly translates to

'Yo! Look at this monkey blocking our way. Hey, you monkey! Find somewhere else to lie, darn it!

Bhima, the muscle-man of the five Pandava brothers is enraged to find Hanuman, the mischievous monkey god, lying in front of their way in the forest. Nambiar gives vent to Bhima's indignance and rage in such a witty way much like "Yo mama!" jokes, at least in my imagination.

His poetry has a percussive quality which was necessary for the thullal (acting and dancing) accompanying the recitation. I can imagine him rapping away if he lived in the 21st century; a master freestylist taking on B-Rabbit or entertaining the crowds on Whose line is it anyway? His wit and satire would fit right in Have I Got News for You? or The Daily Show or The Colbert Report; I find it odd to think of him as a contemporary of Bach and Mozart.

Since I couldn't find any archives of his poetry, I've decided to start one at My only source of Nambiar is an old publication of Kiratham which I've started on. You are more than welcome to contribute to it. I recommend Varamozhi text editor which will convert your typewritten manglish e.g. kiraatham into Malayalam font e.g. കിരാതം.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Salt - ONV Kurup


പ്ലാവില കോട്ടിയ കുമ്പിളില്‍ തുമ്പതന്‍-
ത്താവിപാറുന്ന പൊടിയരിക്കഞ്ഞിയില്‍

പതുക്കെപ്പറയുന്നു മുത്തശ്ശി:
"ഉപ്പുചേര്‍ത്താലേ രുചിയുള്ളു! കഞ്ഞിയില്‍

ഉപ്പുതരിവീണലിഞ്ഞു മറഞ്ഞുപോം-

മട്ടിലെന്നുണ്ണി! നിന്‍ മുത്തശ്ശിയും നിന്ന-

നില്പിലൊരുനാള്‍ മറഞ്ഞുപോം! എങ്കിലും,

നിന്നിലെയുപ്പായിരിക്കുമേ മുത്തശ്ശി-

യെന്നും! എന്നുണ്ണിയെവിട്ടെങ്ങുപോകുവാന്‍!..."

ചില്ലുപാത്രത്തിലിരുന്നു ചിരിക്കുന്നു

നല്ല കറിയുപ്പ് തീന്‍മേശമേല്‍; കടല്‍-

വെള്ളത്തില്‍നിന്നും കറിയുപ്പു വാറ്റുന്നു-

വെന്ന വിജ്ഞാനപ്പനയോലയില്‍ കൊത്തി
എന്‍റെ നാവിന്നുരം വായ്പിച്ചു പണ്ടു ഞാന്‍!

പിന്നെയൊരുനാള്‍ കടല്‍കണ്ടു ഞാന്‍! വെറും

മണ്ണില്‍ കിടന്നുരുളുന്ന, കാണാതായ

തന്‍ കുഞ്ഞിനെയോര്‍ത്തു നെഞ്ഞുചുരന്നപാല്‍

എങ്ങും നിലയ്ക്കാതൊഴുകിപ്പരന്നതില്‍

മുങ്ങിമരിക്കുന്നൊരമ്മയെക്കണ്ടു ഞാന്‍!


In a jackfruit leaf a few grains of salt she takes.
Tipping them into the steaming, boiling rice flakes
Grandmother says, "There's taste only if you add Salt.
Salt melts and fades into the essence of this food.
Your grandmother too will fade, but I will always
Be the salt within you. My child I won't leave you..."

Refined, resting on the table in a glass pot,
Salt is laughing. I had learnt how to make,
by rote,
Salt from seawater. Then one day I saw the sea.

Rolling in the bare sands, thinking of her lost progeny,

Milk gushing flowing and spreading without pooling,

There I did see her: a mother drowning, dying.

There are many pages to read to be reminded on the curses of salt, be it through NEJM, Coleridge, plain old story-telling and now ubiquitously: packaged food. So when I came to read this poem again, I was reminded of ONV's take on the subject which in turn reminded me of the kitchen where Ammachi used to be queen and the dining table where Appooppan used to be king. Only he dared sprinkle the salt water kept on the dining table. It also reminded me of the priest sneaking in his favourite suvishesham Sunday after Sunday.

A loose translation with some semblance to the original by way of meaning and metre, though not so much original imagery, has been attempted. Please suggest improvements or corrections. Also listen to the great ONV himself reciting his composition. The hyperlinks in the poem are some pictures whose memories the text evoked.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Flaw in my Find

Fawning Lee Fong filleting,
Feigning feminine feelings,
Failing, Flailing feline flees falling:
'Falgunante farya farichu foyi, fayya!'

I was half-awake, paying no heed to the alarm when I was tickled by the thought of the fleeing falling feline feigning feminine feelings, fawning over Lee Fong filleting. Perhaps a side-effect of having read a meaning-twister.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Rules of Prayer

"I shouldn't be coming to you, just when I need help." As I was reading those lines, I was struck by how similarly or differently people talked to God. It reminded me of my own idiosyncrasies when talking to God.

Heard of the butterfly effect? When a butterfly flutters its delicate wings in the depths of the Amazon, it may set off a typhoon in Japan. Events are preceded and are the sum of a countless number of variables which at first glance will have absolutely nothing to do with the final product. In my zany little mind, this forms the basis of my explanation of the power of prayer.

God is like a chess player playing against himself in the park, having all the fun with the infinite number of pieces and infinite number of moves. We couldn't even begin to fathom the grandiose nature of such a game. But wait, suppose each of the infinite number of pieces starts asking Him where they would like to be placed in the next move, or 12 moves ahead or 47 moves ahead. He must have a hard time answering each and all requests while abiding by the rules of the game (the laws of physics which we have yet to figure out)?

So, I used to pray for only 3 things every night. (I figured out 3 must be limit as all the stories I read had 3 wishes and no more) By the way these three did not include the default requests like taking care of my family or make them happy. As each prayer was answered I replaced it with another one. Usually it takes a few months to years for them to be answered. It was a year ago that a 13-year old prayer was answered. It was only last month that a 1-week old prayer was fulfilled.

When the lights go out, I sit up and make sure that my fingers are together in the midline, my back is straight, my eyes are closed, my mind is clear and I am relaxed. Then I speak.

Thank you for everything. Thank you especially for doing ___ or not doing ___.
I'm sorry for ___ and I will try to ___.
Please take care of everyone, my friends and family
(and a stranger I met that day.)
Then I list my 3 things.

After that I make the sign of the cross making sure that my fingers touch the exact spot or I repeat it until I do.

Then God will take into account that billions of requests, process it and make his moves accordingly. Sometimes it's not obvious. At others, it is very obvious. Of course, I also had to do my part and get as close to the position I want to be in and He will figure out the rest. Logically (ahah) it therefore didn't make sense to pray after any exams as the moves were already made. But I didn't labour the logic with Ammachi when she said to pray hard for my results.

"Ammachi, pakshe exam kazhinjittu pradhichittu karyamilla, athinu mumbayirunnu pradhikendethu--" (Ammachi, there's no point in praying after the exams. You should have prayed before the exams-"

"Appol nee pareekshakku mumbum pradhichille!?" (So you didn't pray even before the exams?!

It was after I spent a summer almost 13 years ago, reading the Good News Bible (the one with the really thin pages) that I made up these routine. Afterwards, I did not find much meaning in going to mass or saying the rosary as a means of prayer. For me, God was everywhere. It didn't make sense to have sculptures and pictures and the customary kissing of the cross at Easter and of the baby Jesus model in crib at Christmas. It always reminds me of the broken tablets when Moses came down from the mountain and found his people worshipping the golden calf.

That same summer I read the Rajagopalachari Mahabarata and Ramayana. It was really the stories in both the Christian and Hindu scriptures that prompted me to read them. But it was only after my uncle gave me Gandhi's Experiments with Truth bought for 10 rupees at a book fair in Kanakakunnu Palace that these stories and teachings were put in perspective.

We also had a subject called "Moral Studies" in school. What I didn't particularly like was that they split the class into Christians who would read Bible stories while the others would be taught generic morals in Moral Studies. I used to read the stories in my friend's textbook, all about good deeds being rewarded and baddies being humbled or punished. Later on in secondary school, I had a great many discussions with friends from all corners of the world about religion where my ignorance would show. Other than the mention of Zoroastrianism or Jewish holidays in the stale brown pages of quiz books, it wasn't until high school that I read up about the world religions.

What confused me then were the different breeds of Christians. We were a particular breed of Catholics - ones that were seen making the sign of the cross when passing a church, saying the rosary every day, going to Sunday school, having prayer meetings, having appam and stew on Easter, making wine during Christmas and greeting priests with "Eesho mishihayikku sthuthiyayirikkatte." (Praise Jesus our saviour.) and returning the greeting with "Eppozhum eppozhum sthuthiyayirikkatte" (Let us always praise Him.) I had no reason to think that not all Christians were Catholics, until I started meeting distant relations which were Jacobites, Marthomites, Knanayas and a million others. It was then explained that there were us Catholics and all other Christians were Protestants.

But what really bamboozled me were the subspecies of Catholics within our family - like Latin Catholics, Syrian Catholics, Orthodox and even Jacobite Syrian - I'm sure there are more. So I found it funny later when I started meeting people describing their ancestry as being "half-black, half-Chinese, half-Indian, half-Latino," I thought back to similar conversations in the family talking about "half Jacobite or half Syrian and half Latin.."

I can imagine a confoosed Malayalee Christiani at the US airport..

"I'm sorry, sir but there's no option for part-Syrian, part-Latino, part-Roman."

Kannan thumbi - Kakkothi kavile appooppan thaadikal (1988)

As way leads on to way...

I was reading the comments at eljo when one of the commenters brought up Revathy and her little brother being snatched away in a movie. It reminded me of a movie whose name I eventually dredged up from Google which led me to the youtube video of the song Kannan thumbi. Memories of yesteryear came flooding back I listened to the song with a brimming heart.

Kakkothi kavile appooppan thaadikal was one of those movies where "..the sufferings of the protagonist depicted on screen and the climax of the movie were too tragic for me to watch this movie more than once." It was up for grabs briefly on the malayalam movie streaming sites but I missed the opportunity to watch it again after 15 years. But I have listened to the song umpteen times in the last few days to make an arrangement for piano.

You have the main voice, the bass guitar, flute, violins and synthesiser parts in those three pages. What could be really fun is playing it with two others, one on either side of you playing the main voice. Enjoy this piece as I did : )

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Devadaru poothu

Another week and another song... one introduced to me by Sarah (see comments on a previous post). I'm sure it is a favourite song for many people as it is for me now that I have listened to it. I have no recollection of this movie "Engane nee marakkum". Luckily, MusicIndia was there to help with its impressive library of Malayalam songs.

This song reminded me of the forever humming, Yesudas fan in our family - my father. Thankfully, a steady supply of Yesudas hits actually sung by Yesudas, through the internet, cassettes and CD players have cut down on impromptu live performances in the car (where there is no escape) and in the house.

I have scored this for the piano so I've tried to distinguish voices by transposing them up or down an octave. There are a lot of ornaments in Malayalam music which I found difficult to write down. Please let me know if you can think of good chords.

And for my next song, I'm spoilt for choice. I've just received 40 soundtracks to movies scored by AR Rahman. However, in the last 10 minutes, I was listening to one of the all-time Malayalam classics which is so beautiful in its portrayal of the relationship between two sisters.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Thaliraningoru - Minnaram

I rediscovered this gem on Youtube. The longer version has been put off for another day. It brought me back to a Sunday evening when the 'traditional' weekly movie was on Doordarshan.

It was two and half hours of unmitigated concentration on Sunday evenings: the adults holding their steel cups of steaming tea and maybe a vada or two. We, the children would be scootering (being scooters) or carring (being cars - although "kaarathe!" meant to stop making that racket) during the advertising breaks, or humming to the ads of Ujala, Nirma, Chavanyapravashyam and so on.. It was an evening when everyone gathered together. If you stepped out into the street and listened carefully, you could hear the TV sets down the street playing the same ads.

What spoilt the evening were those movies with the sad endings. Us kids would have glistening eyes and would be "mood-off" for the rest of the evening. Although, what irritated me the most were the sad songs, in minor keys/raagas - the TV could not physically handle the high notes of Chitra/Sujatha/Janaki anyway. Sometimes, KSEB would be taking their time changing a fuse or two, and it was then that the entire household would be stumped for things to do.

(Please point out any mistakes as I'm not totally sure about the notes in the last beat of the second bar.)

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Aayirum kannumayi - Nokketha doorathu kannum nattu

(Please click to enlarge.)

I love this song. So most of last night and today evening was spent trying to put it down on paper. Using the Youtube video, I've done the intro, the main voice and the main instrumental fillers. The bass is mainly arpeggios.

My earliest lessons were on a harmonium playing church songs and nursery rhymes. The mashe (master) wrote down the words in a notebook with the Carnatic notation (sa ri ga) beneath it. Different keys, chords, using the left hand - they were all a complete mystery then.

During the youth festival, we played a medley of popular movie songs. We exhibited our ignorance of harmony as all the instruments on stage played (keyboard, violin, etc.) exactly the same notes, give or take an octave. It didn't matter as the judges didn't have a clue either!

When I reached secondary school, we organised a string orchestra with a keyboard and drums. The pièce de résistance was one of Yanni's hits. That was a memorable night for me :D

I dedicate this to all the music teachers who arrange the songs for their students, be it for youth festivals, competitions or any other school functions. By the way, if you're playing this at your school/college, drop me comment - I'd be happy to know it's useful to someone.

There are a couple of files I'm working on - "ootty.sib" and "thaliraningoru.sib" - any guesses?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

3 notes - Ilayaraaja

(Please click to enlarge.)

I stumbled across this tune while on orkut. A senior from my alma mater had posted a youtube video of Ilayaraaja's concert 6 months ago, and I've just heard it again today. What makes this special is the spritely syncopation which might make it difficult to sightread it without having heard the music.

With some time, I hope to add more malayalam and tamil sheetmusic of songs from movies from my childhood. Please drop a comment if you've found a mistake or made a better version.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Mozical Journey 2

2. Anbendra
This hymnal is set in the reverent tones of C# minor, a key treated with respect in both Carnatic (commonly the Sa in Sa ri ga) and Western classical music (Bach’s (greek Chi) sign of the cross in his C# minor fugue in the first volume of the Well-tempered Klavier) (refer to angeldoc’s posting). The song takes us back to Priya’s past as she grows and matures into the young woman about to face the world: thoughts that are passing through her mind as she sings the hymn. Later on, Prabhudeva (whose purpose is to distract Priya from becoming a nun) sings Strawberry kannae in E major as he describes his view into the window of Priya’s heart. The funny thing is that E major is the complimentary major to C# minor (they share the same key signature). Mischievously, ARR is already match-making in his own musical version of the plot while also revealing the state of minds of the characters. (Thomas has his own motif when he expresses love towards Priya but that theme is never developed. Interestingly, it’s similar to the motif in Alaipayuthey). But enough jumping ahead – back to the song at hand.

The sparse orchestration, with only two timbres heard for most of the song, with a resounding bass note, puts us in the midst of an empty cathedral where Priya sings the song, (a metophor of the emptyness within her calling her to the holy life). I feel that the visuals could have enhanced the feeling of the vast empty space in the cathedral by using very high camera shots. I wish I knew more Tamil so I could give greater appreciation to the lyrics. From what little words and phrases I can make out by their relation to Malayalam, I can sense its poignance.

Sorry about the overenthusiastic titling last time.. I cringe like eating bittergourd with vinegar witih the the sourest green mango while watching parents attempt to dance to a song amidst a sizeable crowd, urging and pointing at me to join in....

Saturday, 5 January 2008

A 'Moz'ical j'ARR'ney 1

The opening credits are electric as the title suggests and serve as a prelude to the entertainment to follow. The comical scream is reminiscient of another AR Rahman (ARR) and Prabhudeva (PD) hit Urvashi Urvashi where PD dances in/on a glass bus. The virtually (save for the deep bass) a capella, repetitive, folk-like first half of the intro reminds me of Flower by Moby used in the opening credits for Gone in 60 Seconds. The later part of the intro is the percussion and accordion part of the song Ooo La-la Laa, perhaps giving us a taster of the mischievious madhalam and general malarkey to follow.

1. Poo pookum osai (The sound of flowers blooming)
This sweet melody is matched by the delectable lyrics by Vairamuthu (VR) with the rhyming scheme, making it literally (double pun?) delicious when articulating his poetry. Metaphors, similes, alliterations, onomatopoeias and the entire staple of a high school literature class can be found in his verses. What sets him apart are the ideas he describes, this time the music in nature. Poo pookum osai, athu kelkkathan asai. "Flowers blooming, I desire to hear that".

It also draws comparisons with another of ARR's hit Chinna Chinna Asai again penned by Vairamuthu, also describing nature's whimsy set in Tirunelvelli[1]. Both asais (as they will be henceforth referred to) are set in a majestic D major. The syncopated rhythms skim on this idyllic lake-like harmony: in Roja with a guitar whereas an electric organ is used in Poo pookum. These calypso-esque offbeats chords are developed in the latter with a greater percussive effect as the bass drums play against them. I wonder what it would have sounded like if Minmini were to lend her voice to this track?

In both instances, the music has been created in the context of the story the director wants to tell his audience. They say a picture says a thousand words; here the music tells us about a lifetime, painting a vivid impression of Roja’s and Priya’s lives. ARR uses his palette to paint Priya from a different perspective in another song, which we shall see later on. In Chinna aasai, the life of a young girl, carefree and energetic are one with the abundant beauty of her oore (homeland), a village nestled in the bosom of nature herself. Santosh Sivan puts the spectator in the shoes of Roja who is enamoured by beauty of her home and contrasts with the alien ways of urban life she faces later. In Poo asai, Priya shares the carefree nature of Roja, however she has been brought up in the city.

As I refererred to earlier, the music is subservient to the premise of the story. The harmonic Hey-hey shouts of the college girls as they dance in the hostel and the “Hillthore” music of the mountain folk during girls’ excursion in Minsaarakanavu, or the gypsy fiddle music and the musical chants of farmers in Roja, both serve to recreate the scenic beauty and a glimpse into the respective heroines’ lives as we hit play on our mp3 player 7 days later or 7 years later.

I wonder whether ARR was thinking of C-asai when he composed the other, because both are very similar. Perhaps the similarities reflects his notion of the carefree and appreciatitive nature of girls’ minds. Or maybe he’s discovered that the female heart sings in D major.

(To be continued...)
[1] It has the largest population of buffalos in the state.