Saturday, October 30, 2004


They are back again !!! Like they say "DON'T MISS IT ! "

Akhtar Old member

Hey StudentConcepts,

I dont know if you still remember me ..... yeah me the delhi guy...;)

I have been receiving SC mails on and off.... i notice that sc has really grown after my stint with you.it really pleases me to c that travel programs which was being conceptualised the last time i was in ur office has blossomed. are the same ppl still with SC (varun, balaji,rajesh...)??

As for me, I have graduated and am currently working full time as a HR consulting analystin Gurgaon. I work on custom compensation and benefit surveys across the globe. It has been 6 months now....a very good 6 months from my point of view because of the steep learning curve.

Looking forward to all the news there and some good old fashioned advice,

Thank you,
Best Regards
Akhtar

Akhtar was one of our first members. He joined StudentConcepts in 1999 when he was in his final year of school. He assisted the company right through to 2001 or so before higher education took him to New Delhi. However, he has been in constant touch with us and will always be a part of us for years to come. Akhtar, thank you for all your support and hard work! Hope to catch up with you again in Chennai sometime!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Email from Rajesh

How are you..?How is work going there..?
I am fine..doing good,When I was working with you, I was thinking about the belief and trust u had in me...it is unforgettable...and i know then...that someday, i m gonna mail u from some other country...my dream has come true...me mailing you from Tokyo,...iam working for one of the leading bank in Japan in the area of testing their e-banking application. And, I am sure, i will achieve more in the future thru the confidence u have given me...

Thank you so much, for your support manoj,Learnt a lot at StudentConcepts,Will keep the spirit up, by suggesting that more young people be independent and do part-time jobs while at college...whatever job it be...to give out their best..I wish your dream comes true....very soon...its near, its not too far away from u...my best regards and wishes will always be there, wherever I am.Proud to be a StudentConceptian..

-Rajesh V

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Wildlife Sanctuaries

Over the next 3 years, StudentConcepts will be spending time in visiting and studying the following destinations for YOU!

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Masinagudi
Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala
Wandur National Park, Andaman Nicobar Islands
Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Andra Pradesh
Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunanchal Pradesh
Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh
Manas National Park, Assam
Nameri National Park, Assam
Barnadi National Park, Assam
Orang National Park, Assam
Kaziranga National Park , Assam
Indravati Tiger Reserve
Delhi Ridge, Delhi
Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, Goa
Gir National Park, Gujarat
Nalsarovar Lake Sanctuary, Gujarat
Velavadar (Blackbuck) National Park, Gujarat
Sultanpur National Park, Haryana
Pin Valley National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Dachigam National Park, Jammu-Kashmir
Hemis High Altitude National Park, Jammu-Kashmir
Overa-Aru Sanctuary, Jammu-Kashmir
Betla (Palamau) National Park, Jharkand
Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka
Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka
Bori-Satpura Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Pench National Park , Madhya Pradesh
Karnala Bird Sanctuary, Mumbai
Borivli National Park, Mumbai
Melghat Tiger Reserve, Mumbai
Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Mumbai
Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, Mumbai
Pench National Park, Mumbai
Siroy National Park, Manipur
Keibul Lamjao National Park, Manipur
Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram
Fakim Santuary, Nagaland
Itanki Sanctuary, Nagaland
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa
Chilika Lake, Orissa
Simlipal National Park, Orissa
Forest forts of Rajasthan
Bharatpur (Keoladeo Ghana) Bird Sanctuary, Rajasthan
Desert National Park, Rajasthan
Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan
Kangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary, Tripura
Dudhwa National Park, Uttar Pradesh
Rajaji National Park, Uttaranchal
Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttaranchal
Corbett National Park, Uttaranchal
Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal
Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, West Bengal

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bride and Prejudice

What could it be? After the success of Baajji on the Beach and Bend It Like Beckam, Gurinder Chadda decided a Bollywood film would make her cool and sought after in India. So it has to have a Bollywood feel. And that means tons of music, dance to compliment them, a heroine, a guy who will want her badly, a villian, strict parents, nice locations and must have a happy ending. Right? Right!

A family in Amritsar. Understanding dad, Tough mother. 4 daughters to get married off. Huge house. Car, servants the work. Some rich British-Indian dude attends a lavish wedding with his sister and best American friend. Eye contacts here and there among a few million guests and its love at first sight. American dude with Aishwarya Rai. Brit-Indian falls for Ash sister. The villian falls for Ash another sister. That leaves the fourth. We have no idea cause the director couldnt find anyone for her. Anyways, they dance and sing everywhere. Misunderstanding also happens. But then thats love. Finally they all come together. And yes..they lived happily ever after.

Verdict: Bad.

The director seems to have been carried away by Aishwarya Rai and her fame. A lot of attention was paid to her. There was no electrifying romantic feel between the hero and the heroine. They just didnt suit each other. Many felt that Ash was trying too hard to get a very American and sometimes British accent. The music was in English with a indian rhythm. Nobody enjoyed it.

The theatre was filled with people booing and walking away. The only highlight of the film was the humor provided by this Indian who drops in from USA to find a suitable indian wife. One thing common in all of Chaddas film is that its all based on Indians with a connection to the west. They are all from Punjab. The mother is the toughest and always looking to getting their daughters married off. Its always girl child based. The dad is always the most understanding.

Went to watch with a lot of expectations but came back irritated.

Maniratnam, Sachin Tendulkar, Students, Heat, Us.....


(Pic:Dinamalar.com).......Cricketeer Sachin and Director Maniratnam

Another shoot! StudentConcepts was chosen again by Maniratnam's Madras Talkies who have taken the initiative to direct a 30 second advertisement for Shakti Founadtion who creates awareness for ramps for the disabled. Our 3rd project with Mani Sir (Previous being Yuva and Ayudha Ezhuthu). The shoot commenced on 10 October 2004 and the ad featured Sachin Tendulkar. He came to the sets on 11 October and looked super smart. StudentConcepts members went wild in seeing their idol. Students from Loyola college were also given permission to attend the shoot. Students from New College also offered extensive support for the day 3 shoot at Rajaji hall.

This is our second ad shoot and also the second with Sachin Tendulkar. The previous one was for MRF that also included Steve Waugh and Brain Lara. The shoot over the last 2 days and will continue for the next 2 days was done in incredible Chennai heat. And we started work at 4am! Yawn! However, once Mani Ratnam and Tendulkar arrived, the party was on. It was great to see the master film maker spend time with the master blaster in getting various shots right. And they seemed to totally enjoy it!

Deepak was another director who was involved in the shoot. He had a great time with the students and thoroughly enjoyed the 4 daus of shoot. Sunil of Evam(our client and supporter) was also in the cast. You can spot him in the wheel chair and Sachin comes running to grab it. One of our old members, Shalini was chosen as the assistant director for the shoot. We had put her in touch with Madras Talkies couple of months back. It was a dream come true for her, when she received a call from them! Fantastic work Shalini! She was also assisted by Varun, Mahesh and other Asst.Direcs.

Check the TV over the next couple of days or maybe weeks for the ad. Hope you like it! Would love to hear your comments!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Gaata Rahe Mera Dil


The music concert

We were invited to a music concert that was being held close to our office..at the Music Academy. It was being hosted by a company called DMS and the show would feature Hindi music from the 50's and 60's. It was their fourth charity show. The auditorium was pcked and the avaerage age group of the audience would have been between 50-70 i suppose.

The entire show lasted about 4hrs! Some of the songs were sung beautifuly by this particular singer called Anil from Mumbai. He sang some of Mohammed Rafi greatest hits during that period and everybody began to call him back on stage to sing more numbers.

As they were singing there was a screen that displayed photographs of the song from the movie. Its then you realise the marvelous work of the film and music director along with lyricist. The actors also seemed to have enjoyed the whole process....Sure of the fact that they dont make movies or music like that anymore!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

From Esquire Magazine, January 2004

Jack Nicholson, 66
1. I'd prefer if people had ni impressions of me. As a kid, I had to tell my own family, "Please,don't just talk about me!" Because they always got it wrong. Always. I just didn't want them to tell anyone anything about me. God knew, they had a great opinion and they loved me and meant well, but it was like, please, you don't have this right. You know what I mean?

2. I think the Greeks invented sports as an antidote to philosophy. In sports there are absolute rules.

Christopher Reeve, 51
1. Religion? Abe Lincoln put it very simply in 1860: " When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad"

2. Superman is a big fish in a small pond. He's Superman on Earth only because he's in a different solay system. If he'd grown up on Krypton, if it hadnt been destroyed, he would have been average-nothing special about him.

3. If you came back here in ten years, I expect that I'd walk to the door to greet you.

Lynda Carter, 52
Men are about hierarchy. They walk into a room, figure out who the top dog is, and then see where they stand in relation to everyone else. Women are about community. They walk into a room and look to see who they know, who they can bring together.

Adam West, 75
Wisdom is knowing when to shut the f*** up.

Lauren Hutton, 60
1. You know how Ronald Reagen became president? For 10 years on TV, he opened the door to GE refrigerator full of food.

2. I was 13 when rock 'n' roll started. I was 18 when birth control came over the counter. I was 21 when you could get acid that was real, not strychnine, post-Timothy Leary crap. I had a lucky birthdate.

Jack Black, 34 and Kyle Gass, 43
K: We've got to talk about global warming. This is really catastrophic that some of these island countries are just disappearing because of the ice caps melt and the water keeps rising and there goes these islands in the Pacific. I think the fish are gonna be really creepy when it gets warm. Warm Fish!

J: Ewwwwwwww! Dude, if global warming goes the way you're saying, all that might be left are octopi. Planet of the Octopi!

George Foreman, 54
1.Evil lurkes where disappointment lodges.

2. Changing your nature is the hardest thing to do. But I have discovered that you can be who you choose to be.

3. The first thing that came to my mind when i signed the grill contract for $137.5 million was, I am going to make my sisters millionaires. After all these years, they are finally going to be millionaires. And they did become millionaires-with the same old troubles as everybody
else.

4. My mother used to tell me, "You live and learn. Then you die and forget it all."

Muhammad Ali, 61
1. God will not place a burden on a man's shoulders knowing that he cannot carry it.

2. I came back to Louisville after the Olympics with my shiny gold medal. Went into a lunchenette where black folks couldn't eat. Thought I'd put them on the spot. I sat down and asked for a meal. The Olympic champion wearing his gold medal. They said, "We don't serve niggers here."I said, "Thats okay, I don't eat'em".
But they put me out in the street. So i went down to the river, the Ohio River, and threw my gold medal in it. Since that day, things in America have changed 100 percent.

3. When you're right, nobody remembers. When you're wrong, nobody forgets.

4. Wisdom is knowing when you can't be wise.

Joe Frazier, 59
1.Had my own car at 12 years old. Left school in the 10th grade. Married when i was 16. Ain't hard to figure out; i was a man at a very young age.

2. I had my Olympic gold medal cut up into 11 pieces. Gave all eleven of my kids a piece. It'll come together again when they put me down.

Donald Trump, 57
Going through tough times is a wonderful thing, and everybody should try it. Once.

Jack Welch, 68
Its during the worst of times that things get fixed.

Bob Lutz, 71
1.Death? So many people of modest intelligence have done it so successfully-it cant be that hard.
2. Percentage of Idiots remain constant.

Robert De Niro
I like it when interviews are brief. Are we done yet?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

British Council event


Containing more than 700 entries and 250 illustrations, this comprehensive reference tool offers coverage for all of Indian theater, in its various regional languages. The entries focus on topics such as censorship, criticism, architecture, acting, festivals, lighting, mime, individual groups or companies, and genres. The book covers 2000 years of Indian theatre and took 7 years to compile all the info.

We felt privileged when British Council invited us to the launch of the above book by Shri Kamal Haasan. When we arrived there, the who's who of the city were there. It was at the courtyard and the evening would also have 15 minute theatre performances by Madras Players, Kattaikuttu Sangam, MTC Productions and Koothu-P-Pattarai. It was a great evening of talent exhibition. But the highlight have to Kamal.

He just walked into the court yard like anyone else. Dressed in a white short kurta, jeans and sandals..he looked in his late 40's!!! Isnt he around 60 years old? He had great personality and was very comfortable with the whole proceedings. He said that stage is a stepping stone to many great actors. And that he was surprised to see his own name in the book. He felt this because he said he learned his basics in Cinema, then jumped into theatre and back to cinema again. He was like a tourist in a country of theatre with passport problems.

The show wrapped up around 7:50pm and we could not manage to have a look at the book since everybody ran to the book counter. Highlight of the show personaly was meeting up with Praveena..a very old StudentConcepts member! Welcome back to Chennai Praveena!

While we are on the topic of British Council, please check out NEWS YOU CAN USE section for info on Digital Film Festival this Sunday. http://www.studentconcepts.org

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

DEDICATION CEREMONY OF RAJIV GANDHI NINAIVAKAM - ADT & STUDENTS JOIN HANDS


At Rajiv Gandhi Memorial

Function atteneded by
His Excellency, The President of India, Sri APJ ABDUL KALAM
Mrs.Sonia Gandhi
Mrs. Priyanka
Mr. Rahul Gandhi
Mrs.Anita Ratnam (Arangham Trust)

The below writeup is from Anita Ratnam's Arangham Trust archives.

Anita and ADT were privileged to choreograph young students at the formal ceremony for the inauguration of the RAJIV GANDHI NINAIVAKAM at Sriperumbudur on October 10, 2003. It involved school students from Padma Seshadri, Sishya, students from city colleges(StudentConcepts), as well as sloka students from the city’s Vedapadasalai, members from Koothu-p-pattarai and south Indian nadaswaram and conch artistes.

“It was a challenge that sprung up unexpectedly. When Romi Chopra, a consultant who handles major outdoor events first broached the subject, it was supposed to be a very quiet and small affair. But then it became much larger with the President of India accepting the invitation to open the memorial,” acknowledged Anita, while speaking about the project. “I was honoured to choreograph the details for the ceremony but it was a real nightmare of logistics with security detailing being the biggest one! We had only 5 days to rehearse and I must say the students cooperated so well with the daily travel to Sriperumbudur and the blistering heat to beat! We enjoyed it completely and I’m sure it will remain a striking memory in the whole team’s minds…”

After a short speech by the President, another group of students holding a red fabric, enacted the last walk of Rajiv Gandhi, with pulsating drumming by the Thudumbu drummers from Koothu-p-pattarai. Two students then ran around the arena holding aloft the national flag. Jayashree Ramnath wrapped up the show with another rendition of the national anthem.
The solemn and moving ceremony won appreciation from all the dignitaries present. Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Ms Priyanka and Mr Rahul Gandhi were especially touched and made it a point to meet the entire team and thank them individually, followed by exclusive photo shoots with the group!
There was not a dry eye in the audience…the young voices of the future, proudly and clearly recited the sacred ideals of democracy…the resonance of the young voices brought a lump to every throat…lofty ideals of our democratic ethos recited by youg boys and girls, fired with unsullied hopes and ideals. At Sriperumbudur, when the President of India dedicated the Rajiv Ninaivakam to the nation, the young children gathered there gave me fresh hope. Indian democracy will live for a thousand years and what my generation could not achieve, namely communal amity and social justice, will be the stepping stones and bench mark with which the coming generation will prove its worth.
Jayanthi Natarajan, Sunday Express,October 19, 2003

Meeting old members

We have been bumping into old StudentConcepts members over the last couple of days...

1. Ganesh..a student from an engineering college had visited our office in 2001 and had volunteered to assist a team of 60 students who wanted to raise assistance for the victims of the Gujarat Earthquake. The entire team worked extremely hard towards this task. And then we lost touch. But the chance meeting at a cafe got us back again. He has graduated and is now working with the Sterling Group and handles Barista cafe.

2. Divya had joined us in 2000 and was involved in a wide variety of work in the initial stages of StudentConcepts. She was there for a good year and again due to higher education etc, we lost touch. Met her again at a cafe and she is now working as an assistant movie director to acclaimed director Gautham Menon!

Nice to meet you guys after so long!!! Keep in touch!

shubas testimonial 2

student concepts goes deep.. i'm a fanatic when it comes to nature, and i see that passion in u guys.. besides, u guys are so reliable! so i'd chose u over others any day :-)

-Shuba

The Marga Job


Unnikrishnan and Usha
Marga Dance Company

THE THREE-DAY Marga Festival (Sept 30 to Oct 2) of dance, theatre and music just got over at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore. It showcased Sathya Narayana Raju and Anjana (Bharatnatyam) on Sept 30, Attakalari, a contemporary dance group(with whom we worked last year) under Jayachandran's direction on October 1,and Theru-k-koothu by Purisai Duraisami Kanappa Thambiran Parambarai on October 2 was a success.

StudentConcepts members were involved in the areas of ticketing, customer relations, partial event management. The client Usha, is so happy with our work that she plans to work with us every year! Well done Vaishnavi for weeks of hard work! The client loves you and wants you to work for her after the show as well ! Karthick and Mithun...you were incredibly professional at the venue!
Thank you for all your hard work!


A movie to watch ! Have you seen it? What are your views on the story and its relevance today? What is the movie best remembered for?

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Happy Birthday.

My first visit to Kerala

By Aishwariya Laxmi

It was my first visit to Kerala. Of course I have met many Keralites and heard a lot about God’s own country, but a visit to a small village called Pazhayannur made me realise just how peaceful and close to nature the place really was. My mom’s chithapa has a huge rambling house there, which has been handed down to him from the previous generation. A small pond faces it and a beautiful temple stands in front of the edifice.

I had been persuaded by my mom’s cousin who is actually only a couple of years older than I, to join the extended family for a devasam at Pazhayannur. I had agreed since I wanted to mingle with my family, many of whose members I had not met previously. At the time I was a lot thinner, and had short hair with tints of brown in it. With my jeans and colourful Tee shirts I presented an interesting contrast to the rural landscape.

I had a great time walking down causeways in the fields to the well and drawing water from it for drinking. Visits to a nearby dam made me wonder if water was as scarce as we imagine it to be. I picked four leafed clovers from near the waterfront and peeled jackfruit, washed my own clothes, and slept on a mat on the floor.


The sudden appearance of an arachnid one night caused a bit of a hullabaloo since my grandmother who shared the room with me was every bit as scared as I am of the creepy eight legged creatures. Then of course the whole household was up…. My mother’s 6 chithapas, their wives and children! Many theories started floating about as to why the spider could not have been seen, while my mom’s cousin slyly suggested that there were more snakes there than spiders anyway.

A few loose floorboards were pried open and we all checked to see if there were any other creepy crawlies underneath. Thankfully there were none that we could see. So we all went to our respective places and tried to sleep. I say tried, because each time we closed our eyes we could see a few multi-legged creatures walking on us.

And of course my grandmother started on the stories of all the times in the past that she had encountered spiders, huge hairy ones, which if picturised would have put a tarantula to shame!So much for spiders and snakes!

One night, we all went to the temple facing the house and lit lamps there. The next night, there was a vellichappad. A priest came to the temple and after chanting a lot of mantras he started hopping around the temple screaming loudly and generally attracting all our attention. I do not mean to sound irreverent here, but my belief in God does not extend to idol worship. I believe in a super power but I more or less conform to the opinion that it is within each one of us. So that does not make me an agnostic, but just a believer, I guess. My mom’s cousin informed me that the priest was possessed by God, or rather God had entered his physical body and if anybody wanted to consult the priest on any matter, he would speak like an oracle. Well- One look at the situation and I stayed away!

I really wanted to take photographs of the ongoing hungama but was informed by my family that it would be against the rules. Suddenly I felt like Pooja Batra in Virasat who kept clicking snaps of each new thing she encountered in the village. If only I looked as good as she did as well!

On another day we went to the nearby temple and fed the fish. We also went to Guruvayur and saw the huge elephant there. We had our Darshan and I prayed for so long that everybody started complaining. Despite what I say about not believing in idol worship, I can pray long and hard if taken to a temple.

I love the peaceful atmosphere that prevails in temples, except that in places like Guruvayur, there are so many devotees queuing up to have a darshan, and the distribution of prasadam is so organised that one feels it is a commercial activity like any other.

Anyway, I came back from Kerala a more relaxed and refreshed being, the only downside being that I had a battery of examinations to clear, as these had been my study holidays!

Roots

By Aishwariya Laxmi

When Sir Vidia, better known as V.S .Naipaul, won the Nobel prize for literature, the question of his roots came to the fore. All of us wanted to call him an Indian, since it would mean bringing glory to our country. Naipaul has stayed in Trinidad and written about the place as well, just as he has about India. All of us clamouring to call him ‘our own’ in a desperate bid to catch a piece of the action, was rather pathetic considering his own statements of belonging to the world and caustic observations about India.

Another celebrity, a designer, Anand Jon on the other hand is from Chennai. His impressive client list includes Mary G. Blige, Oscar nominated actors, Nadja Swarovski, Presidents and Prime Ministers the world over. When I interviewed him about his roots for a piece for Madras Plus, he could trace his roots to Madras-his vivid recollections of sneaking out into houses at 4 a.m to listen to heavy metal, to be replaced by bhajans at 7a.m have a “bitter sweet lucid quality”. He also goes on to say that the ground where his grandparents were buried, in Kilpauk is sacred to him. He recalls the temples, kanchipuram silks, the dosas, besant nagar beach, street brawls-In his own words, his roots in Madras are mischievous, melancholic, yet powerful.

Do we really take time out to acknowledge the influences in our lives and importance of our roots?

I trace my roots to Madras. I was born in Nagercoil, Kanyakumari District, but have no recollection of that place. What I do remember are my childhood days spent here in Madras. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Chennai. I used to be a bookworm until I learned what it was like to have friends. I used to frequent a library with my mother and borrow books, which I would start reading even before reaching home. One day, the daughter of the librarian invited me to join her gang for a game of hide and seek. On that day, began a lifelong friendship, which has given me wonderful memories to look back on and smile.

We were a gang of five who formed the A.F Club. A.F standing for Adventurous Five. Inspired by the exploits of the children in the Enid Blyton books, we would look for clues and try to solve mysteries. Most of the time the investigation would involve tailing or shadowing suspicious looking men on bicycles. At that point in our lives, anyone with a moustache was considered a suitable candidate for categorising as ‘suspicious’. We also used to sit outside the library singing English pop songs. I would cycle up to my friend’s house and go up to her terrace from where we would make catapults and target annoying boys from our respective schools as they passed by in the evenings. They would in turn deflate the air from my bicycle in school, and thus the war between the girls and the boys went on.

We went swimming in the evenings and did our handstands in the pool. We would stand upside down in the shallow end of the pool with only our legs sticking out of the water, and hold our breath, to see who could do it the longest. We threw ‘parties’ in my house which happened to be the headquarters of the A.F. Club, and invited our non-A.F members to come and enjoy themselves as we performed dances for popular film numbers for which the planning and organising went on weeks in advance. Of course, snacks and drinks were also provided. On birthdays, we would organise treasure hunts across the neighbourhood and teams of little girls and boys could be seen rushing about from place to place looking for the grand treasure, which would be a box of sweets.

What we looked forward to the most were our annual excursions to Mahabalipuram. My parents would drive us kids to the beach resort where we would play in the water from 6. a.m to 1. 30 p.m and come out looking like black, dried prunes. We used to plan months in advance as to which tapes we would take in the car and what we would do upon reaching there. All this would be hastily forgotten as soon as we saw the cool beckoning blue waters of the sea. We were quite the water babies.

These golden memories are all part of who I am today. …No matter where we go in life, it is important to remember where we came from.

To Tortella, Miss Grey, Velvet and the others

By Aishwariya Laxmi

She looks at me
With curiosity
Her eyes search mine in wonder
And perplexity
She waves her little paw
And writes her own law
Those that are weak
Need not be meek!
She is my little kitten
Softer than a mitten

…That goes out to Tortie, short for Tortella, the first kitten I adopted. I was about eight or nine returning home with a friend after a boisterous game of running and catching, when my friend drew my attention to this little kitten that was playing in the middle of the road with a puppy. Needless to point out, the sight was truly adorable and I often regret that I haven’t captured it on film. She suggested that I take the kitten home and keep her, when she saw that I was entranced by the little furball. I found the idea very appealing, and quickly took Tortie home.

She had a white base with orange, black and deep brown fur. Till date she is the most intelligent cat I have come across. She was so adorable that my mother couldn’t say no and she quickly joined part of our household. We had her for many years, and over the years, she gave birth to many kittens who then had kittens, until our house became a kind of a menagerie. Since it was an independent house, it did not trouble anyone, and the cats walked in and out of the house freely.

There was Velvet, who was a black and white fluffy tomcat who developed a taste for coffee, then there was Miss Gray who was a very plain little cat compared to her bushy siblings, but we loved her all the same. Ginger, got bitten by a dog and came home with a gaping hole in her chest, which frightened me. We took her to the vet, and I still can’t believe that nebasulf powder alone managed to heal her and make her all right. There was an Abyssinian Tabby who was very beautiful and adept at hunting down her own food. The only problem was, she would drag her prey into the house and we, being vegetarians found it difficult to tolerate beasts of all shapes in our living room. Our reaction would always be dismay at what the cat dragged in!”

There were many other cats too. They would sniff at the flowers and blades of grass in the garden, and were polite enough to do their toilet in the mud outside the house, once they were potty trained. They were playful and I could spend hours leading them on with bits of string. They would chase it with fascination writ large upon their little faces. With eager thrusts of their paws, they would aim to catch the string, but never succeed. They would finally tire of it and amuse themselves with some other object like the tennis ball, which they would then hasten to roll under the chair. Sometimes, in their efforts to catch the ball that they had just pushed under the furniture, they would butt their heads against the wood, and carry on as if nothing happened.

Every time the refrigerator door was opened, all the cats would come rushing from wherever they were and there would be a mass of tails and fur. My grandmother who is not kindly disposed to having any kind of animals in the house, was quite shocked to say the least when she opened the fridge and this convergence of tails and fur took place. After that her visits to our household diminished in frequency, and I always had to make sure that the cats did not jump on her when she did come. She would use her forefinger to give little admonishing taps on their tails, which had no effect whatsoever on the felines, and only made me laugh, which annoyed her considerably.
I never felt lonely as a child. Although I had no siblings, I had so many pets and loved all of them so very much, that they were very much a part of our family.

The language of the city

By Aishwariya Laxmi

The city can be cold and impersonal, where every person is cruelly reduced to a statistic- just one among the teeming population of settlers. I have often wondered what it would be like to live in a hill station. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, away from all the pollution-photochemical smog, blaring horns, and giant buses vrooming past, exhausting a swirl of soot and smoke.It was just recently that I voiced my idea to my parents and to my surprise they actually took me seriously. That night, I slept like a baby, lulled into dreams of romantic interludes by candlelight dinners with gentle and mysterious men. I woke up the next day to greet what I am sure was one of the most beautiful mornings in the history of time.

There was a slight nip in the air and the rain had washed the earth till everything was as God intended it to be. Lush and green. Unspoiled by technology. No noise of loud automotives to be heard-everything tranquil, belying the industrial nature of the city- It was as if the city was revealing to us a much hidden facet of it’s. Like a shy bride on her first night, it was giving us an indication of things to come. The gentle downpour had at once cooled the temperature around by a perceptible degree, and washed the entire land-the buildings, houses, trees, yards, roads and playgrounds, till they exuded an almost country air. The earth was giving a heady scent of freshness that was comparable with the best hillsides and the plains. Closing my eyes, I was transported to a land of red earth and pouring rain. Of megha and varsha-of women clad in red saris with straw baskets on their heads, walking through a thin causeway in the fields. That the city could conjure up such images was refreshing. Warm and rustic images in contrast to cold and urban ones. Of love and bonding- welcoming with open arms to cold and forbidding- shutting out-two separate poles.

It made me wonder about my desire to leave it. I was in a pensive frame of mind for a few days and then a transformation came over me. The city that used to talk to me earlier spoke in a cold and harsh tongue- in a language I could not follow-One that can be best exemplified by freezing winter bringing to mind chilly draughts of wind. Isolation. Like being trapped within an iceberg. But now I was beginning to comprehend the language of the city-, which was essentially the universal language of love and companionship. Of altruism and good nature-philanthropy and compassion.

A line extending from one heart to another-a line as vital to the functioning of the human being as the very arteries that pump blood from the heart. One that transcends borders-cultural, racial, economic, political and gets to the heart of the matter- to raw, exposed feelings, mangled cries in the night, tearful farewells of departed souls, human pain, deep suffering, extreme emotion, trauma and despondency. And helps dissipate some of it into a more manageable bundle, one that is not so heavy to bear, on the often frail human psyche. This is the language of the city. And we are its settlers. Sometimes complaining, sometimes cheerful, sometimes strong, and sometimes grateful. It is the same for every city in the world. We need to conduct a meaningful dialogue with it. Build up our social networks and live in man’s company rather than live in our own little cocoons that are safe but impregnable. Going out, meeting people, sharing ideas, information, joys, sorrows. Forming relationships. It is then that we can come full circle, and blossom into whole human beings.

I would do anything for love…

By Aishwariya Laxmi

The house loomed large against the black stillness of the night. Clouds obscured the moon and Aakanksha had to strain her eyes to keep sight of the muddy, godforsaken road. The cold damp air gave her goosebumps. She wondered if this was a good idea after all.

When she had received an e- mail from Sohan she had been overjoyed. As her entire school had known, Sohan had been her first and only true love. Sohan had studied with her till the first term of Class XI and then had left for the U.S to continue his studies there. His parents however lived here in Anand Nagar. She had been crazy about Sohan from the time she could remember her existence in this world. She called it existence, because it would be a life only if Sohan were in it. But, to Sohan , she was nothing more than another number on the class register. Notwithstanding the battering to her ego, she was sure that this was love and that some day he would recognise her feelings for what they were and love her like no other. Talk about wild dreams and flights of fancy.

Now, there was this e-mail from Sohan, saying he was coming down to Anand Nagar for his holidays and would be here for two weeks. Sohan-and writing to her? It was a dream come true. He wanted to meet up with her and had even left an address. Her excitement was palpable as she scribbled it down on her writing pad. With her fingers trembling a little with excitement, she wrote out a quick and effusive reply. No. That sounded too desperate. She wanted to play it cool. She rephrased herself so that she sounded less needy and clicked on send. The whole day she kept checking her mail for his reply. At 3.30 p.m. she received a reply confirming the date.

She spent the next couple of hours at the parlour doing up her hair and nails. She was lucky since it was only a half-day at work. She went back home to change into her favourite blue dress-the one that looked great on her complexion, and lied to her mother saying that she was staying at a friend’s house. And sure she picked the friend who didn’t have a telephone in her house and lived miles away from her. At last…things were beginning to happen. Her life was picking up. As she drove down the pot-holed roads, she sang in her heart and played her favourite songs. So caught up was she in her ebullience that she didn’t realise how lonely the road was getting. It was twilight and her mother’s oft-repeated warnings about the twilight hour being the most dangerous for drivers sprang up and nudged their way into her consciousness. Pushing these niggling anxieties away, she tried concentrating on the road ahead.

The house loomed large against the black stillness of the night. Clouds obscured the moon and Aakanksha had to strain her eyes to keep sight of the muddy, godforsaken road. The cold damp air gave her goosebumps. She wondered if this was a good idea after all.

Something swooped down and landed on her windshield. She heard herself scream. The car swerved out of control and crashed into a tree. Suddenly, a burly figure appeared out of nowhere. A man in a trenchcoat with a scarf over his mouth grabbed her by the arm and took her out of the car. She was blindfolded and gagged. Panic rose within her and she tasted bile. For a fleeting moment she thought she was going to throw up. A rough calloused hand closed in around her neck and fear gripped her with thin icy fingers. A horrible thought flashed across her mind. This man-what was he going to do with her?

As she struggled against his vice like grip, he hit her. She could taste the blood on her lips. Oh God - where was she and who was this horrible man? What in the world was happening? This couldn’t be true. Suddenly, her feet felt cold. He was taking her to the beach. The icy cold water gnawed at her ankles.
Before she knew what was happening, the blindfold was pulled off and she was pushed rudely into the water. Falling face forward into the wave, Aakanksha could feel the salty, muddy water in her eyes. They burned but she couldn’t wipe them. Her hands were still tied. She blinked in pain and confusion and tears started falling uncontrollably. The shrill siren of an ambulance pierced the quiet night air. She struggled in the water and managed to crawl toward the shore. Leaning against the wreck of an old boat that was stationed there, she looked around for signs of her abductor, but he was nowhere in sight.

He had left her in the sea, with her hands tied and had disappeared. Probably the ambulance had scared him off. Once she got her bearings, she realised that things could have been worse and started running, afraid that he would reappear. She ran like she had never run before. It seemed like forever, but was probably for about ten minutes. She spotted a small shack and hurriedly ran towards the dim light. Just as she started yelling for help, a black gloved hand clamped her mouth shut and she felt searing pain as cold metal sliced through her…

Three days later, a small item in the local newspaper announced Aakanksha’s murder. Two fishermen who had seen it floating towards the shore had found her body. It was slightly bloated but the wound inflicted on her back could be seen. They reported their find to the police, who searched the area for clues. The investigation went on for a week before a bloodstained knife was found near a run-down shack. A broken key chain with the initial P was found along with a torn piece of cloth near the knife. The cloth matched the dress Aakanksha had worn the night of the murder. Her colleagues at her office were questioned. They had known Aakanksha for only a month, as she had just finished school and joined the advertising agency as a copywriter.

Aakanksha’s close friends from school, Rekha and Aditi were then questioned. They revealed that Aakanksha was a very friendly girl but was hugely infatuated with Sohan. Almost everybody in school knew of her crush on Sohan. A couple of other boys had been interested in her and about seven months ago, a boy named Paul had proposed to her in front of the whole class, but she had been rude to him and had laughed at him. She had also slapped him in front of everybody. He had felt very insulted and had grown very angry. Afterward, a group of boys had taunted him about the incident and he had been ragged by some of his neighbours as well (who had heard of the incident from the school boys.). His father was an alcoholic and mother was dying of cancer. After his mother’s death, he had dropped out of school and had not written his board exams. The police followed up this story.

Paul was suffering from depression and he was also of unsound mind ever since the incident. He had been brooding over Akanksha’s insults for a long time. When the police went to his house, he was frightened and trembling. He broke down and confessed to the murder. He said that he had known of Aakanksha’s feelings for Sohan and had tricked her into meeting him pretending to be Sohan, since he knew that she would surely come, if Sohan’s name was used. He had played on her Achilles heel and murdered her. He was sentenced to imprisonment after being referred to a psychiatrist.

Sohan, who was in the U.S, was contacted by email. He was astounded to hear that a girl had been so in love with him. He felt very sorry for the girl and told his friends that he had been totally clueless about her feelings for him. He had been interested in getting a seat in an engineering college abroad and had been studying hard to do well in his entrance exams.

When he did come down for his holidays to meet his parents in Anand Nagar, he visited her parents and offered his condolences. They broke down and cried as the pain of losing their beautiful, only daughter was still fresh in their hearts. Aakanksha’s colleagues at the office paid their tributes as well….

To this day, the very name Aakanksha brings a stab of pain to all those concerned….

THE HOUSE FROM YESTERDAY

By Aishwariya Laxmi

I lived in a huge rambling house before we shifted to our apartment here. The house we inhabited was definitely what one would call interesting. It was a colonial style mansion, which had seen better days. It had this huge cannonball tree from Madagascar near the gate and believe it or not there was a snake pit at its roots! The backyard resembled an equatorial rain forest replete with underbrush, canopy of thickset tree leaves, intertwining creepers, et al. In all my years of living there, I dared not venture into the ‘garden’ for fear of snakebite. A more enterprising inhabitant would have conducted survival camps in the ‘garden’ and made a hefty packet for himself. Alas, the woes of the fainthearted. When it rained, there would be bats swooping into the house and hanging upside down from the hall ceiling. Quite the horror movie background effect, that!

The front yard was made of red gravel and I would practice my shot put there without fear of it landing on anyone’s toes. In the two-storeyed house, the landlord inhabited the ground floor while we stayed on top. He would be away for most part of the year and the times that he was in town, the whole neighbourhood would know, thanks to the huge rows that he had with the watchman, who lived at an adjoining out house.

Now don’t get me wrong about the landlord. I’m on his side. It was the watchman who was quite a character. Almost eighty years old, the man could barely wake up and get through the day leave alone stand guard. He wore thick glasses and peered through them each time someone rang the bell. Every time I had a visitor, he would summon all his energy and pick a verbal duel, which he was totally unprepared for, with them on some pretext or the other. This proved embarrassing on more than one occasion as almost every friend of mine who came to see me would be subjected to this tirade. The two generations following his also lived along with him in the outhouse and having youth on their side, they were brash and obnoxious versions of the old man. The landlord was unable to throw this man out without seeming heartless and cruel and having that on his conscience. So the watchman lived on, in the outhouse with his insufferable son and grandson.

After I finally moved out of the house, I found out that some of my neighbours called it the Bhooth Bungalow! Hmm I was hardly surprised. Anyway, I now live in an apartment, which is the modern homemaker’s dream. No endless cleaning and paying exorbitant rates for grumbling maidservants. But it was just last night that I looked out of my window, and saw a bat weaving its way through the tree outside my bedroom window, which set me thinking of old times. This prompted me to take a walk through my old house. The sight that greeted me took me quite by surprise. The house was gone and in its place stood a modern multi-storeyed apartment block. A smart gurkha in uniform stood at the gate and spoke in halting English. My maid later informed me that the old man had passed away peacefully into the night. Suddenly I felt a rush of guilt for my apathy toward the old man. I missed the old house. Walking down the street I thought to myself, the old house definitely had a spirit of its own.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon

By Aishwariya Laxmi

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I sat bored and restless. The summer heat had enveloped Chennai in a murky yellow haze.I turned on the television set. A beautiful mermaid, looking very much like the pale sea creature she was, washed to the shore, to the background of a lively tune. I really liked that video. I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep. I could see ruffles of peacock silk and tiny rose buds sewn on to shimmery ethereal fabric. Wispy threads of gold, and sequins and little mirrors decorated my dream as embroidered parrots with the faintest suggestion of pistachio swirled around me beckoning me to a world that I was wont to enter.

I stepped into an enchanting green meadow, and was fascinated with the shift and play of light through the trees. There was an intricate pattern through the foliage on the grass and a flock of parrots, jewel green chattered and shrieked elated. The towering regal trees guided me to the deepest parts of the woods where I went to, unfettered by inhibition or instinct.

I spent hours stringing necklaces of seed pods and tickled my feet with long blades of green grass that grew lush and untamed. I tapped anthers dripping with pollen and they spilled onto my face and hair, looking like gold dust. Suddenly I felt a soft thud on my back. I opened my eyes lazily to find my ginger golden cat using me as his cushion. I realised I had just had an adventure, albeit in my mind and was glad for the brief respite from the sullen brooding heat.

Friday, October 01, 2004

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