Jan 30, 2009


A friend of mine working with me recalled the story of a couple of youths in Purasaiwalkam (in Chennai) where he was living in. This guy 'R' used to come often to meet his friend 'S' whose dad was running a ready-made clothes shop. These two together would keep talking about drums & keyboard, and nothing about studies or business! As with any Indian parent, this had infuriated S's dad, as he saw R disrupting and distracting his son S's attention on business. He ordered that R should never be seen in his shop. He severely warned S that if only he saw him together with R somewhere in the vicinity, he will have tough time. Their 'clandestine' meetings, however, were continuing.

But then, history has its humble beginnings! In few years 'R' emerged as AR.Rahman, and 'S' as Sahul Hameed (who had sung in ARR's earlier films but later died in a traffic accident). From the noisy streets of Purasaiwalkam where he was warned against seeing his friend, AR Rahman has taken giant leaps into becoming the first Indian ever nominated individually for an Oscar! (Satyajit Ray was awarded Oscar for his lifetime services, but not through nomination & winning. And "Gandhi"s Costume Designer from India did win an Oscar but she had had to pair with a British national).

When AR.Rahman fetched the Golden Globes Award for his score in "Slumdog Millionaire" weeks ago, only few were delighted, as Golden Globes was quite unheard of (at least back in India). Soon came the news of Oscar nomination of the same movie, in which AR.Rahman has got 3 nominations. What a mega achievement of a musician from India!

Let's wait for Feb-22, when the Oscar winners are announced. (I find his "chinnamma.... sollu,sollu,sollu" in a recent Tamil film more appealing than his 'Jai ho' in "Slumdog Millionaire", though :-)

Jan 28, 2009

Hiking -Kumano Kodo

Hiking is an interesting outdoor activity in Japan. Though initially we were reluctant, soon we were hiking wherever possible; we find most of the trails hiker-friendly even for beginners. Mt.Shosha, Mt.Takamikura, Tendaki Falls, Kinosaki, Misasa, Suma Alps and Mt.Rokko are the places we hiked with a group of friends or as a family.

The latest one we had done -in a group of 37 friends- was Kumano Kodo Ancient Pilgrimage Route. This refers to a trail on the mountains -"the Ancient Pilgrimage Route"- that people have been walking 'over a thousand years' as a pilgrimage to visit the holy shrines located in several parts of the mountains. What is special about this trail is that it is recognized as a World Heritage spot by UNESCO. (http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/kumano-kodo/index.html )

On a very cold day (Dec-27, 08) we left Befu at 6 am in a rented bus for Kumano Kodo, and after a short break for breakfast near Wakayama, reached the start-point of the trail at Hosshinmon-Oji at about 11 am. We intended to cover the most popular sector between Hosshinmon-Oji and Kumano Hongu Taisha, which was an 8 km long trail. Hosshinmon-Oji has hardly 50 homes, and many homes have a small 'shop' -a 'counter' in front of their doors in which oranges, 'kaki's (persimmon), chestnuts and some vegetables are displayed for sale, with a price tag on them. If you want to buy, you take the merchandise, and leave the money at the box kept there. There is no shopkeeper!

The entire trail was on the mountains. At places the route bifurcates into two, where the only way to know the right route is make an 'educated guess' -as we find the Japanese characters written on the directions difficult to read, and on that day, there weren't many to ask for directions (But then, that's how all the hiking trails are!). As in any hiking trail, we saw many Japanese old couple walking actively on the route. A young man who said he is from Tokyo did not find the trail even a bit adventurous! A Japanese lady stopped by and asked us if everything was OK, and if we needed any help/directions.

The hiking was not tedious, as it was a safe 8km walk through the mountains. No steep uphills or crawling on rocks; fairly smooth but narrow natural trail. Walking on the trail that had both the sides covered with tall cedar trees was...Great!

By the time we reached Kumano Hongu Taisha (shrine), it was 2 pm. After spending some time in the shrine, our bus proceeded to Totsukawa Tanise bridge, which is the longest wire-rope bridge built across & connecting two mountains. It was thrilling as the bridge sways even as we walk across it! It is a 1m wide, 300m long footbridge built about 55m height (approx.) from the surface of the underneath river.

No outing gets completed without a hot spring bath! We did go to the remotely located Totsukawa hot spring, had a good time there as it was the first onsen-visit for many of our friends. It was 10:30 pm when we returned home......

Jan 27, 2009


சுஜாதாவின் நாவல் ஒன்றில் நான் பார்த்து, மனதில் ஏனோ தங்கிவிட்ட ஒரு புதுக்கவிதை:

தேடினால் -நீ காணாமல் போவாய்.
வழிகள் இங்கே மாறிவிட்டன"


Jan 25, 2009


I stay away not just from animals, but also from animal lovers. The amount of time, love & money they spend with their pets would have been put into good use, if only they were spent on fellow human beings -is my view.

Americans 'love' their dogs as if they are their family members. (Recall the hype over Obama's dog selection for his daughters in the White House). As they walk their dogs, which they religiously do, if they happen to meet others+dog, they stop to say 'hi, how is your boy doing"?. (I never use 'he' or 'she' or anything other than 'it' to refer to a dog). To me, "A dog is a dog is a dog". In Japan, a hot-spring in Yubara-cho has a separate tub for pet dogs. (And I stopped going to that hot spring ever since I came to know of this).

My children differ from me though. They love cats, dogs... and well, anything an animal-lover loves. When in Florida, they never miss an opportunity to be pictured with what I won't dare to touch!

Jan 24, 2009

Barack Obama

It was overwhelming, watching in TV the inauguration of Obama as US President. To my knowledge, this event would rank the first in terms of historical importance that we have witnessed in our lifetime so far. Our guys in the US who have voted could take pride for being part of a 'force' that made history.....(The only other significant event that occurred in our times, of this proportions, IMO, might be man's landing on the moon -again by Americans!).

We all know the most famous "I have a dream" speech (1963) by Martin Luther King. 45 years later, what Barack Obama made a reality goes far beyond King's 'dream'.

"Change has come to America" declared Obama, on Nov-5 when he got elected to the most powerful post on earth. I read a TIME article that analyzed why this historical change is global rather than American, which noted that "someone from the lower ranks of the society reaching the top position is near impossible in Europe and Asia.." Was a bit delighted as the author had added "....except perhaps in India". TIME would have found India a fitting democracy perhaps on seeing the rise of Manmohan and Abdul Kalam to the highest posts in India. (Let's keep quite about the fact that those two were 'nominated' but not 'elected').

Memories of Jan-17, 1995

January 17 would bring back harsh memories to those that lived in Japan in 1995 that day -when the killer earthquake devastated Kobe, and killed as many as 6,300 people in few seconds.

I still remember that day -it was a Tuesday. The previous Monday (Jan-16) was an MHI holiday and we had gone to Kobe, had lunch with Sampath family (BOI officer that lived near Motomachi), had dinner with Venkatesh-Uma family (P&G guy in Rokko Island), took the Sanyo train at Sannomiya Hankyu station at about 9:30 pm, and returned to Befu at about 10:30 pm.... having no idea that, in the next several hours, Sampath & Venkatesh families would be deserting their homes looking for shelters, and the Hankyu 4-storeyed building would be all in flames.....

It was 5:46 am in the morning. When I felt the SEVERE SHAKE at bed, I woke up and rushed to the balcony instinctively. (I was in 501 Sun Royal Arai, where Bhaskar Das lives in now). The lamp post on the street was banging on the building wall like monster pushed it across the wall. Sensing something extremely danger, took my 4 yr old son (Shibu) & wife (Vanishree) -they both were awake by then- and rushed out of my apartment. Shibu was asking "what's it? Looks like 'Never Ending Story' scene...". I saw the hall look like a riot-area -with the large wooden shelf moved out of its place with its door open & all the plates & cups shattered over the floor, the fridge had 'walked' a few feet, the kitchen top cabinet had opened spilling all the groceries kept in containers there.... we knocked at our Japanese neighbor's door. They let us in, and were watching TV to know the severity of the earthquake. That lady prepared 'ocha' for us, and her husband was getting ready for his work.

Indians in Befu & other areas talked to each other, and we didn't go to work as Sanyo trains got canceled. We started assembling at my apartment, and were glued on to TV -which started showing horrible pictures. When the TV announced the death toll as 150, we knew it was going to be a disaster for Japan. Tried to call our friends in Sannomiya, Akashi & Rooko Island -but no telephone was working in those areas. (There was no cell phone then). By afternoon, my neighbor prepared some obentos (lunch-packs) and started walking towards Kobe (30 km away)where one of her relatives was living in... (Most of the Japanese did so). All the Indian families in Befu spent that night in our apartment -501, Sun Royal Arai- and it was a sleepless night. Still scary were the aftershocks that followed every 20-30 min.(Aftershocks are minor tremors that follow after the 'main' earthquake) Aftershocks continued for nearly 2 days then. Nobody would know if the aftershocks would stop, or could extend into yet another major earthquake.... those shaking seconds were horrible. Life's uncertainty had never struck us this harsh before.....

Sanyo had by the next day resumed services in Himeji direction from somewhere near Akashi (Takinochaya, if I remember it right). We all went to work, but the aftershocks continued. Momentarily I decided to send my wife & son to India. As access to Osaka was disrupted, I re-booked for Hiroshima-Singapore for the very next day. Minutes before I was about to go to Befu station with them, Vanishree got adamant that she would not go, and she would stay in here with me whatever happens...............

I canceled the booking and we all went back to work. Ravi-Meena, friends of us who were in MELCO Kobe, had seen their apartment in flames, and were in a shelter for few days. Hearing that Kakogawa wasn't affected badly, they walked up to Akashi (about 30 km), and took the train to reach our place. They shared our apt. for several days. (When I met Ravi-Meena in California in Y2001, she said she never even stepped into their apt. after the earthquake even while moving -she never even wanted to recall those moments for a while). Toprani was in Akashi -his apt. lost power & water & gas. When he was in our apt with a number of other guys -Zakir, Nazia family- he got the news of the birth of his 2nd daughter, from India. Life cycle never stops..

Marist school (Shibu's school) saw the worst damage -with half of the main building gone. The present gym was converted into a refugee camp, and soups & noodles were prepared right there for the campers. There was no train service from Befu to Suma for the next several months. Even when it resumed, passengers had had to travel by bus a short distance in between which was totally affected.

The earthquake brought out several unique aspects of the Japanese society. TVs showed water lorries serving water to those in temp. shelters -thousands of people standing in Q patiently knowing well that it would be several hours for their turn to come. Almost all of them avoided driving private vehicles on roads leading to Kobe -to give way for ambulances and rescue vehicles. Banks had opened temporary ATMs near shelter homes. Kobe Shimbun -the Japanese daily -put back its machinery that was badly affected, moved them to another locality, and brought out the newspaper on the 3rd or 4th day -with a note that all of its staff had lost at least one of their family members. The Kobe City Office Utility Manager committed suicide after his failure to restore water services to the affected areas in the first 2-3 days.

After a couple of months I took my camera and went to Sannomiya. The whole Motomachi bazaar had fallen to flames. Sogo in Sannomiya junction was badly damaged, and looked like it was going to fall anytime. All the highways had collapsed. Repair had just started everywhere and the whole city looked like a war-affected area. Yes, it was a war staged by God on the innocent Kobe residents, I thought. I began to question the mercy of God, and wondered if 'that fellow' really deserved a capital G.......

Among our friends, Srinidhi, Kumar & Sundar were in MHI then. Srinidhi had just landed in Osaka airport exactly on that day -he managed to reach Harimacho by taxi. In fact, he was the only one who had first-hand experience of witnessing Kobe earthquake effects briefly after it struck. Later we learned that the epicenter was in Awajishima (but the Akashi bridge that was under construction was not affected), Kobe had intensity 6+, and Kokogawa had intensity 4. Two persons working in Befu port had died.

Years later -in 2004- shortly after my return to Akashi, I felt a 'minor shake' one day night when we were all sleeping. I woke up instantly and saw the thread attached to the light (to turn the light on/off) was swaying.... Without disturbing others, I got up, went to the hall, and turned on the TV in low volume. There was an earthquake somewhere, and TV showed intensity 1 in Akashi. That was nothing; we won't feel it if it occurs at daytime. Seconds later Deepika was standing behind me, asking me if there was anything wrong. "Nothing... Never again" I said.

தசாவாதாரம் -part 2

(Re-posting of what I wrote on 26-Jun-2008)
Tsunami, நாத்திகர்களுக்கு 'லட்டு' மாதிரி. "கடவுள் அன்பானவர்' அது, இது என்று வாய் கிழியப் பேசுகிறீர்களே, இதான் அவர் அன்பின் லட்சணமா?" Die hard நாத்திகனான கமலும் இந்தக்கேள்வியைக் குறைந்தது 10 பேரிடம் கேட்டிருக்கக்கூடும். மாறுதலுக்கு ஒரு ஆத்திகன் பார்வையிலிருந்து இந்தக்கேள்விக்கு கமல் விடை தேட, கிடைத்தது 'தசாவாதாரம்' கதைக்கரு. இந்தியாவிற்கு தவறுதலாக courier ஆகும் bio-tech அபாயத்தைத் துரத்தி அமெரிக்க வில்லன் நம்மூர் வர, கதை வேகம் பிடித்து, அசினையும் பெருமாளையும் தூக்கிக்கொண்டு ஓடி, இன்னபிற கமல்களை சந்தித்து,தமிழ்கத்தின் சுனாமி தினத்தன்று முடிகிறது.

கதையில் முழுக்க வரும் அமெரிக்க வில்லன் Terminator-கமலுக்குதான் என் வோட். கதையின் outline கிடைத்தவுடன் கமல் மனதில் இந்தப் பாத்திரமும் பலராம் நாயுடு (inspiration - பாலையா?) மற்றும் விஞ்ஞானி பாத்திரங்கள் மட்டுமே இருந்திருக்கவேண்டும். அப்புறம் படிப்படியாக ஆசைகள் வளர்ந்து...(இருக்கவே இருக்கிறது கமலின் கூடப்பிறந்த passion!) படத்தில் அங்கே, இங்கெ என்று எல்லாம் கமல் மயம்! கதைக்குத் துளியும் தொடர்பில்லாமல் கதையின் வேகத்தைத் தடுக்கும் மற்ற கமல்கள் -அந்த பஞ்சாபி, ரங்கராஜன் நம்பி, மண் பாதுகாவலர், புஷ், பாட்டி, Japanese -எல்லோருமே அநாவசியமான இடைச்செருகல்கள்; கவனக்கலைப்புகள். தீபிகா முதலிலேயே பார்த்துவிட்டு "இது கமல், அது கமல்" என்று commentary கொடுத்தவண்ணம் இருக்க, "அசின் போலவே தாவணியில் ஒரு character வருதே, அதுகூட இன்னொரு கமல் தான்" என்று சொல்லிவிடுவாளோ என்று பயந்தபடிதான் பார்த்தேன்.

கதையின் மிகப்பெரிய weakness ஒவ்வொரு அவதாரத்திற்குப் பின்னும் ஒரு கிளைக்கதை அமைத்து அதை main track-உடன் கோர்வையாகக் கொண்டுவர முடியாமல் போனது. Chaos theory, Butterfly effect என்று ஆழமான ஆசைகள் இருந்தும் திரைக்கதையில் கோர்வையாக வெளிப்படவில்லை. அவசரத்தில் செய்த collage மாதிரி...

மற்றபடி திரைக்கதையை மறந்து, கமலின் personal album பார்த்து ரசிக்க விரும்பினால் 10 அவதாரங்களும் superb -அதிநவீன மேக்கப் உத்திகளிலும், look-speech-mannerism என்று ஒவ்வொரு அசைவிலும் வெளிப்படும் கமலின் திறமையாலும். பாட்டி உடல் சுருங்கி சின்ன உருவமாக வருவது கமலுக்கு மட்டுமே சாத்தியம். புஷ்ஷின் அமெரிக்க உச்சரிப்பும் அப்படியே. Japanese மேக்-அப் சொதப்பல் என்றாலும், தங்கை கொலைசெய்யப்பட்ட தகவல் தருபவனிடம் "நன்றி" ("arigato gozaimasu") என்று ஜப்பானியக் கமல் சொல்வதில் Japan culture-ஐக் காட்டவேண்டுமென்ற நுணுக்கமான தீவிரம் தெரிகிறது. (உச்சரிப்பில் இன்னும் கவனமாக இருந்திருக்கலாம்). அமெரிக்க வில்லன் கமல் ஜப்பானியக் கமலை நோக்கி துப்பாக்கியை நீட்டியவாறு: "You remember Hiroshima?" ஜ. கமல்: "Remember Pearl Harbor" போன்ற வசனங்களின் அமெரிக்க விரோதத்தை ஜப்பானே மறந்தாயிற்று!

சைவர்களுக்கும் வைணவர்களுக்கும் கிட்டத்தட்ட al-queda லெவெலுக்கு நடந்த தீவிரவாத சரித்திரம் எனது சிற்றறிவுக்குத் தெரிந்திருக்கவில்லை. தேடிப்பிடித்து அந்த சம்பவத்தை இணைத்திருப்பது, "இந்துக்கள் மட்டும் என்ன வாழ்ந்ததாம்? எல்லாம் அடி, தடி கோஷ்டிதான்" என்று நாத்திகக் கமல் காட்ட விரும்பியதாகத் தெரிகிறது. Hey Ram கமலில் தெரிந்த அதே ஆணவம் ....(இந்த ஆள் எப்படிய்யா ஒரு ஐயங்கார் வீட்டிலே பிறந்தான்..?!) ஆரம்பத்தில் Braveheart தரத்தில் வரும் அந்தக் காட்சிகள் சிறப்பாக இருந்தாலும், main track-உடன் ஒட்டமறுக்கின்றன.

கடவுளை நம்பாதது போலவே கமலுக்கு காதலிலும், கல்யாணத்திலும் நம்பிக்கையில்லை என்பது தெரிந்ததே. அதனால் தானோ என்னவோ, படத்தில் காதல் காட்சிகளோ, டூயட்டோ இல்லை. தமிழில் யாப்பு range-க்கு கவிதை பாடும் பஞ்சாபி கமல் குண்டடி பட்டு cancer குணமாவது நல்ல சர்தார்ஜி ஜோக்! வசனங்களில் சரளமாகத் தெளித்திருக்கும் நாத்திகம் படத்தின் plus point. ("கடவுள் இல்லைன்னு யார் சொன்னா? இருந்தா நல்லாயிருக்கும்னுதானே சொல்றேன்...").

கமலின் magnum opus? ம்ஹூம் .....காத்திருக்கலாம்.

தசாவாதாரம் -part 1

(Re-posting of what I wrote on 17-Jun-2008) நெட்டில் லேட்டஸ்ட் திரைப்படங்களைத் தேடிப்பிடிப்பதில் தீபிகா கில்லாடி. விகடனில் முதல் விமர்சனம் வரும் முன் படத்தைப்பார்த்தால் தான் அவளுக்கு திருப்தி. (சிவாஜியின் "சஹானா" பாடல் எப்போதோ கேட்டாயிற்று...) மிகுந்த ஆர்வத்துடன் அவள் நெட்டில் June-13 முதல் தேடியது "தசாவதாரம்". கிடைக்கவில்லை. நம் மக்களின் review வேற அவள் pulse-ஐ ஏற்றியது...போதாக்குறைக்கு சென்னையிலிருந்து தீபிகாவின் அக்கா படத்தைப் பார்த்து "நல்லாத்தான் இருக்கு...ஆனா சில scenes அவ்வளவா புரியலை..." என்றதும், நான் உடனே "அப்படின்னா ... படம் Super-ன்னு அர்த்தம்" என்று சொல்லிவைக்க, எதிர்பார்ப்பு இன்னும் கூடியது. சனிக்கிழைமை தான் சென்னை சென்ற பிள்ளைகள் இரண்டுபேரும் 'பிரார்த்தனா'வில் பார்த்ததாகப் புல்லரிக்க.... You Tube-ல் கிடைத்த bit-களை உதறித்தள்ளிவிட்டு.... நேற்றுதான் அடித்தது Luck!

"VoW, தசாவதாரம் முழு படமும் upload பண்ணியிருக்காங்க..." என்று விசிலடிக்காத குறையாய் அவள் கூச்சலிட... படம் முழுவதும் download செய்து (2-3 நிமிஷம் தான்), பசங்க இந்தியா போய்விட்டதால் இன்றிரவே பார்த்துவிடலாம் "ஒரு கை" என்று தீர்மானித்து, PC--TV connection தயார் பண்ண ஆயத்தமாகி, light எல்லாம் dim பண்ணி, quick-ஆ ஒரு "ambience" set-up செய்து, படத்தை ஆரம்பித்தால்.....

"ஜெமினிகணேசன், பானுமதி நடித்த தசாவதாரம்" நாதஸ்வரம், மேளத்துடன் ஓடுகிறது.......!! சே... upset of the day!