Nov 15, 2010

35k

If I am to make a list of Great Experiences in Japan, the 35 km walk I did yesterday will certainly be on it. Here goes the story....

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My family & I had done 10 km walk in Kakogawa 2-Day march three times, but every time, the increasing number of kindergartners walking the same 10km made us feel 'nervous'! Further, the 40 km guys would arrive at destination the same time when we would arrive there completing 10 km -at around 4 pm. True, the long distance guys start 3 hrs earlier, but that with a 3-hr early start they could cover 4 times what we did was astonishing .... the idea of doing the longest course thus crept into my mind.

I started at 7:30.The 10km and 35 km walkers were of strikingly different, and you see the difference the moment you are in there -the 35 k guys walked pretty, pretty fast, as if they would miss a flight otherwise! It was 'brisk walk' all along, like in a walking race. I didn't see anybody stop by to have a drink -they drank as they kept walking. They were in no way like the 10k families & kids who would leisurely walk. I strived hard not to lag behind (i.e., 'too much behind') the 60+ ladies & men who were walking effortlessly, but at a good speed. There were many elementary & middle schoolers. The trail was fully at the outskirts of Kakogawa; it went along the riverside, got on top of Gongen dam, and at times went uphill on mountains giving a 'mountain hike' feeling. The scenery was pretty good; and the weather was pleasant.

Unlike the 10km trail, more number of food stalls (5 to 6) were on the path, some offering free drinks, zenzai (omochi in red-bean soup) and udon. I wondered had they offered chapathy & korma, that would have attracted IITians (No; we might be arguing 'chapathy was hard' and 'korma from that shop was salty' etc). Frankly, I noticed that all the walkers accepted the free supplies with thanks, and many made it a point to go to the counter and said "oishikatta". As we walked through roads that had paddy fields & plantations at both the sides, there were abnormally more number of scare-crows built in attractive colors and shapes and they all held a flag/cloth that had some writing on it. Do they expect the Japanese birds to read the text (and decide if they can find something to eat somewhere else) or what?? No, they are all greetings to the walkers. When I was taking picture of the scare-crows, a walker befriended me and asked how many km I walked the previous day. When I said I was doing only the 2nd day, he was surprised, and painstakingly tried to convince me that it was a 2-day walk, and one should do both days!

At the start point they give you a package that has a A4 size cloth-like sheet which walkers pin to their back-bag, writing their name and the distance walked /walking on the 1st/2nd day. The package also has a badge. Apart from the A4 sheet, many have pinned the badges they collected in previous years -some 10-12 in number. By looking at the A4 sheet, I found that there was no single person that did the walk just one day; and there was no single person doing 35 km having done anything less than 40km the previous day. In other words, all the 35 km guys were in fact 40 + 35 km guys! (except the sole Indian).

Deepika kept calling me 2-3 times as I was walking. I promptly attended her call, fearing that otherwise she would make an SOS to Kumar :-) (that’s precisely what she did when I didn't pick the phone the other day at 11 pm, as I was on a long call with my mom, being my birthday. She woke Kumar up, and this guy promptly pressed my doorbell at 11 pm. Fearing an emergency I opened the door even holding the receiver in one hand.... . Kumar had lost his sleep, but the sad story didn't just end with that; the next day early morning 6 am, she called him again to say "Sorry, I was very nervous yesterday....". Later that day Kumar was seen checking with his friends how to cancel & terminate the NTT landline permanently! :-)

At about 2 pm I reached the point where the 35km trail merged with that of 10 km. Again, saw the families and kindergartners happily & leisurely walking 10 km. The 35 km guys found them no match to their speed, and overtook them at every opportunity. I arrived at the start point at 3 pm, well ahead of a number of 10km walkers. It had taken 7 hrs and 30 minutes (which included a 20 min lunch break and a couple of coffee breaks each 5 min) of brisk walk to cover 35 km.

Deepika was excited about this walk, more so as it took just 7 hours. She said, apparently with a bright & cheerful face (முகம் மலர்ந்து) she would have joined me had only she been here in Japan. "If you had joined me I would not have done it in 7 hrs" said I. மலர் வாடியது :-)

After the walk I was taking rest and watching the stage performance arranged with mega TV screen in front of the city hall. 10 km, 20 km and 35 km guys were still returning one by one. I felt great that I did much ahead of many 10 km guys. "பரவாயில்லையே, நமக்குக் கூட கொஞ்சம் stamina இருக்குது போல!" என்று கொஞ்சம் கர்வத்துடன் தான் உட்கார்ந்திருந்தேன். Jap girls were dancing on the stage. Soon the announcer interviewed a young girl on the stage, who answered mostly in single-words.

"Hana-chan kyo wa nan kiro arukimashita ka?" (How many KM did you walk today?)
"20 kiro"(20 km)

"kino mo aruitan desu ka? (Did you walk yesterday too?)
"so. kino 40 kiro"(Yes. I did 40 km yestereday)

"tomodachi to issho ni?" (With your friends?)
"pappa to mama to isshoni arukimashita" (With my mom & dad)

"sugoi ne! shindoku naindesu ka?"(Great! Are you not tired?)
"shindokatta" (It was tiring)

"shindo katta...?! ha, ha! demo gambattane! rai nen mo arukimasu ka?"(Tired?? anyway, you did a great job! Will you walk next year also?)
After a pause "Un" (Yes)

"Oh, sugoi... Hana-chan, ima nan-sai desu ka?" (Great! Hana, how old are you now?)
"rokku sai desu"(I'm six years old)

என் கர்வம் அழிந்தது!

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Oct 13, 2010

A 23 km mountain hike

Koyasan is known for its historical monuments, Buddhist temples, and a vast number of mausoleums. Located in Wakayama prefecture (132 km from our place) on a hill top, the present day Koyasan is a popular tourist attraction. The small town is designed to evoke memories of the past Buddhist rituals. Koyasan doesn't have a train station, and is accessible by road and cable car. A night stay in the ryokans that offer Buddhist style pure veg food is what most visitors from abroad would like to try. Starting from the Daimon (Main Gate), as you walk along the streets you see building that could date back to several hundred years ago. Rituals conducted by Buddhist monks are still popular here. The Art of Living Japan representative Neela Srinidhi conducts residential courses in Koyasan ryokans. Certainly, Koyasan takes you to a 'Zen' type atmosphere (if you close your eyes to the unavoidable commercialization that becomes part of any tourist spot).

Koyasan caught my attention for its hiking trails. There are 7 or 8 courses popular among hikers -each hike taking 2-4 hrs and spanning 4-6 km. I chose the tough course -23.5 km long trail which would take 7 hrs as noted in Koyasan tourist association homepage. Known as "Koyasan Choishi Michi" this trail was registered in the UNESCO World Heritage list (similar to the Kumano Kodo trail -the one we did in 2008 Dec). Walking up the mountains 23.5 km was something new to me....I just wanted to give it a try.

Information received from Kudoyama town - the location of Jison-in temple where the Koyasan Choishi Michi starts- was very useful. Leaving the car in the Parking lot, I dressed up for hiking and walked towards Jison-in. In front of homes I found baskets of 'kaki' (persimmon) fruits kept for retails sale -but there was none to receive cash. Looking at the price tag, customers put the exact cash in the small box, and walk away with the fruits taking them in the carry-bag provided. I've seen similar scenes in Kumano Kodo as well. Unmanned shops!

As I walked up the steep stairs of Jison-in temple (8:20 am), I saw the first 'cho ishi' -the stone marker, which is actually the 180th stone marker. The trail got its name because of the 180 'cho-ishi's located throughout the trail, each at a span of 109m. Each cho-ishi is a 1ft x 1ft base & 1.5 m high stone pillar -was the 'milestone' in those days (and even now). I needed to walk up to cho-ishi 1, to reach Koyasan.

The trail wasn't as wide as Kumano Kodo's, which I realized in the first few minutes. In the first 30 minutes, the kaki tress standing at both sides of the trail provided a nice shadow; and the kaki fruits seen in abundance explained the 'unmanned' fruit stalls I saw down the mountains. I would not have carried the two kakis that I had carried in my back-bag, had I known about this. The trail was of 1-2 ft wide for the most part, and it was quite steep at several points. After an hour or so, there were tall pine trees at both the sides (again reminding me of Kumano Kodo); thanks to them, there was no sunshine.

Fearing that I may not be able to complete the train in 7 hrs as noted in the pamphlet, I started walking in a good speed right from the beginning. Met a couple of Japanese ladies at 10 am in a resting place, who said they started at 7 am. As I took less than 2 hrs to cover the distance they hiked in 3 hrs, I was confident I could make it in time. I continued to walk fast, taking a look at the cho-ishis and trying to look at the number written on them. Perhaps as it was kanji of olden days, I couldn't get what the numbers meant in some cases.


As I approached 60th stone marker, I could hear the traffic sound coming from the nearby mountain road. At 12 noon I could reach the 60th stone marker -covering 2/3 of the distance. At this point, the trail crossed the public road; and there was a restaurant and some vending machines (along the 23.5 km, this was the only place where vending machines and restrooms were there). Many hikers were having their lunch there, some cooking in the portable stove they carried. I had a banana and was all set to move.... for some reasons I never feel hungry when hiking. I sat for a while, feeling relieved that 2/3 of the hike was over! I had walked past many Japanese hikers that I saw, and nobody ever overtook me, unlike the Takamikura and other hikes where I used to see a number of people pass by.

The distance between 60th stone marker till the 1st one was steep, or so I felt after 4 hours of continuous hike. Saw a couple of families, young couples and groups hiking as I moved up. And then came all of the sudden the sight of the crimson gate -the Daimon -which is the traditional entrance to Koyasan (which is at 6th stone marker).

I reached Daimon at 2 pm -an hour less than the published 7hrs it would normally take. Good!

Sat for a while, and started walking 1 km further... till I reached the bus stop and went to Koyasan station. Though not hungry, I went inside a restaurant to relax my legs. Took the cable car & train to reach Kudoyama. While in train, I realized I had sweating all over my body, and my clothes were fully drenched in sweating. (Those sitting next to me would have had a 'stinking' time!) Only after a relaxed bath in the onsen ("Yu-no-Sato in Hashimoto), sauna and steam bath, I felt fresh. Started driving at 8pm and reached Takasago at 10:30 pm.

It turned out to be quite a challenging day for my legs. Now I'm OK to do more day-long mountain hikes in the days to come!

Oct 6, 2010

C-S Wedding

It was an amazing experience to attend Cheruba--Sanjay wedding in Connecticut State on Sep-18, 2010.

Both the wedding ceremony in the church and the reception that followed in the evening kept me wondering about the painstaking efforts and the attention paid to minute details without losing sight at the bigger things at the same time. That Malini anni chose to sing the popular 'MangaLam.. MangaLamE...' in church pairing with her co-mother-in-lawi was a great idea. (I recalled -this was perhaps the song I used to hear in all the Christian weddings back in India). Cheruba's rememberance note of her father was touching. As she noted, her dad would be watching the Wedding from above, and He would be watching with pride. Her note promptly recalled the other three gentlemen who were very supportive in the recent past, and traveled from India to attend the wedding.

The wedding at the church was simple and nice, and the pastor's brief speech was meaningful and to the point. He made the couple to repeat the oath that ended with this powerful text: "I am yours only".

Rajesh drove us to the Evening Reception which was arranged in a lake front resort.The evening reception sizzled with excitement though -with the Monsoon Wedding song and the couple's moms' and friends' dance performance. Both Cheruba and Sanjay did well in the toasts. The 'thali' ceremony was an interesting add-on! (They should have had the 'ketti-mELam' and 'NathaSwaram' palyed in the speakers!) The lakefront venue was a nice selection, and there was 'a lot' of food. Thanks to the careful picking of table-mates, we felt like being in India for a while! And there was this custom- an American custom?-the bride Cheruba threw the flower bunch backwards for one of the unmarried girls to catch, symbolically suggesting the next-in-line for the wedding!

Sanjay impressed us quite with his broad smile and courteous speech. He took me & Deepika by suprise by recalling our Mt.Fuji climb. Cheruba was gorgeous in her choLi-like costume that fit well for the evening -she was just 'too excited' that she uttered even a simple 'hi' with a lot of 'drama'tic facial expressions! :-)

The day also presented us an opportunity to mingle with some of our relatives whom we (or 'I' to be precise) met for the first time. Dr.Bosewell's two daughters -Beryl, Cheryl, their husbands, YaLini Ravi Arumugam, Murugesan-family & Amsa-anni were all new faces to me at the beginning, and not at the end of the day. Though we could 'catch' Divya and Thompson, we couldn't catch up with them as they were busy with the arrangements. (Thompson must be a fan of 'Sivaji' Rajini :-) In the hotel where we stayed in, we befriended Murugesan-family and another gentleman who said he was Cheruba's dad's boyhood friend from Nazareth.

I should be thankful to Malini anni for this opportunity for another reason -this was the very first marriage all the four in our family attended together. We have attended marriages of relatives in India but there was never a chance for all the four of us to be present. One thing our children miss being in a foreign country is the warmth of attending family functions/weddings -I'm glad that both my kids could attend the wedding of their 3rd cousin Cheruba-akka with whom they had traveled to Hiroshima, Nara and Kyoto in Japan in 2006.

Oct 5, 2010

Mt.Fuji -A once-in-lifetime Experience!

In August this year, Deepika, Shibu and I climbed to Mt.Fuji's summit!


Mt.Fuji, the iconic symbol of Japan, remained elusive to me for years. ln 2006, our Kalyan's team (Kalyan, Sudhir, Rajkumar & Nick) traveled to Mt.Fuji in a package tour with Nick making it to the top while others reaching 'almost the top' -the 8th station. A year later, a package tour booked by 15-20 of IITians got canceled due to storm forecast. There was no serious attempt for a Mt.Fuji expedition thereafter.

Mt.Fuji is officially open to public only for 2 months a year –July & August. (Due to extreme windy/snowy/freezing conditions at the summit, it is closed for the rest of the year, i.e, ‘officially’ -meaning, you could still go there throughout the year; but you are unlikely to return, as they say!). Deepika, Shibu and I decided to Just Do It it this summer. It turned out to be an amazing trip and proved to be an acid-test for our physical and psychological caliber. Here is our Mt.Fuji story (July 31-Aug 1).......

‘Roadside’ sleep: We chose to drive (one way 520 km) instead of going on a bus tour, to have extra thrill, fun & flexibility. And it just worked great. We left around 7 pm on Friday (July-30) from Takasago, drove along Sanyo, Chugoku, Meishin, Shin-Meishin, Higashi Meihan, and Ise Wangan expressways and were soon in Tomei expressway where we stopped at around 10:30 for late-night dinner. Being one of the oldest and widely-used highways leading to Tokyo, many Parking areas in Tomei expressway have convenience stores (like Lawson) and chain restaurants like Yoshnoya, Starbucks and McDonalds. At 1 am we stopped in a Parking area, and got ready to sleep (we had carried with us bed, bedspreads and pillows). As the restaurants were all closed except one or two, we made the tables they had left outside into twin beds, and comfortably slept under a shamiana! Almost equivalent to 'roadside sleeping', it turned out to be another unique experience we could do only in Japan! (We saw some others sleeping like us).

When we woke up at 6 in the morning, it was bright though the weather was chill, and the Parking lot was just getting busier. The place was surrounded by mountain in all the sides, and people were simply strolling or sitting at the viewpoints enjoying the mountains sipping hot coffee. We took local driving directions from the Information center (no GPS in my car!), had some hot Udon noodles for breakfast and left at 8 am to reach Kawaguchiko.


















Kawaguchiko Trail: Mt.Fuji (3,776 m) is divided into 10 levels (known as '10 stations') and buses/cars could reach up to 5th station. There are four 5th stations at different points in the conical circumference Mt.Fuji namely Kawaguchiko, Fujinomiya, Gotemba and SubaShri (what a name! :-). We chose to climb from Kawaguchiko 5th station (2,300 m) as it is the most popular and supposedly least difficult of the 4 routes. The ascent to the top is 7km and could take 6 hrs, and the descent -in a different path- 4km and 3 hrs. (That's what internet said). Kawaguchiko's Visitor Center had all the information for tourists and the girl was helpful in Kanto style (which was different from the Kansai style in that the typical Kansai style politeness and friendly smile was missing). We had the first glimpses of Mt.Fuji from the 2nd floor terrace of the Visitor Center; wondering that soon we would be climbing to the top!

Preparation: At the car parking lot in Kawaguchiko 5th station we changed into our climbing attire and ensured that our backpack is equipped with the essentials -1 liter water flask, headlamp, gloves, face mask, sunglass, sweater, knitted hat, towel, plain hat, thermal in-pant, spat (?)*, rainwear, a cover to protect the backpack against rain, aspirin tablets, oxygen can, energy biscuits, dry fruits, chocolates, a number of Y100 coins, cash, cell phone & camera. We also carried a hiking pole -a 1 meter length stick sold for Y700 in any convenience store in that area. The list may sound redundant -but each & every item became absolutely essential at some point or the other when we were climbing up for day & night in areas where there was nothing but molten rock! 5th station is visited by not only climbers, but also those who just go there to see the Starting point. There were a number of foreigners (we met about 6-8 Indians along the route). Statistics says more than one-third of Mt.Fuji climbers are foreigners. Had lunch at one of the restaurants in 5th station.

The Start: It was 2:10 pm when we left the start point. The entrance to the climbing route had two stone pillars, and a small wooden board showing "Route to Mt.Fuji summit (320 min)". Deepika happily posed for a picture with a smiling face near the board. She realized little then that this 320-min was going to be 600-min for us and that too the toughest 600-min we have ever had!Apart from a number of enthusiastic climbers, there were also many families that were not in the climbing attire -they went for a 30-min hike along the route to get a feel of what climbing Mt.Fuji was. The initial path was not steep, the mountain was green, the trail was 2-m wide, and with the mild temperature in a cloudy atmosphere, the 30-min hike made a wonderful one-day-picnic for families & children. Horse-ride was also there. The first 30-min trail was the same for ascending & descending, and we saw those returning -all of them had only weary look. The trail was nice to walk, and Shibu was commenting if the entire route would be like that there would be no difficulty at all. He was naive.

The scene changed: The scenes of day-picnic changed after 30-min where we saw only climbers all set for a tough track. I found the climbing way different from the hiking we've done -that there was absolutely no greenery and the trail was very steep and continuous. At many places, Mt.Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical conical shape made me feel like climbing up a conical surface with 60 degree base angle. And the trail was full of rocks, rocks & rocks. Without proper hiking shoes and the hiking pole, one would risk injuring his ankle. There were many groups led by tour guides that passed by. We decided to go on our own pace.
 
















The 7th station (2,700 m level): As we reached the 7th station at 2,700 m level, both Deepika and Shibu were active; -they wouldn't let me go ahead; and they stayed ahead even as I was following them. Saw a 'mountain hut' (yama-goya) -a resting 'box' - where you can take rest in a 6 ft Length x 1 ft Width x 2 ft Height space in a 'wooden container' for Y7,000. We had only climbed 400m and reached 2,700m and I was wondering why one should rest at that level. The peak is at 3,776 m level, and we have to climb up another 1,076 m!. The hut had a small bench (just one bench) for us to sit & relax, and space for smoking. They sold 500ml water bottles for Y500, one banana for Y200. (I buy them for one-tenth of that price in Takasago Seiyu!). Despite a 'clear' weather forecast, it started raining, and we had to use our rainwear. It stopped in 10-15 minutes. It was still bright.

7th station (3,000 m level): It took nearly 4 hrs to reach the 3,000m level, and we were all tired having climbed 700m. People were seen taking rest at the side of the trail, mostly on rocks. Saw many people using their oxygen cans at this level. On seeing them, Deepika wanted to use hers as she said it would 'clear her lungs'. I had read that the air will get 'thin' as we climb up where the oxygen cans would come as handy, but I didn't feel anything strange in breathing at this level. Sensing that Deepika's need for 'clearing lungs' was more of psychological than actual, I promised her that we would use oxygen when we reach the 8th station, where I had reserved for 3 spaces in a mountain hut. She was a bit upset that I didn't buy her theory of 'clearing lungs' but she didn't have (her usual) energy to fight back either! I wanted to save oxygen for 'real' breathing difficulty one might face at much higher elevations. We were eagerly looking for 8th station to take rest.

 















The 8th station: At 7 we reached “Horai kan” the mountain hut in 8th station at 3,150m. Being well-mannered or being dead-tired, the in-mates were silent and the 'container' didn't look like the one where some 200 people were sleeping! They provided curry rice & salad -which were luxury at that level. The 3ft wide bed was spared by 3 persons, and a slight movement would disturb the other guy. Yet, there was absolutely no disturbance, and there was ‘pin drop’ silence. Shibu & I had mild headache and we took aspirin. Deepika used oxygen cans, and 'looked' fresh. We went to bed at 8:30. The sunrise on the next day was to be at 4:41 am, and we had to climb another 600m. We had a good sleep till 12:30, and woke up to see no guys around us -they all had woken up early and proceeded to climb up (without making any noise!).

We changed to winter clothing and left the hut at 1:30 am. Just outside the hut we saw a chain of people climbing up- with weary looks and heavy breathing- they all had started from the 5th station at night of the previous day. (A majority of the climbers start at 7-8 pm, and climb throughout the night without resting in the hut) I don't think I could do that- as the 4 hr rest in the hut came as a psychological boost.

The 9th station: Even within few minutes of climbing we were tired -apparently the rest wasn’t that refreshing as we thought. We all had headlamps. Our climbing pace had come down greatly. As it was 3 am there were a number of climbers lying on the rocks -and sleeping in whatever position they could --sitting, leaning on the rocks, or simply lying on the sideways. Tents are not allowed in Mt.Fuji. At times, I felt like walking through a battlefield where there were hundred victims lying dead. Some were seen vomiting -as they suffered nausea at higher elevations. I made sure that there was no breathing difficulty. Shibu was lagging behind. And Deepika was walking like a 'sadhu' --taking every step very slowly as if in 'slow-motion', holding her hiking pole like 'Auvaiyar', having her head lowered and mostly closing her eyes. Even when I asked if she was alright, she said '...mm' without raising her head or opening her eyes; I never knew she could speak in such a low voice! I commented if only she was this quiet at home, how peaceful my life would have been... She wasn't in a mood to smile (or ‘give back’). When she & Shibu were sitting on a rock to rest, I saw her eyes closed, and heard her mouth chanting "Muruga....Muruga...." !! (I doubted Lord Murugan in Mt.Palani (TN) could hear her thin voice from Mt.Fuji).

It was 4:40 and all the climbers got ready to look at sunrise, though everyone was dead-tired. A number of them continued to sleep on the rocks –apparently the sunrise failed to impress them to wake up and see. They've been climbing all through the night.



















The summit: Since 5 am we could see the summit close-by, and the ‘tori’ they had built as the point of entrance. Yet it took another one-and-half hours to reach the spot... and at 6:30, we finally landed at the highest peak of Japan. Even before we could take pictures, Shibu slept on a small bench. There were a couple of petty shops, a cafeteria, and a post office (where you can buy cards and send anywhere in the world). Even as Shibu was sleeping, we went near the crater and walked around. It was a fulfilling feeling -wherever & whenever we see Mt.Fuji's picture, we can now point our finger at the summit and say "We have climbed up to this point..."
 
















The Descent:Spent a couple of hours at the summit and started descending. I found the descent equally hard -if not harder than the ascent. We didn't get tired as we didn't strain the heart, but the legs ached as they took the load. The descent was in a different route, and though there were no rocks, the trail was steep, and full of small stones that would keep getting inside your shoes if you weren't wearing the so-called 'spat'. It got quiet hot at 9 am and without sunglass, sunscreen and mask it would have been really tough. And there was no hut -meaning there was no place to buy water. Mt.Fuji changed from black to red and finally to green in color at the 6th level. As we approached the start point we saw hundreds of enthusiastic climbers just beginning with a lot of vigor and energy their expedition –their long struggle to reach the summit.

It was 2 pm Sunday when we arrived at the Start point –it took exactly 24 hours for us to get back to where we started. We packed ourselves in the car without even changing the climbing wear and proceeded straight to a nearby onsen -Fujiyama Onsen.
 
Climbing Mt.Fuji is truly a once-in-lifetime experience. At 3,776 m elevation, Mt.Fuji is the highest point we have ever landed in/ climbed up on earth. To do that, we had to climb up and down continuously for 24 hours, except for the 4 hr rest at night and the 2 hr stop at the summit. We felt great that We Made It. We couldn't believe we made it!

Oct 4, 2010

Uma

Caution: Vegetarians must skip this page!
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"Sushi" -rice ball topped with a slice of raw fish- is by far the most popular Japanese food known in the world. Raw fish ("sashimi") by itself is a popular delicacy in here -and is sold in all the supermarkets where you buy meat. People visiting Japan might wonder how the Japanese eat raw fish. Thinly sliced raw fish served on radish flakes eaten dipping in hot soy sauce is a tasty delicacy indeed -you would hardly believe its raw fish! Having most of its landspace very close to sea (and perhaps being in a hurry to spend time in cooking!), these guys have been historically having 'raw fish' as a main item in their menu.

Even 'adventurous' foreigners who like to try different meat often avoid sashimi -the idea of eating something raw is indigestible to them. You don't have to ask about Indians who dare to touch even beef. (Deepika still believes Sridhar changed his travel destination from Japan to Egypt mainly because of my writing about raw fish as a delicacy here! :-)

Eating 'raw' hasn't just stopped with fish -they eat beef, chicken, octopus, squid and shrimp also raw, rather occasionally. Lately, I came to know that they do eat horse meat, that too raw! Though not sold in regular foodcourts/ restaurants, there are restaurants that sell raw horsemeat -"basashimi"- and I got curious to give it a try. As Deepika won't even touch beef or sashimi, I had had to wait..... and visited last week a restaurant in Kobe that sells this item which, as the restaurant claims, comes from a farther island "Kyushu" in Japan. It tastes not quite different from raw fish. (See pics). ('Horse' is 'Uma' in Japanese)


















Thought about the unique meats that I could put my hands on in all these years.... in Seoul, a local guide showed us a restaurant that sold snakes and only snakes! (I didn't have the guts to try, then). Tried turtle in China which also has dog meat restaurants. My Japanese boss who is otherwise adventurous in trying unique food was taken aback on seeing dog meat restaurant -and refused to try as he was raising a pet dog, and that pet dog used to sleep with him in his bed everyday! Though I didn't have any such affinity for dogs, as a courtesy, I had had to give up that chance. Pagals & Ponraj when they visited Florida have tasted alligator fries...(or was it alligator fin?) which tasted like chicken. Octopus ia another popular item among children in Japan.

Back in India, almost all the Tuticorin 'night clubs' (that's how evening-only non veg stalls' are known in Tuticorin) sell a unique item "kaudari" a bird which tastes pretty much like chicken. Pigeon is also sold in most of the restaurants, and Tuty guys comment that pigeon doesn't have much of flesh. Kathax and Isaac might have tasted them. Surprisingly, I haven't seen these dishes in Chennai or other places!
 
And here comes a response from my friend Isaac (another Tuty guy), with a poetic ending:
Subahar and AJB,

You guys are making my mouth water :-)~~~~~~~
The following is not for the faint of heart. Vegetarians should probably quit reading at this point...

Yes, I have had Kaudari, while living in Tuticorin. We used to buy from hunters, and later used to hunt them ourselves in the wilderness area that surrounded our Harbour colony. My younger brother was quite good at catching those birds. Kaudari is a flightless bird, but it can fly better than chicken. If you chase it, it will hide quickly, sometimes by throwing loose sand over itself. Because of its camouflage, it will be very difficult to locate. So, when it hid like that, we would surround the area and wait patiently for it to pop back up. We would then rush it, scaring the bird into hiding right in front of our eyes. Once we knew its exact location, my brother would pounce on it.

AJB, you are right, it is very difficult to tell the difference between Kadai and Kaka. In those days, we used to hunt, cook and eat all sorts of living things, including squirrels and vellai eli (as long as they were grey and not too dark, they were good enough for the table). One day, we thought, "Why not kaka?". So, we got a young Kaka and our grandma cooked it for us. I think my mom was too grossed out. For some reason, we didn't make it a habit of eating kaka (our mom must have prevailed). We did cook and eat kaka eggs sometimes. Once, my cousin, who is even more adventurous, wanted to try a raw egg. He cracked it open, poured it into his mouth, but quickly spit it out. The egg was not so fresh after all. Uncooked kaka kunji managed to gross out even my cuz.

We were "growing boys" and we loved meat. Chicken was expensive and mutton was almost out of reach. Thankfully, we found a person who could buy beef from a nearby village and bring it to our house on a regular basis. Eating beef was looked down upon and we had to kind of do it quietly. But we loved it, especially the unlimited quantity that we could eat.

Recently, we tried buffalo and elk meat, while visiting Wyoming. They tasted good, but I couldn't tell the difference between them and beef. Venison (deer) is not sold in stores here, but some of our friends are hunters and they do get a deer or two every season. Paavi pasangal are not sharing it with me!

There are some wild rabbits living in our backyard here in Carson City. I sit and watch them sometimes, wondering how things have changed. There was a time when they would have become tasty rabbit fry. Now, I refer to them by their names, like 'Cloudy'. They are names that my daughter has given them.

Regards,
Isaac
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Jun 27, 2010

ஆண்கள் அறிக!

கவிதை பெரும்பாலும் நிஜத்தைத் தொடுவதில்லை.  “ஆண்கள் அறிக” என்ற தலைப்பில் தாமரை விகடனில் எழுதிய கவிதை அப்படியில்லை எனலாம், அங்கங்கே தெரியும் சற்றே மிகைப்படுத்தலை உதறிவிட்டுப் படித்தால். (கடைசிப் பத்தியின் ‘நச்’ வரிகளில் ஒரு கவித்துவம் கலந்த ’இடி’யைப் பார்க்கலாம்).
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காதல் சொல்லும் கணத்தில்கூட
முதல் காதலிக்கான கவிதை
வாசிக்கப்படுகிறது.

கல்யாணத்துக்கு நெருக்கும்
பழுத்த காதலிகளிடம்
இன்னும் வயதுக்கு வராத
உங்கள் தங்கையின்
திருமணத்தைப்பற்றிப் பதறுகிறீர்கள்...

உங்களை நம்பி ஓடி வந்து
மாலை மாற்றிக்கொண்டவளிடம்
'என் அம்மாவைவிட்டு 
வந்துவிட்டேனே' என்று
புலம்புகிறீர்கள்..

அடுப்படியில் வெந்து விறுவிறுக்க
மனைவி தயாரித்த மணத்தக்காளிக் குழம்பை
உறிஞ்சிக்கொண்டே,
'என் அம்மா வைத்தால்
ஊரே மணக்கும்' என்கிறீர்கள்...

'என் மனைவிக்கு மிகவும் பிடித்தது
மல்லிகைப் பூ' என்று
கைம்பெண்ணிடம் பூ வாங்கும்போது
முணுமுணுக்கிறீர்கள்...

வாழ்வின் விளிம்பில்
ஊசலாடிக்கொண்டு இருப்பவளிடம்
எப்படி உங்கள் பெண் குழந்தைகள்
தேவதைகளாக இருந்து
உங்களைக் காக்கிறார்கள்
என்று வியக்கிறீர்கள்...

மரணப் படுக்கையில் இருப்பவளிடம்
உங்கள் மனைவி பிரசவத்தில்
பிழைத்த கதையையும்
விபத்தில் சிக்கியவளிடம் உங்கள்
குருதிக் கொடையால் கண் விழித்த
கல்லூரிப் பெண்கள்பற்றியும்
விவரிக்கிறீர்கள்...

பிள்ளையற்றவளிடம் உங்கள்
பாட்டி பெற்ற பதினாறைப் 
பட்டியலிடுகிறீர்கள்...

நாட்டியக்காரியின் வீட்டை
நாடி வந்துவிட்டு
அவள் காலை நக்கிக்கொண்டே
உங்கள் வீட்டுக் 'குத்து விளக்கை' எண்ணிக்
கண்ணீர் உகுக்கிறீர்கள்...

காதலோடு நீங்கள் பேச ஆரம்பிக்கும்
ஒரு பொழுதேனும் இடைமறித்து
'அந்த மகிழம்பூ மரத்தடியில் வைத்து
மகேந்திரன் கொடுத்த முத்தத்துக்கு
ஈடாகாது எதுவும்' என்று
சொல்ல வேண்டும்.

கண்ணகிகளை மாதவியாக்கும்போது
நீங்கள் நகுலன் அல்லது
சகாதேவனாகிறீர்கள்.

இடம் பொருள் ஏவலற்றுப்
பிற பெண்களைப்பற்றிப் பேசும்
ஆண்கள் அறிக,
உங்களுக்கான முத்தம்
வேறொரு உதட்டில்
இடப்பட்டுவிட்டது!
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Apr 2, 2010

”அண்ணாச்சித் தெரு”

’அங்காடித் தெரு’ படத்தைத் திரைப்படம் என்று பார்க்க முடியாமல் போவதற்கு, ”காட்சிகள் கற்பனை அல்ல; அத்தனையும் அண்ணாச்சி கடைகளின் நிஜம்” என்பதை நாம் உணர்வதே காரணம். சில விமர்சனங்களில் சொல்லியிருப்பது போல காட்சிகளில் ஏதும் மிகை இருப்பதாக எனக்குத் தெரியவில்லை. எல்லாம் நாம் ’தெரிந்துகொள்ள விரும்பாத’ நிஜங்கள்.

ண்ணாச்சி கடைகளில் காலை 8 மணி (அல்லது அதற்கும் முன்னால்) முதல் இரவு 11-12 வரை ஓய்வேதும் இல்லாமல் வாரம் 6 நாள் தொழிலாளர்கள் வேலை செய்கிறார்கள். ஏழாம் நாள் ஏதாவது ‘படத்’துக்குப் போகிறார்கள். (”மதிய உணவுக்கு 20 நிமிஷம் தான் தருவார்கள்” என்று ரங்கநாதன் தெரு அண்ணாச்சி கடையில் வேலை செய்யும் பெண், முன்னொரு நாள் என் தங்கை போயிருந்தபோது சொல்லியிருந்தாள்). எந்த வகையிலும் நியாயப் படுத்த முடியாத இதற்குக் காரணம் கிராமத்து அறியாமை, மற்றும் கொடுமையான வறுமை. ஒருவர் விடாமல் எல்லா அண்ணாச்சிகளும் சின்ன வயதில் இப்படி மாடாக உழைத்து மேலே வந்திருப்பதால், ‘மாடாகத் தேய்வதே உழைப்பு’ என்ற பொய்யான எண்ணத்தில் இருக்கிறார்கள்.

ண்ணாச்சிகள் ஸ்டைல் -சம்பளத்திற்கு மேல் தங்க இடமும் மூன்று வேளை சாப்பாடும் தருவது. இதெல்லாமே சொற்பமாக சல்லிக்காசாக இருந்தாலும் அதை விட்டுச் செல்ல யாரும் விரும்புவதில்லை -பிற வேலைகளில் உள்ள “நிச்சயமின்மை’ பயமுறுத்துவதால். நம்மைப் போல் “labor law regulations" "exploitation of illiteracy" "abuse of poverty" என்றெல்லாம் பேசத் தெரியாத அந்தத் தொழிலாளர்களுக்கு நிச்சயமாகத் தெரிந்தது: இந்த வேலையை விட்டால் நடு ரோடு தான் கதி என்பது. அதனாலேயே வேலை பறி போவதை சிறிதும் விரும்புவதில்லை. ’கொத்தடிமை’, ’ஜெயில் கைதி’ என்றெல்லாம் நினைப்பதும் கிடையாது. வறுமை மற்றும் அறியாமை.

Child labor ஜப்பான் மற்றும் மேல்நாடுகளில் நினைத்துப் பார்க்கமுடியாத ஒன்று. Sexual harassment, power harassment, limited working hours பற்றியெல்லாம் இப்போது பெரிய கம்பெனிகள் மிகக் கவனமாக இருக்கின்றன. நமக்கு அதைப்பற்றியெல்லாம் அக்கறை இல்லை. அதிகாரிகளும் ‘நம்ம பை கொஞ்சம் நிறைந்தால் சரி’ என்று இருக்கிறார்கள். அதுவரை Demand-Supply தியரியின் படி அண்ணாச்சிகள் காட்டில் அடைமழை தான்.

ண்ணாச்சிகளைக் ‘குறிவைத்து’ அடிக்கும் இந்தப்படத்திற்கு அண்ணாச்சிகள் தரப்பில் கூடிய சீக்கிரம் அரசியல் ரீதியாக எதிர்ப்பு வரலாம். (Aftar all, முதல்வரின் ‘துணைவி’ அண்ணாச்சி ஆளாச்சே!)

(டத்தின் எளிமையான மெயின் காரக்டர்களும் ‘கனியிருப்பக் காய் கவர்ந்தற்று’ போன்ற வரிகளை ஜெயமோகன் நைஸாக நுழைத்திருப்பதும் என்னைக் கவர்ந்தன. ஸ்னேகா வருவது போன்ற கலகலப்பான காட்சிகளைக் கூட்டியிருக்கலாம்).

Apr 1, 2010

சேர்ந்து வாழ்ந்தார்?


திருமணத்திற்கு முன் ஒரு
ஆணும் பெண்ணும் சேர்ந்து வாழும் (cohabiting) மேல்நாட்டு வழக்கம் நம்மால் ஜீரணிக்க முடியாதது. நம் கலாச்சாரத்தை ‘ஆ, ஊ’ என்று புல்லரித்து, மேல்நாட்டவரை ‘சீ’ என்று பார்ப்பவர்களுக்கு இது ஒரு ‘லட்டு’ மாதிரி பாயிண்ட். என்னதான் தனிமனித உரிமை அது, இது என்று மேல்நாட்டவர் சொன்னாலும், பின் திருமணம் என்ற ஒன்றை ஏனய்யா இன்னும் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறீர்கள் என்று கேட்கத் தோன்றும். ’திருமணத்திற்கு முன் உறவு’ (premarital sex) என்பதும் நம்மூரில் கிட்டத்தட்ட இதே நிலையில் சிலவருடம் முன் வரை இருந்தது; இப்போது அங்கங்கே ‘இலைமறை காயாக’ நடந்து வருகிறது -அதை ஓப்பனாக ஒத்துக்கொள்ளும் அளவுக்கு இன்னும் நாம் தேறவில்லை. திருமணமாகாமல் குழந்தை என்பது நம்மூரில் நினைத்தும் பார்க்க முடியாதது; அமெரிக்காவில் சகஜம். (சென்றமுறை என் மகளுடன் அவள் ஹைஸ்கூலுக்குப் போனபோது சில மாணவிகள் புகை பிடிப்பதைப் பார்த்து ‘திடுக்’கிட்டேன். "Oh dad, some have even babies" என்றாள் மகள்! )


நான் எழுத வந்தது அதைப் பற்றியல்ல. சமீபத்தில் இந்திய சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் சேர்ந்து வாழ்தலும், திருமணத்திற்கு முன் உறவும் சட்டப்படி எந்த வகையிலும் குற்றமல்ல என்று சொல்லியிருக்கிறது. நமக்குத் தெரிந்தது தான்; அதில் ஒன்றும் ஆச்சர்யம் இல்லை. அந்த சுப்ரீம் கோர்ட் நீதிபதி ஒருபடி மேலே போய் சேர்ந்து வாழ்தலுக்கு ஆதரவாக இந்து மதத்திலிருந்து கிருஷ்ணன் - ராதாவை உதாரணம் காட்டி பேசியிருக்கிறாரே, அது தான் என்னைக் கவர்ந்தது!

னக்குத் தெரிந்தது கிருஷ்ணன் நம்ம மு.க. போல் மனைவி, துணைவி என்று பாமா-ருக்மணியுடன் வாழ்ந்தது மட்டும்தான். ராதாவுடன் சின்ன வயதில் ‘அப்படி, இப்படி’ சில்மிஷம் பண்ணியதாகவும், ராதா அந்த ‘கிக்’கிலேயே ஏங்கியதாகவும் தான் படித்திருக்கிற்னே தவிர, அவர்கள் சேர்ந்து வாழ்ந்தது பற்றித் தெரிந்திருக்கவில்லை. சு.கோ.நீ. சொல்லியிருப்பதாலும், பி.ஜே.பி. கண்டனம் கூடத் தெரிவிக்காததாலும் நிஜம் என்றே நம்ப இடமிருக்கிறது. சேர்ந்து வாழ்ந்த கடவுளை வணங்கும் நாட்டில் அந்த வழக்கம் சுத்தமாக இல்லாமல் போய் எல்லாம் ‘முறைப்படி’ என்று ஆயிற்று. முற்றும் துறந்த முனிவராக ஒரு முறையோடு வாழ்ந்த ஜீசஸை வணங்கும் நாடுகளில் முறையில்லாமல் வாழ்வதே முறையாகிவிட்டது. முரண்!

டுத்தமுறை தீபிகாவுடன் கிறுஷ்ணன் கோவிலுக்குப் போகையில் சந்நதிக்கருகில் நின்று “இன்னா நைனா, சின்ன வயசில குளிக்க வர்ற பெண்கள் கிட்ட சேலை திருடறது, சேர்ந்து வாழ்தல்ன்னு படா கில்லாடியா இந்துகீறே..! கலக்கிட்ட மாமூ..” என்று சொல்லவேண்டும். (முன்பொருமுறை எம்பெருமான் திருமுருகக்கடவுள் வள்ளி-தெய்வானையுடன் திருக்காட்சி அருளும் திருச்செந்தூர் கோயிலில் "எனக்குப் பிடித்த கடவுள் முருகன் தான்" என்றேன். அவள் ஏன் என்று கேட்கவில்லை).

Mar 25, 2010

புரியவில்லை


I don't understand this: Why is so much hue & cry about Obama's healthcare bill passing in the House?


What kind of politics is this?
As Obama has enough numbers in the House, what is the big deal in getting a bill passed, which was, after all, his prime election agenda? I read that some Democrats voted against it. Does the Democratic Party's inner-party procedures or guidelines not require the members to vote in support of their President's bill?

Why not in the past?
The bill offers medical coverage to some 32 million Americans (more than 10% of the total population) that are hitherto with no insurance or access to healthcare. If a bill could bring in such a mega benefit to such a vast number of the poor, why was it not possible for any President (both Democrats & Republicans) to get it cleared for the past 70 years?

Why did Republicans behave the way they did, now?
Now that the benefits of this bill is widely publicized, how come the Republicans afford to oppose it? Aren't they afraid of losing the votes of at least the 32 million that benefit out of this bill? They can't be so ignorant of the vote bank, can they?

Was the US healthcare so harsh, till then?
Pre-existing condition is not a reason for denying one insurance in Japan. If an applicant cannot buy an insurance because of a diagnosed illness, as apparently was the practice in the US till now, where will a 'common stupid man' go ? Had the US healthcare been so harsh to the poor, so far?

The new bill also imposes on the employer (having 50 or more employees) to offer insurance to employees. In Japan, for the unemployed, the Govt offers an insurance which is linked to one's income. Did US not have one so far?

The media hails this bill as 'historic' and identifies its passing as a major success for Obama. I'm trying to understand why both the parties left this untapped in all these years!

Mar 20, 2010

What it takes to be a Tiger

சிகாகோ ஏர்போர்ட்டில் (டிசம்பர்-09) இருந்த advertisement என்னைக் கவர்ந்தது. கோல்ஃப் விளையாட்டில் பந்து (பந்து தானே அது? கோல்ஃப் மாதிரி Rich-men's game -ல் அதற்கு வேற ஏதாவது பேர் இருக்கப்போகிறது...!) குறி தவறி தண்ணீருக்கு மிக அருகில் பாறைகளுக்குப் பக்கத்தில் போய் விட, ’அடுத்து என்ன செய்யலாம்?’ என்று Tiger Woods யோசிப்பது போல் காட்சி. மேலே ‘பளிச்’சென்று ஒரு வரி: “It's what you do next that counts". கலக்கல்!

கீழே சின்னதாக “We know what it takes to be a Tiger. Talk to us to know how we can help you". வரிகள். Accenture என்ற, Tiger Woodsஐத் தலையில் வைத்துக் கூத்தாடிய கன்ஸல்டிங் கம்பெனியின் விளம்பரம் அது.
கனவிலும் கோல்ஃப் விளையாடும் உத்தேசமோ கோல்ஃப் மட்டையால் ராத்திரி 2 மணிக்கு ‘வீட்ல’ அடிவாங்கும் எண்ணமோ இல்லாததால் ‘கிளிக்’ மட்டும் செய்துவிட்டு நகர்ந்தேன்.

Mar 19, 2010

"You're ordinarily Extradinary"

பெங்கால்' பக்கம் புத்திசாலிப் பெண்கள் கொஞ்சம் ஜாஸ்தி போல..! அதெப்படி, அவங்க மட்டும் இவ்வளவு ஆணித்தரமாக, தெளிவாக, அழகாக, நேரிடையாகப் பேசறாங்க? தாகூரில் ஆரம்பித்து சத்யஜித் ரே (அல்லது ‘ராய்’), மிருனாள் சென், அருந்ததிராய், அமார்தியா சென் வரை பொதுவாகவே பெங்கால்காரங்களுக்கு ஜீன் கொஞ்சம் வேற மாதிரி. சமீபத்தில் விகடனில் வெளிவந்த நந்திதா தாஸின் பேட்டியிலிருந்து excerpts:
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நந்திதா தாஸ்... சர்வதேச அரங்கில் இந்திய சினிமாவின் பிராண்ட் அம்பாஸடர்களில் ஒருவர். கோவைக்கு வந்திருந்தார். பக்கத்து வீட்டில் வசிக்கும் இளம் பேராசிரியைபோல் இருக்கிறார். 'காபி டைம்' சந்திப்பில் இருந்து...
''அறிமுக இயக்குநர் முயற்சியிலேயே செவாலியே விருது... வாழ்த்துக்கள்!''

''வாவ்... தமிழ்நாடு வரை தெரிஞ்சுவெச்சிருக்கீங்க. சந்தோஷம்! ஓ.கே. செவாலியே ஜெயிச்ச 'ஃபிராக்' படத்தைப் பொறுத்தவரை, 'ஒன் ஃபைன் மார்னிங் எனக்கு அந்தக் கதை தோணுச்சு'ன்னு சொல்ல மாட்டேன். எனக்கு விவரம் தெரிஞ்ச வயசுல இருந்து அனுபவிச்ச வேதனைகளைத்தான் திரையில் காட்டியிருக்கேன். 'ஃபிராக்' படம் வன்முறைக் காட்சிகளே இல்லாத வன்முறைப் படம்னு ஒரு விமர்சனம் இருக்கு. ஆமாம்... அது நிஜம்தான். நந்திதா தாஸ் எனும் தனி மனுஷிக்கு வன்முறையைத் திரையில் பார்க்கப் பிடிக்காது. அதனால்தான் வன்முறைகளைக் காட்சிப்படுத்தாமல், அதற்குப் பின் மக்களின் வாழ்க்கை எந்தவிதத்தில் பாதிக்கப்பட்டது என்பதைக் காட்டியிருந்தேன்.

''அடிப்படையில் நீங்கள் ஒரு தியேட்டர் ஆர்ட்டிஸ்ட். ஆனால், இன்று சினிமாவில் தியேட்டர் பின்னணியில் இருந்து வரும் ஹீரோயின்கள் கிட்டத்தட்ட இல்லையே?''

''கசப்பாக இருந்தாலும் உண்மை! இப்போதைய டிரெண்டுக்கு ஹீரோயின் பார்க்க அழகா, கவர்ந்து இழுக்கக்கூடிய அம்சங்களுடன் இருந்தால் போதும். திறமையெல்லாம் தேவையே இல்லை. கல்லூரி, பல்கலைக்கழகங்கள்னு நான் சந்திக்கிற பெண்கள் எல்லாம் என்கிட்ட தவறாம கேக்குற ஒரே கேள்வி, 'மாநிறமா இருந்தும் எப்படி ஒரு ஹீரோயினாக உங்களால் ஜெயிக்க முடிந்தது?' ஆரம்ப நாட்களில் சாதாரண கேள்வியாகத்தான் இதை எதிர்கொண்டேன். ஆனால், ஆழ்ந்து யோசிச்சப்பதான் நம்ம பெண்களின் ஆழ்மனத்தில் படிஞ்சு கிடக்கிற தாழ்வு மனப்பான்மை, 'அழகு' பற்றிய அவர்களின் மனப் பிம்பம்பற்றித் தெரியவந்தது. ரொம்ப வருத்தமா இருக்கு. மிருணாள் சென் என்னைப் பார்க்கும்போது, 'யூ ஆர் ஆர்டினரிலி எக்ஸ்ட்ரா ஆர்டினரி'ன்னு ஆச்சர்யப்படுவார். என் சரும நிறம் நினைவுக்கு வரும்போது எல்லாம், இதைத்தான் நினைச்சுக்குவேன். கறுப்பாக இருப்பதால் தன்னைத் தாழ்வாக நினைத்துக்கொள்ளும் அத்தனை பெண்களுமே எக்ஸ்ட்ரா ஆர்டினரிதான்!

சினிமாவில் பெண்கள் பங்குபத்திக் கேட்டீங்கள்ல. ம்ம்ம்... என்ன சொல்ல, சினிமா ஆணாதிக்கத் துறை. 50 வயசுக்கு மேலயும் ஹீரோ தன் மகள் வயசு பெண்ணுடன் டூயட் பாடலாம். ஆனால், 25 வயதைத் தாண்டிட்டால், ஹீரோயின்கள் 'ஆன்ட்டி'கள்தான். அப்படியும் தயக்கங்களை உதறி சினிமாவில் போராடிட்டு இருக்கும் பெண்களுக்கு என் மெசேஜ் ஒண்ணே ஒண்ணுதான்... 'உண்மையின் மீது நம்பிக்கை வையுங்கள். அது உங்கள் தைரியத்தைப் பன்மடங்காக்கும்!''

'' 'சில்ரன்ஸ் ஃபிலிம் சொசைட்டி ஆஃப் இந்தியா'வின் தலைவர் நீங்கள். இந்திய சினிமாவில் குழந்தைகள் சினிமாக்களுக்கான தளம் இருக்கா?''
''ஏதோ ஒரு மூலையில் சின்னச் சின்ன முயற்சிகள் நடந்துட்டு இருக்கு. ஆனா, குழந்தைகள் சினிமாக்களுக்கான முயற்சிகள் முறையாக இன்னும் துவக்கப்படவே இல்லை. இன்னும் பெரியவர்களுக்கான சினிமாவைத்தான் குழந்தைகளும் பார்த்துட்டு இருக்காங்க. Right to Entertainment for Children என்ற விஷயத்தில் நாம் இன்னும் கவனம் செலுத்தணும்!''

''தமிழ் சினிமாவை மறந்துட்டீங்களா?''
''தமிழ் சினிமாதான் என்னை மறந்திருச்சு. 'அழகி', 'கன்னத்தில் முத்தமிட்டால்' படங்களுக்கு அப்புறம் நல்ல வாய்ப்புகள் வரலையே. எனக்கு எப்போதும் மொழி ஒரு தடையாக இருந்தது இல்லை. கதைதான் முக்கியம்!''

Mar 11, 2010

Hiking Mt.Takamikuira


                                         (Panaromic view of Mt.Takamikura from our 11th floor apartment in Takasago)

Mt.Takamikura is located just 4-5 kms from Takasago. It is a chain of a number of hills, and thus has several hike routes -which has prevented me from hiking there, as stepping into the 'wrong' trail could take one to a different area altogether!

Kayoko-san whom I met in Takasago International Association (TIA) came to my help. She, along with some 20 guys in Takasago has formed a Hikers Club and has been actively hiking throughout the year. She has hiked in the Himalayas, and in almost every mountain I know of in Japan. A housewife who is reluctant to call herself a 'pro'.

We started at 10am sharp from the backside of popular Kashima-jinja .... and quickly went into a steep route. Unlike Mt.Rokko and Tendaki Falls area where you had 1 2-ft width trail along the edges of the mountains, this trail was mostly on rocks. ("When you hike during rainy days, take extra care" said she, without knowing that I won't even go out for shopping on a rainy day!). She kept on giving me several tips even as we hiked -"have shorter steps" "walk on your toes". She also said it is an unwritten rule that those who go uphill should get the way of priority to those who come downhill (which is contrary to driving practice where the down-comers get the priority). It is because those who hike uphill could only have limited visibility -about 1m above their spot.


As we reached the peak (304m) at 12 noon, it was time to sit for lunch. She took out from her bag something that was of the size of a soap-case, which in minutes turned out to be a stove and kettle. She made coffee (There was no vending machine anywhere on the trail or at the peak). There were many enthusiastic hikers I saw on the way; many were hiking individually -not as a group or with the company of anybody. There were some couples. At least there was one group of children from a nearby elementary(!) school. I also saw families with young children -they hiked the less-difficult trail- there are many in Mt.Takamikura. Near the peak some people were posing for a photo behind a board that showed the map of trails. It was then I realized that I had hiked Mt.Takamikura several years ago (in 1993) when Shibu was hardly 3. Fushino-san family took us on the less-difficult route, but I had not known then it was Mt.Takamikura (see pic).

                                                                   A 1993 pic in Mt.Takamikura with Fushino-san family

We climbed down through another route to Nagao -which took around 45 minutes. The entire trail was of 5 km long, and we were hiking on the highest points of the mountains for the most part (see pic).

And that's how Hiking Mt.Takamikura became a regular weekly activity for me -like jogging or going to gym once a week- since I first started in Oct 2009.

Mar 10, 2010

ஆஸ்கர்-2009

                                                                  Kathryn Bigelow wins Oscar (2009) for Best Director

ஆஸ்கர் 2009:  “கம்பன் வீட்டு ex-கட்டுத்தறியும் கவி பாடும் போல!”


( இல்லத்தரசிகள் மன்னிக்கவும்! :-)

Kikujiro

Kikujiro -பகல் சொன்ன ஜப்பானியப் படத்தை நானும் பார்த்தேன். ஹீரோவைப் பார்த்ததும் ஆச்சரியம்- இந்த ஆள் -Beat Takeshi `லோகல் டிவியில் ‘செமை’யாகப் பாப்புலர்; டிவி ஹோஸ்ட்; ஒரு கமீடியன். தகேஷியை ஒரு ஸீரியஸ் படத்தில் எதிர்பார்க்கவில்லை. அடுத்த ஆச்சரியம்’ படத்தின் டைரக்டர் Takeshi Kitano வும் படத்தின் ஹீரோவும் ஒருவரே! (டைட்டிலில் Cast : Beat Takeshi என்றும் Direction -Takeshi Kitano என்றும் காட்டுகிறார்கள். இரண்டும் ஒருவரே).

Kikujiro -ஒரு எளிமையான கதை. ஒரு முறிந்த கல்யாணத்தால் பாட்டியிடம் வளரும் சின்னஞ்சிறு பையன் (வயது 8 அல்லது 9) தொலை தூரத்தில் இருக்கும் தன் அம்மாவைப் பார்க்க விரும்ப, பாட்டிக்குத் தெரிந்த ஒரு பக்கத்து வீட்டு ஆளுடன் (தகேஷி) பயணிக்கிறான். அந்த ஆள்- தமிழ் சினிமா ஹீரோ போல் இல்லாமல் கோணங்கித் தனமாக ஏதாவது செய்து எப்பவும் வம்பை விலை கொடுத்து வாங்கியபடி காலந்தள்ளும் ஒரு வேலை வெட்டியில்லாத, சூதாடும் சோம்பேறி. பையனும் ஹீரோவும் வழி நெடுக சந்திக்கும் அனுபவங்களே படத்தின் பெரும்பகுதி.

கடைசியில் பையனின் அம்மாவின் வீட்டை நெருங்குகையில், அங்கே அம்மா மற்றொரு கணவன், மற்றொரு குடும்பம், மற்றொரு சிறுமி என்று ஒரு அழகான ‘மற்றொரு’ வாழ்க்கையை சிறப்பாக வாழ்வதைப் பார்க்கிறார்கள். ஒரு சின்ன மௌனத்திற்குப் பின் ஹீரோ பையனிடம் வந்து “உங்க அம்மா எங்கேயோ வீடுமாறிப் போய் விட்டாராம்; இது வேறொரு பெண்..” என்று பொய் சொல்கிறான். ஒருசில நிமிடங்கள் மட்டும் வரும் இந்தக் காட்சி, பையனின் இயலாமையை, வெறுமையை, நியாமற்ற இழப்பை ’சட்’டென்று நமக்கு உணர்த்துகிறது.

ஊருக்குத் திரும்புகையில் தகேஷி முதியோர் இல்லத்தில் இருக்கும் தன் தாயாரைப் பார்க்க விரும்பி அங்கு செல்கிறான். அந்த வயோதிகத் தாயாரும் இளமையில் மற்றொரு வாழ்வைத் தேடி, இவனைப் பிரிந்தவள் என்று தெரிகிறது. முதியோர் இல்ல ஹாலில் தாயைப் பார்க்கிறான்; ஆனால் ஏதும் பேசாமல் திரும்பிவிடுகிறான்.

”இன்னொரு நாள் உங்க அம்மாவைத் தேடிப் போகலாம், என்ன?” என்று தகேஷி அந்தப் பையனிடம் சொல்வதில் படம் முடிகிறது. சிக்கல் இல்லாத, எளிமையான கதை. படம் முழுவதும் பையனின் ஏக்கத்தைப் பற்றியே காட்டிக்கொண்டிராமல் சந்திக்க நேரும் அனுபவங்கள் பற்றிச் சொல்வது ஜப்பானிய ஸ்டைல். (அம்மாவைப் ’பார்த்த’ பின் ஊருக்குத் திரும்பும்போதும் தொடரும் சம்பவங்களைத் தவிர்த்திருக்கலாம்).

இருந்தும், சிறுவர்/சிறுமியரின் தவிப்பை மிகையில்லாமல் காட்டும்போது ஒரு நேரடித் தாக்கத்தை உணர்கிறோம். Pursuit of Happiness போல. ”கன்னத்தில் முத்தமிட்டால்” போல.

Mar 9, 2010

Toyota

Toyota's recent quality issues continue to perplex anyone, as ‘quality’ and ‘Made-in-Japan’ were synonymous, almost. (In Y2008, we found 4-yr Used-Toyota Corollas priced higher than the new Nissan Sentry we bought). Not only Toyota was a standing example of the Japanese quality of craftsmanship; even in the professional side, Quality Assurance professional worldwide (like our Arvind) are aware of Toyota's association with quality management guru Taguchi and an approach to quality using 'Taguchi Models'. (Pic shows Toyota's first model built in 1936)

Yet, nothing came to the help of Toyota when the Lexus accident in San Diego killed the driver (an off-duty Patrol Officer) and all the passengers, allegedly due to sudden, unintended acceleration. There are rumors that in a frenetic 911 call voices of passengers shouting ‘pray' 'accelerator pedal got stuck' etc. got recorded. There is also rumor that another guy who was loaned the same Lexus a week ago had reported uncontrollable over-speeding to the dealer. The issue got serious as Toyota President was forced to offer testimony at a Govt committee. With politicians in the picture backed by congressional hearing, and with a number of attorneys eagerly queuing up holding million-dollar class-action suits .... not only that Toyota is in trouble; but also we, the 'commoners', will never get to know the truth!

Initial reports suggested the issue was with the floor mats that trapped the accelerator pedal causing unintended acceleration. Then came pics showing Toyota servicemen fixing software bugs using some fancy hand-held devices. Where is the problem (if at all there is one)?

The issue has all the makings of a ‘US drama’. With the victim’s mother begging Toyota to build safer cars getting televised nationwide, the Toyota President had to come up with an emotional speech as well -"My name is on every Toyota car. You have my personal commitment that..." (He is the grandson of Toyota's founder, who started selling cars around the same time our Ambassador was 'launched' in India). His testimony wouldn't give a hint of where the problem was.

People here in Japan do not actually believe Toyota's quality issue is so serious warranting such a political intervention and media outcry. A majority believe Toyota is being grilled unnecessarily -especially when America's proud automaker GM had gone bankrupt not long ago. Japanese newspapers quote a a Govt report released last week by NHTSA that investigated the 'unintentional over-speeding' as complained by a number of car drivers; this report placed Toyota as having the most number of such problems, but Ford was not good either. (Ford came second in the list, next only to Toyota). Yet Ford’s name doesn’t show up anywhere in the issue.

The last time there was such a sensational coverage of an auto, it was Ford SUV Explorer. A faulty design of Firestone tires fitted on Ford Explorer caused rollovers leading to some 150 deaths. Ford ‘escaped’ blaming it on Firestone. Let’s see what Toyota comes up with…

And back in India, till now a bulk of cars come with no seat belts!
Apparently, we believe more on ‘destiny’ than on ‘safety’ !

Mar 4, 2010

Basic Instincts

There is no dearth of sensational news when it comes to Godmen of India! From the notorious Osho, to the district level Premanandha, or the widely acclaimed Kanji jeer, they had always been in the news. It was just Nithiyanandha's turn this time.

I hadn't known much about this guy. First I was surprised that this poor guy from Thiruvannaamalai has gained such a popularity and followers at this young age -he is only 32 now. Unlike other 'palE saamiyaar's, this guy had written a number of books on religious ideals, and a majority of his followers believe his philosophical speeches were in-depth and impressive.

His followers that proudly fall on his feet may find it difficult to digest that he had his own share of interest in women. If they now accuse him of insulting their trust, he might say, "Who on earth asked you to have such foolish faith on me?" He might actually be cursing that publicizing his private moments is atrocious (rightly so).

Years ago Kanji jeer got himself involved in the murder of an employee -a 'common stupid man' in his Ashram. Saibaba's cheating tricks are there in plenty in internet. And now this Nithyanandha. If anything, these Godmen have all been conveying without giving room for any doubts that there is no human being who could transcend the Basic Instincts -the Sex & Survival instincts. நாம்தான் இன்னும் அவர்களைப் பற்றித் தெரிந்து கொள்ளவில்லை.

P.S. In the youtube videos, look at the intimacy between Nithyananda and Rajita, which is uncommon in such secretly shot videos. They could have made a nice pair! :-) A real life husband and wife should envy them!

Feb 18, 2010

சில திரைப்படங்கள்

About some movies I happened to watch when I had been to USA recently....

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Avatar -I hadn't heard much about this movie then (December); so when my children insisted that we go & watch that movie in a nearby theater, I was getting ready for yet another 'nice sleep' in the theater. Most of the Harry Potter series movies turned out to be like 'sleeping tablets' for me -especially in theaters!

James Cameron's latest movie was not a disappointment though. The story of human beings invading an alien land and fighting with the local aliens (Na'vi) to bring to earth an unique material, it uses graphics more than what one could imagine. Yet, the success of film lies in its dealing with the basic human emotions -love. greed, 'changing-side' etc.(The same strategy JC applied in titanic?) As the hero, one of the human-Na'vi hybrids going to the alien land to destroy the Na'vis falls in love with a Na'vi girl (Neitiri -sounds like an Indian name?) the story takes a twist....

Heard that this movie has collected an all-time-high (surpassing Titanic which had been the topper for the past 12 years) of more than USD2 billion (which, if given away to the whole population of India, would get each & every Indian US$ 2 or Rs.100!!). Try watching this movie without thinking about its commercial success, amazing dollar figures (and also the nine academy award nominations)... Good luck!

On a lazy day when I turned on the TV I saw Jack Nickelson 60+ romancing a young girl. Soon I figured out the storyline paralelled our K.Balachandar's "Apoorva raahangkaL", for, the yooung girl's mom 50+ was dating a young doctor! As the story goes, JN breaks up with the young girl, and instead chooses to date the young girl's mom! ( அப்பாடா!) The old couple get into some problems as JN continued to flirt with other girls (and gives such 'athi mEthaavi' explanations as "I just do not know how to be a boy-friend. And that's not a small thing... Here I am, at 63, realising what love means..."), and at the end they unite. Fortunately, in "Apoorva raahangkaL", 'thalaivan thiruchchaanuur' showed up at the end and with him came a 'normal' ending!




I avoid watching movies in portable TVs when in flight; I prefer sleeping (or trying to sleep) to focusing on the tiny screen. Being a 13-hr non-stop flight, I took brief a look at the screen that was showing a movie, even as none of the actors/actresses were known to me. The story ("Love Happens") of a man who finds it difficult to come back to normalcy and to recover from the guilt feelings after the car he drives meets with an accident in which his wife gets killed. I watched it till the end.