Thursday, February 23, 2012

The 49th post

Dear friends and followers, there are totally 54 posts in this blog now. 3 of them written by my friend Suresh (aka Subi), and 2 posts that have no real content. So, practically this is my 49th post. 49 posts in about 3 years is not a big achievement at all, but it is a good point to look back and analyze a bit.

(You can click on the images below to see them better).

Subject range and stats

In these 49 posts, I have attempted travelogues, humor, suspense, romance, poems, eco-gyan, movie reviews, personal musings and even history based fiction. Some of these posts received wide attention and a few of them did not gain any attention at all.

Though I have tried to balance between Thamizh and English, number-wise, there are more posts in English. For a good number of my readers Thamizh was not the second language in school and so they have trouble reading Thamizh. I had to retain their readership!! Plus, my humor is contrived - except in a couple of posts that I wrote immediately after reading "Three men in a boat". The contrived humor works out better in English (Of course, you may argue that it doesn't work out anyways).

I have not ventured into any social issues and 'should-be-discussing' topics. That would require assessing all sides of such issues and being able to come to a conclusion. I should be able to do it, when I have made myself knowledgeable enough.

The popular ones

"Kaadhalagikk kasindhurugi" has received the maximum number of page views. I myself have read it many times. Even if my own page views are subtracted, I think it would still top the list.

Going by the number of comments (after subtracting my own comments), the top 3 are:

Busy for nothing (13 comments) - Some of these were greetings and not comments on the post.
Love and my first blabbering post (13 comments) - This was my first major success.

My picks

I have a special liking for the 3 posts below. They have unearthed old memories for some of the readers and helped them relive those cherished moments:

Traffic inflow and stats

I don't consider myself a good writer (not after reading posts by Seralathan (serious writing) and Jaya Madhavan (humor)). Further, I write mostly about what I have been through, what I think, what I want to be. When there is so much of "I", my writing may be of interest only to my close friends. So, I have some hesitation in publicizing my blog.

To begin with, most of my readers were my close friends, then it extended to a few co-workers. Only a very few followers are strangers to me. Thus, my readers circle is very small. A small number of people have dropped in, to read just one or two posts.

Some friends have helped to extend the readership by forwarding links through mails and facebook. I was surprised to see traffic flowing in from countries like Russia and Ukraine where I have no friends (unless Veerabahu was ever posted there for one or more of his frequent foreign assignments).

I have some traffic flowing in through Seralathan's books review blog. That may be natural because, some people who know him are likely to have known me as well. But, I was surprised to see traffic flowing in via talesofthewanderlust (Madan) and some-sensible-nonsenses (Divya). I should thank Seral, Madan and Divya for extending the readership of my blog by listing it in the list of blogs they follow.

Some traffic comes in accidentally too. Have a look at some of the key words that lead people to my blog:

Visitors trend:

I used to receive comments from many friends. Marriage and parenthood has made some of them busy (that is not a complaint :) ). It is a pleasant surprise when some of them comment after a big gap, that gives me assurance that they still visit my blog.

Anyways, not all of my readers leave comments in the blog itself. For various reasons, some friends talk to me over phone, some of them mail their comments and some give feedback when they meet me. Some of them share their own experiences and memoirs with me. Interestingly, there are some good writers among them, but they do not maintain a blog or are inconsistent. I have tried encouraging them to write as that is one way to get better - that and reading more.

I have also got a few good critics who pat me when I write well, tell me when I could have done better and advise me even on the font size.

Looking at the stats, the page views seem to be picking up in 2012.

Overall, I am pleased with how it's going. A couple of friends have suggested that my writing is going to the next level. That is definitely encouraging. Thanks for the continuing support folks. I love you all.

The break

The reason for this 'looking back' analysis even before reaching the 50th post is because I plan to take a mini-break giving myself some time to prepare for the exams (2oth May). Because, once I plan to write on something, it begins to occupy a corner in the mind and creates restlessness. Sometimes, many pieces run at the back of the mind at the same time. That is an unwanted luxury with exams around.

A compelling reason may arise pushing me to change my mind in a hurry and break the break as well. The 50st post might not be far away. Hopefully, Sachin would have scored his 100th hundred by then!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Venu Lane - The bio-diversity hotspot

My maternal grandparents' house, built with bricks was never coated with cement or paint on the outside. The rooms, except the hall, were roofed with terracotta tiles. Such an architecture inherently provided with lot of crevices, clefts and other 'thesaurus'eous openings. Perfect setting to house all verities of arthropodians. Arthropodians, aren't just another groups of 'podians', they do have intimidating features.

Along with the arthropods, there were other creatures: the 4-legged, the 8-legged and the 5-legged (a differently-abled cockroach who lost a leg in an encounter with grandma). There were also the multipedes, centipedes and even wikipedes ("Wiki" is a Hawaiian word meaning "fast" or "quick"). There were so many of them that we did not even have to install an antenna when the house got its first TV. There was no need when all those arthropods had at least two antennae each.

There was one room that wouldn't allow sunlight. The hall had an attic which served as a dump yard for old vessels, audio cassettes ("Parashakthi" kadhai vasanam and the likes), outdated medicines and "Soviet" magazine issues from the days of Stalin and Lenin. Also, anything that I wanted to hide from my little sister was thrown into the attic. It basically supported 9 families of rodents, 1 cat, its visitors and many colonies of termites among others. Occasionally, my uncle too.

There was a garden behind the house which was the abode of many creepy creepers - a water melon plant and snakes inclusive. Actually, 'garden' is a overstatement for what we had. Drumstick trees, few shrubs of shoe-flower, pumpkin creepers - were all that grandpa would classify. Rest were wild herbs and grass and he gave them different names on different occasions. The snakes were real though.

Considering that I spent most of my vacations as a kid at the said house, I had enough experiences to write an entire series of "Night of the scorpion and others Inc" unlike Nissim Ezekiel who stopped with just the one poem. Probably I would have started with 'The night of the angry ant':

I remember the night when I
was stung by an ant. One hour
of power-cut had driven him
to circle beneath the candle light.
More candles, one torch light,
more insects and the endless power-cut.

Yet to be enrolled in school
I had no homework nor sense.
Boredom caught me and I
tried to trap the ant
under a geometry box
(which was not mine).

Upon release, the angry ant
bit my little finger.
Tears down my eyes
and a red fluid down my finger
(for I was seeing blood
for the first time),

I turned and twisted in pain
singing 'why this kolaveri'.
My angry aunt killed
the angry ant and she
covered my finger with a cloth.
The bleeding stopped
and the pain subsided.

Did I stop crying?
No! Not until I was given a banana.
When the power was back
I saw the dead ant being carried
by its men while I
was still eating the banana.

It wasn't just about the nights anyway. In the mornings, we had a pack of monkeys visiting the locality at regular timings. If the monkeys crossed east-west, the time was 7am. If they crossed west-east, the time was 4pm. If they did not turn up - 'Ekathasi' celebration in local temple (which meant they did not have to visit our garden for food). One day, when my little sister was sleeping in the cradle and we were busy in the kitchen, a monkey had come into the house and was checking out the cradle. We had to shoo-shoo it, least my sister would have grown up to be the female version of Mowgli or 'Elizabeth of the jungle'. Only slightly different from how she grew up in my company.

Grandpa's house had a wide assortment of slippers though no one in the house wore them while in town. But at the mere sight of a mouse, each one would swing their favorite slipper. They rarely hit a mouse and only ended up hitting each other. The mice and myself had lot of fun.

While sleeping, grandma would spread the mats leaving a small margin between the wall and the mat. That margin was to be the undeclared wildlife corridor. The nocturnal insects would use it as a freeway without having to interfere with the sleep process of us, humans. But, occasionally we used to have man-insect when a cockroach decided to take the road not taken and crawled over the over-bridge which was my arm. That was when, I used my well-trained shriek. Chorus by little sister. It was in this encounter that the above said cockroach became differently-abled due to grandma's angst. (In daylight, it would not have been would have been simply dead).

It wasn't just about fear and adventure though. There was the joy of capturing jewel beetles (பொன் வண்டு) in match boxes; feeding sparrows; following the squirrels; watching the garden lizard hoping it would change colors like a chameleon; feeding dead beetles to ants; planting mango seed; urinating on it hoping it would grow fast; even waiting for 4pm for the evening parade of the monkey pack.

Eventually we grew up, technology advanced and a sense of hygiene took over. The garden was relatively cleaned up, the trees were pruned. These days, the monkey population has migrated elsewhere, sparrows are not to be seen, squirrels are rare. The crevices and clefts are still there in lesser numbers. The fear of scorpions and centipedes is also still there, though I believe they have already departed us.

My nieces and nephews do not visit the house much and they don't believe my stories. What a pity!!

(post script: "Venu Lane" is the name of the street in which my maternal grandparents lived. I plan to write occasionally, based on my experiences from the days in Venu Lane).

(picture courtesy:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sans principle

I was in the railway station waiting for the train to arrive. There were others in the platform, waiting anxiously. To remain calm when there is just three minutes to the scheduled arrival time of the train, requires one of the following to be true - 1. You are into Zen 2. You are so used to Southern railways 3. You are plain lazy. In my case, it was a mix of the three in the reverse order - in descending percentages. I was looking at one of the railway employees as he went through his daily chores on the tracks. I lost sight of him after few minutes. There was no train yet. A strange feeling crept into my mind, that the train might have arrived in another platform while I was following the man in blue and that I might have missed the train. It was then that I became conscious of the stinking conditions. The smell gave me the assurance that I was in real life waiting in the right platform. If you have watched 'Inception', you would understand if I call it my "Totem".

The auto-voice in railway PA system kept requesting passengers' attention with the trademark 'diding diding' sound. In a fraction of seconds, the train made its grand entry. I looked for the name board and confirmed that it was the train I was to take. People were running hitherto tither to to occupy the seats already reserved for them. I nonchalantly waited for coach D6. When the train stopped, D6 was right in front of me. I looked for my name in the name chart. It was there. Still, I knew I would feel comfortable only after the TTE had checked my ticket. I stepped in.

I knew where to find seat 97. I found it, but a lady was already seated there. That did not surprise me anyways. People board reserved compartments with highly optimistic hopes that someone somewhere would miss the train and destiny in collusion with the TTE would gift them such seats. But my aggressor had to find luck elsewhere because, 'Catching the train on time' runs in my blood, except on occasions when I miss a train. I had to tell her that 97 was my seat. She must have understood, but still she asked me if I had a reservation. After I gave the 'Indian affirmative' - that is - shaking the head up and down, she rose and let me perch. All the seats in my vicinity were occupied. The lady must have shifted to another coach...I thought.

In a few moments the train had started moving. People were sill trying to figure their seats mostly because those with unreserved tickets were still continuing their 'Occupy Empty Seats' movement. After some negotiations and sub-reservations, the population settled down, leaving some of the 'unreserved' travelers "seat-less in Seat-tle". I wanted to avoid assessing the demography of the standing travelers and decided to quickly immerse into a book I had brought.

Even as I was totally into the book, going through the chapters, I was aware of the commotions of a usual train journey. The sharing of biscuits, ground nuts, magazines, political ideologies, tourism guidelines, mutual care-taking of the seat for the toilet-goers. I reluctantly looked up after sometime and instinctively started assessing the travelers. I could see about 12 people standing near the doors, the vestibules and the pathways - women in late forties and sixties, school going kids and physically weak men. There were others whom I could not see from where I was seated.

The gentleman sitting opposite to me - must have been around 60 years of age - got up and went in the direction of the toilet. All of a sudden, the aggressor lady was back and she took the seat. In a moment she fell asleep...or acted so. I wondered what the gentleman was going to do when he returned. Would he wake her up and claim his seat back? After waiting for about five minutes, I went back into the book. But, my brain started working on the ideology dilemma - yet again.

People know very well that, on a Saturday, a train between Coimbatore and Chennai was going to be full. They are well aware that they are likely to travel the entire journey standing. Still, they opt to take the train even without a reservation. They may or may not know that boarding a reserved coach is a punishable offence. Those who board in spite of knowing it, do so hoping that the TTE would be benevolent. I wonder if they ever consider that the TTE, in letting them travel, fails in the duty he is paid for.

Do the old men, women and the children choose the option out of choice or out of compulsion? Do they have jobs and functions to be attended that are more important than the pain of a standing journey. I wonder whether I should get up and offer them my seat. Should I impose the burden of their irrational action, upon me in spite of having spent many minutes planning the journey and paying the extra cost for reservation?

Then I think about their possible compelling situations. It may have been a last minute plan change, it may have been an emergency. Theirs, may be a choice between having to travel standing in the bus or travel standing in the train. The choice may be between the price of bus ticket and train ticket. Or, it could be a case of having missed the previous train.

While I was into the above thoughts, I noticed that the gentleman had returned and he was standing near the door. The lady woke up for a moment, saw that the gentleman was standing at the door. He was not looking at her. She took him for granted and went back to sleep. The sixty year old man, seemed to have decided to sacrifice a few minutes of his travel time for the seemingly tired 40 year old woman. This man, was much elder to me. He had a reserved ticket with him. So, I thought I would be right in offering him my seat. I made up my mind, got up and went to him and asked him to take my seat. He took it readily, which meant, he badly wanted to be seated, but still was being noble in not waking up the lady. May be he was reminded of his daughter.

Many times it is difficult to choose if one should act like an individualist or communist or realist or communitarian or idealist. It is simpler to go by instinct - sans principles.