Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Family Trip to Thirukazhukundram

I have been unwell and still recovering from an allergic flu that's been making its rounds in the city. In the midst of my recovery, my aunt and uncle along with my nephew made a plan to visit their family deity, which they incidentally found out through their family priest. I was not planning to join the group for the early morning jaunt for lack of sleep, but divine calling had other plans for me - I managed to get a great night's sleep and was all set to go with the group for our first ever visit to the much talked about 1300 year-old Shiva shrine. My grand aunt was instrumental in getting us all together.

Chennai is quite pleasant at this time of the year. The hour's morning drive was beautiful on the East Coast Road, 70 kms from Chennai and 15 kms from Mahabalipuram. 

means Respectfully, Kazhugu means Eagles, Kundram means mount - the temple lore has it that the sages were punished by Lord Shiva and they visited the temple as eagles for salvation. It is also known as Pakshi Theertam (Holy Birds Tank) and is visited by pilgrims all over the world. The main deity is Vedhagirishwarar on the hill and his consort Thripurasundari, at the base of the hill. There is a Shiva shrine at the base for those who cannot make the steep climb of over 500 steps one-way. When you make your way back down, you will be advised to take a left near the drinking water area, so you actually do a giri-valam (going around the base of the hill in worship, similar to Thiruvannamalai). The Pallava architecture is indicated by the Gajaprushtam (Gaja-elephant; prushtam-backside) style, where the temple sanctum resembles the backside of an elephant. It is also believed that the four vedas, the Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva vedas are stacked on top of each other in the form of boulders, hence the name Vedagiri (veda-scriptures, guru-hill) and the presiding deity, Vedagirishwarar.

The temple has also been sung in high praises by saints Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, and Manickavasagarar. Every 12 years, all the sacred rivers flow here into the temple tank, when the conch is created and Guru (Jupiter) enters Kanni rasi. This is one of the largest festivals celebrated at the temple called the Thirtha Pushkara Mela

The hill is surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs and is believed to cure one of ailments. Along the way, there are many beautiful view points to enjoy the scenery from the hilltop.

It was an enjoyable trip with a lot of adventure, battling the monkeys along the way. So a word of caution to my fellow travellers, hide water bottles and food because these guys will not think twice before they snatch it from your hands.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Calvin's CLoud

Sarah learnt a lot from Alex. Like the way men could say one thing, then another, then act in a way inconsistent with both positions and somehow still be convinced of their own integrity.
- Emily Maguire, Taming the Beast

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Moon and Kipling Cafe

Kipling Cafe was an intriguing name; I was drawn to it because it reminded me of none other then Rudyard Kipling. I had heard great reviews of the place, especially the cabanas, though pricey was a good place to hang out. Among so many other restaurants that I wanted to visit, this was also on the hit list. As much as I tried, it did not happen and I let it be. It is right opposite to the Go Karting track on the ECR and while I had a great time go-karting, food was always a different place.

I am not sure when, but I guess it was after the torrential rains that my entrepreneur friend and I met for dinner after a long time. And where do we go - Kipling Cafe! The universe was conspiring and I was oblivious to it. I was thrilled. They had made a makeshift bridge lighted up all the way upstairs around the waterlogged area and it looked fantastic in the cool evening under the gaze of the moon. She was with us all through dinner and what a lovely sight it was!

We enjoyed a lovely soup and crostinis, followed by a cream based pasta which just was a tad too much for me to handle. The guilt factor did not help. The service was very good, round the clock. Food was lovely, enhanced partly by the shining half-white moon in the grey sky. 

What can I say - who doesn't love simple unexpected surprises!

Happy New Year and Lots of Good Things

I spent the New Year with my family after  a long gap of seven months. My niece was due end of Jan or early Feb and I also had to catch up with my nephew. 

After the terrible floods that turned out to be a living nightmare for Chennaites, it just felt great to be with your own. The new place is a 2 km walk to the Botanical Gardens and the pathway was just lovely, dotted with lush green foliage. The verdant scenery is enough to fill your eyes with wonder and heart with happiness. All I did for two weeks was walk, read, eat, sleep, watch movies and enjoy an outing with my brood.

I came across this beautiful poem in The Sleeping Dictionary, by India's wonderful poet, Rabindranath Tagore, from his book Raghu's Love 1884

Eventhough you like me not
as I have heard you don't
On you I shall ever hang
Like an iron chain fastened to your feet
You are the captive wretch whom the prisoner
I have made by
Tying my heart to yours with a knot
No one can undo

In all its misery, life still has its own loveliness. We welcomed my niece into our world on Jan 22 2016. She looks beautiful. Lovely tuft of jet black hair, all pink tender skin and sweet rosy lips, eyes tucked in tightly in deep slumber, her chubby cheeks glistening and there is so much peace just looking at her in her blissful sleep.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Calvin's CLoud

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoongavanam (2016)

We are die-hard Kamal fans and were waiting fervently for the release of the much awaited Kamal Haasan starrer Thoongavanam, a replica of the French version Sleepless Nights. I had just got back from my trip to the beautiful Heritage town, Thalassery in Kerala. The rains had lashed the city and I was worried this might ruin our movie plans. Luck was on our side and the evening plans went smoothly without a hitch. Over a bag of pop-corn, cold coffee, bhel puri and Bombay sev puri, we walked in with great satisfaction to watch our idol in action.

Diwakar, (Kamal Haasan) is an undercover cop from the Narcotics Bureau who is out to get one of his own men Mani (Yuhi Sethu) red handed, who he knows is involved in a drug racket. All hell breaks loose when Mani shoots  a guy during a drug transaction and leaves a trail. Enters Mallika (the boring, aging Trisha) as the Forensics Expert in a formal costume who opens the Pandora's box. Mani tries hard to persuade his partner Diwakar, to make a bargain with the scary owl eyed drug lord, played by Prakash Raj (Vittal Rao), owner of the nightclub Insomniac, to whom the drug bag belongs and incurs his wrath.  Vittal kidnaps Diwakar's son Vasu (the very cute talented Aman Abdullah) until his bag is returned. While his son is put through a little Chinese torture, Diwakar goes to the club and hides the bag in the men's toilet. Mallika notices the bag and quietly moves the bag to the ladies section. All hell breaks loose from here. Diwakar while trying to get his son in one piece realises the bag is gone and a chase in the club ensues.

Kamal shines in his performance. His experience, passion, and life he breathes in his character is impressive. At 60, the actor brings such a class act to his role and the editing with close-ups to the smaller details of this character adds enormous value.  As usual, he finds a pretty lass to lip-lock with on the pretext of escaping from the evil men in chase. Aman who plays his son does a fantastic job for a first timer. He is cute, endearing and an understanding son who wants his father's affection as much as he admires him.

Trisha cannot act by nature. She is meant to be a beautiful photogenic prop. Along with age and lack of talent, putting her in a plum role in this movie was simply unimaginable. In one close-up fight sequence with Kamal, she looks like she is laughing when she should be in a lot of pain. Yuhi was disappointing. Sampath did not have much to do and Prakash Raj was plain boring doing his usual villainous role. With an actor like Kamal at the helm, unless all the supporting cast bring in a certain level of performance, the film can slow you down.

The movie is considered a box-office flop but as movie goers who enjoy good interesting storyline, this one did not disappoint us. It moved at a decent pace and we just could not get enough of our man - not to mention he has given his voice for the sound track and just killed it with his performance!

It was thoongavanam, sleepless nights for the three of us after that movie night!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lunch at Jonah's Bistro

What a lovely place to catch up with friends and dear ones

I was blissfully unaware of this cosy little find until my friend suggested it for our luncheon during the Saraswati puja holiday. Situated above Sri Krishna sweets in Besant Nagar, Jonah's has a nice ambiance and cosy feel when you step in to their restaurant.

I was pleasantly surprised. Seating is limited and I am a sucker for table seating by the window, however, we could not find one that fit our bill. However, I found a place under the air-conditioning and natural lighting and settled there like a comfortable kitten.

I was in a mood to be pampered and allowed by host to take the lead. We both kicked-off the warm enjoyable afternoon with cheese stuffed mushrooms, which were succulent and done to perfection. Plating was lovely. Service lead by Captain Anido was good.

I was thirsty having driven to Nungambakam and lost my way and drove all over Chennai before I managed to make it back into my known territory. The Bistro does not serve alcohol though wine would have been nice.  So I settled for a Lime-mint cooler while he had a virgin Pomegranate Mojito. Eventually over a sip of each other's drinks, we decided to swap it.
For the mains, I wanted a light bite while he wanted a proper lunch; so while he ordered a well-done steak, I got the paneer korozott, which was cottage cheese roast with honey-chili glaze served on ice-berg lettuce. The sauce was fantastic albeit the paneer and steak was a tad chewy. I tasted a huge spoonful of mash from his plate. It was lovely and so were the shallots in red wine reduction. We had a to give the dessert a miss unfortunately. We were told it had to be brought in from Pondicherry! Now that would have been a really long wait. Pricing was alright and the bill was an INR 1170.

Overall lunch was memorable. Both the company and the food were worth every bite and minute.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Calvin's CLoud

Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.

- Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience.