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The Language Nerds


Or Sketchers?





Destiny, Circumstances, Fate, Luck, Krishna…Call Whatever

A very short beautiful story on the inexplicable…the invisible hand!


This refers to swayamwara arranged by the King Draupad to find a suitable match for his beautiful daughter, Draupadi.

A tough competition was set up: There was a wheel carrying a fish on its rim and revolving at the top of a pole. The pole was rose erect next to a water-body at its base. One who shot an arrow through the eye of the fish looking merely at the reflection in the waters below would win Draupadi’s hands.

The night before, a vexed Arjuna was talking it out with Krishna.

Krishna advised him: ‘ Arjuna, take care, put your foot forward, concentrate on the eye of the fish in your mind.’

Arjuna, more in despair: ‘If I do everything, what will you do, Krishna?’

Krishna smiled and said softly: ‘What you can do, I know, you’ll do and do well. What you can’t, I’ll.’

Arjuna: ‘And, what would that…

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Stories in Stone


This is from Sri Govindrajaswamy temple , Thiruppathi, consecrated by Sri Ramanuja in 1130 CE.

The intriguing geometry appears on the ceiling slab of a massive gopuram vaasal (gate).

Here is the gopuram:

Here’s a bottom-up view of the ceiling and the stone slabs:

Here’s a close-up of the geometry:

Look at those straight lines. They appear to be the edges of two polygons shifted and superimposed. Right, eh?

Well, they are not. Start from any node, go down or up and trace the edges without lifting the hand – you’ll return to the starting point!!!


These salabanjika‘s (a common motif at the entrances) would walk away with the crown for beauty, poise and grace any day anywhere!!

All credits to Amar Reddy for the photographs.


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A One-Man Religion?


The best reward for me in life is the disproportionately large number good people I collected around me at different times in life – class-mates, friends, colleagues at work-place and, of course, relatives; people with different strengths, exemplary in their own ways and inspirational to those who care to look; from many of whom I’ve benefited in ways with no capacity or ability to repay in equal kind or measure. I have in the past featured some of them here and there are more to be talked about before time runs out.

This man whom I had wanted to capture and present here for a long time wasn’t easy – the thoughts would not coalesce into a coherent narrative. I have been/am favored with so many acts of his kindness personally that it is easy for me to slip into singing his paeans. Like how he (and a dear cousin)…

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A Candid Shot Of A Life-Time

I caught the intoxicating whiff. I was close to winning an entry in the Guinness Book.

Though like most efforts of this class and caliber, this was also to be by sheer serendipity than design!

It’s about me, my camera and yesterday’s incident.

Had always liked clicking shots. A photograph, me thinks, is seeing and freezing a rare moment of awe, beauty…for reliving that moment later, in a manner not possible with our God-given equipment.

However, I hated the pre, post and upkeep efforts associated with photography, not to speak of the expenses it entailed especially in the age of films. So the pattern was repeatedly a short burst of excited clicking using up a roll or a good part of it followed by a long dry spell leaving the camera to rot away in a drawer. So over time I had a good sized collection of cameras that had breathed their last long ago, rolls that did not see the light of the day and, of course, the inevitable piles of family shots faded well past their prime, many sticking together more than their subjects do and did in life. And every time my wife prodded me into cleaning it all up, it always left me at the end of an hour completely exhausted and the drawer holding fast to its treasures, not a wee bit lighter. Like many other things in the house, I suppose it now falls to the lot of my children to do the unpleasant which, I’m sure, they would in less than a click.

It may not be out of place here to mention, with me, it was and is always the basic camera without those fancy accessories. It meant without any perceptible loss of quality in my life, no close-up shots of a stern-looking bird feeding a hapless early-rising worm to its young or two parrots enjoying some intimate moments, or a brilliantly lit street in Hong-Kong at night, etc. etc. I knew and kept my modest place in this pursuit.

My hitherto unremarkable performance got a boost when mobile phones appeared on the scene with their mega-pixel cameras. Now taking shots and immediately looking at them, sharing and saving them were easy as popping a candy in the mouth. No clutter, no expense. Now there was no holding me back from going around shooting this and that – mostly flowers, plants, objects of art, etc.

Did you notice some significant omissions from the subjects? People, for instance. Yes, I always looked at them as an intrusion to be avoided. Call me queer if you wish. Also no children or pets…was and am never nimble enough to catch them in their act. Of course I did not have the equipment to attempt anything more ambitious.

Without further ado, let me get to the incident, the subject of this post:

I was dozing away after an early lunch. Perhaps blood-sugar induced or due to disturbed sleep in the night. Was startled out of sleep by some noise – it was the maid working in the kitchen. Looked around and saw my wife beside me on the bed also fallen into a nap.

She looked so peaceful in her sleep…my sense of guilt – at dragging the poor unsuspecting soul with me through rough times in life – often visits me in these moments.

The unfortunate sequence lasting under a minute start-to-finish begins here:

Wanting more than ever before to take a candid shot – she would make a pretty picture, I was sure – I immediately went for the camera, though not fully alert yet.

Grabbed the cell lying within my reach. It happened to be hers and not mine. Feeling too lazy to get up and look for mine, decided to go with it. The icons on the screen were different and unfamiliar – usually I don’t so much as touch her cell.

Still on the bed, I did not have my glasses. Could make out some splotches of color on the screen.

Somehow guessing as best as possible, pointed the camera and clicked. Was sure it was going to a shot she would fall in love with. Owing to insufficient ambient light, unexpectedly the flash fired from close quarters. At the same time something else too happened at this instant that I was not aware of until later. A light sleeper she was, she woke up quite annoyed at the disturbance.

Luckily she went back to her nap quickly and so did I. After a few minutes, a shrill and persistent ring on the land-line woke us up for good. It was her sister in Chennai sounding very concerned about her sister’s health. Why, all of a sudden? It was because of a snap, she received a little while ago on her cell showing my wife to be curled up, mortally ill. While assuring her she was fine, my wife looked it up in her cell. No wonder they all had panicked – besides the sister in Chennai, there was another sister in Bengaluru – the one who raised the alarm first, the aunt (Chitthi) in Chennai who too was very disturbed…My wife returned waving the picture at me, breathing fire, demanding an explanation for taking such a snap and then sharing it over Whatsapp, compounding the misdeed manifold. What kind of a joke it was, eh? I saw the snap and there it was well and true. With the flash going off from so near, she had defensively screwed her face up, blowing to the high skies my quest for a candid shot of a life-time!  

The second part of the accusation laid at my door was not my doing, I protested. I knew little about the groups she had in her WhatsApp and, what more, I could hardly see the screen. But the fact they all received the snap in their group…I was forced to admit I must have done something to make it happen. Though, Glory to God above, don’t know how. But no use fighting it.

At the end of it all, I had on my hands an implacable wife and irate-but-well-meaning in-laws, not mentioning the infamous shot, though merited-ly short-lived.  

On the positive, the heady prospect of being included in the Book of Records. I had packed as many as six goof’s, to be clear on the score: a) deciding to shoot while groggy b) using an unfamiliar camera c) operating semi-blind without glasses d) the flash firing unexpectedly e) as a result, the subject screwing her face up and f) sending out the snap on WhatsApp – all in under a minute.

I thought that was good – or rather bad – enough to claim a place in the books. There’s a little more to it – think, can you fire off a flash in a bedroom in Chembur and wake up people from their siesta in Bengaluru and Chennai ?

Well, my wife did not share my cheer.

So there it stands, an authentic difficult-to-equal account that will perhaps over time undeservedly pass to be apocryphal.


Source: image from

Some Songs Make You Wish

you knew the language and were able to sing. Here’s a small selection in different languages, by no means exhaustive, with beautiful lyrics rendered in melodious ragam’s set to hand-clapping rhythm…some of them have been featured here earlier too in different contexts. One can enjoy the music even without regard to its spiritual/religious content.


Language: Tamizh; Ragam: Simhendra Madhyamam; Talam: Aadi; Composer: Oothukkadu Venkata Subbaiyer; Artist: Sudh Raghunathan; Song: Asaindhadum Mayil Onru

Available here.


Language: Tamizh; Ragam: Shanmugapriya; Talam: Mishra; Composer: Arunagirinadhar of 15th Century; Artist: Shoba Vignesh; Song: Muthai Tharu…

Available here.

Another rendering this time by the child prodigy Sooryagayathri:

Available here.


Language: Sanskrit; Ragam: Yamuna Kalyani; Composer: HH Bharathi Theertha Swamigal of Sringeri Mutt. Artists: S. Aishwarya and S. Soundarya; Song: Garuda Gamana…

Available here.


Language: Kannada; Ragam: Sindhu Bhairavi; Composer: Saint Purandaradasa; Artist: Raghuram Manikandan; Song: Thamboori Meetidava…

Available here.


Language: Hindi; Artist: Vikram Hazraa; Song: Achyutam, Keshavam…


What Did She Like?

This short piece is penned by Anuraadha Jaishankar here in Tamizh. Translated as close as possible. Narrowly missed the deadline of IWD.

Thanks to Vidya for forwarding it.

Here it is:

‘Anna, what are the doctors saying?’ Radhu, her voice unsteady.

‘It’s the same thing. His heart is weak, the pumping is not good enough. Since he has already undergone two surgeries, so there isn’t much they can do at his age. Of course, they are doing what they can – keeping him up with medicines. Anything more aggressive is ruled out. ‘Just keep him happy and comfortable as long as’ is what they’re telling me.’

‘How is he now?’

‘As of now he is alright.’

‘Listen, Anna, I’ll come over there bringing the kids along. Tell Raghu to do likewise. Let’s all be together for a few days with Appa. What do you say?’

‘Sounds good, let me talk to Raghu.’

‘Does Amma know about it?’

‘No. She thinks they have cured him of his ailment in the hospital and sent him home.’

‘Let it be so. Otherwise she’ll worry herself to death, poor soul.’

‘Fine, let me know once you book the tickets. I’ll get the car and come to the (railway) station.’

In the night over dinner Ravi told them about Radhu and Raghu coming over for a few days. Immediately Father relaxed visibly happy with the news. Mother looked a few years taken off her age: ‘You know what? Over the last few days, I had this persistent thought and desire to see the kids and spend a little time with them all and now you’re telling us this…very good, I’ll get some stuff (grains) ready and you please take them to the mill and get them ground. Will prepare some sweets and savories for the kids. Also kanji flour, sambar powder, tamarind paste, sevai noodlesPadma (Raghu’s wife) loves my hand-made murukku…’

‘Amma, Amma, take it easy. Sure, we’ll get all that done. ‘He likes this, she likes this.’ you said of everyone but not Appa – what does he enjoy eating, tell us.’

‘How would you know? You’re hardly at home. And when you are, you are not observant. Your Appa, he likes anything and everything I prepare for him,’ she said bashfully but laced with pride.

‘Okay, okay, now tell us a couple of items he specially relishes.’

Mother got up to clean up the table: ‘You watch me serving his meal, observe what I pile up on his plate with extra helpings and you’ll know.’

Ravi became pensive. How would this lady cope up with the inevitable when it happens?

With Raghu and Radhu landing, it was no longer a home of the sick – Mother busying herself in the kitchen dishing out everyone’s favorites, Father happily chatting away with one and all, the siblings making solicitous inquiries and doing the catching up, the children running all over, falling, dropping thingsand the old couple like kids looking excitedly at the new dresses bought for them – altogether a cheery family reunion, a pleasant chaos, not boisterous, not unruly

It was Saturday. Father suggested they go to the (Marina) beach – the kids can have fun playing in the sand – and followed by dinner at some decent restaurant so Mother got a well-deserved respite from her kitchen duties for the day.

‘Appa, what would you like to have?’ Ravi handed over the menu card.

Ordering for him done, ‘Amma, what can we get?’

One of the kids interjected: ’I dont want this idli-sambar. It’s too hot.’

Radhu: ‘You always do that – order something and then you dont eat,’

Mother: ‘Dont pull him up. Just get him what he wants. It wont be wasted – I’ll have his idli-sambar.’

Ravi waved away: ‘Forget him, Amma. Let’s get whatever you feel like having.’

But she had her way: ‘Not to worry, dear, this is good and enough for me.’

Mother and Radhu took what was left over on the kids’ plates.

Overcome with emotions, before retiring for the night, Father: ‘After a long time, I was very happy todaydid you see how caring our kids were this evening? Not many would be blessed like us. What do you say?’

Mother readily agreed.

‘But, you know, it was strangenormally these fellows would not hesitate to snatch away this that from my plate and hand saying it wasn’t good for my healthand today it was quite the opposite, they were forcing the eats on me.’

She laughed: ‘Oh, that’s was only for this occasion, a couple of days that we are together. Thereafter it would be your regular diet. No remission!’

‘Oh, so that was it, eh? Okaylet’s sleep. Am tired. It’s Sunday tomorrow, sleep well, no need to get up early.’

‘You know Sunday or weekday, the alarm in the body wakes one up more or less at the same time every day. Let’s see.’

The following morning she overslept. In fact she had gone even farther into an eternal sleep.

Her children were shocked beyond belief.

Inconsolable. In their preoccupation with Father’s illness, had they failed to notice Mother’s indisposition? But she had not complained of any ailment at all.

It was the tenth day. The day of special rituals for the departed soul.

It was a practice – on that day dishes were prepared that were particularly favored by the diseased. The cook sought out Radhu and inquired about the menu.

Radhu: ‘Well, what did Mother like? Raghu Anna, you would know? Whenever I came here, she would rather prepare whatever I liked.’

Raghu: ‘Same here. She always fed me with kothamalli saadham, adai with vellam, uppu kozhakattaiitems she knew I loved. Let’s ask Ravi.’

Ravi: ‘Amma always took her food alone and last. I’ve no idea what she ate with relish and what she didn’t care for. Appa should know.’

Father: ‘Now that you ask what did she like? Well, what did she like? It never occurred to me to…’