Saturday, February 26, 2011


Train travel always throws up incidents of interest. More often than not, you come across intriguing people, amusing arguments and healthy camaraderie when on a train journey. It was during one such journey that I met two people who shall remain etched in my memory forever.


I made my way into C 2 of the Shatabdi Express after my routine check of the reservation chart. By check I don’t mean to say that I check for my name. I actually check the names against my near immediate seat numbers for, well, various reasons. I was unlucky this time as well as I saw that Meenakshi – F 56 and Srikanth – M 24 were to be my travel mates. I got into the coach fantasizing about a possible mix up in their ages. No; they were seated there alright, their ages concurring with the chart and bringing my fantasies to an abrupt thud. I sat next to the lady as she smiled at me gently. I smiled back. The train started to pull out slowly. That’s when I heard the excited voice of Srikanth who was, apparently, her son. “Look Amma! The train is moving!” he exclaimed with excitement. She nodded and smiled. I expected her to turn to me and give an apologetic sort of look but no; her eyes were set on her 24 year old son and the happiness exuded by her smile seemed genuine rather than made up. He was smiling in a childish sort of way and the enthusiasm in his voice matched that of an eight year old kid travelling in a train for the first time. His face was literally glued to the glassed window next to his seat and his eyes widened with joy every time something new passed by the window.

The next two hours were filled with Srikanth’s continuous exclamations and incessant questions to his mother. I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable around them. I knew I should have been ashamed of myself to be squirming in my seat just because I was next to a 24 year old fellow behaving in a ‘not-so-normal’ manner. After all, people in such conditions must be empathized with rather than being shunned. But I have never been the empathizing type and though I have no intention of shunning such people I do face serious inhibitions to move with them in a casual manner. So I turned my head away from the mother-son duo. I noticed most of my co-passengers in other seats also staring at them; some with sadness and others with curiosity.

Suddenly Srikanth let out a whoop. “Wow! Amma! Look! It’s raining!” he cried. He was awestruck as little drops of rainwater hit the glass pane and rolled down gently, leaving silvery trails behind. He traced the trails with his hands and got all the more excitable as the rain transformed from a drizzle to a pelting. Suddenly, he got up from his seat. “Amma! I want to look at the rain from outside”, so saying he crossed us and hurried towards the compartment door. His mother excused herself and followed him outside. Fifty pairs of eyes, including mine, followed their movement as we craned our necks to catch a glimpse of the goings-on outside the compartment. She held him back and opened the door of the coach. He moved forward towards the door and I, being seated in the other extreme, lost sight of what he did after that. I waited for some more time for the two of them to come back to their seats. Finally, Srikanth moved away from the door and came into my sight. He made his way into one of the toilets as his mother came back to her seat.

I decided to be supportive and smiled at her in an understanding way. She returned it. I looked out to see if her son had come out of the toilet. He had not. So I decided to have a quick conversation with her.

“Why don’t you take him to a good doctor? I can recommend a very good friend of mine who is a psychologist”, I offered.

She gave a knowing smile.

“Actually we are just going back after consulting a doctor in Chennai”, she told.

      “You see, Srikanth, just yesterday, underwent an operation in Sankara Nethralaya. After twenty four 
      years of darkness, he can finally see and experience colour in his life..."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


There was a time in the 1970s to 80s when Ilayaraja was the only music director, S.P. Balasubramaniam, the only male playback and S. Janaki, the only female playback in Tamil Cinema. A young man, then in his thirties, was grabbing at opportunities to showcase his villainy acting skills and secretly nursing hopes of making it big as a singer. He used to imitate the legendary T.M. Soundarrajan and present Sivaji Ganesan’s songs for his troupe time and again. Then Pathinaru Vayathinile happened and a new singing sensation was born…a Malaysian born malayali who went on to carve a separate base for himself in the Tamil film music fraternity.

Aatukutti Mutta ittu from Pathinaru Vayathinile introduced ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan as a singer to Tamil Cinema. The song went on to become a rage, not only for its foolishly funny lyrics, but also for the fresh baritone it introduced to Tamilians. Since that rousing start, ‘Vasu’, as he was fondly called in the music circle, had no looking back. With his majestic voice he enthralled cine-music followers and went on to make Superstar Rajnikanth’s singing voice his own.

 He has churned out more than 3500 songs in Tamil Cinema and in this post I am looking back at some of my indelible favourites

Vaa Vaa Vasanthame (Film: Pudhu Kavithai): At a time when Vasu was sidelined as a folk singer and flooded with fast numbers, this beautiful melody came as a breath of fresh air and showcased the nuances that he possessed in his voice to deliver soothing melodies as well. The comforting image of Rajnikanth singing to a little girl is still fresh in my mind when I listen to this song

Aasai Nooru vagai (Film: Adutha Vaarisu): A trendsetting fast number with extensive use of guitar and the brilliantly masculine voice of ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan was a toast to Ilayaraja and Superstar fans alike. Vasu’s subtle variations during rendition are evident in this number, as well as the perfect modulation he brings to portray the playboy-like attribute of Superstar in this song.

Vethalaya Potendi (Film: Billa): If ever there was an advertisement to the betel leaf (Vethalai) then it has to be this song. The juicy savouriness of the Beeda and the irrepressible joy that a man, deprived of his beloved Beeda for a very long time, experiences when he finally gets a chance to fill his mouth with it is superbly brought out by Vasu in this number. Vasu also proved that he is adept at mastering any lingo (He would have sung this song in the madras Tamil lingo) and delivering a song in it quite effortlessly.

Ennamma Kannu (Film: Mr. Bharath): With this song Vasu put his singing prowess in line against the already famous S.P.B and matched the legend word for word. The bitter Rivalry between the screen stars Sathyaraj and Rajnikanth was brought alive even when one heard this song without seeing the visuals. It was only fair to say that Vasu passed this peer test with flying colours.

Kadhal Vandhuduchu (Film: Kalyanaraman): This has to be the most singular song ever sung by Vasu. The modulation he brings out to literally render the whole song through his nose rather than throat is simply amazing. Kamal haasan’s avatar as Kalyanaraman would not have been complete had it not been for this awe-inspiring rendition by Vasu.

Poove Ilaya Poove (Film: Kozhi Koovudhu): Another of ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan’s unsung beauties. The calmness of his voice, the consummate ease with which it climbs up and down the scales in this song and the tranquility it brings to the listener makes this number almost my favourite ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan Song…Almost.

Podhuvaaga En Manasu (Fim: Murattu Kaalai): There might be Vandhenda Paalkaaran from Annamalai; there might be Naa Autokkaaran from Baasha; there might even be Oruvan Oruvan from Muthu. But when it comes to the ultimate Thalaivar Intro Song, it has to be this one. With this song, Vasu made Thalaivar’s singing voice his own. The streak of brazen villainy that thalaivar used to portray even when he transformed into a mass hero during those days demanded a voice which can bring out the same sort of villainy. And who better than Vasu to bring about those nuances? The spell binding rendition with that touch of nonchalant arrogance was something only Vasu could have delivered. And he did so to the delirium of Crazy Thalaivar fans like me.


February 20th, 2011 will go down in the annals of Tamil Music industry as a day when nature decided to silence one of the most influential voices of Tamil Cinema. ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan was not given any sort of recognition he deserved during the years he lived. It is indeed sad to note that even after he has passed on, recognition has been hard to come by.

This post is my form of saying ‘Thank You’ to Thalaivar’s Eternal Singing Voice – You might have left us, but your voice will live on in our memories and keep ringing in our ears.

Rest in Peace

Saturday, February 19, 2011

WORLD CUP 2011 - the Chinks and the Picks

Yes…I have been hearing the whispers for the past whole week. Fans of my cricket writing are puzzled over my non-indulgence in writing about the biggest cricketing event ever – the 2011 World Cup. I agree that it is the duty of a professional writer (in this case it would be me) to oblige the whims and fancies of his fans (Ha! Me again). So I have decided to give in.

WC 2011

Right from the time hype began for this world cup it has been obvious that this is going to be the most open world cup since the 1999 world cup when Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh and Steve retorted with ‘You dropped the F**king world cup you slimy, butter-fingered Ba****d’ or something on similar lines.

  Australia are playing like the West Indies of late 1990s and the West Indies are playing like…well, the West Indies of late 1990s. South Africa are trying to add a touch of comedy to proceedings by openly declaring that they are the opposite of chokers now…yeah right! Then there is England going ‘Waa Waa Waa! I wanna go home! I am tired!’ after beating a third grade Australian team in the ashes. Amidst all this there are the sub continental favourties Sri Lanka and India who have played so continuously against each other that there are rumours abound that Sangakkara can now face Indian bowlers blindfolded and Harbhajan can take a backwards run up and release the ball from behind his back to the blindfolded Sangakkara. Of course we can never count out Pakistan and Daniel Vettori.

So, all in all, we are in for a cracker of a world cup unless Ireland and Bangladesh decide to throw a few surprises.

INDIA – Favourites?

The Indian media is going ga-ga over the co-host’s chances at the World Cup. Phrases like ‘Hot favourites’, ‘Strong Contenders’ and ‘most balanced’ have been doing incessant rounds as people who don’t know the C-R-I of Cricket have turned into television hosts and analysts (No offence to Charu Sharma, Boria Majumdar, Sonali Chander and Dean Jones). Before closing our eyes and declaring India as the most likely side to lift the coveted trophy let us try and analyse a few chinks in the Indian armour.

First Chink – Ashish Nehra.

I am astounded by the tag ‘death over specialist’ given to this weak, anemic left armer from Delhi. If India are to nurse any hopes of even a semi-final berth then Nehra should stop bowling consistent gentle dollies in the name of slow-bouncers and then hang his tongue out like the stray dog Subramani, who lives near our house, after being smashed for boundaries.

Second Chink – Yuvraj Singh

There was a time when Yuvraj’s form was bulging and stomach was flat. Ever since those two attributes swapped positions he has looked more and more like a Marwaadi pawn broker rather than a middle order batsman. The only reason he is in the team is because he can bowler more accurately, and at times faster, than Ashish Nehra.

Third Chink – Piyush Chawla

No particular cricketing reason, but I think he looks a bit Chinese!


THE LOGICAL FOURIndia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia.

THE WHACKY FOURBangladesh, West Indies, Ireland and Vettori.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The tent was dark; the night was long
Nocturnal birds had just started a song
Of severe hunger did five stomachs growl
As some animals outside began their prowl.

The sturdy tent held five male members
With them were apples, only two numbers
The old man, seventy, was given one of two.
His age did deserve the respect it was due.

Now the rest were left with one not two
One fruit for four, what were they to do?

A decision made about the apple of ‘gold’
It would go to the one whose story was best told
The oldie ate his fruit and sat down to judge
A story telling round, where none would budge

He cradled the prize and sharpened his senses
The first guy began without pretenses
It was grey; it was dark; the suspense was chilling
‘Ah!’ cried the oldie. ‘A start so thrilling!’

Next was the second guy with his take on history
A story full of suspense, and shrouded in mystery
‘My my!’ cried oldie. ‘Judging this is tough’
‘Now now!’ said the third. That’s not nearly enough’
And so he started narrating, a chilling little story
The details were raw and the ending very gory

‘Oh god!’ cried oldie. ‘What a bloodbath!’
‘Yes’, said the fourth. ‘Now get set for your last.’

Thus began the final one, an emotion-filled tale
With love and betrayal, and a twist in the tail

‘So!’ said he ‘Who’s got the highest score?’
There was no answer, just a fat, rhythmic snore.
He neared the sleeping oldie, did one of the four
‘Alas!’ he shouted, his throat turned sore
‘He’s eaten the fruit and left us the core!’

Note: Wholly inspired by and totally dedicated to William Sydney Porter (More famous as 'O.Henry') 
         a masterful weaver of Short Stories.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The sound of the school bell would have been music to almost any student. But it was not the case with Ravi. The happiest hours of his day were the ones spent at school. He hated leaving school. He despised going home. He detested being anywhere near her.

Ravi was thirteen years of age. An age when everything or, in Ravi’s case, everyone around you seemed to be against you. And she was on top of his list. Ever since his father married her Ravi had stopped talking normally to him. Who was she? Why in the world should he be calling her mother?

He kicked a pebble as he ambled along the road towards his house. It was all Amma’s fault, he thought. Why did she have to die? Why couldn’t she come back to him?

 He decided to give her a piece of his mind when he talked to her before going to sleep that night. He had always thought Amma would come back to him sooner or later. He thought his wish was finally going to come true when his father had beckoned him a month back.

“So Ravi, what would you say if Appa told you that he is bringing Amma back to your life?” he had asked. Ravi had been delirious with joy then. With a smile his father had put a hand around his shoulder and led him to the drawing room. That was the first time he met her. She had smiled at him in a sickly sort of way. Unlike Amma, her smile did not radiate any warmth. He thought it was cold and evil. She had reached out to pet him and he had avoided her grasp and ran to his room. Since that day he had started dreading every moment he spent at home.

Now as he approached the front porch of his house his mind started to think up of further excuses to stay away from the place till dinner. He had spent many evenings of the past few weeks idling away at the corporation ground, three blocks away from his house, till dinner time. When his father had asked where he had been he had simply stated ‘friend’s place for homework’ and bolted to his room avoiding further interrogation. He decided to continue his habitual sojourn at the ground and started to step away from the gate when he heard his name being mentioned from inside the house.

“Of course Ravi is Vinod’s son and as good as your son. But don’t you wish to have a child of your own with Vinod?” a voice asked. From the whining nature of it Ravi recognized it as the voice of her mother or his ‘supposed’ grandmother.

“Look here Amma. I married Vinod because I love him and have been in love with him ever since I understood what love actually meant. I did not marry him to raise a family. Why should I indulge in it when we already have a family? I couldn’t have asked for anyone better than Ravi as my son. Sorry to disappoint you Amma. But Ravi is, and will remain, our only child”

There was some retort to that by her mother but Ravi’s attention had drifted away from the conversation. With loud steps he made his way to the front door and knocked on it. She opened it after a while. He trudged in and headed straight to his room without any sort of acknowledgement to her or her mother. She had become used to this behaviour of his by now. As always he closed his door with a loud bang.

Later that night as she made her way across Ravi’s room to her own, something flew from beneath the crack of his door and landed near her. She picked it up and looked it over. It was an invitation meant for the parents of all rank holders asking them to be present when their wards were to be honoured by the school during the Annual Day festivities. The event was scheduled for the next day. She made her way silently into his room. He was fast asleep. She placed the invitation in his bag and quietly slipped away.


“Next is the award for the overall topper of class eight. Can we have Ravi of VIII B on stage please?” the teacher announced.

Ravi made his way slowly onto the dais. He received the medal and the cup from his principal amidst loud applause.

 “So Ravi, are your parents here to share this special moment with you? Is Mr. Vinod here?” the teacher enquired.

 Ravi shook his head.

“What about your mother?” she went on.

He remained silent.

Sensing the lack of response to be some personal trouble, the teacher started to get back to her list of awardees when Ravi slowly looked up at the audience. His eyes scanned the rows before resting upon the corner chair of the very last row. He slowly lifted his hand and pointed at her.

Amma had come back after all…