Posted in Travel

Ride to Heaven with Emperors

17990618_1673601865989165_2633805837999376309_o

Picture Credits – Ganesh Kumar

So, after a long gap of 4 years, we came back to CTC. An accident and relocating out of Chennai, had created this gap. Now that the gap was there, we were not confident of joining another event. Unfamiliar names and faces were making it difficult for us to even register for any event. So we had started with few biking trips on our own since Jan this year. Also, we were limiting ourselves to bike trips, as hubby is not yet ready for a trekking event.

Bike trip to Nilgiris was what we were planning for, and CTC had just that. We forgot our inhibitions and decided to register as soon as the mail arrived in inbox. Both of us were checking mails daily till the confirmation happened. It was pure bliss and lots of learning since then. This was our first group biking trip and we had never rode with any major riding gears till then. I had my first panic attack then. Route map gave me the second. I have to mention the amazing Vikram and Rads aka Radhika from Date a Bike who provided us with some great tips and also rented out their riding gear.

Weekday traffic playing the spoilsport, we could start from Chennai, only after a 2 hour delay, with some yummy dinner to start with. 4 hours drive with stops at tolls ensued. At 1 pm we camped at Ulundurpet toll. Women in tents and men on the tarp. A slow sleeper, I woke up only by 6am. Beds and comfort can never match the serenity of being wild.

Lots of driving, tolls, food, dosa, eggs – kalakki, omlette and half-boiled, with mutton curry, sweating and tiredness, but full enthusiasm on. This was the next few hours till Annur, when Bharani reached to lead the pack. Into the forest we drove, touching Kerala border and being lost in the wonderful sights. A lost baby elephant was the highlight here. We were scared, but nevertheless clicked pictures. By 5pm, after an enticing ride we were at Manjoor. Everytime the bikes stopped, I had to do my sit-ups, and hubby, Ajith, had to distribute snacks. Balaji, our organiser was going cranky that we were obsessed with photos, and never letting him stick to planned schedules. Madhu and Ganesh, the lovely couple with their fresh love and charm was good fun to be. And the boys, Vikki, Karthik, Kannan, all were a riot. As always bonding in CTC happens like a miracle. Camping was becoming difficult as the officer who usually grants permission was on leave, but our lovely Jatin, manged to get us a safe, cool spot, near a tea factory just with a few calls.

Nature’s call is always a difficulty for women, but it also opened up more opportunities. Madhu and I went and asked few young girls if they could let us use a toilet at their home. After a minute of deliberation, they not only let us use their toilet, but also gave us warm snacks and tea. All the men missed it. They also told us about Baduga, their local dialect, native to the Nilgiris, which is a mix of Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.

Night was pretty cold, and Vighnesh in his dhoti was a miracle. Most of us used our riding gears and sleeping bags. Still can;t believe it now, while sweating and writing this in sultry Chennai. Early morning itself we left for Ooty, a full day of beautiful landscapes, scary off-roading, cool pictures and more food and fun. Roadside shops with their yummy local cuisine is the best part always. Downside of the trip was that we never shopped those juicy carrots or the yummy beets. We met old CTCians Ankit and Aditi, who were waiting for us near Masinagudi, and enjoy the rest of Nilgiris. More fun and photos, through the beautiful Mudumalai-Masinagudi Tiger reserve. We saw only sambhars and lion tailed macaques. Night camping at Kothagiri, and with a surprise visit from Shiva and friends. Early morning couple pics were the highlight with three couples. The ride back was the most overwhelming, leaving the place, last few hairpin bends and changing temperatures. Cannot forget it.

We clicked final selfies and exchanged goodbyes at Chengalpettu before Mani, our wonderful accountant settled accounts; can’t believe that we had so much fun, at so less price. The whole group donated 1000 rupees to Ainthinai, the plantation wing of CTC. Myself and Ajith said final goodbyes to Karthik and Murali after Kelambakkam. Special thanks to Murali for being the amazing rider ahead us. Learned so much, and we became real fans of his driving skill.

With more dreams and hopes, waiting for another CTC trip.

More fun here; with the creativity of Madhu, Mani, Vikki and Ganesh

Posted in Movies

When PREMAM thulped, but OSO failed

I have ranted a lot on my love and hatred for films a lot on phones and in person. Finally, after being serious about movies for around 5 years, I am finally writing and sharing my opinion on movies, on internet, where everything can be permanent.

Following the media and general public hype that Om Shanthi Oshana (OSO) is the ultimate female-centric movie of modern times, I watched it in theatre, not wanting to wait for it to come on TV. Felt good here and there. I always love the kind of dads that Renji Panikker and Lalu Alex represents. Liked the small fights and fun between bro-sis pair (Nazriya and Aju), few idiosyncrasies that Pooja (Nazriya’s character) had, but feel that they were made too general and unnecessarily trying to be cute. Except for the last scene where Nivin shows her the old umbrella keychain, adds a seat to his bike, and takes her to her home, there was no other romance, befitting the long wait and expectation on Pooja’s part.

OSO forced the girl  to hold onto her childhood crush, and fantasize that it would be a lifetime love for her. It is equating women to men, where we see images of men, just relentlessly loving a girl. Picture it this way: there is a boy who has a crush on a girl, at first sight, and feels in love with her, ignoring whether she loves him back or not, and wants to be with her forever, just because he has waited for her for long and helped her potential husband elope with somebody else, and thereby making his own path clear. Had this story line been told, we would have outright called it perverted. OSO also had added to it some inter-religion flavour, but made it totally easy, buy making Renji Panikker the dad and threw in secular notions too. Had it been told in the male narrative, we would have easily blamed it for the increasing instances on propaganda by religious institutions about ‘love jihad’ (another unnecessary topic).

Thus, the director changed the narrative to a girl protagonist, gave her voice (literally and figuratively) added in a veil of secularism, stirred in the feel-good charm of rustic beauty and communism, humour, and roped in safe commercial elements such as affluent doctor’s family, college lecturer who only cooks and looks confused, educated and well-groomed heroine, suffiecient dose of temple and church.

I have reserved my most favourite element: Vineeth Sreenivasan. According to me, he is ordinary delivering the best. Few scenes with him and Nazriya were genuine, and not forcefully feminist. There, I rest my case, OSO.

PREMAM… It came with a bang, but for the male audience. There was so much bromance and male exalting that made me think that I could easily give it a miss. Unfortunately, hubby got a CD version that I agreed to watch on a tired menstruating day. I could focus only on what irritated me and did not even complete watching it.

Many months later, on a bored afternoon, I decided to watch Premam on Hotstar. And this time, I was not expecting anything. Few minutes into the movie, I realized that it was a hit among men because the depiction was real, from a male perspective.

  • The first major attraction point, Mary, has no straightened or permed hair, no unrealistic body/attitude image stuck to her.
  • Just a normal girl, who feels elated to see too many people attracted to her, but also very cautious in her interactions with them.
  • Mary rejecting George, just makes him sad; he tries to identify ‘why’, but does not plot to revenge her rejection and George learns to move on in life.

Cut the bromance to college time heroism

  • The elder heroine do not look purposefully old or young; has her pimples and a non-conventional voice
  • No use of term ‘chetta’ to give legitimacy to Malar-George relation
  • Heroine has her needs, space and authority (totally wish that this could have been done with a same age or younger heroine premise too)
  • Heroine exits, George is sad, but no, he doesn’t come with any proof of their love, not just to her family, but nothing is ever brought to the screen

Life needs to move on; and we see the responsible George, sans beard or spectacles

  • Young girl who crushed on George as a kid, warms up to him, as she still feels the same attraction to him
  • Though she’s in an abusive relation and takes time and effort to save herself from more horrors, she does it.
  • Even her dad supports her, in spite of risk of social ostracisation

Lot of focus on bromance, but never have the director put in scenes to degrade femininity or depict forceful domination, and/or objectification of women.

Final Verdict: OSO had patriarchy made virtuous by some fake display of feminism, but PREMAM had feminism sold through bromance

Posted in The Lazy Cook

Sweet and Summery

I was completely floored by friend Rajasi who is a eco-friendly feminist and blogger, when she sent me a picture of the Mangakarri that she had made, inspired from my post.  It is her motivation that is making me write this.

Last summer, hubby was having bed rest and kitchen was having ‘no rest’. Added to it, my new ‘job’ of cooking was driving me nuts. Being the 100% Malayali that I am, I loved all parts of the coconut tree/plant, save it’s oil. All you non-mallus, no, you cannot judge. Exceptions add beauty to the rules. And my hubby was a hard-core fan of coconut oil. The taste was bearable after a few attempts, but the smell, especially when it was getting heated… OMG, it put me on a nausea spree. I started hunting for the smallest packs, in all brands available in Chennai, but nothing satisfied me. I also got one really small pack, after shelling a hefty sum, at one organic shop. But this one was better. Or, was it me getting acclimatised? I could not be sure.

Few days later, at my hubby’s home, I noticed how the coconut oil was smelling way better than even the organic one that I had. Upon inquiry (my MIL learned lots of these stuff from her MIL, of course over few years), I realised that my issues with coconut oil was because it was not pure enough. She was shocked to know that my mom & dad never used coconut oil in their cooking. Finally, she conceded that it must the reason why our parents don’t get along (no, religion is just so passé). I convinced her that a 500mL bottle itself would be too much for me, for I was sure that I was just accustomed, and did not actually like coconut oil.

Fast forward few days, with an ever-hungry hubby on bed-rest and me also in the ‘not working’ status, food supplies get over really soon. Not even a drop of my regular oils were to be seen; the summer heat too prevented me from going out. Finally, the humble bottle, preciously packed by my MIL had to be opened. I was nearly in tears. Was sure that all of my regular stuff would taste blah with this oil. I was determined to save my dishes from coconut oil, and wanted to make something new and simple for the day. Some probability (what else do you call it when the only veggies available were pumpkin, ashgourd, shallots n few curry leaves?), creativity and desperation made me conjure up this dish which I started calling “Sweet Summer”. It was not only awesome, but gave me the final push into being the eternal coconut oil lover.

Ingredients:

  1. Pumpkin (ripe and yellow)         – 200g
  2. Ash gourd (young is preferred) – 150g
  3. Green Chillies                                – 7-8 nos (if you have kaanthari mulaku or bird’s eye                                                             chilli 1 or 2 would do)
  4. Shallots                                           – 10-12 nos (small onions/red onions as people would                                                             love to call)
  5. Coconut milk powder                  – 2-3 tbsp (or freshly grated and coarsely crushed                                                                   coconut)
  6. Coconut oil                                     – 1-2 tbsp
  7. Salt

Peel and cut the pumpkin and ash gourd to medium-sized pieces and put them in a thick bottomed pan. Add water to around half the height of veggies. Close the pan, and let it cook. Once it is half-cooked, add the chopped green chillies to it. Check every 5 minutes, stir and cook completely, till the veggies get mashed with a spoon/ladle. Keep it closed for 2 minutes. Now add in the coconut milk powder/minced coconut and finely chopped shallots. Add in the oil, mix well, and close the lid. Switch on the stove again and let it heat on medium heat for about a minute and switch off. Open after 2 minutes, add in the curry leaves (chopped or full, as you like it) and keep it closed for another 2 minutes, and then serve.

It is sweet, yellowy, summery and lovely