It's so hot the crows sit stunned on their branches. I'm going to see some elephants.

(The illustration is an imagined antique seed packet. Banyan seeds are actually quite small, if you were wondering.)


I confess that I drew this, not from life, but from a fuzzy old photograph taken by R, which we were going to throw away. It is a Chennai cow, anyway.

My father had several talents of interest to small children: he could wiggle his ears; he had a signet ring - we called it his magic ring - which he could make disappear; but most of all, he was really good at mooing. He was sparing in performing all of these wonders, so that they retained their desirability. But once in awhile we would say, "Make a moo, Daddy!" and he would oblige. It began with a long, deep "MMMMMMMM", and then extended out to "oooooooo", and it was very satisfactory indeed.

Several Things

R tells a story from his childhood -- about the herbal hair oil which his father brewed up for the family.

My post about the Armenian Church for Chennai Metroblogging

A book-binding demonstration: how to make an Indian-style financial ledger

Wonderful pictures on in Camera of the recently-ended Kapaleeswarar temple festival -- scattered over several posts - scroll down.

I heard about this from my sister, but she saw it on boingboing: It's a short video of an Indian traffic intersection. Boingboing's text reads in part
Here's a hypnotically captivating video of a congested street in India. The pedestrians, scooter drivers, impossibly tiny-car drivers, and huge-truck drivers seem to have ESP because everything flows so smoothly...

(I assume that by 'impossibly tiny cars' they're referring to the auto rickshaws.) When I saw this I had just finished driving to Kodambakkam and back in heavy traffic - one hour each way - and my first thought was, "You call this traffic? This is nothing!" But it does give an idea of how it is to drive here: you have to get into the flow of it, and then things (usually) move right along.

Overheard: "Some women age very quickly -- oxydation or whatever..."

A Gift II

I received several interesting comments / bits of information after my post about the little savoury mold that the paperkkaarar had given me (two posts back). They inspired me to actually use the mold; something which hadn't initially occurred to me.

We decided to make some turnovers (I don't know what to call them: they're certainly not samosas as I know them...), filled with the same filling used for potato bonda. Lakshmi made the turnovers, Mary fried them, and I took the pictures. Here's Lakshmi, sitting on the kitchen floor, where she has rolled out the maida (white flour) chappati, laid it over the mold, and is stuffing it with the potato mixture:

Here's the pressed, uncooked turnover. You can see the impressed design, but it's very faint:

And ta-da! Here is the final result - in which the design has disappeared completely - a luxurious tea of turnovers and strawberries. It was lovely.


under the fire star is three years old today.

Here's my first post, from April 17, 2003:
The God of Death Sells Paint

I love this TV ad, and what it implies about how a culture can relate to its gods -- almost intimately, as if they were close relatives:

Yamraj, the God of Death, is a fat, bare-chested man with a big black moustache, riding a black buffalo. He wears a gilded crown and carries a gilded mace. He rides up to a householder , and tells him that it’s time to go. Desperate, the man begs, "I’ve just had my house painted. Please wait, and take me only when the house needs re-painting." Yamraj grants this boon. He sits astride his buffalo in front of the house for years, fuming with impatience. The householder’s son grows up and marries, and comes outside for Yamraj’s blessing and a group photo. Yamraj’s wife screams on the cell-phone: "Are you coming home or not?!" Furious, Yamraj calls out, "Rain!" and it rains, but the paint is not harmed. He calls out, "Heat!" and there is strong sunlight, but the paint is not harmed. The householder’s grandchild comes out to play, calling cheerfully, "Hello, Uncle!" Yamraj in despair asks him, "What paint is this, anyway?" The child says, "Nerolac!" Yamraj shouts, "Nerolac!" and a can of paint falls into his hands. He grimaces horribly at it. Fadeout.

There's a storyboard for this ad here.

A Gift

Yesterday the paperkkaarar came to buy our old newspapers, Diet Pepsi tins, magazines, empty bottles and so on. We usually call him in -- he cycles by with his cart every few days -- only after the shelves in the ironing room are bulging with stuff. Mary and Lakshmi haul more things out of Mary's room: bits of torn paper, scrap metal from valves and pipes which have been replaced, empty tins of canned corn, plastic milk sachets. The proceeds from this venture are shared among us, under a long-established system which I haven't fully figured out.

Yesterday Lakshmi was shaking the paperkkaarar's coarse burlap sack to make sure that it was empty, and this fell out:

The picture shows the actual size -- at least on my computer screen. It's a press for making sweets, or savoury snacks. I was attracted to the design inside. I said, "I'll buy this from you." The paperkkaarar said, "Go ahead, take it, no need to give anything."

So I received a gift yesterday. It fell from a sack. It is worth nothing, even to the paperkkaarar. And I'm ridiculously pleased with it.

Wall Painting

I drove out to do some errands today, determined that I would not return without at least one photograph. I was just rounding the corner from Kasturi Ranga Road into Cathedral Road, when a wall-painting of MGR (late filmstar-turned-politician) in his Douglas Fairbanks Jr. incarnation caught my eye.

My first thought was that you can tell elections are around the corner when they start trotting out images of MGR; then I wondered what he was doing in this neighbourhood. It’s true that the wall-painting was near the residence of the Chief Minister, who was at one time MGR’s political protégé, but on the other hand MGR’s appeal is mainly to the masses, and this was a wealthy area. I drove around in a circle, parked, and took pictures of the whole series of wall paintings.

They are an eclectic group, a backdrop to a vendor of wadais and tea, and a couple of tire and bicycle repairmen. Perhaps their customers are the target audience for the paintings. I photographed them in sequence — here, we are reading from right to left, beginning with MGR on the corner and moving backward:

Mother Teresa, with the Congress Party flag next on the right. To the right of the flag is the picture of MGR, shown above, representing the AIADMK Party — two political allies side by side

To the left of Mother Theresa, Jesus with collaged Ganesh calendar

Jesus abuts a cycle repair stand, with collaged filmstars

Ganesh and the Ka’aba