The spiritual expeditions


As I was reading about little Pi’s experiments with different religions in the book ‘Life of Pi‘, it brought back memories of my own spiritual expedition in the childhood. I think as children we were all curious about God and the different ways which religions choose to reach him. I have heard a couple of my Hindu friends telling me how they liked to go to and pray in a church and I guess it is the curiosity and adventure of breaking out of the norms and experiencing something anew that makes them do so (though some Hindus who may have gone to a church or some Christians who may have gone to a temple would later in their life quote the experience as an example of their secular credentials which may not always stand testimony). Likewise, I was fascinated by the interiors of the temples, the monks and the poojas.

I wanted to do a pooja of my own but that wasn’t easy. I had to find a nilaviLakku, the traditional lamp, and though you could spot one in the churches it wasn’t a regular household item in a catholic home. So I had to make do with an unused plastic incense stick holder that I got from somewhere. I took a piece of a dried palm leaf and fit it into the plastic holder and lit it with a matchstick. Right in front of the ‘lamp’ was a picture of a monk that I tore up from a textbook (whom I would later identify as Adi Shankara). All these had to be done in discreet, so I did this in a small portion of a tiny room in my house one evening while everyone else in the family were assembled in the main hall. Then I prayed, did whatever I could to imitate a pooja that was seen in the movies while ensuring that no one else was watching. In those days, I wanted to be a monk in an ashram somewhere in a remote hill area.

One of the biggest revelations in my childhood Christian spiritual life came from a lady in the neighborhood. She was poor, but a devout catholic. I was so caught up to the idea of a heaven and hell by then through the religious teachings. A heaven where it’s all green and beautiful and the hell with eternal fire. The idea of a furious god was frightening in a way. This lady once told me, “I will tell you a secret. Do not be afraid of hell, because there is none”. I was surprised. It was so against the catholic teaching yet it was so comforting to know that I don’t have to be ‘afraid’ of a god and no hell is waiting for me to fry me up above the clouds. She continued to spoke of a god full of love than a fearsome judge.

In the school, we used to make fun of each others god and religion. To claim superiority over the other but not in an adult manner. It was more like children arguing ‘my pen is better than yours’ or something. I think as children, religion and god were seen more as possessions. But then we grew up only to make those private possessions an obsession which eventually lead to violence.

Motivationals or Biographies?

The truth is that I am not much in favor of motivational books or how-to books anymore. Not completely shut myself to them, but. I used to like them because I thought that it could really help. Because the root cause of the problems that they laid out were what I could identify with and the solutions seemed plausible. It is mostly about ‘pushing the limits’ in the direction that the author has set in but at most of the times, in a general case, there is a limit to the limit that one can push (or so we hardly believe). Obviously the author can’t identify this borderline because he knows only his own and asks us to push, push, push. ‘You will succeed if you push further like I say’, they would tell you. So we read the book, happy that the author rightly identified the problems, assured that we would succeed if we followed as he/she had said, close the book and comment “what a great, useful book” and get on with our lives without using any of the techniques that the author explained about. In the end, it becomes useless, though it ‘inspires’ you, or you think it’s great and practical.

I would rather go for biographies. They draw a different problem in each of them. Sometimes, the same problem but different solutions that fit each individual towards working out that same problem. How ordinary people got into it and came out as extra-ordinary people. How they pushed their limits within their limits. The examples that other ordinary people could follow.

On Jiah Khan’s suicide

Happened to read Mahesh Murthy’s comments on Jiah Khan suicide episode in Facebook and got to say that it is insensitive and ignorant in most parts. Ignorant because he writes off the accusation on Suraj Pancholi totally and insensitive because he blames the bereaved mother of Jiah for the ‘massive cover-up of her guilt’. Murthy says that he doesn’t care about either party but after reading his note, one can clearly see whose side he is on but it is unclear why.

Agreed that Suraj cannot be blamed for not wanting to marry Jiah or deciding to breakup with her. Whether he was a womanizer or not is immaterial. Even whether her suicide was a result of just a relationship breakup shouldn’t put him on trial I believe. But with the same information that is available to all of us including Murthy in the public domain (he claims that he has no other information on the case than what is already there on the public domain), he should have also read about her mother’s accusation that Jiah was physically abused and that they were living together (domestic violence, anyone?). Read that along with Jiah’s mention of Suraj wanting to abuse her or threatening to hit her. Still no conclusion there, at least not until the police finding comes out, but these are reasons for the police to question Pancholi Jr. But what does Mahesh Murthy say? Suraj was only ‘wanting to’ or ‘threatening to’. If we are to pick up words, then we should pick this up too, from Jiah’s letter – “you kicked me in the face”. Why skip that Mr. Murthy? It should also be noted that though Mr. Murthy had no qualms in finding Jiah ‘vain / foolish / crazy / vulnerable’, he doesn’t have any of those words for Suraj.

What is more outrageous is that Mahesh Murthy puts all the blame on the girl’s mother ‘for not doing her duty’, along with her friends and family for not helping her. Some individuals choose not to share what they go through in their life, even with their most loved ones. They keep it all to themselves. To frame it as irresponsibility of a parent or to accuse their friends for not being supportive in all cases is totally insensitive, particularly in a situation like this. I had a friend who was very close to me and to whom I spoke to just 3 days before he hung himself in another city but I never knew that he was going to do it. He had responsible parents and supportive friends too.

So it’s just a little early to jump to conclusions, particularly when the only information Mr. Murthy has is the information available on the public domain. Or if he is giving Suraj Pancholi a benefit of doubt or support, why not extend that to Jiah and her mother too?

Update: Suraj Pancholi admits to beating Jiah Khan

Malayali House – more ‘reality’ in the house!

Malayali House

It is a ‘reality show’ everywhere. In sports, music, on stage, television and many a times in life too. People initially had thought that many of these shows would be for real but later some of them have realized that it could be all cooked-up. But that did not turn them away from watching the made-up reality of the reality shows.

Many of my friends who were mad about cricket had told me that they lost interest in watching the game when the match-fixing controversy erupted. But they kept on watching and enjoying the game even though they were unsure that they could be watching a pre-fixed game. Look at the reality music shows scene in television. The drama that was inherent in these shows have made people doubt the reality element in it, but they still loved it for the entertainment it provided. Even many of the music stage shows are just a ‘show’. Lip-syncing is a common practice and even the popular singers do it and that too after being caught by audience on several stages.

So basically people love reality shows. Although, they often ridicule it, blame it or anything. They love the entertainment and the gossip material that these shows give them (particularly the television reality shows). And they celebrate it – those who know and don’t know if it is cooked-up. But it wouldn’t be exciting to them if you told them beforehand that it was made-up. Then the gossip element, the talk that could be built around the show would be missing. That would make a serious effect on the entertainment element of the show and the TRP. The television channels know it, so they keep boasting on how ‘real’ their show is and we happily accept it.

But you can’t stretch these shows beyond it’s limits. People would get bored after some time. That is why new ways of reality television have been invented. So when people of Keralam got bored of music reality shows, television channels brought out comedy reality shows. When the audience got bored of that, they now bring the regional copy of Big Brother or Big Boss. And thus was born “Malayali House”, a reality show in Surya TV.

This is probably Surya TV’s best attempt to claim the first place off Asianet in Malayalam television scene and they have brought in all the right people to do it. The line-up of participants include some people who were fading out in the public and some who are publicity-hungry. It is a mixture of people who could not make it big consistently and others who want to make it big and some who just want to keep being in the limelight. The controversies, debates and discussions have already begun in the social media about the show which should make Surya TV and the participants happy. The audience should be happy too, as they are already fed up with the reality music/comedy shows in Malayalam television channel and needs some more drama from a ‘reality’ show. And now the show is adding up more spice to the episodes.

It is wholesome entertainment. And to think of it as an opportunity to watch the everyday life of some people adds more spice to it. And Surya TV markets it promptly that way with their tagline – “your license to ogle”. Long live reality television!

A song that traveled places

Way back in 2008, I had posted a song in my old blog. It was a prayer song that I used to sing in my school everyday during the morning assembly. The song is very special to me because it was written and composed by two teachers of my school and I used to sing it with my good friend from the school days. The lyrics and composition of this song is so simple yet beautiful. So whenever someone asked me to sing a prayer song, I would sing this one.

Who would have thought that it would inspire many more people! I came to know from the comments to the blog post that the song was rendered in many Malayali events and appreciated by many people. And just the last week, I got a message from a person saying that her daughter would be singing this song at an inaugural event of a charitable trust which was formed in memory of her nephew. It is amazing how a song transcends the places and appreciated by people. And I wish those teachers knew about it.

Here goes the song again…

Thrissur Pooram 2013

This year Thrissur Pooram was on a Sunday so I set out to click some pics as usual. The heat did not seem to have stopped people from coming to Thrissur Pooram. It was as alive as any other year. Here are some pics.

The colorful morning of Thrissur Pooram 2013

Workers getting the pits ready for the early morning fireworks

The historical Vidyarthi Corner has a mural drawn by some unknown artist with colored chalk

A close look at the mural will show you how the artist has made use of the original “No bills please” sign on the wall

paandi mELam of Paramekkavu

An atrocious waste of water at the peak of a summer like this, but it helps cooling the elephants’ feet

panchavAdyam of madathil varavu

One of the three illuminated panthals of this year.

raathRi pooram – Poorm at night

No Urdu, please. And no Hindi too.

Urdu, I heard, is a beautiful language. I don’t understand it though, but those who have dealt with it, like a lyricist friend of mine, have always praised the language for it’s beauty. But Urdu has always seemed strange to me. A language that sounds like Hindi, yet if written looks like Arabic.

What seemed stranger to me was when people like Justice Katju who is known to have been outspoken and union minister Kapil Sibal battling for the language so much so that they even suggested that it should be taught in schools. It is true that Sanskrit and Urdu have had the fate of being associated with religion and thus keeping some sections of people away from them as Justice Katju had rightly put at an Urdu poetry symposium. But is teaching these languages compulsorily in the schools throughout the country the solution? I don’t think so.

We are already being taught Hindi compulsorily in the name of raashTRa bhaasha, which is of no use to us at all. For somebody who comes from the non-Hindi speaking region in India (and there are many non-Hindi regions in India), learning Hindi is useless. I have learned Hindi from 5th standard onwards, but the language is of no use to me now. I don’t even remember the words or grammar that I learned in the school because it never made to the daily use. I speak Malayalam and I use English at the personal and work spaces. What purpose does Hindi learning serve to a non-Hindi speaker if he is not living in the Hindi speaking part of the country? (And now they are teaching Hindi from 1st standard onwards!). Any language other than the native language and English should be treated as an optional subject in schools. Why make compulsory?

So what I would like to tell Justice Katju and Kapil Sibal is that we are already fed up of the compulsory mode of Hindi in our schools and it’s cultural invasion into our regional space. Please don’t push more as such down our throats. Make it optional if you want but not compulsory. And when you do that, take out Hindi too. It only helps in understanding Hindi movies but even that can be dealt with the subtitled DVDs.

Every great thing must come to an end

They say every good thing must come to an end. So must Blogswara. Yes, we are going to put a full stop to our project after 6 years, 7 albums, 65 songs and a whole new bunch of amazing singers, lyricists, composers, orchestrators and mixing engineers.

Interestingly, we’d never thought past a single music album. Those were the good old days of music blogging and many singers were just beginning to find their listener base online. We thought of bringing all these musicians together under one umbrella and that too, to create a set of original songs and music. Thus was born our first album. And that was four months before Facebook opened up to public.

The journey went on. What we thought would come to an end after the first two albums had kept going on strong and in the meanwhile new platforms were born. A whole new world of social media exposure was waiting for the artists to explore them. Still, we went strong. We produced seven music albums. We inspired people and similar projects/websites. It is truly a moment of pride. But over the years, the momentum was slowing down. There are richer and easily accessible platforms that handle the publishing and sharing aspects easier than ever, like Facebook or YouTube.

That was obvious and inevitable, by the way. You don’t have to get stuck in time with a project that was a need of the hour when there was none but to continue to do it when there are better platforms does not make sense. Now if there is an amateur singer who wants to make his voice heard in the public can create a network through social media and make himself heard. We realize that and it is one reason that we are leaving for good.

We are proud to see that some of the artists whom we had introduced through Blogswara have made it big in the mainstream. Divya S Menon has made her mark with the song “Anuraagam” in the Malayalam movie “Thattathin Marayatthu”. Shyam, Praveen and Prasanna of TSJ Studio have made their debut in the Tamil film music industry with the album “Kamban Kazhagam”. Praveen Lakkaraju, Sreenivas Josyula and Sindhuja Bhaktavatsalam made their entry into Telugu music industry with the movie album “Hormones”. Sunny Sanour made his entry as a music director to Telugu music industry with the songs in the Telugu film “Swamy Ra Ra”. We are so happy and proud of these wonderful musicians.

Blogswara is a project that is so close to my heart. The project had taught me that regardless of many differences – regional, linguistic, caste, creed, religious, political etc – people can come together to create something that will make everyone rejoice in music. Most of us have still not seen each other or spoken to each other, yet we have built a relationship strongly rooted in music that continues to the date. It is music that binds us all, which is why I chose the tagline “United in Music” for Blogswara.

Personally too, Blogswara has helped me learn many things. The early lessons of leadership and organization, the pains and pleasure of it, came through Blogswara. I can proudly say that I have never succumbed to the pressures that would compromise the very founding principles of Blogswara. There were times when the pressure was mounted up on me to bring in the commercial aspect to Blogswara, or to bring in the religious fervor to it through the songs but I have resisted all that. I would rather see Blogswara vanish to thin air than deviating from it’s founding principles. Of the free/open music culture with CC licensing and the secular nature of the project. Of bringing in people of diverse cultures and languages in an effort to appreciate music. I can proudly say that I have been successful in that.

Another moment of pride was when Jessica Keyes, a student of Department of Music in University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada chose  music blogging with a primary focus on BlogSwara for her academic defense. Her paper titled “Blogging Music: Indian Musicians and Online Musical Spaces” presented an ethnography of the Indian music blogging community and a critical analysis of the historical and technological foundation for music blogging.

There are so many people to thank. Narayanan Venkitu and Ajith Gopalakrishnan to start with. Senthil (Sen) for the spark of Blogswara. Ganesh D for the name Blogswara. Abdul Shafeeq for the initial art work and CD covers. Gopal M S for the name ‘Trunk Call’. Murali Krishnan of Connexions, Chennai for the initial support. Jyothis E for the continued support with web space through many albums. Nandu Mahadevan for bringing in a process in place. Roshan Ravi for the cover art of Blogswara’s album ‘Trunk Call’. Legendary Tamil writer Sujatha for his piece in Vikatan, Karthika Thampan of Manorama News, Asha Anilkumar of Indian Express, Shilpa Nair Anand of The Hindu, K Santhosh of The Hindu, Anita Iyer and Aparna Joshi of Sound Box Magazine, Sankar Radhakrishnan of Business Line, B S Biminith of Mathrubhumi, Deccan Radio, Poornima for Radio Mirchi Chennai coverage and bloggers like Amit Verma, Kiruba and Neha Vishwanathan of Global Voice Online etc. And many thanks to all Blogswara participants and member without whom this project would never have happened.

And thanks to you, our listeners, who have encouraged us and helped us grow. We will still be online if you wanted to hear our songs again. It has been a great ride and it couldn’t have gotten better. Peace and music to all!

Malayali (or rather Indian) pronunciation errors

A visitor to this blog named Mathew has posted a comment to my blog post about Sreemathi teacher’s English. I found the comment useful because I make many of the pronunciation errors that he pointed out and he has put it in a way that is easy to understand the mistake and correct it. So here it is as a post for the benefit of others like me. Feel free to add to the list if you find any. And thank you, Mathew.


kangaroo (the worst offended word malayalees pronounce as “kanGAROO” instead of “KANgaroo”)

mixed, fixed (pronounced as miksed, fiksed instead of miksd, fiksd)

bear, pear (pronounced as ‘biyar’, ‘piyar’ instead of ‘bare’ and ‘pare’)

Queen (prounounced as “kyuun” instead of “kween”)

form (pronounced as ‘farum’ instead of “fom”)

biennale (pronounced as “binale” instead of “bienale”)

place names – Ohio, Seattle, Utah (pronounced as “ohiyo, seetl, ootha” instead of “ohayo, siyatl, yuta”

Tortoise (pronounced as ‘tortois’ instead of “totis” )

turtle (pronounced as ‘turrrtl’ instead of “tutl” )

Mascot Hotel (pronounced as “muskat HOtel” instead of “MAScot hoTEL”

heart (pronounced as ‘hurrt’ instead of “haat”)

bass (pronounced as ‘baas’ instead of “base”)

twitter (pronounced as “tyooter” instead of “twiter”

birthday (pronounced as “birthaday” instead of “buthdei”

garage (pronounced as “garej” instead of “gaRAZH”)

chassis (pronounced as “chasis” instead of “shasi”)

February (pronounced as “fibruari” instead of “februari”)

The height of Mohan Lal and Mammootty

I go though my site stats occasionally and come across some interesting keywords from time to time. Last week’s site statistics has a few of those as listed below. Check ’em out.


what is the height of mohan lal and mammootty
is it possible to go to jail by watching porn
why sreekandan nair left asianet
can an individual be punished in india for only watching porn
do you go to jail for watching porn on the internet
is there an issue watching adult porn on internet
ilayaraja arrogance
i hate semmangudi


Pity those poor souls whom Google had directed to my website for these keywords.