March 11, 2015

All in a name

When I meet new people, I already have an interesting topic to talk about-thanks to my name! It serves as a great icebreaker! It is not a name that you will come across every day and sounds like it belongs in those classics of Tamil literature. I have only come across one 'Karkuzhali' personally, and a handful on the Internet. Whoever I meet asks me what it means and I delightedly launch into the story of my name. 

My father was a writer of par both in his mother tongue, the classical language of Tamil, and English. Little wonder that he wanted to name his firstborn in chaste Tamil. According to my stars, my grandfather insisted that my name should start with the letter 'ka' of the Tamil alphabet. When my father chose the name 'Kannagi', the heroine from the great Tamil epic 'Silappathikaram', my grandfather was not impressed as her story had a tragic ending, and the name search continued. Even as a newborn, they say I had a thick mop of curly black hair, and my writer-poet father came up with the poetic 'Karkuzhali'. It means the 'one with hair as dark as the rain clouds'. 

When I was in middle and high school, my classmates used to tease me by calling me 'Kar' (car), 'Bus'-kuzhali and 'lorry'-kuzhali. No wonder, I was never happy with the name and used to beg my parents to let me change it. Then, I met a girl with a name almost like mine at college and was quite relieved when she narrated her experiences, which were also similar to mine. Not that my woes came to an end, people I meet at shops, hospitals, post offices, banks, and other places still bungle up my name so badly that it makes me squirm. It is pronounced 'carcurrelli' and I understand it is quite a tongue-twister. But, when native Tamil speakers don't even make an attempt to get it right, it makes me sad. 

As I grew older, I realized that I had a unique name and brushed aside any suggestions to change it. However, about 10 years ago, when I entered the corporate workspace, one of my managers suggested that I let him address me as 'KK' as it was the practice in the organization to contract long names to two-syllabic ones. And, here I am, Karkuzhali to the larger world, Kuzhali to family and close friends, and KK at my workplace. We don't have the tradition of surnames or family names, and Sreedhar is my husband's name. 

Now, when people tell me that I have such a unique and awesome name, I feel happy and proud.

June 4, 2011

Of Mirabilis Jalapa and Calendar Gods

I was reading a small write-up by a colleague on the Mirabilis jalapa and it set me on a long trip backwards in time.


I simply love this flower, and for simple reasons. I say this with nostalgia.

My granny's tiny patch of garden in our native village was a riot of colours painted by the Mirabilis jalapa or 'anthi mantharai' flowers as they call them in Tamil. 'Anthi' is dusk in Tamil and naturally, the flowers bloomed only at dusk.

The stalks of the flowers were long and my granny would interweave the stalks to make several colourful flower bunches. No, they weren't supposed to be worn on your hair. So, my uncle would help me adorn the calendar gods with the magenta and yellow bunches.

I would crush the flowers to dye my nails a shocking magenta. Sometimes, I would rub them on a teeny-weeny area of the perfectly whitewashed garden wall and watch it go pink with childish glee. The flowers, leaves and seeds were essential food items in my choppu vilaiyaattu (சொப்பு விளையாட்டு). If only I had known then that the flowers were edible!

Calendar gods are an inseparable element of Indian households. One never bought calendars; you received it as a gift for your unswerving loyalty to the local naadar kadai or your area Bata shoe shop. There should be one picture of each god in the Hindu pantheon. It is mandatory that each god is depicted in hues ranging from mittai pink to parrot green to turmeric yellow. Even when the house is whitewashed, the walls will not shed the calendar gods. They might go missing from action for a few hours, but they will soon return to their spots and continue to bless the inmates with good health and longevity and protect them from imminent disaster.

That the calendar gods reside only on the walls of the living room and not the puja room does not mean that they will not be included in the family rituals. Whenever a puja is done, the camphor arathi will be done both to the gods in the puja room and the calendar gods. In some households, the calendar gods will be framed and deified in the puja room.

June 3, 2011

Reviving My Weblog

Whoever read my writings had a word of advice for me: “Continue writing, you have a good flow and great style!”

That should have inspired to write a great novel. But, I am too lazy to even to pick up that piece of advice and just let it flow around my ears. On one of those rarest days when I am exceedingly motivated, I would start writing at full throttle, but in a few days, the steam would fizzle out and I would return to my usual vegetative state. What a pity!

At times, when I'm reading a novel or poem, I would be all inspired to write one on my own. My heart would flutter and soar high into the sky and spread its wings to hover over the world of creative writing. But, once I put down the book I would be too lazy to get into action.

My friends are tired of my inactiveness. A few of them are established writers who have carved out a place for themselves in the literary world. They would even volunteer to review and edit my work for free. Any ass would have jumped at these wonderful opportunities. But, I’m not an ass and I let them pass. (Sorry about the PJ.)

Once, a colleague gave me a brainwave of an idea. "Start writing a letter a day to yourself about something interesting. Then you can put it together to make a novel," he suggested. He even took the pains of pinging every now and then and asking me how the book was progressing. What progress? When I had not even begun!!!

But today, some unknown stimulus seems to have kicked me into action. And lo! I have begun writing. I like the way my fingers flurry about the keyboard, typing out meaningful words that string together to form meaningful sentences.

Most of the times, when I am reading something that touches my heart, it could even be an ad line, I feel that all these awesome writings are already scattered out there beyond the horizon, floating in space and it requires a writer to develop a vibe and connect with these writings and let them seep through their veins and emerge out of their fingertips for the rest of the world to read.

During my stint as a creative writer with a children's magazine, my writing skill shaped up pretty well. I upgraded it and honed it by writing constantly. Basically, I tried out every form of writing: novels, short stories, poems, rhymes, riddles, trivia and what not. I used to be excited when I saw my name in print. I would proudly show it off to my parents and relatives and friends. I would read and reread and simply feel exhilarated.

Over the years, I moved into a different career where there was no need or scope for creative writing. Around the same time, weblogs were the in-thing. Every single person that I knew who thought he or she was capable of stringing a decent sentence together started a blog and began publishing their writings. It was the age of the amateur writer. It was the golden era of free desktop publishing or push-button publishing. The writer in every lurker of the World Wide Web felt the compelling need to be unleashed and read by the denizens of the Internet.

Anybody could try out their hand at any form of writing without getting rejected. How can I, a writer who can do some honest and decent writing be left out from the world of push-button publishing? I followed the trend and started my own blog and began writing articles. The worst problem was finding out a suitable to topic to write about. I was generally embarrassed to write about intimate and personal things and my perspectives on both mundane and sophisticated issues. Though I am vociferous about my perspectives or proclivities in person, I am wary of putting them on the Internet where they will be recorded for posterity and could be retrieved and turned against me by any Amar, Akbar or Anthony. Generally, I was trying to be cautious and ended up being paranoid.

So, I would come up with a topic, then judge that it was too controversial to be discussed in a social medium and simply shelve it. This happened several times over, and I ended up having no topics to write about. And, my opportunity to do a bit of writing flew out of the rickety window of my cramped and dilapidated bedroom.

August 22, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #6

1. The last meal I had at a restaurant was barbecued vegetables, cottage cheese, parathas, dal makhani, pasta choc cake and butterscotch pastry. (We went for a team lunch at office :-) )

2. Performing social obligations is something I intensely dislike.

3. The full moon is cool and glorious and reminds me of those wonderful nights of star gazing.

4. Appadiya (Is that so!) is one of my favorite local expressions.

5. Sometimes it's best to turn deaf and dumb and avoid arguments.

6. Subramanyapuram is the best movie I've seen so far this year!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to travelling safe with my family, tomorrow my plans include visiting my brother-in-law for offering our condolences and Sunday, I want to do the return trip back home and have a restful sleep!

August 8, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #5

1. You know you're old when the neighbourhood children call you "Aunty!"

2. My heart is divided between a job that satiates my creative yearnings and a job that meets my financial commitments.

3.Quiet and peace to do my work is what I need RIGHT NOW! (My kids are talking nineteen to the dozen right now.)

4. I have felt the pang of being helpless, I have known the depths of love, assurance and support from loved ones.

5. Gah, won't these people ever stop hiking land prices and house rents.

6. Do whatever you like best as soon as you can!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to finish my writing assignment, tomorrow my plans include attending the community women's meet and Sunday, I want to picnic with my family and relatives!