The Blog

Kannathil Mutthamittal

Another Tamil movie reference (title of a maniratnam movie), another Bharathiyar poem. I wish I had been this kind of daughter to my dad. சின்னஞ்சிறு கிளியே கண்ணம்மா! செல்வக் களஞ்சியமே! என்னைக் கலி தீர்த்தே உலகில் ஏற்றம் புரிய வந்தாய்! Oh juvenile parrot, my Kannamma! You are the repository of all wealth! You brought me immense happiness and prosperity, you came to elevate my stature in this world! உச்சிதனை முகர்ந்தால் கருவம் ஓங்கி வளருதடி! மெச்சி உனை ஊரார் புகழ்ந்தால் மேனி சிலிர்க்குதடி! When I plant a kiss onto your forehead, my pride […]



The Young Indian Scientist’s Dilemma (1966)

(From an old essay of R.K.Narayan’s — from 1966. Not sure where it was published. Some of the  word choices are strange — even downright annoying. Hard to believe he could be so tone deaf.)    A young scientist from Madras, who arrived in New York only a week before, met me at my hostel and introduced himself as one longing to hear an Indian voice. He confessed that he found life in America unbearable. He could not make out a word of what his […]



From Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar

Makarand   Take my shirt off and go in there to do pooja? No thanks. Not me. But you go right ahead if that’s what you want to do. Give me the matchbox before you go will you? I will be out in the courtyard where no one will mind if I smoke.



Avvaiyar — The Diplomat

When Clinton visited India as First Lady, a college student gave her a poem about women all over the world suffering in silence. I wish someone had been given this poem by Avvaiyar who, 800 years ago, had pretty much functioned like a Secretary of State/Diplomat — just as Clinton would later. Avvaiyar II, a poet and friend of King  Adhiyaman, is supposed to have helped avoid war between two kingdom states.  King Thondaiman, ruler of Kanchipuram, had him a note declaring his intention to […]



Give, Eat, and Live

Again thanks again to Iruvar — I revisited this verse of Avvaiyar. ஆண்டு ஆண்டு தோறும் அழுது புரண்டாலும் மாண்டார் வருவரோ மாநிலத்தீர் ர்வேண்டா நமக்கும் அது வழியே நாம்போம் அளவும் எமக்கு என் என்று இட்டு உண்டு இரும் .   Here is the book the verses are from.



A.K.R.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am huge fan of A.K.Ramanujan’s writing — be it his translations from Tamil, his academic writing, his poems, essays …. just anything. So I was delighted to learn that he had written his own memoir in Kannada — not a complete autobiography, but just vignettes from his life.  I felt like buying the Kannada book and begging someone who knew the language to tell me what he had written. Luckily for me, the book was published in translation […]



Red Earth, Pouring Rain

Blessed are those who have a friend to discuss beautiful verses with. Movie-makers, lyricists make it easy  for poetry-lovers when they chose to incorporate words from ancient poems into nicely picturized modern hits. In a double dose of luck, a novelist (Vikram Chandra) chose imagery from this same ancient poem as the *title* of his book and suddenly everyone, with a ear for such things, got curious about the phrase. Here is the lovely song from Iruvar which uses the phrase “our hearts mingle in […]



The Greatest Nature cover ever….

The Greatest Nature cover ever….

After years in our office, someone finally got round to putting up the huge copy of the greatest @NatureNews cover. — Daniel Cressey (@DPCressey) I worked on the Human Genome Project, so I guess I should make a poster out of this as well.



The Naming of Things

Recently, Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, was in the news because scientists named a tiny Australian leech after her. “I am thrilled to be immortalized as Chtonobdella tanae,” Tan said. “This humble leech has looped across a new scientific threshold—the first microscopic soft-bodied critter to be described inside and out using CT scanning. Imagine the possibilities for identifying legions of tiny organisms that have thus far lived in obscurity. I am now planning my trip to Queensland, Australia, where I hope to […]



A Library in Jaffna

Shareeq is too young to remember much of the war years. But for another patron, 75-year-old Rajenthiran Selvanayagam, spending time at the library is a peaceful contrast to that era. He lost his wife to the war. His son went mad. Selvanayagam visits the library three times a week. “Having a book in my hand,” he says, “is more than meditation to me.” Read/listen to the report on NPR about the library in a war-torn land. So what books should such a library stock? The authorities, […]