Accounting For Taste

In Singapore, the pasar melam – the roadside market – comes alive well after sunset. Tiny lights strung up on make-shift store fronts give the outdoor shopping scene a festive air. Lychees, mangosteens, rambutans and other tropical fruit are on display in the fruit stalls, but one formidable-looking fruit holds it its own against the competition. It is summer, the durian season, and in South East Asia durian is king. Cradling the spiky fruit in her palms, a patron examines the probables at length while her family […]

Hippocampus Writes a New Chapter for Children’s Libraries

In 1998, Umesh Malhotra, then an employee of Infosys Technologies, did a year-long consulting stint in the United States. He lived in the Bay Area of California with his wife and then-five year old son. The book-loving couple was drawn to the local public library; in particular, they liked the children’s section which, besides being well-stocked with books, had a variety of activities for kids. When the Malhotras returned to India, they searched Bangalore in vain for the equivalent of that cheerful space. Public libraries […]

Unknown Bestsellers

Unknown Bestsellers

              Supermodel Padmalakshmi is in Chennai. The host of the popular television show Top Chef, now a cookbook writer, was visiting her grandmother South India’s oldest newspaper reported. I too am visiting my hometown, but I plan to stay clear of relatives. There is little for me to do here. Most things I liked in my neighborhood are gone: the cannon ball tree in the courtyard of a small temple, the store that sells peanuts in newspaper cones, and […]

Languorous Noons

Languorous Noons

Like relatives, the monkeys would show up at a time we least wanted them to drop in. On Sunday afternoons at the only ladies’ hostel on campus. Sarayu was the official residence of close to 400 young women studying science and technology at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras . Many of them were pursuing their PhDs. They’d work through the day and get back to the labs, post-dinner to run experiments. Or go to the library to read journal articles. Whatever be the time of the time […]

What is the funda?

The sylvan campus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras is a good degree or two cooler than the rest of the city. Here, deer prance alongside runners in the tracks, rhesus monkeys hang around the residential hostels. At dusk, red-beaked parrots flock over tree-canopies. And the humans – particularly the undergraduates who pass a grueling exam to enter this premier institute – speak to each other in a tongue outsiders cannot understand. Campus slang is, of course, not supposed to be intelligible to outsiders. But […]

Photowalks for the city

Chennai-based copy writer Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan, or CCG, as he is known in the blogosphere, has pioneered photowalks in the city – walking expeditions through interesting parts of the city with a camera in hand. “Because I’m this guy who is obsessed with the city’s history, my routes are always through old Madras,” says this blogger. Read the entire article. pdf

Sanskrit rises anew

Sanskrit rises anew

Deep inside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Wednesday evening recently, a class of about a dozen students were speaking an arcane ancient tongue. “It is time for exams, and I pray every day,” says one. “Perhaps, you should study, too,” counters another at the conversation table. The others laugh. The conversation is in Sanskrit, a classical language that is the Indian equivalent of ancient Greek or Latin. Today, spoken Sanskrit is enjoying a revival – both in India and among Indian expatriates in […]

Dal-roti Minus The Roti

The average American enjoys the occasional lentil soup — served in delis or cafeterias — but lentils, or dals, feature on the daily menu of most Indians. In America too, most Indian kitchens are well-stocked with myriad dal varieties, supplies of which are replenished by weekend visits to the nearest desi store. In late June, the Commerce Ministry issued a notification putting a temporary halt in the international trade of pulses and lentils till the end of the year, but later extended it to March […]