Questions that deserve answers

Have you seen starry eyed moms (and sometimes dads) talk about their fast-growing quick-learning bundles of joy? More often than not, I hear about their questions. You know what all he asked? “Why do cars need petrol? Why do we feel hungry? Why children need more sleep than adults? Why fever? Why vaccination? And why fever immediately after vaccination? Why soap? Why shoes and why not chappals to fancy places? How do birds build nests? What is a stray dog and how is it different from other dogs? Why do beggars choose to beg outside places of worship? What were the British doing in India? Why this and why that.”

I hear the questions and usually presume that answers would have been given. But it is when I actually hear parents converse with their children that I realize that the children almost never get the answers to the innumerous questions they pose. In the great rush of parental pride and joy they forget that they have not explained to their child why cars need petrol, why we feel hungry and what the British were doing in India.

The child receives inadvertent answers. “You ask nice questions but there are no answers”, “You are more intelligent than I am”, “You ask silly questions that are worth a good laugh but it is not worth my time to answer them” and the worst of them all, “You are an arrogant child and these are not questionable things. You just do as I say without questions.” Heck, some of these answers are sometimes even verbally given by tired adults.

I do understand that some questions really don’t have convenient answers and are too amusing to not chuckle at. I mean, who gave Chithalai Chathanar his name and why? Did they mean it as a joke or was it a trendy name during his time?  I don’t presume to know and don’t know anyone who does. But usually a question raised by a child can be answered by a sensible adult without too much difficulty. It is just that most of us are too clueless about the world of dinosaurs, uncomfortable about the traditions we pretend to believe in and pretty much unhappy about our own thoughts and stances about important issues. Constantly bowdlerizing our replies can get exhausting. But do we not owe our children sensible answers? Is there any point in placing the blame on the teachers when parents should play a significantly big part in the development of our child’s morals and standards? And please, do not give them circular answers like “It should not be done as it is wrong.” When you deem something wrong, have an honest reply to what is wrong about whatever you are talking about. It maybe something small like using your left hand to accept a gift or it may be as big as doing recreational drugs. Be clear and specific. “I said so” is not the answer to important questions.

Do not teach the child that accepting adult behavior and aping it cutely is a sweeter thing to do than questioning and exploring and being willing to think. It is nothing of that sort.

My Favourite Illayaraja Albums

This is a list of my favourite Illayaraja Albums. I have gone with the dates given by Google and/or Wiki.

Thank you Ram Murali and Baradwaj Rangan for weeding out the non-Illayaraja songs from the list.

16 Vayathinilea (Jan 1977) Sattam En Kaiyil (July 1978) Aval Appadithaan (Oct 1978) Pagalil Oru Iravu (1979) Kalyanaraman (Jan 1979)
Uthiri Pookal (Oct 1979) Moodu Pani (Jan 1980) Ullasa Paravaigal(Mar1980) Johnny (Aug 1980) Nilalgal (Nov 1980)
Meendum Gokila (Jan 1981) Raja Paarvai (Apr 1981) Alaigal Oivathillai (Jul 1981) Panneer Pushpangal (Jul 1981) Tik Tik Tik (Nov 1981)
Moondram Pirai (Feb 1982) Payanangal Mudivathillai (Feb 1982) Kaadhal Ooviyam (Apr 1982) Thaai Mookaambikai (Jun 1982) Sakala Kala Vallavan (Aug 1982)
Gopurangal Saivathillai (Oct 1982) Mann Vaasanai (1983) Salangai Oli (Jun 1983) Munthanai-Mudichu (Jul 1983) Naan Paadum Paadal (Apr 1984)
Thambikku Entha Ooru (Apr 1984) Neengal Kettavai (Jun 1984) Vaithegi Kathirunthal (Jun 1984) Kai Kodukkum Kai (Jun 1984) Nallavanuku Nallavan (Oct 1984)
Poove Poochudava (1985) Kakki Sattai (Mar 1985) Naan Sigappu Manithan (April 1985) Uyartha Ullam (Jul 1985) Mudhal Mariyathai (Aug 1985)
Idhaya Koil (Sep 1985) Padikathavan (Nov 1985) Sindu Bairavi (Nov 1985) Maaveeran (1986) Mr. Bharath (Jan 1986)
Vikram (Jan 1986) Amman Kovil Kizhakale (April 1986) Kadalora Kavidhaigal (July 1986) Mouna Raagam (Aug 1986) Mella Thiranthathu Kathavu (Sept 1986)
Punnagai Mannan (Nov 1986) Paadu Nilavea (1987) Poovili Vasalilea (Jan 1987) Rettai Val Kuruvi (Feb 1987) Velaikaran (March 1987)
Enga Ooru Paatukaran (Apr 1987) Nayagan (July 1987) Manathil Uruthi Vendum (Oct 1987) Uzhavan Magan (Oct 1987) Agni Natchathiram (Apr 1988)
Bommukutti Amma (Apr 1988) Paasa Paravaigal (Apr 1988) Jeeva (Jul 1988) Soorasamhaaram (Jul 1988) Unnal Mudiyum Thambi (Aug 1988)
Dharmathin Thalaivan (Sep 1988) Satya (Sep 1988) Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal (1989) Vetri Vizha (1989) Mounam Samatham (Jan 1989)
Varusham 16 (Feb 1989) Rajadhi Raja (Mar 1989) Aboorva Sagotharargal (Apr 1989) Idhayathai Thirudathey (May 1989) Karagatakaran (Jun 1989)
Maapilai (Oct 1989) Panakkaran (Jan 1990) Keladi Kanmani (Jul 1990) Kizhakku Vaasal (Jul 1990) Ooru Vittu Ooru Vanthu (Jul 1990)
Chatriyan (Oct 1990) Chinna Gounder (1991) Eeramana Rojave (1991) Idhayam (1991) Karpoora Mullai (1991)
Michael Madana Kamarajan (1991) Vanna Vanna Pookkal( (1991) Dharma Durai (Jan 1991) Gopura Vasalile (Mar 1991) Captain Prabakaran (Apr 1991)
Chinna Thambi (Apr 1991) En Rasavin Manasilea (Apr 1991) Thalapathy (Nov 1991) Guna (Nov 1991) Mannan (Jan 1992)
Chinna Thayee (Feb 1992) Chembaruthi (Apr 1992) Chinnavar (Apr 1992) Naadodi Thendral (Apr 1992) Singaravelan (Apr 1992)
Aavarampoo (June 1992) Devar Magan (Oct 1992) Senthamil Paatu (Oct 1992) Chinna Pasanga Naanga (Nov 1992) Aatma (1993)
Mahanadhi (1993) Marubadiyum (Jan 1993) Walter Vetrivel (Jan 1993) Ejamman (Feb 1993) Aranmanai Kili (Apr 1993)
Ponnumani (Apr 1993) Uzhaipali (Jun 1993) Rajakumaran ( Jan 1994) Sethupathy IPS (Jan 1994) Veera (Apr 1994)
Oru oorula oru Rajakumari (Jan 1995) Mogamull (May 1995) Avatharam (Jun 1995) Siraichalai (Apr 1996 ) Kadhalukku Mariyadhai (Dec 1997)
Bharathi (2000) Hey Ram (Feb 2000) Azhagi (Jan 2002) Virumandi (Jan 2004) Neethaane En Ponvasantham (Dec 2012)

I want the pleasure of reading a REALLY good book

I used to be a voracious reader. I considered myself bookish and so did everyone around me. And whenever I saw a book I have not read my pulse will quicken and I would start looking at the book longingly. I used to read the few books that I got with gratefulness and read them from cover to cover. Those were the days. Now my iPad is filled with PDFs of books by ostensibly great writers and I just close the tab and play an online game.

But I am not sure if it is just the presence of the online games that stopped me being a book-lover. It is also the quality of the books that I found around me. Does finding the right book for you get more and more difficult as you grow older? Why am I less indulgent about the prose? Is it because you can’t really enjoy James Patterson after acquainting yourself in Wilkie Collin’s writing? My first Patterson book attempted a multiple narrative format and fell flat on its own face. Did Agatha Christie spoil the mystery genre for me by making me too used to slithering red herrings that now when someone tries to put a mystery under my nose, I sniff it out and tut-tut at the budding author’s lack of skill? I don’t know. But I still feel the need to read.

A few years ago a friend pushed J. D. Salinger’s “The catcher in the rye” into my hands and I returned the favor by pushing a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” into hers and we continued to do this until she relocated to Hyderabad. Now I have no one who really knows what I will like and the recommendations I see online don’t do anything to me.  Or maybe I am just picking the wrong recommendations?

These days I start judging the writer from the first line onwards. It does not feel like I am following the protagonist’s journey. It is more like the author is sitting in front of me and trying to impress me in some sort of audition and I give Simon Cowell-type pronouncements on the quality of the product. And it seems to me that the young ones have started to write before they have read enough. Reading the seven Harry Potter books alone is all very well if you want to write Snape/Lily shipping stories. But writing something that is worth reading is a herculean task and good preparation of the mind is essential from the writer and I wonder if sufficient ‘writers’ realize this. I find it painful when very immature writers try to be profound.

Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley kept me company with their well-researched Pop-Sci books and I could not get enough of their erudite and passionate arguments in favor of their pet theories. And even if some of their concepts are too much for my slow brain, it still worth the trouble I put into reading their books.

But I came to miss evocative storytelling from someone who knew what he or she was doing. My childhood dream was to earn enough money to buy any book I took a fancy to. But just as the dream was turning to a reality, my ability to take fancy to any book at all was at an all-time low. Is that the fate of adulthood?

Do you still read? Can you recommend something from a writer who isn’t putting on a circus of emotions and going all drama-queen on me? Can you recommend something to read that was really worth your while?

She felt weak at the knees

Romance novels seem to have an infamous reputation. Some people seem to think that they are the female version of porn. It is and it is not. Most of these novels are not as explicit as most non-readers assume them to be. They are just as much wish fulfilling junk as porn is, that is all. Most romance novels are not steaming hot.

I frequently read these books from the age of 17 and went on till 21 but I was never voracious in my appetite. But I did give these novels a fair chance to impress me. I only knew them as novels for adult women and did not know that they have the same reputation as soap operas. Hell, I did not even know that soap operas had the reputation that they do. I don’t have the actual count, but let us say I have read about 40-50 of these books and let us take a quick look at the must-haves of the quintessential romance novel.

Ka Ching

As a young girl I was amused that the first romance novel I read had a rich man and a poor girl as the protagonists. Most of the stories I had heard/seen/read until then were from Tamil movies and we all know that the woman is almost always from the more privileged background. Whether it is Jayalalitha singing “Unnai naan santhithean” or Vaijayanti Mala singing “Raja Magal Roja Malar” the pretty women were always filthy rich. So if it is a woman’s fantasy the equation gets to be reversed? I thought it was hilarious that my first Mills and Boon novel had a secretary (of sorts) falling for her boss. Now I see how stupid I was. ALL romance novels are about secretaries falling for their bosses… or nurses falling for doctors…  or nannies falling for the widowed father of a cranky child.

And the more high-minded classic novels are not exempt from this, pretty much all of Jane Austen’s novels and those of the Bronte Sisters fall dutifully under this category.

And please don’t think they are desirable men who just happen to be rich. The wealth of these men is central to their perceived attractiveness. Sample these titles taken from here

Number Title Author Date/Year released
# 3683 The Millionaire’s Daughter Sophie Weston January 2002
# 3698 His Secretary’s Secret Barbara McMahon April 2002
# 3700 The Corporate Bridegroom Liz Fielding May 2002
# 3702 The Doctors’ Baby Marion Lennox May 2002
# 3703 His Majesty’s Marriage: The King’s Bride Lucy Gordon June 2002
# 3703 His Majesty’s Marriage: The Prince’s Choice Rebecca Winters June 2002
# 3705 The Tycoon’s Temptation Renee Roszel June 2002
# 3706 The Nanny’s Secret Grace Green June 2002
# 3708 The Tycoon’s Takeover Liz Fielding July 2002
# 3709 The Prince’s Proposal Sophie Weston July 2002
# 3711 The Boss’s Daughter Leigh Michaels August 2002
# 3726 A Royal Proposition Marion Lennox November 2002
# 3729 The Tycoon’s Proposition Rebecca Winters December 2002
# 3730 The Fortunes Of Francesca Betty Neels December 2002


Note how the women in the titles are nannies or secretaries and men are tycoons and royals and bosses. There may be Mayors, Kings, Sheikhs, Billionaires, Princes, Dukes, Aristocrats and Barons. And this is just the title. Trust me, the heroine may run away to a distant island to soothe her aching heart and the hero will charter a helicopter to get there. The engagement ring is surely going to be impossibly big. Don’t be deceived if you see the word ‘Princess’ in the title. The odds are against her being a blue blooded princess. She is probably princess as a prince fancies her or she is referred to as a princess for no apparent reason. It is actually very unlikely that she is a rich person.

The other attributes of the man in question

The dude is handsome. He has had a rocking sex life until the virgin heroine batted her eye-lash at him. He never goes after women but they throw themselves at him. He never had to go hunting, you see? Every girl is begging to marry him or is willing to dump her husband if he wants her to.

But he has never known love, the poor thing. All the pretty women and the fancy dating and the rocking sex but to what end? No love in his empty life. No chirping in his empty nest. Don’t fret. Our girl will show him the power of innocence. Everything will be hotsy-totsy very soon.

The female best friend

Our heroine’s best friend is a foil to our very own virgin heroine and so you can bet your last rupee that she is no virgin. But no, she is no vamp. She is a normal youngster with normal quirks and normal libido and normal heartbreaks and has not found true love due to normal men being normal jerks and everything is SO normal about her. She looks normal in her blue jeans and white t-shirt and her hair is the normal length and she is normally out every Friday night on a normal date that ends in normal sex without any abnormal orgasm. She is the side-kick. She is the perfect foil. My heart weeps for her. It really does.

The male best friend

If things are sad for the female best friend, they are worse for the male best friend. He is someone who would love to pair up with our heroine and make sweet cuddly babies together. He is attentive, kind, decent and normal. No wonder the heroine friend-zoned him. I should probably write a detailed post as to WHY men of this sort are friend-zoned a lot for I am often asked this question. The reasons in real-life can be quite complicated. In fiction he has one job – to make our heroine appear very attractive.

This man may eventually find another nice girl and marry but he will never really get over our heroine.

The other woman

More often than not, there is a fashionably plastic rich woman who is going to go all “Oh, I told Mitch that he can sow all the wild oats he wants before we get married sometime next year, but he should not pick too innocent a doll to play with. I hope you had a nice time, dear, but I also do hope you don’t get too hurt.” on our poor innocent heroine. And chances are that our heroine is going to believe this yarn and believe that it was only a fling on the hero’s part and he could never take her seriously. This is in spite of very good evidence that the hero can’t stand the sight of this vamp right from the opening line of the book and is openly hostile to her, every bit of the way.

Our very own incomparable super special snowflake

The most special thing about our heroine is that she is not very special at all. She is not witty or intelligent or interesting, but she will be told that she is. Looks-wise, she is boringly normal in her own eyes and a breathtakingly beautiful in the eyes of every other person she meets. She will not do particularly brave deeds, but the adjective will find its way towards her anyway. In short, she is just as spectacular as the reader. So she is the honest Hamam soap that a millionaire falls for as he is sick and tired of all the Lux soaps around him.

The Romance, the passion, the … climax

Did I mention that our heroine is inexperienced? Hmm… I thought I would have, but that is because she had not met this dude before. She is a volcano and erupts and keeps erupting for an unnaturally long time. No she did not lose temper, silly, she is passionate. She accelerates from 0 to 100 in 5 seconds and that is probably why she is as desirable as a Ferrari.

Apparently rape enters into the picture of many of these stories, but thankfully I never read any. For some reason, it puts me off. Anyway, it is mostly consensual even if they are sneering at each other.

Other things happen. Like they may crack a mystery code together or save a puppy or write a book on archeology but none of this matters. What matters is that she gets pregnant and settles in her particularly lavish nest with a roaring lion that recently started to coo to her after slipping a ring on her finger.

Hint hint.. Wink wink.. Nudge nudge

Have you spent time going through the WhatsApp status message of some particularly interesting folk? One day it is “I am a free bird” and the next day it is “To be content with yourself is the ULTIMATE happiness” and a month later it is “PLS cme bk darling…<3

Do these people really get anything by reaching to the entire friend list and not just their significant other? One of my friends started going out of his way updating his status with typical “Girls are inscrutable“, “Girls are heart breakers” messages on a daily basis. He is usually not the type at all. And if you went through his updates you would think he was flinging his heart at the feet of an arrogant girl who was deliberately toying with the answer.

When I confronted him with this, he claimed that it meant nothing at all. They were just statements that he found in Facebook and thought of as witty. I would not have any of it. My argument was this. I was not in close contact with him any longer and I did not know who he was whining about. But there are others who are close to him and even if he was having a mild crush on this girl, the gossip mongers will be thinking of this girl as an inconsiderate heart breaker and they would know who the girl was.

“Stop using your WhatsApp messages for catharsis”, I’d insist whenever he started whining. Soon he admitted it. They were not merely funny lines. He meant it. And he also admitted to a messy friend-zoned relationship and here is the catch, it was HE who had friend-zoned her. WHAT??!!?? Then WHAT did those lines mean? I just don’t get it. But it isn’t my business and I don’t want to digress. This is not a post about messy friend-zoned relationships. It is about how annoying it must have been for that girl that a personal relationship (or friendship) is now a circus for random people to analyze as they thought fit.

Status messages are sometimes extremely misleading. “That is the thing about pain, it demands to be felt” is a good quote. Not a good status message. And it certainly is not a good one for a newly married girl, definitely not if she does not want people to assume that she is stuck in a bad marriage.

Prettiness is not the rent I should pay to exist just because I am a girl” is a terrific quote, but I felt bad that a plain-looking girl had this on her status message. In one way it is a defiant “fuck-you” to those who probably were not treating her well as they treated show-stopping beauties. But surely the very presence of that status message negated the attitude that it stood for. If you truly don’t have to pay rent, you don’t spend time thinking about the rent, no? The line is a terrific comeback but not a good status message, IMO.

An audacious playboy once laughingly admitted that his intriguing messages were actually meant for more than one girl. He will keep the “You wouldn’t believe how much I miss you” message until he deceived a bunch of women into thinking that they were the intended recipient. To tell the truth, I admire his temerity. He knows the power of the written word and is willing to harness it. At least he is self-aware.


‘PLS cme bk darling’ means “Please come back, darling.” (I know my readers are chatspeak-challenged)