Gym

  ‘Can you lose weight selectively?’ I asked a friend who is a doctor. ‘I mean, just the weight around your stomach?’ ‘Flab, you mean,’ she said. ‘Er, yes, you can say that.’ I responded, the image of a shapeless whale filling my mind immediately. For some odd reason, I…

Name

‘What’s in a name?’ Plenty. Your gender, nationality, caste, religion and the idiosyncrasies of your parents. ‘That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,’ said Shakespeare, or, rather, Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. ‘A chrysanthemum, by any other name, would be easier to…

Gold

‘Do people in Kerala buy gold by the kilo?’ asked a friend from another state. She had come to attend a ‘typical Kerala wedding’ and her jaw dropped as she watched the bride make her coy way to the decorated stage, bent to a comma by the weight of the…

Chips

‘Hot hips sold here,’ declared a board in front of a shop. ‘Goodness, how brazen can you get! ‘I exclaimed, instinctively pulling my sari pallu closer about me. Had I read correctly? I wore my glasses and took a closer look. Yes, I wasn't mistaken but could now see that…

The Vagaries of Language

The other day a friend waved her hand vaguely in the direction of a building and said, ‘That’s ma baker,’ taking me aback. Ma Baker? Kate Ma Baker, the legendary criminal killed in 1935 but immortalised by the popular rock band Boney M as ‘the meanest cat in all Chicago…

No Child’s Play: Writing for Children (Image)

‘So when are you going to write for adults?’ a friend asked the other day. I groaned inwardly. There we go again! She’s not the first to fire such a salvo and is certainly not going to be the last. This veiled insinuation that writing for children is a stepping…

Franz Kafka - The Metamorphosis

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”. Incredible? Disturbing? Comical? Frightening? Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka’s extraordinary story that begins with this attention-capturing sentence, is all these and more. Gregor Samsa is a young travelling salesman and sole breadwinner…

Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina with one of the most famous openings in literature – “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” – and then proceeds to craft a magnificent work of fiction centring around several uniquely unhappy families. His main…

Raja Ravi Varma Painting - Kerala Culture

There are dresses and dresses and dresses, but when it comes to sheer elegance and class, there is nothing to beat the saree. That a long unimaginative looking piece of rectangular cloth can, by the way it is draped around a woman, transform itself into a fashion statement is one…

To Teacher, with Love - Prof. B. Hrdayakumari

With the passing away of Prof. B. Hrdayakumari on 8 November 2014, the academic world has lost a much loved scholar-teacher and a tireless crusader for preserving high standards in education. It goes without saying that she was a wonderful human being. Her students called her Teacher with respect and…

Waiting for the gasman: Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

‘Singh is king, Singh is king, Singh is king...’ the song asserting Singh’s monarchical status blasted in through the window. ‘Well, Singh may be king,’ I muttered, ‘but the gas deliverer is emperor.’ Oh, yes, make no mistake about that. He’s the supreme being for whom the whole household waits,…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

I heard someone observe the other day that men have drive but no direction. I would like to alter that to ‘men can drive but won’t ask for directions.’ This is strictly based on home experience, but my friends assure me their spouses are no different. Read more.

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

The calling bell rang and I opened the door to find a young man on the doorstep, brandishing a coconut in his right hand like a shot put athlete getting ready for the throw. ‘A coconut,’ he said, by way of introduction. ‘Oh, a coconut,’ I replied. ‘Yes, a coconut,’…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

“Do you know there were only 80 guests at the wedding?” A friend who had attended a marriage in the United Kingdom was describing the experience. He was full of praise for the function, but appeared a little bewildered too. “Only 80, can you beat it, and that included the…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

A visitor who came home the other day kept her head bowed for a long time. Reverentially, I thought, impressed with the deep respect she was showing. After a good few minutes, she jerked her head up and exclaimed, ‘Your floor’s mosaic!’ Aha! So that was what she had been…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

What do you do when you open the gate one morning to find a big plastic bag chock-full of whisky bottles - empty ones, in case those among you who guzzle the stuff believe it is the answer to a tippler’s prayer - leaning restfully against your wall? It was…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

The calling bell rang and I opened the door to find a young man on the doorstep, brandishing a coconut in his right hand like a shot put athlete getting ready for the throw. ‘A coconut,’ he said, by way of introduction. ‘Oh, a coconut,’ I replied. ‘Yes, a coconut,’…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

Never say one thing while meaning another when you place an order in a restaurant. Or say it at your peril, as I found out the other day when my son’s friends took us out to dinner. Everyone turned to me for the main order and suddenly nervous about making…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

‘Reaaaaally?!’ I exclaimed in alarm when I was told the other day that a paper based on my articles in this column was going to be presented at The Humour Conference. What place would my articles, addressed to the common reader, have in a scholastic scenario? Read more.

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

‘Give me one kilo of small big onions and half a kilo of big small onions,’ I said at the vegetable shop. The attendant looked baffled and turned to my husband for clarification. As is his wont on such occasions, my husband temporarily disowned me, turning his attention studiously to…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

A snake is a snake is a snake is a snake. As a poetic assertion, it’s fine, but not when you find one inside the pond in your garden. ‘There’s a snake in our pond,’ said my husband the other day as nonchalantly as one would say ‘there’s a crow…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

‘All well between the two of you?’ A friend from the U.S asked me as he handed a packet to my husband. ‘Excuse me?’ I responded, startled. With a wink and a puckish smile he remarked, ‘Well, your husband wanted ear plugs. Set me wondering about the state of your…

Sandwich Pic

What is it about the sandwich that makes Indians look askance at it? It is seldom considered a meal – as I found out to my dismay. Quite oblivious to the fact that the credentials of the sandwich as a full fledged meal stand on wafer thin ground, I have…

Illustration by Sreejith R Kumar

‘Hey, wait a minute, I forgot to tell you something,’ I shouted to my friend on the phone as she was about to hang up. My voice rose from contralto to soprano as I tried to make myself heard before she put down the receiver and she mistook the high…

Tennis Pic

‘Poor Del Potro!’ I said, more to myself than to my husband, while reading the report on Andy Murray’s famous Wimbledon victory. But my words carried and my husband responded with a vague, “Who is this Del whatever?” Read more.

Telegram Pic

‘Did you know,’ my husband announced one morning, ‘that the telegram is dead? I mean, it is dying?’ He quickly corrected himself. He reads the newspapers before brushing his teeth. ‘What? Telegram dead?’ I exclaimed, lapsing unconsciously into telegraphese. In case this word has stumped you, telegraphese is the name…

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