All posts by Sudarshna Kalyanaraman

Sip of Sin : To Coffee or not to Kapi


downloadA week or two back I was part of an entertaining argument on what can be called the better drink – Coffee or Tea?

The entire discussion started in the context of my mother who just does not drink coffee and belongs to Kumbakonam.  For those not aware, Kumbakonam happens to be famous for its degree filter coffee. The situation with my mother and her tea is quite hilarious. Occasionally , we would saunter into a hotel and she would ask for tea , especially if it happens to be an off peak hour and not a big joint then the waiter will almost always return her with a look that says, “hello who drinks tea?” Who does anyway? quite a few, to say the least.

World over tea is the more popular drink . There are  three main reasons for this :

  • Tea happens to be the favorite drink of the most populous nation in this world in China and the second most populated nation, India. It is indeed the drink of masses 
  • Tea is often more broadly classified than Coffee. All forms of coffee are only derived from coffee beans grown for the purpose of harvesting coffee, Tea on the other hand is loosely used to describe any broth of herbs and leaves. Kashmiri tea which happens to be one of my favorites is an example
  • Tea has been there longer almost forever and hence has been adapted more widely across cultures

Tea clearly scores on history, tradition and numbers. Medical myths would also sell you a cup of tea over coffee any day.

Clearly the good boy drinks tea.  The not so good ones smoke the sutta and drink chai. You can also imagine the Queen of England  with a hat and a bow sipping a cup of tea quite regally. So, the drink is both sophisticated , like the old queen taking a slow sip out of the cup held closely with her wrinkled but bejewelled hands and  yet  populist, ask Mani Shanker Iyer, he will tell how.

Coffee alas is for the bad ass hangovers, for the addiction, for the caffeine high, it’s the drink of the wall street or mafia, if you will go no further, its Americano and Hollywood but also Italian , it indicates a ruthlessness, a perverseness and  a sense of decadence in all glory. Coffee in short is for coffee.

The above two interpretations are  generalized and not particularly Indian. In this country if you were then to pick a battle of Tea vs Coffee  – it will have to be the masala chai vs the filter coffee, the two most popular versions respectively. With a PM who has run a campaign  on tea, it would be foolish to say the masala chai is not the winner, and so it shall be crowned  as one ,  Afterall,  its prepared with so much trouble and effort. Cloves, cardamom, ginger, pepper and what nots are added and let to simmer. If you forget to add tea and milk in the water with all these spices  you can probably go ahead and cook your lunch with the broth to make a good gravy. And then finally the poor tea leaves are set to rise above the avalanche of spices pouring in and swim against the thickening milk.You feel a bit sorry on the kind of assault the tea leaves face. Its brutal actually.

The filter coffee is an entirely contrasting affair, its sole focus is only  coffee. So beans are roasted, ground, mixed with the right amount of chicory and brought to a coarseness that is not too fine or too granular. It is then tightly packed into a filter with just the right amount of water at the correct temperature  and allowed to drip over the coffee powder to retain the maximum flavor. It’s an art in itself ,  it’s love and  it’s about coffee.

We may have a PM who sold chai but get me my cup of coffee, filter or not ! Mr. Iyer, hope you find your peace.

-Caffeine Addict/Kapi lover

Man is a greagarious animal


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We are in an era where everybody knows what others are doing and conversely, most people are doing things just so that everybody else can know.

I am not an exception to this phenomenon and what I write in this blog applies equally to me as it does to countless others I know of. I am writing about social media and Facebook in particular. When I was in engineering second year, I researched on Second Lives to do a piece for an in-house newsletter. The concept was a virtual world where you had a chance to live an alternate second life. Facebook is very much like that. If this were to be a debate and I have to pick sides , I am against the motion. Funnily enough, I am also aware of the fact that I could never get myself to leave fb,  as it is fondly called. Its like those lines from Hotel California – You can log out anytime but never really leave. I know friends who deactivated and then activated their accounts. The blessed ones are those who never had an account.

There have been enough studies on social media marketing and its benefits, I am not going to delve into that but what I did realize in the past week is that fb exploits the two fundamental natures of the human being to be social and to display. The latter one is partly a result of the former, We display because we want to fit in, we want to show we are better and we want to climb up the social jungle. That man is a gregarious animal has never been proven so correct till fb invaded our lives. The number of messages or calls I get asking about my marriage plans or discussing the caller’s plans is always on a spike when a wedding invite has been posted. My self-destructive tendency to gloomily retrospect also takes a hike when I see a change in job or an admit cracked as a status update. This I am sure must ring true with a lot of people. Tolstoy’s opening lines of Anna Karenina where he says every happy family is happy in the same way applies here too – every happy picture is happy in the same way, instagrammed !

Facebook is not just a place where only happy faces and photoshopped landscapes are seen, it is also the place where people freely pour out their angst. You can monitor relationships, unravel whole timelines of information and as well construct one. Its amazing the amount of time that goes into fbing, I post a picture, I want it liked . I write a poem I want it read and I check in so others can know. I would like to see the figure on the man productive work hours that are spent on this site . I am sure it would be significant. Man has never been more social than he is now and I am not sure that is a good thing at all.

Where did we lose our Sporting heroes?


I have always been a fan of sport. I don’t care about nationalities in general. So I would want Sampras to win over  Leander Paes any day. I am not saying I don’t want India to win, just that I don’t mind it being beaten by a better team. After all,the very spirit of sports is just that, isn’t it? to celebrate the spirit of unity, of excellence, of passion and above all a toast to humanity? Sports like entertainment is an escape from reality. So when Sachin bats, a nation holds its breath. Just that we have held it too long, its time we left it all out in a gigantic fart!
Cricket is a game played by a handful of nations and indeed India’s insistence of celebrating it as its biggest offering to the world of sports would forever be an impediment in getting any kind of recognition in the international arena with regards to sports. We are good at it but its time we took a pause and looked around us. Sachin is a great player no doubt, but also take a bow- to Sania Mirza who broke into women’s tennis, to Saina Nehwal’s achievements,to Vishy Anand for inspiring a generation of youngsters after him, to Vijender ,to Mary Kom and to P.T Usha who undoubtedly lays claim to one of the most stupendous achievements by an Asian.Hell, even the Chineese and the Japaneese have not been able to penetrate the track and field glamour events at the Olympics!
The game of cricket is today a tamasha, what with the entire stink of IPL bogging it down. Its played through out the year only because people watch it with feeding on media generated frenzy.Even the most popular sport on this planet is not oversold like this game. That defies logic? only because cricket has not been sold but abused badly. Yet we wonder why India produces so few medals in the Olympics. Funny isn’t it?

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There are sporting icons that transcend imagination, that plant the seeds of a rebellion and who rewrite history by their deeds rather than their records. Think Cassius Clay who embraced Islam, protested against discrimination and famously threw his medals into the gutter,think Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens defying Hitler,recall Bobby Fischer who broke the Soviet hegemony in the world of Chess,
take a bow to Serena and Venus ,to Seles and then you want to talk of pressure then think of Murray,the man who played on top of a 70-year-old pressure cooker, to Nadal who knew the clock was ticking even before he played his first Grand slam, to Kabaeva and Comaneci and to Messi who fought hormone indefeciency all his life and to Senna who died on the track fighting ironically for higher standards of safety. Know beauty when the Argentinian and Brazilians most out of the slums play their magic brand of football, remember Zidane before his headbutt and hell of Maradona and his struggle ,even Hansie Cronje who came out and said the truth.

Countless times we have debated on Sachin’s contribution to India’s successes and the fact that we are still debating is the answer to that question. Lara is not the greatest because he doesn’t have a 100 hundreds. Point taken.And then the issue of pressure. Who doesn’t face it? We then add to a good measure a billion people as if the athlete from Romania feels less pressurized because their population is lesser! Ask Phelps when he chased those records what pressure is (he didn’t take a year to do it, the poor bloke did it the first time) or ask the Chinese athletes who fear failing to win a gold at the Olympics.They all face it. Or ask Messi when he stands on the spot to take the kick and Casillas when he desperately wishes to save it(By sheer numbers there is more pressure here!).
Great men decide their own retirement I hear. They also come and go as they wish. It’s the freedom that comes with greatness,they can also be a member of parliament even while playing, its alright to forget discipline after all we take pride in spitting on the roads. Sab chalta hai Yahan! So ,its ok to not expect sporting discipline and professionalism. So, Zidane scored in his last match, Sampras lifted a grand slam in his last and every great athlete can still conjure the magic more often than their peers. The point is they leave when they cannot do it everyday at their will.
I am not saying cricket or Sachin is not great.Its not his fault that he has not suffered tribulations like others but only saying that take a look around.Give talent its due.Celebrate sport not biasness and prejudices.Dont aSK a person to shut and leave because they dare point a finger at Sachin, learn to be tolerant. Afterall we as nation are fast forgetting that a bit of common sense and lots of tolerance!Its time we celebrated our heroes.

Angry Bird that pecked at the Pervert’s guide to Cinema


“The virtuous man contents himself with dreaming that which the wicked man does in actual life.”-Freud

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So, today is one of those days where the sheer awesomeness of being angry takes over everything. I mean its not PMS its just one of those days where you cant figure out why or with whom you are angry. So you are bloody pissed at jokes,you swear if your lift doesn’t stop and finally you harass hapless people around you. Its like that rock that sat on a volcano mouth. Just that there’s no vent for the lava to come out.

Much before anger took over approximately a whole day back, I saw an interesting documentary titled -‘A Pervert’s guide to Cinema.’ Much of the content would shock you if you haven’t been exposed to Sigmund Freud. But having been I found it quite mundane. So drawing examples from many cult classics of almost every conceivable genre the narrator ties it up with Freudian philosophy. So, Eyes Wide Shut, The Matrix,Psycho,Fight Club,Exorcist all lend themselves well to the theme of Freudian psycho analysis.

The familiar motifs of incestual tensions,fantasy vs reality,pornographic imagery and why they are ironically conservative,the feminine in the male world et al are explored. If you are a cinephile you must probably watch this one.Its a three part series and yes, be open to what you hear and take it with a pinch of salt.Its a tad different and likely to keep you thinking for awhile.

 

A tale to tell when my city wakes


Its not often I get up early in Chennai for there is nothing much to do at that hour in a holiday. Nevertheless I did today. the city rises early and as a consequence, sleeps early. So at four in the morning you can very well hear the sounds of women splashing water across their veranda. By five thirty all of them have made the mandatory kolam outside and gone in to boil milk. The first strains of Suprabhatam starts and by six thirty people have already taken a bath and have settled with the morning paper. Many people will blame me for stereotyping when they read this post. But that’s how the city is , that’s its character and that’s its soul. So today morning when I got up, I heard all the familiar sounds and because I did not know what to do I started flipping through channels. Much of the channels were wrapping up their late night entertainment by five. And then at five thirty all the channels started streaming devotional songs or carols.I was at that point tempted to blare gal mithi mithi bol on my speakers but was distracted with the morning coffee. I let the idea pass for then. Chennai or Madras as I prefer to call it is primarily a fishing hamlet. It has retained that essence knowingly or unknowingly in many queer ways, getting to work much before the crack of dawn is one such example.
Many years ago when I was still in that little protected heaven called school , I remember during the month of Margazhi, we used to get up at five wear our pattupavadais (silk skirts) and skip around to Bharatkalachar to recite Vishnusahasranamam. I would most times do so half asleep on the stage but the auditorium would be full in anticipation of the Upanyasam by Shri Velukudikrishnan that would follow.It was a routine then but now when I look back,I am pleasantly surprised.I have not been to Bharatkalachar in years but I suspect it must still continue with each passing batch of students.