Communication Ponniyin Selvan Style

In this busy world that chases productivity with a zest, our productivity tools often encourage speed. I’ve written about The Art of the Considered Response before (here it is) 

The Navarathri season was an excellent reminder of the times we live in. After 2 years of muted celebrations, all the goddesses decided to awaken the true shakthi in all golu organizers, and golu hoppers who missed their share of the festive foods honed their appetites. Navarathri golu invites came via WhatsApp, Evite, email, messages, and social media messenger apps.

Navarathri: 9-day festival primarily celebrating the feminine energy and the different days honor different goddesses (the goddesses of mountains, wealth, wisdom, power, cosmic creation and so on)

Golu: From Wikipedia: In Tamil Nadu, people set up steps and place idols on them. This is known as golu. Photos of typical golu displayed in Tamil Nadu style can be found here.In the evening women in the neighborhood invite each other to visit their homes to view Golu displays, they exchange gifts and sweets.

When one is so lovingly invited to people’s homes to view their creative decorations and bliss of music and divinity, it is hard to refuse. So, in the most efficient manner possible, I had drawn up the following schedule without realizing:

  • Accepted invites to be in San Ramon the same day and time as I was expected in San Jose. While I do live mid-way between the two places – one is nor-nor-east-east, and the other is sou-sou-west-west.
  • Also accepted 3 days of continuous invites to the same geographic location 20 miles from where we live.
  • As if none of this were enough there were often live updates to the actual invites in all of these platforms.

The husband can be relied upon in times of crises like these to make things better or worse. He chauffeured, accompanied, ate the yummies at various places, and sometimes, sent me off with a heave of relief. 

He also contributed by insisting on going to the Ponniyin Selvan movie that had released that week-end. When one friend asked him why he was late in arriving, he said his mouth full of sundal that he was disappointed she kept her golu on the opening week of Ponniyin Selvan. Couldn’t she have moved the golu? This drew a collective gasp from the older generation of aunts gathered around the golu. (If it had been me saying something like that, the aunties would have awakened their inner Goddess Kali to say a thing or two, but as it was an honorary son-in-law honoring Kalki (Writer of Ponniyin Selvan) if you will, they had a gasp followed by a weak giggle.) Even the husband knew what that meant and retreated to a safe place by the buffet afterward. 

Ponniyin Selvan – the movie based on the historical fiction written by Kalki 50 years ago and is somewhat of a cultural icon in Tamil Nadu

In an era where tweets sub in for official diplomatic (or otherwise) communication channels, and all these frantic modes of communication make things harder and harder to comprehend, it was fun indeed to sit back and watch a historical fiction drama set in the 11th century. 

Where 3 tweets would have done the trick, here was a 3 hour movie based on information traveling from one corner of the kingdom to the other. What’s more? Networking protocols and streaming services may have been working full-time to make sure that the theatrical experience of the most modern kind worked as a time-traveling tool, but no networking protocols were used in this story of information gathering and delivery. For that, a suave and charming friend sent as a messengers on horseback did the trick!

In the good old days, even the goddesses seemed to take their time visiting people’s homes on Navarathri and the nine days of singing and visiting homes had a gentle lull to the routine of life, not the hectic hustling that one has come to associate with every aspect of life, including divinity.

Maybe we do need more movies set far in the past like Ponniyin Selvan or in fictional realms with human limits to communication and speed such as the Lord of the Rings. That would remind us that we do not need to react to every Digital byte sent our way, but choose to respond in a more collected fashion. I’ve always wanted to invite folks home using the fashionable mode of dipping a pen in ink, writing a loving note on scroll, and delivering it by hand to our friends.

The Best Laid Plans of the Brave & Hopeful

She was 3 and 1/2 years old when we first sat and watched a movie together in a movie theatre. The movie was Ratatouille. That was the daughter and that is if you don’t count one failed attempt. I don’t count that because I placed it on the record that she was not ready for a movie at 8 months. A Baby Einstein airing – possibly, but a Tamil movie definitely not. The husband, mother-in-law both insisted that she would fall asleep within seconds of the movie starting. Of course, nobody listens to the mother, who was not interested in the movie in the first place, and off we went. I hear the movie was good. I was there for the title sequence and then for one song that she liked to shake her bum and dance to. The rest was spent in the corridor next to the tea and coffee vending machines on the floor. One vendor felt so sorry for me; he actually came and offered me a free samosa. He started it. After that, there was no stopping me. In regular intervals, I went for samosas, tea, coffee and ice-cream and still the crowd did not come pouring out of the theatre. Which was when I thought of a topic that would immensely help Tamil movie makers – Brevity. The movie wore on for 3 hours and not a moment of background music time was wasted. I wasn’t even in the theatre and I had a head-ache.

Given the scar of events past, one would think I would hesitate to brave a movie with Tucky clocking in at a year old. I did hesitate. But Disney Pixar’s pull is far too great. After considerable thought, we selected the 10:15 p.m. show of ‘Brave’. With a one year old, sleep times are unpredictable at best. So, I hung onto his eyelids from early evening onwards and made sure he did not sleep. Then gave him a warm bath laced with sweet vapors to soothe and soothe like no man has ever been soothed before. Never one to leave anything to chance, I played him some Mozart as well. I must admit Mozart makes me incredibly sleepy too. So, I was yawning football sized yawns by the time the movie started, but little Tucky was fast asleep and I was hopeful.

I wonder whether you have seen great strategists in action. I have heard of them. Now, I mustn’t boast, but we certainly gave the best of them a run for their money at that theatre. We took in a bulky carseat because I wasn’t going to tickle a sleeping dragon just when ‘Brave’ was starting. I had with me to use at a moment’s notice the following:

1) Thermos Flask with warm milk

2) Blanket to tuck and pat

3) I couldn’t really use the Mozart music as people might have noticed the difference in sound tracks in the theatre.

Finally, no tumbling into the best seats for us. I carefully selected an aisle seat ready to take flight to the corridors at the slightest whimper. (We are extremely conscious of people’s experience of a movie and don’t want to spoil their shows with crying babies)

So, there we were – trailer after trailer came on and just when I popped off to sleep myself, the movie started. I wonder why – but just before the movie starts, they give you an eerie minute of silence that completely ruins the plans of the parents of sleeping babies in carseats. See – the constant drone of noise is the trick. Just keep up with the trailers and the music and the baby sleeps on. Why introduce a moment of suspense before the movie?. Then, the slightest noise seems jarring. No one consults me while doing these things – sigh! After all those hours of Mozart and sweetening soothing almond oil showers, he stirred when the movie started after this tense moment of silence.

Without hope there is no life. I continued hoping that he’d fall back to sleep, but he gave a great chuckle and an energetic giggle at a horse on the screen and settled down to watch. I exchanged a meaningful glance at the husband and we agreed to stay as long as he kept quiet. I must say, the dear was absolutely charming. He watched it like he understood the storyline perfectly. Clapped when people cheered, laughed when people laughed.

Towards the very end, he grew a bit antsy at which point a warm milk bottle was shoved into his mouth and he watched with interest again after that. It helps that the movie was only 90 minutes long. That was the story of his first movie.


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