Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leotards anyone? (published in Deccan Herald in 1995).

These are just some fun pictures of Aerobics class nothing to do with Leotards

The last three years have seen me exercising with a vengence : yoga,  swimming calisthenics, aerobics,  gym workouts--- you name it,  I have done it. By now you  would think I had  a Karishma Kapoor figure. But alas, I am nowhere near it.  I am still aerobically  chasing  the ever elusive hour glass figure.

All these years I had been exercising wearing jogging pants or ordinary tights and baggy shirts. I wasn't burning any fat dressed in such mundane outfits.  A change in strategy may do the trick, I  thought.  I would now workout in leotards--just like those beautiful bodies you  see on the TV fitness shows.
 With renewed hope and enthusiasm, I set out  to shop for leotards. I let loose my imagnation, picturing myself in the most becoming leotards-- flowered tights, dark body huggers , sedate pastels etc.  Soon,  I felt, I could stand up to a Karishma or a Mamta Kulkarni. ( these were the famous heroines of that time)
I entered a big department store and asked to be shown some leotards. To my surprise the salesgirl led me to the toys section. When I told her I wanted to see leotards , she looked at me strangely  and affirmed that there were plenty of Leo Toys to be found--I could take my pick .  Either my pronounciation was bad , or her hearing was poor (or both),  when I patiently repeated my request,  she blinked in utter confusion.
Finally I explained I wanted an exercise dress which was called leotards.  Visibly relieved,  the poor girl confessed to having only jogging suits.  In my next outing, having bought a pair of sports shoes,  I went across to a sports shop to buy a pair of cotton socks,  seeing a variety of sports dresses on display, I couldn't resist the temptation to ask the salesman for leotards (silently praying that he should understand me).
One look at his face told me my prayers had gone unanswered. He went, "He, he,he!" and in heavy,  Malayalee- accented Kannada he proceeded to give me directions to the nearest Leo Toys shop. To add insult to injury my husband chose this time to educate me on  pronounciation.
 You see, he is considered a sort of authority on pronounciation in our family --- when boys of his age were reading Biggles for fun , he was busy memorising Webster's page after page .  But I was wary,  knowing too well his passion for pulling one's leg.
He said I might have better success if I pronounced correctly,  viz. le-tards, the "o" being silent.  Right then and there,  I wanted to roll the new pair of socks into an "O"  and silence him forever. 
A few days later,  as I was window shopping,  I came across a big,  exclusive Leo Toys shop with eager looking salespeople peering out. Feeling a little reckless,  I thought I might have some fun for a change, stepping in and asking for leotards.
Imagine my surprise when the manager pulled out stacks and stacks of leotards in a variety of colours and prints! "Ma'am",  he confided in me,  "all leotards seekers in Bangalore eventually end up at my store.
What is your  preference? Lycra or Cotton?"
Did you have fun reading this?
Do you have something similar to share with me?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Travails of an Environmental Engineer: Waste Water Treatment Is An Art, Not Science!

Travails of an Environmental Engineer: Waste Water Treatment Is An Art, Not Science!:

Apartmentadda.com has been kind enough to label me as a “Water Expert”.  I prefer to call myself an Environmental Engineer with a “Work In Progress” tag.

In the late 1970’s I had the good fortune to study a little bit of Environmental Engineering under the legendary Wesley Eckenfelder Jr., then Professor Emeritus at Vanderbilt University, and author of many of the early textbooks on Wastewater Treatment :  A man of great good humour and breezy insouciance and always great company in his customary colourful plaid sports coat at the communal coffee pot in the Department.

Many of the tables and graphs in his early textbooks were lacking in essential numbers, units, dimensions etc., in the columns, and along the X-Y coordinates, to which his lighthearted riposte was "Waste water Treatment is an Art, not Science”.

In my practice as a Consulting Engineer in later years, I have had the misfortune to scrutinize on several occasions design calculations and computations submitted by aspiring, overzealous environmental engineers, possibly with a Master’s degree or higher from Indian Universities : Calculations running into pages and pages, containing obscure equations and muddled arithmetic, finally ending up with totally absurd numbers for answers.  Verily these worthies have missed the wood for the trees.

Clearly, thirty years on, Eckenfelder’s maxim of Wastewater Treatment being an Art holds true to this day.

Dr. Ananth S Kodavasal                                                                          April 15, 2011

I think many of you would enjoy his articles on his favorite subject. I especially love his use of words, the way he keeps it simple and short and to the point. He continues to write on the subject, you can go to the link on top to read more of his articles.
 I am proud to say that this man is my husband.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our House: Buena Vista ( Beautiful View)

Our house was conceived with lot of love.  Ananth always loved Spanish architecture, and always used to tell me that if he ever built a house he would go for the Spanish style. We just left it at that for neither did we have a plot to built a house nor were we looking for one for everything had gone beyond our means.
Then one day, one of his very close friend said there was a beautifully located plot in Whitefield and that it was owned two friends jointly and they wanted to sell it off as they had no use for it.
  They were somewhere in Bombay. He said we should grab this opportunity and just buy it as an investment. This place Whitefield was quite far from the city, it was not well connected by bus or any such thing. Only retired army people and some Anglo Indians lived there in old palatial bungalows.
However the plot was huge and the area though not developed was quite good, peaceful and quiet. There were just a Niligiris shop  selling  some bare essentials. Since it was affordable we bought it, and forgot everything about the plot.
Then as years passed by we found living in Indira Nagar on the 100th feet Road was becoming impossible, with all the noise, and pollution, and random constructions everywhere- all the beautiful houses were being demolished to be built into apartments, the traffic had also increased tremendously, it had totally become a commercial place- literally a concrete jungle.
Our children too were growing up, and living in the cramped apartment and with my husband's office too in it was becoming very tough.
We then decided, that it was time we built our own house, and moved away from all the chaos.
But there was a catch Whitefield was still not developed, it still lacked  all the facilities. Our son who was in 9th at that time would have no proper bus to reach his school, our daughter would have to drive for 1 hour in the peak hours to reach her college. And as for me I would not be able to go out as often as I wished to, because of the  same problems.
Anyway, finally we decided to just go ahead and make plans for building the house and later on worry about the various problems.

It was very exciting, we went through various books to see what type of Spanish house we wanted, and finally Ananth came up with the basic design, which we gave it to our neighbour and close friend Jyoti Dhingra who is an Architect/ Interior Designer, to work on it.
Then another business friend was given the Contractor's job, and so on,  till we had all our close friends working at some level or other on our house project.

Then we bought a very good book which was going for half price in some book shop- we were lucky, we immediately grabbed it, and from that day it was like a Bible for us.
The book was: Casa California  Spanish Style by Barbara Clemente.
Back then, we didn't have proper access to internet, like today. We had to do lot of research, it was tough running around finding things, and when we could not afford some of them,  doing it all by ourselves, was the only option, or finding an alternative, without losing sight of the main theme, for, everything had to look and feel Spanish.
Although it was difficult, it was not  impossible, for in India too there are  many things available,   only one has to patiently look for them and place them/ use them properly.

We wanted to use wooden rafters for the ceiling, but wood was very expensive, so we thought and thought and, finally, our Architect Jyoti got a brilliant idea, Bamboo- she said we could use that instead of wood, which turned out to be cheap, yet beautiful and very innovative and also suited the theme of our house. Our contractor had a Bamboo farm, and he selected the right size for our use. Then came flooring, we decided to go  in for terracotta tiles for both inside and the outside. Wow! again we not only saved lots of money, we also got a beautiful and highly durable,totally natural flooring for house. The color terracotta simply looks lovely and it gives such an earthy feeling. It not only keeps us warm in winter but also keeps us cool in summer, what more can one ask?
The same tile fellow agreed to design our roof tiles also for us, because we wanted it to look like  Spanish tiles, which has a slightly rounded cylindrical look, like the old tiles you might have seen in Indian villages, but of slightly good quality.

This is our reproduction of the antique door you see  in the book.

We found a very good cane boutique shop, just by chance, which designed cane furniture, so we selected our entire cane furniture from the various books that she had. We had our front door, a copy of an antique door we found in our Spanish book, done by our own carpenter, who not only made the door, but also all the doors/ windows and the staircase.
The stained glass panels too was done by a dear friend of ours. 
Stained glass panel in the ktchen

A modern bedroom with aloft with steel rafters
The open kitchen,dining living room layout. The hand painted tiles on the arch
Rock / pebble Garden
The terracotta Murals
 The Spanish Bell

 The Alamenda Creeper

 The arches

 Since we had lots of space, we decided to go a for a standard size swimming pool. And I had my own Aerobics Hall too, where I could conduct my classes.

Then another business friend of Ananth was handed over the landscaping of the garden, we liked the Moorish style garden, and Shakeeb our landscape architect came up with a very simple yet beautiful  Moorish garden for us. We also requested him to give us a perennial garden so that, there is never any need to change plants, and also plants that would not need much maintenance or need a lot of water.

Now comes the decorative tiles which is must in every Spanish house, which is what gives it a charm not to be found anywhere else. When we found the designer handmade tiles very expensive,  we made beautiful tiles ourselves. Our daughter and son pitched in here. We went and bought a good tile design book, and once they got the hang of it there seemed to be no stopping, for they came up with beautifully painted tiles in a jiffy. We had them put everywhere in our house.

We had a dream to build a beautiful, comfortable airy cottage, with a budget in our mind, and, I must say we managed to stay more or less within our budget, without straying too much from  it. And believe me, we had not even been to Spain, when we built this house, we visited Spain only after 6/ 7 years after it was built. It took us about 1 year to built this house. Isn't it amazing, that if one is focused to accomplish something, it can be accomplished?

 Oh, I forgot we even have a proper bell-- a huge brass bell which we have hung in our terrace, making a special arch for it to hang.

Well,  there are so many little little details, it would take me ages to go into each and everyone of them.
To cut short an already long story, I would like to end this with a comment made by an Architect from California, James Madson of Madson Design:

Hi Rama,
I think your home is beautiful, and a wonderful example of architecture gracefully informed by different traditions.  It's a great fusion of California Spanish Colonial with Indian motifs and materials.  The gable overhang at the front of your house is particularly notable, in that you captured the character of Spanish Colonial, with their heavy exposed purlins and corbels, but used slender bamboo beams and knee braces instead-- this manages to be loyal to both traditions simultaneously.

Just click on the pictures of our house displayed on the right side of my blog: Photoset from flickr, Our Spanish Villa In Bangalore India.

Did you enjoy the tour of our house, which part of the house did you like the most?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sridhar- My Brother & My Father And His Dilemma

This is about my brother Sridhar whom I have never met.  Yet I don't know why I am so fond of him.  I have only seen his photographs, and heard so much about him from my father and my mother.  No matter how many times I hear about him, it never fails to move me to tears.

 This is the story of my brother, Sridhar.  He was the third child born to my parents.  He was beautiful as a child, dearly loved by my parents and his elder siblings.  One cannot blame my parents for loving  him so much, more than they loved their other children. But nobody complained for he was loved by the whole family.
  He was very happy, till came the time for his separation from his beloved family.  My parents were constantly troubled by the frequent transfers that my father's army job entailed.  So my father decided to leave the children in one place, so that their schooling would not be disrupted constantly.  My maternal grandmother was living in Madras with her other children.  It was decided that  my elder sister would be left under her care, and was admitted in a good school there.  My father also felt that by sending money for the education and the upkeep of his daughter, he would also in a way lighten the strain on my grandmother's financial position at that time.  He wanted to help her in some way, without making it look obivious. (that granny being his own aunt - my father had married his own cousin)

 Now the two boys , that is my my elder brother Patcha and the younger Sridhar were sent to live with my father's elder sister, who was also struggling to make ends meet, having lost her husband at a young age.  She was also living alone in Madras at that time.  So the boys were entrusted to her care.
 My father now thought he had done a fine job by leaving his kids in responsible hands, and that, at the same time,  the money sent for their upkeep would also indirectly help his needy kin.  My mother, as usual was not happy, and she criticised my father, saying that, he always did things with ulterior motives.  But she could also appreciate and understand the difficulties the children were having to face, with their constant moving.  But a mother's love for her kids cannot be felt in equal measure by the man.  Therefore, for all practical reasons my mother had to give in.

  Things were going well for the first 2 years : the children had settled in their respective homes.  My mother had another baby girl, who was now about a year old.  My parents would visit my sister and my brothers during the summer.  Everytime they came visiting, my brother Sridhar would beg them to take him away with them, promising he would never trouble them in any way. With a heavy heart , they had to leave him behind after every visit.  The little baby girl was so cute with curly hair and beautiful eyes, that my brother was totally in love with that baby doll.  He would play with her, look at her with amazement, and would keep asking my mother how come she looked so beautiful and adorable. Again he would start begging them to take him along with them, now that he had such a lovely fairy like sister to play with.

 However his pleadings and entreaties had to be refused gently yet firmly.  My father was really moved by the compulsions that life had put him through, but also mindful of his childrens' future and welfare, he had to turn his heart to stone.  
The time had finally come for my parents to say good bye, but before leaving, my father took both my brothers to a toy shop and asked them to take whatever they wanted. My elder brother said he wanted the whole shop, for he liked everything in it.   Sridhar, on the other hand held my father's hand tightly saying, he did not want any toys, he wanted only his appa, amma and his baby sister, and he wanted to go home with them. "Take me with you, take me with you", he started crying miserably.  After pacifying him with great difficulty, promising to take all of them back with him on his next visit, my father left for Bombay with my mother and the baby girl,(my sister).  He could not bear the idea of his children living away from him any longer---- he could not see the pain in his wife's eyes anymore, he would soon make arrangements to take them back with him.

 A month later, my parents got the news that Sridhar was seriously ill, with high fever, and had been admitted in the hospital.  My aunt sent word to my father to come to Madras immediately.  Before they could even board the plane there was another telegram saying that Sridhar was sinking rapidly. By the time they reached Madras, their beloved son had already left this world. Sridhar was diagonised as having meningitis, and since he was so young, just 9 years old, he could not survive the severe attack.

 It is totally unthinkable, the kind of pain the child must have gone through, both physical as well as mental, in not having his mother and father beside him, comforting him, with their tender touch, and showering him with the love he constantly yearned for. 
 My father had tears in his eyes as he described the softness of his child's hand .....as if he was not dead, but just sleeping soundly....and  any time now he would wake up from his slumber, jumping and cry with joy " appa you have come to take me home with you."  It was the most unforgettable event in my parents life, and the most unforgivable, an event that must have haunted my mother till her death and is still haunting my father.

 What he did was probably right at that time. Still, one cannot stop thinking and wondering perhaps if Sridhar had not been left in the care of others, maybe, my brother would still be alive this day.  Or even if he were to die he would have died under our care. It must have had such an impact on all of us in some sub-conscious level, I literally shudder thinking about it. Though we all move on in life, somewhere the impact has left a  deep scar in us, and every once in a while it bleeds.

 This story has been told by parents to me so many times, that it almost makes me feel as if I know this brother of mine very closely. I was born three years after his death, and when I was conceived, my mother had great hopes that, Sridhar would be born again, and this time nobody would ever be able to separate him from her. But alas, my parents were disappointed- they were not to have their son reborn, and I came into this world instead.  In this life time they were not destined to see their lost son again.  Whenever my father relates this story of my brother and, relives the pain, we all  have unshed tears in our eyes.

I thought, I must write about my dear sweet brother who may have left this world years ago, but is still living in our hearts.

This is also a tribute to my parents, who had to go through all kinds of difficult situations in life, making tough choices, some of them really heart wrenching. 
In fact it is a tribute to all parents who have plunged in wholeheartedly, into to totally uncharted waters just so  that their children were happy at any cost.
This story, brings out the sacrifice, the hardships, that many parents have gone through, in many different ways to be the best parents. Parents do things for their children, not with any expectation from them, they just do it because they are parents and love their children, unconditionally.

Happy Father's Day (Parents day)To All!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Green Tara: The Buddha of Enlightened Activity & Glimpses of Sikkim

Tara (Sanskrit, "star") is a Buddhist savior-goddess especially popular in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia. Before she was adopted by Buddhism, Tara was worshipped in Hinduism as a manifestation of the goddess Parvati.

According to Buddhist tradition, Tara was born out of the tears of compassion of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. It is said that he wept as he looked upon the world of suffering beings, and his tears formed a lake in which a lotus sprung up. When the lotus opened, the goddess Tara was revealed. 
A similar legend has White Tara born from the tears of Avalokiteshvara's left eye and the Green Tara born from those of his right. In another legend, Tara was born from a beam of blue light emanating from one of the eyes of Avalokiteshvara. Tara is also the consort of Avalokiteshvara.

This picture of the Green Tara  was bought during our visit to Sikkim.

Green Tara, with her half-open lotus, represents the night, and White Tara, with her lotus in full bloom, symbolizes the day. Green Tara embodies virtuous activity while White Tara displays serenity and grace. Together, the Green and White Taras symbolize the unending compassion of the goddess who labors day and night to relieve suffering. 

In Buddhist religious practice, Green Tara's primary role is savioress. She is believed to help her followers overcome dangers, fears and anxieties, and she is especially worshipped for her ability to overcome the most difficult of situations. Green Tara is intensely compassionate and acts quickly to help those who call upon her.

The iconography and role of Green Tara is illustrated in this medieval devotional hymn:
On a lotus seat, standing for
 realization of voidness,
(You are) the emerald-colored, one-
 faced, two-armed Lady
In youth's full bloom, right leg out, left drawn in,

 Showing the union of wisdom and art - homage to you! Like the outstretched branch of the heavenly turquoise tree,
Your supple right hand makes the boon- granting gesture

,Inviting the wise to a feast of supreme accomplishments,

As if to an entertainment-homage to you!

Your left hand gives us refuge, showing the Three Jewels;

It says, "You people who see a hundred dangers
 Don't be frightened-I shall swiftly save you!"
 Homage to you
Both hands signal with blue utpala flowers,
"Samsaric beings! Cling not to worldly pleasures.
Enter the great city of liberation!"
 Flower-goads prodding us to effort-
homage to you!
---First Dalai Lama (1391-1474)
Sikkim is a land where Buddhism still flourishes: a land where some of the most beautiful Monasteries are to  be found, where people are fortunate to have this beautiful view of the most spectacular mountain,  Khang - cheng- dzonga from literally everywhere, from morning till night.
The beautiful play of colors during the sunrise and the sunset is absolutely breath taking. One has to see it to believe it.

                                                                                                                                   Rumtek Monastery also known as DharmaChakra Center

 One can see colorful prayer flags fluttering as if they are in constant conversation with God, updating Him about our worries, desires and aspirations.

Literally, the Noble Heaven- Reaching Mountain. A lake so calm it is said to be protected from all disturbances. Locals insist that not even a leaf falls on it to disturb its placidity; and if one does, a bird immediately swoops down to carry it off.
It was indeed a beautiful sight.

                             Did you like the story of Green Tara and the pictures of amazing Sikkim?