Virtue in the Quality of Insincerity

I came across a reference to Rebecca’s iconic opening lines in Stephen King’s ‘Bag of Bones’, for the first time. Later, the same lines kept popping up in many book lists. Finally, I read (binge read) Rebecca a few months ago. I am not going to squee all over the place about how much I loved this book. That’s for another day.

Long after finishing Rebecca, there was a line from the book which resonated deeply with me – virtue in insincerity. This has been a topic of constant debate between me and my friends that I thought I should write a blog about it.

“…If she doesn’t like you she’ll tell you so, to your face”

I found this hardly comforting, and wondered if there was some virtue in the quality of insincerity.

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

Say, your friend ordered a brand new dress on sale and is pretty psyched about it. She asks you if you like it. You don’t . Well, what do you say? In such situations, does voicing your genuine opinion really matter? The next time she wears that dress, she will definitely know that there is one person in the room who thinks it is hideous. How about just saying ‘It’s nice’. You don’t have to go out of the way to adulate them. Just a simple white lie to make them happy. If not to make them happy, at least to avoid that awkward ‘Oh’. This is a lame example, but still it relates to the big picture – treading the thin line between frank and irritatingly frank. Consider this,

Person: “Hey, please don’t mistake me but your hair totally looks like soan papadi” *chuckles*

Me: Thank you so much for enlightening me about the state of my hair, in the most appalling way possible. By any chance, did you drop your brain-to-mouth filter ?

A common excuse for such levels of ‘honesty” is that, it is better to speak your mind than talking behind someone’s back. I beg to differ. Unless your opinion is really called for or helps in genuinely improving things, there is nothing wrong in a little insincerity .Of course, this could be misunderstood as an inability to accept criticism. Again, the thin line surfaces between constructive criticism and making offensive statements. My point is, insincerity does have its virtues sometimes. I am sure many will disagree (have disagreed in the past) but given a choice, I will always choose the satisfied look on someone’s face with a mere ‘Nice’.


P.S: The Soan Papadi conversation did happen. (I know!)


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The Castle


Mama says I have a wild imagination. Is that good? Maybe. But Mama always says it with an eye roll. She thinks I will make a damn good writer someday. I doubt that because I am awful at grammar. She makes me write a page every day. Anyway, we came back from our Scotland tour yesterday. Gam and I had an amazing time. I went horse riding for the first time in my life. Mine was a boy (I think) because our instructor kept saying ‘Atta boy’. I dunno don’t know if he meant me or the horse. Gam was very nervous though. After that, we set up tents near the beach. Mrs Cromley gave us delicious sandwiches. I swear Papa ate 5 big ones himself. You know, I couldn’t sleep at all because I was so bloody excited. Waves crashing and owls hooting made the night a little spooky. I was expecting something to happen having watched enough movies to know something crazy will happen during camp nights. Too bad it didn’t. On our third day, we went on a road trip to Aunty Mon’s village. It was a mistake if you ask me. Papa didn’t know one turn from the other. Half the time we ended up getting lost. Anyway, that evening I saw the most brilliant castle I had ever seen. There were three tall towers lit beautifully with orange lights. I almost startled Mama with my gasp. It would have been great to go near and have a look if my parents hadn’t chickened out like that. Papa was like ‘That ruin? Don’t be silly. That place looks like it’s going to crumble. Not a good place for kids’. Mama was not her usual eyerolling self though. She glanced at me with a worried look. I could not understand. What ruin? That place made Buckingham palace look poor. Papa steered out of that road quick as a cat. It was a huge disappointment for me. Oh and I swear to god I saw a man(or a superlong bat) floating near one of the towers. Mama would never believe me. She never believes me. Ok, they are calling me to bed. Pip pip !

Eddy. O


In case you didn’t know, Hogwarts looks like an old ruin to muggle’s eyes.  (Only muggle’s eyes )*Winks*

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Remembering Alan Rickman


I was in train to Chennai when I heard the news of Alan Rickman’s death and prayed so hard that it be a hoax. I cried silently in the almost empty compartment. The tears didn’t just mean the death of my favourite actor. Alan Rickman, in many ways, symbolized the best part of my childhood.

I started this blog six years ago because of a book which totally changed my life. Until then, I was a mediocre teenager with very average English skills and almost zero self-confidence. All that changed after I discovered Harry Potter, when I was fourteen. It introduced me into this magnificent world of books and since then it has been my best teacher. Today, I want to write about the man who was a significant part of that glorious childhood. To the best Snape we’ve ever had:

Severus Snape being my first favourite literary character, I was waiting keenly for his introduction scene in the movie. There he was, swooping into the classroom with his black cloak billowing majestically. He kept us all bewitched with those words ‘There will be no foolish wand waving or silly incantations in this class’. Oh, he was every inch the Snape that I had in mind. The baritone voice and that unique diction inspired me so much that I put in extra effort in my next English exam. My English Ma’am called me alone to the staff room and asked me if I really wrote the essay answer myself. I couldn’t help but smile at my inside joke. I remember the times when I spammed the entire D drive with Rickman wallpapers; enacting Snape scenes with my sister, complete with Alan’s tiny nod-like jerk (a mannerism we noticed in many of his movies); rewinding snape scenes and watching it repeatedly until the dialogues were by-heart; vowing to design my first website as a fanpage for Alan Rickman.

He was no less charming in his other movies. That disappointed look on Col.Brandon’s face when he sees Marianne with another guy (I kept thinking she was such a fool to ignore him). He made us root for the villains too. Who can ever forget his stylish Hans Gruber? I sure wished it was John Mcclane who fell off the thirty second floor. Even though Harry (Love Actually) was a jerk, Alan Rickman was too adorable to hate. Frankly, I can only remember more of the Sheriff than Robin Hood. The list is endless. Rickman was ridiculously charming in all the roles he played.

When I read Station Eleven recently, there was one thing that I didn’t quite understand. The death of a character’s favourite actor deeply affects him. I wondered how a person can be so sad about someone whom they have never met. Now I do. There are thousands of potterheads all over the world now, mourning the loss of their favourite Slytherin. Each of us remembers him for our own special reasons. To me he was my first hero, first crush and Severus Snape. I can’t imagine the grief for those people who’ve actually met him. If only he’d pull a miracle like Jamie. We truly, madly, deeply miss you, Alan.


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Autumn Leaves

He was dressed in his finest. The dark brown hair neatly parted to the side. One look at him and you can easily deduce that he is very meticulous with his appearance. He held the drink gracefully in his hand, smiling towards the band. The lines on his face suggested he was in his early forties. But the crow’s feet as he smiled sort of framed those glimmering eyes in a beautiful way. This was his night. He earned it. The food, jazz and the aura of this place. No one would ever guess the truth about him. That it was his only suit. That life meant two grueling shifts to make ends meet. He was supposed to do great things in life. Alas, somewhere life took a wrong turn and he ended up where he was. But he spent one night every month like the person he was supposed to be. The band was finishing the song.



“And soon I’ll heard old winter’s song..”


Recently, I was listening to Stan Getz version of Autumn Leaves and instantly I imagined this lonely man sitting in restaurant . Someone who did and didn’t belong there. Then, a few more details about his life took shape. It was not a solid story but I just wrote down whatever came to my mind when I listened to that song. So has this happened to you? A vivid character coming to life from a song? If so, do write about it🙂

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Cartoon Therapy

You are in that magical place where everything is perfect. A pink little face is poking out of the upstairs window. Well, look who it is! It’s Heidi. Oh and there is Grandpa fixing breakfast down below – toasted cheese and fresh milk. Before you think further, the cool mountain breeze gently whisks you away down the hill for there are many more people to meet. On the far side of the hill, there is a yellow blur bobbing up and down. On a closer look, it appears to be a daisy flower hopping merrily on a pogo stick. Immediately you look around for a blue octopus. Sure enough, he is lying down on a bright yellow mat spread out near the pool. Oswald’s looking funny in his dark sunglasses. Is it Summer already in the Big City? There are buildings shaped like ice creams cones and giant guitars. You breath in the vivid colours of the city, filling your heart with warmth. Wait, did you hear that? Someone’s shouting out for help. You are running fast towards the sound. A chubby little boy in sailor’s hat is running hysterically in every direction. Behind him Lulu is cackling wildly with a jar full of paint. Strangely, no one seems to notice you. But you know them. You grew up with them.

Go to youtube. Pick a cartoon. Sit back and relax. That’s the mantra. Oswald’s usually my favourite pick. Oswald’s city does not have humans. So, less drama. He checks both sides when crossing the street. Left. Right. Left. Every time! Though a little off-key sometimes, he sings with confidence. There is so much boundless kindness that it is the perfect antidote for all things negativity.  One time I made the mistake of choosing courage the cowardly dog. This episode was so disturbingly bizarre that I was left with only one thought – How did the hell did I watch this show as a kid? As much as cartoon therapy works, sometimes I can’t help my 23 year old self creeping into the thought process. Yesterday, I was watching this episode. Towards the end, when Oswald drips ice cream all over the floor, I got seriously impatient. Dude, who will clean up the mess?


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I waited for a message in a bottle. Not even a soda bottle came my way. Buried treasure in my back garden. Nothing. Kind little notes from strangers. Nada. A brilliant idea in my dream. I didn’t even get a blog post idea in my dream ! One may call it side effects of watching ‘Amelie’ but I have waited patiently for such crazy things to happen ever since ‘UFO research’ became my first childhood ambition (More on that some other day). So today I was in for a surprise when I came across this magazine in the old book shop near Pycroft’s Road. It almost made up for the above things. Well, almost.

I was buying old Reader’s digests when I found this 2003 November edition of NatGeo on the top of the pile. My eyes wandered to the name on the top right corner. It had my sister’s name, V.Vasudha. Complete with initials!  The handwriting looked familiar. The d and h looked like hers. I turned the page to find her name again. This time more like her handwriting. This was good enough reason for me to buy this book. I pored over each and every aspect of the book with my sister. The chances of it being one of her books were very likely. For one thing, my sister was at her nerdiest self in the early 2000s. She used to buy these bulky ‘Tell me why’ books and NatGeos while I doodled on many of them. We are ninety percent sure it is our book but we still have some doubts on the handwriting. She felt the first page looked like my handwriting and the second one hers. I was just eight or nine when this edition came out. Both of our handwritings have evolved rapidly since then.

All said and done, I want this to be my little serendipity. What are the odds of coming across your own book after 15 years? This  always been one of my dearest fantasies. I will settle with it. But if you are a “Vasudha” belonging to the other half, well thank you🙂😉

So, have you ever had such serendipitous moments ? Do share in the comments ! We can never get enough of those.

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The Martian By Andy Weir


The story of ‘The Martian’ was probably everyone’s fantasy at some point of time. What would you do if you get stranded in a desert with no sign of life for a million kilometers. Only the desert here is Mars. I would strongly recommend this novel to all space nerds out there.  Andy Weir’s debut novel instantly pulls you into the story right from page one

Mark Watney is a NASA astronaut who gets almost killed in a dust storm. Believing that he is dead, his crewmates evacuate Mars. If you think that is the worst possible thing that could happen to him, you are dead wrong. Mars throws every possible shit at him but Watney’s incredible will and survival instinct comes in handy.  Watney is not your usual whiny narrator. For a man who is doubtlessly doomed, he is surprisingly witty about it. His sardonic narrative combined with rich technical details makes Martian an engrossing read.

Spoilers ahead!  If you are wary of too much technical details, don’t fear. The book has a right mixture of suspense and humour to get you going. Watney’s conversation with NASA is bound to leave you in splits. Another thing which I really loved about the book is the characterization of Watney’s crewmates. Even with the limited screentime(?) that they have, they come out as distinct personalities and not mere caricatures. Yay to Commander Lewis! Now moving on to the things which I felt could have been handled better. I know there is no time for melodrama in such fast paced book but we never get to see Watney’s vulnerable side. He is almost always high on energy. This I felt is a tad unrealistic. Also, some of the characters down in NASA were a bit ‘Hollywood’ to me.

So in a nutshell, The Martain is a compelling read which you can very well finish in one sitting. I will definitely read it again to brush up the technical details. The movie adaptation is coming this October and I can’t wait to see it!

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Abstract shapes splashed with vivid hues and spread over sleek wooden frames. Do they exhibit some sort of geometric brilliance or have abstruse meanings visible only to artistic eyes? I can’t make head or tail of it but I’ve been seeing them everywhere lately. I have never understood Modern Art. All you artistic folks out there, what is Modern Art really? No sarcasm there. I am genuinely curious about it. Now while you roll your eyes or think of ways to explain modern art to me, I thought it might be fun to provide a noob’s perspective on Art.

There are three kinds of Art – Good, Bad and the Enigma.

yoko ono art

What’s that ? Anybody? That is one bad art ! No surprises there. That’s not one but three big piles of crap. Literally. Considering that it was done by Yoko Ono, it sort of puts things into perspective. Don’t even get me started on Ono’s green apple art. But if you think about it, may be it has a deeper meaning. I think this symbolizes destruction because it reminds me of the time some mobile operator guys dug up our roads for cable work and then the street pretty much looked like this.

Moving on to the second category – the good art. It’s very straightforward. The artwork should have something that actually resembles real world stuff – trees, people, birds and the usual. Like this :


I saw this painting in the Bank almost an year ago. I was so struck by the beautiful simplicity of this picture and the mysterious way those two deers(?) are looking at something in unison. Without going into much detail or at the risk of sounding like Ananth Vaidyananathan, I am just going to put it simply – that is one lovely piece of art.

*Drum roll* And now let me introduce you to … the enigma. It’s bright; colorful; incredibly simple; and sort of looks like something I usually end doing in MS Paint.

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Welcome to the Hotel California


Living in a new city can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially, if you don’t know the local language. Things as simple as getting a ticket in the bus could be complicated. Ultimately, it takes a LOT of gestures and broken words to make yourself understood. You may go through a dozen crappy experiences before you end up with the right thing. But at the end of the day you have an awesome story to tell and a treasure trove of experience to share. That being said, don’t expect an awesome story from this post.😛

As a vegetarian, my options in the locality are pretty limited. Within a month of my arrival, I knew that my chances of getting ‘Vatha Kozhambu’ was pretty bleak. Until one day, I saw the dark green signboard with the words ‘Chennai’ on them. Let me call the restaurant ‘Narnia’ for it claimed to be a ‘shortcut to Chennai’. Vatha Kozhambu was back in the game. Ha! The day came and we friends decided to get a takeaway and have a movie marathon for the night.

The words printed in Tamizh near the entrance was so inviting compared to the series of bizarre things that happened next. We took the elevator (which by the way looked ancient with rusting grill doors and barely had enough space for three people) and landed on the second floor. Pitch darkness. Were we actually travelling to Chennai ? Was this some sort of teleportation machine stuck in between space? I wish. We were on the wrong floor. Once we moved up to third level,things looked reassuring again. I went inside the restaurant. The ambiance was fantastic – the dim golden lighting,the circular tables with glimmering glassware and pristine white napkins. Everything was perfect except that the place was completely empty. Not a soul in sight. Now, Narnia was really starting to scare me. First the pitch darkness in the second floor and now a deserted dining hall. Oh boy! In a few seconds, a man came out of the kitchen door. He gave the menu and alas, no ‘Vatha Kozhambu’ in the evenings. So I ordered something else and sat waiting. There was absolute silence except for grinding of machinery from the kitchen. The place had an eerie quality to it. Gaping emptiness and grandeur. If only there was an old English Butler by my side, it would have been the perfect setting for a Hitchcock movie.

After a while, some one entered the restaurant. At last another customer ! Before I could even heave a sigh of relief, the man went straight for the speakers and fiddled around with the music player. So he was one of them. Perhaps the owner. Grr. An eerie old tamizh song blared out of the speaker. The slow melancholic tune was enough to creep the hell out of anyone. My friend and I became so uneasy. When we were making dumb jokes to ease the tension, suddenly we noticed out of the corner of our eyes someone moving. We when looked towards the direction, there was no one. I asked my friend if she noticed the movement. She did too. It was definitely scary. In a minute or so, it happened again. This time we could not dismiss it as a trick of the light. We were starting to get a little panicky but kept looking for the source of disturbance and there it was ! A big fat mouse running through the tables. Phew! Our 20 minutes encounter fizzled out like baloon.

I couldn’t wait to pay the bill and run straight for the door. While all this happened, I couldn’t help but remember the lyrics of ‘Hotel California’ and chuckle a bit. I am never going back to Narnia again…. and my quest for “Vatha Kozhambu” is permanently shelved!

P.S : This is my first post after nearly a gap of nine months. College to Job transition. Big story. But I can say with delight that I discovered so many new things in these nine months. Moved to a new place. Met wonderful people. Missed home. Rediscovered me.🙂 Now back to blogging. Home sweet home🙂

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Honey, someone shrunk our house !

We were going back after 15 years and of course we were bubbling with excitement. My sister and I grew up in that house. I took my first steps there, spoke my first words and rode my first bicycle (with balance wheel of course😛 ). We had little picnics in our backyard inspired by the Enid Blyton books that my sister read. The large turkey towel was neatly spread out under the tree. We had everything from lemonades prepared by our mom to giant bottles of Fanta and little chips packets to Peppy cheese balls. Sometimes we picked guavas from the tree for the picnic. We sat there talking about all the things only a 7 year old and 12 year old could talk about. Perhaps discussing the Little Lulu show or school gossip. I don’t remember very well. Anyway ,the place had flowers of so many different colours– pink, yellow, white and the red honey flowers. I remember waking up early every December just to pick the purple “december poo” which bloomed only in the winter. Our flat even had its own spooky ghost story. The watchman committed suicide in the house opposite to ours, so they said it was haunted. Life in that apartment was every bit fun for me. Three months back, my sister came on a vacation to India and the first thing on our ‘to-do’ list was to visit our old house. We successfully ticked it off our list. I am going to write all about that but there’s also a twist in this story. Wait, I will get to that part. Anyway, our memory of that place was always grand. Though the apartments were small, the huge outdoor space and a beautiful garden made up for that. Going back there to relive those memories was very overwhelming.

The auto turned towards our street. The mechanic shop was still there and the butcher’s. There were many shops that I didn’t recognize. We were almost there. The big house next to ours came into view and the next moment the auto stopped. My mom got down and quickly went inside the house. I stood where I was. My sister didn’t even get down from the Auto. Something was not quite right. The building in front of us wasn’t our house. No way ! It was small. The steps to the ground floor was tiny and don’t even get me started on the corridors . This place looked nothing like our old house and yet I knew it was our house. There was no mistaking the door number! I forced my sister to get out of the auto but she kept insisting that it was the wrong house. Once we got over the initial shock, we headed straight for the backyard. Another wave of shock ! No flowers and no Ashoka trees. There was only a car parked in that place. Did we really have picnic in this tiny space ? I thought. My sister was wondering if they sold a part of the flat. Oh, how I wish that was the actual reason. ! We both went inside the house feeling like a pair of deflated balloons.

At last, my sister voiced out both our thoughts. The place was never really big. It was just that we were small back then. And every thing looked through a child’s eyes. Oh boy, how our memories deceived us. Returning after 15 years just to realize how so wrong we were. But we came to terms with that pretty fast and moved into the house. How do I describe the exact feeling I got when I stepped into the living room (or hall as we call it) ? It was like a fast forward film of memories. The time when I broke a glass fanta bottle right in the middle of the hall and how my sister frightened the hell out of me saying that the shop keeper would put me in jail for that (she used pull a lot of cock and bull stories back then); watching the Mahabharata serials as a family; coming home from school to watch Little Lulu; the first time we got a landline phone in our house and my sister sixteen prank calls from dad’s office; my teaching English to our maid Mani; our Grandma’s ‘curd rice’; jumping on the bed, dancing to Muthu movie songs with our cousins; playing kitchen set pretending to be ‘Mallika Badrinath’; getting my first soft toy rabbit ‘Kalpana’ (which my mum mistook for a teddy bear). Oh I could go on and on for another ten blog posts about it.

I took a lot of pictures to cherish those memories. Even though a lot of things changed about that place, a few things remained the same. For instance, my father’s helmet was in the same place even after so many years like an antique peaking out of the past.



The big house next to ours looked like an old ruin. Back in those days, a snooty old lady lived there with at least 10 doberman dogs ! We were (at least I was) terrified to go anywhere near that place. And that is our version of Boo Radley house !

Boo radley house our version

That is our favourite guava tree. Speaking of which, I remember two twin girls in our building whom we called the ‘guava thieves’. It was their tree as much as it was ours but I don’t know why we called them that. May it was the way they moved stealthily. Now I think about it, they strangely resembled ‘Wednesday’ from the Adams Family.


I was quite surprised to see my Grandma’s ‘ammi kallu’ intact under the cabinet.

This is the famous picnic spot that I was talking about. Now now, don’t laugh at it😛 It looks so much better with tree (which I couldn’t get into the frame).


We were hoping to meet our watchman Madurai who’s also Mani’s husband. I think he was on leave that day. Sometimes, Madurai picked me up from school if my classes got over by 12 ‘o’ clock. He was a kind old man and too bad we couldn’t meet him. When we almost finished our tour of the building, we met Kuppu. She was another maid who worked in one of the houses there. Kuppu has known me ever since I was a baby and we were mutually surprised at seeing each other after a long time.

Aaand that was our visit to the old house. So is our memory of that place tainted because it wasn’t like how we imagined it to be ? No. That big old place is still unchanged and fresh in our memory. Besides, I remember something my sister said, “Back then it was our home buzzing with activity, now it’s just a house”.

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