Monday, November 30, 2009

Customer service on the streets

I was standing in front of what used to be the spot where my favourite roadside jewellery guy used to be at Pondy bazaar, Chennai bemoaning his disappearance. I was told that Pondy is in for a facelift, a mall was going to be built at that spot. I had been buying costume jewellery from the same vendor for 3 visits spanning 6 years. His shop like the rest of the shops there has no signboard but it was easily identifiable thanks to his position right in front of a landmark store on the street.

We’d actually become friends because he made me realize every single trader there spoke Malay. Apparently most have them have spent a few years in Malaysia. So if you ever head there don’t bother with Malay. He used to have the widest selection of jewellery and he would hand me box after box which would seem to appear from nowhere. I tried looking for his shop but couldn’t find him neither did I find anyone selling as many items like him. That’s when I spotted the book stall across the street.

The last time I had been in Chennai, I had put off buying books at the railway station waiting to head to a bookstore. This time I decided I should get a few books. Good thing coz I never found the time to get to a bookstore. This was probably my fastest and easiest book purchase thanks to the kid who knew every authors books by heart.

Me: mitch Albom iruhka?
me: do you have Mitch Albom’s books?
he: The 5 people you meet in heaven?
he: The 5 people you meet in heaven?

Me: yes aprohm khaled hosseni?
me: yes what about khaled hosseni?
he: kite runner?
he: kite runner?

Me: illeh thousand splendid suns
me: no the thousand splendid suns
he: iruhkuka – paul cohelo pudusu vendama?
he: yes Ive got that – do you want Paul Cohelo’s latest?

Me: pudhusu vehndam avar famous book enna?
me: not the latest what was his most famous?
he: alchemist?
he: alchemist?

Me: yes aprohm wings of fire iruhka?
me: what about wings of fire
he: iruhke
he: I have that

Me: Dan Brown puthusu iruhka?
me: Dan brown’s newest?
he: athu Monday than vahrumka
he: it will only arrive on Monday.

My mind was pretty blank at the moment so I told him to recommend me a book and he recommended Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger – which turned out to be an excellent recommendation. I flipped through the pages of the books to see if there was any errors and found one on Khaled Hosseni’s book, I was about to reject the book when he told me will you wait – I can find you another copy. So we did. He was gone for a while and I ended up telling a few of his would be customers, just wait for a second he will be back ;p

Cool conversation and first class service eh. If I had tried this at a bookstore like Kinokuniya or MPH they would have told me go find for it yourself or use the machines. And only if you can’t will they grudgingly follow you that too if you have the code of the place the book was supposed to be.

I remember the small bookstores I used to go to in Central Market, the uncles used to know every book there. If that place was still convenient to head to I would still go. Just to hear someone actually know their books.

He came back 5 minutes later running and panting. I bought the 5 books and made a mental note of his location. I’ll look for him again the next time I was in Chennai.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The booky ones

Love in the present

Book sales sometimes make me uneasy. Actually most sales are scary but the book kinds can get weird. Buying books at a sale is very different from getting them in a bookstore. If only books were cheaper, I prefer buying them at bookstores. For one its organized, quiet and very few know it alls work around handing free advice.

I was at the Big Bad Wolf Sales yesterday and while there wasn’t many great finds, I did find two books from one of my favourite authors Maeve Bincy and a long time favourite blogger Waiter Rant. Like his blog his book doesn’t disappoint, I’m already half into the book. I wish Penguin would come up with another sale, THAT was a great sale.

Anyway while I was walking the crowded aisles I thought of a post. The characters you meet at a book sale. The post was inspired by a know-it-all who kept dishing out his advice up and down the most populated Fiction aisle.

Know-it-alls
Usually men, they dish out advice to strangers everytime they touch a book. Apparently they read every book. Usually alone, targeting woman and speaks in a foreign accent though he’s as local as it gets.

The Snob
Glares and rolls eye at everyone for being there, eventhough they’re there for the same reason – cheap books! Usually female and walks with chin high up in the air. Gets aggregated when people accidentally knock into them and continues to roll eyes even after they apologise.

The snatcher
Eyes the book you’re holding and the moment you put it down, makes a grab for it. Sometimes even takes it from a persons hand. The one staring at people more than the books with shifty eyes.

In-a-world-of-their-own
The blur ones who are usually blocking the way oblivious to their surroundings, while there’s a long queue trying to get ahead of them. Then proceeds to knock people of their feet by barging towards their next destination.


The Lost One

The bf who was sent on a goose chase to find a book. Constantly on the phone with gf while nervously looking at all the mountain of books and people.

The greedy
Grabs 50 books but only buys 3. Always seen carrying baskets/ boxes filled to the brim with books.

Joined at the hip
Two friends who linger around each aisle discussing book sales and everything else expect actually looking at the books. Wait long enough and you’ll get the latest gossips, usually female.

The nosy I’m better than ya
Looks at you and then looks at the books in your bag/box/basket and snickers. Thinks they’re the most intelligent well read person in the place.


The wannabe reader

Lingers around book sales/ bookshops looking for someone to date. Carries 2 books, vaguely looks at the books on sale but is actually checking out wedding fingers for a marriage band!

Candy rush
With eyes that look like they’re about to pop out of their sockets, they lovingly caress each book as if it was their lover.

The groupie
Doesn’t really care for books but their friends were going so they went. Usually seen bored with a bunch of people.

The pervert
Is there for only one reason. to take advantage of the crowded place and brush on people.

So which one are you? I’m a combo of candy rush with mild greediness ;p I can be found sitting in a corner patiently contemplating a box of books and trying to keep in a budget which I always exceed! ;p

Now shopping for books in India is an experience on its own, puts local bookstores to shame on customer service and I’m talking about a roadside stall. That’s up next! ;p

My other lists ;p
weddings
markets

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanjai Tales

Meditating

After arriving in Thanjavur and refreshing ourselves, we headed downstairs to get dinner at the hotel restaurant. Since the restaurant had an aircond section we headed there only to encounter a 2 tabled room. There was a family of 4 – the mother, a daughter and 2 sons already occupying the other table.

I sat facing the family and as I was giving our orders to the cheery old man. I realized the whole family was staring at us. One son had even turned himself to face us and was just staring.

A king ? Upwards Taking a break
Now I hate being stared at especially in a restaurant. If I had been in Malaysia I would have asked them what they were staring for. Usually I’d get a sheepish nothing.

Anyway since even after ordering I was still encountering the stares, I told my mom in Malay about the staring.

Immediately the four began boasting in Malay about who they knew, about caste, and their plans. There was one plan that had me in giggles. Now the one guy boasted about how they should go early at 5 am to attend prayers at the Thanjur Peria temple so they can watch the sangkalpanam (special prayers).

workers

Now the reason I found it funny was since the temple was taken over by the central government, very limited prayers were done and most of it was structured as an office would function. So the best time to go would be after 7am which was the time we were planning to go.

And as predicted when we arrived at 7 the temple was pretty empty and there was abhishegam taking place but no one was allowed to see it. So we sat down and waited for the puja while singing the sivapuranam quietly. While we were waiting a bunch of telugu tourist and 2 busses of North Indian Shiva devotees arrived. Now why did I differentiate them? The telugu tourists were super bossy and rude, they came and stood right in front of us and after a while left coz they got bored waiting.

Charging Elephants

Where else the North Indian devotees, some who came brandishing Shiva tattoos broke into a melodious rendition of a Hindi Bhajan in praise of Shiva. The most amazing thing was everyone sang and that’s super rare in Tamilnadu. I rarely see people singing in temples or appreciating others. They were a noisy bunch but what else would u expect from such a huge crowd. Just then we all got a lovely darshan as the curtains opened to show us Brihadeshwarar himself.

Now back to that lovely family at the restaurant. The moment I spoke in Malay they could have sad something instead they decided to boast that too stupidly. Everytime I’m overseas we always spoke to Malaysians we would meet on our travels. I would have loved to have sat down and spoke to a fellow Malaysian, but then I don’t converse rude people.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

In love ;)

Falling in love with this voice - u learn something new always - just keep ur eyes open ;p

Legendary Salsa singer Hector Lavoe with El Cantante - The Singer

Thursday, November 12, 2009

If I was a villain

I’d kill before I speak – then I’d tell them why I killed them while I watch them die. I don’t get why villains always have so much to say giving some hero the chance to find and finish them

I’d hit the destroy button first – again villains speak too much and waste brilliant plans

I’d have 3 escape plans for each destroy plan – I MUST live to destroy the world again

I’d use generic stuff – makes it harder for CSI to trace me

I’d not leave clues – this isn’t a game I’m here to kill

I’d get a dumb sidekick – better than one with a conscience or greedier than me

I’d dispose the body permanently – like 3 4 5 ways and I’d do it myself and not trust a sidekick

I’d kill the witness – including the sidekick

Monday, November 09, 2009

Daylight Robbery

Grace

(photo had nothing to do with the article and was not taken during the said performance)

The progression of Indian arts in Malaysia often leaves me with a bad aftertaste. Outsiders are often awed by the glittery jewellery and costumes, not knowing the industry has become a get rich quick scheme for so called teachers who are nothing but half baked opportunists.

There are probably more dance schools in the country then dancers itself. Most of these schools that seem to spring like mushrooms in the monsoon season teach only Bharathanatyam, even though India has another 6 official traditional dances Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam and Kathakali.

Prior to becoming a credible Bharathanatyam teacher, the individual should not only have mastered the 108 adavus (steps), hastas, bedas, jathis, karanas and more but it is essential that said individual be an apt choreographer who understands the basics of rhythm and is able to make their students comprehend, able to do the nattuvangam (rhythmic playing of cymbals) and has sound Carnatic music knowledge for dance is nearly impossible to execute without music.

Unfortunately not only aren’t these schools teaching all 108 adavus, they’ve shrunk it to a mere 40 or less steps for their convenience, rarely teach the theoretical part of Bharatanatyam nor are they accomplished choreographers or nattuvangist. Even worse most of the new breed of teachers aren’t even average skilled dancers.

They breed and grow in small towns, blindfolding innocent gullible families who know nothing about dance into thinking they are such amazing teachers and dancers.

When I started learning dance as a kid there were just a few main schools in the Klang Valley. The quick study set of adavus had already begun but the one thing I can attest is most of the dancers and the teachers made sure the quality of dancers were at least average and their performances were usually accompanied by live musicians were the teacher was always the nattuvangist.

There was however one school that often got dished by the other schools as her students were always less than average and she was not a nattuvangist.

Last Saturday I attended a Salangai pooja of this new breed opportunist who made that school’s dancers seem like the best dancers in the country!

Now the Salangai Pooja scam was probably created by one of my ex teachers who was one of the leading dance schools then. The truth is salangai poojas are supposed to be simple poojas for the salangai (bells) done at the teachers home/school in front of the Lord of dance Nataraja which will then allow the students to begin performing.

However Malaysian teachers created a new tradition where a function is held in a temple or hall just like an Arangetram (debut solo performance) but for a group of students who share the cost among themselves. It is usually done with 5 to 7 dancers where an Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Sabdham and Thillana are performed together with at least one solo padam for each dancer. A total of 7, 8 dances are performed. The students are usually accompanied by musicians and the dance teacher helming the position of a nattuvangist.

The Salangai Pooja on Saturday had 5 dancers and 5 dances. None of the children were ready to perform, they had no sense of rhythm or coordination, they didn’t know where to begin or where to take a step as the music progressed, they weren’t familiar with the music, each adavu and hand gesture was a mess, there was no aramandi, there was no 90 degrees holding of arms. Was it their fault, NO it is entirely a teacher’s responsibility to prepare a student for a performance. Not everyone was born a dancer but they can be taught the nuances of a proper dancer. While excellence is a students responsibility, the sharpening of basics is a teacher’s responsibility.

And there’s that so called teacher, not only was she singing off key much to the displeasure of the amazing violinist she held the nattuvangam in her hands for show, played 1 minute of a 1 2 3 4 beat and stopped. Oh and guess what she teaches music as well!

The poor children and their unsuspecting parents had been made a laughing stock to fill the teacher’s coffers. Ah the story doesn’t end there. Let me explain why I am so angry and have titled this article as such.

Bharathanatyam is by no means an inexpensive hobby. Every single item needed for a performance can cost a sizeable amount of money but there are cheaper alternatives. Originally dance costumes were sewn out of Kanchipuram silk sarees (RM 250 and beyond) which can cost an arm or leg depending on how much you can spend. To cut cost people began using the cheaper but still costly Dharmavaram sarees (RM 180 – RM 250), people have now begun to use imitation silk sarees that cost between (RM 50 – RM100) to further cut cost. The cost for stitching this costume in Malaysia usually comes to about (RM 180 – RM 200). So the cheapest with an imitation silk saree will cost about RM 300 max.

Then there’s the jewellery. There are 3 kinds of dance jewellery. The most expensive being Temple jewellery which can cost from about RM 700 – RM 1200 for a full set depending on the number and kind of pieces you purchase. Temple jewellery is actually jewellery made of silver and plated in gold. Every 5 years depending on its wear and tear, the sets can be re-plated in gold and stringed for a fee to bring back its lustre hence why its worth purchasing. My set is about 20 years old now and I’ve only reset it once.

Then there is the new imitation Temple Jewellery which looks nearly as same as the Temple Jewellery from afar but is clearly different when inspected closely. There is also the fake stone dance sets. Both these sets cost nothing more than RM 300 for a full set and can be easily purchased in one of the cash and carry outlets in Malaysia in Brickfields and Klang.

Guess what the parents were charged from Saturday’s function? A solid RM 2000 just for the imitation silk costume and an imitation temple jewelery set. Even if you minus an RM100 for the bells, hair and flowers that’s a RM 1300 profit from each student. The parents were told the costumes were pure silk and it was a temple jewellery set.

The debacle doesn’t end there, each student was made to pay RM 750 as guru dakshina (teachers special fee) which doesn’t include the extra fees for intense training that they paid for the last 2 months. Not enough each student was told they must present the teacher with a saree. You know what’s the best part, the guru dakshina which is supposed to be given on the day or after was collected during Navarathri about 1 and a half months ago. Perhaps she needed money for Deepavalli?

When I did my Salangai Pooja 20 years back, the pool was split into 5 for the 4 artist and teacher and we each paid RM 500. That’s a total of RM 2500.

While times have changed and cost has definitely increased, the last I heard a teacher was being paid about RM 1000 while the artist (usually only 3) were each paid between RM 500 – 800. That’s a total of RM 2800 max.

While I’m not sure how much the musicians were paid (total of 3), I do suspect the singer was paid a larger sum than usual. The teacher got a total of RM 3750.

Now the singer whom I once knew, laughed at me for doing a Salangai Pooja years ago saying such things don’t exist, she also made fun of my ex teacher. For the numerous times she made fun of other teacher’s students in her old establishment, she sure sang and guided such an amazing production by this great opportunist who apparently is her disciple. I am sure she is mighty proud of herself.

Of course the cost of food and other event related fees hasn’t been added. The opportunist just made a total of RM 10 000 from one Salangai Pooja. While I do suspect some of the money did go to a third party for the purchase of costume and jewellery, the bulk of it has gone to the opportunist.

Fees is one thing, cheating people is another. If you had quality I could have toned down this post, you had neither that nor integrity. I wonder how you sleep at night? After cheating unsuspecting parents of so much money?

They say cheated money never sticks. Trust me I have seen people lose their health and wealth as much as they scronge from others.

So if you’re planning to enroll your child, sibling or even yourself in Bharatanatyam, perhaps its best you enquire about their future extra costs, ask around about the teacher, find out if they teach the shortcut dance or the full syllabus, or ask me and I’ll gladly recommend a few institutions in Klang Valley and Ipoh.

If you’re reading this on Facebook and you are from my town, there is only one good master and he teaches in the Kali temple. I have watched his class and seen one of his students Salangai Pooja. The rest are a bunch of clowns just like the opportunist above.

I didn’t need to write this, what concern is it to me if someone gets cheated? The thing is I rather be the horrible person who tells off others for their scam then sit and do nothing. Trust me this article will make its way to the opportunist. I could write her name and schools name but I’m reserving it for now. If you must know who it is I’ll message you.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Deepavalli 09

I guess I am a super patient person. Well it took me 6 years to actually start celebrating Deepavali again. Since Dad passed away I’d totally stopped celebrating. Even the year I had gone to India and did my usual shop till you drop workout, I came back and didn’t bother wearing any of the new clothes and just went on with life.

But it was about time I moved on, with sil at home, it wouldn’t be nice to continue mourning. Pothys Chennai kinda joined in on the plan. While shopping there we kept eyeing the same colours and finally decided to colour coordinate our silk sarees. So we got me, mom and sil a similar shade of green saree. The sarees looked awesome ;p

We were super pooped from our holiday, what with the baggage drama on the eve of the eve. The next day we had to clean the house, get stuff and decorate the place. We even got time to visit the Brickfields Deepavalli fair for some last minute bargains. The good thing is we finally found bangles that matched our green sarees. I had searched the whole of India for that green but since everyone was shopping, colours were limited.

Mom and I were falling asleep throughout Deepavalli day though every now and then someone would pop in and we would wake up to entertain them. Since bro and sil had to go back to sil’s mom’s house our usual routine was disturbed and we left our Deepavalli visits for the evening. The good thing is we got to watch awesome fireworks.

We spent the next day finally sleeping off our holiday fatigue. Yeah you always need one day to recover from holidays ;p

A week later we were off for Deepavalli at a family friends place while preparing for our own open house celebrations on Sunday. At some imaginary point between ourselves we had all decided we’d only do our yearly parties if someone got married.

Earlier in the day I had actually gone to the Thrill the world and so when I got back I got busy decorating the house. Of course we all donned our lovely green sarees. Kerv of course was the earliest, should have told him a later time! Lol I wasn’t even ready yet! Everyone had fun and the food was a hit – vege, yummy fried chicken, mutton peratal, sambal and dhal ;p

The good thing is people arrived in batches though at around 8.30 the house was super full and I had no time to take photos of ppl. One of my brothers friend who was coming to the house for the first time was hesitantly standing in front of the house peeking for my brother.

So I told him “Come on in - Don’t worry you’re at the right place” Poor guy blushed away. Humm guys still blush? ;p hehehe

I had my nephew and nieces to play with, all three have become so much cuter. Unfortunately they got bullied by my cousin, had to do constantly keep an eye on the big kid from bullying them. She was actually going to lock them up in a small dark room! So cruel!

After everyone left the whole family decided to go on a photo spree which eventually turned into a photo lesson for the cousin and bro’s friend. Phew we had fun all right, tiring but it was fun ;)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

MJ ruled

... my weekend ;)

Blowing Kisses

It was such an MJ weekend. The moment I got back from India I had purchased tickets for MJ’s This Is It. While most people were watching the premier show, I was patiently waiting for Saturday to come.

The sad part of watching the movie is it makes you wish even more than MJ hadn’t passed away. And then I envy everyone one of those dancers, crew and musicians, everytime they weren’t on stage they’d be watching MJ perform in awe. There was so much new material, a new Thriller, a new Smooth Criminal, the awesome set for Pretty Young Thing, and the wow inspiring march for my ever favourite song They Don’t Care about us.

As expected MJ was hands on every detail from choosing the dancers to minute details in the production. Evertime there was a mistake he’d go “That’s ok that’s why we have rehearsals”.

There was this one part when Ortega questions why the music hadn’t started and the music crew goes “He’s sizzling.”

MJ had a message for all – “The world has forgotten to love its time we relearn how to love” ;)

Earth song is the one point where you might tear up if you’re a fan. The other times you’d be ooh aaing the amazing sets, his singing, dancing and laughing at his antics ;p

At 50 he was still an amazing dancer, frail but amazing, his voice was still awesome, his clarity still as sharp and ever awe inspiring. I might just go watch it again ;) Loved every bit of the movie. I still wish a million wishes MJ hadn’t left us.

Right after having the most expensive mixed rice ever, we headed home in time to get ready for our Halloween party – Skool Daze with Red FM at the Rain Club in Kelana Jaya. We’d gotten tickets courtesy of a friend. Thanks babe. ;)

The Blues

Since it was a school themed party, I dug out my only white blouse, black skirt, wore 2 pony tails with pink ribbons, and went as a half faced zombie. But it kinda looked like face art lol. Ish ish

The location was pretty nice and since it was about sunset there was a lovely orange sky to shoot. The club is wuite nice too with a huge revolving door and funky lights. Wanting to beat the Saturday night jam, we had left early and arrived right on time only to be the first people at the party. Lol oh well at least we beat the jam.

Who you're looking at?

The good thing is we got to mingle with the DJs who actually came up to the early birds and chatted us up. That’s when we met Britney ;p

I made the mistake of telling my friends we should smack him ;p The next second it was arranged and we were posing for photos ;p hehehhe

People started trickling in an hour later, in that time I found a few victims to pose for me at my fav little spot with the red walls ;p

The party started with the DJ’s introducing themselves and starting of the first game – Bobbing for apples. We cheered for all 5 contestants as they tried to get them apples. The first 2 actually didn’t get any! The 2nd game of the night was guess the old school hit and because the headmaster wouldn’t let anyone copy or approve ½ marks the highest score was 4! There was also lots of lucky draws and yummy gifts, Kerv won himself a Reebok goody bag. The Red fm team also secretly learned up dance choreography for a mix of old Skool music. Really good job ;)

Dancing

Then he had to push me into the next game and what do you know, it was a MJ dance impersonation and they picked Thriller. I was like at least I know the moves. 6 of us were put to test and while everyone danced well, they were looking for MJ moves. I came this close to winning and lost out to the guy who grabbed his crotch and I’m like what the heck do I grab? Lol Darn but he did deserve to win ;p Anyway thanks to the awesome crowd who cheered me to second place.

All in all it was a super enjoyable party. This is the second time I’ve been impressed with the Red Fm team. Not only don’t they have huge egos like a few radio stations, they’re pretty funny too. I’m changing radio stations man!

We headed of for a drink at Old Town Kopitiam. Since it was super bright there I was getting weird looks from the patrons, ermm zombie makeup was still in place ;p lol