Aishwarya Rao
For those of you who think you know Parvathi...Thank you for loving her so much!
Kumar had telephoned the previous night and asked her for an unusual favor. "Will you meet me at The Fruit Shop tomorrow morning?", he had said with a lady-like hesitation in his voice. And for the first time in her life she wanted to refuse Kumar. "I suggest we meet in the evening. That way we can go to the beach" she retorted hoping that her best friend would get convinced by the sincereity in her voice. Afterall she was not yet prepared to break the news to him. How would he react to her story? Would he accept the idea of another man in her life? Would the three of them hang out in coffee shops together? Or would Kumar leave her life forever? A barrage of questions were haunting her while she waited for Kumar to suggest an alternate plan.

But Kumar was insistent. "No yaar. Why can't we meet as I suggested? What better plans do you have? Thatha and Avva are coming home by Lal Bagh. Amma has asked me to pick them up. And remember you owe me one. The last time you were upset about Prabhakar I heard you out patiently for an entire week. In fact I want you to spend only half an hour with me..." As Kumar went on and on with a list of reasons why she couldn't refuse him two thoughts came to her mind. Why was Kumar so insistent? And what would she tell Dev?

It was way past midnight and she had very little energy to argue with Kumar. Blasted son of a lawyer she thought to herself as she meekly agreed to his plans. She could always come up with something to tell Dev. A flat tyre or too much traffic near Nandanam signal. She was sure Dev would understand. Afterall he seemed to be the guy she wanted to spend the rest of her life with...
29th December 2002
Aishwarya Rao
This valentine's day Sid and I managed to escape to a spa - Aura, located in the heart of the city. We had signed up for an exotic (or should I say extravagant?) 'You and I' massage. After the customary refreshments we were ushered into a royal ruby red suite. There we indulged ourselves in a 'choco+strawberry+essential oils' massage executed in a traditional Balinese style.

The massage full of robust strokes, rolling and kneading almost miraculously cured us of the severe back and leg aches haunting us (following some terrific time on a kinetic honda on the much pleasurable roads of Madras!). This was followed by a rose and milk bath in an imposing jacuzzi and I couldn't help but appreciate the majestic decor that added an unmistakable aura to the entire experience.

I am not sure if it was the soothing influence of the ambient music, the regale setup or the personal service of the therapists but both of us seemed to be in a romantic daze for the rest of the evening.A must-go for any one who is visiting Madras and is overwhelmed by the city's snarling traffic and sunny madness!
Aishwarya Rao
From custom made pastas in Little Italy to the Chef's baked bowl at Eden's, Sid and I have explored almost every vegetarian specialty in the city this margazhi season...However our favorite continues to be the signature 'idli vadai sambhar' and 'degree coffee' in Saravana Bhavan on the busy roads of Pondy Bazaar.

There is something nostalgic about relishing the idli dipped in the delicious sambhar. And I have never tasted anything like what I call 'the red chutney'.

It reminds me of childhood. Of days when I used to return in Bus #2 and hurry down the busy roads in order to watch whatever appeared on TV. I used to wait for Amma to return from office, so that we could take the much awaited trip to the Siva Vishnu temple on Usman Road. Now I have to admit that my primary interest was to window shop on my way to the temple. The bangle seller, the poo-kaari, the second hand book store, the kulfi-wala and the the panjumittai-karan with his hot pink cotton candies provided the sort of entertainment that Door Darshan didn't.

And once the archanais and abhishekams were over, Amma would occasionally walk me across to the tiffin section of one of the earliest Saravana Bhavan outlets. On the days she had enjoyed herself at work I would be rewarded with my favourite 'sada dosai' in the A/C section on the third floor. The waiters who by then were our extended family always made it a point to keep an extra kinnam of my 'red chutney'. After dinner I would grab some somph in my right hand and salute the sentry at the door. Outside Saravana Bhavan, Amma would help herself to the customary paan and advice me on the repercussions of children tasting paan! If I managed a convincing puppy face she would buy me a Goldspot or Frooti from Shekar stores on the way home. We would walk back with an unexplained contentment in our lives. And I would thank Siva Vishnu for being so strategically located...

Almost 19 years later, the sada dosai with red chutney (and now a degree coffee has joined the list) brings back memories of innocent days and carefree moments...Of times when all that mattered was that extra kinnam of red chutney!

Aishwarya Rao
A couple of years ago I issued 'Q&A' from a library in the neighborhood. That particular copy had hardly been issued in the months it had been in circulation. I noticed a marketing bubble slapped on the cover page. It read 'Now being made into a film'. After a hundred or so pages I was convinced that Vikas Swarup had a knack of being intricate and untangled at the same time. The story teller's incredible gift was reflected in his straight forward story line and the boquet of experiences he had tied together and in style.

Now three years later I sit in front of the TV screen, watching the BAFTA awards on Sony Pix, getting excited and cheering for the incredibly talented and humble cast and crew of the film Slumdog Millionaire. Beginning with a very simple acceptance speech by the genius who scored the music for the madness of Mumbai, A.R.Rahman, the unassuming and enthusiastic responses of Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto to the cheerful Danny Boyle with an infectious pregnant smile, the team seemed to deserve every bit of attention and awards that were coming its way!

There seemed to be honor for the film for simply being stacked against the likes of 'A curious case..' and 'Changeling'. With 7 stunning awards and nominations in almost every other category Slumdog Millionaire, the real underdog, beat the much awed 'A curious case of Benjamin Button '. As they received their awards and congratulated each other, the Slumdog team made competition seem irrelevant.

And now if media reports are to be believed not only did the film win India a couple of statues ,it is now attracting the attention of world travelers to the slums of Mumbai. Now my curiosity is restricted to the big stage... I only hope there arent many surprises at the Oscar!
Aishwarya Rao
Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri's work(s) have become an obsession of late. Her latest novel, Unaccustomed Earth is rich with thoughts and stories that cannot be quickly forgotten! A rather (brutally) honest reflection of the lives of Bengalis in The United States. The following are her words from the novel (that I am deeply fond of for apparent reasons).

Sudha had no fondness for her younger self, no sentimental affection for the way she had looked or the things she had done. She had looked of course, perfectly ordinary, her black hair worn in pigtails or braids, grown to her waist...And she had done ordinary things: played clarinet in the school band...And yet she could not forgive herself. Even as an adult, she wished only that she could go back and change things: the ungainly things she'd worn, the insecurity she'd felt, all the innocent mistakes she'd made. 137/ Unaccustomed Earth/ Lahiri, Jhumpa