To err is, er… inhuman


 Ask any copy editor/sub (never a reporter!) and the chances are, he/she has proofread his/her way through life. Ever since they handed out some little pink ‘slips’ off the teleprinter in the Mass Comm school I studied in, I have been trying to make sense of spelling, punctuation and grammar for the past 20 years. And with a vengeance, if I may add!

And so most of my ilk proofread our way through menus, billboards, catalogues and also newspapers and magazines. The most recurring proofreading memory that often appears in my dreams is of my first-ever editor scratching his way through copies with a red pen. I saw commas in what I thought was the most unlikeliest of places (until the red pen struck!), also semi-colons and colons punctuating long-winding sentences and sometimes, I could feel his sense of frustration on the pages… there was a tear on the page when the grammar went haywire. It gave me heartburn at the end of the day but it taught me a lot – every extra space between words, wrong alignments and ‘widow words’ must be chopped off with a flourish.

A copy editor does not become one if he does not make his point by pointing out a mistake wherever he is! While some feel that inner sense of ‘gloating’, others throw away all traces of shyness to happily point out a typo. In short, the typo types wear their badges with pride in the journalistic world.

I still proofread the old-fashioned way, spectacles perched on my forehead, a red ink pen for company as I wade my way through slugs, headlines, intros, fonts and spaces.

Remember, copy editors are not perfect. While I proof-check every e-mail before sending, I do manage to send a few, whose subject lines begin with ‘Hell from Rekha’. Needless to say, I don’t receive any favourable replies to these e-mails.

Who says life is perfect even if you try hard to proofread it!

P.S. (Please don’t proofread this piece. I never claimed I was perfect!)

Image: Google Images




A Letter to Me – Blogging Challenge – Day 6


A Letter to Me – Blogging Challenge Day 6

So, I am lifting an idea from the magazine I edit, which was in fact, the cover story for December. We had asked five women to write a letter to their one-year-younger selves… and was surprised by their responses. So I thought I’d do it too… And in case you guys missed me, the weekend was a break from blogging!

Dear Rekha

The year’s coming to an end… and don’t you wish you could say, what a year it has been! Obviously you can’t say that because you are not the glass ‘half-full’ kind. You worry too much – and even being happy can sometimes be a chore. It’s those little voices in your head that remind you that ‘too much happiness cannot be a good thing’.

Well, you haven’t been overly pessimistic either, rather this year has seen an ‘in-between’ you. Not something on the lines of a ‘fine balance’ but if learning to ignore toxic people and things means a few defining moments, well you’ve had them.

Speaking of voices in your head, 2014 has been a whole lot better than 2013. The panic attacks are now few and far between, and you’ve slipped down the ‘perfectionist’ rung by a notch or two. Now that’s good. Maybe it’s those anti-depressants or maybe not. I think it’s all to do with many months of good stories, retail therapy, carom and Pictionary sessions and some great ‘young’ colleagues.

The best moments of course, has been at the kid’s brother’s wedding where you got to meet a lot of your relatives. That it passed off without incident has really heightened your sense of optimism! Maybe the mega-event you were part of a couple of days before the wedding was more exacting, and this one seemed like a cakewalk. Whatever it was, you emerged stronger and that’s what’s most important.

The sad part was four of your colleagues/friends chose to move onto different pursuits and pastures. Leaving behind a void that’s difficult to be filled. Your sounding boards, your shopping companions, foodies-in-arms… who says you cannot have friends at work? New people have entered your life and the future promises to be good! But the old bonds shall still remain, you cross your heart and hope!

It’s also been a great reading and ‘soaps-viewing’ year for you. You’ve binged on books and Western TV soaps as if there was an apocalypse waiting to happen. Hope you tone down the ‘viewing bit’ in the New Year. For there is only so much of ‘The Good Wife’, ‘Homeland’, ‘Veep’, Elementary’, ‘House of Cards’ you can watch when ‘Sherlock’s’ waiting round the corner.

Ah! You forgot that you turned 40 this year! An important milestone. That passed by without much fuss. Just the way you wanted it to be

As 2015 dawns and will bring with it an empty nest, heartburn and heartbreak, tidings and tribulations, the one attitude that will perhaps keep life going is, “It’s all good!”

Yes, “It’s all good!”

An older Rekha Baala

Are you a Pochemuchka!


While surfing the Net for something important (I do that once, in a while, the important bit, I mean!) I came across a list of ‘untranslatable’ words. I liked this one very much.

Pochemuchka (Russian) – Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions.

Yes, we all know a few of these. So this post is dedicated to all the Pochemuchkas who make life both irritable and interesting. While I am sweet and all, I usually answer these questions in my mind, ‘adding one screw you’ at a time! My imaginary answers are in brackets.

In India
Aunty Pochemuchka: “Aiyyoo, what happened to your hair? Trying to show off, aa?”
(The same as what happened to your dressing sense. For God’s sake, why are you wearing a nightie in the middle of the day and haggling with that poor vegetable fellow?)

Super snoop neighbour Pochemuchka: “So you must have amassed lots of gold, na, being in the Gelf and all?”
(Yes, they hand out gold coins free in Lulu every week, you didn’t know?)

Super distant relative Pochemuchka: “Your son doesn’t look like you or your husband!”
(You didn’t know? We got him from Lulu! )

Super curious neighbour Pochemuchka seeing you step out of the house: “Evidekka? (Where are you off to?)”
(Oh! You didn’t know? They are handing out free gold here too!)

Househelp Pochemuka who makes an appearance only 10 days in a month: “Oru visa ayichu tharuvo? (Will you send me a visa?)”
(Sure, they hand them out too…)

Supposedly family friend Pochemuchka: “Every time I see you, you seem to have gained weight.”
(Yes, Aunty, like your daughter standing beside you, who is ten years younger than me and double my size. Perhaps you should start commenting from home?)

Acquaintance Pochemuchka: “You have been in the Gulf for 17 years. You must be loaded!”
(Thank you for the ‘loaded’ question once again, you sexist!)

Advertising Alec Pochemuchka: “When will it sell? Why will it sell? How will it sell? Where can it sell?”
(And I thought I was the journalist!)

Model Pochemuchka: “I am the best. I am the best. I am simply the best.”
(You know there’s something called Photoshop that we can use to full advantage?)

What would life be without a Pochemuchka to make it exciting? For the intolerable, I have another untranslatable word…

Backpfeifengesicht (German) – A face badly in need of a fist!

(Image courtesy: Google Images)



Ghar Vapsi? PK Hai Kya?


This is the response I get, when every once in while, I express my desire to go back to India. After all, I have completed 17 years in this wonderful country called Oman and am almost a part of the landscape as any other, except for the niggling excuse of not knowing Arabic. I use ‘dear’ and ‘darling’ liberally and swear by Almarai milk and Al Rawabi laban. I meet people I know everywhere I go as anonymity is not an option here. I have many good Omani friends who have taught me to say ‘khalli valli’ with pride.

So according to my friends here and also in India, ghar vapsi is not an option for me. I am too idealistic for India, they argue! “You’ll end up leading morchas just because the bank teller didn’t respond to you or your house help took 10 days off in a month and that Vodafone doesn’t work in your village.”

Okay, so idealism will not work. But the beautiful scenery definitely will, I counter, conjuring visions of me enjoying a steaming cup of filter coffee on the open balcony. “Haven’t you heard of mosquitoes, my friend, the special Kerala types,” another friend lovingly reminds me as I throw the imaginary well-entrenched scene out of the said balcony.

“I shall travel to far-flung places and discover India with a backpack for company,” I say and this elicits the loudest laugh. “Ha ha. Did you know a round trip from Cochin to Delhi costs Rs.20,000 and more? You can travel to Muscat and back and to another country with the same amount. And if you are planning on going by train, let me wish you good luck for just logging onto IRCTC.”

So will there be no ‘ghar vapsi’ for me, I ask, with a slight trepidation in my voice. “Buddhu,” my friend says, “Haven’t you realised yet? Home is where the heart is!”

Blogging Challenge Day 2 – Dear City Folks…

Woman in the wilderness

Dear city folks,

Thank you for taking my picture. It’s not as if we don’t get enough visitors in the wilderness – staring at us wide-eyed and going crazy with the camera. You are not an aberration, you are the norm! Ever since that crazy sayippu came with his one-tonne camera and put us on TV, we’ve had loads of people coming to disturb the serenity of the place. But since you asked so nicely, I shall smile, even with that back-breaking weight on my head!

What did you say? That your ancestral home was just 15 km away? And you discovered this place only now? I know you folks, the ones who go to all those posh green places like Sri Lanka and ignore the beauty in your own backyard! Tch! No wonder the oldies always say, Muttathe mulaike mannam illa!

Yes, that huge sack on my head weighs a tonne, almost! And it has firewood… And I do such trips atleast five times in a day trekking 10 kilometres up and down. You people call that huffing and panting, hiking? Try it with firewood, I say!

Here, have some tender coconut water to ooh and aah over. And that little boy there, ask him not to stare… yes, I can wear a saree and in your parlance, go trekking! Ask your models to do it on the runway… and we shall see! And yes, we’re no lesser than men… it’s Kerala after all! We outrank them in sheer numbers.

Yes, you can bathe in that waterfall over there. It’s cool and inviting! But keep your excitement to yourselves. And then perhaps, you can hear the birds cooing and the leaves rustling in the breeze. And feel the wind wipe away your worries and the water soothe your souls!

Thank you for coming. I urge you not to spread the word around. We don’t want people coming in droves and spoiling the place.

But for now, enjoy the cashew fruits, tender coconut water and while leaving, don’t forget to take your trash along with you!

And since you’ve been such good people, I pray that the ‘sounds of silence’ remain forever in your hearts.

Goodbye forever!


Thangamani Chechi

*sayippu – Malayalam term for foreigner (white-skinned)

*Muttathe mullaike mannam illa (You have no value for the flowers in your own garden!)

Al Fresco

Blogging Challenge – Day 1

Al Fresco

Al Fresco

She couldn’t believe her ears when he asked her to meet him at the ‘pink’ restaurant. They would be dining al fresco. After two years of meeting in cheap, seedy motels and at pit stops away from the city for ‘quickies’, this was definitely a first where epicurean delights would be involved, out in the open! There was no bona fide reason for her affair with the suave, stylish and married politician. But she liked the fact that he was a bon vivant!

But she was no bou ideal… And she didn’t mind being dumped, al fresco… in style! After her Carpe Diem moment, of course. Where she literally seized the meal!

Hola folks. After a long period of hitting a writer’s wall, am bouncing back (hopefully) with the return of the blog challenge with Sushmita of The Dork Life (


Getting away with murder!

She kills her seventh-month foetus because her husband who is already an alcoholic, will drink more (logic that defies comprehension). And also because she already has a daughter. Another one wouldn’t ‘t fit into the scheme of things. So says my house help in India.

I wish the belan she is using to make the chappatis would magically fly and hit her head. But I don’t think it would knock any sense, because the society she lives in is patriarchal, misogynistic and still in the dark ages . I wish the asshole doctor who did a sex determination test and agreed to kill the foetus is caught, some day!

Most of the days, human nature is beyond my understanding. Murder of this kind, including!

(At 7 months of pregnancy, the baby is about 36 cm (14 inches) long and weighs from about 900 – 1800g (two to four pounds). The baby’s hearing is fully developed and he or she changes position frequently and responds to stimuli, including sound, pain, and light. If born prematurely, your baby would probably survive after the seventh month of pregnancy.)

Thank you, for being you!


Writing is never easy. The words we weave are the emotions we want to express… and of course, be understood. Little thoughts have been dancing around in a corner of the brain, bouncing off it walls, yet not getting together to form coherent feelings. That’s how I’ve felt, in front of the laptop, for the past two weeks, trying to spank those thoughts into action. For what is felt, I feel, must be said.

The pink envelope contains a beautiful handwritten letter – a string of memories of the past five years – of friendships coming into its own – a celebration of life. And lessons from someone 11 years younger. Friend, kid sister – tags do not define relationships. It also contains subtle advice, the kind that I need to read every day.

That it’s easy to be an asshole but it takes a lot of courage and strength to be kind and compassionate.

Yes, she said this about me. For, in my weakest moments, and the many whirlpools I have skimmed the edge of and gasped for air, she has and continues to listen.

The book of course is ‘Love in The Time of Cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – not her book that lies somewhere in the recesses of my overflowing bookcase but one which was bought and not given (don’t ask, it’s complicated) but one which was read at this unusually vintage stage of my reading life (complete with nerd glasses). And I fell in love with the book and the thought behind it.

Is there a connection between the two? I don’t know! But I feel there is an ‘eerie’ connect between sentient souls.

To Gulu (that I emphatically declare derives itself from Gilehari (Hindi for squirrel), here’s to The Dork Life and hitchhiking your way towards the galaxy!

Thank you, for being you!

P.S. (I cannot let go without an anti-joke 😀 You know what makes me smile? Face muscles :P)


The Accidental Tourist

The customary ‘that makes no sense’ intro
Two student trips to Kodaikanal in a span of four years, and I could safely say that I could climb atop a bus and pose for pictures. And look down upon lesser mortals. And lest I forget, the foolhardy mission to walk across the Athirapally Falls in the peak of the monsoon were the highlights of my travel pursuits. Unless, of course, you count every Tambrahm family’s enforced vacation to the ‘native place’ which comprised only temple trips around Tamil Nadu after which we vowed to never go there again until the next year, when I would want to go on another weight-loss spree. Every trip, without fail, gave me gastro-enteritis and atleast two days stay at a hospital on return.

I’m not the type to slip on a light backpack and travel the world. Why, I didn’t even visit the Jewish Synagogue five minutes away from home until I was 20. And it is really famous, if you must know. If I see a beautiful place, I just plonk down – never mind if it’s the hard ground or a weather-beaten bench and just enjoy the scene. My favourite place was and is the Mattancherry Boat Jetty – where I can feel the salty air of the backwaters and watch the row boats bobbing above the water.

Ten years into Muscat life, we decided to go for the customary Singapore-Malaysia trip. Two days into the torrid weather and I felt violently sick. A kind doctor in Malaysia suspected dengue. So I coughed my way throughout the trip, seeing two baboons in place of one at the zoo, shooed away birds at Jurong Park, stayed cooped up in the hotel room at Genting and made life miserable for the family until I landed in Madras and slept for two days straight.

The only family trip I’ve enjoyed so far is to Sri Lanka because I didn’t have to wait queues miles long, to see a single star on the horizon or wake up at 5am to get on top of a tower, the same view I could have partially seen from the 30th floor of my hotel. It was one long road trip but with enough pink jackfruit, rambutan and yoghurt with honey, I did not even mind the single sleeping leopard that we saw at Yala National Park. (I realised a year later, Banerghatta National Park at Bangalore had more of ‘em cats and therefore did not warrant a trip to Sri Lanka.)

Anyway, I digress. Thankfully, my short press tips to Beirut, Istanbul and Switzerland were fun. I liked the company, the pace and the five-star stays. Travelling by business class topped with OTT services meant I enjoyed every bit of it. Except for Indonesia which was a mad trip with OCD guides, a few hours at every city (including beautiful Bali where we spent a total for four hours. I’m still crying over that one) flights every day, unsmiling travel exchange clerks and tofu at every meal. And the sheer volume of the currency. The only country where I got to be a millionaire with a few dollars.

We try to ‘do’ a trip in the home country every year and they are certainly different. Unplanned, unorganised, and all at the wrong time of the year, they have been, nevertheless fun. My goal here is to therefore, list, one accidental discovery at a time, beginning with a hill station just 35 kms away from the in-laws place, Nelliyampathy, in God’s Own Country.

All for a few brilliant photographs
After having just recovered from a whirlwind trip to the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady and the vineyards at Cumbum and trying our phones on both sides of the border (BSNL in Kerala and Airtel in Tamil Nadu, ah what an idea Sirji!) and other such trivial pursuits like travelling in a KSRTC bus for seven hours inside a forest to spot non-existent elephants, we returned home for a few days of rest.

With the nephew’s arrival from parched and humid Madras, our travel bug bit us again. First was the customary ‘rain-soaked’ experience. Walking back from the cinema hall after having seen a Bangalore tourist documentary (Bangalore Days), we were the only four foolish people (Two adults and two children) to walk 2 km in the rain without umbrellas, even stopping at various places for ‘selfies’. After a round of fireworks from the paati, and in my case, the mother-in-law, we went out in the rain again and also planned a trip to Nelliyampathy the following day.

nelli1 The Nelliyampathy Hills, in Palakkad is around 35 km or so from Ayakkad. That’s why we never visited it until now. And instead of taking the usual tourist summer route, we decided to traverse the path in the peak of the monsoon when visibility is so low that no driver would actually venture with a gang as mad as this one! But as good Palakkad folks and neighbours go, Rajan our driver was by now, aware of our frequent bouts of insanity (he had seen us frolicking in the rain, you see!) and acquiesced.


So armed with a Nikon (mine) and a Canon (my nephew’s) we set out for Nelliyampathy. First, we travelled to Nenmara, where along the way, the husband, for the thousandth time, pointed out the college where he had studied to cries of ‘Oh! No, not again!’ and traversed our way to the Pothundi Dam which stood at the foot of the majestic Nelliyampathy Hills.

nelli 7

There are 10 hairpin bends and numerous waterfalls which I am told flow only during the monsoon. There was not a soul around and we had the road to ourselves as we stopped every few minutes to take photographs of the valley and dam below. The cloud-caressed peaks played hide-and-seek and when they came into view, they presented a different perspective altogether, sometimes dark, sometimes shiny and at other times enveloped in a mist so thick that our driver kept on repeating, “Njaan idhu munbe kanditilla!” (I’ve never seen this before). So we just said, “Okay, you got a chance to see it now. Keep going!”

All this while, the cameras were having a field play, with shots of every kind – on a rock, beside a milestone (the caption already thought of: The road less travelled), the coterie sprawled across the road as if in a hartal, or candid shots of shivering in the cold or the wind unbalancing the carefully-thought of poses!


Poor Rajan had no choice but to brave the wind, the rain and the numerous stops to show us Nelliyampathy in its full glory. If the weather is clear, you can see vast stretches of paddy fields that form Palakkad. But with three-fourths of the party coming from desert lands in the Gulf and one coming from parched Tamil Nadu, the rain and the mist offered a wonderful respite.


At the centre of the town, we were approached by Manoj, a jeep driver who offered us a thrilling time. Little did we know what was in store. He took us on a journey inside the forest for three hours through treacherous paths, as our bones creaked, our stomachs rattled and our mouths made screeching noises. And it had to happen, the jeep got stuck in the mud. It was hoisted back on track by the men and we reached Seetharkundu traversing through various tea and coffee plantations. The view there is out-of-this-world (one push and you’ll surely be out of this world!) and the mist played with our cameras straining to catch the gossamer-like light and the rain-washed faces. The happiness has to be experienced to be believed.


With the rain coming down in torrents and the sky turning dark, we slowly started making our way down the Nelliyampathy Hills. Our feet ached, there was throbbing back pain for the older adults, but there was a strange sense of contentment and peace. As the kids took the backseats and fell asleep on each other’s shoulders, I smiled!

Life is full of accidental journeys. You just don’t know when they begin and how they end.