Thursday, January 30, 2014


During our last vacation to India, we visited Madurai.  We have never been to Madurai before.  So it was fascinating.  Some facts about Madurai.
Madurai is more than 2500 years old.
It is the 2nd largest city in Tamil Nadu, next only to Chennai. (Sorry Coimbatore. You may be the 2nd largest metropolitan city.)
It is said that once it was the seat of Tamil learning.

This city was planned and built in shape of a lotus. (BJP influence? No no. Not 2500 years ago.)
There are so many tourist attractions.  Since we stayed only for 2 days, we could visit only 4 places. 
Meenakshiamman Temple.  It is believed Lord Indra constructed this temple.  This temple was destroyed by Malik Kafur.  It was rebuilt by the second Nayak King, Thirumalai Nayak, in 1623.  It was in the list of top 30 nominees for the “new 7 wonders of the world”.
Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal.  This palace was built around 1626 AD by King Thirumalai Nayak. Architecture is a combination of Dravidian and Islamic styles.  There is a light and sound show in the evening narrating the story of Silappathikaram, both in Tamil and English languages.  We were kind of disappointed because we had too much expectations.  We somehow thought it would be something similar to Musical Fountain show in Akshardham in New Delhi.
Aayiram Kaal Mandapam (1000 Pillar Hall).  This was built in 1569. An engineering marvel.  It is said each pillar, when struck, produced different musical notes.  Over the years it has lost that ability.
Murugan Temple in Thiruparamkundram.  This is the first and foremost temple for Lord Muruga in India.  This is the first veedu (camp) of Lord Muruga’s Aarupadaiveedu   Aarupadaiveedu means six battle camps for Lord Muruga.

Finally, how can you leave Madurai without drinking Jigarthanda.  I am told it means cooling of heart.  Very famous in Madurai.  It is supposed to cool your body and heart during summer.  So we ordered not one but 2 large glasses for each of us.  Tasted good. I don’t know if it cooled our body and heart.  But it sure did raise our sugar level.
Here are a few photos.  (I could not take any photo inside Meenakhamman Temple and Aayiram Kaal Mandapam because the week before our visit, there was some bomb blast in Hyderabad.  Therefore, they prohibited any camera temporarily for 10 days.  If they banned cameras permanently I can live with it.  I do not understand the logic of temporarily banning cameras in Madurai for 10 days as a result of a bomb blast in Hyderabad.)

There is a saying in Tamil “Kumbakonathil idi idithaal Kutralathil mazhai peyyum”.  In my English translation, I will change the names of the cities for betting understanding.  Here goes: If there is a thunder in Ahmedabad, it will rain in Allahabad.  Same way – Bomb blast in Hyderabad, ban cameras for just 10 days in Madurai.  That too, only during our visit.

King Thirumalai Nayak
Meenakshiamman Temple 
Entrance to the Mahal (Palace)
King's Throne
Palace Museum Central Hall 
Tools used 100,000 years ago 
10th Century Thematic Sculpture
Palm Leaf Manuscripts
Evening Light & Sound Show
Aayiram Kaal Mandapam (1000 Pillar Hall)
Kind Courtesy of 
Murugan Temple -  Thiruparamkundram
Our Jigarthanda 

PS: I want to thank Mr. Ragu Lakshminaarayanan of for allowing me to use his photo of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Double Toilet

Ah yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Winter Olympics are finally here.  Starting on February 7, 2014 and ending on February 23, 2014 the XXII Winter Olympics will be held at Sochi, Russia.  For those of you who are Roman Numerically challenged, XXII is the same as 22.
Speaking of the number 2, do you know what a bathroom stall looks like at the Olympic games next month in Sochi?  Look below:
This is the double-toilet stall in the men’s room at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
                                                             (Courtesy: Yahoo)
Everybody, Somebody, oh what the heck – ANYBODY Please tell me what the hell is going on here?
What is the purpose of having two toilets in the same room without some sort of divider/wall/barrier?  This absolutely baffles me. 
Here are some of my thoughts after seeing this:
This is for those happy couples who have to do EVERYTHING together.  They can’t stand (or sit) to be separated.
Russia “only got” 50 billion dollars to make the Olympics happen so you know they had to cut corners and save money (and some politician had to make FAT money on this deal).  Therefore here is the result of cost cutting.  And you thought India was bad for cutting corners.
You know that you are always being watched in Russia, so one toilet is for you and the other one is for the military police.  You get no privacy!  Anywhere!
Perhaps this is a new sport at the Olympics.  Synchronized bowel movements. Would prefer that it be played at the Summer Olympics though.  It’s gotta be brutal to go through this at freezing temperatures.
Russia is known for trying to reward the lower walks of life.  Perhaps this new Olympic sport – the defecathalon (similar to decathalon) is the only sport where someone can get a gold medal for a “crappy performance”.
Why is there a trash can in the middle of the two toilets?  Why is there no toilet paper?  Exactly how is this supposed to work?  Oh my…I just vomited a little bit.
I guess I can be positive and say - Thank God they are not facing each other. Or built like the pic below:

                                                                  (Courtesy: Yahoo)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Non-Reciprocated Privileges

(This post is a tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor.  This is not a serious post.  Therefore, please do not come out with merits and demerits of the issue.)
Due to the Devyani Khobragade incident, the government of India is now in the process of taking away “non-reciprocated privileges” for American diplomats in India.  This includes taking away special airport access for American diplomats.  India is also going after spouses of U.S. diplomats, who are working in American schools, for tax evasion.
If India takes retaliatory action, do you really think that the Americans will accept this and remain quiet?  Of course not - they will also retaliate.
I know Barack Obama.  Barack Obama is a friend of mine.  He asked me for ideas on how to retaliate against Indians living in the USA.  Here is what we discussed:
Indian diplomats in the USA enjoy having 24 hours of electricity.  However, American diplomats in India do not have electricity for 8 hours a day.  Therefore, the American government will now cut off electricity for 8 hours a day in the homes and offices of Indian diplomats living in America.
Indian diplomats in the USA enjoy having a water supply that is non-stop.  However, American diplomats in India have water in their taps only every other day.  Therefore, the American government will now turn off the water supply to the homes and offices of Indian diplomats every other day.
India does not give H1B visas for Americans to work in India.  Therefore, H1B visas will stop being issued to Indians.  People who are already in the USA on an H1B will be made into US citizens so they will never have to work for an Indian company in the future.
Unleash the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to go after the non-working H1B visa dependents.  These dependents baby-sit, teach music to kids, teach dance lessons, or teach language and they collect money but never pay taxes.  Go after them for income tax evasion.
Raid all the gas stations, 7-11 stores, as well as Indian operated restaurants/hotels/motels for undocumented illegal workers and deport them back to the motherland.
Hire thousands of people across India to shout pro American slogans and create traffic jams.  All you need to give them is a quarter (bottle of rum), a briyani packet, and Rs.200 per person.
Not all American movies are released in India simultaneously.  However, a lot of Indian movies are released simultaneously in the USA.  Restrict the number of Indian movies each month only to the number of American movies released in India.  For example, if 5 American movies are released simultaneously in India in a month, then allow only 5 Indian movies to be released simultaneously in the USA.  Americans will not have a problem with it because all American movies are in English.  Let the Indians fight it out as to which languages the 5 movies will represent.
Direct all Indian diplomats in the USA not to shout at their household maids “I want my curry in a hurry”.
If you have any other ideas, please let me know and I will forward them to my friend Barack. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stop Sign

Because it is winter and due to time change to Pacific Standard Time, it becomes very dark in the evenings in California.  In the streets, 7 PM looks and feels like midnight.
Yesterday evening, my wife gave a list of groceries to buy and asked me to go to Safeway (a grocery store chain).  So, at about 8:20 pm, I leave my house in my SUV.  After 5 minutes of driving, I stop at the STOP sign.  It was pitch dark.  No one was in the street.  No pedestrian.  No other car.  Still, I came to a full stop. Then proceeded to drive.
I could immediately see in my rear view mirror a police car.  But he did not flash his headlights which is an order for me to stop my car.  Therefore, I kept driving.  I knew he was after me because he did not try to overtake me.  He followed me for a full 2 minutes.  Then, flashed his car’s headlights.
I then pulled my car to the right and stopped my car.  My hands on the steering wheel all the time.  That is what required when the police stops you.  In USA, police officer will take about 5 minutes to get out of his car and approach you.  He will not get out of his car immediately.  In those 5 minutes, he will get all the details about the car and its owner from his computer through your car license plate number.
He got out of the car.  The police officer is more afraid of you than you afraid of him.  He walked slowly and stopped at the back seat of the opposite side (right side). He had a flash light and asked me to roll down the back right side window.  I roll down the window.  Now he sees me and confident I am not a criminal with a gun and therefore comes to the front seat at the passenger side.  Asked me to roll down the window.  I did.  Here is the conversation:
                                                                     (Google Image)
Officer:  Sir, do you know why I stopped you?
Me:  I don’t know.
Officer:  Sir, at the stop sign, you did not stop your car behind the line.  Your car stopped after crossing the line.
(My mind was thinking – What the F? Is this a big crime? Have you been waiting in the cold dark night just to catch me crossing the line and stopping my car at the stop sign? Hey, you should be happy that I did stop my car at the stop sign.) (But my brain is saying – Don’t show your smartness to the police officer.  If he wants to, he can give you all sorts of trouble.)
Me:  Is that so officer?  I am sorry I did not notice that.  I will be careful in the future.
Then he gave a 3 minute lecture about how these laws are for my own safety.
Officer:  Sir, can I see your Driver’s License.
I gave him my Driver’s License.  He said please wait and I will be back.  He goes to his car to check if I have any arrest warrant against me.  He comes back after 3 minutes and gives my driver’s license back.
Officer: Please drive safely and that too in this weather.  Where are you going? Any drinking plans today?
Me:  I am going to Safeway.  I don’t know if I have a drinking plan or not.
Officer:  You can go now. Please be careful.
I start my car and go to Safeway – cursing him all the way.  At the same time happy that he did not give me a ticket.  Just a warning and lecture only.  If he had given a ticket, that would be considered a “moving violation” and raise my car insurance fees.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Blast from the Past

We all do stupid things when we’re younger and then laugh about it later. Right?  I’ll admit that I did something stupid a few months after I got married.
I had a Tamil Brahmin friend (guy named R) who was in love with a Bengali Brahmin (girl named P).  Back in the day, a Tamilian marrying a Bengali was not easily accepted by the parents.  My friend had a lot of confidence that he could convince his parents to accept his decision.  The problem however, would be convincing the girl’s dad.
One day my friend went to the girl’s house to meet her father at their home.  He expressed his desire to marry P.  Now P’s dad is a straight up gentleman.  Instead of yelling at my friend or kicking his butt out of the house, he told my friend R to bring some elders from his family.  He said the elders from both families will discuss the issue and decide.
Now the ball is in my friend’s court.  He has to take an “elder” from his family to talk to P’s dad.  The problem is that my friend has not yet told his own family anything about his love for P.  Therefore he’s unsure on which elder to take from his family.
So what did he do?  He asked ME if I could come to meet P’s dad and represent myself as R’s uncle.  I said: Who?  Me?  As your uncle?  Dude, you and I are the same age. Who on earth would ever believe that I am your uncle?
My friend said, here’s the plan.  “My girlfriend P will let her dad know that I’m bringing my youngest uncle.  My uncle is the youngest of 11 children and R’s mom is the oldest.  Therefore they’ll appear to be around the same age.”
But still why ME?  His answer was that I was the only married guy in our group of friends…so I was the chosen one. And of course like an idiot, I agreed to do this.
So one evening my friend and I go to P’s house.  Her father welcomed us in and offered us tea and biscuits.  He asked me for my name and what I did for a living.  Here is where I made the mistake.  I told him my real name and where I really work.  I also told him that I got married recently.  He then talked about some problems associated with inter-state marriages, different customs and culture, different food habits, problems with raising kids, etc. etc.
I had absolutely no interest in what he was saying.  I just went there to help out my friend and his girlfriend.  While the dad was talking, my eyes were wandering around the house.  I saw a room that was partially open.  I could see P was listening to our conversation intently.  When we exchanged glances, she could tell by my facial expression that I really didn’t want to be there but I could see her expression and it was “thank you soooo much for doing this for us.”
A few days later…
Well it seems that P’s dad works at an office and has a best friend there whom he tells his problems to.  P’s dad said that his daughter loves a Tamil guy and he is unsure about what to do.  He said that he even met his R’s young uncle to get more perspective about R’s family and potential issues.
That office friend then asked for more details about this young uncle.  P’s father told him the details.  The office friend then said, don’t believe these guys.  They are trying to scam you.  I know this young uncle.  He is my nephew. He has no sisters.  He’s not the youngest of 11 children.  And he certainly is not R’s uncle.
Later that night P called me and told the whole story and wept on the phone.  There was absolutely nothing I could do to fix this.
Epilogue: A few months after that incident, my wife and I came to the USA.  Two months later we received their marriage invitation.  Last year, they (R and P and their 2 grown kids) visited us in California.  I was narrating this incident to the 2 children.  R just listened, smiled throughout and laughed it off.  P was blushing non-stop, still a little embarrassed as she just ran out of the room before I could finish the story.