Grandma's Tales

May 31, 2007

chini kum is watchable

Filed under: Movie,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:36 pm

Actors – Amitabh Bachchan, Tabu and Paresh Rawal.  Setting – the restaurant area beyond the swing doors. Punch dialogues. An adult theme. Together, do they serve a can’t-go-wrong recipe for an entertaining movie? Can it be less sugar, but more sweet than the usual boy(old man) – meets – girl routine?
For an excellent review, log on to


May 30, 2007

Do you want Abdul Kalam re-elected? 3

Filed under: Games People Play,Government — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 6:39 pm

May be you do. And a lot of Indians do too, whichever part of the world they live in. But it looks like there is little chance of our very student-friendly President continuing in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. In a TV channel poll he may have got the maximum number of votes in support, but that may be his last hurrah as the country’s first citizen. Sad.
When Kalam became Prez and made his very benign presence felt at RB, even those who who were wondering if we needed that office (mostly ceremonial, they argued) stopped arguing. We all felt it was a matter of great prestige for India to be represented by a scientist, a man of great thinking and above all someone who knows the pulse of the people. He came through as someone who genuinely cared about what was happening to the country, who took his responsibilities seriously. His greatest achivement in office is perhaps bringing children into its ambit. He brought that effort to a point where kids began to say they wanted to be Prez of India when they grew up. Talk of role models!
His “Wings of Fire” is a bestseller. People with disabilities feel he is their friend. I loved the way he went out and said, “Why can’t we have a two-party system?” Two political parties, of course. To him, this probably meant less horse-trading, less corruption and more progress. He must have been disgusted by the lack of cohesion at the centre now.
Four candidates have been proposed by the centre (of power) for the Prez election – Pranab Mukherjee, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Shivraj Patil and Arjun Singh. So the office will be occupied by a political guy. No scientist. And no women in the race.
May be I’ll start praying Arjun Singh should be elevated to this august post. If Sonia Gandhi has her reasons for proposing his name, I have mine why he should win.

May 29, 2007

Grammar – 32 What is good writing? 4 Bloopers Quiz

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:58 pm

We’re back at it again. What’s wrong with the following sentences?
[1] Siva along with Parvathi are taken around the corridors each day at night.
[2] The festival is been celebrated now at the temple at Linghi Chetty Street in North Chennai.
[3] The devotees carry the idols in their shoulders around the temple at Lighi Chetty Street.
[4] If the livelihood of a few families are at stake for want of parking space, where are we heading to?
[5] Is it not a more compelling issue to talk about rather than go with the results and submit an alternate plan?
[6] “Every country have a strong reserve benches but India don’t have any,” he said.
[7] ICC has not included many country as test-playing nation and wants them to come up the world standard.
[8] Each team would comprise of two national, four international and eight budding players who would be selected by talent scouts.
[9] Nakulan is one of those writers in Tamil who is spoken about a lot but read only by a few.
[10] Shilpa Shetty insists its racism.
Clues: Check with earlier lessons for pointers to mistakes.
I never said these sentences had only one error each.

May 27, 2007

Grammar 2 – Up, up and away! 2 “Cope with bad usage”!

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:36 pm

Friend Rajesh has this suggestion:
I just heard a lady on TV make a mess of the usage of the expressions, ‘cope’, ‘cope with’, ‘cope up’ . Another occasion, I heard another lady use the term ‘cope on’ (possibly only time in life I heard this expression). She was on some family show and used the term to describe how she manages her hyperactive kid! High time a post is made on the usage and the sense of the expressions.
Thanks, Rajesh.
In “Up, up and away” post 1, I did mention how the word “cope” is used, or ought to be used. It is certainly worth talking about again. English television channel reporters now have the distinction of being the single “vocal” group of language mutilators. A lot of them, I’m sure, are hired on the basis of their ability to “rattle off” English, never mind the inaccuracy of expression. “They are fluent, but not always accurate.” I really can’t find fault with the people they interview, they are not chosen for their language efficiency. But when the anchors go off track in usage, you crack up. My husband screams, “Go slow, girl/man! Breathe, take time to think before you disgorge the words. You’ll get it right!” Alas, his words are never heard.
We want “deathless prose” not “breathless talk”.
We just have to cope with bad English if we want news as it “breaks”.
So, that’s it. The word “cope” when it is used as a verb meaning
[1] to struggle, to deal with some success on fairly even terms
[2] to face and deal with problems or responsibilities or difficulties successfully, quite adequately, calmly
is not followed by the word “up”. In fact, “cope” is not followed by “up” at all. It does not need this word to prop it up. “Cope” means “to deal”, “to struggle”. So you say “cope with”, not “cope up”. “Cope up” is wrong. Here are a few examples to show how this verb is used.
[1] People in most Indian cities have to cope with water shortage during the summer months.
[2] After the divorce, she had to cope with a full-time job and the raising of her two kids.
[3] “I find it very difficult to cope with this hyper-active kid!” (what Rajesh wanted to hear from the TV interviewee, I guess.)
Conversationally you could say, “This is one problem I find difficult to cope.” But “cope” is generally followed by “with” not “up” and not “on“.  You “cope with” difficulties, problems and responsibilties, not “cope up” with them.
You cannot say “cope up” even if you are the best-dressed person on screen or in the room. You cannot say “cope up” even if you say it in the best accent possible, wear the best smile, draw the largest salary among those present. “Cope up” is wrong. Period.
Cope on” is simply ridiculous.

May 26, 2007

Grammar – 34 Rape of my city 3

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Language,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:59 am

In Metroblogging Chennai, Chenthil Nathan has posted the following.
A new flyover is being constructed in the GN Chetty Road – Thirumalai Pillai Road Junction (better known as the Vani Mahal Junction). Hence GN Chetty Road is now a single lane road for a stretch, leading to traffic snarls during peak hours. The notice board in the area says that the project is expected to be completed by June 2008.
I have travelled in this road for the past few years and didn’t see any need for a fly over here. May be the traffic planners have more data to put up a flyover here. In any case, be prepared for traffic snarls if you are travelling in this area for the next few months.
I had posted a letter from a doctor in that locality bemoaning the felling of 30-year-old trees for constructing this totally unnecessary flyover. I’m beginning to think that the flyover is a/an (af)front to make use of this valuable timber. Does anyone in this city care about trees? The ones who will be affected immediately are the street vendors, presswallas and pedestrians. No, the corporation does not want us to walk anymore. Getting out for something? Get into/onto your vehicle!
In the long run, all of us will be affected by avenue-tree felling. Do we really want a bare city of ugly concrete structures? Here are my questions to those who argue that trees have to be sacrificed for “development”.
[1] Now you say there is no roadspace and to lay swanking new roads, we need to uproot the trees. Right. But you don’t expect people to stop buying vehicles, do you? If it’s something like 21,000 vehicles joining the chaos that is our city streets every month, even these new roads will soon get choked. What will you bring down next? The houses on the roadsides? I mean, is this the right solution?
[2] Has any survey been done about the flyovers built between 1996 and 2001? Has it substantially reduced traffic congestion? Is there a smooth flow of traffic in those areas? Did you leave footpaths when you built flyovers?
[3] What happened to all those trees that were cut off? Have they been transplanted? Where? Have they survived?
[4] The clincher. You say there is no space on the roads. Fine. Then why do you allow haphazard parking everywhere? How come vehicles are parked in every road/street turning, which even a baby knows is against traffic rules? How come new commercial establishments spring up in places where there is no parking space? I have clear examples of these violations on my road. Would anyone care to call me up so I can show them?
[5] Why don’t we impose strict parking rules like any modern city in the world does? Why can’t we create “walk only” areas in T. Nagar?
[6] Back to my first point. Are trees being cut for their value, in the name of flyovers? Comments following Chenthil Nathan’s post would suggest so.


May 25, 2007

Grammar – 35 How to write a book review 4 Non-fiction

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:08 pm

We’ll imagine you are reviewing a biography. I must warn you biographies, official or vindictive, may contain elements of fiction in them. Some may have been “sexed” up for sensationalism. In fact, what hasn’t been said could be of greater importance. However, the following tips might help in organising your review. These are in addition to the general points you find in the earlier posts.
[1] The one question you need to ask at the outset is this. What are the credentials of the author and what is his relationship to the subject he has chosen to write about? This right away establishes the authenticity of the work. Surely, there is no hidden, ulterior motive to writing this book?
[2] Does it cover the subject’s entire life? Or does it deal only with a part of his/her life?
[3] What is the format used? Is it chronological? Reflective? Retrospective? Does the author start at some point in the subject’s life and trace it back?
[4] Has the author done enough research to give an over-all picture of the subject’s life and work? Does it sound superficial and on-the-surface?
[5] What are the sources that the author has depended on for the material? Are they genuine? Respectable? [Example: Quotes from tabloid newspapers are “iffy”.] Have the sources been given credit?
[5] That brings us to the facts. Are there new insights to the subject’s life that we didn’t know about? Ah, ahem, not the ones you are thinking of, I’m afraid. Has the author looked at the subject’s life and times from a fresh perspective? Seen them in a new light? Does the reader benefit from this new angle?
The most important point to note is “objectivity“. Does the book look balanced? Does it present the subject in all his/her shades? Is it one-dimensional – praise or condemnation? Does he come through as a semi-god or does he sound human, warts and all?
And of course, the style. Check the previous post for a note on this. The subject could have led an unusual life full of interesting anecdotes. [Read about Einstein. Every new biography fishes out an anecdote about him, all equally fascinating.] The biographer could “kill” this man with his insipid, uninspiring style. This doesn’t mean you sensationalise every little, obvious incident in the subject’s life. The trick is to strike a balance. A great biography makes the subject look interesting, without exaggeration. Doesn’t trivialise or undermine achievements, doesn’t put him on a pedestal.  [Choose an interesting personality to write about. :-)] In short, is it skilful writing?
A biography in many ways is like a very objective “performance review”. Has the author achieved it?

May 24, 2007

Grammar – 35 How to write a book review 3

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 6:50 pm

vishesh, who’s written a book, comments: I noticed that each character had a special value and that a part of me played them. It is like talking to yourself. If you had read the full review I had written in my blog, I think you have, I never found the inclination to describe the character.The book’s power would be lost if I had written about him.
This is a matter of opinion. I want to make something clear here. Aspects of the novel I have suggested for critical comments are not sacrosanct. These are not rules by which one writes a review. These are mere suggestions. They tell you the facets of a novel that you could look at when you go about critiquing it. These are the structures on which a novel is built. A writer cannot afford to ignore them. When someone sits down to write a novel, he/she generally keeps in mind (some say they do this instinctively!) the points I have put down. So they are excellent fodder for criticism.
Once again, see how the novel opens. When you read the following opening lines –
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
you certainly want to read the rest of it. Guess who wrote it?

May 22, 2007

Grammar – 35 How to write a book review 2 A novel way 2

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:16 pm

(Continuation of the post on reviewing novels)
Sit back and think. When you think of fictional characters, who appear before your mind’s eye? Swami, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Dedalus, Jeeves, James Bond, Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh or someone else? A whole identification parade of them?
Ha, ha! That is the strength of characterisation. The author creates a character so strong, so flesh-and-blood, that he becomes completely real to the reader. You know him in and out. You know his highs and lows. You know his strength and weaknesses. You nod sagely when he responds to a particular situation. You mutter to yourself, “Yeah, that’s right. That’s what he would have done.” If his reaction surprises you, you blurt out, “That’s so out of character!” You go as far as to say, “How well the author knows him!” Many authors have admitted that after a while the characters he created took on a “life of their own”.
When Conan Doyle decided to kill off Sherlock Holmes, there was such an uproar that the detective had to be resurrected. Ask some of your friends who wrote “The House of Baskervilles”; they might say, “Sherlock Holmes”. He sure is one unforgettable character. And look at the way the James Bond persona has endured! Book after best-selling book and movie-after-movie. It’s world news who the current on-screen JB is.
So, check out.
[1] Are there strong characters in the novel? Do they sound real? Three dimensional? Or stay cardboard?
[2] Do the characters carry the story forward? Does the story revolve around them?
[3] Who are the main characters and the also-rans?
[4] Do some characters unexpectedly steal the thunder from the protagonist? In Merchant of Venice, which character dominates the proceedings? No, not Antonio, the Merchant of Venice!
[5] No review of a novel is possible without creating enough space for a critical look at the characters. Characters bind the sequences into a narrative. They provide the novel form, interest and thread.
Definitely why you kept turning the pages. When you think of style, think PG Wodehouse. No other author has had such a profound influence on Indian writing in English. I see people quoting him in speech and writing. I see people using his analogies (comparisons) without giving the great writer credit. Even those who dismissed his subject as “decadent aristocracy” admitted Plum made it worth reading about.
There was Art Buchwald. People didn’t agree with him, but they never missed reading his columns. Somerset Maugham took great care to craft his sentences. Read Stephen Leacock, James Herriot and Jumpa Lahiri. Read Grisham and Sheldon. See how they are different. Discover why they appeal to millions.
So, is the style simple? Gently flowing? Racy? Pleasant? Even? Choppy? Long-winded and unreadable?
Do you see “intellectual qualities” of writing (e.g., simplicity, clarity, good mix of long and short sentences)?
Are there “emotional qualities”? (humour, satire, wit)?
Could you find “aesthetic qualities” (sentence balance, rhythm, harmony)?
Does the author use devices like metaphor, symbolism, allegory, parody?
And that “interesting” part – the conversation. Don’t you often read the direct speech and just skim through the description? Dialogue gives life to the novel. It brings the reader face to face with the characters. Often their responses become the readers’ responses. There is a mountain of difference between
He said, No! and “He replied in the negative“.
So talk about the style. How effective is it? Take time to re-read passages you like and find out what exactly makes them readable, interesting, arresting, attractive.

Now pick up a novel. Never mind if you’ve read it before. Read it again. And try writing a book review.
All the best!

May 20, 2007

Grammar – 35 How to write a book review 2 A novel way

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:11 pm

So you’ve read the book and have formed a general opinion. To your delight, you found that you enjoyed reading it. It had something that left you feeling happy, even fulfilled. “Hey, I need to put this on record! I want to share this with my friends!” Sure. And that was a novel? Here are a few tips.
Step 1, 2, 3, … Do not narrate the story. You enjoyed the novel because it had something fresh, something unexpected, something you hadn’t thought of, the “twists and turns” that kept you totally involved. Why should you play spoilsport? But you should tell (oops, show, not tell) the reader “what” you enjoyed. (There is no particular order in the following.)
Setting: Where is the story set? Where does it take place? Does this have any bearing on the novel? Does the setting make the story effective? From Shakespeare to John Grisham, writers have chosen their settings carefully. [vishesh, where is “An Equal Music” set? How important is it to the plot?] If you can, describe in a word or phrase, exactly what effect this particular setting has on the novel.
Theme: This, of course, is different from the plot. Is the theme social, pulp romance, light and fluffy, entertaining, psychological, futuristic? Is it familiar/traditional? Original? Sci-fi [Isaac Asimovish]? Unusual? Unique?
Are you happy with the way the theme is developed? At point is it revealed? What establishes the theme?
Plot: Is there a dominating, well-defined plot? Sometimes the characters dominate and the plot is pushed to Grade 2. It becomes secondary. If, after 5/6/7 pages, you’re wondering, “What is this book about? Is it going anywhere?” it’s time to dump it.
Can you detect a main plot and a couple of sub-plots? Do the sub-plots add to the story? Or do they distract? Do the sub-plots make the story more appealing? Do they provide comic relief?
Look at the elements of the plot – introduction, suspense, climax, conclusion. What can you say about each one of them?
(a) Introduction: Drama? Action? Mystery? Conflict? Emotion? [ “My suffering left me sad and gloomy”, “It was one of those September days when summer never seems to end (I think)”, “Down to the last day, even the last hour now”]
(b) Chapter-to-chapter development: How is the conflict developed? Does the plot rely too much on coincidences? How did the author keep your interest from flagging?
(c) Climax: Was it unexpected? In both time and content? Did you want to read on after that? Gripping?
(d) Conclusion: Would you say this was the best part? [“The novel has an unexpected ending. Just when you think it will never end, it does.”:-)] Was it necessary?
What about mystery and suspense? Were they logical? Engaging? Clear and non-confusing? Were you able to guess the suspects? (This is important. Readers must feel they have a chance, to be interested.)
Finally, the relationship between the plot and the characters. Does the plot support the delineation/building up of characters? In other words, is it strong enough and roomy enough for the characters to have flesh and blood, to look real?
And the most important part of the story. The conflict and the resolution. If the “build-up” is too long, the reader yawns, closes the book and switches off the light. Too short, the story looks choppy and abrupt. What you look for is a good balance. The descriptions should be short and crisp and there should be a hint of tension in the background. Unless you want to know what happened next, why would you turn the pages?
Let’s talk of characterisation and style in the next post.

May 19, 2007

Mayajaal, yeh Maya hai, Mayawati all the way – update 2

Filed under: Government,Language,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:16 am

Jai shambu nath ki jai!  Kyaa likhath hai bhayee! Bahoot shukriya!
Dear shambu nath,
This is absolutely wonderful. “mayawati chalisha” is it? Mmm… how about an English translation? With an eye to the Centre, the lady isn’t averse to the “milecha bhasha”, is she? 🙂

shambhu |


Jai jai mayaa maharaanee, tumahree kirpaa na jaay bakhaanee,
Tumhraa naam jape harijam saraa, tum unakee ho taaran haaraa,
Sab tumhree hai karay barai , tum unakee ho kaalee mai,
Tum gungan kee kariw khichai, apraadhin kaa jail pathai,
Jo tumhse hai karay larai, unko jail diyo pahuchai,
Unch neech jas gunde saare, tum unako kinho pichwaare,
Jitanee rahee fauz dhan saaraa, tum unako sab deen bigaaraa,
Unakee ijjat maatee me kinhaa, unase chheen talaab bhee linhaa,
Pahale jo the atayachaareel, unakee aay gayee balihaaree,
Ab un sab na karay larai, sabse rakhay mail milayee.
Aise rajya chalay kaa chahee, phir jantaa kaa chintaa nahee,
Hamrav ek vinay hai maayaa , hamre uppar kardo daayaa,
Diyo kahi par noukaree dilayee, tumharo gun jiwan bhar gayee,
Tum jantaa kaya karaw bhalayee, sabse rakho mail meelayee,
Tumharee kurshee phir jay na paye , sabkee jamanat jabt hoi jaye,
Sada karaw jantaa kay sewaa , sab kaa milay dudh awa mewaa,

Dohaa- jai jai mayawati sadaa karo kalyaan ,
u.p kee jantaa kaa Rakhanaa hardam, dhayaan.

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