Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Oh my God!! Its an Earthquake!!!!

Well, it happened yesterday night. The time must have been just before 1 a.m. I was slowly drifting off to sleep when suddenly there was a rumbling noise and the bed started shaking! The mirror on the wall rattled and there were sounds of alarms going off in the streets. I jumped up and was absolutely scared stiff. Then it was over. Then I kind of wondered if I had imagined the whole thing…You see, I was half asleep and perhaps I was just having a nightmare!

Hmm… No. It was an earthquake alright. I read today morning that there had been an earthquake of magnitude 5.2 in the Richter scale with the epicentre at Lincolnshire, UK (which is about 150 km from our place). This is supposed to be the largest earthquake to hit Britain since a 5.4 magnitude earthquake in 1984.

Yikes!! An earthquake!! This is the first time I had an earth trembling experience. And I tell you it was scary. Things like this make us think how vulnerable and helpless we are actually. I thank God that I am alive to see another day and sincerely hope that it does not happen again :-( :-(!! (I might be overreacting, but there, I can’t help it!!)

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Free Backing Papers to Download- Check it out!

Here is the new set of free backing papers for making greeting cards or for other crafting purposes. As you can see I have chosen blue as the theme for these backing papers. Hope you would let me know if you liked them.

Click on the thumbnail to get the full view of the backing paper.

Thanks for visiting. Pop in often, there is more to come:-) Happy crafting!

P.S. If you do not want to miss my latest posts you may want to subscribe for the RSS so that you will receive them in your inbox.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Attukal Pongala- A festival for women

I can imagine how Trivandrum (Capital city of Kerala, India) will be like today. There will be an overwhelming number of women, everyone equipped with earthen pots and waiting patiently on footpaths, railway stations, open grounds and wherever they could find a bit of space. They will also be ready with all the stuff needed to start a small fire for cooking!

So what am I talking about? It is today that the festival of Attukal Pongala will be celebrated at one of the most famous temples in Kerala, Attukal. You might have heard of Sabarimala - a temple where only men are allowed to enter (and small girls and elderly women). Attukal temple is ‘Women’s Sabarimala’ (though men are allowed to enter the temple). Attukal Pongala is a unique festival since only women take part in it.

Attukal Pongala is celebrated to please Attukal Bhagavathi (Goddess). The main ritual involves the preparation of payasam (rice pudding) in earthen pots using ingredients like rice, jaggery, spices, coconut etc. and offering it to the Goddess.

The legend behind this festival is like this:

Once there lived in the city of Kaveripattanam a couple, Kovalan and Kannaki. They were rich and happy but everything went wrong when Kovalan fell in love with a dancer named Madhavi. He forgot all about his wife and it was not until he had spent all his money on Madhavi and became bankrupt that he realised his mistake. He went back to his wife who forgave him.

They went to the city of Madurai where they hoped to sell one of Kannaki’s anklets, which was the only valuable thing left with them, and start life afresh. But when Kovalan tried to sell the anklet he was arrested by the king’s soldiers who accused him of stealing it (someone had stolen one of the anklets of the queen which unfortunately looked very similar to Kannaki’s). Kovalan was killed without a fair trial.

Kannaki on hearing the news was devastated and angry. She went to see the King and the Queen and proved her husband's innocence by showing the other anklet of the pair. THe King and Queen were so ashamed of themselves that they fell dead. But Kannaki was still so angry that she cursed the whole city. Due to her immense chastity the whole city went up in flames.

Still not pacified she left the city and walked on to Kanyakumari and then to Trivandrum. There she was welcomed by the local women with offerings of Pongala Payasam. That is how Attukal Pongala started to be celebrated.
Take a look at this video.

During the festival you can’t get anywhere near the temple (you can if you don’t mind getting squashed!). Women of all ages start arriving from all parts of the country even days before the festival- at least 5 km radius around the temple will be filled with devotees! Can you believe that 2.5 million women are expected to take part in the festival this year?? No wonder it is in the Guinness book of records for being the largest festival for women.
I have visited this temple many times and it is certainly divine. I have never seen it empty- always there are devotees queuing up to let this powerful Goddess know about their troubles and problems.

If you ever visit Kerala be sure to visit this temple!!
Liked this write-up? Then do leave a comment!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The best Miss Marple Mystery?

Agatha Christie’s famous creation Hercule Poirot is definitely everybody’s favourite. But what about Jane Marple? I gather that most people do not like Miss Marple. But I like her mystery novels very much. In fact at the beginning I used to read only Miss Marple stories…

Anyway this is the result of another poll in a forum- which (sadly) indicates the state of Miss Marple’s popularity.

Choose the best Miss Marple Mystery
1. The Murder at the Vicarage
2. The Body in the Library
3. They do it with mirrors
4. 4.50 from Paddington
5. Haven’t read any

132 Agatha Christie fans took part
1. The Murder at the Vicarage- 18 votes
2. The Body in the Library- 23 votes
3. They do it with mirrors- 19 votes
4. 4.50 from Paddington- 40 votes
5. Haven’t read any- 32 votes (?)

4.50 from Paddington is the most popular. Other favourite Miss Marple mysteries in their opinion are- A Murder is Announced, Sleeping Murder, A Caribbean Mystery and Nemesis.

Hmm my personal favourite? The Body in the Library I should say.. No way to guess the twists in this one!!

Oh I have written the reviews of 4.50 from Paddington and The Body in the Library here. Hope this helped in some way...

Review of Malayalam Movie Nadodikkattu (1987)

Nadodikkattu is another one of my favourite Malayalam movie. This is indeed an all time classic comedy movie.

Movie: Nadodikkattu
Language: Malayalam
Genre: Comedy

Written by: Srinivasan
Director: Sathyan Anthikadu
Cast: Mohanlal, Srinivasan, Shobana, Thilakan, Innocent
Sequels: Pattanapravesham, Akkare Akkare Akkare

Nadodikkattu is the story of Dasan and Vijayan, two simpletons who unknowingly (and knowingly) falls into one mess after another in their struggle to become something in their lives.

Dasan: (Played by Mohanlal) His catchphrase is ‘I am B.Com. First Class!’ He is so proud of being a graduate that he repeats it whenever there is an opportunity. You might think that he has a great job, but alas he is a peon in a private company which pays just enough salary to evade starvation.

Vijayan: (Played by Srinivasan) He is a very funny guy and more idiotic than Dasan. Dasan takes advantage of him a lot- like making him cook, do household chores and constantly reminding him that he is not a graduate. Vijayan is a peon too.

Everything goes reasonably well until one day they lose their jobs! (Ahem... they beat up the new Managing Director by mistake!!)

Cows to the rescue?!
No job, no money, no food! Their landlord feels pity for them and gets them a loan from the bank to buy cows. He convinces them that selling milk was a great business and that it was the secret of his success. He also sells them two cows which he claims would give them 25 litres of milk a day!!

Some Comedy scenes from Nadodikkattu

Dasan and Vijayan are so happy with the prospect that they start dreaming about their prosperous future. Surely they should buy a new car, a new house, TV, refrigerator, VCR, A.C......

But the cows do not give them 25 litres of milk a day. Not even close. Each day the quantity of milk dwindled; so did their hopes and dreams.. The landlord had cheated them. They fall into a sorry state once again. Finally they make a decision- to leave the country.

Dubai Dreams
They soon meet a man named Gafoor who promises to take them to Dubai (illegally) for a certain sum of money. They agree and give him all the savings that they had ever made.

Dasan and Vijayan soon reach Dubai.

So they think! It is not long before they understand that they are nowhere near Dubai but in Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Kerala!!! Oops!!

Mohanlal and Srinivasan have paired up in many movies, but I believe that their performance is at its best in Nadodikkattu. The story is really good; in addition to being a light comedy movie it also touches on various issues that ordinary people face everyday. Throughout the movie there are witty remarks about them which make it all the more interesting. A small example: when somebody asks Dasan and Vijayan why they were late for work, the reply is ‘Ask the Government to supply rice which will get cooked fast!’

Srinivasan (Vijayan in the movie) wrote the story. It is interesting to note that in all his movies he makes his character foolish/ugly/bad!! I don’t know why he does that but that in itself is funny.

No idea how many times I have watched this movie! Totally hilarious! Perhaps I will write about the movie ‘Varavelpu’ next which also has Mohanlal and Srinivasan. It is a comedy movie in many ways but quite sentimental too...

See you soon!!

Friday, 15 February 2008

A Digital Painting Adventure!

This is what I got after I tried to paint a mug using GIMP. What do you think?? Is it any good??

Monday, 11 February 2008

More Valentine's day Backing Papers for free

Here are some more free valentine's day backing papers for you(except for the last one). Hope you would like it:-) It would be great if you drop in your comments and ideas. That would help me improve:-)

See what 8 year old Kayleigh created using one of these backing papers.. Isn't it great? She is the daughter of Frances, one of my friends in Card Making and Papercraft forum... Keep up the good work Kayleigh!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Review of the Malayalam Movie Manichithrathazhu

Wait!! Don't run away seeing this rather long title!! I promise this won't be boring (hopefully!:-D)
What comes to your mind when you think of Indian cinema? Of course- Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai etc. etc. But there are other film industries in India and a number of great actors as well. Kerala, a small State adorning the western edge of the Indian Peninsula has a number of superb movies to its credit. Let me elaborate with an example :-)

Manichithrathazhu is one of my most favourite Malayalam(regional language of Kerala) movies. In my opinion it has all the elements of a good movie- a great story, nice cast, excellent music and good photography.


Movie: Manichithrathazhu (1993) (Manichithrathazhu is a type of lock)
Director: Fazil
Cast: Shobana, Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi, Nedumudi Venu

The story revolves around the happenings in a haunted mansion called Madampalli. The legend behind the haunting is something like this…

The vampire of Madampalli
A long time back the ‘Karanavar’ (= the eldest member of the family, also used as a title) of Madampalli Tharavadu (Tharavadu=traditional house of Kerala) brought from Thanjavoor a dancer named Nagavalli. The Karanavar became obsessed with her but she had fallen in love with Ramanathan, another dancer . When the Karanavar knew about the affair he got into such a fury that he killed them both in the Thekkini (a room located in the south). But Nagavalli was so full of anger and revenge that she came back from the dead in the form of a Brahmarakshasu (very powerful vampire) to kill the Karanavar. Somehow he escaped and with the help of many sorcerers trapped her spirit in the Thekkini. Finally he too committed suicide and his spirit was confined in this room as well.

Enter Nakulan and Ganga
Back to the present day. To this infamous house comes the young couple Nakulan(Suresh Gopi) and Ganga(Shobana). Their relatives look upon this with concern and advices them not to live there. But neither of them is superstitious and pays no heed to their warning. Nakulan’s uncle asks them not to open the Thekkini atleast . Well, who listens to advice?:-) Ganga opens the door to the Thekkini…Everyone is so scared for the couple that Nakulan’s cousins Sreedevi and Chandu move in with them.

A song from the movie (with English subtitles)... Sung by K.S. Chitra, the Nightingale of South India, (oh she has such a great voice!!Did you know that up till now she has sung around 16,000 songs in 9 languages??:-o)

If you want to listen to the songs in the movie you can try

The ghost awakens
Soon strange happenings ensue. Things get broken mysteriously. A mysterious woman in white saree(Kerala ghosts are usually in white sarees:-)) is seen by several people. Ganga’s saree catches fire under odd circumstances. Everyone is alert, scared and on the edge.

Help arrives
Nakulan’s uncle is convinced that the reason for all the chaos is the spirit of Nagavalli. Nakulan on the other hand has other doubts. Sreedevi has been suffering from depression because of a bad marriage . Nakulan strongly believes that she is behind all the strange happenings. He contacts his friend Dr. Sunny(Mohanlal) who is a world famous psychiatrist and asks for help…What follows is more suspense, action, music, a little bit of humour and a wonderful climax!

This movie which kept on running in theatres for about 600 days(!) is one of the most popular and successful movies ever to be released in Kerala. I think there may not be many Malayalis who haven’t seen this movie! Manichithrathazhu has been remade into other Indian languages as well- Chandramukhi (Tamil), Aaptamitra (Kannada) and more recently Bhool Bhulaiya(Hindi). I have to say that the original is certainly the best!!!
Some of the things that I particularly liked about the movie:

  1. First of course the performance of Shobhana. It was totally good. Well, no wonder she won the National Award for the Best Actress!!

  2. The location. Several scenes of the movie were shot in the very beautiful Padmanabharapuram palace(Take a look at these pics). It was well suited to the movie. It created an atmosphere accentuating the story theme.

  3. The music was really nice. The background music was really creepy! All the songs were excellent and meaningful

  4. There were a lot of funny scenes which I enjoyed very much.

Real ghost or just a superstition?? The movie finally leaves a question to the viewer whether to believe in the deep-rooted superstitions or in the modern rational explanations offered by psychiatry…

Warning!! Spoiler video!! Take a look at Shobhana's acting in this scene. Sorry, no English subtitles but do watch it!

Hope you enjoyed this review and had a taste of Malayalam movie!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (also published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
Author: J.K. Rowling

What is special about the book? This is the first of the Harry Potter series. There are six books following it. Yes, this is the one that started it all:-)

(I am sure most of you who are reading this are ‘encyclopaedias’ of Harry Potter searching for any new scrap of information. Sorry to disappoint you but this is yet another review of the first Harry Potter book specially for those who haven’t read the book yet, but curious about it.)

What is the story?
The Dursleys were an ordinary family. There was Mr. Dursley who was the director of a drill making company. Mrs. Dursley managed the home with equal interest in household chores as well as other people's business. Dudley, their only son was nothing but an angel (only for them, that is). And there was the ten year old Harry Potter, Mrs. Dursley’s sister’s son.
Harry Potter was an orphan; his father and mother had died when he was a baby. From then on he had lived with them.

Harry’s life with the Dursleys was miserable. To begin with he slept in a small cupboard under the stairs. It was not as if they did not have rooms. Dudley had two rooms- one for him and one for his toys. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia never showed any affection towards him and preferred to consider him as a non-entity. To top it all he was constantly bullied by Dudley. He had no friends and all he could wish for was a way to escape from that horrible place.

Then one day he received a letter. It was unusual in itself since he had nobody to write to him. The address said ‘Mr. H. Potter, Cupboard under the stairs,… Surrey’ as if the sender had known exactly where he was living! There was no stamp on it either!

However he did not get a chance to open this curious letter since Uncle Vernon had grabbed it from him. But it seemed that the anonymous sender was determined to make sure that Harry received the letter. So there began a shower of letters. Nothing that Uncle Vernon did to stop the letters from getting into the house succeeded. Finally Uncle Vernon had to take drastic measures. He made them move into a deserted island where he thought no letters could make its way in. Well, he was wrong.

This time it was not the letter but a gigantic man who came in search of Harry. The fact that there was a fierce storm outside and that they were in an almost untraceable place had not stopped him from finding Harry. As Uncle Vernon, Petunia and Dudley watched totally astounded the giant delivered the letter to Harry.

What the giant, Hagrid, told him was beyond his belief. He was not just an ordinary boy but a wizard! His parents were wizards too and they had not died in an accident as his guardians had told him but were murdered by the most evil and powerful wizard of all time.

The letter was from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry informing him that he had been accepted as a student.

This marked a huge turning point in his life. He did not had to think twice to join this special school. Away from the dreadful Dursleys he found a new home at Hogwarts, made friends, learned extraordinary stuff and more importantly learned a lot more about his parents’ murderer and his own importance in the wizarding world...

I had not read any Harry Potter books while watching the two movies of the series ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. Interestingly the first book that I read was NOT the first book of the series, but the FOURTH book ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’:-D Thus the suspense of the third book ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ went 'puff'!! It was then that I read the first three books.

Hope I have confused you enough! My point simply is that eventhough I did not read the books in the proper order I absolutely loved them. I faithfully watched all the movies as well but the books are of course much better than the movies. Why? Because books give a very detailed account whereas movies are only condensed adaptation; because the book triggers one's own imagination and no movie could surpass that!

This is a story of good vs total evil. Wonderful book. If you haven’t read it till now, then I would advice to read it as soon as possible!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Backing papers for Greeting Cards- Part 4

Six more backing papers for you! Click on the image to get a full view(opens in a new window). Then you may download and use it. Don't forget to leave a comment if you liked it..

Oh, and special thanks to all my Card Making and Papercraft friends for all the love and inspiration!:-)

Chand Sifarish- A song from Hindi movie Fanaa

This song is from the Hindi movie Fanaa (2006). It is one of my favourites :-)
Singers: Kailash Kher, Shaan
Music Director: Jatin-Lalit
Starring: Kajol and Aamir Khan

Chaand sifarish jo karta hamari deta woh tumko bata
Sharm-o-haya pe parde gira ke karni hain hamko khata
Zidd hain ab toh hain khud ko mitana hona hain tujhmein fanaa

Chaand sifarish jo karta hamari deta woh tumko bata
sharm-o-haya pe parde gira ke karni hain hamko khata

Teri adaa bhi hain jhonke wali chhu ke gujar jaane de
Teri lachak hain ke jaise daali dil mein utar jaane de
Aaja baahon mein karke bahana hona hain tujhmein fanaa

Chaand sifarish jo karta hamari deta woh tumko bata
Sharm-o-haya pe parde gira ke karni hain hamko khata

Main jo iraaden bata doon tumko sharma hi jaaogi tum
Dhadakanen jo suna doon tumko ghabraa hi jaaogi tum
Hamko aata nahi hain chhupana hona hain tujhmein fanaa

Chaand sifarish jo karta hamari deta woh tumko bata
Sharm-o-haya pe parde gira ke karni hain hamko khata
Zidd hain ab toh hain khud ko mitana hona hain tujhmein fanaa