Audio, Video, Disco

Audio, Video, Disco - Latin for "I hear, I see, I learn"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Classic Cars

My great-grandfather had such a passion for cars, that he kept changing cars every year. So the family got to ride in a variety of cars - Oldsmobiles, Hupmobiles, Wolsleys, Chevrolets, Hillmans and even a Cubitt. In the 1930s and 40s Simpson's in Chennai were the sole agents for many cars. A salesman from Simpson's, dressed rather imposingly in a suit and coat, would bring home the catalaogues of different cars.

A 1940 brochure from Chevrolet, apart from giving details about the car, also claims that Chevrolets are fuel efficient cars. It points to the "valve-in-head engine" which has "combustion chambers", that ensure that there is "blue flame combustion", thereby obtaining "maximum economy". In the picture you see a truck (1940) from Chevrolet.

Spool Tape recorders

The gramophone still has a strong grip on me.Although I cannot say the same of the spool tape recorders that we've had, I haven't had the heart to throw away the Truvox spool tape recorder that my father bought in 1957. It's a Truvox R1. Although we later bought Philips spool recorders and Akais, somehow we all had a marked preference for the Truvox. Unfortunately our Truvox is no longer functional. We can't get spare parts for it. Nor is there anyone around who knows how to fix it. I've given here some pictures from the brochure that came along with our Truvox.


Buying gold on Akshaya Trithiyai is a recent phenomenon.I don't remember the day being touted as auspicious for buying gold until some years ago. However the craze has caught on, due to some clever advertising by jewellers. They now even ask people to place an order for a jewel, which will then be delivered to them on Akshaya Trithiyai, so that they do not have to brave the crowds to make their purchases on Akshaya Trithiyai.

In the past, families had their own trusted jewellers, who would bring home their catalogues, and the women would, in the comfort of their homes, place an order for a piece of jewellery. Some people in my family had even learnt how to check the quality of diamonds. We have with us some of the instruments they used for checking the size and quality of the diamonds. One of them is a stand that can be fixed at different angles, to enable one to look at the diamonds from whatever angle was convenient.Another is a set of gauges that help you to judge the size of the diamonds. (see pictures).

Whether one is talikng of a cell phone, or a car, one inevitably hears the word 'accessories'. But did you know that Maharajahs used diamonds as accessories for their cars?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Evergreen Gramophone

I fell in love with father's gramophone the first time he cranked it up and played a record for me. I was amused when midway through the song, the tempo of the song slowed down, and father quickly turned the key to get the record to play at a normal speed.We still have that gramophone with us.
Over the years father added to our collection, and we now have a total of eight gramophones, all in working condition. We even have original spare parts for most of them - governor springs, diaphragms, sound boxes etc, words that gramophone buffs will be familiar with.
We also have a thousand needles. Father bought the needles in a shop called Sita Phones, in Commercial Street, Bangalore. The shop is no longer in existence. A needle can be used for the two sides of four records, after which the records begin to sound scratchy.
My grandfather used to tell us how when the first gramophone was bought by a rich man in Tirunelveli, where he grew up, huge crowds gathered to see the 'singing box.' This was in 1906. People, grandfather included, walked huge distances to see the gramophone.
It became difficult for the owner of the gramophone to regulate the crowd. When the gramophone was cranked up to play the few records that he had, many women ran away in fright. They wondered who the strange man was, who sat inside the box, and belted out tunes in the language of the 'dorais', as the English were referred to in those days.By the 1920s most of the wealthy families in Madras had a gramophone.We still listen to our gramophone records, though not as often as we would like to, because we are afraid to exhaust our stock of needles.No one sells gramophone needles in India anymore.The songs of many popular musicians of the past are only available as 78 rpm records and are not available in CDs. So the gramphone is our only hope if we want to listen to these songs.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tamil films and serials

Those who watch Tamil films regularly know that a willing suspension of disbelief is definitely called for. Heroines and heroes running around trees and prancing in parks, all in the name of romance, are so common, that we have become inured to the ordeal.But there are some absurdities one simply can't digest.
Here are some scenarios we often come across in Tamil films. The heroine, after a one-night stand in with the hero, is on her way to expecting a visit from the stork. She promptly faints at a wedding or some other gala bash. (Notice how the heroine never faints unless there is an audience of a few hundred people at least.) A doctor, who is among the invitees, (there always has to be a doctor among the invitees) feels her pulse and says"Congrats, you are going to have a child!" I wonder which medical school he went to! It's not just the poor doctors who are portrayed so ridiculously. The lawyers are too.
Look at this scenario, so common in Tamil films. The hero is in the dock accused of murder.The corpse is missing, and the case is proceeding only on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Just when the judge is about to pronounce his sentence, in comes the man supposed to have been murdered, and says," No stop! I am X, and as you can see I am very much alive. The poor chap is innocent. Release him." Thereupon the judge acquits the accused!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Easy recipes

It is difficult to get children to eat vegetables. Indian food is hot and spicy, and one has to get accustomed to it. Here is a recipe that my grandmother used, to get us to take vegetables. It is easy to make, and more importantly, it is not spicy.Those who like their food hot and spicy, will not like this dish, because it is bland. But it's ideal for children.

Parangikkai Paal Koottu

(1) A slice of pumpkin
(2) three table spoons of kaaramani
(3)two green chillies
(4)milk one and a half cups
(5) sugar half a teaspoon
(6)urad dhal one teaspoon
(7) mustard seeds half a teaspoon
(8) clarified butter one teaspoon
(9) salt to taste
(10) curry leaves four
(11) corn flour one teaspoon


Soak the kaaramani for twelve hours. Pressure cook until the kaaramani is soft.Remove the skin of the pumpkin slice. Cut the slice into pieces.Put the pieces in a cup of milk, and cook. The pieces shouldn't turn too mushy. Then add the cooked kaaramani to the milk, add the sugar, and half a cup of milk, and heat for a minute.Then mix the corn flour with a little water, and add the paste to the koottu. This helps to thicken the koottu. Then stir for a minute. Switch off the stove, and add salt. Then heat the clarified butter in a pan, and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add the urad dhal, saute for a few seconds,then add two slit green chillies and then add the curry leaves. Add the seasonings to the koottu.The koottu can be taken with rice, dosai, chappathi and adai.
Nutritional value
Pumpkin has carotene. The child gets protein and fibre from the kaaramani, and the dish contains milk too.

N.B. If you can't get kaaramani,you can use shelled green peas instead. But the koottu tastes best with kaaramani.If you use fresh green peas, you mustn't soak them. Just pressure cook them without soaking them. Instead of pumpkin, you can use snake gourd.You can use cooking oil instead of clarified butter.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Richmal Crompton's William stories

Talking of books, my all time favourites are Richmal Crompton's William stories. One story that I am particularly fond of is the one where William asks his father if he may have a few friends over. His father says,"No, certainly not." William comes to the conclusion that his father has given him permission to invite his friends, because his father has used two negatives, and William has been taught in school that two negatives make a positive!

William and his friends Ginger, Douglas and Henry call themselves 'The Outlaws'. Like most boys aged eleven, they are misogynists. They feel boys always get a raw deal. But there is a girl called Violet Elizabeth Bott, who pursues them with doggedness that would do any girl proud. She threatens to "thcream and thcream till the ith thick" and always adds proudly,"And I can."

William, with his tousled hair, and ability to get into trouble, is a source of embarassment to his family, especially to his brother Robert, whose inamoratas change every week, and to his beautiful sister Ethel.William,of course, thinks his sister's admirers are potty. William on many an occasion tries to fix his siblings' love lives, with disastrous consequences.

Richmal Crompton is believed to have had "several side-swipes" at Christopher Robin's "besmocked"
appearance, according to her biographer Mary Cadogan. Richmal Crompton also wrote many serious books for adults, two of which I have read-"Sugar And Spice", and "The Ridleys", both of which I enjoyed reading. The William stories are not to be classified as children's fiction. Lots of adult humour there.I have a few of the hard back editions brought out by George Newnes, London. Macmillan brought out all of the William books as paperbacks, and I have added all of them to my collection.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Curly Wee

There are die hard fans of Curly Wee (me included), but there are many who think the rhyming is strained, and that the comic strips are, to say the least, not one bit funny. Where's the fun in Curly Wee, many, including my father, have always asked. Well, the stories are, I must admit, not funny. Not like a Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny comic strip. But I think the accusation that the rhyming is no great shakes is a bit unfair. After all the stories were written for children. One shouldn't be looking for something high in literary value in a kiddies story. Anyway, despite the fact that I am an avid reader, and read a wide variety of books, I still do dip into Curly Wee every now and then. Nostalgia? Maybe.
Most readers of Curly Wee mention Gussie Goose, the goose with an insatiable appetite, whose loyalty to Curly Wee is unyielding.But my favourite characters are Cuthbert Colt, the well meaning but daft colt, Pat Porker and Michael Mouse.
The Madras Mail not only carried Curly Wee comic strips, but brought out annuals (in colour) as well. The Mail thanked the author Maud Budden and the artist Roland Clibborn and Newspaper Features Ltd., for "much kind assistance" in producing the annuals.
We had most of the annuals brought out by the Madras Mail. Sadly, some years ago, a cousin lent some of them to a friend, and they were never seen again, an experience I always have when books are lent. Thankfully we still have three annuals with us. Each annual has three stories. Here are some of the stories that our annuals have:
(1)Curly And The Ugly Kid
(2)Jack Rabbit And The Monkey
(3)Mr.Fox's Cook
(1)The Mouse Mix-Up
(2)Frost In Fur And Feather LAnd
(3) The Baby Rabbit
(1)Pat Porker And The Smugglers
(2) The Great Election
(3)The Proud Buns

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Devan, humorist par excellence

Devan, who was editor of Ananda Vikatan for many years, was a great humorist. He admired P.G.Wodehouse, and his books like 'Kalyani' and 'Miss Janaki' are packed with hilarious incidents, reminding one of Wodehouse's Blandings Castle stories.His Mallari Rao stories remind one of PGW's Mulliner stories. Most of the Mallari Rao stories are set in Maharashtra.'Miss Janaki' has beautiful descriptions of the Tiruchendur temple, and someone planning to travel to Tiruchendur would find the descriptions of the town of Tiruchendur and of the temple interesting. Although many of his stories are now available, many are yet to be published. One hopes they will soon be made available to Devan fans. Devan has always been staple diet for me. It was my father who initiated me into the delights of the Devan stories, and my father's library includes the old Ananda Vikatans, in which Devan's stories first appeared, accompanied by illustrations by Gopulu. The illustrations are every bit as fascinating as the stories themselves.
Devan was a mathematician turned humorist.He was a devoted husband, and when his wife Raji, died at the age of twenty-four, Devan was heartbroken.He was only thirty then. His 'Adhisaya Dampathigal' (the ideal couple) stories constituted his tribute to his happy marriage. He stopped writing the 'Adhisaya Dampathigal' stories when Raji died.He adored children, and his Chinna Kannan stories show his yearning for children. He did not marry for ten years after Raji's death. He married again at the age of forty, but had no children through that marriage either. He died at the age of forty-four.