Our Readers write
One person’s poison…
The article in MM, November 16th was in very bad taste. If you thought it was an attempt at humour at the expense of a particular community, I beg to differ from you. The ladies of this community are well-educated, intellectual, socialable and accept changes gracefully. They may stick to their traditional dress at functions by choice and hardly ever by compulsion. They have accepted Vietnamese, French, Japanese or Chinese spouses chosen by their chidren, even a generation back and your magazine mentions that Rukmani Devi was married with the full consent of her mother. Ask Subramanian Swami, Manishankar Aiyer, Ragunath Rajan, Sundar Pichai or any educated Tamil Brahmin and he will tell you how their mothers had crossed the caste and religious barriers long long ago.
Brahmin ladies are the easiest to mingle with and do dress gracefully.
Please do not publish these type of articles in a decent magazine.
Al Alsa Samudram
4, 4th Seaward Road,
… another’s nectar
It was interesting to read the article on ‘tbla’ by Raja Ramakrishnan. It evoked a lot of humour among our family members and discussion on male-female domination. It reminded us of a serialised story on Sitha Paati and Appusami Thatha in the tamil weekly Kumudam in the 1970s. It was authored by Sundaresan (Pak-kiam Ramaswamy). The sket-ches were wonderfully supported by the famous artist Jayaraj. His letter-head carried the figures of Sitha Paati and Appusami Thatha.
Dr. Capt., M. Singaraja
No.90, Rama Street
Chennai 600 034
Re. Rajaji so facilely forgotten (MM, November 16th), a mine of information on him is available in the book Arunthondatriay Anthanargal by the Tamilnadu Brahmins Association.
5, 7th Cross Street
Adambakkam, Chennai 600 088
Any mention about Vice-Chancellors brings to memory Dr. A. Lakshmanasami Mudaliar, who maintained the dignity of his office. When a new member of the Senate started his speech with “Respected Vice-Chancellor, Muda-liar cut him short saying “Address the Chair as Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Sir” just like Dr. G. Sundaram recalling an I.C.S. officer advising on the proper way of addressing judges as Mr. Justice.
30, Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600 093
Good coffee has vanished
– from Chennai homes
“There is no coffee these days”, MMM laments (MM, November 16th).
A true word hasn’t been spoken, either by MMM or MM.
Aromatic filter coffee – that divine beverage that seduced your senses, that made you feel good, that was more uniquely Tamil Nadu than idli-sambar or Conjeevaram silks, that made you desist from eating or drinking anything for at least an hour after a cup of coffee (so that it didn’t spoil the effect) – that has vanished from the homes of Chennai, whether it is Poes Garden or Besant Nagar or KK Nagar.
You may still enjoy good coffee in restaurants and I would like to name them. Saravana Bhavan and Sangeetha are examples. Maybe Mathsya (Egmore). There’s a small shop on Elliott’s Beach, Besant Nagar (Adyar Saravana Bakery) that sells cakes and pastries and biscuits but which is best known for filter coffee. It’s so good that it attracts morning walkers and evening strollers, policemen and policewomen, young lovers on motor bikes, and a large team of runners male and female who maintain a monthly account with the shop. The coffee is served in small paper cups, and tastes like what South Indian filter coffee should.
But what about coffee in the homes of Chennai? There are two types of women in Chennai: those who can make good coffee, and those who can’t. At one time, some five per cent of Chennai’s women would fall in Category 1. But today it is no longer five per cent, it is close to zero.
Why do these good women make bad coffee? The main reason, I think, is that it calls for not merely talent but application and time. The women with talent don’t have the time. They are busy running a home, looking after husband and children and perhaps working on a job as well. They have no time for the subtleties of good coffee. As regards the women without talent – without kaimanam, that beautiful Tamil word which literally means ‘fragrant hand’ but actually means a flair for cooking – genuine filter coffee will always be beyond them.
When I sometimes drop in at the homes of friends or relatives, I’m offered the traditional cuppa. The husband tells me, “My wife makes such good coffee, you must have it.” I say ‘yes’, and the coffee turns out to be some dreadful concoction. No aroma, no taste, no flavour. I can’t drink more than a few drops. “Why, wasn’t it good?” asks the besotted husband. I lie through my teeth. “No, it’s fine, but I have already had several coffees today.”
Love is blind all right. But love even seems to spoil the taste-buds of smitten husbands. How can they claim that the stuff turned out by their wives is good coffee?
Time was when I thought Chennai and India were blessed – particularly when I was on a trip to the US. This land of cornucopian plenty is very poor in one respect: you can’t find good coffee there for love or money. You come across something called Capppucino – of Italian origin, I’m told, which must surely rank as the vilest concoction in the universe. In fact I would recommend a short trip to the US to cure people of their craze for coffee. I was proud that whatever be India’s or Chennai’s problems, we could make and savour the highest of civilised pleasures, a cup of good coffee, something that was alien to the US.
No longer. Chennai has got Americanised. Good coffee is almost as scarce here as in California or Washington DC.
Here’s an idea. Our newspapers and magazines overflow with news of some smart “start-up” or the other, which our bright young men and women have launched. Why not a start-up to provide and promote good coffee? This is an act of heritage preservation that’s urgent and critical.
The start-up would set up tutorial and demonstration centres for coffee-making, it would bring out a book, it would organise contests and award prizes.
I offer to help this noble cause in a small way – through promotion, maybe even some cash. Any takers?
– S.R. Madhu