From frames to fabrics

“My artworks always spill outside the boundaries. They cannot be restricted within dainty frames,” says artist and designer Lakshmi Srinath with a laugh, pointing at a large wooden piece of work that hangs on the wall of her studio, Tvam, in Chennai. A black multi-headed serpent stares out of it at the visitors; there is a dab of turmeric smudged on it, and a dot of vermillion right on its forehead. Just beneath it is a small stretch of zebra crossing. She tells us that the wooden work titled Faith Immovable was inspired by a casual sight on a roadside — of a man worshipping a stone beneath a tree.

Just as we finish drinking in the painting, it’s hard not to notice the striking similarity of the painting and the black Kancheevaram silk saree that Lakshmi has draped. The pallu is alternate black and white, with a huge red dot weaved on its centre; a thick golden yellow line runs across the bottom of the drape.

For Lakshmi, art doesn’t just spill outside boundaries, it spills across mediums too.

“I translate the same artworks I do on wood, to fabrics (Kancheevaram silk, Chanderi and Tie and Dye) and to pieces of jewellery,” she says. Her works revolve around the theme of Sakthi. Red dot or Bindu, which symbolises a pool of energy from which everything originates, Sutra or long thread that symbolises continuity of life, and inverted triangle or yoni, an iconographic symbol of creation, are recurring elements across her collection. When it comes to colours, it is a creative play of yellow (denotes turmeric), red (vermillion) and white (ash). “I grew up in a conventional family, but the rituals and traditions that I have depicted through my works have nothing religious about them,” she says.

Instead, they convey the powerful emotion of faith. She sees millionnaires bow their heads before a piece of stone on the road side before wheeling away in their Mercedes, or a group worshipping an extended branch of a tree as lord Ganesha — and these take form in her works. “When I go to temples, I don’t see a Krishna with a flute, Siva or Vishnu, I see a stone that has been consecrated for years and years; a stone with reflects back all the positive energy which millions of people have infused in it. Just the sight of that black stone with a smear of sandalwood and a dot of red… I find that terribly powerful,” she adds.

Besides fabrics and wooden frames, the studio houses neat glass showcases filled with neckpieces and earrings made with small wooden pieces, frames of silver dipped in gold, lava beads, fired clay moulds, green turquoise, mother of pearl, agate and so on. A few are hung on the nails drilled into frames of painted wood. “It’s a complete package; those who want to buy the jewellery, get the wooden artwork on which it is hung,” she says.

But isn’t it tough — juggling three mediums? we ask. Challenges are aplenty. For example, in fabrics, the warp and wefts may not necessarily produce the same effect that you can produce with a heavy dip of paint, she explains. “But, it is all an extension of art. I don’t treat them (painting and designing) as separate,” she says.

Lakshmi is an art student, and has been painting ever since she was a kid. She graduated in Fine Arts, but soon got married and took a hiatus from the art world. However, she did start a children’s boutique in the early 1980s, and slowly ventured into designing for adults.

“That’s when I happened to meet artist A V Ilango, and he motivated me to get back into painting seriously,” she says, taking a moment to recall the exact year, “It was in 1995. Has it been 20 years?” she adds with a tinge of surprise. She showcased her works in London, France, Singapore, besides in India ever since.

She also started Tvam Art and Design Studio with her daughter Krithika Srinivasan in 2011. Meanwhile, a director with The Hindu, she got busy managing the events at the office, and art took a backseat. “But I was itching to paint, and somehow, I started making jewellery. I found that it was giving me some sort of expression to my art,” she says.

An edited version of the same appeared in The Hindu Bangalore edition of October 16. Here is the link

Crafting the crowning glory

Najeeb Ur Rehman, whose hands have created magic with the locks of hair – be it the 89 models in the Miss world contest – 1996 held in Bangalore,  the cast of Monsoon wedding or the likes of Sonakshi Sinha, is a walking wikipedia when is comes to one’s coiffure.

He comes with a goldmine of experience, working with stylists all around the globe like Anthony Whitaker, Robert Seah, Tyler Jhonston and Tracey Hayes among others. A recipient of the Queen’s cup, one of the biggest hairdressing awards worldwide, in two categories – ‘ Best hairdressing’ and ‘ Best evening hairstyle’, Najeeb hides his achievements behind a veil of modesty, as he expains about the trends and texture that vary across India.

How do you trail the hair trend as we go from South to North?

Of course, there is change in the texture and tone, but when it comes to people accepting fashion, I find they are all similar. I have observed that when it comes to medium to lengthy hair, women mostly go for straightening. Most opt for shades of brown for colouring, but talk about darker shades, then there is a lot of inhibition – be it South or North.

Is there any peculiar trend that you noted in Chennai that sets it apart from the rest?

In Chennai, women mostly plate their hair or use bands. It is understandable because of the high humidity.  The wavy hair frizzes out by the end of the day.

Any solutions?

Yes, there are solutions to leave it open. It requires a change in the regime. A change in the usual shampoo and conditioner that they use. I would personally suggest Bonacure smooth and shine shampoo that works for coarse, unmanageable and dull hair. The styling products such as the Shwartzkoff’s Osis magic anti-frizz serum also would suit the Chennai hair.

How do you decide on which hairstyle suits each individual?

There are five kinds of shapes when it comes to a face. The hairstyle must complement this shape and profile of the person. For example, for those who have high cheek bones, wispy bangs in the front can help hide it. For those who have broad foreheads, I would recommend fringes and those with small foreheads, a puffed up hairdo would suit.

All this also depends on the comfort of the person of course. The customer’s suggestion is also taken into consideration.

So did you do the looks for Sonakshi Sinha in Lootera?

No, but I have worked with her for a launch. She has a broad forehead, so I went for something loose, with a few strands falling forward.

Have you worked with anyone from Kollywood?

Unfortunately, not. But I did meet many in the Bangalore fashion week recently.  I met Vijay and Rajinikanth and many others, whose names I forget now. Very nice people, I must say. I would to do hairstyles for them for some project in future.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out –



The local Harry!


The scar makes him conspicuous. T’he rims of his round glasses hide the dreamy look in his eyes. Aware of your gaze, he quickens his steps with his black robe flowing behind him.  That messy hair and pink pursed lips, it had to be the famous boy. You follow his flying black robe, and halt as he sways his wand and shouts –  ‘Expecto Patronum!’

“I always wanted a dragon to come out of the patronum charm, “ beams Hussain as he recollects his stint with the character of Harry Potter in the play, ‘Heroes’ by ASAP Productions, staged last year. “Oh yes, I was the chosen one. Just to enact the role though,” says the 22-year-old Harry look-alike, with a laugh. The play gave Chennai its Harry Potter and Hussain, the star attraction.

Today, Hussain sports a perpetual smile – be it to any kid pointing at him, to strangers who stare almost hypnotically, and to girls who vision their love lace Daniel in Hussain. “I like the attention that I get,” he says, blushing.  The red in his cheeks, you notice,  is similar to what Harry wore while asking Cho out for the  ball dance. “I had a girl friend in my school who resembled Cho Chang,” admits Hussain, who has been to ball room parties, sans Parvati Patil. And that’s the closest he has got to Harry when it comes to romance.

Ginni, you ask?

Let’s say, she should have been a lot more better on-screen to grab this Harry’s interest.

Life is not all honey and wine. Talk about the Gryffindor genes in him and he gives us a peek into his valiance. Biking in the Himalayas, walking on the frozen waters of the Langlong lake, trekking on the Changla pass and deep sea diving in Srilanka – the list could easily give him a wild card entry into winning the goblet of fire. But would Dumbledore give the gryffindor sword and sorting hat for his assistance?

Now that’s doubtful, since the Chennai born Harry boy says he  personally sees a lot more of Slytherin in him than Gryffindor. “My favourite character is that of Snape,” says Hussain.  As if to explain his disloyalty, he clarifies, nobody has ever sacrificed for harry as much as Snape did. Not even Dumbledore!

“I wouldn’t have wanted Snape to die,” he says with a sigh. And if he had his way, the wizard dupe would have made Hermione the headmistress and his wife Ginni as the Defence against the dark arts teacher. And of course, he would be a professional Quidditch player, working part time chasing the death eaters, if there were any. “I wanted nothing to end – Neither Dumbledore, nor Sirius and never the series,” says Hussain, who took to Harry addiction in his eighth grade.

Reminiscing about his past, he bents his head and presses his forehead. A premonition? No, he is just mind boggled how the author thought of all the flying unicorns and horcruxes and so on. “I am sure she was on LSD. Who else would think this way,” he jests, in his usual light-hearted laugh. And suddenly, you get reminded of the Harry at the Weasley’s place. Carefree and Happy.

Hussain the local Harry boy!

Hussain the local Harry boy!

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express on the occasion of Harry Potter’s B’day (July 31). Check out –


Seeing mediocrity as an offence


I wrote this SOP for one one of my talented friends who wanted to join the placement club in his college — an experiment which let me put myself in his shoes and write on his behalf. It was quite exciting, I must say. 


The world would have been a tragic place if Beethoven just composed the tunes for his ears or Picasso installed all his paintings in his storeroom. The journey of fame, as I know it, started with the product of their talent being thrown open for public consumption.

I can analogise this with the bottled up talent of the millions in our country, or zooming out, to the hundreds in our college. The Placement club, the most prestigious one as I see it, is that platform which helps the talent be put to use for the society.

Being a part of this club would help me practice the principles which I have always believed in – to negate the boundaries. Everyone can stay comfortable inside their cocoon, doing their bit and then nestling up in the warmth again. It requires a sense of RSVP, as I to call it – Responsibility, Sincerity, Valiance and above all Perseverance – to come out of the cocoon and fly.

It is this RSVP quotient, that I rank higher than the other conventional quotients and which I believe, would give me an edge over others in the selection process.

Narrowing this edge would be the stack of experiences which I have gathered by participating in activities beyond the routine and mandatory – be it in school or college.

In high school, I maintained a fine balance  between sports and academics and managed to retain a commendable performance in both. With a stable foot in each, I would say, I gained a peak in my efficiency graph by volunteering in the events organised in the college, which polished my communication skills, gave me a knack of time management, made me take pleasure in team work and  brought in a sense of ease when dealing with challenges.

With these qualities in the bag-back, my days in college, while exploring the nuances of engineering and its application, also eyed on enhancing my management skills. While sports remained as a perennial extracurricular, my interests further branched out to giving seminars, conducting workshops and coordinating events. I learnt how to convince people, how to sell an event for its  worth and above all, I learnt the congnizance behind making a person participate in what you have to offer.

It is at this juncture that I realised my ability at juggling multiple responsibilities with an equal amount of attention for each, which I ardently applied in my work life as well. Being elected as the best orator in the team and best employee of the quarter stand testimony to my efforts.

The opportunity of being a part of this club would not be just the first step, but a grand start to a career which I passionately look forward to.

And of course, RSVP.


Time will heal, so will Sidha

Sidha healers residing in the mountains are usually picturised wearing saffron dhotis with uncombed voluminous hair falling all over their face. The chief healer of Kolli hills, Mooligai Selavaraj’s image does not concur with any of it.

He zooms around in his bike, participates in all the cultural extravaganza during festivals and weddings, pets two dogs and a kitten, indulges in gardening and to top it all, walks around in his white dhoti, a casual checked shirt and a red cap.

Aged 49, he admits to have been in the profession of Sidha since he was just 24. His ancestral inclination towards medicine did not leave him many options.

He grew up running through the Kolli forests, smelling and spotting the medicinal herbs. This explains much about his eloquent rendering of all possible scriptures which have reference to health and medicine.

“There is no disease without a cure,” he says with a confident smile.

Selvaraj is a busy man. Ignoring the continuous buzz on his phone, he shows us a pamphlet with the names of all Sidha Rasams (medicines) used for curing diseases ranging from a simple knee pain to the fatal ones like Cancer and Aids.

He frankly admits that only 75% of the cases he attends succeed. Cases fail when the patient does not take the medicines as prescribed or when the medicine simply does not suit the patient.

“One should have patience while the medicine acts on him,” says Selvaraj. “Most importantly, one should be kept detached from ones family and in complete care of the healer,” he adds.

The trend of allopathy medicine has invaded Kolli as well. But Selvaraj is not against it. He says that for an emergency, allopathy is always advisable.

However, what disappoints him is that villagers opt for Sidha medicine when nothing else works on them. “Most of the cases cannot be cured because they come one hour before their death,” he says.

While he is not attending to patients, he is busy training researchers from all over Tamilnadu. In the two month training, charged at Rs 2000 per head, he practically shows them how to prepare the medicines – the ingredients of which he fearlessly obtains from the sacred forests – an act which could sin him, according to the natives.

Determined to keep the Sidha tradition alive, he says, “I am ready to impart my knowledge to anyone who is ready to receive it.”


Aiming 180

“Nope, that’s not a bingo,” he says, as he walks towards the board to remove the dart which I had aimed right at the bull’s eye. He chuckles as he explains how the laymen foolishly think that hitting the arrow at the centre makes one a darting pro.

Mr Vellupillai

Mr Vellupillai

Venupillai and his friend, Saravan Raj, started Café 180 last December 12th as a place to relax after a heavy schedule of designing and architectural brainstorm. What started as a place to have coffee and a chat is now a “darting lounge with a café attached to it and not the other way round”, as he likes to put it.

“Hold it at the tip, align your elbows straight, stretch your upper body forward and strike,” he says, while demonstrating the right move. Like a coach, he explains the points allotted for each segment. The uppermost circle doubles the points, the middle circle triples it. Drawing an imaginary line vertically down the number 20, he calculates – “Thrice of 20 is 60. If your arrow pins this patch thrice, you get 180.” That’s the highest one can get in a round, which gives Café 180 its name.

While I take a break to have my Café 180 frappe, Venupillai, his son and marketing head, play a round of the game.

I notice that he has aligned the various darts neatly on the table. He shows me the high impact ones, Torpido, Darrel Fitton, Dennis Prisley and Simon whitlock, like an excited kid showing his collection of toys. Acknowledging my confused look, he says, “They travel differently. Aerodynamics you see.” I nod.

“These,” he points at another set of dart accessories, “slim flight, kite, regular. They make the darts fly.” He then carefully fixes the plastic cap to the arrows and hands it over to me to try my shot.

With the new techniques, I realize that my shots seemed to have improved. To my amazement, he invites me to join the championship tournament to be held in April in the very same building. Without giving much time to process the thought, he fetches a membership form, which he hands over to me and says, “Rs 5800 only. You can play in any of the darting clubs all around the world.”

I learn that Café 180 and few other private clubs like Flying Barrels are divisions under Tamil Nadu Darts Association (TANDA), which in turn comes under All India Darts Association.

“The scene in India is still budding,” he says, disappointed. But soon lights up as he points out that theirs was the only club Association in India to represent World Class Darting Championships.

While the Darting club has a decent number of 62 members, and is still filling up, the restaurant wears a gloomy look, probably awaiting an expanse of the kitchen to add Chinese and Italian, apart from its Continental cuisine at present.

“We don’t advertise much. Then it becomes a matter of numbers. We talk about numbers only in the dart, not in terms of customers,” he smiles and continues to aim for his 180.

To watch a collage of pictures of Cafe 180. Go to Cafe 180

Spinning a fictional yarn

“Books helped me realize what literature was, my family helped me realize what story telling was,” says Anosh Irani, as he makes the audience realize the craft which he used to weave his works – The Cripple and His Talismans, Dahanu Road, The Song of Kahunsha to name a few.

Away from the spotlight and hundreds of hawking eyes, he sits by the lounge to sign his books with a perpetual smile. Dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, the contrast is almost depictive of his character – honest and open-minded.

“Without Bombay and India, I wouldn’t be a writer.” he says when asked about his days in India, where he spent first 24 years of his life and then moved to Canada to pursue a career in writing.

“I wouldn’t have any stories to tell,” he adds. His works mainly come out as snapshots of the childhood which he spent in Bombay as is seen in his novels and essays.

Anosh Irani at the LIT FOR LIFE programme . Photo Source :R. Ragu

Anosh Irani at the LIT FOR LIFE programme .
Photo Source :R. Ragu

Speaking about the bridge between the two countries Canada and India, he says, “What Canada gave me was the distance – Not only geographical, but also the perspective of being away from Bombay.”

According to Irani, place is something which should matter the least for a story-teller. “It’s all about writing a good story and how good a novelist you are,” says Vancouver-based novelist.

When I open the album I see pictures of coffins: finger coffins, arm coffins, toe coffins. It surprises me how much I do not know about this city. Tomorrow I might meet a midget who is ten feet tall, a butcher who sells newborn babies, a boxer who works as an anesthetist in a hospital by knocking patients senseless” – While these lines from his novel, The Cripple and his Craftsmen, portray a gruesome picture of Bombay, one wonders about the delicacy of issues which might trigger the alarm of Taboo, a much infested disease in India today.

Irani waves off such thoughts with a careless smile as he says, “It’s all a work of fiction. There is no question in portraying Bombay in a good or bad light.”

This aptly takes one to the comment which he made in the session back in the hall. He said, “Books that make you feel good are bad.” Not surprising that his surreal description attracts readers in vast numbers today.

Being a recipient of several awards and a nominee for many, he holds dear the idea of award ceremonies for literary fiction. “Visibility”, he says pointing at the shelves of short-listed books for Hindu Literary Award “is vital for any writer. Awards are important to get audience.”

However, when asked about his favourite pick from the short-list, he dodges the question with a smile and instead says, “When one writer wins, four others don’t and your heart goes out to them.”

This article was published in The Hindu – Metro plus – Nxg On March 13, 2013. Here is the link to the published version – Spinning a fictional yarn