Thursday, April 29, 2021

Z for Zoo

 There are not many Harry Potter terms with Z. I had to google for the Potter Index. ( I have begun to observe that to google is a universally accepted  verb nowadays).

In the very first few pages of Book 1 we see him going to the zoo and realizing that a snake could understand him. In other words he speaks "Parseltongue". There is this scene with the sand boa that escapes after talking to him.

My son is a big animal aficionado and hence we have done innumerable trips to the zoo so much so that I declare sometimes " if I am left blindfolded at the entrance I will know how to get out"

I somehow do not like the idea of animals being deprived of their freedom and being confined to cages. If the enclosures are big enough and they have enough space to move about its better. 

One thing I learnt from my son during one of our expeditions is that tigers do not hunt zebras . The latter belongs to Africa and there are no tigers there. But if tigers were released in a place with zebras would they consider them as food or friends I wonder !  Not in a wicked sense but wondering how animal brains are wired ! 

One of the animals here at the Singapore zoo which was a revelation to me when I encountered it for the first time is the "Tapir". 

Image source: Wikipedia 

It is a black and white creature that looks like a pig with an elephant's  trunk. Baby tapirs apparently look like a watermelon with similar stripes.  A zoo visit can fill us with awe at the wonderful designs and patterns of natural flora and fauna! Have you seen a Tapir before ? 

This reminds me of a joke we used to laugh about as kids. In Tamil the word "eli" means rat. " what happens if a rat wore pants- it becomes an Eli-phant " ha ha

If one visits the zoo here, a message that is conveyed as much as possible is to "Follow the 3 Rs , Reduce Reuse and Recycle" . In this post I would like to emphasise the same. We have a responsibility towards our planet and let's try to follow these 3 R s as much as possible.
Image credit: Noah Buscher on

This is the concluding post of the A to Z challenge and for the first time I have been able to stick to the schedule and diligently publish a post every single day.  
Thanks to all the bloggers who visited ,commented or simply accompanied me on this month long journey  .
I have enjoyed this exercise and kudos to every other participant. 

I somehow feel like Reese Witherspoon s character in the last scene of Legally Blonde movie where she screams " We Did It!"

Gif images are like the ones in Harry Potter, aren't they ? They move. We muggles are not entirely different:) 

"May you all have a great May "

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Y for Yule Ball

The first time I came across the word ball may have been when my father got me the quintessential striped plastic ball with blue, red and yellow colours. Then came along Cinderella and I knew there is a ball which is an event which people attend dressed fabulously and dance. I am still trying to fathom how on earth one can dance wearing glass slippers. Super Durable Glass I must say and they would have been quite heavy wouldn't they ? 

The Yule ball is an event that happens during the Triwizarding tournament in the Goblet of Fire book of Harry Potter series. The participants are supposed to bring partners and there are some happenings around who dances with who and who ends up sabotaging all hopes of a good time.I thought Emma Watson looked ravishing in that scene in the movie. 

Dancing in pairs like this is a concept we Indians came to know from the West. During the days of the British Raj it was common for the English residing in India to have events where the English gentlemen waltzed with their ladies. But the Indians mostly did not have access nor were culturally inclined towards it.   It is not a common practise in India to have Prom nights or other similar events in high school.   I came to know of them mainly from Hollywood movies and TV series. In college though, we had a dance workshop where I learnt ones like Tango, Waltz and Jive for fun and put up a show just for fun.

We do have our own share of community  dancing.Visit an Indian wedding and you would know. If you have watched Indian movies you would be accustomed to the fact that music and dance play important roles.Music direction and Choreography are significant departments in movie making. This sort of dancing has a huge influence on the masses especially kids and the youth. We have dance festivals, dance competitions, TV shows based on dancing and simple just-enjoy party dancing. During my teens , a Philips tape recorder was my constant companion and I loved dancing in my room ignoring my mother's pleas to reduce the volume ( oh yes I was a rebel!)

We have hundreds of traditional classical dance forms in India that takes years of practise to master with their own rules and methods and practises. They need to be learnt from trained teachers and is done with piety and reverence. A few examples are the BharatnatyamKuchipudi, Kathak and Kathakali

Below is a link to a youtube video giving a glimpse into one such dance form the Bharatnatyam.

Movies, as I mentioned earlier have their own contributions to the art of dancing. Below is a song from a Tamil movie , and I really love the dancing in this one. A song I enjoy dancing to with my little girl.

The traditional and movie based modern dance forms are both encouraged in society and peacefully coexist and sometimes influence one another too . 

What is your favourite dance form ? 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

X for BellatriX and Helena Bonham Carter

 It was so hard finding a word starting with X and that too from the Potter series! I was wavering between Horcrux and Bellatrix and finalized the latter. 

Bellatrix Lestrange! One of the most evil characters in the whole of the Potter series! She is sort of a sadistic maniac who literally worships Lord Voldemort and rejoices inflicting pain and suffering. The point where she kills Sirius Black was an absolute shock.

 That is one character or aspect rather wherein I felt that the movies did a better job than the books! Helena Bonham Carter had sort of magically breathed in so much life into her portrayal. You cannot help feeling absolute loathe and disgust at Bellatrix. Her menacing cackle , the way she whimpers with a mix of fear and excitement when Lord Voldemort addresses her and how she kind of creepily speaks to someone almost crawling behind their backs...the actress nailed it !

Another role by Carter that was pretty amusing was the one of the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.  Her "Off With the Head" at the drop of a hat was so amusing. That was the first movie we took our son to at the cinemas.

One role which she handled with absolute dignity and elegance was her award winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth(King George VI s wife) in "The Kings Speech".  That one was a movie I really enjoyed and I am a Colin Firth fan.

Recently I saw Oceans Eight and she plays this not so confident dress designer and that was pretty impressive as well. 

Have you watched the Harry Potter movies ? Which actor or actress did you like the best ? 

Monday, April 26, 2021

W for Wand

 One object that makes an appearance in almost every page of the Potter Series and has a significant role to play in the climax is the humble wand. "The wand chooses its owner" as Rowling puts it.

If only I could repair a broken pair of spectacles or for that matter broken bones with a stick! Wands have a unique constituent at their core like a phoenix feather or a dragon heart string or a unicorn tail hair as in Harry's case. 

I think the first time I heard about a wand was in the Cinderella story as a little girl. The whole concept of getting a carriage and a pretty dress and glass slippers at the swish of a wand!!! Its a Oooh! How magical! feeling and quite a girly thing I believe . 

A couple of years ago for Halloween(its catching up here as well) my little girl was a garden fairy. She wore a green dress and it was easy to make a wand with cardboard and glittery paper. Five year old girls atleast in this part of the world love tiara s and wands! 

I think holding an object like this in ones hand gives a sense of power or authority. Perhaps that is the reason monarchs and kings carried a sceptre in the good old days.( I hope I spelt that one right, the English language and its Cs after the S do confound me). I seriously wonder what exactly is the use of a sceptre other than looking majestic in pictures ( considering the fact that there was no photography at that time)

These poor guys already had clothes that were overflowing and super heavy. Combine the heavy jewellery and crown and on top of that something to hold aloft! Life was not easy for a king! 

Another hand held stick I can think of is the mace carried by the leader of the military band. During the band formation, there are some maneuvers done using that including throwing it up in the air. It's apparently called a mace (Had to google that one) .  It kind of adds a finishing touch to the band though it plays no part in the music getting played. Does it help in conducting the show similar to what a conductor does for an orchestra? Oh yes he carries a stick too and that is called a baton, I believe. 

The mace I knew was the English translation of the Gadha a huge solid iron weapon depicted in Indian mythology stories as a a kind of iron ball with a long handle. The warriors in our stories had their own speciality in weaponry. Some were skilled archers as Arjuna and there were those like Bhima or Hanuman who yielded the Gadha. And most of our deities are represented with a Gadha symbolizing protection. 

Perhaps a judge is given a gavel for the same reasons. Why not a bell ? A stick in hand portrays authority! 

What are your thoughts?

V for Veritaserum

 Imagine a tonic, drinking which you are forced to speak out the truth and only the truth and nothing but the truth ! Forget about all the holy books upon which one has to swear in some courts of the world ! Such a tonic exists in the Harry Potter world and it is called Veritaserum.

Usually the term coined by Rowling has some roots that add a lot of sense to the explanation.  Veritas is supposed to be the Roman goddess of truth.

It is kind of the lie detector or the truth forcer of the wizarding world. 

I am reminded of Jim Carrey s Liar Liar movie. He also has a kind of truth spell affecting him. I recall a scene where he holds a red pen aloft and tries to declare " this pen is blue"  but his mouth fails to cooperate and declares the truth! 

Honesty is a virtue or character trait that is instilled from a very young age. But hush-hush circumstances and scenarios are universal, I believe.

Imagine if we all were like Pinocchio. For every simple lie we utter ( oh yes we all do I am sure) our noses would react. It would have been impossible to wear masks, I reckon ! 

My dad was manager of a company and his work was predominantly in sales and he was pretty passionate about his work. Every time a salesman selling a vacuum cleaner or a hand blender would ring our bell for door to door sales he would give them coffee and some paternal advise . He would say " in this profession you must first learn to lie a bit. "

There is a Tamil movie song called Azhagu. It means beautiful. A little girl sings that falling leaves are as beautiful as the flowers and the scorching sun is as beautiful as the rain .

In the long there are lines 

Punnagai Veesidum paarvaigal Azhagu

Parvaigal theerndhadhum mounangal azhagu

Nanmaikku sollidum poygalum azhagu

Beautiful are the looks that smile

Beautiful are the silences that follow these looks

Beautiful are the lies told for the good (reasons)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

U for Unicorn

Unicorns appear in the very first of the Potter books. Voldemort who does not have a form yet and is housed on Professor Quirril's head uses him to kill a unicorn and drink its silvery blood as it is supposed to keep alive anyone on the brink of losing his life. But killing a pure and defenseless animal would result in a cursed life.

Harry Potter has a unicorn hair as the core of his wand and hence it's one of the finest .

I always felt that black stallions look pretty majestic but somehow these one horned horses are always depicted in white colour and they are supposed to be a dazzling white. I wonder why no detergent companies have a unicorn for a logo! 

Recently I heard about a tiny black hole that has been discovered in space and has been named the unicorn.  Usually when something is a rare occurrence it gets such a name .

It was recently that I came to know that a term called unicorn company is becoming widely used in the business world. Apparently a privately held startup company valued at more than a billion dollars is called by that term. 

During one of my trips to the Underwaterworld aquarium I saw a white fish with a horn like projection on its forehead. I thought it looked like a unicorn and then came to know that it bears precisely the same name . "Unicorn fish" 

I used to play a game with my kids where we used to name one animal each for every letter of the alphabet. We usually used to get stuck at U. After this trip we had a new one to add to our list . Now my son tells me there is a Ulesseus butterfly for U.

Do you know any other animals that start with U ? I may have missed a common one too !! 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

T for Thestral

 When Potter and his friends first arrive at Hogwarts they are fascinated by driver less carriages that seem to have no horses tethered as well. Further down in the series we come to know that they are actually drawn by winged creatures resembling horses with leathery skin ! Testhrals! A unique quality they have is that they are only visible to those who have witnessed death ! 

I usually prefer writing about light hearted topics and this one is one of the darkest! Death ! 

In fact Rowlings novels in the series are like the shading palette in a Microsoft application.  They start on the lightest side and become darker and then darkest! 

The first time I experienced the death of a loved one is when my maternal grandfather died. I was in class 3 and it was quite difficult to understand why it took so long for my mother to handle her grief and come to terms with it. Why she would suddenly tear up often. Ten years ago when I lost my own dad ( coincidentally in April) I could relate moment by moment!

As years go bye , there are more stories that add on. A close friend in college! A very young relative! Accidents, terminal illnesses , cardiac arrests , strokes and what not ! We all have some belief or the other that helps us to come to terms with it and move on ! 

Slowly realization dawns that we are all in queue! 

Ok no more morbid stuff ! In a Tamil movie,  which I saw recently on Netflix the whole story is around the death of the father character and for some reason the son despises him ! At one point the corpse goes missing ! Later we come to know that it was actually a hoax ! It's called "Aelay" Do watch it for some good humor and a glimpse into life in rural India. 

I have not read the book "The Book Thief" but I understand it involves conversations with Death ! 

Coming back to Harry Potter there are things called Deathly Hallows that provide great power to the possessor and are supposed to have been given to the magic world by Death himself. 

Alright! As an end note , remember to express a word of gratitude for every second provided to you in life ! Especially in harrowing times like this when the silent enemy is giving us a really hard time . I read somewhere on A to Z yesterday about candles and world peace ! We have a long way to go I guess but this too shall pass ! 

S for Snake

 Voldemort or You-know-Who as he is referred to in the Harry Potter books is a ruthless villain with absolutely no conscience. He has his soul split and stored in various things called Horcruxes all of which need to be destroyed to overcome him.

One of his prized possessions is a snake that he calls Nagini. The guy can speak to snakes and this ability is called Parseltongue something that is shared by Harry Potter as well.

Nagini seems to have been influenced by the Indian word for snake i,e "Naag". A cobra is called Naagin in Hindi and "Naaga pambu" in Tamil.

Snakes play a very important role in many of the stories in Hinduism and Indian mythology. We have Aadisesha the multi headed serpent on whose coils Lord Vishnu rests in the milky ocean. The snake Vasuki was used as a rope when the milky ocean was churned by the gods and demons. Lord Shiva has a snake coiled around his neck like a garland!

There are so many temples for snakes where the snake goddess is worshipped.  There are others where there would be snake statues or even mud mounds representing a snake's burrow. There are auspicious days when these snake statues would be worshipped with milk . Many still believe that snakes consume milk though science refutes it saying its biologically impossible for these limbless creatures to do so. My mom and mother in law also follow this practise.

When I was in a town called Erode , there were many vacant plots of land around and snakes were a very common sight. Not the harmless ones but pretty poisonous ones like the cobra. One even visited our kitchen ( I am not joking!)

In one TV documentary I came to know of a farmer who had gone to the forest area to collect some wood. He got bitten by a cobra on his nose.To save himself he took a sickel and chopped off his nose to prevent the poison from spreading. 

In Tamil there is an idiom called "Pambum Keeriyum" . Pambu means snake and keeri means mongoose. These two animals are supposed to be bitter rivals. Hence if two people are always at loggerheads with each other , or are strong enemies this phrase is used to describe them .

Todays question...Name one word or movie that immediately comes to mind when I say "Snake"

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

R for Remus

 Remus Lupin is a character that is introduced in the Prisoner of Azkaban. He is a good friend of Harry's late father and he has another identity that makes him special. He is a werewolf! Poor guy, gets bitten by a mean werewolf as a kid and has to undergo the harrowing transformation every full moon night when he has absolutely no control over himself.

In contrast to this identity, Lupin is a very righteous man who is on the good side fighting the dark forces. In fact one of Rowling's characters falls in love with him and marries him overcoming his initial resistance. This part of the plot points to the direction of seeing beyond people's flaws and being inclusive .

Another story where I came across werewolf is the TV series "Once Upon a Time" where in, all the fairy tales that we know of are given a different twist and kind of interwoven into a story of today's times. Here our little red riding hood is not a little girl but a young woman and is a WEREWOLF!! She wears the red riding hood to actually shield her from the transformation and to control her characteristics.

Who can forget the wolves of the Jungle book? The first animated version where the mother wolf is so strong willed and the wolf chieftain Akira! He and Dumbledore have similar qualities - mature, experienced and strong leaders!

I remember a picture that was doing rounds on social media , a while ago about a pack of wolves walking in the snow and there was a lot of "lessons to be learnt" about the formation and leadership and so on. Apparently all that came with that is not true as per many fact or fiction websites.

I have a darling little niece and once I showed her a picture of a wolf and did an "Awoooo" with my head tilted up . She caught on immediately and would go Awooo every time we asked her how the wolf cries ! 

Q for Quidditch

 Harry Potter books have so many interesting details that the readers may forget quite a bit as the years go by. But one thing that is kind of indelibly implanted in our minds is the sport of the wizards a.k.a Quidditch.

It is played in the air with the players mounted on brooms and there are keepers and quaffles and bludgers. A snitch is an elusive flying object and the team that manages to catch it  usually wins the game. Harry Potter himself is a very talented seeker!

Wikipedia tells me that now there is really a sport called quidditch with its roots in J K Rowling's fictitious pages that is gaining popularity in different parts of the world.

Every country has some sport that sort of a national favorite. In India, it is cricket.

We kind of grow up with cricket. Almost everyone watches cricket. Every time there is a new series, the elders and kids alike would be glued to the television sets with equal fervor. We celebrate the victories of our teams and the achievers in the sport are idolized. Apart from the cricket played in school grounds, the kids and youngsters would find some option to exercise the love for the sport. A vacant piece of land, apartment parking lots, car driveways and even the streets. There are those among us who passionately keep track of cricketing facts and history. Some matches of more than a decade old are remembered fondly. During my childhood days, television was not common in all homes. Friends would gather in the houses that had a TV and passersby would hear intermittent screams of excitement from the windows!

When India won the cricket world cup for the first time in 1983, I was 2 and a half years old. When it won the second time in 2011, my son was 2 and a half years old. Sweet coincidence!

Another sport I learnt to watch , thanks to my dad is tennis. I remember him drawing the tennis court on a black slate with chalk and explaining the rules. He used to follow the  French Open and Wimbledon series which used to be relayed live.

I like to play badminton now but I don't have much patience to watch a game end to end. Any sport for that matter.  I remember the book "Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus" or something else on a similar subject having an explanation about how and why men can watch some sport for hours at a stretch! Something women usually find it difficult!

What is your favorite sport?

Monday, April 19, 2021

P for Potion

 Potions is the subject taught by Severus Snape one of the teachers Potter loathes throughout the series.  He is quite partial to his own house the Slytherins and leaves no opportunity to taunt Harry and his fellow Griffindors.

There is a lot of variety in the potions these wizards and witches come across.

There is verisaterum which is kind of like a lie detector. It will force the person who had it to speak the truth and nothing but the truth.

There is a love potion that will cause a person to fall head over heels over another. 

Then there is the polyjuice potion that contains the hair of another individual and helps one in impersonating . It plays a significant part throughout the series .

One person taking the form of another is a common aspect of kost mythological or folklore stories. In the Ramayana , Sita is abducted by Ravana disguised as a mendicant after using a demon disguised as a deer to lure Rama away from her.  

There was an interesting interview I saw recently of South Indian movie actor Mammootty. Some reporter went to him and asked what he would do if he would wake up in the morning and find that he is ... ( specifying some other name that had been finding a lot of place in recent press articles) . He quipped "No matter who I am when I get up I  will first go and have my cup of tea."  Exactly , end of the day we all share some basic needs no matter who we are .None of us get more than 24 hours in a day ! None of us can be without food or sleep.

If you wanted to impersonate someone who would it be ? 

Friday, April 16, 2021

O for Occlumency : O for Order

 Harry Potter has a sort of telepathic connection with the antagonist Voldemort also known as You-Know-Who. Every time the latter experiences extreme emotions like anger, rage , excitement or hatred, Harry's lightning scar starts hurting and he kind sees visions as if he is seeing things through Voldemort s eyes. The science or art of breaking this sort of psychological control is called Occlumency. Harry is given training in the same but he struggles to gain mastery over it . 

As humans we also have our opinions and views and perspectives influenced by other people quite often. Such influences could be positive if the person is a mature individual and is attempting to make us better people. There are of course influences that dont come from the best of interests . There are times it is done with ulterior motives or due to character traits like jealousy or envy or pure nastiness. We need something like Occlumency  to shield and guard ourselves. 

The fifth book in the Potter series is the Order of the Phoenix. It is a secret organization of the good wizards and witches who team up to fight against their dark sided counterparts. 

The word order reminds me of the judge's gavel. After seeing a few movies as a small kid, I thought the only job a judge in court had was to bang this yelling order order ! 

"Out of order" was a term we often used to refer to telephone connections that were you know, out of order ! Imagine a time without cellphones, internet, whatsapp ! It was there three decades ago and life was still beautiful !

These days with a lot of transactions happening online , internet is abuzz with orders - for pizza, grocery, clothes , electronic equipment and what not. I love the pizza delivery websites that pictorially show what stage our order is in ! Your pizza is being prepared or Your pizza is being baked etc .... 

Another place where the word order is often used is in military stories. "And that is an order" adds a lot of drama to those scenes in military movies . 

We all prefer order of some sort in our lives . But the definition of order differs from person to person . What would you define as things being in order ? 

N for Nimbus

 Nimbus is a broom brand in the Potter Series. (Think of Yonex or Nike through a wizarding lens) The brooms have certain distinguishing features that decide their quality.  Nimbus 2000 is Harry s first broom and quite an expensive one.

Well, if I were to fly on a broom I would probably ask for safety harnesses that make sure I dont fall off no matter what ! And perhaps a comfortable seat attached to the broom and maybe an umbrella for wet or hot weather ? Yes yes ! I hear you, it's a broom, not a flying silver chariot ! 

I dont know what one would look for in a wizarding broom but I do know what to look for in a real broom. In tropical hot weather like South East Asia there is no need for carpeting the floors and a sweep with the humble broom is a lot easier to clean the floor than trudging along a vacuum cleaner and its environment friendly too.

In India there used to be two types of brooms in my home . The soft variety for using inside the home. Then there used to be one made by tying up the thin sticks got from coconut leaves . This was more for sweeping the front yard  that is where it was plain soil - Rake up the fallen leaves and make the yard clean ! 

A similar broom is used in the kitchens of South Indian restaurants.  Not for cleaning but as a cooking equipment ! There would be a huge griddle for making dosa with high pressure fire beneath it . If the griddle becomes too hot, the dosa would stick to it ... in order to have the temperature just right the chefs would splash water on the hot griddle. When it sizzles and steams, they would use this broom to evenly spread it on the griddle .  It's quite a skillful manoeuvre that looks quite fascinating . Of course this broom would be reserved purely for that use . 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

M for Muggle

 That's the 13th letter of the alphabet and all of us still continuing in AtoZ , we have reached the half distance milestone ! Super ! 

Muggle is the term in the Potter series by which ordinary people are referred to, in other words people who do not have any magical powers and are not wizards or witches . The children of Muggles could have magical abilities and Hermione is a classic example. But the villains a.k.a the Death Eaters despise such people and use a derogatory word called Mudblood against them indicating that their blood is not pure.

This kind of superiority complex is something humans have always had in some form or the other from times unknown isn't it ? Colour, race, wealth, community , ancestory and what not ! This in turn leads to oppression and suppression and history keeps getting rewritten! Having a tiny space in our minds to think from another person's point of view goes a long way in mending broken bridges.

Simple thing to remember - all of our teeth are white ( of course provided we brush daily) and we all look better when we smile. That's not so hard eh ! 

The magical world is fascinated by what is achieved in the Muggle world. We have managed to fly in machines, sail on vessels, make light bulbs glow and freeze food and contact each other through telepathy!...oops we are not there yet, I mean telephones and what not ! 

After accomplishing such mind blogging things, mankind often forgets the easiest form of existence....simply being human ! A little love here , some compassion there and lot of smiles (they come absolutely free of cost) is all that it takes to heal the world and make it a better place ( I love that song by Michael Jackson).

Yesterday on my evening walk , I saw a lady with a baby at a signal and for some reason on seeing me the baby broke into a wide toothless amused grin . It made my day . End of the day , it's small things that make life worth living, right?

Love, live and let live! 

L for Library

 Hermione Granger! One of the three central characters of the Potter series. Intelligent, studious and meticulous ! Her favourite place in Hogwarts - the library !  For an enchanted world where everything happens by magic and where even memories can be pulled out of a head and saved in bottles, there is nothing similar to the internet or google. For every information one has to depend upon the massive book collection inside the library and that's where she gets very interesting and useful facts.

Picture courtesy: Ryunosuke Kikuno on

I love to read and I enjoy browsing the shelves of the local library picking what next to read! When you find out that a title that you have been wanting to read for quite some time  is available for you to borrow, it's a very special feeling indeed! I mostly read fiction and am happy borrowing the books rather than buying them .

During my college days many of us used to prefer sitting in the quiet library to study rather than in our hostel rooms where there was an imminent danger of  using the books as pillows and dozing off. On the eve of one of my exams ( that was my very first semester I think) I was at the Ref-Li( short for Reference library) and to take a break I decided to go for a 5 minute walk . On the college corridor I met a couple of friends. We talked , we gossiped , we giggled , we laughed and it stretched to more than half an hour. These friends did not have an exam the next day and they did not exactly fall under the "whiling away time" category.  Finally when guilt and self nudging won over me, I waved goodbye and traced my steps back . What I saw had my mouth wide open with shock! The library doors were closed and there hung a big lock with no human in sight. All my books , reference material and even my calculator were locked up inside.  My room keys and my cycle keys too!  All my plans for last minute preparation got popped like a nasty needle on a balloon. Lesson learnt: if you are leaving your belongings at a public place, be aware of the timings!

In Singapore there are unmanned drop off points outside all libraries where we can return the books on loan. Last Friday, I collected the books to return and carefully counted multiple times to make sure all six were there. I sent my son to drop them off and was pleased with myself to remember returning them on time.Late returns incur a fee. Yesterday,  Iwas browsing the library app to check for some book  when I realized that I still had one more book on loan. That's when it dawned on me that instead of returning a library book I had dropped off one of the books we own and which had been a birthday present for my girl! Thankfully they had kept it separately and I was able to get it back . Lesson never managed to learn : Dont be absent minded!! 

Monday, April 12, 2021

K for Key

 There are very few things in the Potter series that I can think of for K. After racking my brain for quite  a while this is all I could think of!

Harry has a unique key given to him by Sirius that can open any possible lock. How cool is that ! Dangerous as well!

Dindigul , a town in my home state of TamilNadu in India is famous for manufacturing speciality locks. It is known as the "lock-city" and is famous for its fool-proof mango shaped locks. In fact there are families that have been making these unique locks for generations.

I love those journals that you get in gift shops with colourful pages and pretty pictures that can be secured with a tiny lock and key. It's a  great return gifts for girl birthday parties.

On Indian trains we have a metal hoop under the seat that can be used  to secure your luggage  using a chain, lock and key. For one, it prevented luggage from being mistakenly exchanged and two, of course gave protection from thieves. Along with newspapers and comics, a common thing that can be seen sold on railway platforms are these long chains, locks and keys!

I have not been to France but I have heard of a tourist location there where romantic couples hang metal locks on a bridge. After some googling , I got to know it's called the Pont Des Arts and that due to the weight of the locks affecting the bridge, it's no longer allowed now.

Another thing that fascinates me are key chains and key rings ... something I love to buy as souvenirs when visiting new places in addition to fridge magnets .  

I have a nice key hanger in my living room. But the most commonly misplaced item in our family are our keys next only to mobile chargers.  Especially in the mad morning rush of hurrying the kids to school, the car keys would often play a game of hide and seek with us ! 

Like a MonKEY I have been hopping from one key thing to another !! Someone remind me the key points to take note while writing blog posts ! What is the key to a popular blog post? :) 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

J for Jinx

The Defense against the Dark Arts is a course at Hogwarts that trains the wizards and witches in spells and tricks to be used, if they come in the path of their prejudicial counterparts who have transgressed to the evil side. 

The post however is supposed to be jinxed as no one manages to hold it for more than a year. The first teacher is possessed by the antagonist and the second one is a pompous self-obsessed person who ends up losing his memory. The only good one in the list is ostracized by the community as he is a werewolf who has to take preventive measures on a full moon night. 

At one of my previous workplaces we used to joke around, that a particular work station was jinxed and needed some FengShui healing as none of its occupants lasted more than a week in the company. Whenever a new person was allocated the seat we were monstrously awaiting the "Good bye, till we meet again" email to see if the jinx was still in power!

Speaking of jinxed objects, the movie Jumanji comes to mind. I know there have been newer versions but my favorite is the very first one where we have huge creepers coming out of the ground and people transported to live in the jungle and lions and gun-holding hunters landing in the house.

There is a branch of gemology that deals with luck or ill-luck brought about by gemstones and some people very firmly believe the idea. Some pearls or diamonds are supposed to bring good luck while others are supposed to be jinxed and would bring misfortune to the wearer or control their actions. You may have observed some of these people wearing huge multicolored rings.

Another common usage of Jinx is when two of us says the same thing at the same time.

I love to silently observe when my daughter and her friends are playing and two of them utter something simultaneously; There would be a loud exclamation of Jinx!! and they would break into childish giggles echoing around my home. 

Such giggles are powerful enough to get rid of any Jinxes I guess! :)

Saturday, April 10, 2021

I Invisibily Invincible

 Imagine there is a cloak, wearing which people can see through you and that you become totally invisible. If this kind of an Invisibility Cloak comes into the possession of a teenager how often would he use it ? Harry Potter has such a cloak that he puts to many a use to go to prohibited places at prohibited times . To follow the bullies in Slytherin House, to sneak out of Hogwarts in the middle of the night and what not! 

It reminds me of the movie Hollow Man where a group of scientists discover the formula and methodology to making a person irreversibly invisible. The person who offers himself for the experiment starts getting sinister ideas once he has the power. 

What could one do if one had the power to become invisible ?

It would be the best asset to become a detective or maybe an intelligence agent ? You can be anywhere and observe all that you want. But I am not sure if you can take pictures . I wonder if the camera will be a part of the invisibility. 

Of course one can be the super good guy cum super hero going to all places of injustice, brutality, exploitation or bullying and teach all the bad guys a lesson. 

Looking at it from a selfish perspective we could travel wherever we want. Walk into the airport and board any plane you want and see whatever you want and keep country hopping! How cool is that ?

Play as many pranks as you want on everyone you know.  

Wherever you want to go movies, theatre, music show it's a free ticket less entry . 

 I recently watched Miss Perigraine s home for peculiar children on Netflix (Hope I got that name right) and there is a boy there who is always invisible. 

What do you think you would do if you were invisible? Does that make you invincible ?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Headless and more heads


Ghosts can be scary and spooky and can be used to create horror but they are quite a common appearance at Hogwarts School of wizardry in Harry Potter. In fact some of them have very unique names . There is Moaning Myrtle , a woebegone girl ghost , Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost and one of the teachers Professor Binns who teaches them history. 

Nearly Headless Nick is called so because his neck is not completely severed and  a small part of his head still attached at the base. Poor fellow , for this reason he is unable to join the fun activities at the annual Headless Hunt as they only accept ghosts that had lost their heads totally. 

Speaking of heads there is a huge three headed dog Fluffy if I recall the name correctlt that makes its appearance in the first book and falls asleep when music is played.

Having multiple heads or hands is a common depiction of the gods and goddesses in Indian mythology.  It's sometimes symbolic of a more inner philosophical meaning but on a superficial level it's quite interesting.

There are childrens tales in India about a person called Tenali Rama who was the court jester of one King Krishnadeva Raya . These stories are amusing and combine wit and wisdom.

There is an interesting story that I have read about him as a kid. Once when he was asleep in a temple , Goddess Kaali appeared before him and she had a hundred heads.

On seeing the goddess instead of bowing to her or asking for some blessing , he started rolling on the floor  with uncontrollable laughter . The goddess was annoyed but curious about his behaviour. When asked what was wrong he replied " If I catch the nasty flu, I have such a hard time for a whole week. If you catch a cold I wonder what you go through with that one hundred heads of yours! Ha ha ha "

He was given the name vi-ka-ta-ka-vi by the goddess that's a palindrome and means poet of great wit.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Giants, Grawp and Ghatothkacha!

 I remember watching the movie "Honey I blew up the kid" in primary school. A scientist accidentally transforms his toddler into a gigantic size and it wreaks havoc all around. I have a vivid memory of the climax scene where they blow up the mother as well in an attempt to pacify the poor distraught child!

Creatures of enormous height have always fascinated us. Didn't King Kong vs Godzilla just hit the theatres? And who can forget the awe we had watching the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park? Has any of you watched a show called Giant Robot?

Giants are a quintessential part of every folklore. In Harry Potter, Hagrid is the keeper of the grounds and keys and he is huge because he is half-giant and half-human. He has a half-brother(no more halves, I promise) who is entirely of giant origin called Grawp. Giants are depicted by Rowling to be of loud and barbaric nature who often attack and slay each other. In fact Hagrid himself, though a lot more civilized has quite a lot of messy behaviors including the food he eats. The giants are not on very good terms with the magical world. In fact in one of her pages, JKR imagines mountaineering accidents to be actually the works of an angry giant disguised by the press.

We have a good share of giants in our Indian mythology too and demons and demonesses that are massive and scary.

The Mahabharata is an important text and a huge epic containing innumerable interwoven stories. An important event and the culminating story in the book is an 18 day war fought between the righteous Pandavas (They are 5 sons of king Pandu hence called Pandavas) and the evil guys, their cousins , the Kauravas (100 brothers and cousins of the Pandavas by birth).

Bhima, the second of the Pandavas and the son of the wind-god Vayu . During times when they had to stay in forests he is attacked by a demon called Hidimba whom he vanquishes and slays. Hidimba's sister Hidimbi falls in love with him and marries him. This human-giant(or demoness) couple has a son called Ghatothkacha. This giant plays a crucial part in the Mahabharatha war. Though he is killed, he causes extensive loss to the enemy by assuming his biggest form and falling on them in his final moments.

There is a beautiful temple in Manali in the state of Himachal Pradesh amidst the lower ranges of the Himalayas dedicated to Hidimbi and her son Ghatothkacha. 

PhotoCredit: Yours Truly :)


Given a choice what would I want? Being a huge giantess or someone miniscule like Thumbelina I wonder! What would be your preference and why?


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Flavors and Food (Banana Leaf Meals)

 In the very first book in Harry Potter, the children and we readers come across Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans . It is a mix of jelly beans of every possible flavor from wonderful ones like Blueberry to cringe-worthy yucky flavors like grass, earwax and vomit(I made a face too when I read about them!!) . Poor Dumbledore is pretty unlucky with the flavors that he ends up getting.

Chocolate Frogs are a common occurrence in all the books in the series. I am not sure if I would take a fancy if my candy had the shape of a toad!

I love to cook and I love food too! I am a vegetarian but I love trying out new things in my kitchen and exploring different venues to have an adventure with my taste buds!

  • Steaming Jasmine rice with Thai Green Curry and a spicy mango salad on the side
  • Pasta cooked nicely in a creamy mushroom white sauce
  • Dumplings in soups and fried rice and noodles stir fried nicely in a big wok
  • Baby tomatoes, crisp lettuce leaves, cucumber and carrot pieces tossed together with pineapple slices and a dash of lime
  • French fries and yoghurt and chocolate brownies 
  • And of course everything Indian
Speaking of which, Indian food has been popularized all over the world as mainly Tandoori - Naan, Roti with dal and gravy. But that cuisine is specific to a few states and  India is as diverse in its food as anything else. Every state and region has its own unique delicacies depending on the vegetation, climate, the geographical position and a whole lot of other factors.

The food eaten in the South of India is quite different from some of the states towards the North. The states that are coastal have their own cuisine. What significantly differentiates us is whether we eat more of rice or wheat!

I belong to the South of India and we are mainly rice eaters! To begin with the climate and the soil conditions makes growing rice more feasible. Do you know the type of rice we eat differs from state to state?

Dosa , Idli, Pongal and Vada our main tiffin(light meals) items mainly made using rice and lentils.

Our full fledged meal is what is referred to in some parts of Asia "Banana Leaf Meals"

The main item is rice. A three course meal is achieved by mixing the rice with three different accompaniments - sambar(a curry made with lentil, tamarind and vegetables ), rasam(a soup like dish generously spiced up with pepper and cumin) and curd. Along with this there would be some vegetable dishes on the side. Depending upon the grandeur of the occasion or whether its a simple home meal, the number and variety of sides would vary.

The food is served on a banana leaf and eaten with our hands and that is an art we learn as a child. It is very environment friendly and hygienic. In homes we have moved to plates but in weddings and functions food will be served on banana leaves. 

                               Image source: wikimedia commons

We make use of each and every part of the banana plant in our culture. We eat the fruit, the stem and the flower(Oh yes it has a flower). Cutting the banana flower is an art in itself which warrants a separate post by itself. We use the leaves to serve our food or pack the food. We use the fibers running on its stem as strings to make garlands with our flowers. 

You can check out on youtube for videos on Vazhaipoo (Banana flower) and you would be surprised. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

E for Express

 The train that the young wizarding students board to go to Hogwarts on platform 9 and 3/4 is well known to even those who do not fancy the Harry Potter series much . 

Growing up in India , the Indian Railway Network was an inseparable part of our lives. India has one of the longest and well connected  railway networks in the world and the organization is one of the biggest employers in the world .

We lived in the state of Kerala and every summer holidays, we would travel to Chennai to my grandparents place by train. It was an overnight journey spanning 12 hours or so.

There would be a magazine stall at the station outside which there would be quite a number of kids pestering their fathers to buy the latest edition of comics for the journey. Peddlers would be selling steaming tea and snacks on trays they skilfully balanced on one hand , using the other for their transactions. Porters in red uniform were labourers that helped people to carry their luggage. The sounds of the train whistle , the vibrating noise made by the moving wheels on the rails and voices shouting tea-kaapi (tea and coffee) strewn with announcements of " Train No 3224, from Calicut to Chennai will leave platform 3 in 5 minutes " in English, Hindi and Malayalam was almost a symphony ! 

People from all walks of life and all economic classes used the trains and it was the best way to go from one place to another. There are so many interesting people we meet during the journey and there is a term called Rayil Snehidam in Tamil to refer to short lived friend ships. I still clearly remember some of our co-passengers from my growing up years.  They are implanted quite firmly in my memories.

The longest train route in India is apparently the Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek express and it spans over 4000 km and takes 79 hours to complete the journey .  The maximum I have travelled is only about 24 hours . Maybe someday I should take this longest route just to reminisce the good old days. 

Photo by Dibyendu Sekhar Das on

Monday, April 5, 2021

D - Dumbledore and Diagon Alley

 Ask any Potter fan "D for" and the answer would be "Dumbledore" nine out of ten times.

Dumbledore is a brilliant , powerful , experienced wizard who is the headmaster at Hogwarts school of magic and is an ideal educator. Every school going kid would envision him as dream headmaster.  ( who dreams of headmasters anyways!)  . He is fearless and the only character in the book that calls the main antagonist by his first name while the rest of the world refers to him as You-Know-Who. He is a very inspiring person though fictional. 

Diagon Alley is like the Walmart of the wizarding world . It's a street where there are numerous shops selling books and brooms and owls and cloaks. At the beginning of almost every book, the children have a day out at Diagon Alley excitedly buying what they need for the following year.

Buying new things for a new academic year is fun isn't it ? Freshly smelling new books, notebooks , stationary, calculators , lunch bags , shoes, socks , school bags, water bottle- its shopping fun. Not to mention the joy in wrapping the books in brown paper or transparent wrappers and labelling them . 

I still get very excited when I do this annual exercise for my children.  

I love browsing the store shelves picking the perfect lunchbox and the most elegant looking water bottle.

The first time I got a geometry box or a scientific calculator for that matter - my joy knew no bounds !

This is the situation for mundane Muggle(non magic) objects . What if one were to buy an owl or a broom to fly ?? 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

C- Curses and Charms - From the Potter Series

With a wizard as the protagonist and magic as the central theme there is no dearth of charms or curses in the Harry Potter Series.

There are three Unforgivable curses causing control over a person, torture or the worst of all, death!

As a matter of fact curses are an integral part of most folklore or mythology or religious tales from Greek and Roman mythology to tales in India to Chinese folklore.

In fact some of the villains of Hindu religious texts like Ravana of the Ramayana are said to have descended on earth to liberate themselves from a curse.

Jaya / Vijaya were two guards to the abode of Vishnu, one of our three important deities and they refused entry to some sages who had the appearance of children. The sages cursed them to be born on earth as mortals. They had a choice to be born 7 times as good pious devout people or as enemies of Vishnu a.k.a the bad guys 3 times. They did not want to be away from the service to Vishnu Bhagawan (Lord Vishnu) for so long and so they chose the latter.

We have stories of people becoming stones, plants, animals, monsters to be later liberated.

In Greek mythology what immediately comes to mind is Medusa and her head of snakes.

Coming to charms, there are quite a few charms in Harry Potter series which I think would be very nice to have in real life. 

Oculus Reparo could repair broken glasses with the touch of a wand.

Accio was a summoning charm that could help one to get an object to fly into our arms. That's a Ctrl-F for our home. This would be especially useful with two school going kids that try to remember where they kept their homework just before bedtime. It would definitely go a long way in locating cell phone chargers and ear phones and TV remotes.

There is a hot air charm that would help melt snow along the way to help us walk.

There is a charm to cut vegetables and a charm to stir the soup.

J K Rowling let her imagination go wild and that's what make the stories so very endearing.

Is there anything you would want to accomplish through magic in real life? 

Friday, April 2, 2021

B - Boggarts and Fears - From The Potter Series

 In J K Rowling's books, a boggart is a creature that is pretty harmless compared to certain more dangerous and vile mystical creatures. It affects a person by taking on the form of his worst fear!

It can become a spider or a scene showing a loved one lying dead or even the most hated teacher. 

The way to defeat a Boggart in the books is to think of something funny and use the Riddikulus charm that converts it into something really comical. There is a scene where poor Neville sees Professor Snape when he confronts a boggart and the professor's form ends up in women's clothes on using the counter charm.

In a way this whole concept is analogous to many of the fears we all have in real life. Every human is fearful of something  and no one is an exception though what each one of us fears is different.

Fears are sometimes figments of our imagination in a negative direction which are triggered by external circumstances and internal factors like past traumatic experiences or a combination of both. It is often a bad feeling about what may happen or a reminder of an unpleasant past experience. 

When someone is scared of the dark it usually is the wild imagination in progress about what may be lurking in the corners. I remember looking at the red burning tip of a mosquito coil when I was a little girl and imagining it to be an alien that had come to abduct me.

Even in horror movies, it is those scenes that move slowly in darkness where they show mundane details in an eerie silent mode that are more terrifying than the actual portions wherea ghostly face or a zombie pops up on screen.

Sometimes what is described as fear is actually disgust like what some feel towards rats or cockroaches or lizards!

Like the Riddikulus charm, making a caricature of our fears may be a good tactic to deal with them. In fact thinking of something funny puts us in a more relaxed state and we tend to feel better I suppose!

This post is a part of Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2021