Monthly Archives: March 2011

How to… be a baby coochie-cooer













1.    ‘Awwww’ is your new best friend. No other expression in the language better expresses just how cute you find the baby / baby pic / baby video before you or the baby anecdote you just heard from a colleague. Make sure to use the inherent versatility of the phrase… a simple tweak of the pitch or tone and you have the perfect response to every coochie-coo-worthy situation. And of course, when faced with the truly, unutterably cute, be sure to elongate: ‘awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!’

2.    A true baby-coochie cooer doesn’t wait to just happen upon a cute kid or baby pictures from a friend. Being proactive is a must. If a friend or relative has a cute kid, add them on Facebook immediately, so you have free access to their kiddie pics and can post ‘awwww’ comments at will. If a neighbour (or a friend’s neighbour) has a cute kid, drop in often and ‘awwww’ in person. Just try not to make too much of a pest of yourself (i.e. turning up without any notice at dinner time and refusing to leave till you get a peek at the kid).

3.    We now enter slightly murky ethical territory, so pay close attention. You don’t always need to know the person whose baby you’re coochie-cooing over on social networking sites. That is, babies of friends of friends (or friends of friends of friends) on Facebook are fair game for you to ‘awwwww’ over (not in the comments, of course; that would be creepy considering they don’t know you). Please note: overstepping your bounds on this one may earn you less than flattering titles such as ‘baby stalker’.

4.    When you really, really need your cute-fix, the Internet can provide in other ways. Go on Youtube and you’ll discover legions of fellow baby coochie-cooers posting adorable videos of their tiny tots (ignore the inevitable trolling and flame wars, and focus on the cooing and awww-ing). Then you have websites of baby photographers such as Anne Geddes, and forums created by your baby-crazy brethren. (Just make sure you take a break often enough to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and/or Cuteness Overload.)

5.    Finally, every baby coochie-cooer needs a real-life support group. By this I mean people around you who keep you regularly supplied with baby anecdotes and pictures (of their kids or their friend’s kids and so on, saving you some of that sneaking around on Facebook). Plus they join you in all the ‘awww-ing’, which is always most fun when enjoyed with fellow baby-coochie-cooers.



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Book Launch: Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Only Time Will Tell’

And he’s back. Jeffrey Archer’s visits to the city have practically become an annual tradition now. For the third time in three and a half years, the British best-selling author returned in Chennai to meet his adoring fans, and, of course, to promote his latest offering.

“I’ll be travelling to five cities in six days, and I did 11 interviews just today,” said Archer, as he took the stage at Odyssey at Express Avenue Mall. “It’s non-stop work from plane to plane, but it’s worth it – I’ve just been told the book’s gone to number one on the bestseller list. This is why I love coming to India again and again.”

You really can’t blame the guy. Not only is this the country where he has the single largest readership, it’s also probably the only place on earth where the author with a somewhat murky past gets a standing ovation when he strides onstage like an aging, bespectacled rockstar. The crowd at Odyssey was somewhat smaller than that of the previous years’ events held at Landmark – there were actually empty seats at the start – but it did grow by the end, so Archer could say with some satisfaction before the book signing, “Look how many people there are!”

The book in question this year is ‘Only Time Will Tell’, the first of the five-part series, ‘The Clifton Chronicles’ that spans a hundred years from 1920 to 2020, and traces the life of Harry Clifton and the mystery surrounding his father’s death.

“This first book follows Harry’s life from his birth in the docklands of Bristol in 1920 up until 1940, when he has to decide whether he’d go to Oxford or to the war,” said Archer. “It’s only been out three days, but I’m sure some of you would have already read it; people in India are so fast, it’s frightening.”

The evening was full of such asides – how quick people are in India, how many aspiring writers there are (“only in India will all the hands go up when you ask that question”), and how many young writers have already written a novel (a 14 year old girl in this case, which Archer called ‘typical’). Once he was up on stage, he was fond, benign old Uncle Archer, completely in charge and holding forth on writing tips, mock-scolding the audience, and generally having them eating out of his hand.

However, what did come across as truly genuine was his gratitude for the reception he gets here, and he patiently responded to all the questions he was asked, whether it was about his writing routine (he’s up by 5.30 a.m. and writes for eight hours a day with breaks every two hours) or his exercise routine (he has a personal trainer from New Zealand – “I can drop and do 25 press ups right now.”) He revealed that Columbia Pictures has sent him the script for the movie adaptation of his previous novel, ‘Paths of Glory’, but that he was afraid to read it (“I’m dreading not liking the script and feeling it could have been so much better”), and that he wouldn’t be writing a book on vampires any time soon, “though I’m told they’re in”.

The event ended the way his launches always do – with a throng of autograph seekers surrounding him. “I was mobbed back in Mumbai,” he said, trying to organise the crowd better here; but you got the feeling he probably wouldn’t mind being mobbed – at least a little – again.

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Author interview: C.P. Belliappa (‘Victoria Gowramma – The Lost Princess of Coorg’)

In a quiet corner of the Brompton Cemetery in London lies a 19th century grave partially covered by the undergrowth. The graceful stone cross above it is slightly broken, but the epitaph composed by Queen Victoria can still be read: “Sacred to the memory of the Princess Victoria Gouramma (sic), daughter of the ex-Raja of Coorg…”

That’s where the strange and tragic tale of Victoria Gowramma, the princess from Coorg who was raised Christian and became Queen Victoria’s goddaughter, ended in 1864. But her story has come to light again in all its fascinating detail thanks to C.P. Belliappa’s rigorously researched book ‘Victoria Gowramma: The Lost Princess of Coorg’, which was recently launched in the city.

“Historical writings on Coorg – mostly gazetteers by the British who lived there during the 19th century – mention the story of Gowramma and her father, the exiled Raja Veerarajendra in a paragraph or two,” says Belliappa, author of ‘Tale of a Tiger’s Tail & Other Yarns from Coorg’ and ‘Nuggets from Coorg History’. “But the details were never there, and I got more and more inquisitive.”

His big break came when he accidentally stumbled upon three books written in the 19th century by people who know both the raja and his daughter. “I was able to download them – for free! – from, where old books are digitised and uploaded,” he said. “They were authentic, firsthand accounts, and comprised 75 per cent of the information I needed.”

The rest he found from the digital archives of the Times London – reports of court functions and events that contained all sorts of interesting titbits of information.

‘Victoria Gowramma…’ traces the intriguing series of events surrounding the princess’ journey to England with her father in 1852, and her difficult and often lonely life there subsequently. The various threads include the exiled raja’s attempts to reclaim the wealth the British took from him (his reason for taking Gowramma to England in the first place), and the grand plans by Queen Victoria to match-make between Gowramma and another young royal convert to Christianity, Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab.

“Queen Victoria believed that if two royals converted to Christianity were married, and their children were born Christian, it would encourage more of their subjects to convert,’ says Belliappa. “What’s interesting is that although the plan didn’t work, the queen continued to be fond of Gowramma to the very end.”

The book, then, is more than just a portrait of a princess; it gives you a glimpse into the political and religious power dynamics of the time. With its wealth of primary sources, it’s a solid historical work, though Belliappa admits that he was very tempted to go the historical fiction route. “I gave it a lot of thought, and decided finally that the facts themselves were so sensational that they didn’t need fictionalising,” he says.

Since the book’s release in England last year, the author has uncovered even more interesting nuggets of information – for instance, after a bit of detective work, he’s discovered that direct descendants of Gowramma live on to this day in Australia.

“I have enough material to add at least an epilogue in future editions of the book,” he says. “It’s been a very exciting time.”


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How to… be a pop-culture junkie

  1. Be obsessive: You don’t just watch popular TV shows, movies, etc.; you immerse yourself in them. You notice and catalogue every detail and flaw (and rant about every tiny inaccuracy). You memorise entire segments of dialogue and own the soundtrack (no matter how obscure). You analyse every plot point and debate casting decisions as though you were producer or director. In short – embrace geekiness.
  2. Be proactive: A true pop-culture junkie doesn’t wait until the latest episodes of his favourite TV show eventually trickle into Indian channels (a six month lag? Shudder!). Or until a movie he’s been obsessing about for the past year comes to Indian theatres (possibly never). Online downloads are your new best friend. And if all else fails, there’s always a fellow geek in the U.S. or France or Turkey who can be your DVD supplier (thank god for eBay and Amazon.)
  3. Be argumentative: Cultivate strong opinions and then air them on online communities, forums and blogs dedicated to the icon/show/movie/book in question. Argue incessantly, incite flame wars, form rival factions and inevitably, splinter communities (with yourself as the supreme commander and moderator, of course). Remember, anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a troll.
  4. Be creative: Contrary to popular perception, pop-culture junkies don’t merely consume, eyes glazed over and brain disengaged. Apart from the long, rambling analyses and the intense arguments online (see above), there’s also the somewhat shadowy world of fan fiction (where rabid fans write their own stories based on the characters from a particular show/movie/book etc.). And then there’s fan art. And fan videos. And… you get the drift.
  5. Finally, spend, spend, spend. Whether it’s sci-fi movie memorabilia or classic movie posters or limited edition action figures or anniversary edition special disc sets, you’ve got to own them. They’re your badge of honour. Your point of pride. Fellow junkies judge your worth by them. Newbies worship you for them. You must bid obsessively on eBay; you must covet and collect and display with pride. It’s the price to pay for true junkie-hood.

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