I FIRST MET Ranjitha in 1979, when she became an Ashok, in fact, a member of the TFK family.
T T Krishnamachari and my father had long been friends, but I got to know the family only from
1968 when I took charge of 'ITK’s printing and publishing unit. When I first met Ranjitha,
somewhere along the way in the conversation it transpired that she had- been a journalist. That’s
when I should have persuaded her to get involved with the editorial department of `TT` MAPS and
make life easier for me, but, instead, we meandered into talking about journalism, which she was not
thinking of getting into again, at least not then. Whereupon she gave up `writing for babies and a
It was in the 1990s that the muse began to inspire her again. I began to read her in Eves touch, the
only women’s magazine in the South, which I helped by dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s and minding
the p’s and q’s. I had to do none of that whenever Ranjitha’s copy arrived. In fact, I’d flip through
the pile to see if there was anything from her, and, if there was, grab it to look at it first. For I was
sure it would give me enough laughs to not only sustain me through the rest of the pile but also
through the day.
Those pieces Ranjitha did for Eves Touch were hilarious. Their razor-sharp wit, caustic at times,
resigned at others, and what—to do occasionally, might have seemed a breath of fresh air to a
grouchy editor like me who had by then come to the conclusion that no one had a sense of humour in
this country, at least not enough to write amusingly, but it would have made the day for hundreds of
mothers bringing up families in Madras and who’d gone through all Ranjitha wrote about without
seeing the funny side of things. ‘Bringing up Father’ had always appealed to me from the time I was
young; Ranjitha’s ‘Bringing up a Family’ struck the same chord. My only regret is that, now that her
brood has almost flown, she’s stopped writing more in the same vein. But she could at least have
made a book of it all. Which was advice she didn’t heed. But there’s still time...
There are many young parents who’d find nothing has changed...not even the need to look at the
amusing side of life!
Be that as it may, as the Ashoks grew up and Ranjitha had less to say about them, she wanted to
write something different. That was about the time a few readers of Madras Musings had written to
me saying that the one thing the fortnightly lacked was what all Indian newspapers and journals were
short of, a good piece of humorous writing. Would she like to try her hand at amusing, but
meaningful, comment, every fortnight, on Madras that is Chennai and maybe someone in authority
would see beneath the humour that there were things that needed to be done to make the city a
better place and life in it more comfortable? “I’ve never done anything like it,” hummed and hawed
Ranjitha, backing away from the thought. But in time to make its appearance in Madras Musings on
January 16, 2002, there arrived her first piece for A-musings.
Supplementing Ranjitha’s writing and making A-musings still more telling has been the contribution of
Biswajit Balasubramanian, the teaming coming about quite serendipitously. One of the first
exhibitions at the Forum Art Gallery, run by Biswajit’s wife Shalini, was a look at Madras that is
Chennai by well—known artist A V Ilango. The way Ilango had handled the chaos that seems an
integral part of life in Madras made me ask him whether he’d like to do a regular cartoon for
Musings. “Wait I’ll bring him here, someone who will suit you to a 'I`,” he said. And in moments he
was back with Biswajit in tow — and promising me that he was not pulling my leg, that Biswajit
could not only caricature, had a good line, but also a sense of humour When in a few moments I
discovered that Biswajit knew Ranjitha, I suggested they work it out between themselves. And as
April 2005 dawns, not only is A-musings still going strong, with Ranjitha’s words teaming with
Biswajit’s cartoons, but the combination has had enough readers demanding that their work be
brought out as a book. And so we have A—musings today. I look forward to readers enjoying the
best of their work over the last three years.
Whether their comment, trenchant, wry, or just life’s- like-that, has made a difference to life in the
city, I don’t know. I rather think it unlikely, for who in authority anywhere pays heed to newspaper
comment or suggestions? But A-musings has undoubtedly given pleasure to hundreds of readers.
And if there are people like Ranjitha and Biswajit who-can make a few smile or chuckle, surely
that’s enough in a city where both are at a premium.
From the Jacket
A CITY HAS MANY faces - enigmatic, mysterious, romantic; frightening, violent and tragic.
And then there are those special moments, fleeting instances, when she allows you a
brief, tantalizing glimpse of yet another face - a bright, elusive face, even as she, her eyes glittering
with mischief, darts through the traffic, through the heat waves, dust, pollution, and long, sad lines
waiting for water. She shoots a lightning glance at you to see if you are following her, then leads you
to the strangely funny, the singularly unique, the absolutely maddening, and sometimes, the downright
incomprehensible, all intrinsic elements in the drama that is her. And all evocative of the most hapless,
yet somehow endearing facets of the human condition.
She throws a teasing laugh over her shoulder, as if telling you not to take Life in general,
and yourself in particular, too seriously, and vanishes even as you register each new vision.
She knows you’ll search again. This book contains stories of those moments when the
city, watching her people cope with both Destiny in particularly playful moods, and, more often, with
the results of their own actions, decided to smile.
Cartoons have appeared in Madras Musings, The Hindu-Business Line, and other local
publications in Chennai. He has participated in, and conducted, various cartoon, illustration and
drawing workshops, notably in Apollo Specialty Hospital (Cancer), working with children. He is
currently working on children’s books for leading publishers. His favourite cartoonists are Rene
Goscinny, Herge, Charles Schulz, Don Martin, Quentin Blake and R K Lakshman. He says he has
never undergone any formal training, but has been “doodling from very early childhood”, a practice
that appears to have paid rich dividends.
RANJITHA ASHOK is a writer and columnist, residing in Chennai. A regular
contributor to ‘Madras Musings’, she has worked with renowned historian and journalist, S Muthiah,
on several book projects. She has recently published her first book with a leading publisher. Her list
of favourite humourists is just a little too long-winded to qualify as a clear statement providing any
real indication of preference, but she ranks Will Cuppy, Richard Lederer, Clarence Day, Stephen
Leacock, Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Richard Armour, Erma Bombeck, and also several comedians,
theatre personalities and script writers right here in Chennai very high on that rather confused list,
placing her all-time and absolute favourite, P G Wodehouse, right on top, (which is a little like the
fate that befell Abou Ben Adhem, whose singular distinction appears to have been a source of gentle
hilarity for Plum himself).
Back of the Book
“The combination of cartooning and writing makes for a wonderfully funny look at what’s wrong with
this city, and, occasionally, what’s right with it.”
“The phenomenon of Vis Comica (the Power to make people laugh) is all too prevalent in the book
‘Chennai Latte - A Madras Brew’.”
“The book honestly describes the Chennai experience with a rare touch of humour. What ‘thendral
katthu’ (southern breeze) is to the Chennai-ite, this book is to the literary world.”
“Nothing escapes the laughing pen and chuckling brush. The humour is gentle, with local flavours to
guarantee general appeal.”
“My fellow railway commuters had to endure my sudden snorts of laughter for a week,
as I read this hilarious book on my journeys to work and back home… the issues touched upon in
this witty book are common to my city as well. It could have very well been titled ‘Mumbai Latte - A
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend