Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Pray as you Prey

I pray as you prey ! 

Friend or foe
 I do not know 
Fragile and fabulous 
As you make your meal ,
 Praying  Mantis :
Save the good friends
Have the bad foes
May be I will kowtow 
as a quid pro quo
Baby steps for both of us 
Sowing and Preying 

( Inspired by a baby Praying mantis  on my Brinjal plant,  carnivores that  may prey on the good and bad pests in an organic garden )

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Lanterns

My Lanterns

 A good book  according to me is one:

-  That makes me forget the milk boiling over ( and over !)  which converts an ordinary salem steel vessel into an anodised black beauty.

-  that which surprisingly stops me from sprinting to pick up the phone.

-  that which saves the many trips to the pantry for snack refills.

-  That which makes life seem pointless and empty when you reach the last page, final word. Full stop.

That was just a  suggestive list of what a good book can make you do or not -do.

One may add - the avoidance of the customary chore of  making the bed.

 ( waste of precious labour and time considering, in a matter of few hours we are going to open up all the folded sheets. Two of my friends and one of my sisters ' concur with me on  this logic  Love them.)

The ultimate blue litmus test of a good book is, when it takes you down memory lane with a smile,  makes you relate to it in more ways than one or draw parallels from your life and times.

A brief about one such book- Lantern -Memoirs of Mentors By Marian Wright Edelman.

The author has been at the centre of civil rights and Child advocacy struggles at the heart of this Century. In this poignant, lucid, straight from the heart narrative, she pays tribute to all the mentors who lit her way. She includes her parents, her children, and people like  Martin  Luther King Jr., Robert F Kennedy and the many teachers who inspired her.

A stirring and transcendent memoir. The narrative feels like a cozy conversation with an affectionate family elder.

This book not only passed the litmus test but inspired me to write about the lanterns that lit up my path.

My lanterns:

Leelavati teacher: My 6th-grade class teacher and Asst Head Mistress.

The teacher who first taught me to believe in myself, who used to assure me saying "You are very different from others. But Be yourself always!No matter what ."

That 'No matter what ' - needs a separate post. But here is a fairly representative list of what it meant.

- Being an 'outstanding ' student. ( in the literal sense of the term!)
- developing the ability to catch Map-drawing /Math note book thrown at me from any angle!
- writing poetry during math class and getting caught for spelling errors in it!
- Straightening out a safety pin to give the effect of a needle and take it in and out of a handkerchief during Needlework class sitting at the last bench! This trick was passed over by my elder sister and her classmates.
Reminded of a  classmate who was good with needlework and kind too, who would lend us her work -which would be used by all of us for the sake of marks. God bless that generous girl and the innocent teacher. The synergy of kindness and naivety, going hand in hand. Rather hand to hand in this case.

Add to this my trauma due to constant comparisons made by all teachers, ayahs and peons at school with the smart cookie siblings who scored first rank and 100% in maths always.

Any wonder that I still get nightmares about calculus and wake up sweating? The realisation that it was just a  dream is PURE BLISS.

Back to Leelavati teacher - I am ever so thankful to her for assuring me that it was perfectly okay to be a non-conformist and have diverse views and interests which very often landed me in trouble.

Thanks to Leelavati Teacher I am comfortable handling both - being a non-conformist and getting into trouble.

Never give up hopes on anyone - is my takeaway from this lantern - Leelavathi teacher!

Shantha -Head Mistress

A real front runner, an outlier of her times. She had such futuristic views in running a school way back in 1978. The best school  I  would say by any standards. Lady Mct.M Girls High School in Purasaiwalkam.A nondescript state board school. But I see most of them from my class, seniors in public life. Yes, this was one thing she encouraged. Public speaking. So many opportunities to showcase innate talents were available in the school. There would always be three consolation prizes for every competition! (With overt sensitivity seeping into our language these days, we call it Encouragement prizes !)

Still amazed at the School parliament system she introduced.Which would have all the class representatives, class teachers and the various Arts and literary club secretaries ..that would meet every first Monday. It used to be run just like a real parliament with a speaker, question hour, except that we didn't pull any one's pallu or throw chairs at each other or use vernacular expletives.

Administrative skills and teamwork are what I learnt from her and this school. We never had this one-upmanship race which is being fuelled by the present generation schools and their activities in the name of teamwork. Team those days meant a circle.Never a pyramidal structure.

Harshad Mehta:

Now, what can I say about this man ? ..While I am consciously and deliberately avoiding the legal battles he had to fight.He was a role model to many of us in personal and work life.
A model employer, a  real taskmaster whom, we, as employees feared .when it came to work and deadlines, who otherwise was like jelly, most pliable when it came to personal relations. One could learn many lessons from his management style. And to think that he was a school drop-out makes me repent having completed schooling.

Can't help remembering this adage, " Schooling comes in the way of education ."

His favorite words of advice to all of us "Don't be inactive. Do something " It keeps ringing in my ears .. till date.

It also sums up his personality ..Restless , dynamic. Thinking out of the box, learning all the time. Add humility to this. A great combination indeed.

This lantern continues to enlighten me, who taught us to have the courage of conviction.  Confidence was just a by-product of that innate conviction. Remembering one's  roots is yet another trait I imbibed from him.

Ashwin Bhai:

The man who taught us what hand-shakes were all about! I still remember the feel of his 'handshake." Very few people can let the warmth and genuine goodness come through a handshake.
The firm, warm, genuine handshake and held for precisely the right amount of time.

Many years after their empire's downfall when I met him at Mumbai( much against everyone's  advice ..Well Went by Leelavati Teachers' advice here !)  Oh yes! The handshake felt the same after all that crisis in their personal and professional lives.  Firm, warm and genuine.

Truly touching moments etched in memory.
A man of quiet leadership, unshakable calm and firm handshakes. 

Sanikavadi Swaminatha Iyer!

My paternal grandfather, who was meticulous in keeping accounts of the household - a Joint family then. Remember seeing him with a  long ledger where he would write the days' expenses before the end of the day. Each single day till he breathed his last. Towards his last days, I was his accountant. That habit has stuck on to me forever. And I am not complaining.

My takeaway from this lantern - spartan, minimalistic lifestyle and believing in " what gets measured gets done ."

Rajalakshmi Swaminathan.

My paternal grandmom fondly called Pattu paati. Her  love for life despite all odds is what continues to amaze me
Here is an ode to her,  which I penned the day she left this earth for a better life.Pattu paati and purple pottu !

Pudhupaadi Venkateswara Iyer.

My maternal thatha who died when I was still very young. Whenever I think of him an image of love, cheer, humour comes to my mind.

I have inherited his Jaw structure. His permanent wide grin came free with it I guess.

His sunny disposition, irrespective of life's drudgeries is something I would like to emulate.

Heard from my mom that he used to say " Penn kuzhandaigalai potri valarka vendum " .. roughly translated, it means "praise and positive reinforcement are the key ingredients in bringing up girl children."

Alamelu ammal.

My favorite Alamelu paati , my maternal grandma. She too died when I was still in middle school.An amazing personality who broke out of society's boxes. A  non-conformist in those days ..( does that explain something about me ?) who used to rush to the Church for Sunday prayer meets after completing her chores and rituals as a Hindu, homemaker.

She taught me the first star kolam and the song " Enai aalum Mary matha,thunai neeye Mary maatha !"

A very brave woman and far too independent for those times.

This lantern gave out rays of courage and religious tolerance which continue to guide me. 

These are the lanterns that have lighted up my journey so far. More lanterns light up my way even now.

You may be one of them.So watch this space for the "Living Legend" series!!!

This is my tribute to all teachers on this day September 5th, 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

உறவுகள் தொடர்கதை

உறவுகள் தொடர்கதை ....

மூடு பனி விலகாத  மார்கழி காலை . அலாரம்  அடிப்பதற்குமுன் இது என்ன ஆட்டோ  சத்தம்   என்று யோசித்த படியே  எழுந்தார்  கணேசன் .

"லக்ஷ்மி , எங்க போய்ட்ட  , யாரோ நம்மாத்துக்கு  தான் வந்துருக்கா  பார் !"

அதற்குள்  லக்ஷ்மியும்  , " எங்க போவேன் , அம்பது  வருஷமா காலங்கார்த்தாலே  அதே காபி , அதே டிகாஷன்  வேலை தான் ..யார் வரா இவ்வளோ  சீக்கிரம் ?? என்று கேட்டபடியே  கணேசன்  உடன் வாசலுக்கு சென்றாள் .

"வா , வா, என்னடா  அருண் திடீர்ன்னு ? மாலதி வரலே ? "என்று  கேட்ட   லக்ஷ்மி ,  "நேத்திக்குதான் உங்கப்பா உன்னை பார்க்கணும்னு சொன்னார் ..இப்போ பார் வாய் எல்லாம் பல் ! " என்று  கணேசனை  பார்த்து சிரித்தாள் .

பிறந்த  வீட்டுக்குள்  நுழையும் போதே எங்கிருந்தோ வந்து கூடவே ஒட்டிக்கொள்ளும்  சோம்பலுடன்  சோபாவில்  அருண் ,"தொப் " என்று சாய்ந்தான் .

அதற்குள் கணேசன்  Ipad  உடன் வந்து  , "அருண் , இந்த ipad  லே key pad  காணாமே காணாமே  போறதுடா ..கொஞ்சம் சொல்லி குடேன் என்று கெஞ்சினார் .

"குழந்தை திடுதிப்புன்னு  வந்திருக்கானே , என்னன்னு  விசாரிக்காமே இந்த ipad பத்தி ஆரம்பிச்சாச்சா? " என்று பர்ஸ்ட் டோஸ்  காபியுடன்  வாங்கி கட்டிகொண்டார் கணேசன் - மனைவியிடமிருந்து .

இதையெல்லாம் ரசித்தபடியே அம்மா குடுத்த அற்புதமான காபியை சுவைத்தபடி சோம்பல் முறித்த அருண் , " ஆபிஸ்  விஷயமா வந்திருக்கேன் மா ..மாலதிக்கு  லீவ் போடா முடியலே , நாளைக்கே போகணும் திரும்பி " என்றான்.

'சரி , இரு உனக்கு பிடிச்ச பருப்பு  உசிலி , மோர்க் குழம்பு பண்றேன்" என லக்ஷ்மி சமையல் அறைக்கு சென்றாள் .

கணேசன் , கிடைத்த வாய்ப்பை  நழுவ விட  மனமில்லாமல்  ipad  சகிதம்  மகனிடம் வந்து உட்கார்ந்தார் ,  ஆனால் ..போன வேகத்தில் திரும்பிய லக்ஷ்மி " ஏண்டா , டாக்டர்  கிட்டே  போனேளா ? என்ன சொல்றார்? வயசு  ஏறிண் டே   போறதே ..." என்று  வாஞ்சையுடன்  மகனிடம்  மகப்பேற்றை  பற்றி பேசினாள் .

" ஏதாவது இருந்தா அவனே சொல்ல மாட்டானா , லக்ஷ்மி " என்று கணேசன் நாசூக்காக  சொல்லி பார்த்தார்... இன்னுமொரு டோஸ்  வருமென்று தெரிந்தும். !

" இல்லேம்மா, ivf  , அதான்  செயற்கையா  தான் முடியும் போல இருக்கு . எனக்கும் , மாலதிக்கும் அதுலே அவ்வளவா  இஷ்டம் இல்லை ..சைடு எபக்ட்ஸ் இருக்கும் போல இருக்கு...ஆனா ..மாலதி ஒரு குழந்தையை அடாப்ட் பண்ணிக்கலாம்னு சொல்றா ...எனக்குத் தான் என்னவோ  தயக்கமா இருக்கு "  அருண்  ஒத்திகை  பார்த்ததை கடகடவென  சொல்லி முடித்தான்.

பேரிரை ச்சலான ஒரு மௌனத்துக்கு  பின் லக்ஷ்மி  மெதுவாக  "ஏண்டா , நல்ல ஐடியா தானே ? " என்றாள் .

கணேசன் மெளனமாக  இருந்தார்.

" இல்லே, இரத்த சம்பந்தமே இல்லாம   எப்படி ...எனக்கு என் மேலேயே நம்பிக்கை  இல்லேமா " என்று எங்கேயோ பார்த்தபடி எப்படியோ சொல்லி முடித்தான்

கணேசன் , கனைத்தபடி .."அருண் , எனக்கும் உங்க அம்மாவுக்கும் என்ன இரத்த சம்பந்தம் ?  அம்பது  வருஷமா  சந்தோஷமா  இல்லையா ? உனக்கும்  மாலதிக்கும் என்ன இரத்த சம்பந்தம் ..கல்யாணத்துக்கு  முன்னாடி 3 வருஷம் , கல்யாணத்துக்கு அப்புறம் 7 வருஷம்  அன்யோன்யமா  இல்லையா ? தைரி யமா  இறங்கு . லேட் பண்ணாதே "  என்று எழுந்தார் .

லக்ஷ்மிக்கு  தன்  காதையே நம்ப முடியவில்லை , கணேசன் இவ்வளவு நேர்த்தியாய்  சொன்னதை கேட்டு ...

அருணுக்கு  எங்கேயோ பொறி தட்டினார் போல இருந்தது.. "வளர்த்த பாசத்துக்கு ஈடு இணை இல்லை "  என அம்மா சொல்வது கேட்டுக்கொண்டு இருக்கும் போதே கை, மாலதி செல் நம்பரை தட்டியது...

உணர்வுகள் சிறுகதை . உறவுகள் தான் தொடர்கதை .

Thursday, August 14, 2014


மழலை மொழி மாறா மக்கள் கேட்டனர் 
பாலியல் பலாத்காரத்திலிருந்து சுதந்திரம்

வெள்ளி முளைக்கும் முன் காடு தேடி அலையும் பெண்டிர் கேட்டனர்
வெட்டவெளி கழிப்பிடத்திலிருந்து சுதந்திரம்

கொடி காத்த குமரனை பற்றி படிக்கும் காலத்தில் 
கொடி விற்று பிழைக்கும் பிள்ளைகள் கேட்டனர் பள்ளி செல்லும் சுதந்திரம்

கேட்டு பெறுவது சுதந்திரம் அல்ல யாசகம் என்று நினைவு...
பாடச்சுமை ஒன்று போதும் . குடும்பபாரம்  ஒன்று போதும் 

யாசகமோ சுதந்திரமோ ஏதோ ஒன்று கிடைத்தால் போதும் !

Sunday, July 6, 2014

பொருள் விளங்கா உருண்டை

பொருள் விளங்கா உருண்டை :

1 கடலை ; 4 பயறு ;
சிறிது  வெல்லம் ; சிறுத்த சுக்கு .
தேங்காய்  சில்லுகள் .
பிடித்து வைக்க கொஞ்சம் பலம்
கடிக்க தேவை கடினமான பற்கள்
பாட்டி சொன்ன  பொருள் விளங்கா உருண்டை....
அன்று .

இன்று ,

தள்ளாடிய  கால்கள் .தளர்ந்த  நெஞ்சம் .
 மங்கின  பார்வை .மழுங்கிய நினைவுகள் .
மனைவி  –மக்கள் , உயர் பதவி , அசையா  சொத்துகள்  .
சில  வாடா நட்புகள்பல  வேண்டா வெறுப்புகள்
வெல்லமும்   சுக்குமாய்   வாழ்க்கை  பாடங்கள் 
கொண்ட  பலத்துடன்  பல்லைக்க கடித்து
'தேங்கா'மல்   உருண்டுவந்தேன்.
வந்தது  செய்தி , பேரன்  பிறந்தான்  என்று  !
போனது  அயற்சி..பொங்கியது  மகிழ்ச்சி
கதை  அதுவே  . கதா  பாத்திரம் வேறு  .
சந்ததிகள்   பல தழைக்கும் 
இப்புவியும்  ஒரு  பொருள்  விளங்கா  உருண்டையே  !

Saturday, May 3, 2014

கனவல்ல நிஜம்.

ஊழைப்பின் அயற்சியில் சற்று உறங்கினேன்

 கனவுத்தோட்டத்தில் சற்று உலாவினேன்

 கற்பனை மலர்களை கொய்தேன்

கொய்த மலர்கள் கை நழுவி விழுந்தன..

உறக்கம் கலைந்தது...உணர்வு திரும்பியது 

எழுந்தேன் ....மடியினில் மலரினை கண்டேன் 

கனவல்ல நிஜம்.

The above verses rewritten from my old poetry journal reproduced below !

Monday, April 28, 2014

Positive Terminal

Stepped into mommyhood much later than my peers and have felt a pang when I see my friends' kids already in college and all grown up while I still have to play the boxing referee and pull my kids apart to prevent them from killing each other. 

Not anymore.

Recently one of my friends envied my position and said you will still have your kids staying with you in your sunset years while we face empty nests. What a perspective! 

This has made me terminally positive, indeed.

This is how.

Caressing the dishes to be washed with love and whispering to them how lucky they are to get the direct service of the Queen herself, on days, the domestic help decides to throw a surprise by her unannounced absence.

Seizing the opportunity to read a book while waiting for the Doctor and hoping, at least, two to three people jump the queue. My reaction to such jumping jacks on a typical day would put a street fighter to shame. 

The joys of reading a book without being interrupted by a phone buzz, calling bell, or a war call by the kids - cannot be expressed. 

Ditto with a delayed flight take-offs. 

If you try to look (really hard, I mean) every situation - however worse, does show a positive terminal.

Foodie Vs Cookie

I Love food. Anything Anywhere Anytime. Panacea to all ills and to the many lows in the life of a mom with two preteens trying for a  double promotion into adulthood .
While the mom  is dyeing to age not -so-greysfully.

Here is some food for that, and many other  thought(s)..

To drown my sorrows when domestic help does not turn-up  or to rejoice when she actually turns up  !

A cuppa Tapri chai with some Hindustani kapi playing at the background. This boost with Chai and kapi  is the secret of my energy.

Have been a  Madras Filter Kaapi loyalist ,until the day I discovered Tapri chai. The south Indian Chai that I knew was actually Tea in coffee's clothing with  too much milk and tasting  more like toffee.

Tapri chai !

One  cup of water + just about a ladle  milk + 1 tablespoon sugar + 2 teaspoons Tea dust / leaves all boiled together at one go . Best had in typical chai glass for that true Tapri chai effect and taste.It is a strange feeling of fullness and emptiness with the last sip, every time.
Tapri Chai

One of the kids unwell or given our track record for freak accidents, nursing them at home ...

Kichdi and kadhi with may be a keeravani (preferably just the audio) by Ilayaraja? All round comfort comes with that. Doubt if I can  say the same with the video though .And a fast pasta for the kids. Celebration . All of us on good behaviour . All is well . 

Pre -MS , Post MS and all the days in between ..

After what seems like a plausible anger outburst, some hot rice and avakkai with a dollop of ghee makes the initial reaction actually puerile. 

Pantuvarali time ..this  soothing raga signifies hope and optimism and may aid in getting past the guilt from misplaced anger mostly due to misplaced keys , spectacle and such other  prime candidates for misplacements .

The Trauma Traingle as I call it .  Domestic help, Kids and my very own paroxysms. 

And a single-window redressal comes in the form of  Food ! Widespectrum antidote.

While the palate pleads for Tapri chai or Rice and dhal with pickle ,the meandering mind  finds meaning and solace in food blogs and food photography along with  the meend's of Maand. 

Therapeutic Past time . 

That reminds me of yet another simple remedy to all ills - Time pass ! also means singdana or mung-fali . One of my  favorite past time , nay  Time pass. Was so amused the first time I heard the vendors in Bombay selling "Time pass!"

The joy of relishing Sing Dana/mung-fali/ time pass...  one at a time just cannot be expressed with words . It is a matter of the heart . 

Your wish for  the skillfully rolled  conical  paper pack , to turn  into a bottom less pit , clashes with the  impatience to read the matter in the old magazine page  . Parodoxical past time .

And what can I say about the  feeling of having lost  one's entire wealth when a peanut slips off the  fingers ? 
Only  another peanut lover can empathise with the associated emotions however fleeting they may be . 
A 10 Rupees worth refill is the only way to make up for this loss. It just used to be Rs.2/-per pack in those days .

Never mind if that gives away my age ..

The cling cling sound of the iron ladle on the iron vessel with sand is music to my ears.
 No Varamu or Varali can match this veritable melody.

Oops ! It has become Rs.20/- now ..

Did I say I love food? Actually, all about food except the Climax which turns out to be an anticlimax most often .. Cooking . 

I just love all that goes on before cooking. The grocery shopping. Going that extra mile to get some organic vegetables. Hand pound masala. Unpolished rice. Cold pressed coconut oil. All these resulting in a well stocked fridge, pantry and the associated feeling of abundance and comfort . Still does not alter the above state of mind a wee bit. 

So call me a Foodie if you wish ,though I personally  detest this word ,but  never a Cookie. As I detest  cooking and  the cleaning that comes free with it with equanimity. 
Gone are the days when I didnt  have to worry about cooking, to remain a happy Foodie.

Ofcourse ,the  exclusive Foodie  days too were peppered with  situational hazards, thanks to the division of labour system followed in our huge joint family. Each one of us had an assigned  chore (boring of course) depending on our age and behavior from time to time while we used to try  all kinds of stunts and tricks to get past the chore. 

The one that I hated most was the Cleaning of the floor after every meal .The luxury of a dining Table in later years meant escaping the  giant leap while cleaning the floor !
 In chaste vernacular, it was called the “Echal Idarathu” or the Uuvaack chore in our lingo back then. The commonest ploy employed by us siblings was  to skip dinner when it was our turn  to do the 'uuvaack' chore.  
The rule makers were  smarter cookies and plugged the loopholes in the local law to read:

  " The uuvacck chore shall be carried out with due diligence by   the person  assigned  with such task based on his age and , past credentials irrespective of  the said person   having / forgoing dinner on any  day / period during, which the said task was so assigned to the said person "

That’s the way the cookie crumbles. 

These woes  continued to bog me down post marriage too. However, with a few willing and over enthusiastic hands who believed that this chore  helps them accumulate good karma.. I escaped much of it .

Needless to add , I used to willingly bequeath my share of the good karma to them. A win win situation for both .

Back to my cooking woes. There are some days when I do not feel like cooking. Then there are some more days when I do not feel like cooking.

Why I wonder ?

Cooking requires too much of attention and concentration and planning .  A wandering mind cannot handle that. A demanding chore that does not allow me to close my eyes in between a breathe takingly beautiful Bihag and explore its  higher realms without  burning a few vessels and some liquid boiling over .

The  pots and pans in my kitchen and the indelible dark spots on them,  all have a musical background. 

As they say, the milk never boils when you are watching and sure enough ,my cup always runneth over. 

All this madness adds cleaning to the cooking . Insult to injury or should it read Injury to insult in this case ?

The fact remains that  I dont enjoy cooking on a regular basis . Infact I hate cooking ... except when I love it . 

And when I love it , it is because of the  many skills that mommy hood thrusts on you unwittingly . 

An acquired state . Much like an acquired taste.

That is  precisely  why, foodies blog while cookies cook ! 

Yours Truly.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wrinkle-Free or Guilt-Free ?

Have been very apprehensive about publishing this post . Has been lying in my drafts folder since 2009 along with a dozen other drafts infected by the writers' block bug !

Think it was 1990 or 1991 when I  first had a darshan of Maha Periyava,   Kanchi Shankaracharya at Kanchi mutt . Didn't know much about him or his teachings till then . But there was something about that visit that made me read his teachings more out of interest than out of spirituality then . Found his teachings so appealing and till date never get tired of reading his teachings or about  his devotees personal and spiritual experiences with him ...

One of his  teachings which struck a chord and touched a very sensitive nerve in me was about not using silk made by killing tens of thousands of live silk worms for a single saree .

Following a guru and following his teachings , I reaslised were mutually exclusive . looking at the number of devotees who were seen wearing silks for reasons of  'madi' while taking Periyava's Blessing .
To use a  modern jargon -  Periya was a true Rogerian who was totally non-directive in his approach and teachings  . He would still smile with benevolence and bless all with equanimity . A true avatar indeed and feel blessed  to have received his blessings twice while don't feel worthy to even sing his praise .

His grace that I decided to give up silks from then. Though by then I had my First Silk saree which I got for my sisters wedding . That I thought would be my one and only silk saree in this life time .

But it was not to be  so . Have to be honest here and share my biggest regret  .

1995. My marriage dates were finalised . And what I feared the most, happened . Volcanic amount of tension arose as I refused to buy Silk for my wedding . In fact those days , Nalli's used to sell something called "Periyava koorai pudavai "..which was a cotton version of the regular Tambram maroon colour wedding saree.

Dialogues went on for days ... It was a lone battle. Unfortunately my best commander was on the opponents side . ( My to- be- DH !)

Tried my Trump card . If I have to wear silks made by killing tens of thousands of silk worms for my Wedding... I requested that let Kanchi Periyava's name be not mentioned in the Wedding invite - the traditional Yellow -Pink vernacular Invite which usually starts with the line " with the blessings of Kanchi shankaracharya "  which is a customary format followed by our family irrespective of whether we follow his teachings or not .

All hell broke loose . Was branded as the most precocious daughter-in-law to be . The family periyava's overruled the real Periyava. Ended up with four silk sarees .

My biggest and only regret in life till date .

Have never forgiven myself for this . Felt that the Bride in me just gave up easily .

But didn't let that powerlessness last . Stopped wearing those silks and have never bought silk since . Life went on smoothly  despite the  alternate crumpled cotton options !

Volcanoes are dormant . Again one erupted when our daughter was born .. Everyone felt not wearing silks was my deal and it should not be thrust on an infant . Hmm.. waited till she was able to comprehend my reasoning for saying no to silks . She used to Love Pattu paavadais . But one fine day when she was about 8 years while we were at Kanchipuram ..she declared she too would  stop wearing silks made by killing silk worms .

More power to us . The volcano is inactive now and did remain so when it had a very good chance to erupt once again . My sons Upanayanam ! The priest asked for the 'pattu ' . And I handed out the Cotton variety .
He thought I didn't understand and repeated it by stressing "pattu" .   DH looked the other way and  family Periyava's giving be angry , annoyed and a few unmentionable-emotion soaked looks . ..

With a silent prayer I blurted out my rehearsed lines - " we follow Periyava's teachings , so No pattu " ! The family priest took a minute but gave a smile and said "There is nothing else to say " and gladly let us proceed with the cotton and Artificial silk.

Why would I dither to publish this  post  ?  You may wonder ...I feared being  labelled  Judgemental ,Condescending  , Patronising  and  being  side-lined as Miss goody two shoes or still worse a new-age Snob !

What has changed ?  for the fear to give way now to this post .. you may ask. I  Guess my own clarity of thought and the certain adamant will , conviction and bindass attitude that is acquired  as we puff and pant over the hill .

Fearless forty- plus  , I would say , when you try  to do all that you could not at  Tentative Twenty-plus !

Have a lot of good friends and loving family who wear silks . This is not in the least meant to offend them or preach my ways .

It is just that ,I don't want to end up with a bigger regret of not expressing myself . With a hope that those who understand my reasoning will move into a higher plane in the relationship ..

Have bundled up my Regrets -a.k.a the four silk sarees not knowing what to do. Wondering if I should give it away .. but not sure if I am right in passing over what I think is sinful .

Just what do you do with Regrets ??!

Confused as ever . Will I ever get to change my blog title .. ? Sigh,

But have enough clarity to drape myself  in only cottons . May not be wrinkle-free and as smooth as Silk .

But definitely guilt-free !

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maavadu Mahathmiyam

Almost jumped out of my vehicle when I saw a cartwala with what looked like  Maavadu . The feeling was akin to God at your doorsteps .Not that I am familiar with  the god-at-your-doorstep feeling . But am sure if and when god knocks at my door it will feel like the first sight of  the much awaited Maavadu coming your way along with  all else summer has to offer .

Tantalising , tell-tale signs of  the onset of  summer with Tender baby mango ..The English clinical translation  just doesnt do justice to this small wonder .Lacks soul. So I will stick to its vernacular name .

 Maavadu .

Doesnt that very name conjure up happy moments from Childhood summer days and Thayir saadam ?
My  entire house is filled with its  intoxicating smell...

This is my maiden attempt at picking and pickling Maavadu . All these years , I was of the opinion that making of maavadu was very close to Rocket science. Probably the out of the world taste.
What a wasted life .

Making of  Maavadu :

Can it be so simple ? Something that tastes so great ? Was  I was missing something major? Checked with Meenakshi ammal . Googled. Clarified with experts in cooking who also happen to be my friends .

The right sized Mangoes seemed to be the only major ingredient ..The rest of it was available even in a much disorganised , dysfunctional kitchen like mine .

 Am not a 5ml, 20gm , half of two and a quarter litre person .. nor  a believer in "what gets measured ,gets done "  .  So it is always a km for me. ( Kuthu Mathippu ). Blame it on decades of Madras autofare  influence .

While I believe thats a thing of the past I continue to lead my life on km basis .

It was like meditation -the picking , washing , draining , drying , oil bath for the Mangoes (!) and finally spicing it up . Karma yoga of sorts . Enjoyed the process  thoroughly .

Nirvana is just a few days away when these beauties start swimming in the salty waters .

As simple as that . Yet great and grand in taste and looks .

So, there emerges my pickle and a  phillosophy

Some of the greatest things are often as simple as Maavadu -The mother of all Pickles, though their grandeur belies it .

Pillayar made out of turmeric paste

A single mud Diya lit with oil

A bird's nest made with just twigs and leaves

A line sketch of bald head and round spectacle frame -  Gandhiji to all of us !

The look and feel of a crisp cotton saree

The toothless grin of a child at you

Tall glass of Buttermilk with just salt

Thanks to all this gyaan and inspiration by Maavadu , ended up with pickled  jars of Lemon , Maanga inji and Neer Nellikai . Feeling Rich. And the family loves it .

All of them as simple as that . And hardly-a-recipe. Just my kind .

DH quite worried by this strange and sudden kitchen activity quipped .." you okay ? want to get back to work ? "  (Worried that  I am going through a depression .ROTFL .)

It is just March madness . Wait till April when I give up all cooking and  binge on mangoes and more mangoes as a family .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pattu paati and purple pottu !

My paternal grandmom . Pattu patti to her 21 grand children and 25 great grand children !

Feb 10th 2014 as she moves over to a new life at 95...

The one thing that strikes me about her is her love for life and undying  enthusiasm . I can never remember her sulking or being  depressed , tired ever . Always in high spirits and so full of life .
I am trying  to emulate  her attitude towards her children .. any child for that matter  . She has never ever - believe me- not even once  scolded or chided or yelled at her children .

And there were 13 of them ! Not to speak of  the limited means and spartan lifestyles those days .

That singularly makes her a remarkable human being in my eyes .

The list is endless ...

Ears that not only  loved  music , but which  came with a pair of hands that could notate any song on the harmonium  with ease.

Eyes that are now ready to give vision to somebody which were very sharp and would notice even the slightest change in anyone /anything . The pair which challenged the family to keep up the steady supply of reading material for her  till the end !

And her stunning memory - she would  remember all the 59+ family  members' birth days , Aniversary dates .

Have never heard her crib about anything . Nor has she ever longed for anything material , clothes or any thing else at all.

Her impeccable grammar and fluency in English ,thanks to her early education in Ewarts Convent and  polished over the years by reading The Hindu religiously- every single day .

She made the best Rasam in this universe . And the family still tries very hard to replicate her signature dishes like the Pulima upma , Thavalai adai , pidi kozhakattai .

Feel so nostalgic about lazy summer afternoons when she would hand out adi rasam with rice and  nallenai to a whole bunch of us sitting around her . ..Precious moments and memories . The taste still lingers on and so does her  affection ..

A very Stylish person indeed , who adorned the purple colour pottu on her forehead for years when the rest of the world still believed in maroon colour. She looked regal with such minimal adornments and her genuine captivating smile .

Special in every way -who moved over to the other world on a very special day Bheeshma ekadesi !

Not the one to be mourned for sure . So here I am ,Celebrating her life ...cud chewing on Valentine's day .

We will continue to love you paati !

Here is a fond recollection of memories about my paati by my sister on this day when the family got together for her first aniversary in the other world ,,

Thought for the Day

Very often I think about you

Amidst my daily chores and deadlines

Longing for newer moments to cherish later on

Everlasting poems that get etched in my heart and mind

Never once leaving me alone

Togetherness need it be physical ?

In mind and spirit we never depart

Now and forever

Eternity defined thus by  VALENTINE !

Dedicated to all the gentle souls that have touched my life in some way leaving me with cherishable moments that never fail to bring a smile .

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happily Married

Twenty  years  and  twenty pounds ago , I felt like I was just getting ready for a fancy dress competition and for sure didnt know what I was getting into - Especially in that unwieldy yardage called madisaar !

Twenty long years ( actually ,make it 22!  ). Two children , 4 house shifts , exciting, funny ,laughter-filled ,teary eyed , head spinning , wall banging  moments - looking back brings a smile and makes me feel good .

I owe all this to my DH who has made a winner out of me in this fancy dress competition and ironically -without judging .

Here is an ode to my DH to tell him the things I really dont like about him but which is what makes me  Love him abundantly . 

- Dont  be so patient with me . I need to improve and become efficient too. Actually quite irresponsible on your part , you know .

- Wish you were a bit more budget concious .. When I ask for something that I really dont need you are supposed to say , " Dont you already have enough of that ? " And not " I think you should buy it " . This puts an additional burden on me  of being finanacially responsible .

- You are a liar . I wish you would sometimes atleast be honest and truthful and say the food wasnt really good  or that I need to shed some weight . Well, you dont have to be  as honest as a mirror ..but staying close to truth would certainly help .

- You never give me a chance to apologise first . You Say sorry way too soon . Wish you would understand that it takes about 24 hours or more  and several trips to the fridge before I cool down and realise it was all my fault .

- Memory . Please work on it . In the rare moments that I say 'sorry ' -you simply dont remember what I did or said .

- Dont pretend . As if our  stove top with spilt over milk from the previous day has an auto clean option . I know you do it ( know not when though .. ) as you know I hate waking up to a dirty stove top.

- Stop giving that charming smile . When I  dye your  favorite shirt with my colour running kurta due to my careless laundry routines .

- Dont be so understanding .. Leaving the bill with the gift , lest i want to exchange.

But , please  continue to snore while I am talking about my deepest passions or mundane nitty gritties . Continue to  put the clothes in the dryer -never mind if they  aren't washed . And please continue to put the milk kept out for setting curd in the fridge as you do now unfailingly everyday !  I see the intention -is to help . And immensely value that .

I can go thru several decades with you this way . Look back and Smile or give a Toothless grin . And I am sure you would say I look prettier than ever !

And just one last thing .. Please read my blog without me having to coerce you into it. It wont kill you . I guarantee.

Did I say we are Happily married ?

I am happy . He is married .

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apuchi ! அப்புச்சி !

Any true blue Tambram will know what this means and would have tasted one of the many avatars of Apuchi's !. 
For the uninitiated , these are simple delicacies dished out on rainy /sunny days . Most often they are improvised from left over , boiled over , over cooked , ingredients .

Testimony to spartan lifestyles .

This can be a suffix as in Nei Apuchi or a dish by itself which would other wise be an Anamika .

Nei Apuchi :

Ah ! Nei Apuchi .. When butter is clarified to make ghee at home .. the residual hardened butter crumbs at the bottom of the vanali ..How can you waste that ? Abhachaaram ! So add more calories to it in the form of sugar and starch -rice flour and saute for a few minutes and you get this gourmet Nei Apuchi .

( oh ! that 'yuk' apuchi ..giggle my brats ) God's food - mere mortals cant digest .

Verkadalai with vellam ( ground nut with jaggery ):

The English language really gives the Drool factor a big miss . ( Do I hear you reading the tamil name  aloud ?  )
Hailing from the North Arcot district .. verkadalai or monkeynuts were a staple at home .

After school , mid morning , in between meals - verkadalai with vellam powder is an all weather snack that would bring a smile to our faces .

Simple pleasures .

( Ah ! that unimaginative boring snack ..say my brats in unison ) What do they know about the taste of crispy nuts in the melting jaggery . Their loss entirely !

Vilampazha Pachadi : ( wood apple )

One has to be really lucky to taste this gourmet snack . Because  most wood apples are either unripe or rotten inside . Only good karma from past lives can get you a perfectly ripened wood apple . Apparently one  fruit - rather the seeds have to be eaten by one person fully as per my grandmom . Suits me fine .
Open the fruit , take out the seeds, moisten with a little water sprinkled , add jaggery and honey to bring to a jam like consistency .

 I love  to sit alone in a quite corner with a good book and relish this  plating  it in the shell of the fruit .

( That mushy - mushy , slimy jam ? mutter my brats and ask "Can we  have a kiwi instead ?"  Arghh...

Sweet potatoes in Jaggery syrup :

Ah ! this is the mother of all Apuchi's . Sweet potato discs boiled and cooked in jaggery syrup . Just love it .

( Actually , "not hungry for a snack , ma .. But can we  have muffins" ..- my brats ) Sigh .

So Ganesh and I get to eat the undivided share of all Apuchi's ! He likes them too and thats where my luck runs out !

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Let there be Light .

Only light. And no sound.

Every year around Deepavali I get panic /anxiety attacks.Depression, too. Not only at the Bay of Bengal but within my mind.

It is not an over-the -hill thing for sure. Since childhood, have always been terrified, depressed, melancholic, retrospective, irritable, moody, anxious, guilty, sad, hyper around Deepavali time. The Nagaswaram, which otherwise is so beautiful sounding,  adds to my predicaments at an unearthly hour.

To put it in other (s') word - I am Judgemental. So be it.

Have been bottling this up for too long. The emotions that surface on Deepavali eve that is none too good add to my woes making it a tad uncomfortable and challenging to express.

After all, no one likes to throw a wet blanket on celebrations and Crackers only to be looked upon as a killjoy.

So, I let go every year. Now Timed it between two Deepavali.

Terrified of the loud crackers. Why do we Indians like everything loud? As a child, I too have burst crackers, pretending to be brave and all.

Crackers to me meant cape, vengaya vedi, pattani -as it was known in Pondicherry in those days, a small pea sized cracker rolled in a colourful paper which goes "pop" when forcefully thrown on the ground. But these were enough to scare me.

But on one such beautiful D-day decided to bare all with a declaration to give up crackers. I must have spent more than half my ego that day while I hold on tightly to whatever is left.

Global warming phenomenon had not gathered much heat back then, and it was cool to burst crackers.So had no other excuse, but to confess my fear of crackers, particularly the alarming sound of bombs.My siblings were only too happy to divide my share of the crackers amongst them.

Depressed at the glaring differences that the festivities throw up between the haves and the have-nots. And the many unfair practices that one cannot help ignoring. Educational institutions remain closed. Offices and factories too. But domestic helpers were/are not given a day off. Though elders in my family always took care of the domestic help and their children during festivals by buying them new clothes and giving them a share of crackers and other goodies.

It was still unfair. Majority of labourers had a forlorn, longing, helpless and resigned-to-fate look.

The rag-pickers who were children my age or sometimes half my age worked through the Deepavali day to earn a few extra bucks scavenging through the debris of spent crackers, all the while looking for some un-used ones.

The EXCESS amount of sweets consumed during Deepavali only pushed up the label sizes from XS to something else, while leaving a bitter taste at the sight of these rag-pickers.

Irritable at the noise levels.The sudden loud noises push my heart up my throat. I Hated it then. I continue to hate it now. The street dogs, stray cows, birds - cannot even fathom their plight.

At least I had a few corners at home and large tables under which I could take shelter.

Newspaper headlines the next morning used to make us Sad with many reports about accidents due to crackers.

Retrospective - about the fact that my amma never got a chance to enjoy festivities, as she had to prepare a grand gala full course meal for a large joint family and ended up doing more work than regular days.

Over the years, the decibel level, the disparity between the wealthy and poor, the amount of wasteful expenditure have all gone up.

However, it is very heartening to note that awareness about the ill effects of crackers has increased and the employment rate of  Child Labour in Cracker factories too has drastically come down.

Not enough. The decibel levels and the pollution need to come down. The real meaning of  Deepavali has to be brought out.

I am still not sure about the reason for the festivities. .Many theories abound.

Is it Rama's homecoming after vanavasa? As believed in the North of India.
Krishna's Narakasura vadham? As considered in the south of  India.
Deepa + Avali meaning rows of light for keeping the insects and bugs away with the onset of the monsoon?

Puzzled that Deepavali is not celebrated in Kerala, where Krishna is celebrated? And what about Northeastern states of India? Why don't they celebrate Deepavali?

Questions and more questions pop out with every 'damaal dumeel.'

People, calling it  "Diwali" makes it worse. Another major irritant associated with Deepavali.

I take solace in doing up a colourful rangoli and lighting it up with oil lamps.

Happy Deepavali!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Seasonal Thoughts - Madras - Music- Margazhi

Madras .Margazhi . Music . Mania . Madness !

So many singers, too many sabhas, ravenous rasikas, lec-dems, thematic concerts, live casts, near empty halls, overflowing auditoriums, the much famed ( or should we say hyped?) canteens, Bloggers buzzing with review posts,

"Enga ellaraiyum Dwaraka vukke kootindu poitaar! Solrathukku varthaye illai! ( adhaan solitele? !)  " type gushings on Jaya TV MMU programs, and not to mention some controversial happenings.

And of course, the all-pervading Pattu pudavais. This season's  colour seemed to be Grey Green and Sea blue. I could be totally off a 20 shade this way or that way, though.

Noticed a  senior artist at MA, who forgot to remove the tag from the pattu pudavai. Straight from Nalli I guess. The Schizophrenic self heard Vethal's ( vikram aur Vethal fame ) words " your head will burst into 1000 pieces If you don't go and tell her  ".Before that happened, I  sprinted behind her and attained salvation!

Where do I start? Where do I end?

Choice !

It is quite a task to choose from so many . Especially for a non-resident Madarasi, with limited time. You want to check out the new kid,  the known favorites, novel themes, hitherto unheard of old-timers, and lec-dems. All of them happening at the same time.

Lec-dems are easy to choose as the artists /veterans delivering them usually are men and woman of few words who keep repeating the same year after year. Probably in a different order, thus making our choice somewhat manageable.

Having crossed the first hurdle of  "choice", one needs to get geared to face the real challenges in the human form. Your neighbour at the hall in the next seat - L and R, front row, back row. Apart from praying to Venkata Saila Vihara there is little I can do to be blessed with neighbouring rasikas who will not sing along, or distract me with their loud Tappu talangal, or a menacingly mouthed  "ayyo".

Feel doubly blessed if they don't ask me " Idhu Enna ragam ?"

Wanted to get out of my comfort zone to check out newer artists, online and real-time.

Ran a quick reality check in my mind:

Pattu pudavai -Check.
Jhimki -Check.
Jasmine strands - Check.
Sruthi ..?  Wanted to scream "Please check !"

How tolerant have we become to slight, sometimes not-so-slight sruthi vilagals?

This and a few other issues led to discussions, arguments, agreeing to disagree moments, triumphant  consensual moments with musically inclined friends about:

* Should we be tolerant towards sruthi vilagals here and there in a three-hour concert? After all, they are human is the argument for it.
But the old veterans who sang well into their 60's and 70's - they were human too, no?

* The age old debate of  "you don't need a good voice for Carnatic music.Vidwat, kanakku, clinically perfect presentation is enough." Gave up on this one as good friends are hard to get these days, why lose them over someone's music.

"you are correct, but the goat is mine ", is my stand usually.

Chanced upon a wonderful old timer ..never heard in Chennai, with a vast repertoire of rare and beautiful ragas and krithis. Of course in a nearly empty hall. Was amazed at the artists enthusiasm in delivering as if to a packed room. It was indeed a humbling experience.

But love Madras for all this and more. There is something about this season when music is in the air.

Here is an encore "How I wish" list:

* Artists would take the audience along by explaining the nuances of the raga, composers, composition as they sing. Saw this happening with quite a few artists. Very heartening trend.Unless of course they are singing for an audience of musically talented people,other musicians.

*  A nodal agency connecting all the sabhas and making online booking of tickets easy for non -resident Madrasis.

* A consortium of senior artists who take it upon themselves to unearth unheard compositions of The Trinity. How long can we hear the familiar ones, however pleasing they might be.

* Creating an archive of these songs for future generations. Imagine having all the hitherto known unearthed krithis of the Saint in audio format.I believe there is one at MA.

* Stretching the December Season to a whole year as it becomes an overdose cramming it in 45-60 days.Which explains some excellent concerts not being attended well or a scholarly lec-dems being missed out.

All this must have been thought over by many rasikas and artists I am sure. The problem is to think again.

That is the Madras Margazhi that I recollect.

I remain,

The most confused thing on two legs as always!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Murali Ghanam !

Murali Ghanam!

Don't know If I can call this a write-up, leave alone a "review"! Is there anyone out there who is competent to review a concert by Dr. Mangalampally Balamuralikrishna? I doubt.

Simply put – it is my verbal ( verbose too! ) expression of an aural experience and a list of songs - hopefully with the right Raga names! 

Dr. Balamurali Krishna @Chowdiah hall! There was no parking space available in and around the hall and a packed auditorium.

That explains our toe-stepping entry with an embarrassed grin, much to the chagrin of those seated already. Sigh. And missing the first few minutes of his Amma ananda daayini !in Gambheera nattai .

Loved his rendition ..and felt lucky to hear a composer rendering his composition as intended.
At 84 how does he manage to sing like this? Amazes me. Honey and cream tone at all octaves.  Not a single dull moment during the whole concert.

Then the Thyagayyar feast started with Bhagayanayya nee maya nentho koni yaada tharama in Chandra Jyothi.

Followed by his Sarasaangi composition Hanumaa Anuma , oh Manama! Wherever the krithi has the syllable’ma', it also has the swara ‘ma'! Such a well constructed swaraksharam and Such a beautiful krithi on Lord Hanuman. 

Sri Ramya Chitaa alankara Swaroopa .. sounded like a familiar Raga but in disguise. To my untrained ears .. Believe,  it is Sriranjani with Jaya Manohari phrases.

The sea is so large, and my boat is so small. I have a long way to go from my delusions about Abhogi, Sriranjani and now Jaya Manohari.

Then came Inthanuchu varnimpa tharama in Gundakriya .. Heard it for the first time, and it was instant love! 

Hindolam alaap.. Interspersed with his signature-"Hari". At 84, he can hold on to his "Hari" for a full minute. What breath control!

After this lovely alaap, I heard only ‘sa’ while “maja” got completely drowned in thunderous applause ..He had to stop briefly to take in the adulation with his usual charismatic smile and " I- knew- this- was- coming " look, then continue! 

Balu Raghuram on the violin and Tumkur Ravi Shankar on the Mridangam did a commendable job as accompanists to such a veteran artist. The violin output was very low .. Sad that these things still happen in prestigious halls like this. Tumkur RaviShankar’s Mridangam was very pleasing indeed.

He then rendered Pavana Thanaya paalayamam - my favorite too – in Raga Rasikapriya. Love the way he talks in between the krithi with the drone of the sruthi - "Ragam -Rasikapriya " ! and continues from where he left, effortlessly. As if time stood still briefly.

He also had this advice for students of music while talking about Rasikapriya -“ I urge all music students to learn all the 72 Mela ragas. The basis of all/ any music lies in these 72 ragas”. 
It  makes  sense to have the 72 Ragas as  beginners lessons in Carnatic Music like our times tables in Mathematics.

Time for the evergreen Jagadodhaarana .. he explained his lack of  memory due to his age  these days .. And hence asked his Senior student to complete it for him saying “ nee paadu . Naa kekaren “! 

He followed it up with a composition authored and tuned by his maternal grandfather Prayaga Ranga Dasa, a lilting folksy melody – Rama Rama ena rada. Nothing to beat a Telugu knowing musician rendering a Telugu krithi. I  understand what the epic poet Bharathi  meant when he said " Sundara Telungu ".

All good things come to an end. Na na na Thillana na dridhim followed by  the mangalam Ramachandraya janaka , only to herald better beginnings I guess!