Friday, October 18, 2013

Old Age Home

The other day i was talking to my sister about growing old and she said we all had to learn lessons from our experiences for when our own turn comes.. and as we warmed up to the topic, i had this idea... its always a brain storming session, i find whether it is in the office or on the home front. nice ideas do come up...may not be workable, may not be inventions, only innovations....but still....

See, my mother has given the four of us, my three siblings and me, 4800 sq. ft of land each and all the four 'plots' adjoin each other.(now dont go correcting the grammar, thats indian-english, ok? i write as i speak ok? gosh, i have become more aware of my english and this is making me commit a lot of mistakes, both grammatical and spellings!!theek hai, kya karen?) as usual, i digress!hmm, to continue, where was i..? yeah, well, these plots being adjacent would make a nice big single plot, we could build a nice ashram like structure, plant trees (we have done that already i think, my mother has... mangoes, coconut, guavas, lemon....?). we could have a separate annexe like structure for our pooja-paath. all the siblings-cousins, and the elder generation, could stay under one roof. the children of these siblings/cousins could sponsor a couple of doctors, round the clock nursing care, a general handyman to take care of the garden and shopping, a cook, couple of housemaids and so forth. we would have our own home theatres, music systems, telephones, cell phones and what not. we would have our pension, we could grow our own fruits and vegetables. the grandchildren could come any time they wanted and spend their vacations with us. the children could visit anytime they wanted, or only call or do whatever they want to do-no hassles. no complaints.

All of us would have each other's company. we would all be in the same boat. our daughters would be at peace, our daugthers-in-law would be the happiest women on earth. i firmly believe that the biggest stake-holder in a guy is his wife. she would take care of her husband the best; and with no mother-in-law trouble the young wives can get on with their lives.... well, yes, when one has this much one will want some more, and when one has some more one will want a little more, its endless, really, but ....again kya karen?easy to say: like it or lump it, but it is better though not easier, to like it. more peaceful.

I expect there would be a lot of 'politics'..what indian household is free from household politics... we are, in the end, one big joint family and we feel it is our bounden duty to poke our noses in the affairs of our relatives, near and distant. given that, sure as anything there would be much discussions, divisions and so on every single day... but we would have our own rooms with attached bathrooms to retire to, if we want to stay away in a huff, right? its not such a bad idea, but whether it is workable, I dont know... why because (now that is a typical indian way of speaking, you ask the question 'why' and start answering it with a  'because', and it is a total translation of the vernacular 'yendukku?yendukanntey'(telugu) 'yen?yennanna"(tamil)), all of us will make an exception of ourselves...I dont have to stay in the ashramam, my son will take care of me, my daughter will take care of me, I have two sons, my sons-in-law are like sons to me and so on..... Oh I  understand...

Its not that our kids will discard us, wont take care of us or anything like that... its just that they may not be able to do what they want to do for us.... life is so different from what it was even 40 years ago.. its not going to be slowing down in the future..

This is just an idea, a thought.....right? lets see. time alone will tell.

Old age is not just creeping on us, it is racing, as my husband laughingly says. That means, we will know sooner than soon....

Varnajalam of Suryan FM

This Trichy is a place full of activity. Something or the other seems to be constantly  happening here. And given my official position, I get keep getting invited to inaugurate this event or preside over that one... I find this place full of schools, colleges and higher educational institutions. Quite the academic centre of the State. And know what? The number of girl students in schools/colleges is mind boggling. I remember the first time when I went to one of the colleges to preside over something, I was stunned to see the auditorium full of girls, young women. I discretely counted the number in each row and number of rows and easily the numbers exceeded a thousand. And there were many, many more standing. And this was only in the auditorium; we could see some leaving the campus having finished classes for the day. The principal told me the college had three thousand girl students. Three thousand!! And there are many such colleges in Trichy! The city, due to its strategic position being quite in the heart of the state caters to the other districts for higher education. The headmasters/mistresses, the principals, corresspondents, all of them seem so passionate about their jobs....

But wait, I digress..yeah, realised it after several hundred words had been written, now I drag myself back to the topic I wanted to write about, namely the Painting competition that was organized by Suryan FM for school students starting from kindergarten to class XII. Yes, kindergarten no less, three and four year olds!! The topic given to them was something like 'what I like'. The drawing and the coloring some of the kids did was unbelievable!! No, they weren't given outlines to colour in with crayons. The kids drew the stuff they liked and filled in the colours. The clean lines, and colours inside the drawing, the neat execution. I couldn't just, at first, take in the fact that this was a tiny tot's work. What do these mothers feed their kids?

The inauguration was something novel for me. Yes, the usual welcome speeches were made, the bouquets given as also the 'token' of affection i.e., a momento as well as the traditional shawl. I had been told I would inaugurate the event by lighting the kuthuvilakku, the traditional lamp. As I entered the auditorium, and climbed the stage, I looked discretly for the kuthuvilakku but found none. Oh, well... I thought. There was an easel that was set to one side, with a chart paper pinned to it. One half of the chart paper was blank and the other had a lead pencil drawing of a kuthuvillakku on it. It looked somewhat incomplete to me, but I thought, hey, this is a charcoal drawing sort of thing, this must be the fashion or whatever. Never for a second did it cross my dumb head that that was the kutthuvilakku to be lit by me. Not for one small second. All of a sudden the welcome speeches were over the felicitations were done, and I heard the compere inviting me, the chief guest, to inaugurate the event by lighting the kuthuvilakku... I was invited to draw the flame. I cannot begin to explain in words the utter fascination I felt at the idea. And of course my joy knew no bounds. Maybe this sort of thing happened all the time in this amazing city. But it had never happened to me. I could barely control my excitement. And of course I was nervous. I am not a painter, can barely draw a straight line and here I was in front of what seemed a mass of humanity being asked to paint. Never say die, being my motto I went to the easel. More delight was in store, as a young woman approached with a tray bearing water colors and brushes. She asked me to pick any colour that I wished. I used red to draw the first flame. Choice of colour was instinctive. I never thought of yellow. Then the other guests followed, these being the heads/representatives of the sponsors of the event, and soon, the kuthuvilakku was all 'lit' up in a rainbow of colours!! How pretty it looked with those colorful dancing flames!!

I thought this was it, we were done now, there was going to be a vote of thanks and we would all be off. But no. The cup of joy was nearing brim, but not overflowing and how could that be allowed to happen, not overflow? The mystery of the blank side of the easel was solved, no marks to me, when I was asked to draw something.. anything as a mark of setting the competition ball rolling. Believe you me, at that point in time, I must have been a two year old just given a toffee!! I made a rangoli, I think. Its all hazy, except the happiness, which was pure.
After that of course, we went to the section where the babies made the drawings. And I've already told you how awesome that was!

S I M P L E Pleasures of Life,  all the more wonderful for being unexpected.
What a day that was!

Anbil temple visit.

Last week my husband was visiting me in Trichy and as we are wont to do during his visits here, we went to a temple. We picked Anbil temple, of Vadivazhagiya nambi or Sundararaja perumal. Lovely temple, serene, and we had a super darshan and prasadam-Puliyodarai and chakkara pongal had been offered to the presiding deity. Holding the donnais of prasadam, we  came out of the temple; I started distributing the puliyodarai and chakkarapongal to the driver when  all of a sudden  we were surrounded by  three urchins. I promptly handed over the remaining prasadam to the oldest looking boy and got into my car asking one of the men to buy a packet of biscuits for the boys. Now, while the boys may not have understood what I said in English, the word 'biscuits' must have registered, because they just hung around there and wouldn't go away. I saw one  of the littler boys  gesticulating; I rolled down the window to catch what he was saying; he lisped to me that the older boy wouldn't give him the food to eat. Worried that the little boy wouldn't get a share and a  bit upset that I hadn't myself distributed the food to the boys, I told the older fellow that he should share the food with the others. He looked calmly into my eyes and told me he would give it to.... I didn't catch the relationship he mentioned, and at that point I didn't understand what he said. Meanwhile the biscuit packet arrived. This time I gave all the kids there two each, keeping behind a few since I saw a couple of little girls sitting  under a tree with an old woman and I thought once they saw biscuits being distributed they would come running for them.  But they didn't. It was these boys that ran to the three ladies sitting under the tree. I saw the older boy hand over the food and biscuits to the old woman, who shared it among all the kids. Even the younger child who had lisped to me had handed over his biscuits to  the old woman. It was then that I noticed that one of the girls seemed to have a problem with her legs. She couldn't have come running to the car. I then realised that the older boy had said he would give the food to aatha/aaya? He knew she would give the food to all of them. They were to beg and take whatever was given, to her. It may be a huge racket, this using of children to beg, and in no way correct, but still,  this incident has left an  impression on me for different reasons. I don't  know if the poor kids went to school at all. Who taught them that sharing is noble? Who taught the older boy the calmness I saw? How was he not tempted to eat even a tiny bit of the biscuit? Was he not hungry?

Maybe it is a rule that if you get any food you can't eat it all by yourself even if you are tempted. Or hungry.

Why am I disturbed?

Young women and then again, Young Women.

The other day I passed by the DAV school which is situated on the Avvai Shanmugam Road; i want to immediately digress to the movie but i am not going to, and am going to write about the day i passed the school. I found a large number of young salwar-kameez/ jeans-kurtis/ choodidar-kameez clad women sitting on the pavement. It must have been about 11 AM on a working day and I was on my way to an office for a meeting. Looking at those women, some of them busy talking animatedly into their cell phones set me thinking.. what must the women be waiting for? who were they talking to? what were they talking about? and i imagined them to be young mothers waiting for their offspring to emerge from the nursery classes, which surely close around 1130 ish?  The little ones may have just started school and i wondered who missed whom the most? The kids the mothers or the other way around? Were the women there to pick up their children to take them home? Were among the mothers those that were waiting for admissions? Were they talking to their husbands, the young executives who couldn't get away from office that day because of an important meeting, briefing them about the wait either for the children or admissions? While I sat thinking about these things, the car had obviously moved forward and had taken a left turn on to Mount Road. Now anyone who is from Chennai knows what important place is situated there. The American Embassy!! And know what I saw? Another set of salwar-kameez/jeans-kurti/Choodidar-kameez clad women. These were standing in a 'Q' clutching folders to their bosoms. Their mothers, now slightly grey, their fathers a little balding, stood under the huge tree there, some close to their girls, others away. The offspring of the away must have already been admitted inside the embassy for their visa interviews. This lot of 'children' was aspiring to go to America for higher studies.
And the thought flashed in my mind: the mothers up the other road waited for their tiny tots to finish the day at school to take them home; years down the line, they still stood waiting on the road while their children went for a visa interview. Life is like that only, no?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Raw Onion

I thought I wouldn’t eat lunch today. At 8 am I had a set of pooris, that is two pooris with alloo ki subji and a cup of tea. Feeling full and all, having drunk a lot of water from then on, thought I would just go without lunch. Did a lot of work between bf and 1pm. I call it repair and renewal. Of self. Then went to mom’s room, thought if I was going to take a nap I might as well do it in her room. Oru kal irandu managa. (One stone two mangoes).My nap and company to her and me. So I went. And lay down. And guess what, as I went on saying the Dwayam, as I am wont to these days, what should pop into my mind but the raw onion.
Now to digress a bit…. two days back, I accidentally came across a book on meditation. I get up from my chair once in a while and stroll around in my office room. (It is impossible to be sitting around for all kinds of hours.) And as I walked, I just pulled out a book from the book shelf and started flipping throught it. And came across transcendental meditation. It sounded so simple to bust stress, that, that very day in the evening after I returned from a game of badminton, spruced up and all, I tried it. And it was like magic. I thought I would try it for 2 minutes and before I knew it ten had passed. I must have, somewhere in the middle fallen in some kind of sleep, I certainly remember the beginning and the end. The middle is what I don’t remember. Well, anyway, this seemed to be working. (Hey, come on, it was the meditation, not the badminton game!!)  So I decided the Dwayam which I anyway utter now and then can be my special “word”. Its not a word really, it’s a full sentence. And I started to use it in my modified form of TM. Working for me, it is working for me. (*gleeful). This job is one heck of a job!  Most stressful. I have put on weight despite forty minutes of walking a day, badminton thrice weekly and generally keeping active. My cholesterol levels have gone sky high and the sugar levels are barely normal. I am sure the blood pressure is also not what it used to be. I attribute all this to this job. But here I am. No one forced it upon me. And let me face it, I am rather enjoying it. And wouldn’t quit for the world!!
So then, going back to my mother’s room.  Here I was trying to get that catnap and there it was the onion leaping into my consciousness. These days I attribute everything to Sriman Narayana, so I didn’t resist the thought of the onion. For some reason best known to Him He has planted the onion into my mind.  I have not eaten a raw onion in maybe two decades. I think. I don’t remember. But what I do remember is my childhood and how onions were inextricably linked to every meal. The onion and tomato chutney was a hot favourite of my father’s. It went so well with idlis or dosas or atlus, as we called them. And come summers, the chaldi kunda and chaldi annam with cut onions… for those to whom these are strange terms, here’s the jaankari… chaldi kunda is the earthernware pot mom used to buy every summer. Largish. After proper cleaning and all, it was half filled with water,  and then rice by then cooked and cooled used to be dropped into it after propitiating all the Gods in heaven. The kunda, or pot would stand overnight. The next afternoon,  the rice would be removed, mashed thoroughly by hand, some “wowam” (ajwain/ omam/ oregano?) salt and a dash of oil would be added to it.  The chaladi annam, chaldannam said in one go, was ready…Dollops of this would be ladled on to a plate, a small katori or two of the kunda neelu, (the pot water) would be added, and medium sized peeled onions would be handed out. Oh how I used relish that meal. A mouthful of the rice, a bite into the onion… my nostrils would twitch with the pungency of the onion, but amazing that one didn’t want to avoid it, one more bite, just one more bite…. is how it went.  And how about raw onions with gongura pacchadi annam? My mom never cut the onions and served them. She would just peel the onions and hand them out. We had to bite into the onions. I remember that so well. And always, I associate the incisors with biting into whole fruits. Even to date, I prefer whole fruits to cut fruits. Come now, how can one bite into a papaya…?
Ah the room again…like I said, I had stopped eating raw onions soon after my marriage. In retrospect all for the wrong reasons it seems. And then by and by I got it into my head that the onion was the culprit behind a lot of stomach problems. I wish I had more sense to think the whole thing through. But then I was trying so very hard to fit in. And the convert, my friend is more zealous than the original thing. Ask me I should know, I was among the best. The top percentile. Anyway… going back to the room and the nap and the forbidden fruit… in a manner of speaking because onion is not a fruit right, it’s a vegetable right? Well, whatever it is, it certainly was intruding big time into my thoughts. And then I thought, well, why not? Why not have that lunch. Well you see, the thought of onions, and the possibility that talli would at long last break the onion fast and actually bite into one  had started making me feel the hunger pangs. I asked my mom a couple of times…. “are you sure you aren’t going to eat food now? “ , “Coming? “ and she told me, “for the last time, I am not having lunch. I had a late breakfast remember? Around 12 noon. How can I possibly eat anything? You go…”
“how can I possibly eat anything?”  Hah! Ask me. I am always ready to eat. Always. Not anything. But norukku as we call it at home. Meaning snacks. Food doesn’t hold a lot of fascination for me. But junk? Oh man, lead me to it!! So then I told her, ok, here goes I am going to have lunch. She said ok, there is the greens sambar , lentil chutney, fresh curds and cabbage curry. I will come and serve your lunch. I hastily said, no no, you stay put, you read, watch tv or read paper or write or whatever , I will get my lunch. No problem.  While I would have anyway said that and got my lunch, today I was especially anxious to be my myself. Because after twenty years I was going to eat raw onions. I prayed and prayed there would be a medium sized one available at home. What a tragedy if there was none or a huge one only, available?  What would I do? In the event there was a medium one available. I cannot begin to explain the anticipation I felt when I peeled that onion and washed it. I considered for a moment for old times sake to leave it whole and bite into it. But… I am now grown up and work hard to be able to buy onions, I just could not imagine wasting it. After all I was eating raw onions after two decades, what if I was not able to tolerate it, what if I couldn’t eat it anymore? Why throw out a perfectly good onion, uh? So I quartered it. Thought I would have a quarter and then see how it goes.
Now in order to relish raw onions, it was crucial that the perfect dish be chosen for consumption. I wanted to eat all of it, right? The onion I mean.  What if I ate it with some cabbage curry and then found mazaa nahin ayaa? So it was that the Collards sambar won the day. A childhood dish, that and one which is made in the inlaw’s house also. Much relished. A favourite of course. And then again, all that quantity, and not much calories in it. That I cannot miss, right. So I heaped three tablespoons of white rice, and poured a generous quantity of the collard broth on it. Mixed it using fingers, south Indian style and …Narayana….one mouthful of the keerai saadam, and a tentative bite into the onion quarter…and…….By God!! It still tastes the same!! Wow!! That was so amazing!! I cannot remember when I last truly tasted a food item, chewed so carefully, relishing every bit of it. That meal certainly counts among the best I have had in recent times. That was one heck of a meal, and I so thoroughly enjoyed it!! Wow! I cant stop saying that!!

Having finished the onion and the rest of the meal, I came back cleaned up my mouth thoroughly, cleaning tongue, swishing mint flavored mouth wash etc to get the onion smell out.  Need to find more ways of freshening up the mouth post raw onion. Because, onion, now that I have found, I’m not letting you go!! Now the reconvert!!