Friday, August 26, 2011

We need a Hero

Anna Hazare has come as a welcome breath of fresh air. The youth of India need an escape from the cynicism of the elders and the despair of the weak.

This momentous turn of events catapults people into a CAN DO spirit. Whether the Jan Lokpal Bill is effective in curbing corruption or not is a different matter. Today again we are looking at corruption as an aberration rather than an accepted mode of life. More power to that.

Important are the subtle lessons we learn. Success comes from ...

Maintaining good health
Having a clear goal
Being tenacious enough to be at it for that much longer
Non-violent approach
Strategizing to checkmate the opponent
Using technology and diverse allies to reach out to all sections
Clarity of expression

Anna Hazare and the people

I recall some lines from Samuel Coleridge in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner .

(Having committed an unpardonable crime the Mariner is marooned at Sea. And after a heartfelt repentance, deliverance from pain comes in the form of WIND that pushes the ship to a safe shore. I think the lines are apt in the context of India now.)

But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.

And much appeal I think comes from the grandfather look!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And The Call Came

A Homage

Venkataramu my Chickappa passed away on 17th August giving us a warning of no more than a few hours. He was 82. It was an end that he would have wanted. A seer’s upright life and a soldier’s quick death.  

Sri S. Venkataramaiah worked with the Rourkela Steel Plant. He belongs to a generation that starts career at an institution and remains loyal till retirement. Post retirement they shifted to Bangalore and that is when my association with him became deeper. Of late he read my blogs regularly. And had a word or two in agreement or appreciation or dissent. He suggested topics and shared anecdotes.

I wish I had written this post 10 days ago.  This is for you, Put-Tata.

S Venkataramaiah

He has a lot of love to give and a large heart to give it from. But he does not cling. That sets you free and only makes you love him more.
He never holds back a smile. It touches his lips, lights up his eyes. His hands move. And then his whole body breaks into a wide grin.
He is wise and has sound suggestions to make. But he does not push them down your throat. With a take-it-or-leave-it spirit he passes on a gem that catches your attention and sparkles with promise.
But tell him to come with you for a vacation and he rubs his forehead, wrinkles his nose and shakes his head firmly. No. You people go. He says.
An ardent follower of the Shankara channel, Facebook and You-Tube (for classical renderings) my uncle is a man of many generations. Born two decades before Independence, he grew up in an era when the post came once a week on a cycle-with-bells and the mouse was something that ran into dark corners.
Post retirement he absorbs the many inventions of the digital world with aplomb; being active on the internet with Facebook and e-mail and Skype and Blog.  
That does not diminish his penchant for the print world. Comfortable with English and Kannada, both my aunt and uncle always have a book to read and a book to discuss. Their list of books to buy and the date for next visit to Ankita Pustaka, a book house in Basavanagudi, is always on the to-do list.  

His love for sweets, his hasty bites into fried food (read kodbale), his liking for jam on bread (read plum chutney), his favourite place on the sofa (that I invariably occupied), his not more than three sentences on the phone, his updates on the serial with the bus-hugudi, his indulgent posing for photographs and his live-in-the-NOW attitude, I will hold close to my heart.


Have you crossed the river, to be with your sister and brother?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

God and Plate Meals

‘One vegetarian-thaali’ I say. I wait. When the plate is on my table, I peer to see ‘what has come’. Some I relish some I finish.
a plate meal

During my childhood days I was taught that God knows what to give us. Just leave it to Him, I was told.

I doubt that God serves Plate-meals. God’s bounty is unlimited. No plate meals here. You ask and you get.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Everybody has a birthday and so too does my country. It is truly a BIRTHday, for before this day we were a collection of many kingdoms believing in the same Gods and observing similar festivals in differing rituals. But the day the Tricolour was triumphantly hoisted from the ramparts of the Red-Fort in 1947, we became a new born country.
So happy birthday India.
So today, let us make it feel good. We shall sing songs in praise. We shall highlight its glorious achievements. We shall feel proud to be kins of its heroic sons and daughters. We shall prepare a happy feast. We shall laugh and dance.
For once let us forgive ourselves Dhoni and his team's defeat, the falling sensex, the soaring scams, the tumble of our demi-gods, and the squalour of the roadsides...
It's time to bury the report-card under a pile of folded towels, to cover the dark circles with make-up, wear dazzling jhumkas, slip into a sequinned dress, and step down the staiway into the hall with panache.
Come On India. We love you. No matter what.
Happy Birthday.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Huvilya - in celebration of womanhood

About a Kannada festival

During weddings, thread ceremonies or landmark anniversaries Huvilya or Sumangali puja is performed. (we say – hooveelya)
My first Huvilya was in my wedding. After that I was a part of many Huvilyas. For many years I felt a sinking tightness in my tummy and was an unwilling participant. Being the first daughter-in-law of a large, very traditional joint family, I had no option. But one day I witnessed Huvilya at an Aunt’s house. Here the function was an amazing celebration of womanhood and girly solidarity. I realize this is what Huvilya was meant to be.

Preparation for Huvilya begins days in advance. Five revered and beloved ladies (or 7 or 9) from the family or friends are chosen. Care is taken that every lady is in ‘happy-married’ status – a Muthaidey. Two girls below the age of puberty are added. They are Kodaguse Muthaideys.
Traditionally the host visits the ladies, offers them haldi and oil and invites them for the function. The oil and haldi is so they have a soothing oil massage and bath before they come! But now the invite is generally over the phone. And most women make do with a convenient shampoo bath!

The host begins to shop and cook for the event. Often tasks are assigned. Leela you do the shopping, Malini Atte come home to make the chiggali – thambittu please, Brinda go with Mahesh for the fruits and vegetables.

What to shop?
Every Muthaidey has to be given haldi-kumkum packets, many fruits, a blouse piece, betel leaves-areca nut, coconut (cleaned and haldi smeared), coloured glass bangles, dakshina cover (cash gift) and yummy treats in disposable cups and  surprise gifts like a coin bag, a brass lamp or silver toe-rings. These are arranged tastefully in a steel plate (or plastic tray or cane basket).

tastefully arranged Huvilya tray

Yummy treats:
Thambittu – fat discs made from washed and pounded rice and jaggery (really tasty)
Chiggali – roasted-til laddu (i love this)
Kosambari – spicy treat with soaked chana dal and chopped cucumber (made at most festivals)
Panaka – lemon juice flavoured with saffron
Majjigey – buttermilk flavoured with salt, hing and karipatta

What is done?
Make way…make way … here come the heavy bucket of water, the mug and the wooden platform. The ladies troop outside. One by one, eldest to youngest, their feet and hands are washed, wiped and decorated with Haldi - Kumkum and flowers. Everybody crowds outside to have a peep.

The ladies return to occupy places on mats or chairs (we have more women with knee problems now!) They are offered the yummy treats in slow order. Some drink and some eat while most prefer to save their appetite for the main meal that is soon to follow. There is a lot of teasing and cajoling at this point. The ladies get to eat first while the men wait! There is relaxed laughter.
The ladies are then offered a fistful of haldi signaling prosperity and blissful marital status, a dot of kumkum and strings of jasmine flowers. For a South Indian woman this is ultimate dressing up. She feels beautiful. She feels wanted. A glow settles into her face. The ladies and the two girls represent God and virtuous ancestors. The host then worships them … offers agarbatti, arati and akshata. Of course there is a lot of embarrassed laughter and banter from the young and serious witnessing by older ladies.

The ladies bless the host and anyone else who wishes to offer them pranaam and take blessings. Generally the extended family of the host  (men and women and kids)  takes blessings. The ladies then make an elaborate pretence of going home. They take their gifts and loaded trays and walk out of the house, pose there for a snap and return happy and contented about a job well completed.

Smaller trays are kept ready. All other women and girls present at the function get a loaded tray each. It contains smaller amounts of gifts. But every one gets something.
Since chiggali and thambittu are not made often. Every one is waiting for tasty bites.
Huvilya is a celebration of womanhood. Imagine being invited and fussed over… and it is not your birthday or anniversary.

What fun!

These Huvilya pictures are from a recent 80th birthday celebration at Prabhamani Atte's house.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bamboo Song

This song to the bamboo plant is put up at Janapada Loka near Bangalore.

I liked it so much i have translated it for you. Perhaps many of you enjoy Kannada but cannot read it. So here is Kannada in English! Do be kind to my attempts to translate it.

bamboo song

Bidaramma thai kele, neenaari-galladavaley?  
Huttutta hullu aadey, bele-yutta bidiru aadey, Bettaada kelagey iddey, adarudda beladey. 
Ranga-nigey kolalu aadey, kanda-nigey thottalu aadey, Aaduva makkaligey oduva kudurey aadey. 
Maduve-ya handarakke, chapparada kolu aadey, Mai-dumbuva kunuthakkey nandeeya kol-adey. 
Atte-maney soseya-rige beesuva kukkey-aadey, Muttaidey makkaligey bhagana moragal-aadey. 
Aadu kayo makkaligey sene yemba javali aadey, Kaalugalu koodi idalu katteeda kanaja vaadey. 
Oorooru sooru aadey, koorigeya kolave aadey, Muppaina mudukarigey oorambo donne-yaadey, 
Ambiganigey huttu aadey, myadarnigey butti aadey, Hattuvavarigey eni aadey, sattavarigey chattavadey.

Bamboo my mama dear, a friend you are of all.

At birth mere grass, mature - you are a wicker;
You start at foot-hill and are as tall as one when bigger!
Flute to Lord Krishna, a cradle for baby,
For playful kids you are a gallopping pony.
At busy weddings the revered awning prop,
For mesmerizing dancers you are the kolu with Nandi on top.
Busy daughters-in-law see the basket in you,
Adorned wifes find auspicious gifts in you.
Goatherds and shepherds use you as staff,
You hold a supply of grain as store-bin and vat
For kitchen and bath fires you are the blow pipe,
You are the strong support for men weak and ripe
The strong oar of a boatsman, when woven you're a basket,
For the climber – a ladder, for the dead you are – a pier.

Bamboo my mama dear, a friend you are of all.


We get so preoccupied with English we forget to relish our own language. Tell me, did u enjoy this one?

Foot and Footwear

About washing the feet

Feet and footwear are two most important aspects of our life. The former gets us around and the latter helps the former get us around.

When my grandfather used to stay with us, I associated him with one oft repeated statement. ‘Did you wash your feet?’ If I as much as went into the bathroom to wet my face or rinse my mouth, he would ask me, did you wash your feet? When I returned from school, play, portico or neighbour’s house, he would cough again…Did you wash your feet?
And then there was one more rule … wet your ankles or bad luck will ride on them. And, what with embarrassing red lines in the report card and ‘Meet the Princi’ orders, I did not dare risk bad luck riding on my ankles. So I faithfully washed them.

wet ankles in the Beas in Manali

Washing the feet (and the ankles) is an important ritual in Hindu weddings and some lady-functions like Huveelya and Sumangali puja. You will have to Google or wait for tomorrow's post if you don't know what that is. !!

When I was in my thirties I became wiser?? I stopped believing in bad luck riding on ankles. I stopped washing my feet so frequently. But I remained the middle-class Indian. So I had barely 2 pairs of footwear. One for daily use and one party wear. The feet cried out for help. But mostly their cries fell on deaf ears.

In ten plus years the world of Indian city life has transformed itself. Wetting bathroom floors, padding around barefoot and washing ankles ten times a day are passé. But we have pedicure. We have foot creams and sole massages. We have bubble sole slippers. We have dedicated footwear catering to differing needs.

assorted footwear at Dilli Haat

Happy days are here again
For feet … And footwear companies
Look! Even I have 4 pairs of footwear!

And did you wet your ankle?

Is there a superstition that forced you to do the right thing? share pls 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pappu paas ho gaya

Please, please, tell me i am OK

There is this supreme joy when someone else tells you that you are OK. I don’t how people of the world think...but this is true of us Indians.

We go to the doctor for diagnosis. No no doctor I don’t feel tired so much. Actually I go for regular walks too (ya in my dreams) ….. we suppress as much information as possible, so that the doctor can tell us that we are OK.

The matrimonial website has thrown up an alliance. Parents do not enquire around too much. Fingers crossed. Hope he sees our girl and says OK.

Neighbour walks in. Gives your house a wide sweeping look and smiles in approval … aah my house is OK.

Colleagues take a bite from your lunch box and lick their fingers in appreciation. Thank God they think my lunch is OK.

Happy to have you visit our country. We are granting you Visa. Yippee they say we are OK.

mmm you are OK! ...  and me? ... and me?

God! Breathless kids for ever?


Monday, August 1, 2011

Be there fifteen minutes before time

All set for an interview
suited and booted; draped and pinned

Amma's sarees are out for inspection. So old fashioned. She should have a more young look.
We can buy a nice and decent salwar kameez ... this will show them that we are modern thinking but value traditions too.
What will you say if they ask you, do you want to work after marriage?
Did you see how I made the burfis? Tell them you made it.
Do you remember any song completely? Practice properly.
Ask Beena Masi to tie your hair. She does it well.
Put out some intelligent books on the table, ... will make us look smart you know.
And that sunset painting. I will cello-tape that on the cupboard door. Our girl is talented. let them see.

a big rangoli at the entrance

I feel like that. The interview is on 3rd.