Lockdown learning – My kitchen rules

Today I posed a question for my pranayama class students – “What is that part of you that you dislike or not comfortable with?” Each one identified their own and we worked on forgiving our uncomfortable parts and sending love to those parts inside us! I truly believe that we are a work in progress and we also need to work at ourselves regularly, to maintain some sort of calmness inside us.

Coming to that question…
When I posed that question to myself, a few months back, I was surprised at what came out as a dominant character! You will be surprised too, as you read this!

As a little girl, all I was allowed to do in the kitchen was just observe. I observed everything – what ingredients went into which kuzhambu, how everything gets fried golden, how coarse or how fine you grind the sambar masala, how to make different types of chutney using vegetable peels, how to grind the idly maavu, how to pickle, how not to spoil a pickle and many more…phew! This list seems endless…

Amma is an amazing cook, a perfectionist, and such a cleanliness freak! I am not surprised that I imbibed all those from amma – maybe not genetically but by observing her too keenly 😀

After I got married, I started observing my mother-in-law! Another amazing personality, with the keenness of a child to learn and try new things, a cook par excellence, great with her smile and hospitality and most of all, she loved to feed people!

All these observations – from my amma and mother-in-law – helped me when I started to cook in my own kitchen after my marriage. These two amazing mothers in my life had subconsciously instilled another quality in me, which I didn’t realize at first.

I divided the vessels I had into two sets. Set one was used for cooking, the plates were used for closing the vessels, the spoons and ladles were used only for cooking and serving.
Set two was for eating. Plates, spoons, forks are separately kept for eating.

And the strict rule was there will be no interaction or mix-up between these two sets of vessels! Really! Yeah…That was me!

Then the egg came into the kitchen. I grew up in a household where eggs were banned from entry into our home. But when I started cooking eggs, I bought separate pans, spatulas, plates…

All these were noticeable decisions which I did.

I also had this habit of using specific vessels for specific purposes. I kept my milk boiling vessels separate and nothing else was cooked in it, especially the ones with salt. I had separate ladles for milk, curd, sambar and never mixed them! The Kadai for frying papad, for making the vegetables were all marked and used according to my rule! My kitchen – my rules…haha 😀 I did manage with these rules, without realizing how strictly I enforced it on me and my house-help, for all these years.

Lockdown happened and things changed. Without the help of a house-help, who listened and abided by my rules, I asked my daughters to help me. They did all the help very willingly.
All along, my daughters were never really aware of those rules which I followed in the kitchen concerning the cookware. Or maybe they were aware but never thought seriously of them. I started noticing that they were using some vessels for cooking which was not earmarked for them, by me – he he…the superior me 😀

I went huff and puff over all the wrong usage of cookware! And I couldn’t hold it on for long periods. Without the help of my daughters, I was not able to manage the cleaning, cooking, and all the other work in the house. I was already stressed out with lack of house help and now the mixing up of the cookware…Oh God! I was so stressed out. I couldn’t even appreciate their help as I was constantly picking on them for using the wrong cookware.

Sigh! I didn’t like this obsession I had towards the cookware and how it should be used.

So, slowly and grudgingly I started to relax – let them use whatever cookware they wanted; it will be washed well after use. This simple shift inside me helped me to come out of my stressful feelings and I started enjoying and appreciating their help more!

Such precious lockdown learning of 2020!

From there, I have moved on with a better thought process – the cookware is transient; they can be thrown away or new ones can be bought. My daughters and the love with which they do things at home are more precious than these transient things.

Have you wondered at this question – “What is that part of you that you dislike or not comfortable with?” Please do share your replies!

Mandala and me

I am the sky with the white clouds
I am the mountains and valleys
With rivers and trees
I am the green pastures
With wild flowers and grass
I am the ocean
Constantly in motion
And deep inside me
Is my heart filled with love!

I am the mandala
And the inter-connecting patterns
That make it!
I am the colors
Which fills up the patterns
In VIBGYOR mode…
For life isn’t just black and white
But all the colors in a spectrum of light!

The Mandala and the thought process

“The Mandala drawing is a representation of one’s own thoughts and its associated processes” – this I read somewhere and this idea kind of stayed with me.

A few months back, I took the first step in learning it properly from a beautiful soul, Elsa. And all through her classes, she taught me the precise way to draw concentric circles, mark angles and make space to draw the patterns in my own way. She made such an impression on me that precision was the key to doing mandalas. And her mandala drawings are great examples of the precision she talks about. Of course, there is always an interpretation to her mandala and she does it with ease and beauty.

My journey in the path of mandala drawing started after the classes. I watched and learnt many new patterns and techniques from others too. But I was still a novice in the way I used those patterns in my mandala.

And instead of stressing on how to draw mandalas which is an interpretation of something or a pictorial representation of a thought process, I just let myself to relax. I told myself that I will attend to any spark of thought that I receive from my mind and then take it forward.

I didn’t get to relax a lot. There were some sparks and some representations of them in my mandala drawings. The recent one was I wished to represent the Marigold flower in my mandala. I didn’t know what led to that spark; probably yellow is my new favorite and flowers are my new found love in nature!

The reasons apart, I gave in to the spark and started the work on my pictorial representation of marigold.

I drew petals and filled them with floral patterns and kept filling it up in my favorite yellow. In my excitement to draw more petals, I messed up one whole concentric circle. And instead of getting worked up on the mess I created. I filled it up with yellow and that filled me up with joy.

I forgot to draw the double line border in one circle. Another mess up. But I carried on and filled it up with floral pattern and yellow color.

In one petal on the outer most circle, I seriously messed up, filled it with whitener and then realized that yellow color didn’t stick on the whitener and this mess up was very evident. I still carried on and kept filling that yellow, wherever I could.

And then the borders of mandala faded and the marigold took over it all, which led to those free lines of yellow around the mandala. I felt absolute joy when I did those strokes of yellow with slashes of light brown and gold.

I felt complete with the mandala.

As always, I try to draw parallels.

I am like this mandala – I have messed up many a times with relationships. But that didn’t stop me from making new relationships, for I kept filling that space of relationship with love and more love.

Many decisions that I have taken have not been great ones.

Many times, my words were too much and there were times, when my silence was too much!

Many of my experiences stressed me a lot and were blocking me from moving forward.

There were times, when my expressions were not an absolute representation of what I felt because it was so intertwined with my emotional blocks!

And just like this mandala, I worked on it, taking one circle at a time. The past two months have been great that I worked on identifying my blocks and helped myself to clear them too. It is still going on and I am loving the “me times” where I work on this!

I used to be like these patterns – always following a strict adherence to rules and regulations. May be, it helps to relax the rules and go with the flow! I am learning to take it easy!

If you have read till here, I hope you see me in all the different shades that I express myself. The key point for me is that these drawings help me to see myself in those shades and be very accepting of myself and continue to love myself too!

Thought process…

Are you the wave?
Rising from deep stillness
With emotions and words
With ideas brimming bright
With elated happiness
And hit all those
Onto the silent shore
And as though the job is done
Recede back to being silent…

Or are you the shore?
The strong and sturdy
Resilient to waves
And taunamis too
The wall is strong
Which keeps the shore intact
And not dance to the tunes
Of the consistent waves
That keep hitting…

Or are you the wind?
That which stimulates
The stillness of water
And stirs deep within
For ideas to emerge
For waves to unfold
And also be part of the journey
Till the wave hits the shore…

Or are you the observer?
The one who knows the wind
The wave and the shore;
The stimulant
The object and the target…

Some days I am the wind
There are days when
I am overwhelmed like the waves
With ideas and emotions…
And then some days
I am the sturdy shore
With an attitude of “bring it on”
The yearning though
Is to be an observer!

Connecting with nature!

As I wake up everyday, I try my earnest to connect with nature – even if it is in a very small way!

To begin with
I like smelling my tulsi leaves,
touching the leaves of my balcony plants,
looking at the sky (quite the obvious one), wondering about the cloud patterns,
the color of the sky,
listening to the playful mynah,
trying hard to hear the other chirpers,
look at the branches outside my kitchen window and see if they look the same like yesterday or has there been a new branch…

– its endless but there is a strong connection with nature!

This connection uplifts me the whole day!

Thatha’s garlic love

Did you notice today’s date? Its 20th May, yeah! But if you write it like May 20, 2020, it looks and sounds so magical. I have this thing for looking for numbers that repeat or those numbers that make a rhythmic sound when pronounced. Maybe it is a genetic trait from appa. He always looks at numbers and finds rhythms in them. That was something he did as a natural and no wonder, the Telephones department where he worked, found him to be irreplaceable.

The month of May always reminds me of my thatha (paternal). I just don’t remember my thatha’s birthday but the day he left this world is something that I cannot forget. This May 13th was his 25th death anniversary. He was always there with me from the day I was born and I never wondered about his birthdate. But one fine day, he was no more and that date is stuck with me forever.

Thatha’s presence was always there at home. Starting from deciding on the menu for lunch to dinner, planning to go out, temple trip, tv program schedules, vegetable shopping – anything and everything had thatha in it in some form. He will have a request for everyone, a word for everything that went on in the house.

He was an expert on naming people, including my appa also!

If there is one thing which he loved the most it was garlic and he had done well by passing on those garlic love to all his lineage. My amma stood at the opposite pole of thatha when it came to garlic. She wouldn’t even touch it with her hands. But she cooked all the garlic dishes so well, especially the poondu kuzhambu is something out of the world.

This is precisely the reason why thatha used to have a say in the menu of the day; he decides the days when garlic can be cooked. Since he used to fast on Mondays and Amavasya, he made sure that garlic is not cooked even for us – the children of the house. He just didn’t want to miss eating garlic!

Sometimes, we use to pester amma to make poondu kuzhambu (garlic kuzhambu) and if it happens to collide with thatha’s fasting days, she will hesitate.  But we will pester even more and she will eventually agree to cook the delicious kuzhambu.

When the smell of frying garlic wafted through the rooms to that sharp nose of thatha, his loud voice will suddenly boom through the house make an announcement “today’s fasting cancelled”! Ha ha…everyone at home laughed out loud about how garlic ruled his heart and other things like fasting took a backseat.

Dear thatha, if you are alive today, you would have cherished the poondu kuzhambu which I cook! Always in love with you and with the enormous simplicity of your love for me!

My “go to spot” at home!

This is the view from my kitchen window, which faces the western sky!
And this is my favorite spot at home!

I stand here, watching the clouds swim by while I wash vessels.
I occasionally take my cutting board with vegetables and stand near the window!
I stand there to sip coffee.
I try to fill bottles with drinking water standing and staring at the blue sky!
I watch the moving clouds as I drink water.
I try to take my calls in my kitchen, where I sit on the kitchen top and still can watch the clouds.
I stand there to feel the gentle breeze on me.
I don’t need any reason to stand in my favorite spot but I guess I like making up the reasons 😃

Pal Kozhakattai

Whenever amma made kalandha sevai (rice vermicelli mixed with coconut or lemon), it was an arduous task. She used to make the processed rice flour, then make a dough with hot water. And then cook them again in boiling water and transfer it to the sevai nazhi (sevai making machine) which was hand-pressed. The arduous task eases down and joy overrides when the strands of sevai fall seamlessly from the sevai nazhi. The long strands of sevai were thoroughly enjoyed when we eat them. A slightly similar comparison will be the noodles that the kids slurp in one go.

The best part is always for the last. After making the sevai, there will be leftover rice dough which will be then rolled into small round balls and cooked gently. Jaggery will be added and crushed cardamom will be sprinkled. Coconut milk will be poured and mixed. And that is the definition of home-made heaven, which is called the pal kozhakattai. The simple and delicious dessert to be eaten after the sumptuous meal of coconut and lemon sevai.

Making pal kozhakattai is like a nostalgic journey into the kitchen of my patti and amma, sitting there next to them in my pavadai sattai (Long skirt and blouse), helping in the pressing of the sevai nazhi, waiting impatiently for the sevai process to be done so that patti will start making pal kozhakattai.

A dish as simple as this reminds me of my patti’s soft hands and the way she will smile at me for making my favourite dish.

A dish that is reminiscent of my petite patti and the way she does magic in the kitchen!

The taste of Pal kozhakattai in my mouth just takes me back to the times when I am still a little girl lying on the lap of my paati – the sweetest part of my childhood!

And here it is paati, this is for you, made by me in my kitchen!

Que sera sera

I heard my mother-in-law hum a tune. Curious to know what is she humming, I gently go near her so that I don’t distract her. Oh my! Her voice is still as sweet as her younger years, especially when she hums.

And I wondered what is this song she is humming!! Bingo! Found the song and here it is…

I quickly looked up the lyrics of the song and kept staring at the screen. Those lyrics are just the perfect ones we need for today’s uncertain times.

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother what will I be
Will I be pretty will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me
Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera sera
What will be will be
When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said
Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera sera
What will be will be
Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother what will I be
Will I be handsome will I be rich
I tell them tenderly
Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera sera
What will be will be
Que sera sera

Just re-reading or re-emphasizing those lines – “Whatever will be will be, The future’s not ours to see” made me go Wow!

What perfect lines for today’s scenario! And how perfectly my MIL brought it to my attention just by humming it. We just need to listen to the wise words of our elders.

Instead of fighting against the times, acceptance of things will help us to remain calm and less stressed. Let us take these times to reflect on our thoughts and actions. Let us stay home and let us focus inward into us!

Eastern sky

Eastern sky is an amazing place
Announcing the new day’s face
Filling the Earth with grace
And the clouds that embrace!

The morning sky’s design
Making the golden rays that shine
Our lives that intertwine
With something so divine!

Here is a new beginning
Birds singing
Notes reverberating
Hopes rising
A new year coming…

A happy Tamil new year to all of you!