Hibiscus for happiness!

Its a childhood thing – this love for hibiscus. We used to have the red hibiscus plant at home and it was always a treat to look at the blooming plant!

And in the apartment I stay, the gardener has taken the place by storm by planting these hibiscus plants of different colors and the whole place is smiling and happy with these flowers!

See for yourself!

Hope you are having a happy day!

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Faith stories from the heart – 1

Faith comes to us in various ways but there is always a beautiful soul in the story of faith.

Do you know the Skanda Shashti Kavacham? Its a song or a sloka comprised of 244 lines, written by Devaraya Swamigal in praise of Lord Muruga, where he asks the Lord to protect him and grace him. Whenever Skanda Shashti Kavacham is mentioned, it is Sulamangalam Sisters who come to my mind. Their rendition of this slokam (the tune, music and the pauses inclusive) is what I learnt from and it’s what I will remember forever. Kavacham means armor and the words in the sloka are the perfect armor to us.

I learnt this Skanda Shashti Kavacham when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My appa’s cousin sister, Viji athai was the beautiful soul which brought this Skanda Shashti Kavacham to my life. She taught me and my sister in the same tune as what the Sulamangalam sisters have sung. When I think of Viji athai, all that comes to my mind is her beautiful eyes full of life, her long hair plaited and the simple down to earth attitude of hers. She is one of the persons I adore with all my heart.

Is there a reason for learning this slokam? Maybe there was which I understood much later in life.

As I hit puberty, along came the cramps which was (and is) very painful. Generally in a Tambram household, the rules were very strict and menstruating women were not allowed to go inside the house and touch anyone. They were not allowed to pray, cook or do anything inside the house.

But my paati was an angel. Even though we were not allowed to go inside the house or touch anyone,  I was so happy when my patti said that I can recite the Skanda Shashti Kavacham. To allow me to pray during the cycle days was indeed a great thing which my paati did. My thatha encouraged my paati to give me hot food, which again was not the norm. My paati was more broad minded than others in many ways. Even though she couldn’t overcome her self-laid rules on touching us during those menstrual days, she did give us a lot of levy on other things. We, I and my sister, were attended to with much respect and taken care of nicely.

Reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham was a boon for me, as I saw myself being relieved of my pain. Whether it was my belief in the sloka or in Lord Muruga or the mere fact that I got used to the pain and in due course overcame it – whatever, I loved the recital of that slokam. It pacified my mind and may be numbed me to the pain.

Even today, as an adult, I automatically start reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham the moment I feel there is a need to heal the body. Its a kind of faith in those 244 lines, which the brain accepts as medicine to heal. Its the faith of a small girl who healed herself to her greatest astonishment. And its a faith with which I live.

A brinjal story!

Purple brinjals

Stems trimmed

Slit into four

Stuffed with curry powder

Like buds about to bloom

They sure tickle

The taste buds

At home!

With heat and oil to aide

They wilt to change color

And taste

Absolutely divine!

When nostalgia hits…

As I browsed through Instagram, this picture caught me. And those words too…

I remembered my similar state of affairs when I was working, in my early twenties. I would come home late from work very tired, always hungry. My patti’s words still ring in my ears “kaiyila thattai thookinde vara paru” – loosely translated to “look at her walking in with a plate in her hand”🤣

I can never forget those crazy days of hectic work. Nor the fact how I loved coming home to the simplistic dinner by amma. We will have some podi with hot rice or some yummy keerai or a tangy rasam – it was just divine and kept us sane and grounded. Special days like amavasya was a treat with tiffin – arisi upma, rava dosa – am just drooling typing them here.

Sigh…nostalgia hits are hard to manage, esp food based ones!

Remembering Appa…esp today!

With so many ads and reminders in the TV and social media, one just cannot skip the fact that today is the special day for fathers. When one day is never enough for celebrating the father-daughter relationship, this day can be the affirmation day of such a beautiful love.

I’ve written so much about my Appa before, here in this space.

There are many things I adored in my father and I greatly respected him for that. One such thing is the simple fact of giving us the space to find our foothold.

This man, my Appa, needs to be applauded for the simplest fact that he just let me make my decisions on what to study, where to study, where to take up a job and he quietly supported me in my endeavor to make a difference in the world.

Out of all the support he gave me, I consider this incident to be the best in his life as a father, for it meant a great deal to me, then and now.

I was working with a company’s research department, after my college. Even though my dream then was to work with Microsoft, this was the most coveted job among my classmates. And I was the lucky one to get through the rigorous training, which made me the happiest one ever. Appa was elated to know about the job and he was so proud of me, which meant the world to me.

Over a time frame of two to three years, I felt a natural shift inside me to search for something else as I felt that that the job I was doing, was not my calling. I started feeling a natural boredom in the place of passionate research. I just wanted this whole thing to sort out by itself. It just took me some more time to realize that whatever change that needs to happen in my life, will happen only because of my decision to change.

And one fine day, as I was sitting and pondering in my chair, I just wrote a resignation letter and submitted and quit the job. Phew…I felt relief. I didn’t know my next course of action. But I was open for new things to happen as I was free of those things which held me back.

I came home by afternoon. Appa, thatha and patti were having lunch. Appa asked me “Ennachu?” (What happened?) I told him that I just quit my job as I didn’t feel like continuing in that job and that I wanted to do something else. It sounded strange to my ears as I was prepared to let go of that engineering studies and its related job profile, while I was the one to go for it after school.

He just smiled and said “Just sit and eat” – just pure acceptance of me, my decision and whatever I wanted to do later. My God! What a relief it was for me for such blinded acceptance from my Appa. It just made me to work harder and to get back in a good job about which my Appa will be proud again. Even though I did things for myself, I secretly aimed at making my Appa proud.

Today, I sit back and reflect all these, as my daughter has quit her job and come home to take a break and there is this smile of acceptance and support from her father and I feel grateful for such fathers in this world.

For without such understanding fathers, we daughters are never complete.

A Sunday story

Appa loved good food, esp the ones typical of a Tambram family. And this Manga-inji is the quintessential representation, he felt.

As a teenager all my love was for the mango and I hated this Manga-inji for the duality it represented. I also felt that it was stealing the thunder out of my fav mango! And I used to hate inji aka ginger. That was another pull down for disliking it.

But the way my appa used to relish this simple Manga-inji made me wonder what he saw in this dish! He used to look at me like “how can you not like this awesomeness” ! Only one thing he was confident about – that I will eventually fall for it.

Now, after decades, I seem to be falling in line with my appa for I am starting to like Manga-inji. Does that mean the older me resonates with my Appa? 😁

Making the Manga-inji (Mango ginger) salad

Peel the Manga-inji and cut it into small cubes.

Sprinkle required amount of salt and mix well.

Squeeze lemon juice and mix well.

Do a simple tadka of mustard and cut green chillies and mix well together.

This goes well with curd rice but I am liking it with sambar rice too. Try it for sure!

Cook it like “Patti”

The rava upma has many interlinking stories and preferences at home. While I make it in white color (minus haldi) as the daughter prefers, I make it with lots of vegetables in it for my husband.

Today morning started with the same discussion on what to make for breakfast. When rava upma was the unanimous choice between the two of us, the husband said in an excited voice, “Cook it like my patti” 😀

And it was done in his patti’s style which includes adding fried bread squares in the end as garnish. A sprinkle of sugar on top and pickle by the side, its the best breakfast ever for him.

Childhood memories about food are so strong that we even remember the taste, the aroma, the appearance of the dishes which we enjoyed. And made by patti adds the extra touch!