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!

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!

Purple blooms!

A happy soul sees a single bloom

A bunch of happiness can wipe away the gloom

Look at the beautiful purple

See your life sparkle

The cheer in your circle will zoom!

Wonderful Wednesday!

This WW has always been my perfect muse! So, let the pictures do the talking today 😀

I have chosen the color pink for today to brighten me up!

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This picture was clicked outside the bus terminus!
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This was outside a restaurant while I waited to be seated! The tiniest pink flower so far!
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My love for mandala coloring in pink!
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The gentle spokes of the vrikshi poo!
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The favorite pink in bloom!
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The sky in pink!

Observing the little things…

Its been 15 days of continuous blogging and I feel so thrilled for two reasons – one is that my blog is happy with this revival and second is that I am able to blabber in writing all the thought process that seem to float by my mind. The blog break had me little worried if I will be able to put my thoughts into words again. Luckily, so far so good.

Also am observing the fact that I am not overly stressed as before when I commit myself to do anything even as simple as writing a post everyday. I have overcome the planning I used to do for writing posts – making notes on what all I have to write, what topics to cover – things like that. I have learnt to take it easy and not to worry about what to write. Its the quiet confidence that I will surely know in my heart about what to write, as I sip my coffee in the balcony.

Today was no different. I was sipping my morning coffee, observing the movement of sun much further down my block than 2 days back and also catching up with my current read – Forest of enchantments! The morning sun shone on me like a blessing and it surely gave me feel good sign from above!

Precisely at that time, there came a butterfly, a tiny one at that, with pretty white dots on black wings, fluttered around my book, my hands and flew away as quickly as it came.

My phone was charging and hence I couldn’t take a video of it. But thinking about it now, I wouldn’t have moved an inch to obstruct the flight of that butterfly. Even though it was for a fleeting moment, it increased my josh for the day ahead.

Sometimes, we just have to open our eyes and feel these small things. Then the heart is happy and mind calm, which prepares us to face bigger things.

UFO Redefined…

I hope you have seen the animated series for children “Bob the Builder”. My girls loved watching that series which involved construction of buildings / bridges and other stuff. And in that series, the cement mixer was called Daisy. Whenever we used to go out and we get to see a cement mixer, the girls will start shouting “Look at Daisy, Ma” ! The husband’s perplexed looks on where the Daisy was made us all laugh more.

That was throwback Thursday story…ha ha 😀

Last month, one evening, me and the husband were chatting, sitting in the balcony, enjoying the chill Chennai breeze (for a change, the chillness took us by surprise)! And suddenly, at the distant dark sky, I saw three lights descending from above. I started screaming “OMG! Its an UFO” 😀

The husband laughed at me and told me that it will be a crane only and not an UFO. I told him that I couldn’t see the grids and I was very sure that it was an UFO.

He kept laughing at me and started teasing about my obsession with the movie PK.

I stomped off inside to get my glasses, wanting to prove my point. When I went to the balcony again, he was still smirking at me with a “PK aaya ho kya?”

I ignored him and after wearing my glasses I looked out at my UFO. And I laughed out aloud. It was indeed a crane with lights fixed on its base. It was being used at the construction site near our place.

The heart that wanted to see magic happening saw an UFO in a crane.

Now, my girls look at a crane and call it UFO with a teasing smile pointed my way…he he!

This is that crane, which is being referred to as the UFO now 😀

Bus stories…

I got into the bus at the bus terminus, which means that I got a nice seat to sit and I got to choose it too among the many available. I chose the one next to a young girl with nerdy glasses. Somehow students attract me; maybe because of their inquisitiveness! And this girl smiled sweetly which created a warm feeling inside me.

And like long lost pals, we started talking. I should say that I am mighty pleased to have met her even for that brief 30 mins bus ride together. She hails from the town of Kumbakonam and is doing an internship. And may God bless that lovely girl for she and her family have moved to Chennai to enable her to study the teacher training course for physically and mentally challenged children. I just sat astounded hearing her talk very gently about her passion to help the challenged children, while she didn’t even make a great deal about it.

The conductor boards the bus and he was showing his annoying face and vocally disapproving anyone who was not giving him the exact change for the ticket.

While I had already kept the change ready in my hand, my bus pal had a twenty rupee note. As she started searching her purse for change I told her that we will buy our tickets together and then there won’t be an issue with change. She was so happy to have the “change” problem solved and we continued talking.

That nerdy glasses girl with her humbleness and gentle voice is someone who will stay in my memory forever!

 

When the fragrances hit nostalgia…

“Mama, do you remember this smell? This reminds me of the shampoo we used when I used to go swimming as a kid”

“And that reminds me that I love the smell of chlorine as we loved swimming”

“And what about this smell? This is the smell of the first facewash you got for me”

“Aaah! I love this smell Ma…the smell of tadka in ghee for rasam or dal…sigh! I missed home”

“You remember the smell from patti’s sari? I so love it. I still can smell it while thinking of it”

“I love the smell of these old books” (opening and closing every book in the bookshelf)

“I still remember the amazing almond cookies you made after watching it on Nigella’s show…the whole smelt so good”

“WOW…maavadu smell is amazing”

“The mango smell is the best in the world”

“This is home…its smelling so wonderful with coffee”

“OMG! I love this ghee smell”

“Ma, you are making me drink tea! But guess what? I like it”

When we think of home or any place, its the smells that immediately transport us to that place. We can remember some childhood smells so well as if it is fresh.

When the daughter is back home after a long gap, she brings out the fragrances of our home when hit with nostalgia!

Does it happen to you? Do you remember people, places, food associating it with smells?

 

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 learned 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 learned this Skanda Shashti Kavacham when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My appa’s cousin sister, Viji athai was the beautiful soul that 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 were 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 that 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 maybe 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 it is a faith with which I live.

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.