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!

Self-introspective mode ON

Pic courtesy: Google

Recently, I had a dream. And immediately I decided that I will not share it here, in my space, for I felt it was too personal to put it out in writing. But today’s introspective mood of mine has won over and here I am writing about my dream and my feelings towards it.

I see myself lying on the floor, with blood flowing through the nose and it clearly looks like I am dying. I see my daughters on either side of me. And all this was happening in a house where I used to stay as a teenager. I could also see the man who was walking towards the house as my husband. Then I could hear what I was talking to my daughters; the silly me was so paranoid that the soul will depart soon and was frantically telling all the passwords in all the apps and websites for my daughters to note it down!

Ok…that was the dream! When I woke up from that dream, I laughed out aloud. And kept smiling and laughing whenever I remembered it. The whole idea of not passing on my passwords gave me the worst nightmare, in my dream; it sounded very silly to the present me.

Now, observing that dream from a more matured point of view, I wonder why didn’t I worry about that favorite sari of mine which I didn’t wear many times! I wonder why didn’t I fret over all those jewelry which I loved to buy but never wore them! I wondered at that unused purse, notebook, pen, saucepan, wine glass, coffee mug – anything that I savored for a better day to come. And I had just kept postponing all those favorite things without enjoying them at the present moment.

I had reserved all the good things for a later date.

I had written love notes for all my favorite people for them to see later.

I always plan on going on a trip that I never seem to get to.

Everything was planned for a later date.

Then the dream happened.

My better self took over. This is the day I had waited for. Today I shall proclaim all the love and fondness for all my favorite people in this world. I will hug them with my love and kindness. I will use that saucepan. I took out my favorite coffee mug.

And suddenly the day I am living mattered.

I got a plant. I smelt the flowers. I stared at clouds. I made coffee. I sang my favorite song. I colored in my mandala book. I learned to forgive all those things which happened in the past.

I suddenly understood what I had to do with my life. It is to live this moment!

Proving them right and wrong

I stopped when I read this. How did they write such accurate predictions!! Yes…me a Virgo and if there is anything that I hold above my heart is to prove to people that they are wrong in doubting me – for whatever varied reasons it can be like capabilities or skill-set or reactions to situations or even my love towards them!

This is actually a bait, which I understood recently. The moment people doubt me on any factor I started fretting. The said words and unsaid meanings used to haunt me. And till I master whatever I had been doubted for, I wouldn’t rest.

Through all this, I stressed myself. I hurt inside. While I was sweating profusely over mastering something, the baiters were not even in the vicinity of my life.

The past year has been particularly enlightening on many aspects and the thoughts inside me have gone through the tumbling inside a washing machine kind of process which has led to the realization that those people who showed me that bait, were least interested in whether I did anything about it or not.

Now I wonder why I should even learn or master this damn thing, just because someone questioned me or my capabilities!

In effect, I’ve come to terms with myself. Even when it has to go against the Earth sign’s predictions, I am willing to do it; this is a change in the right direction for me. I learn things which I want to learn not because someone is doubting my smartness or intelligence. My efficiency in dealing with life is not for anyone to assess and grade but it’s totally mine to enjoy and live in peace.

Living in peace – yes, that is what I have claimed back into my life! The strength to stand up for myself and to make myself a priority is such a blessing in disguise for it is easy for me to accept my limitations and others too.

Those questions like – “how can they do this?” “how can they be ignorant?” “how can’t they not understand such simple stuff?” – do not compound me now. It does come to my mind; can’t say no to that. I have learnt the art of looking at those thoughts and let them be or even swipe them off my mind screen. In effect, I have learnt to let them be however they want to be. It is their life and I am no one to question. And I hold my fort strong on “its my life”!

There is a secret to it, if you want to know. Tell them sweetly, politely yet firmly on when you want to say a no. It helps. Put in a smile. Make them know that this is something you want to stay away from. But that doesn’t lessen the love and respect you have for the other person.

Such is life. You learn and move on…earth-sign predictions can take a hike! 😉

Sleep – lost and found!

As Shail wrote about her sleep(less) patterns, I had a thought which I wanted to share about sleep. Then I realized I have already written about what a sound sleeper I am 😉

Last year’s trauma of my husband being hospitalized was one of the difficult times for my sleep as well. I remember, all throughout the first four weeks, that my sleep was barely minimalist. I don’t remember a good night’s sleep. I was always awake for him as he kept calling, tossing, moaning in pain through the night! And just like small babies he will sleep soundly as the day breaks. I will be sitting there wide-bleary-eyed maintaining silence as that was the time of hustle-bustle in a hospital with shift changing, housekeeping…phew!

All the lack of sleep took a toll on me. I used to roam around with such dark circles around my eyes. After he had the skin grafting surgery done and when I knew that I could relax a little, I caught up on my sleep like crazy.

I had been of the view that sleep once lost cannot be compensated but I think I ate my words during those fitful sleepnights I got after we got him home healthy and fine!

Then later when the husband started walking and even driving his car, the actual realization of what I went through hit me.

Again I was plagued with sleepless nights and woke up with a drab mood every morning with no josh or energy to do any work. I was awake from 1am to 5am and nothing I did helped me to sleep better.

Have you ever thought that what comes your way is actually the life’s challenge for you to face or the solution to an existing challenge. Like that came the opportunity for me to enroll to a Yoga course. Through one of the teachers I got initiated to meditation.

And the wonder of wonders was, I started to sleep well at nights. My meditation was filled with thoughts as I had no control over them. I was advised to let the thoughts be. Just push it aside giving focus to the thought of meditation.

When we lie down to sleep, we need to focus on the thought that this is the time to sleep. We should not entertain thoughts; they will come and keep coming more if you ponder.

And that is how I got my sleep back. Its so precious that we realize it only when we lose it.

Angels in white uniform

We used live in Mylapore during my childhood days. And our gala shopping adventures are always to Rangachari stores on Luz church road. Every time I cross that place I always see white uniformed nurses walking to Isabels hospital or sometimes come out of the hospital. I use to look at them with wonder and love for their uniform. Such pristine white dress with stockings and shoes – they were an image of sincerity and smartness put together for me.

I was so carried away with their uniform because of the dress they wore. While I was restricted to wear only full skirts and blouses, the nurses wore such smart dress.

The senior nurses wore white saris with collared white blouse. I loved that blouse model – such a smart design. But buying such white clothes was a big no no at home. So all I could do was stare at them and their smart dresses.

And last Jan, I came to know their big warm heart with such amazing softness for the patients they cared for.

There was this training nurse who came to our room one day. She had to collect patient information as part of the curriculam. She kept asking a few questions. As my husband tried turning to one side, he winced in back pain over long duration of lying in the same position. That training nurse immediately sprang to his side and rubbed his back while I tried to give him a hot water massage. Even though she was in training, she was very much in her role to help the patient feel comfortable.

And I learnt that nurses are trained not to lie to their patients. So when my husband was put on a lower dosage of painkillers owing to other problems, he used to request the nurse to increase the dosage as he couldn’t take the pain. That nurse will stand patiently next to him everytime i.e. thrice everyday, to explain the reasons of lower dosage. He used to insist again and again as his pain shot up so high. Then I intervened to tell the nurse “just agree to what dosage he says but give him what the doctor prescribed”. She said that she just can’t lie to the patient. I was amazed, touched all at the sane time. Then I told him that blatant lie of dosage has been increased so that he will sleep better. That nurse stood by her truth.

There were nurses who became friends over the extended period of stay who took time off their schedule to explain the many medical jargons to me as it was too confusing many a times.

From admiration for their uniforms, I now have a new found respect for the tireless service they provide with an ever smiling face – bless those Angels in white uniform!

Shift the focus

Sitting on the narrow bed given to caretakers in the hospital, I had spent many hours playing nonsensical games on the phone. Generally I am not a person to play video games, especially on the phone, where we need to catch the falling block or go behind a running ball or snake – nah…not my type.

But through the time of husband’s hospitalization, all I did was play such games, consistently every day and night.

I have the Kindle app in my phone to read books while travelling. I had a lot of books by my favorite authors and other interesting book titles in my phone, which I had been wanting to read for a long time.

But all I could read was some silly chick flick books, all through the time when I sat at the care-taker’s bed.

There were days when he needed constant medical attention through the night. And as the doctors helped him through the night, to ease out the pain, I was sitting outside the room in the nurse’s station, chatting with them all and even laughing a few times too.

I first thought that I was behaving strangely – playing games, reading silly books and chatting through the night with nurses when he was in pain.

Now I understand my strange behavior. When I was so stressed during that difficult times in the hospital, I had tried to shift my focus to other things which didn’t demand a lot from me.

That shifting the focus had helped me to relax a bit even under stressful conditions and I was able to jump into the realm of the surgeries and medicines whenever the situation demanded it.

So many things happened in those one and half months of hospitalization and another 3 months of rehabilitation. As I keep writing my thoughts and feelings, I am able to decipher many of my strange behavior and also my response to many situations.

Actually, we do such things like shifting the focus to something less demanding always, at home. When I am too worked up over something, I go and cook or dry clothes or fold clothes – trying to bring in some sort of order to my thinking which will enable me to work out the situation which stressed me.

Now a days, I do it consciously – shift the focus!

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 😀

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.

WW – The wonder called sky!

As you are already aware now, I love these sky watching phases during my day. It might be a brief moment in the morning, when I stare through my balcony to see if the sun has risen before me. Or it could be a moment during the day when I casually look up to see if there are black clouds looming around. It could be even be a moment like below, when I caught the glowing western colors on the move, while going for a meeting. I somehow love this click of the sunset, as the colors blend so beautifully to create such lovely shades and the sun adds its lovely evening glow. Sigh.

The following one is a fun picture. The constant looking up at the sky for patterns may yield such results, on a few occasions. While I saw a horse, dog and a bear – one behind the other, there were other friends of mine who lent their imaginary horses to this picture. And I love such cloud pattern based childlike conversations, where we keep looking for different animals or even people.

My dear friends who spent time cloud-watching with me virtually, gave me these responses and I enjoyed and laughed through the whole time.

  • looks more like a seahorse, an alligator and a rhinoceros to me 😂 and they’re dancing. Conga line 😊
  • they could be jet skiing too. 😂looks like they’re standing on one, the seahorse on the handlebar
  • Could be three on a magic carpet. 🤔 alakazam.
  • Spot the opera singer hitting a high note.
  •  ……….on a magic carpet!
  • Crocodile hugging its hatchling and a baby elephant is looking at both of them.
  • I can see a bird too.

Have a great day and look out for cloud patterns 😀