Lessons yet again…

Recently my friend posted this on her timeline:

For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin…..
But there was always some obstacle in the way, 
something to be gotten through first, 
some unfinished business, 
time still to be served, a debt to be paid.
Then life would begin.

At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

  • – Alfred Souza

I would just make a small edit to the above quote – I would use “challenges” instead of obstacles. We think of them as obstacles when we don’t understand what is life all about. But when we understand that all those “so called obstacles” maketh our life, the right word becomes “challenges”.

I copied this quote in an effort to write a post, but its been more than 2 weeks and I’ve not written a word. The simple reason was there were many challenges to be met that didn’t give me time to sit in front of my keyboard. But throughout this time, my mind went around my archives of thoughts over the last two decades!

I was the peacefully-quiet-routine-loving woman. I loved my motherhood moments. Life was super fun or so I thought with the regular routines of managing a household. Shopping for home, for the girls, for friends were all major events I looked forward to. Walking, exercising, yoga were all done to burn my extra calories. Food was top priority and all the chores revolved around it, everyday. Get-together with friends, breakfast meets, weekly dinner meets were on the cards. I had my own house and I was feeling on top of the world that I was finally settled. But there was this feeling inside which said that life is not complete with this routine. I just didn’t know what it was that I was missing. But I just didn’t allow that feeling to grow nor did I listen to it. The fun which I having felt more wonderful.

There were moments when I missed my career but one look at my daughters erased any such thoughts. Being with them was my own choice over a career and I was having the time of my life.

Fast forward to the last five years…

We moved base to Chennai and selling our house at Hyderabad was a logical decision. It tore me up but I went ahead to do it. That was like the first jolt of those “challenges” in my life.

When the husband started his own business, I joined with him full time. Little did I know what I was expecting with that jump.

I was shaken up from my reverie of to-do lists – there was no routine for any day. This bothered me a lot in the beginning as I just can’t tolerate change of plans; even a power failure will make me annoyed at things.

There were times when things were not in my control and I was helpless; but I was feeling guilty like silly…

Schedules kept changing…

And I was apprehensive to this feeling of things not happening the way I want them to happen.

After repeatedly facing unplanned days and events and after repeated knocks on the thinking door in my mind, I hit the Zen moment…

It was a hard earned truth; the learning to let go! I accepted that each day is different and new things can be done each day in a different way. I learnt that the routine 9-5 job is boring and this was like living life to the fullest. The mystery of not knowing what’s next and what the next day is bringing to me is absolutely exciting. Am learning to love this excitement.

Along with it, came the realization to “love myself” as it led to inner peace of mine. When I am my usual critical self, my efficiency goes down. But making mistakes and accepting them with a smile helps me in dealing with the mistake by giving a solution to it.

I’ve understood that being absolutely busy 24*7 is such a blessing, as the mind is always focused on the challenge at that moment. It helps in overcoming negative thoughts, wild imaginations about situations and wondering what others are thinking about me…

I feel much lighter and I don’t stress too much on following my rigid practices at home. I don’t stress when I am not able to cook – yeah…surprise there! I sternly remind myself not to look at the heap of unfolded clothes…yup, that’s certainly not my usual self! These days, I cook something so that there is food to keep us going. And sometimes I choose my outfit from the heap of unfolded clothes! The interesting fact is that there are no hard feelings about this to myself!

My work is my holy place and all that I do revolves around it. When Lord Krishna / Ganesha came calling, I didn’t stress myself for my usual elaborate food preparations. Rather, I prayed sincerely for 5 minutes and let the work take over the day. It felt very soothing when I didn’t criticize myself for not doing the kozhukattai or the seedai. Rather I was happy to give fruits as prasadam.

As they say, its all in the mind…its all in the thinking and am glad that am able to face up to my challenges in a more joyous way!

And today I say that there have been lessons which has been the result of my own experiences, which I am sure has made me happier and a better person.

Yes, I’ve changed but that’s what life is all about, right?

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When the sky made its statement…

There is a routine to my days and generally it begins from the moment I open my eyes and look at the eastern sky from my caged balcony. I try to squeeze out my phone through the gaps and click the wondrous sky to my satisfaction. With the birds chirping, crows cawing, a gentle morning breeze caresses me. I soak in the wonder called sunrise and let the energy flow into me. My day begins and it’ll be an awesome one for sure, says my heart.

This morning was no different. But I stood in the balcony for a long time, gaping at the wonder high above. Here are the pictures, when the sky makes its statement and makes the people to look above and go wow at the nature that is bigger than anything else.

Have a wonderful day!

WW – Clouds on a drawing sheet

When the sky is the drawing sheet
Upon which the patterns are drawn…
Crayons were used for this
To create a different effect…
The crayons so white
On a blue sheet
Creates those white cloud patterns
By spreading the wax
With the thumb…
Isn’t it how this picture was created!?!

Many thanks to the dear person who sends me pictures of the cloud and sky, all the way from Scotland ❤

Skywatch Friday – 3

Watching the sky, looking for shapes in the clouds started as a mere pastime, which has turned into an obsession now a days.

Have you seen those cricket batsmen looking up to the sky as they enter the ground to bat ? They pray for a good innings score for them or for their team.

Whenever I sit in the car heading out to work, I also look up to the sky, to my front, side, back, actually all possibilities. But my only reason for looking is to catch a glimpse of a beautiful pattern or even a clear blue sky. I love watching it.

Today, has been gloomy so far. The sky is a dull grey. I don’t know if it will rain or not. But here I am trying to post some amazing patterns from my archives, which can make me feel happy and energised in an instant.

A picturesque field, which makes me wonder if its a painting!

When man made structures and God-made coconut trees form a perfect shadow to the beautiful sunset!

Somehow this leafless tree looks so damn good against this backdrop…l love it!


Linking this with Skywatch Friday 🙂

The only constant in my life…

…has been and always will be “Idly maavu in the refrigerator”…ha ha…did you for a minute think that I am going to talk about the man in my life ?? 😉  He is there…always there. But Idly maavu (batter) is for both of us, you see.

With Sundays converted as work days for me, the handy man is the Idly maavu. I can make idlies for breakfast which is quick. And when I get home tired from work, I just have to close my eyes and make dosa and eat and sleep. You see, its a pleasure to not to think about “what to cook” 😀

I just keep making different vegetables for lunch. But this constant Idly maavu is what makes my life easier.

I might get into the mood to make upma, pongal or poori for breakfast, provided the constant is stocked in the fridge always. And when the maavu goes below the mark of “one more day to go”, I get jittery. All I can think that its time is to soak rice and dal for making the idly maavu.

I wonder what’s this funny relationship between me and this maavu or perhaps idly or dosa? These thoughts keep coming to me now and then, edging me to write about it.

Anyway, my constant is FULL now. One more week of utter bliss awaits me. Also with a batch of adai maavu, I feel well stocked…ha ha…the foodie me never stops thinking of food 😉

Malligaipoo Idly

This phrase has been with me for as long as I can remember – malligaipoo mathiri idly irukanum (Idly should be like jasmine flower)!

My amma used to make the softest idlies which I can remember. Those days, she never used a cooker for steaming the idlies. The big iron kadai (irumbu ilupachatti) was half filled with water and brought to a boil. The big circular idly mold (idly thattu) which has molds for 7 idlies was covered in a white wet cloth cut in the shape of a circle.  Idly batter was poured on the cloth exactly on top of the mold, which held the batter intact. This idly thattu fitted exactly on the iron kadai. A tomb shaped lid was used to cover the idly thattu. When the idlies were done steaming, the whole house could smell it. That was the power of cooking, which can evoke the senses even before we started to eat. The idly thattu was removed from heat. Then water was sprinkled on the idlies, which helped them to cool fast so that they can fall off easily from the cloth. A big plate was used to collect the idlies from the idly thattu. Using the cloth for steaming helped in maintaining the moisture content so that idlies remained soft for a long time.

These idlies were soft…amazingly. We can bite into it without any great effort. And yet they held on to the shape and they don’t break at the touch of human fingers.  Its no wonder that the softness quotient was compared to that of a malligaipoo.

Now, the major ingredient for that amazing softness is the urid dal (ulutham paruppu). The correct proportion of this dal is required for that right amount of softness. Less the urid dal, harder the idlies. Similarly, when the urid dal is more, then idlies are not fluffy – they come out as flat discs. After choosing the right proportion of urid dal, it is important to soak it for the right amount of time. Long hours of soaking will make the urid dal accumulate froth and starts smelling too and needs excessive cleaning. Ideally one hour is enough for the urid dal to soak to the right consistency. And while grinding the urid dal, the right amount of water should be used so that the batter is fluffy and soft. Grinding for a long time will make the batter loose its fluffiness.

Rice can be soaked for a long time, no restrictions there. But the rice should be ground enough that its neither too soft to touch nor too coarse. A light coarseness is good for idlies and for crispy dosas too. A very fine rice batter is good for dosas but not for idlies. A balance needs to be achieved here.

After getting all these proportions and grinding consistency to the right level, the right amount of salt should be added for proper fermentation. Depending on the temperature of the place we live in, the batter should be left out for fermentation. Ideally 4 to 5 hours is enough for a warm place like Chennai. There is another important factor – using our hand to mix salt will induce our body heat to the batter. And accordingly the fermentation will happen faster or slower. We need to watch the batter for fermentation levels and accordingly refrigerate it, so that the batter doesn’t turn sour.

When I write the whole thing down, it sure sounds like a lot of instructions and rules to follow. I’ve grown with all these small tit bits ingrained into the soul by practice and a lot by observing amma and paati. My paati used to grind idly batter for others in the colony and me and my sister were assigned the work of grinding all those batches. Years of grinding it, day after day, to the same consistency makes it a part of the soul.

This batter is sure to give idlies as soft as the malligaipoo and will melt in the mouth too. The softness is so crucial as it can absorb the idly milagai podi spiciness or the tangy taste of the sambar so well.

Today’s idlies came out amazingly soft to touch, melt in the mouth kind and the chef in me is very happy at the outcome!

If you see keenly, you can actually see the air pores in the idly, which conforms that they are light and soft.

Also, I try my level best to make the batter at home. I’ve tried commercially sold batter once or twice and I hated myself for buying it – they were tasteless and idlies came out very hard to bite. Somethings are better when done at home, especially the idly batter.

When musings touch the soul…

“Mind my side burns…do not touch them”

“Up to down action on my neck”

“Down to up for upper lip”

These are instructions issued by the father to his son, while the son is trying to help his dad by shaving for him.

While watching this video, I sniffed a little, smiled a little and then there was a tug at my heart! And that probably was my Appa…

When I moved base to Chennai, I was not very happy about it. But I strongly felt that there was a reason behind it. And just after a year of my move to Chennai, my Appa passed away. Wasn’t that the tug that brought me to Chennai, in the first place?

He is here, with me. I could feel him many times, when I did something wonderful and I knew he did do his proud smile for me.

This video is no less…the patient way in which the son is taking care of his dad, does something inside. Its heartening to see the warmth. Its a happy feeling to see such bonding happening.

Go on…see this video and give a hug to your father!