Category Archives: Festivals

Carb coma and one other matter

Did you know India is the diabetic capital of the world? Fifty million people suffer from type 2 diabetes.  It is impossible to find a single Indian who either does not have diabetes herself or does not have a family member on medication for the malady.  My paternal grandfather, for instance, was diabetic, not requiring insulin and medication, but intense food control.  He was an extremely disciplined man, ate like a chicken, and lived to 95, with forty years of diabetes under his belt.  My in-law uncle is diabetic and makes my daughter inject him with insulin when we meet. My best friend’s husband is diabetic.  My younger cousin is borderline diabetic, and manages her condition with an active lifestyle.  Two of my aunts are diabetic and on medication.  And mine is a representative south Indian extended family.

Do you wonder why we (especially in the Tamil Nadu area) are so diabetic prone?  Here is the answer:

food

Once a year, we celebrate the flow of the life force rivers,  especially Kaveri, into our agricultural belt (she is bone dry this year thanks to our monsoon failure and the political failure of our state to fight for water from the neighbouring state in which the river originates..but that is matter for a stroke, so I will tread lightly), by ingesting industrial levels of carbohydrates in the form of variously flavored rice.  Once lunch is done, the entire state would fall into carb-coma from which if we are lucky, and have a lot of good karma in our kitty, we may emerge this year with a non-dangerous spike in blood sugar levels.  So, if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, I am still sleeping off the calories consumed today.

On another note, brag time.  My kid started writing poetry when she was four.  She doesn’t write poetry as often as I like her to.  But when she does, the poetry is fairly smart, for her age.  Her recent is this, she apparently wrote it in class when she was bored.  May she be bored more often !

Alas Alak

A ship sailed across the brook
With sailors, passengers and cook
As well as a lantern and a book
And a gleaming silver hook

The ship’s captain then cried
“Alas, alack, our cook has died!”
The passengers were shocked and tried
To help, but  a pirate ship was spied

The pirates jumped on board and wept
“Our ever so noble captain has slept
and won’t wake up, look, there he’s kept!
At waking sea captains, are you adept?”

Their fortune sunk lower for ’twas then that they found
The brook was too large and their ship too round
They had been dreaming; they were on ground
Rudely awakened by a loud sound

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Friday Faloola

Why faloola?  Because I am too lazy to think of any other word to start with an F –
I’d rather kill my blog than call this post “Friday Fun”.  There are other F words that can only be used in the sanctity of the kitchen when you’ve burned the sambar AGAIN, because you were checking for wordpress post updates on your cell phone. I have no idea what Faloola means, or where I have heard that word – oh wait, Faloola is Monica Geller’s middle name, isn’t it?  Urban dictionary tells me that Faloola is non-sexual euphemism for body part that can’t be named in a public blog post without being rated X.  We have a dessert item called falooda in this part of the world.  The first and only time I tried it, I gagged.  I’ll have my vermecilli as payasam, thank you.

The weekend promises to be a welcome lazy one.  Partly because I will be home alone for most of the time.  The better half is away at his home town inaugurating something or the other as a “special guest” and wowing school kids with his oratorical brilliance (no, I am not being sarcastic here) while the in-house teenager may or may not be home depending on where another nondescript day of summer vacation takes her.  The best part of living in a closed community setting is that there are kids of all age groups around – they move as a hive to wherever their collective consciousness takes them at the moment.  So either there are fourteen kids of ages 10-16 trashing my house, or zero kids anywhere in the vicinity for hours on end.

The kitchen needs organizing.  The heat is putting me off.  Perhaps I will get to it sometime this weekend.  Gym-routine needs a slight up-grade, and I should, at least this week, work up the courage to check my weight.

This year marks the 1000th birth anniversary of Sri Ramanujar, the most important philosopher/theologian of the sect in which I was born . May 1st is the millennium across the Sri Vaishnavaite community, and many temples have been celebrating the event for many months now. This week, the celebrations seem to have reached a feverish pitch, with special urchavams (ceremonies) being conducted in all Sri Vaishnavaite temples in the south. Despite being born and married into fairly religious/gnostic families, I am a skeptic of sorts. I believe that the theologians of my sect (Sri Ramanujar, Sri Desikar etc.) were all scholars par excellence (Sri Desikar was, to put it mildly, brilliant), and head and shoulders superior to theologians of other sects in my religion (and this I say not as a SriVaishnavaite, but from a strictly impartial perspective, having been acquainted with the literature of many sects). I am, however, not a subscriber of the philosophy of Vishishthadvaita propounded by them and others because it raises more questions in my mind than provide answers and goes against my basic belief that we are all one, irrespective of which God you choose to follow, or not.  But no dogma ever allows that belief, so I doubt if I would subscribe to any existing philosophy.  Ramanujar probably came closest to the doctrine that everyone is equal before God.  Besides, having been born into the Sri Vaishnavaite sect and being an admirer of the intellectual/literary contributions of Sri Ramanjua to  the philosophy of my sect, I want to attend at least one urchavam before the millennial celebrations end.  I would probably visit the Parthasarathy temple over the weekend, get jostled by the crowd and tick my name against the “been there, done that” list.

Have a good weekend folks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A birthday and new year

My kid turns 13 today. She has prospered for 13 years, despite her mom groping around in the dark with this whole parenting mystery.  Perhaps I am causing irreparable damage to the kid through my clueless parenting.  Nevertheless, being a theist, I believe that there is someone up there who takes care of wayward souls.

Everyone who wished her today, tells me that I had better pull my act together and brace myself for teenage.  So far, beyond the natural skirmishes that happen when any two people share a roof, neither of us has needed therapy.  Even those skirmishes are caused by me rather than her.  The kid has wisdom that the mom lacks, and I hope it stays that way – the kid’s wisdom, that is, not mom’s lack of it.

The milestone for this year for her was her first crush.  It’s so cute to see puppy love in all its glory.

She had nothing planned for today, so I invited her friends for a surprise party. These are the kids she has grown up with and mean a lot to her. She was duly surprised and all that.  For about an hour, the house was total and utter bedlam, until unable to tolerate the decibel levels, I kicked all of them out. Thankfully, I hired help today to clean the house after the kids were done with their mess.

On a global level, it’s the end of another year. This year started off very badly for me with a loss and some self-esteem issues that threatened to drown me, but I like to believe that I have grown emotionally and in strength since then.  Maybe 2017 won’t be any better than 16 in terms of events, because I do anticipate some tremulous times ahead on the family front, but I hope that the lessons learned this year would come of use.

I am a little skeptical about new year resolutions because whenever I proclaim them to the world, I end up being worse than before in those very aspects.  Nevertheless, my resolutions for this year are “less reactive thinking” and “more meditation”.  Lets see how that works out.

Happy new year, dear readers.  You have been a big part of my emotional growth this year.  Stick around, you are doing good to a stranger without knowing it.

Ceremony

Although I am slowly growing into an agnostic-of-sorts, I try not to impose my views on others.  My father continues to be a sincere gnostic and conducts rituals scheduled through the year. While he could be lax about festivals, he is never lax about death-ceremonies.  With approaching 75, himself, there are way too many death ceremonies he performs – his parents, his parents-in-law, and his wife – five ceremonies every year.  I used to attend all the ceremonies diligently in the past, but now I opt out because they make no sense to me – I would rather help living people than perform ceremonies for dead ones.

However, I continue to go for one – my mother’s.  This is more to comfort my father (the living person) than as a mark of respect for my mother (the dead person).  A few years ago, dad would hire cooks for the event, but when  I returned to India, I offered to cook the ritual food for my mom’s ceremony – it seemed to give both my father and my grandmother who recently died, a lot of satisfaction and comfort.  Until a few years back, he would invite all and sundry to the ceremonies, but later, the attendees (other than the priests who solemnise the ceremony) became restricted to him, my grandmother and me (and sometimes my family, depending on the day it fell).

Today was my mother’s 32nd death anniversary. As with every year, I offered to take charge of the kitchen.  Much as I hate cooking, cooking for this particular event gives me a strange kind of satisfaction – a satisfaction that the man, who has none other to call his own anymore, feels like he has at least me, on the day he lost his partner.  So, taking a deep breath, I delved into the kitchen and single handedly cooked a ceremony meal* with a little help from the maid with tidying afterwards.

In earlier years, even until last year, I would feel miserable on the day of the ceremony – not as much as by missing my mother, but for not missing her.  It has been way too long – last year, I had lived 13 years with her, and 31 years without – there is not much I remember of her other that the fact that she was drop dead gorgeous and a go-getter. But as I keep interacting with my own daughter, who will be turning 13 in a month, I wonder what kind of woman she was – what were her dreams, her aspirations, and her feelings towards me other than the maternal love, which is universal.  What had she dreamed that I would become?  Have I fulfilled her dream?    What would my life have been like, had she been around?

This year, the grief of my grandmother’s death (more on that in a later post, I am sure) overrode the discomfort that accompanied my mom’s ceremony in the past.  My grandmother had been a proxy mother to me since my mom had died – she saw me through thick and thin, bathed my new-born, and was my go-to person until she died.  It has been ten months since she died, but I continue to feel powerful grief every so often, which may take more time to fade. As I cooked the shrardham meal today, I grieved more for the grandmother, who would, until last year, sit in the kitchen in her plastic chair and drive me crazy by talking all the time when all I needed was some silence in order to concentrate on the cooking.  I missed her jabber today.  It was too silent to concentrate.

The busy weekend is over.  The week promises to be busy, and the anticipation of work is slowly driving out the melancholia of the weekend.  This too, is passing.

 

*plantain curry, bitter guard curry, colocasia curry, curry leaf thuvayal, cucumber pachadi, poritha kuzhambu, milagu rasam, sugiyan, payasam, thenkuzal and rice.

 

 

The D-Day

I don’t, as a rule, enjoy festivals.  The preparation for the festival is alright – yesterday, even as I slaved over the stove for four hours straight, making the goodies that, as Carol pointed out, look like life forms crawling around your yard, but melting in your mouth before settling in your hips, there was a purpose.  Today, there is a big void – ok, Diwali is over.  Now what?  I ask the same question after every occasion – deadline is over, now what? The blog post is written, now what?  This is usually accompanied by a sinking feeling which, depending on the time of the month, could lead to nausea.

Part of the reason for the discomfort is the dissonance between beliefs and habits.  With my gradual evolution into an agnostic of sorts, these ritualistic festivals annoy the heck out of me.  Yet, having been used to the celebrations for four decades of my life and the customs themselves being reflective of a rather old and thriving culture, I can’t let go either.  Thus, when I am doing it, I am wondering if I am being a colossal hypocrite, while if I choose not to, I feel like the insensitive breaker of a chain that has been built over aeons.  And then that annoying voice says “chains are to bond” and another says “the chains are ornamental”.  Like Leonard tells Sheldon “It must be hell in your head” – It is.

Browsing through my contact list on my phone to wish for Diwali, I find that I have a total of 14 people to wish, and my phone wishing took all of 14 minutes.  My significant other often teases me that I am a social butterfly because I am in almost constant communication with someone all the time – by email, by WhatsApp or texting, and rarely, by phone – but I just realised that I was constantly in touch with only these 14 people. I don’t know where I am going with this analysis,  I hadn’t thought it through.  But there must be a point somewhere.  If you find it, let me know.