Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Good Old Days

Now a days, very often I think about the kind of life we had when we were very young. We never bothered about anything, we ate when we felt hungry, we were always playing something or other with friends / cousins, we were either cycling madly under the hot sun, without getting heat stroke, never slept in the afternoons, read books like Enid Blyton, Amar Chithra Katha, Phantom and so on.
Life was pretty carefree, with no worries, no tension. How simple life was then.

In the whole lane maybe about 1 or 2 houses may have had a fridge, and maybe only one house might have had an AC and a car. We would be awestruck when we saw such houses which had one or more  of these luxury items. However, people in those days were very informal and friendly, they would give us ice cubes, sometimes home made ice creams, drop us along with their kids to school in their car. In the afternoons, all the mothers would finish their work and meet and learn something new from each other, like cross stitching, embroidery, knitting, making papads together: they had ample time to do all this despite not having any domestic  help in the house.

Never, have we ever imagined that a time would come when we would not be able to live in houses without attached Bathrooms. For in those days wherever we lived whether  it was a house or a flat there used to be only 1 bathroom for the use of the entire family. Strangely, we never had any problems sharing the one single bathroom.

There was no television, our only source of entertainment was a Radio or a Transistor. We never had surprise tests, or too many home works, no coaching classes after school, no tension for getting into the college of our choice etc.

We never felt tired walking miles to our schools, or walking anywhere. The mode of transport was mainly Rickshaws and Buses, and in some places we could use the Tongas. To even have a scooter was a big thing in those days. When we had summer holidays we would be asked by our friends to come and stay  with them  in their houses, and we would have so much fun, if they lived in a colony where they had such facilities like a big swimming pool and lots of common area  to play cricket, gilli dhanda, etc. Then all the parents would plan a big picnic, where the men would take upon themselves to do the cooking and give the ladies their much needed time to chitchat and generally be relaxed.

There was never a need to phone someone before we visited them, for we were always welcome. Plus who had phone those days. Everything was shared with everybody.
I remember, the winters when all of us would pull out the charpais and sit under the warm sun, eating oranges, playing Ludo, and Antaskhari and so on.
We would go to theatre to watch some good movies, eat Samosas, Wafers, Ice creams and drink Coke, Fanta or Goldspot, have a good time.

I remember during my college days too after our college got over, we would just go to our friends place or they would come to our place and we would be chatting, going out together doing window shopping, eating Muri, Churmur, Bhel Puri, Golgappa, drinking countless numbers of Chai. We were all so slim despite eating everything without any restriction. I think it was because of our walking everywhere, we never felt the need to spend time exercising. We never even heard  or spoke about diet or dieting, and  exercising. We were so healthy.

With the advent of TV, which not everyone could afford those days, we found people who had TV  inviting us to come and watch TV in their homes, where they themselves would have a whole lot of family members and on top of that, we would also be there watching some old Hindi movie with them. The only Channel was Doordarshan. Strangely the practice those days was to watch TV with all the lights off, in total darkness.

How slowly, yet steadily things have changed, and how we have changed accordingly. Now we cannot do with just 1 bathroom, 1 bedroom, 1 TV, 1 Car, 1 Phone. Now we have to call up if we are thinking of visiting somebody, and expect the same from them too. We don't like to share anything with anybody. Today, we are more eager to do the home work/ projects given by the school for our  children to do. We want them to go for this and that coaching classes, we don't even let our tiny tots enjoy their holidays for we want to them to attend some Art class, learn Karate, learn music/ dance or do something. We don't want them to just be themselves and just let them enjoy their holidays the way they want to. We want to control every phase of their lives, what they should study, where they should work etc.

We don't eat together, as each one has their own time, and their own way  of eating. We don't like entertaining guests, we just feel obliged to do so, for we have our own  routine to which we have got used to, and we don't have that kind of time.
I am not saying all of us are like this, but most of us are generally like this, even though we might not really want to be like this.

Times have changed and I feel we have also changed, and change is always good. Fifteen years back even I used to walk everywhere, because the roads were good,  it was not so hot and dusty, but now a days it is impossible to walk, what with the heat, dust, and the bad roads with no foot paths, and the heavy traffic where you find two wheelers riding on whatever little bit of the foot path that is left, not caring for the pedestrians: we are all literally living in hell!

Good old days are just memories, meant to be cherished for what they were, one should not expect  the present to be just like the past.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Beat the Heat: have a Piña colada

Piña colada
The piña colada is a cocktail made with rum, coconut cream or coconut milk, and pineapple juice, usually served either blended or shaken with ice. It may be garnished with either a pineapple wedge, a maraschino cherry, or slices of coconut .

Main alcohol: White Rum
Ingredients: 3 oz (3 parts) Pineapple juice, 1 oz (one part) White rum, 1 oz (one part) Coconut cream

Preparation: Mix with crushed ice until smooth. Pour into chilled glass, garnish and serve.
Served: Blended with ice (frozen style)
Standard garnish: Maraschino cherry, Coconut slices, Pineapple slices.
Made with freshly made Pineapple Juice, fresh Pineapple wedges

Place: Lush Green & Cool Surroundings of our house

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sorga Vasal- Doors of Heaven

Dad, even a fleeting memory of your loving smile is enough to light up my darkest days. I love you. Dad quotes

It has been months since I wrote anything. And I have not even been visiting other bloggers.
Somehow, I could not do both these things, and I have no excuse, other than being very lazy.
Maybe, it was a writer's block, I don't know. I am sure we all go through this phase sometime or other in our lives.

On December 26th 2015, my father was finally released from this world. He passed away without much struggle.

Before he passed away, he had his wish fulfilled: that is visiting his home town Srirangam for the Vaikuntha Ekadasi, which is very auspicious for all Tamil Brahmins. He has been visiting his home town ever year for this festival. My brother made arrangements to take him by Taxi and also stay in his ancestral home there. My father was very happy, and was extremely talkative with all his near and dear ones who came to visit him. He could not place any of them very clearly, but he was vaguely aware of some of the events in their lives and was happily recounting them. He stayed in Srirangam for about 5 days, and kept telling to my brother, that he would die within a week or so.

When the day came for them to leave for Madras, he became very adamant and would not leave his house, holding on tightly to the railing of the staircase. With great difficulty, my brother had to carry him to the waiting taxi to go back home.

When he arrived in Madras, there too he created a big drama saying he will not climb up to the house holding with iron grip the gate of the house. However, he was finally carried upstairs. Dealing with Dementia patient can be very, very tough, and we must give full marks to my brother and his wife for bearing everything .

21st December 2015 was Vaikuntha Ekadasi and my father was there in Srirangam by 18th December. They were there till the 23rd December.
The significance of Vaikuntha Ekadasi:

There are 24 Ekadasis observed by Hindus during the year. Of these Vaikunda Ekadasi celebrated in the Tamil month Margazhi (Dec-Jan) is considered very auspicious. On this day people accompany the Lord to the doors of Heaven (SorgaVasal, Sorgam - Heaven/Vasal - Doors). In all temples the Sorgavasal will remain opened on this day. People remain awake the previous night and go to the temple early in the morning to enter the Sorgavasal. People take up fasting on this day for all their wishes to come true. It is believed that one who worships Lord Vishnu on this day will reach Vaikunta (Heaven). This festival is of great significance at all Balaji Temples especially at Tirupati and also at  Srirangam.

 We all feel so happy that the wish of our father finally got fulfilled, even though he did not die there, still he had the good fortune of being there at that auspicious moment, and just as he had predicted he left this world within a week. I believe only very good people are taken away by God in this manner.

My chithi (my mother's younger sister), too had a very dramatic and good death many years ago on this Ekadasi day. She was absolutely normal on that day and had gone with her daughter in law to visit the famous Parthasarthy temple in Triplicane Madras, and after darshan, she suddenly felt very uneasy, and just dropped dead right there (silent heart attack).
 Back to our father. 
On the 26th morning he seemed very normal, had his morning tea, and since he doesn't take breakfast, he was about to have his lunch as usual at around 10 am. However on that day he told my brother that he was not hungry, but my brother persuaded him to at least have some curd rice. While my brother went to bring  it to him, he suddenly heard my father wheezing very violently. He was shocked for our father never had any kind of wheezing problems, he suddenly was not able to breathe properly also. My  brother immediately took him to a big hospital which is just 2 minutes from our house, and there the doctors tried giving him Oxygen, but our father was in no position to take it also. They tried their level best, but he kept on struggling to breathe and finally had an heart attack and died there within minutes.

To think it was the same hospital, where our father had taken our mother to get her treated for her chronic knee pain, and had to see her get a massive heart attack without any warning.
Our father's death although was sad, we still feel, he was finally free, which is what people of his age (94 years) yearn for. And also in his condition, death was welcome.

  He would always say in his dementia affected state, that he could see people coming and eating after his death, the house is full of relatives and friends, the priests doing the puja for his safe passage from this earth and so on... that amma (our mother) is waiting for him.....
We are sure that wherever he is,  he is safe and peaceful with his creator: he has passed through the "Sorga Vasal".

Your life has ended, but your legacy of wisdom, integrity and courage will go on forever. We miss you Appa.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Deepawali!

Deepawali is usually celebrated early in the morning all over Tamil Nadu.
Getting up early in the morning, before sunrise having the traditional oil bath, wearing new clothes, lighting up lamps all over the house, bursting of crackers, and eating all the homemade / store bought sweets and savories, wishing all friends and relatives, and generally having a good time....
However, with time we have changed, and now it is mostly celebrated in a very simple way. In fact no bursting of crackers too, for more and more people are realising the harmful effects of bursting crackers.

But have people really changed for the better, no, not everyone, in fact, there are still many people who still buy the most dangerous, poison filled crackers, which after bursting leaves poisonous smoke which gives rise to allergies, asthma, and all kinds of breathing problem. Not only that, those who keep buying crackers don't realise the amount of stress and hardship it causes to elderly, sick people, the dogs and other animals.

They are also encouraging illegal child labour, for more and more children would be lured to work for some money and giving up their education and suffer, sitting in dark dingy rooms rolling out dangerous crackers, breathing poison every second they spend their time there. Many become victims of unexpected accidents, because of badly maintained/ managed conditions

Have we really become immune to such atrocities, why do we do such things?

Not only do people burst crackers during festivals , they also burst them if their favorite team wins some stupid match.

Deepawali is a festival of light, it is meant to enlighten people, not to bring darkness in this world. Can't we think of people who have lost their eyesight due to crackers, is this what Deepawali teaches us?

Why can't we just light some lamps and be done with it?

Why do we have to lean on rituals and traditions, which no longer make any sense to any body?

Why do we eat heavy sweets and fat filled savouries and allow ourselves to fall sick?

Do we have answers for these questions?

Can we resolve to do away with rituals which do not match with the times we are living in?

Let us follow the traditions that do not harm anybody.

Instead of bursting crackers, let us buy some useful things for the needy.

Let us not pollute the already polluted world.

Let there be real light in this world: Happy Deepawali !

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Happy Krishna Jayanthi !!

Today is the Birthday of Lord Krishna, and it is celebrated all over India. People start preparing sweets and savories, which are supposed to be loved by Lord Krishna, buying fruits and flowers,  putting Rangoli all over the house welcoming the Lord into their homes.
Our Hindu religion has so many Gods and Goddesses, that every other day is some God's birthday. Indian are always in celebrating mood, perhaps by doing so , they are able to forget their everyday tensions.
Lord Krishna has always been portrayed as being in deep blue color. There  is some significance for being so, if you are interested you can google it and find for yourself. As usual, I was totally unaware of that,  for I only vaguely knew that very soon there is going to be celebration of  Lord Ganesha's Birthday.  Anyway I went about my work, and didn't give much thought to it.
Then our maid came, I thought okay she might like to celebrate Krishna's Birthday, so I told her her to put some typical rangoli which is put on His birthday. As children living wth our parents we used to enjoy putting these kind of Rangoli, and eating all the things made for Krishna's Birthday. We would wait impatiently for the evening to come, for his Birthday is celebrated only in the evenings. Once the Puja is done we would all gobble all the goodies prepared by our mom.
Those were the days when one blindly believed whatever everybody  believed, for we were too young to think. As we grew older, and wiser, we started seeing no meaning in all these endless celebration of Birthdays of various Gods and Goddesses. 
Coming back to the present, I taught my maid how to make some simple rangoli and this is what she did. It looks very simple yet very good. Here is a short story of Krishna's arrival at our home:
Krishna enters our house with his tiny feet, tup, tup tup... enters our kitchen where we have a little Puja space.

He is thrilled to see himself surrounded by the Gopikas, all waiting to welcome him. He starts to swing merrily playing his flute.

The Cow YAWNS........

All of a sudden Krishna's nostrils are hit by an unusual aroma, his nose starts tickling, he stops playing his flute, and jumps up to see some yummy Chinese food right under his nose...

                Fried Rice, Sweet and Sour vegetables and Cauliflower Manchurian

He says to himself, "am I in the wrong house", when he heard the woman of the house say,"no, no, everything is fine, we thought you might like a change and made Chinese for you".

Krishna was absolutely thrilled, and shouting, "Holy Cow! (waking up the startled cow) thank you, for I am really tired of eating the same Seedais, Pohas, Murukkus etc., in every house, I visit..."

After polishing every bit of the offering, he smiled cheekily and said " Gods too need a change"

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, “If you offer Me with love a leaf, flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. But please, please don't offer me the same things again and again. Have mercy!, he pleaded"

So offer whatever you can—it’s your love and devotion that matters! 
So here I am, feeling happy to have made both Mary and the ever Blue Krishna happy in my own small way.

Did you like my story of Lord Krishna?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Let the Blessings Of Goddess Sri Varalakshmi Flow Abundantly To Everyone!!

(I had bought this beautiful mask  of Sri Varalakshmi from Malleswarm (Bangalore) where one can get beautiful varieties  of this Goddess decorated in the most beautiful way one can imagine.)

Today all over South India, many Hindus would be praying to the Goddess Sri Varamahalakshmi, for good health, prosperity and happiness in the family.
(Before we didn't have this mask so  Mary was using the same Goddess made in dark wood, which has been with us for many years. I had bought it in Thirupati. So this year, she decorated both the goddesses and did the puja.)

We are not religious and we don't celebrate any of the festivals. However, for the last 14 years or so we have a maid who likes to celebrate both Hindu and Christian festivals.
Her name is Mary, and she is very sincere and devoted  and loves to pray to both Hindu and Christian Gods. She is married to a Hindu, and her husband never objects to her visiting Churches. She seems to know all the rituals associated with the Hindu pujas.
She would  herself bring flowers etc. during any festival season, light the lamps, draw beautiful Rangolis all over our house. We never objected to any of this as we felt she was happy. So from Diwali,  Navaratri, pongal and so on she would celebrate each and every festival in her own simple and quiet  way. She somehow  likes us and our house so much, that she almost thinks of us as her extended family and the house as her "Big House ".
  We are really lucky to have her working for us, and we too treat her as one among us.
Mary would get so excited when some festival comes, like Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali.
She also knows, that although we don't really believe in doing all these things, yet she also knows that we will not object to her doing it in our house. 

I am sure whatever, she is always blessed by all the various Gods of both Hindu and Christian faith.
Come Christmas, she would buy Christmas cake and some Kala kal and bring it for us. She has to  go to church every friday after her work here. She would also wear the orange saree and go for the Novino near her house.
She doesn't live with us and has her own home and family.
Mary  is very efficient in all the work she does, and the beauty is she does it with love and commitment, wthout anything being said by us.
So today I show you her handiwork in our house:
 (Can you see two dolls dressed as as a newly wedded couple? 
I also bought this pair of newly wedded wooden dolls, in Malleswaram ( these dolls ar made in dark wood, and they are very special, they are called Marai Patcthi  Bomais. I also kept them here for they signify happy married life, and basicallly women pray for that during this Varalakshmi Puja.)
Our two doggies were also very excited  and they were supervising everything done by Mary, wagging their tails, and very sweetly got their bindis put on their foreheadand happily ate one small Banana each as Prasad..


Let The Blessings of Varalakshmi Flow Abundantly To All!!!                     

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.

As I switched on the TV to a movie channel, I saw the movie Marley and Me being shown there. I have seen this movie many times and never get tired of watching again again. it is the same with another beautiful dog movie called Hatchiko.
Both these movies start with usual antics of a puppy, and then goes on to document each and every stage of their growing up, their naughty behaviour, there unconditional love for the owners, who sometimes get totally frustrated with their respective dog. In both the movies it is the women who get very irritated with the  unmanageable traits of curious, and destructive traits of the dog
As I watched these movies again and again, I relived my days with our two dogs that came into our lives and did all the things that drove me to the brink of despair.
I would often yell at the, dog/ puppy and then within seconds, would find my heart melting when she looked at me innocently with her lovely eyes, saying,"mommy what did I do wrong", jumping as soon a she saw me melting, lickng my face happpily, and pissing on my lap with excitement.
I would feel so bad, I would hug her cuddle her and, everything would be fine till something terrible happens again.
At some point we realise that bringing up a pup is not so easy, it is just like bringing up a baby. For it will act like a baby, and for the puppy you are everything rolled into into one: a mother she/ or he can trust, a friend with whom she/ he  can roll and play, and a person who can be quite strict sometimes, but who will also forgive and love him/her all over again.
Like with kids, mommy is the strict one and Papa is the one who is more lenient.
Do they love one more than the  other, the answer  is definitely no, for a puppy/dog, love flows unconditionally to both the care givers. 
When any of them fall sick both mom and dad are worried, more the moms than the dads. All the pampering would be done by the moms.
As they grow older, we come to realise they have  become very matured and well behaved. It is always a pleasure to have dogs at home. You can pour out all sorrows to them, and they would listen to you patiently, licking you, comforting you, without understanding a word. When you are happy and share some good news with them also they are very excited and happy for you, wagging their tales endlessly to show how happy they are for you.
Such is the love of a dog for their care giver. They trust you with all their heart, they live with you without any fear, they know that you are there for them when they need you.That is why when they sleep they  sleep happily with no worry in this world.
Even with street dogs, they don't have any expectation from you, they are happy to have anything you give them to eat, and would be sitting outside your gate gaurding your house. Such is the loyalty of dogs.
How I wish we could be like them.
I clearly remember how each of our previous dogs died, how they struggled silently without a moan. How they patiently visited the doctor's clinic in almost a dazed state, till they were hospitalised and were released dead. Somehow as soon as they are admitted to the hospital, they give up and they rarely come back home alive.
Mostly hospitals means bad omen for them, for they are not meant for the hospitals, they are meant to stay home with the people whom they love the most.
 Everytime a dog dies a hefty part of our heart dies with them, and can never be forgotten. We may foget our near and dear ones after they leave this world , but never our dogs, for they are always with us forever.
When we see Hatchiko and Marley die, they don't look like some dogs acting their part, they touch us in some very deep way.
Have you ever wondered how each dog at that particular stage acts its part so brilliantly, when actually they are different dogs of the same breed?
The first three pictures are of our first labrador : Cookie.
Unfortunately we don't have many pictures of her. She only lived for about 3 and half years.


These are pictures of the other dog: Toffee. Toffee lived with us for about 7 years, before she died of cancer.
 Toffee when she was a cute pup

Now we have two Labs. and they are Bumbilli and Loki:
Bumbilli is the fair and lovely one, and Loki is dark and handsome one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Beautiful Sunset At The Grand Canyon: Some Photographs

                    This photo was taken in the afternoon, and it has come out quite well!

I have often heard that Landscape photography is a rather "slow" type of photography.
However it is strange this kind of photography contradicts itself, for it also means better hurry up and also wait.
For example when we set out to take a large panorama like the Grand Canyon, we know that the subject is not going anywhere, and we have all the time in the world to set up our camera, after finding the right angles and position ourselves and simply wait patiently. Our subject does not change here, but the light conditions change constantly throwing up beautiful hues of colors, and we have to hurry to catch them in our camera.

 So this is the so called,"Contradiction", where we also have to wait patiently and also hurry up simultaneously all at that very precise moment.
It can be fun doing this, especially in a place like Grand Canyon that too during sunrise and sunset.
We should not let our mind waver, seeing other people placed in other points and try to change positions often, that would totally ruin the whole purpose. Grand Canyon would look beautiful from any point it is so vast and beautiful and we can never go wrong, if we know what we are doing.

We must know that taking pictures in mid afternoon is a bad choice for light is going to be too harsh, and everything would look flat and lifeless, especially in a place like Grand Canyon. 

                                            These pictures were taken in the afternoon

Though we did take pictures of it in the afternoon too, for we were not sure whether we would come back to take pictures during the sunset. The pictures were OK, nothing great. The perfect time for such landscape photography, as we all know is only sunrise and sunset, as the atmosphere is cooler at this time, and it also brings a hue of colors playing around. Anything like the ocean, the mountains and the canyons, and other similar landscapes looks absolutely stunning in these times. The play of different colors changing every second  is by itself very fascinating to observe.

                        Dark clouds all of sudden: it even drizzled a bit and then there was sun
                                                  Click on the pictures to enlarge

Taking a photograph with the Rainbow behind is a bad idea, but I wanted it like that only, so both the rainbow and myself have not come out well.

All the pictures have been taken by my husband. He used to be a very good photographer once upon a time, however, after getting married to me, and my constant nagging to take photographs of me all the time has made him lose interest in photography. 
Now a days I keep practicing taking pictures  with the Nikon digital camera, (bought by him for me) I even take 'selfies'with that big camera. What to do when husband refuses, wife has to do it by herself only!

And also remember to carry your Tripod with you to get the best pictures. Now while travelling to many places it might be a little cumbersome to carry one, like we didn't carry it with us during our trip to the US, we just did the best we could without it. However, if your aim is to capture something in a professional way, and you would be travelling for that purpose only then, I am sure you would not leave without your Tripod.

Okay, photography is huge subject, and needs constant practice, everybody from professionals to amateurs click hundreds of pictures, and then select just a few good ones. Like everything it has some rules to be followed, but don't let rules stop you from taking a picture, which might turn out to be a masterpiece. With the coming of digital cameras it is no longer a big deal to take as many pictures as we want, and to keep on deleting the bad ones. Persistence is the name of the game.

Happy Clicking!!!