Pongalo Pongal

Pongal-o Pongal

Happy Pongal, Makar Sankranthi, Lohri to everyone in India. It is the festive season now.

What I remember of Pongal as a kid is waking up early in the cold winter morning and walking towards the drawing room to catch a few more winks on the sofa half asleep waiting for Amma to call us to come to the kitchen. We would wait for the milk to boil and rise and shout ‘Pongalo Pongal- Pongalo Pongal’ and prostrate before the Pongal Panai (pot) .It was a time to feast on chakkarai (sweet) pongal and venn (salted) Pongal with some other delicacies that Amma would prepare .

Fast forward a few years.

I am the one who is buying the turmeric leaves, applying turmeric and kumkum to the pongal panai (pot), tying the leaves securely to the pot, cleaning the gas oven and kitchen counter top in the morning ,adding the required ingredients in the panai and simultaneously keep calling my kid an hubby reminding them that its time to wake up.  Now my son ambles half asleep towards the sofa and then to the kitchen when its time for the milk to boil and rise up.

I am more than happy and satisfied by the time I prepare both the varieties of the pongal dish and the “neivedhiyam ” is offered to the Sun God!  So the lunch and breakfast of the day is done minus any more delicacies that my Amma would prepare.

Pongal literally means “boiling over” as the milk is allowed to boil over, signifying abundance.

I look forward to this morning every year

Perhaps I manage to follow certain customs in ways convenient to me during the current times with some short cuts . Our beautiful traditions have evolved radically but the essence still remains the same  and they keep reminding us about the beautiful culture that we belong to.

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Heart full of joy and House full of lights and diyas #happydiwali #newyear #festive #festivefun #deepavali #bloggers #lightdiya #dorangoli #begood #havefun

Deepawali  is just around the corner and there is a festive atmosphere around. I am reminded of how my parents would wake us up in the early hours on Naraka Chaturdashi day for the customary oil bath. We would be woken up around 4 am in the cold winter morning of October/November . Appa would have switched on the radio and would have tuned into Short Wave band for some south Indian music. The early morning celebrations would start on an auspicious note with Nadaswaram music.

Getting up in the wee hours of the morning was a big task. We are three siblings and we had a rule. As per the rule –“whoever gets up first will take bath first.” That way the other two could catch up with some extra sleep was the idea. But the question was – who would wake up first?? The solution was that whoever’s name is called out  first while waking us up would have to take oil bath first and then one of us would grumble to Amma – “Why did you have to call only my name first??”

On the previous night Appa would have applied a little haldi and kumkum to the corners of the new dresses which would have been piled up on a tray . All the new clothes, sweets,  savouries, crackers, homemade special herbal  medicine, a big vessel smeared with little rangoli pattern , gingelly (sesame) oil would be placed in front of the God.

After waking up Amma would make us sit on a low level wooden seat  and anoint our hair with warm gingelly oil. We would then go out and light a cracker/sparkler . The one whose name was called first would go for the oil bath while rest of the two would try to  catch some few more winks of sleep.

Post bath Appa would give us our new dress and Amma would give us the special homemade herbal medicine in the form of a small ball . I hated it. My sister used to find it tasty. Amma would ask me to eat it fast as it helps in the digestion of all the sweets and savouries that we would be consuming for the next few days. I would find it very difficult to push it down my throat. We would wear the new clothes and seek the blessings of the elders.

Gorging on the different sweets and savouries would be fun. Phone calls to greet relatives and friends would be with “ Ganga snanam accha?”. Evening time would be spent in lighting diyas, greeting  friends and exchanging sweets. Since my growing up years were in northern and western  India we would save the bursting of crackers for the next day when the whole neighbourhood would be bursting crackers.

In today’s age enthusiasm is the same for celebrating  and I do eagerly look forward to this festival of lights but some things have changed for me I realize.. Waking up at 4 am has shifted to a little later by 2 hours, gingelly oil has been replaced by parachute coconut oil for namesake,  shikakai  has been replaced with shampoo.

When it comes to sweets and snacks –it’s the shortcut as I prepare just one sweet and one savoury item as I find the deep frying chores in the kitchen immensely boring . Rest are purchased from shop. Diwali herbal medicine too is purchased ( symbolically bought if available) and the packet remains unopened for days to come, and is finally discarded one fine day. Crackers too are brought on a minimum scale now  keeping in mind “green Diwali”.

Piling up new dresses on a tray with haldi and kumkum smeared in a corner and placing the sweets , savouries , Diwali herbal medicine and crackers along with the new set of clothes is something I look forward to. Its also time to bond with neighbours and friends by exchanging sweets.

What has also got added is looking forward to make a colourful  rangoli apart from the traditional rangoli with rice flour and decoration with lots of marigold flowers and lamps , diyas, serial bulbs.

With my generation some things have changed, and with the next generation some more things will change. We do try to hold on to some rituals ,customs, traditions as per our convenience and the love, laughter and bonding continues to keep everyone together.

May the beauty of Deepawali season fill your home with happiness

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Joyous Deepawali

 

 

 

 

 

 

BONDINGS START FROM HOME AND FESTIVALS ARE ONE AMONG THEM #happyganeshchaturthi #festive #festivefun #bloggers #begood #havefun

Memories are what we hold onto with fondness. Ganesh Chaturthi puja celebration is something very close to my heart . As per our Hindu tradition I pray to all the Gods and Goddesses, but Lord Ganesha holds a special place in my heart. The festival of “ Vinayakar Chaturthi “is one which I enjoy the most. The elephant headed God is widely worshipped as the supreme God of wisdom, prosperity & good fortune. My first shloka that I learnt was also on Lord Gajanana. “Gajananam bhoota ganadi sevitham…..”

My parents  have left me with memories of this festival for a life time . Appa would take clay from our garden and make the idol of Ganesha .We would be excited to watch Appa make the idol, then sticking our sticker bindis for eyes, rice grains as tusk, a sacred thread too would be placed on the idol !!  As a kid we would be given the job of rolling out the tiny balls for “ammini kozhakattais” (Kozhukattai are rice flour dumplings that are steamed, cooked and tossed in a tempering to make this Ganesh chaturthi snack).

It used to be a super fun activity , the more we roll, the more we get to eat!!

The jaggery & coconut modakams were something we would gobble up so fast .The entire process would be a real bonding time for the family. Amma would make so many yummy items for the Lord. During Puja time Amma would say to us kids, “ Pray for good health, wisdom to the Lord!”

We would be waiting for the aarti , so that post offerings we could feast on the yummy modakams, salted kozhakattais, vadais, appams, ammini kozhakattais, payasam (kheer). In the evenings when we would go out to see the different pandals, our eyes would want to catch a glimpse of the moon. As per the story Amma had narrated she had told us not to look at the moon on that day!!

The clay ganesha would finally find its way back to the garden.

Apart from that visiting the various sarvajanik pandals of Ganesha always added to the charm. Visiting friends houses who bring in Lord Ganesha is also something to look forward to .During school days I used to have a pact with Ganesha too especially whenever I wanted some favour!!. Super brain yoga posture was always for this Lord whenever I wanted good marks in my exams. The numbers would vary from 12 to 108 !!

There used to be a Ganesha temple close to my college and I would often visit the temple and maybe that is how my fondness for Siddhi Vinayaka grew. I moved to Mumbai soon after college when I got a job and again there was a tiny Ganesha temple near my house. I bumped into one of my friends ( who is now my husband) in a Ganesha temple on a Ganesha Chaturthi day !!!

The making of different Kozhakattais , modakams etc is something I look forward to even today as an adult. My husband & son are entrusted with rolling ammini kozhakattais. My little one will compete with his Appa to do a better job in rolling the tiny balls. These days we hardly sit cross legged on the floor & this is one task for which they sit in the kitchen cross legged & my son will say “ Amma , my legs are aching”, to which I will reply –“Bear the pain for Ganesha  &  he will surely be happy with you & shower you with blessings!!”. Its real family fun time.

Vinayaka Chaturthi celebrations has its own charm. Lord Vakrathundaya’s arrival is special as its after the onset of rains. There is greenery all round. The entire place is clean & free of  dust. Vinayaka seems to be saying, “I will arrive once the entire city & vegetation has been cleaned up after receiving the heavenly showers !! ”

It feels nice to participate in the building Ganapati puja celebrations. It is a very nice feeling as if Ganesha is amidst us. There is an air of festivity all around. I look forward to the morning & evening aarti time. It is also the time to wear saris, to have a look at all the lovely colourful saris & other outfits clad by others. The Mahaganapati Homam is a time when the chanting of holy mantras seem to bring positive vibrations around. I feel lucky to have learnt sanskrit while at school. I never liked the studying of third language while in school. But since I can understand, make out a little meaning when the shlokas, mantras are being chanted, I find it enjoyable. I thank my school for having introduced sanskrit.

The prasadams that we get after the evening puja are something I love. The quantity served is quite sufficient & filling as there is no need to prepare dinner. And, yes if someone in my family does not relish all that then it is time for DIY in the kitchen for them.!!!

On the Ganapati visarjan day a part of my mind would want time to tick slowly so that Ganesha could stay a little longer. As we bid goodbye to the Vignahartha  I know I would be missing him all the more when I would see the place where he was sitting blessing one & all.

“Ganapati Bappa Morya , pudachi varsha laukarya”.

My Father, My Hero

It’s almost twenty one years since Appa left us. He left home never to return back when a tragic accident snatched him  away from us .When a hale and hearty , lovable , one’s hero , a very active person suddenly leaves us it’s very very difficult to digest and come to terms with the sudden loss .

Two decades ago I was not even aware that something called ” father’s day” is celebrated world wide.

There are so many things I fondly remember about my first hero in life. He was a self made man. Coming from a very humble family background he worked very hard to rise to a very high position in the corporate world.  There was a fire in his belly to excel  in whatever he chose to do. He was very meticulous , dynamic and a very honest man.

My parents have given me a wonderful childhood and I have umpteen number of beautiful memories of my growing up years. Although he was strict and a disciplinarian,  he was also very friendly , loving and caring. He wanted his daughters to shine in academics and be an all rounder in other activities too. He introduced us to badminton, carrom board, tamil film songs, devotional light music, good movies, books, gardening, table tennis, access to library, photography, chanting shlokas, travel, comfortable journeys by road, rail and air. He taught us to ride a bicycle and the two wheeler. Whenever we took part in extra curricular activities he helped us in drafting with the poem recitations, speeches and debates.

There was never a dull moment with Appa around.He was a good singer, was good in drawing, appreciated good prose, poetry, music and dance. He would also enact some bharatnatyam songs with his hand gestures and facial expressions and would try to explain the meaning behind the beautiful lyrics. I still remember his all time favourite bharatnatyam dance song ” madhavi pon mayilal”  sung by T.M. Soundararajan. He introduced us to the world of tamil music through T.M. Soundararajan and poet Kannadasan’ s songs which were rich in meaning.

He was an all rounder for us who guided us at every step in life.

He had  travelled around the globe and believed in ” be like a Roman in Rome”. Coming from an orthodox south Indian family his views changed because of being posted to different places within the country

Whenever we visited a new city he would take interest in showing us around the city. The two things he was particular about were  rising up early in the morning and scoring good marks. We as kids would often grumble about it . He believed in the power of education and wanted his girls to scale heights. I could see the pride in his eyes for his daughters whenever we won a competition, secured admission in a good college, came out with flying colours in exams.

We had lots of Jasmine flowers in our garden. He would personally pluck the flowers with so much care for us. Amma would string it for us to be pinned on the hair.He always helped my Amma in kitchen and in few household chores. Once in a while he would cook and let Amma relax. We are a family of three  daughters and since we always saw our Appa lending a helping hand to Amma, the very concept of boys or males not helping in household activities was alien to me and my sisters. We have been fortunate enough to have a beautiful upbringing and we were always  given the freedom to express our views.

Appa was religious and had immense faith in the Almighty. After he met with the tragic accident we were very very angry with God. Circumstances they say change a person. Me and my two sisters started questioning so many things. After facing the turmoil and tough times along with Amma,  we in a way have become less emotional when we see people cribbing for trivial issues. We started questioning some of the superstitious rituals that are followed. Yes, maybe people think that we are outspoken  and not as submissive as girls are expected to be.

Appa passed away within six months of my marriage. It was a big blow. Newly wed girls normally celebrate all the festivals with so much enthusiasm within the first year of  marriage . Somewhere the looking forward to celebrate festivals lost charm within me. He could never play with his grandkids too.

It took time to come out of it. I still have a letter that I wrote to him in heaven , a year or two after he left us informing him about how we are dealing with life without him. I realized that at least I could enjoy and experience the relation of a father till my early twenties. There are so many in this world who might  not be as fortunate as I was . I reconciled myself taking it as God’s plan.

Memories are finally what is left behind . Thankyou God for blessing me with such lovely parents. I firmly believe that my Appa is blessing and guiding me in each and every step in life. I hold him close within my heart and he will remain there to walk with me throughout my life until we meet again.

Our House

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Our House.

 

The term ” Our House”  brings memories of our Ancestral house in our native place and also all the houses where I have grown up since we moved to  many cities during my growing up years.

We used to visit our grandparents during the summer vacations. My grandparents used to live in our  Ancestral house  in our native place in a village . It was a huge house . The place where the  houses were located in that village was called an “Agraharam”.  It had a huge portico in the front, huge two halls where everyone would spend time together, have meals, sleep . There were four smaller rooms adjoining the big halls.

At the backyard was a well, a makeshift bathroom. There was a separate room near the kitchen where firewood would be stocked for lighting the fire for the hot water . The staircase to the terrace was very narrow. On the terrace floor at a place above the hall was an opening. The idea was after the grains were kept in the sun for some time, instead of carrying the grains down, it was pushed through the hole on the ceiling of the hall ( floor of terrace) to avoid carrying the sacks down. At the backyard some vegetables were grown.

There was greenery all around. A canal used to flow close by to the house. Evening time there would be lots of mosquitoes. A plastic sheet smeared with oil would be hung  ( just in case the mosquitoes sat on the sheet, they would get stuck). We used to have food on banana leaves. There was no ceiling fan, Only one table fan used to be there and we would as kids take turns to be near it . The table fan would always be placed near to Grandpa.

There was a temple close by and we would sometimes go there. Going out meant travelling either in a bullock cart or bus. Since we would be there only for a few days, we would be pampered so much by all the neighbours and by my grandparents.

Looking back staying in a village had its charm. Life there for us as kids was carefree, so different from the life in the city where we were staying with our parents. Maybe  as kids it was fun time for us. And the generation of my mother would be always busy at the kitchen . Grinding the batter for some food varieties, pounding grains etc was done by the ladies manually. I realize it would have been tough for them. Today I am in that age bracket where I am supposed to be in the cooking department and I would certainly not enjoy being in a village ( if it was a time without gadgets like those days)

Now , that house has been sold. No one from the family stays in that village. My desire is that someday I would like to go  and visit the place during this lifetime.

My other houses have been in cities in northern  and western India. Normally we would move to the new city after the academic session came to an end , and my daddy would have already joined work and would have fixed a suitable house. He would draw the layout (plan) of the house in an Inland letter for us and post it .

All the houses were good and I have beautiful memories of them but what was best is when in college I had to make a layout of a residential/ public building in exam or had to submit an assignment the layout of the various houses, schools, market eIMG_3019tc then the places that I got to see in the different cities helped me in my thinking process!

Glory of the past

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Immortalized in Stone.”

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GOLCONDA  FORT

Monuments seem to talk about the glory of its past .They seem as a place where history breathes, legends come alive when the guide gives a vivid description of its glorious past.

Each era and its rulers leave their impression but what remains unchanged is the imposing fort which generally has withstood many assaults.

The thick walls and ramparts of any fort, the secret passages, prisons, , the community kitchen,  armoury storage buildings,  baths ,the palaces with their carvings, gardens, tanks etc talk about the valour of the kings, soldiers , the lifestyle , cultural heritage of the kings and queens of a bygone era, the architectural splendour prevailing in those times

The thought put into for acquiring the perfect ventilation, the engineering marvel of the men who designed & constructed these structures with so much perfection, symmetry without machinery, cranes, proper equipments etc is something very very  commendable and my admiration for those honourable people increases with
the more thought process that I put into it.
I find these a feast to my eyes.

I just cannot say the same about the glass facade buildings that have mushroomed in the so called big malls, complexes, office areas etc , and especially when even one of the glass window is open , according to me it ruins the entire look of the building!!

Each and every stone is a mute spectator of
a time that has frozen and is yet to witness the times ahead. It has seen Qutub Shah dynasty, the Moghuls who invaded, commonfolk like me & others and will witness the times of generations yet to come even when we are gone.

Golconda , you made me pen down my thoughts :-)))))))

GANESH CHATHURTHI

This is in response to Day 15: Blogging 101-Create a feature labels-

My label-  My thoughts , experiences

GANESH CHATHURTHI

Lord Ganesha’s arrival brought rains . Its been pouring
cats & dogs since the last three days. There is greenery all round.
The entire place is free of dust . ( muddy puddlesis a different story).

Vinayaka seems to be saying I will arrive once the whole city has been
cleaned up .!!

This year our complex Ganapati is for three days. We have an eco friendly Ganesha made of clay sans colours ( if the paints are used they are chemicals which are toxic to the water body when immersed)

It is  a very nice feeling as if Ganesha is amidst us, maybe all the more because our
complex is not very huge and has just six buildings. There is an air
of festivity all around. I look forward to the morning & evening Aarti (ritual of worship-song sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered)
time.
Its also the time to wear saris, to have a look at all the
colourful saris & other outfits clad by others.

The Mahaganapati Homam is a time when the chanting of holy mantras just seems to bring positive vibrations around. I feel lucky to have learnt Sanskrit while at school . Never liked the
third language studying while in school. But since now I am able to
understand , make out a little meaning when the shlokas (prayer), mantras are being chanted, I find it enjoyable. I thank my school for having introduced Sanskrit .

The prasadams (offering to the Lord)  that we get after the evening puja (rituals in worship10626635_696778777038133_3413941923418747777_n) are something I love.
Being a southey I am all the more familiar with puliyodarai ( Tamarind rice), bagala baath ( curd rice), chakara pongal,   ladoos ( not the moti choor type but the Tirupati ladoo type),  besi bela baath,  lemon baath ( baath means rice),  sundal,  rava kesari……………. yummmmy

The quantity served is quite sufficient & filling ,no need to
prepare dinner. And, yes if someone in my family does not relish all
this its time for DIY in the kitchen for them.!!!!

Finally, its Ganapati visarjan (immersion of Lord’s idol)  time . A part
of my mind asked time to tick slowly so that Ganesha could stay a
little longer . As we bid goodbye to the Vignahartha , I  am going to
miss Him all the more when I see the place where He was seated
blessing one & all.

Finally, its time to say “Ganapati bappa morya , pudhchya varshi laukarya”.