Monday, January 28, 2008

The big fat Indian wedding...

I attended the wedding of my friend's daughter. Thirty years ago I attended the wedding of the mother. We were classmates in college. We had good times. We studied together, and then she either came over home ( my father and grandmother were fond of her and she was a welcome guest), and other times at her place. Her romance created a lot of excitement for all of us at college and we followed it closely. She got married eventually and after a couple of years I did too and we lost touch for a while since she moved out of town. When she came back again we renewed contact but then we were busy with kids, husbands, in laws, career and did not have too much time on our hands to socialise. It was only after the kids grew up that we got back to meeting more frequently and exchanged notes.

Ah yes, it was a very pleasant morning. Yet another event to remind us of our responsibilities and the passage of time. We will meet again soon to recollect the occasion , I am sure, and dwell on the past and move on into the future....

Imagine there's no country....

I read with great interest an article Do you have a (religious) identity crisis? by Shoba Narayan, mainly because I agree with what she says. She says 'I am Hindu, yes, but I am not sure if I am a proud Hindu. To me religion is an inheritance and a choice. I was born Hindu and I like the religion enough not to choose another and convert. But being a proud Hindu is something that I wriggle away from. India today isn’t the India I grew up in. A simple example is that there are more Muslim women wearing the hijab than during the time I grew up in. This seems a symbol of self-confidence as well as a symbol of insecurity. Muslims today tend to assert their identity through religious means. I am as uncomfortable with this as I am by saffron-robed swamis who extol the Bhagvad Gita or Christian missionaries who want to save your soul. Religion in my view is a private act. Or should be. Humanity should supercede religion. Every great religion has behaved in ways that it shouldn’t have. I am ashamed of the things that some Hindus do; I am sure that some Muslims and Christians share the same sentiments with respect to their religions.' Unquote.
I think this quite sums up the way I feel about religion. We never ever gave our religion a serious thought when we were young. For us it only meant that we could go over to a friend's house and help her set up the Christmas tree and of course eat the goodies that were prepared and then also the delicious Sheer Korma on Ramzan . Our religion was only something we stated in application forms - we never wore it on our sleeve .

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Is God Deaf?

This was a banner put up by a scientist in Mumbai. He was referring to the din that is created in the name of religion. And his words could not be more true. We have both a temple ( practically next door) and a mosque some distance away. The noise ( unfortunately I am referring to the prayers) is unbelievable. Right from the time the devout walk into the temple we have the 'bhajans' blaring from the sound system that has been installed. And as if to compete with them is the neighbourhood mosque, which has speakers placed right onto their top floor - facing our house- and we have at most times a muezzin who absolutely screams the prayers 5 times a day. The call for namaz can be beautifully rendered, alas, this is not the case here. And so Is god deaf really becomes relevant. I am sure he can feel the reverence without the din. And is that why on most Diwali days we have a heavy downpour - a message from above, to cut down all that racket?

We also have marriage processions that pass through the narrow lane adjacent to our apartment, the various processions for different festivals, the politicians who gather to garner votes.. the list is unending. Sadly the husband also adds to the noise when we go on a drive, incessantly sounding the horn - adding to the noise pollution .

Noise can really drive me up the wall. I find it very unnerving, these loud sounds. Maybe if you think I complain so much, I would appreciate silence. That is not true either. My uncle had this beautiful cottage at Kotagiri. Ah , the view was breathtaking, the air so very fresh and so very silent. For a holiday, a stay there was wonderful, but only for couple of days, after which I used to long for the sounds of the city.

Then does it seem strange that I am complaining??
However, on a serious note there is a group that has been formed - Anti Noise Pollution Committee - in Mumbai - hoping to curb the noise levels in our country. They say it is now established that noise pollution may rupture the eardrum, and even induce cardiac and cardiovascular changes, fatigue and also cause sleep disturbances, headache and insomnia" . Think about it and do your bit to cut down noise levels.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Roadside eats

This picture appeared in the newspaper the other day. It did stir some childhood memories once again. This was one of those forbidden sweets ( Bombay mithai) for us. The vendor generally made his presence known by plucking on an instrument ( some folksy stuff like the ektara I guess), that could be heard for some distance. This would continue till some of the kids surrounded him and off he would get down to work pulling at the sugar mound and carving different shapes like the flower seen alongside. Some children would want a watch which he would make and put round their wrist. Another of those prohibited food for us ( which is seen even these days) is the ice crush. The ice block would be grated and then gathered together and put on a stick with a liberal dash of colour and essence. It did seem so attractive. But my mother was wary of the colours used in these sweets and the quality of water. In fact she was so particular about the water that even on some of the infrequent times that we went out for a meal at the small restaurants, we were not allowed to sip the water that was served at the table. Of course those days we did not have bottled water and nor ever imagine that water would ever be sold!! Incidentally, she passed on this finicky behaviour to me.

We had to walk about a kilometer to the bus stop from school. And we did at times stop at the fruit sellers for either a guava or the favourite tothapari mango This delicious mango is eaten when raw ( it has a sweet and sour taste) and the fruit seller would allow us to choose our fruit and then with the knife deftly cut it and liberally apply salt and chili powder. The thought still makes my mouth water. It made the journey to the bus stop very enjoyable.

We had the churan seller ( finely ground spices or whatever, but very tasty) that was packed in paper rolled almost pencil thin. We would tap it on to our palm and lick (yes we did) it gingerly. On days we could afford to ( 10 paise) we would buy a huge turkey egg ( hard sugar candy maybe half the size of a tennis ball) which we would pop into our mouth and suck for about 20 minutes.

As much as I do miss the eats, I definitely did not allow my children to stop by for such snacks. I would insist that the fruits be bought and washed and prepared under more hygenic conditions ( realising of course that the taste would never be comparable).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bred in Hyderabad

This is about bread or rather baked goodies in Hyderabad. All those who know me well, know of my love for bread and most things baked. The aroma of freshly baked bread is out of the world. We had this well known bakery called Karachi Bakery in Hyderabad. We took this route when we had our classes at the main University building. Even if we were deeply engrossed in a book or our chatter the wonderful smell wafting from the bakery would hit us at least a couple of minutes before our bus went past the store.
Bread, when we were children did not come sliced. We had this contraption that we used -to slice the bread. It had to be carefully fixed by a big screw on the edge of the table and then slicing had to be carried out with utmost care and not when the bread was too warm. There was also this gentleman who would come with a huge steel trunk on his head which contained a variety of biscuits. The tea biscuit, the ginger biscuit ( which has almost disappeared from the bakeries here) and puffs.

Hyderabad is well known for the Osmania biscuit ( a delicious sweet and salty cookie) and the Chand biscuit ( so called since it has the shape of the chand - or the moon in its crescent stage). The fruit biscuits of Hyderabad are famous. We also have an interesting variety of buns. The famous kulcha which is the flat bread carries an interesting legend. On one of his journeys to the Deccan, Mir Qamruddin (general of Aurangazeb) is said to have lost his way in a jungle. Tired and hungry he met a saint who offered him kulcha and water. Inspite of the saint's insistence it is
said that he could eat no more than 7 kulchas, and the saint blessed him saying that his dynasty would rule for 7 generations ( the Asif Jahi dynasty).

The old bakeries are far and few and have given way to newer and more modern ones. We also have some upmarket ones where the bread costs the earth. Right now with the kids away I am the only bread eater at home which probably accounts for the increase in weight that I have noticed and confirmed by the weighing scale.
I guess I am just well-bred.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Shankranti aka Pongal

Pongal/Shankranti was fun. We had this colourful rangoli that was made and we had the kids and friends at home. Having active youngsters at home is the best thing to happen these days ( despite the mess that invariably follows). The traditional pongal was prepared. I FLEW A KITE TOO!!. Of course the art of kite flying was thanks to being the only girl in the family and also the youngest, so I got to tag along with the two brothers and picked up these skills. It was a lot easier now flying from the rooftop of the building. There is definitely more wind power and flying a kite is not too difficult. As a kid I had the experience of flying a kite from an open ground where we had to use a lot of hand movements to get the kite flying. And of course being able to manouver was another thing since there were more trees around. ( these days there are more buildings and wires that we have to contend with). And making the famous manja at home with glass powder and the sticky sap of a cactus to bind the glass powder on the string. Thank You S-I-L for the happy moments of kite flying.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The youth magazine of our times

When I was a teen (not so long ago :-) ) we had a magazine called the Junior Statesman ( later abbreviated to the JS). It brought a lot of excitement in our lives. We subscribed for it and every week would wait for the magazine to be delivered . You may wonder why the special mention of this magazine? The last post that I made has a reference to Jug Suraiya who incidentally was an important part of JS. I wonder how old he is now. Definitely older than I for sure. There was so much to read and many contests to participate in . (I won a second prize for completing a poem and also a drawing. And in the process received Rs 15 & 10 by money order as the prize! - big money for a teen!)
Every issue had a letter to the editor by Papiya and Tuk Tuk Ghosh, who we all believed were imaginary till a couple of months ago there was a small news item which said that Papiya Ghosh a famous historian in Bihar was killed by some real estate sharks. And her sister Tuk Tuk was an IAS officer. I missed the news item, but had a mail from a friend asking me to look it up. I am sure there were many sad JS readers that day.
A nice article on JS is the one written by Sashi Tharoor. As he writes, the magazine was born at a time when the only channel on TV was Doordarshan (with their agriculture programs). JS reached out to all us young teens. The language was so simple and so unlike the stuff that is printed today. If it were to resurface today, I am sure that no teen would ever leaf through it. They would probably find it boring and instead reach out for the trash that is brought out as intelligent reading material for the youth of today.

Sadly I read that trash too for lack of anything better!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Thanks to the Australia - India cricket series, we have had series of discussions on racism. I read this interesting article by Jug Suraiya in his syndicated column, he has this to say 'Racism is always directed against a weaker group by economically and socially dominant group. In modern times, 'white' (developed nations) have been racist against 'black' (developing nations). There is an implicit recognition, both within the country ( India) and internationally that such 'racist' barriers are in fact a tacit admission of the growing challenge that India poses to the 'white' or 'developed', status quo. India's growing dominance ( instead of the colonised subservience, as was formerly the case) in international scheme of things, be it in IT, trade, nuclear capability or cricket.' According to him there is an apt American saying - don't get mad, get even. Because the whites cannot get even there are more instances of racism. And this he terms as realism.

As one of my children gets ready to fly to a part of the world that can be racist, I read the article quoted with greater interest. Despite all odds, they move to a world where they may not really be welcomed hoping to provide themselves and their children a better life. Just remember to prove that you are superior by skills that you possess.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bombay with my father

I saw a picture of the Mumbai museum yesterday. And I went back in time once again. That particular room was so vivid in my memory. And to think that I had hardly even thought of the visit to the museum in the past 40 years. And of course I just sat and recollected the trip. I hope no one noticed me then ( at my desk at work). I must have had a lost look. It was in 1968 that we had been on our annual vacation to Mangalore/Udupi and my father had work at Bombay. My mother was very particular that my father took me along so that I could have my first trip on an airplane. Air travel was extremely expensive and not too many people had the privilege of traveling by air. And I had my student concession ready - it brought down the fare by half. Those days we did not have to report early, there were no security checks. And most airports had those lovely cane chairs and almost all were quaint old buildings( it was quite like home). The best part was that those who came to see us off could stand on the lawns of the airport and actually wave out to the passengers in the aircraft. We got into the craft (Avro) stuffed our ears with cotton. I had been told what to expect on the flight and that some could get sick and so on. I proudly told my dad as we took off that I was not feeling air sick at all only to be told that we were just taxiing and at that moment probably moving slower than a car . It was quite an eventful trip ( of 5 hours with a halt since the aircraft could not make the trip non stop). And every time we hit an air pocket the plane would dip some 15-50 feet and liquid in the glasses were sloshed all around. In Bombay my dad took off from work one day ( clear instructions from my mother once again that I would have to be taken around and shown the place) and we went to the Bombay Museum- known then as the Prince of Wales Museum or was it Bhau Daji Lad museum ( which started off this nostalgic trip of mine), the Taraporewala aquarium, the hanging garden and Gateway of India. I do not remember much more except that on the trip back from Bombay, we had some great food served on the flight. I next traveled by air about 25 years later!! Well things have changed now. Air travel is not so uncommon. I also wonder how many residents of Bombay ( now known as Mumbai) have visited the Museum!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

And the puzzle that is me.

No, this is not about self introspection. This is about puzzles. And incidentally I thought of the S&G song -'Patterns' since it has this line The pattern of my life And the puzzle that is me.

I have to solve some kind of puzzle each day. There are many reasons - mainly out of interest, to while away time, to keep my mind active ( I read this slows down aging of the brain), to ensure that I take my eyes off the bad traffic in my city ( in the car). I like doing the crossword, the sudoku, the jumble words, jigsaws, or even spotting the 6 differences .

I enjoy most the cryptic crossword. And that is one I have not mastered at all. My father could solve the most difficult crossword within 15-20 minutes. I regret not having spent time with him learning the art of crossword solving. It could have been real quality time that I could have had with him. I remember my parents doing the crossword together. My mother had the uncanny knack of coming up with the right word. She was not very good at it, but managed to get the right word for the last couple of clues my father would get stuck with.

It seems a good idea for people to do any kind of puzzle (especially the ones which involve mental activity) along with a partner. It would be as good a pastime as a game of scrabble on a Sunday afternoon. And watch your vocabulary expand.

To end with S&G My life is made of patterns That can scarcely be controlled

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shilparamam, Hyderabad - the colourful arts & crafts fair

Flowers - dry and artificial -
Footwear in all colours
terracota figures
little cloth dolls
Posted by PicasaThese pictures were taken at Shilparamam, the art & craft fair that is held at Hyderabad. I love this place. There are crafts from all over India. Even if you do not end up buying anything ( very rare), the place is a visual treat.


It was a week I was dreading. There were guests (4) of them landing up at our small apartment. And then my daughter and her two friends. I was not too sure how we would manage. I wanted a good excuse to make them look for alternate accommodation especially since I wanted time with my daughter (who had been away for some time). I really could not find a suitable excuse. The spouse also said he would pitch in and as he said 'it's been a long time since we had people over.' Oh well, I was resigned to long hours of drudgery ( read cooking). My guests landed on schedule. They adjusted to the cramped quarters we provided. They kept out of way when I wanted them to. And looking back, I think I had fun. And it dawned on me that I was not the unsocial type I always thought I was!! That's a good way to start off a new year!
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