24 July, 2009

Riddles to the Rescue :))

Remember those dreaded spelling tests ? Oh ! I do remember the spelling tests they used to give us at school. Our English teacher used to look as menacing as the giant when dear old Jack was running down the beanstalk and we used to really sweat it out through the spelling tests.

The much hated, infamous ruler is known to have cracked across quite a few palms and worse still, knuckles – before some children got their spellings right.

Gone are those days, though. Now, if not anything else, children are treated with kid’s gloves at school. Even though the menace factor is missing, fact remains that learning to spell – by itself – gets quite cut and dry over a period of time. It does get monotonous and to put it in kids parlance – it’s so boooooring !!

Understandable – given the fact that children are stringing alphabets together to arrive at a word – or just mugging it up to retain the spelling in mind by rote. My vote is definitely for the phonetic version, though. Teach kids the phonetics of each alphabet and then get them/challenge them to give you spellings of words – as they see it fit – just using the phonetics of the alphabet.

This is how both Macademia and Pecan have been introduced to spellings and they used to love it. Note the past tense – “used to”. I guess, as they grow, as their reasoning capacities get enhanced, this whole process of stringing alphabets together too gets rather dull and repetitive.

The looks on their faces, over the past few months, used to be one of tedium. Gone was the excitement with which they used to tackle spelling tasks. It was just another task to be completed. It had ceased to be an activity that sparked that element of excitement. It was no longer an activity that brought about an exhilaration of sorts, that thrill of having to get something accomplished, that sheer pleasure of getting it right.

Something needed to be done.

Something had to be infused into the formula. It had to be something that would get them all enthusiastic at the very idea of spelling something right. Something that would reignite that element of eagerness, something that would get them all animated and something that would demand wholehearted participation on their part. Yet, there had to be an element which would make them willing participants to the whole idea.

The answer, when it did strike me, was quite simple.

What better than an aura of mystery. A certain amount of mystique, just the right amount of vagueness and ambiguity which would enhance the thrill factor at having found the right answer.

Riddle them !! said that voice in my head. Yes !! Yes !! Yes !! nodded the other half of my head, very enthusiastically and heartily. Riddles should definitely do the trick, was what my mind said.

Initially Pecan was started off on what we called Jumbled Riddles. Macademia was my partner-in-crime on this mission.

I would write down the riddle for him on his book. The answer to the riddle would be given alongside – but as an anagram – all jumbled up.

e.g Children play with us. We pop when children touch us. What are we ?
Answer : LUEBBBS

I am red and juicy. I grow on a tree. One of me a day is said to keep the doctor away.
Answer : PAPEL

What started off as an experiment proved to be a resounding success :).

Very soon, riddles ceased to be an instrument through which only spellings could be learned. If Pecan could grasp spellings through riddles, then the very same riddles (probably taken up a notch or two) could kindle the siblings' thirst for General Knowledge too. It would be a good way to make them hunt for information, to search for answers. It would be such an entertaining and enjoyable way to glean more knowledge and information.

e.g I am one of the satellites of the biggest planet in the Solar System.

I, the biggest mammal, swim in the ocean and did you know that I have a heart the size of a small car ? OK – first you tell me – what am I ?

I am yet to start riddling Macademia . With her, the peg would have to be raised several notches.

Of late, Pecan keeps up his consistent chant “Mummy, please give me some jumbled riddles ?”

Music to my ears, of course.

Very soon, it will not be a question of whether they can crack the riddles I set for them. It would more be a question of whether I am able to keep up the pace and keep giving them riddles that can prove intellectually stimulating, interesting enough to keep them hooked and motivated and thought provoking enough to make them go looking for the answers :)).

Knowing them, it is not going to be all that easy a task :).

However, one thing is for sure.

This journey promises to be a very very interesting one indeed !!

23 July, 2009

Practical Jokes, Anyone ???

Mommy seems to in the midst of a lot of practical jokes these days.

Now those of you who know Mommy would put their hands up and swear to the fact that Mommy, being the gentle soul that she is, would not dream of pulling any practical jokes on people, right ?? Nor does she make people go round and round in circles, does she ? Nah – she wouldn’t even dream of doing something like that to someone.

What she means to say is that she is at the receiving end of quite a few practical jokes.

The other day saw Pecan a.k.a the younger sibling walking up to Mommy with a small box. The box also happened to be covered with a non-transparent lid. So there was no way Mommy could peep through the lid to find out what was inside the box.

“I got something for you” said Pecan, with a rather cheeky grin on his face.

Mommy’s instincts did smell trouble brewing – but for the life of her she could not put her finger on it. This “I’ve got something for you” was highly reminiscent of the time Pecan brought Spike home from school a few months back.

“There’s something more to this” screamed the instincts.

And then there was Pecan, standing right in front of Mommy, arms outstretched, with an “I’m so innocent” look on his face.

“What is it that you’ve got for me now ?” asked Mommy, who, by now, had her fingers and toes crossed.

“Here Mummy – I’ve got termites for you” said Pecan, grinning from ear to ear.

Mommy yelped !!!!!!!!! She almost went incoherent and started to ramble – totally disjointed sentences, confused statements.

To cut a long story short, Mommy was all over the place – having rather vivid nightmares in bright daylight – about termites running amok all over the house and reducing the place to sawdust.

Pecan almost got grabbed by the scruff of his neck and frogmarched to the door – with his box of termites.

“But Mummeeeeee” screamed Pecan, laughing all the way to the door.

“This is SO not funny. You brought home a beetle – that was OK. Termites – No way !!! And where do you get these insects from anyway. Termites !!!!! Yikes !!!!!!!!!!!! Out !!!!!!!! Out !!!!!!!!”

“But Mummeeeee ……… look at these termites” said Pecan

“I am SO not looking at termites and don’t you dare open that box inside the house” screeched Mommy.

“But Mummeeeee ……… these are PlayDoh termites” said Pecan, whose giggles had completely taken him over.

“PlayDoh Termites !!! Very Very Helpful indeed !! Now could you not have mentioned that before” squealed a still horrified looking Mommy.

“You did not ask, Mummy and you are such a scaredy cat” came the reply from Pecan – who was still erupting with incessant laughter.

Needless to say, the laughter continued for quite a while – a persistent, relentless, continuous reminder that Mommy had indeed been caught on the wrong foot !!!

Like Ethel Barrymore once said

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh – at yourself.”

Oh !! Mommy has grown up indeed.

And from the looks of it, she's going to continue 'growing up' at a rather exponential rate !!!!

(sigh) The going just seems to be getting better and better and better !!!

17 July, 2009

Potter Mutter ......

“Wingardium Leviosaa” “Wingardium Leviosaaa” “Wingardium Leviosaaa” came the curious sounding chants – growing louder by the minute.

“What in the name of God is that ?” wondered Mommy, as she wracked her brains (or what is left of them) and tried rather desperately to figure out what exactly was going on. She succeeded as much as a human with aquaphobia succeeds in swimming backstrokes in the pool.

Exactly !! She failed rather miserably, to put things mildly.

The chants were growing louder and soon began to reverberate through the house “Wingardium Leviosaaaaa”.

“Ah ! The nutty siblings must have found an insect” gloated Mommy, all to herself. And “Wingardium whatever-that-is” must be the botanical name for the insect, thought Mommy.

“Wingaaaaaardium Leviosaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” came the screech and it sounded rather painful. Painful enough for Mommy to conclude that the nutty siblings were sitting with the “Children’s Encylopedia of the Human Body” and had come across the name of a disease.

“Yes. Why did I not think of that before ?” muttered Mommy to herself, under her breath.
"Wingardium Leviosaaaa does indeed sound like a disease". A rather painful affliction, speaks volumes of misery untold. “Wonder who’s had the misfortune to have come down with that malady” wondered Mommy.

To further clarify things with Macademia and Pecan, Mommy made her way to the kids’ room and was greeted with shouts of “Rictusempra, Rictusempra”. And a few milliseconds later, both siblings descended upon the hapless Mommy, tickling and poking – while a rather baffled Mommy tried to figure out what had happened to the siblings.

“Locomoter Mortis” screamed Macademia, “Petrificus Totalus” screamed Pecan, while Mommy grew more horrified by the minute. “What in God’s name is this ??” she wondered, while a part of her baffled mind noticed that Macademia and Pecan were looking as pleased with themselves as a cat would look after having polished off an entire bowl of full cream milk.

The look on Mommy’s face was confused and dazed enough to send the nutty siblings into an uncontrollable spate of laughter. Mommy had heard of the term “rolling on the floor laughing” – and now, here she was, actually getting to see it firsthand. And seeing Mommy looking more traumatized by the minute was proving to be a source of intense mirth and amusement for the siblings.

“Expelliarmus” “Expelliarmus” they screamed in unison.

“I’m having Tarantulagra” said Macademia. “Me too Me too” screamed Pecan, through the tears that had begun to flow from such uncontainable hilarity.

Mommy, by now, was not even sure this was actually happening or whether she was seeing things.

“Finite Incantetum” “Finite Incantetum” chanted the siblings while Mommy was busy sending fervent prayers up to whoever would listen at that point of time ……

Once things had settled down and the situation was relatively calm and peaceful – mainly because the siblings had ended up hiccupping madly after having laughed their heads off – Mommy dared venture and ask them what was the language being spoken.

“It is Harry Potterish” said the siblings.

Ah !!!!!!!!!!!!! Realization dawned !!!!!!!!!

Mommy has never ever been able to appreciate the Harry Potter books.

Ok Ok. Now before you decided to clap your palm onto your mouth and go “Oh Gawd !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How can you ?????” – let me tell you this – Mommy has not read a single Harry Potter book. All the books in the Harry Potter series do indeed rest on our bookshelf at home – but Mommy, for one, has not been able to go beyond 10 pages of the first book. That’s how far she got before she threw the towel in and decided that Harry Potter and his bunch of wizards were most definitely not her cup of tea.

So given that little piece of history, it was no wonder indeed that Mommy had no clue that these were incantations from Good Ole Harry Potter books !!!!

Well, the Potter mania continues with the siblings. To such an extent that when it is time for the lights to go off at night, they chant “Nox, Nox, Nox, Nox” and if the lights need to come on then it is “Lumos, Lumos, Lumos, Lumos”.

In the meanwhile, as this Potter mania continues to manifest itself in all its glory in the linguistic capabilities of the nutty siblings, Mommy has made sure of one thing ……………

She’s hidden the broomstick !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

15 July, 2009

"Certified" Solution !!

Hongkong is in the middle of a huge heat wave. Rain falls in the mornings – teasing, tantalizing, holding forth hopes of coolness later on in the day. That, however, never happens. The afternoons and evenings are sheer torture – the heat is horrendous, the humidity levels unbearable. And this ghastly weather pattern seems to be holding firm – much like a dog which finds a huge bone under the ground and digs its teeth into it, persistently refusing to let go.

Right now, saunas out here in HK must be running into the red for sure. They must be filing for bankruptcy and falling to the liquidators much faster than roaches fall dead from a spray of Raid. People don’t really need to visit saunas any more. They can just sit within the confines of their homes and swelter, boil and broil in their own sweat.

And in the midst of all this, the nutty siblings have two long months of summer holidays. Ever tried keeping two little busy bees occupied virtually the whole day – that too when most of their friends have left town and gone over to India for their holidays.

Not easy, says Mommy. Quite far from easy, actually.

Yet again, since the summer holidays began, it was getting quite tiresome – repeating instructions of all sorts – over and over again – to the nutty siblings. Why tiresome ? Because they honestly seem to have memory banks the size of peanuts when it comes to remembering and recollecting what they need to do and when. This, despite being told what to do - like what must be a gazillion times. They seem blessed with the ability to be selectively perceptive while Mommy began to sound like a CD player on repeat mode on a bad sector of a CD.

Give them a cup of milk in the mornings and they’d willingly sit in front of it and stare at it as though they expect some sort of telepathic connection with the milk. Some connection that would automatically make the milk walk up the cup and take a flying leap into their mouths (which incidentally would be closed).

The beds lie unmade and all Mommy needs to do is to rub the magic lamp and the genie appears with a smile and says “your wish is my command”. Yeah right ! Wishful thinking indeed !! Once the siblings wake up in the mornings, they have long, protracted discussions about how to spend the rest of the day. And in the process, pillows get flung around the room, bed sheets come off the beds and a while later, the room quite looks like it has been hit by a typhoon and gale force winds.

Give them a bit of writing practice or some bit of Math practice and lo and behold – Mommy does not need to vaccum the house that day. Their long faces take care of that bit. At the very sight of work, albeit a microscopic bit, their faces are long enough to wipe and swish at the floor every time they walk around.

With the younger sibling, there was yet another issue. In the midst of the horrible heat wave and scorching conditions , we found that the younger sibling was not even reaching for his bottle of water. The rest of the household gulps down bottle after bottle of water – so much so that – when we walk around – I swear you can hear water sloshing in our bellies. We drink enough water to drown whales in – but the water levels in the younger sibling’s water bottle barely registered a decline.

He simply was not drinking enough water. Just issuing reminders to the younger sibling to ingest water was driving the adults in the household to levels of insanity hitherto unheard of. Nothing was working. And we’ve never motivated our children by offering them things like icecreams or candies and such like – to get them to do what they are supposed to do.

Vic finally hit upon an idea. A certificate !!

Certificates are one thing that the younger sibling covets. He craves them, yearns for them. His face lights up at the sight of one and if it is his name on the certificate, quite simply put – his day is made.

And sure enough, it worked like a charm.

Water was being guzzled at a rate that alarmed the fishes in our aquarium at home. Just in case the water in the taps dried up, he probably would have headed for the aquarium looking for water. Or so the poor fishes thought.

And that was how he earned his “water drinking champion” certificate.

On the 4th of July, 2009, both siblings got a certificate for being “the best kids in the world”.

They’d been diligently working towards it – finishing the work allotted to them by the end of the day and all that. Mommy still continued to look as though she was capable of pulling out every single hair on top of her head by the end of the day but then again – that “mad, half crazed, wild eyed look” is fast turning into Mommy’s natural look. Not far is the day when the nutty siblings might say “yeah – that’s how our mom looks – a.l.w.a.y.s”.

This entire certificate thingy (as the elder sibling calls it) has added a whole new fun element into the situation. Like for instance, a few days later came this certificate (which is rather self-explanatory).

Trust me when I say – you really don’t want to know the details on this one !!!

One thing is for sure. The certificates sure have generated quite some enthusiasm in pecan a.k.a The Younger Sibling. Macademia a.k.a The Elder Sibling, being quite worldly wise, knows exactly how this game is being played and how pecan is being “conned into certification” but so far has chosen to keep mum and watch the fun from the sidelines.

Hopefully, what has started off with motivation in the form of certificates for specific "achievements" will eventually turn into habits. Habits that will not call for repeated reminders. Well, one can hope - right ??

Like Jim Rohn once said

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."

14 July, 2009

The Hunt is On ........

Life’s pretty insane right now. Yeah – what’s new huh ?

This insanity, however, as we’ve realized over the past month or so, is a lunacy of a different kind. It is the kind of mental illness, the manifestation of which is brought about when one is on the lookout for a place that one would end up calling “home” …. say for the next two years or so.

Oh Yes !! The Nutty family has been busy househunting.

And we’ve pretty much begun to appreciate the troubles our ancestors must have had – in terms of the hunting business. We go househunting once every four years or so and it drives us up the wall. Our ancestors (I mean when they were evolving from apeland) had to even go hunting for food – that too – every single day !! Hats off to them, I say. But then again, I’m quite sure that hunting for food then must not have been half as daunting as hunting for an apartment in Hongkong.

I’ve realized that this househunting business - it brings about a psychosis of a rather unique kind. The kind of psychosis that has me looking at windows of each and every apartment block rather than looking at the lanes, while crossing them. The kind of psychosis that brings a hopeful smile to my face when I see a pair of windows without curtains on them – a sure sign that the apartment is unoccupied. The kind of psychosis that has caused drivers to be careful when I’m walking around. I mean, I don’t pay attention while crossing the lanes – which means the kind and considerate drivers have to be extra careful !!!

Yet again, this househunting business has brought us into contact with a certain breed – a breed which is unique in itself, in the way it conducts itself, in the way it inflates and exaggerates simple things to such an extent that the whole thing seems manic. Yes Yes – I am talking about this breed of Property Agents. And we’ve been overdosed with them over the past month or so. Such a strong overdose that I’ve actually started to imagine that my cell phone is ringing when it really is not.

They hound you with calls. Calls that are so well timed that they invariably catch you when you are doing something really really important. You drop everything, run to the phone, check the caller display, find it is an agent, hope soars at the prospect of there being another apartment in the market, you press the Call Receive button on your cell phone and you hear the agent on the other end laughing rather manically like Santa Claus high on Ecstasy and then the agent tells you

“I call to say I looking for youuuu.”

“You looking for me ?” I ask, rather bewildered.
I mean, is the agent not supposed to be looking for houses. “Why in the name of God are you looking for me ?” I want to ask but refrain – for it would only serve to confuse the agent even further.

“No No No” ….. goes the agent “I mean …. I not looking for you ….. I looking at house for you”.

“Well …. if you looking at house for me ….. why I not there looking at house for me with you ?” I want to scream.

“No No No ……. I mean …… I not looking at house for you …….. I looking for house for you”.

“Well, I happen to KNOW THAT” I think to myself – calling upon every ounce of self control to stop me from shrieking and screaming and yelling at the now disembodied voice on the other end of the phone.

I don’t do that, of course. We are the ones looking for a house, remember ???

These agents, I’ve realized, epitomize hyperboles. For instance – one agent the other day was extolling virtues of the apartment that he was about to take us to. All along the way he kept saying “velly nice sea view”, “velly nice – you can to see the Victolia Harbour flom your window”. We reached the apartment, looked here, looked there ….. all the things that one looks at while househunting. Not that it mattered to me, but since he’d been praising and commending the “sea view”, I wanted to know exactly wherefrom he “saw the sea” from this particular apartment.

“Oh !! The sea view here here” he said and scuttled away – reminding me of those gazillions of hermit crabs that one sees on the beaches – scurrying aimlessly as though the term “sense of direction” has no meaning. He scuttled from room to room – finally ending in the smallest room of the house and with a flourish said “see the sea view here”.

Curiosity made me peep out of the said window and the sea I could definitely not see. In fact, I was craning my neck at such weird angles that I was in danger of having my neck locked in one of those weird yogic asanas …. the kind that might actually require another person to unwind my neck from my own body. I could still see no sea. “Yeah and I’m the Queen of England” I muttered under my breath ….lest he hear me. Else I’d have had to launch into an explanation of how I became the Queen of England !!! (sigh).

That brings me to the question “what’s with this sea view business anyways ?”. With days zipping past without one even noticing that a day has actually gone past, does anyone actually have the time to sit and stare out of the window at the “sea view”. And this “seaview” automatically raises the rent / sale price of the apartment by a few cool thousands / millions – as the case may be. And just to make sure that you get your money’s worth, one would have to allocate a time for oneself wherein one would have to drop whatever it is that one is doing – just to sit and stare out of the window at the “sea view” for which one has ended up burning a hole in one’s pocket. Gee !!! I’d rather stare at the fishes in my aquarium”. Atleast they don’t charge us a few extra thousands !!!!

“I have apartment with basic electrical and furniture” crowed another agent, with pride dripping from his voice, a few days back. We went along to take a look at the “furnished apartment” and found the house empty ….. save for the wardrobes (which, incidentally, are built in wardrobes in every apartment in this particular piece of real estate).

I did ask the nutty siblings to look around as well – just in case my eyes were playing tricks on me. “There is no furniture here. Nothing. Tch Tch Tch … nothing” they said. Ha !! I thought to myself “see …. me and my kids actually have something that we agree on”.

“Flom this apartment window, you can see the swimming pool. That’s why this apartment so expensive.” said another agent the other day. Huh !!! So we shell out a few thousands more every month because we get to look at half naked men and women at the pool from our apartment window ?? What kind of sense does that make ? I mean, if one wanted to enjoy the pool – one would actually GO OVER to the pool. One would SO NOT sit within the sweltering confines of one’s home and stare out of the window at the scantily clad population cavorting in the cool blue pool like a bunch of seals.

(sigh) To cut a long story short ……. the search is still on.

If the nutty family manages to find a house by the time their current lease expires AND more importantly, if the nutty family manages to stay sane and healthy by the time that happens, then we’ll see you all on the other side ….

If I were to describe my mental state of late, I’d simply quote what Lady Caroline once said

“Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know” !!!!!

:D :D

06 July, 2009

The Traditional Feast ...

(Photo credit : outdoors.webshots.com - uploaded by byebye007)

Saddhi (Talayalam) or Sadhya (Malayalam)

– ask any TamBram or a Keralaite and they will tell you that it is a integral part of life.

Through my childhood days, I’ve seen a great many of these. A full, traditional feast served and eaten on a plaintain leaf. I would go to the extent of calling it an art form in itself – for it takes quite a bit of preparation and practice to perfect the art of eating on a banana leaf.

Through the years, this traditional routine has not just survived but even flourished. There are a great many, who, even today, would stake claim to the notion that a saddhi is not a saddhi if it is not eaten on a banana leaf.

The ambiance, the character that the banana leaf brings about, sets the tone for a very fulfilling saddhi.

Abroad, when one talks about parties and get-togethers etc.. the food is catered by hotels or restaurants. What we see or get to see on the outside is food in all its glory being slowly heated up by the small tabletop burners/stoves. What happens behind the scenes is a mystery. The cutting up of the vegetables, the grinding of the masalas, the very art, sentiment of cooking and bringing together the entire meal – the whole zeal, the whole fervor is missed out on as far as the onlooker or the spectator goes.

In the case of the “even now abundant” marriage saddhis or poonal saddhis – this is not the case.

The kitchen, or the working area for the cooks, is just beyond the dining halls. People are most welcome to feast their eyes on the vegetables and the ingredients right from the time they are brought in in huge sacks, right upto the time when they are cooked on the huge urns on huge stoves.

Come to think of it, there are not too many people at work – cutting, cooking etc.. and yet it is amazing as to how they keep dishing out food like a conveyor belt. Multi tasking in all its abundant glory !!

I remember, as a child, being fascinated by the vegetable cutting skills of one of the cook’s many assistants – elegantly designated as sous chefs nowadays.

Huge pieces of pumpkin, yam, large bundles of beans, big cabbages would all be chopped, sliced and minced with a gusto and speed that would put an express train to shame.

Long, thin slices of vegetables for aviyal, chunks for kootu curry and tiny tiny bits and shreds for thoran (another name for poduthool).

All the vegetables and other ingredients, neatly apportioned, go into their respective urns and vessels for being cooked into respective dishes. The menu, for a saddhi, is quite often the same. Changes are quite minimal. Yet, no one saddhi is the same as another.

The crescendo starts to build well before food is served. People mill about, searching for a seat in front of a spread out banana leaf. Once that is secured, comes the washing the leaf bit. A bit of water poured on the banana leaf and a swish and flourish of the right hand upwards and downwards on the leaf leaves it clean.

The grandiose finale comes when the food is brought out for being served on a plantain leaf. The cook’s assistants weave their way through lines and lines of tables, all looking uniform with many many plantain leaves spread out on them.

They carry in their hands, gleaming steel buckets with the necessary implements for serving the food. It would be dipping ladles for the liquids like sambar, rasam, yoghurt etc…. flat ladles for vegetables like curries or poduthools (dry curry without gravy), smaller spoons for pickles and puliinji (a semi liquid pickle made out of tamarind, ginger and green chillies seasoned with mustard, methi seeds, asafetida, chana dal and curry leaves).

The ladle for the payasam (kheer) would be slightly different – in that it would be curved enough to contain enough payasam to fill one bowl and yet slightly flat to make the pouring of the payasam into the bowls a not very cumbersome process.

Yet again, there still are many of the old timers around, people who prefer to eat payasam too on the plantain leaf and not drink it from a bowl. The asst cooks would pour the payasam on to the plantain leaf on the bottom half of the leaf, whilst deftly moving the ladle from the left of the leaf all the way to the right. The result being a stream of steaming, fragrant payasam which would then be scooped up in the palm of the hand and gulped down. In quite a few cases, the payasam would leave a trail down the hand – from the palm say halfway up to the elbow – sometimes even further and I’ve seen people licking their hands elbow up without any qualms whatsoever.

Then again, there are people who drink payasam from the bowls with great gusto and relish – slurping, glugging and swallowing the payasam in great gulps – in an effort to empty their bowls before another helping of the payasam arrives.

Then again, there are people who sip daintily at the payasam bowls trying to appear very nonchalant about the fact that the second helping might well be on its way already.

Then again, there are people who, after having finished one helping, request quite unabashedly for another helping of payasam without any qualms or reservations.

Then again, there are people who, after having finished one helping, would extend their bowls for another helping whilst holding up the palm of their other hand as if to say “No Thank You”.

As far as my childhood days were concerned, I guess I used to derive a lot more enjoyment from watching people around me eat rather than concentrate wholly on eating what was on my leaf. You get to see such a wide variety of personalities.

I remember watching with utter fascination as some people rolled up sambar and rice into balls (about the size of golf balls) and they would just toss it into their mouths. With unerring precision, I may add. I used to watch sadhya after sadhya hoping secretly and praying fervently that one of the sambar balls would land on the neighbouring banana leaf. No such thing ever happened !! What a pity !!

Then on to the rasam and rice which was a totally different ball game altogether. It would run all over the banana leaf and hands would chase it all over. Once the veterans were done, there would not be a drop of rasam left on the leaf. I used to skip this course altogether. :-))

Then the payasam and finally, to cool the palate and settle the now abundantly filled tummies, came the curd rice.

And after the sadhya, I still vividly remember the dining area of the hall resounding with burps and belches – of extremely satisfied elders – signifying their satisfaction at having partaken a visually and gastronomically fantastic sadhya.

Finally, there would be the digestive aid – Paan.

I used to watch with wonder at the way the mamis spread out the paan leaves, snapped off the stem of the leaf. They would then proceed to spread a little limestone on the paan and then place some betelnuts right in the centre of the paan leaf. This would be followed by some very meticulous folding of the paan. Some of the mamis used to be so good that by the time they were through folding the paan leaf, it used to resemble a slightly large chewing gum pellet.

That’s what I call ancient Indian Origami. :-))

Sadhya – Oh What a Feast !!!

"Who riseth from a feast
With that keen appetite that he sits down ?"
~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616) - The Merchant of Venice

(This post had originally been posted by me on my other blog a long time ago. Since I plan on deleting the other blog, some of the posts from that blog are being moved to Tiny Tidbits).

04 July, 2009

Local Trains - A trip down memory lane

Once, when the "self-proclaimed" beautician asked me about the scar on my left eyebrow, she set memories rolling.

It brought back days of travelling on the "in"famous local trains (the lifeline of Bombayites travelling to work and from their workplace).

Local trains are not quite what they seem to be. When I travel by MTR here, I cannot but marvel at the difference.

Bombayites usually take the same train to work - names like 8.03 Andheri local, 7.45 Churchgate fast etc.. are about as common in Bombay as speaking Marathi or Hindi. Invariably, since people tend to take the same trains everyday, it almost becomes like a little family within each one of those compartments.

I remember, when I used to travel to work, I used to take the 7.51 Andheri local. There used to be a few ladies travelling from Andheri itself and many more used to get in along the way to Churchgate. Sometimes the flavour of the day used to "garam garam bhajias", sometimes it used to be "thalipeeth", sometimes "medu vadas" - we used to have a nice time.

I still remember the sense of worry that pervaded the compartment once cos one of the girls travelling was a student at one of the medical colleges in Bombay. She'd been just 2 months into her marriage when her hubby (who was in the army) was posted to Kargil.

The sense of festivity as one of the innumerable festivals approached, the sense of anticipation as one of the ladies travelling regularly got closer to her due date - all these had become part of daily life. There was so much of camaraderie amongst the commuters.

The ladies compartment used to be reserved for the ladies until 8 pm - after 8 pm even gents are allowed to board the ladies compartments. I still remember, days when I used to get late from work, the gray area used to be around 7.45 pm. Cos men used to start boarding the ladies compartments then - there was no fear of any policemen taking them to task - Bombay being what it is in that respect !! And there used to be this "Asha Aunty" who used to stand guard at the entrance of the ladies compartment armed with an umbrella - be it rain or be it summer or be it winter - Asha Aunty would be there on the 7.48 pm train from Churchgate with her umbrella and God help any gent who tried to get into the ladies compartment then. She used to use the umbrella very effectively. What a sight she was - sari held up slightly and tucked in at the waist, hands on her hips with, of course, the umbrella in the right hand.

Another seemingly impossible thing - boarding or alighting from a train whilst the train is still travelling at a high speed - was made to seem like a "piece of cake" by local train travellers. I used to do it. While boarding a train it was necessary cos otherwise we would not get a place to sit. While alighting, the trick was to jump off the train just as it approached the stairs of the bridge that led out from the station - else the bridge would get crowded.

I remember one gentleman tried to board a train while it was still moving fast and he caught hold of the middlebar (on the entrance to the compartment) and did hoist himself into the train but the momentum was so much that he went straight out from the entrance on the other side of the compartment. Thank God Churchgate station has platforms on both sides.

This happened before I started working. I was travelling by local trains to my computer classes and one day while I was getting back home in the afternoon (trains in the afternoons tend to be less crowded), I went and stood near the entrance of the compartment one station ahead of where I was to alight. The train had just about come to a stop when I felt a huge push and then the sensation of flying thru air and after that I remember nothing - that is till I came to. There were a whole lot of people trying to help me up, someone got a glass of water and I remember blood flowing down the left side of my face and trickling onto my salwar. One of the girls there (I had never even seen her before) helped me into a autorickshaw and she came home along with me.

Our family doctor then took me over to a nearby nursing home where, once the surgeon was thru patching my eyebrow up, I ended up sporting 12 stitches. What a show off !! Not to mention the four stitches on my left cheekbone which the great surgeon decided did not need any local anesthetic cos it was a straight cut - what the heck - straight or not straight - it sure hurt like hell.

That was when I got pushed from the train when someone tried to pull my chain !!! See - it even rhymes !!!

That remark by the beautician "Kya Hua Tha Yahaan" sent me tumbling back down memory lane and think about what has sort of become a tradition in itself - the amity, the companionship on the local trains of Bombay.