H…for happy vishu

Tomorrow is Vishu.
It is a happy day for every mallu child and (silly) grownup like me. So what happens during Vishu?
  • There will be Vishukkani
  • You get to wear new clothes
  • You get to eat awesome Sadhya (feast) on a banana leaf : 26 items including 2 payasams
  • You get Kaineettam from elders
Let me tell you about the Vishukkani which is highlight this festival. Kani literally means “that which is seen first”. So it is very important that on the day of Vishu, your kani is the picture of God. You don’t by mistake also see your face in the mirror as soon as you open your eyes. The previous night, usually the grandma/mother in the family will arrange the items for Kani. There will be a photo/statue of Krishna or Guruvayoorappan in front of the mirror. Then in an uruli like pot, fruits will be kept. There will also be flowers, new clothes, wad of currency notes and some gold. This is just basic things done in my house. In traditional houses, there are half a dozen more details that they follow which I have no clue about.
On the day of Vishu, early morning before Surya Bhagavan can say good morning, during Brahmamuhurtham (between 3 AM to 5 AM) the mother will come and wake up each member of the family. She will cover your eyes and lead you to the room where these items are kept. She would have already lit the lamp and you are expected to open your eyes only after she says, you behold the arrangements made and then you pray.
The scent of flowers, burning incense, ripe mangoes, golden cucumber and ripe jack fruit , the quietness of the early morning can give you goosebumps. As much as I hate any ritual, that feeling when I stand in the room in the darkness with just the light from the lamp and the fragrance, it is priceless. I feel so vulnerable and I must confess I love it.
Another great aspect of Vishu is the Kaineettam. Distribution of wealth. I was told that highly affluent families will not only give money to their children also to their neighbours and perhaps the whole village. Well, in my family, only mother Mary gives me money. My Dad conveniently does not believe or follow any traditions so I never got any paisa from him. Sadly for me, my birthday falls on the last week on March and Vishu is always in the 2nd week of April. There is less than one month gap and people are not very generous.
I also believe that they think I am all grown up now and will feel embarrassed to receive gifts. So these days I don’t get anything for my birthday or for Vishu. Seriously people, how can you stop following traditions? Also, is there a possibility to change your birthday to some other month which is not so close to Vishu?
On that note, I wish you all a happy Vishu 🙂

G ..for geography

I was very good at Studies and always scored good marks in school. But I was not interested in certain aspects of the syllabus. For example, diagrams required in the Science subject. I remember, in my 10th std, I had written some test in Chemistry and when I got my corrected paper, I saw that the teacher had circled it  and reduced 1 mark. I did not understand what was wrong till my friend pointed out that the burette was inside the conical flask which was suspended in the air.There was half an inch gap between where the flask actually was and the table on which it was supposed to rest. Lol!

The next area that never interested me was Geography. I liked history and civics more.. geography theory part was okay but I hated it when my teacher asked us to mark the rivers and places on the map.  I never attempted to learn anything more than what was required. Only the names of rivers, countries suggested at the back of my text book, I knew.

So after my 10th std board exams – social studies paper, in the evening after my mom got home from work, she took my question paper and was leafing through it.
Mom : Achu, how did you do?
Me : Okay, as usual. The map was a little tough.
You see, my mom’s favourite subject next to mathematics was geography. Seems she and her father used to play some game where they had to locate places on the atlas. I am glad my father did not torture me like that. Coming back to my story, she saw the list of places given in the question paper ..
Mom: What was difficult? (Obviously she knew everything).
Me: I was not sure where to mark West Indies.
Mom: **gasps in disbelief ** How can you not know?? Where did you mark it ?
Me : I first thought its near Cuba. Then I thought it must be that small cluster below Australia.
Her jaw just dropped. I had mark NZ as West Indies. 😀 😀
I scored a 95 in that subject. But till date my mom cannot forgive me for marking West Indies there.
Ok.. lemme go quickly confirm once more where it is before you ask me any more questions.


F … for Frog

This happened when I was 8 or 9 years old.

In my old house, when it used to rain, the rain water would get collected in the terrace. The drain outlet was blocked by a piece of cloth. After the rains, my mom or dad would go to the terrace and remove this obstruction and all the water would fall into a huge drum through the pipe. If it rained heavily, then the drum would overflow (which was rare). Most time the drum would be quarter or half filled with this water which my mom would use to water her garden in the days to follow.

The area near the drum would always be slushy. Cos of the water dripping and all that. I don’t remember how it came to my knowledge about the presence of frogs underneath the drum. I am not the kind to venture into the garden and explore. So I am guessing my mom must have passed on this information to inspire me to do something other than being cooped up in my room.

So I did go to see what was there. I saw 2 plump frogs sitting there very still, not at all scared of the intruder (me). I  was offended by this lack of respect. I wanted them to move. Quite fearless, I went inside my room, discovered a metal curtain rod and brought it outside and used it to poke the frog gently. No, no, no …trust me when I say I was not a cruel person. I was just trying to get them to move their fatty ass. But the huge frogs just stayed. I did not want to hurt them so after a couple of attempts I left it.

I remember doing this for a couple of days.  I remember the texture of the skin, the feel I got when the rod touched the frogs..every single thing.  But the frogs just remained there.

Then one day,  my mom came to know that I was doing this. That’s when she lied to me. She told me that if a frog pisses on you, it can cause warts.

That’s when I decided it was time to find another hobby.


E…for empathy or the lack of it

A while back, I found myself added to a whatsapp group by my friend Divya. She is married with 2 children and lives in the U.S. She was on a vacation to India at that time and I guess she wanted to make some noise. To my consternation she had invited nearly everyone in my college who had whatsapp. Nearly 20 people accepted her request and we were all part of this jolly group.  Out of this 20, I may have been in touch with about 2 or 3 people in the last 10 years.

The first few days saw a lot of hellos and how are yous floating around. All of us in this group are 31 year olds. So the next un-interesting question in the group was enquiries about child/children, what school the lil angel or prince (trust me, their words) is studying in, what the hus (short for husband) was upto.

I am married. My spouse and I are volunteers in ashram. We work for an environmental project  and we have decided not to have kids.

So one by one, I started getting private messages from these people (full concern) why I don’t have a child. Are my parents okay with it? Did they accept this?  Am I happy with life.. etc etc,   To some, if I had the time, I explained why we made this conscious decision not to have children and to others I simply gave some reply that made no sense to me or them.

In a week’s time, having gained enough knowledge about the husband, kid(s) details, they ran out of topics and guess what conversation they were having.

Hi gals. Today I made coconut chutney and idli. I am going to make sambar for lunch. What are you cooking?

I couldn’t take it anymore.

Just because whatsapp is free and you are bored not knowing how to engage yourself  …. !!!

I whatsapped Divya – Kindly remove me from the college group.

She did without even asking me why.  I guess she got a little miffed.  I love my friend. But that does not mean I need to know what chutney somebody I don’t really care about is making to have with the dosa she is thinking of making that night.

Right?  Do I lack empathy?

D  … for dieting & doing

I am 5 3 ½ ft  tall (That measurement Madhavan gives to the inspector when he reports Shalini missing in Alaipayudhe) 163 cms.  The ideal weight for my height is 59 – 62 kgs.
As a child I was very skinny, gawky looking. People have asked my mom if she doesn’t feed me properly.  I was than thin. I was however not the petite kind. I had a good bone structure but was skinny. I used to eat a lot. Because of my egg allergy I could not eat bakery stuff.. but other junk food, I would gorge on.

In college I was slim (hardly any boobs but had a nice ass). I weighed around 54 kgs and I thought I looked fine. Today when I look at photos from college days I know that I was not very nice looking.

When I turned 23, I started putting on weight. I weighed 58 kilos and I felt good about my body shape. Slowly I started putting on weight. I remember I was 62 kgs when I was newly married. I was worried that I was putting on weight but since I did not look plump or bad in photos (some people commented that I look healthy only now), I did not bother to reduce my weight.

But it did not stop there. In the last 6 years, my weighing scale has seen quite a lot.  I once went upto 69 kilos and then brought it back to 59 kilos and people commented I looked like a school kid. So then I was casual about it and my weight has again shot up to 68 kilos. But try as hard as I may, I can see that it is not easy to lose weight as I am aging. Earlier just with 1 month of walking and careful eating (fruit fasts and avoiding rice) I could easily and steadily lose weight

Now, whatever I try, there is hardly any significant change.

I have tried fruit fasting, GM diet and many other diets. I never thought I would take any supplements to lose weight but I am. I am on this herba life diet where I drink 2 shakes (morning and night) and I eat lunch.  In the last one month, I have reduced 2.3 kilos. I want to lose atleast 5 kgs more.

Sometimes I ask myself why do I have to be so obsessed about weight when I should be working on my fitness, flexibility and stamina. But somehow. .. I can’t let this go. Being the lazy ass I am, I hate going for walks or doing yoga. I prefer to diet pretty well knowing that any form of dieting needs to be supported by some form of physical exercise. But still…… and I am not doing it.

Sighhh.. every night I go to bed thinking that I should do yoga in the morning and start the day. But somehow I just while away time and not do anything.

I hope I get the strength to pull myself out of this deep shit and do something about my fitness.

C for ….cake

The first time I tasted a piece of cake was when I was 22 years old.

That’s cos, I am allergic to egg 😦

When I was 3 years old my mom fed me a piece of cutlet and I threw up. Slowly they figured out that I have egg allergy. They took me to a pediatrician and the doctor told them that there is no cure and this is something I will have to live with ..for the rest of my life. He also told them “Don’t worry..So what if she can’t eat eggs…give her ladoos”. My parents thought it was hilarious. I did not.

When I was growing up, I used to feel sad that I could never have a birthday cake. I guess my mom didn’t know about making eggless cakes. So I never cut a cake for my birthday. I would see other people enjoying cakes and pastries and I always wished someday miraculously, this egg allergy of mine would disappear.

It is very difficult for me to eat food from hotels. Forget non-veg .. even vegetarian food like chili gobi, naan, romali roti contain egg. If they make dosa on the tawa in which they have made an omelette, that is enough to give me allergy. Once I ate naan from Annapoorna, the most reputed “veg” hotel in Coimbatore and threw up. That’s when we knew that they used egg in Annapoorna.

The worst part is I cannot eat any U.S chocolates because all/most of them have egg as an ingredient.

How did I then eat cake? The dude on my 22nd birthday got me an eggless cake from Hot Chocolate (from a newly opened pastry shop). Since then for my every birthday and even for his, we order eggless cake. Hot chocolate makes better eggless cakes than normal ones I am told. These days, there are so many independent bakers who make eggless cake. So if I want to eat a piece of cake, it is easy.

I turned 31 a few days back.  The dude got me a  cake. Yesterday we celebrated my birthday again,with my friends and they also got me a cake.

So this time I got 2 cakes for my birthday !!!

Honestly, 10 years ago I would have never thought that,  one day I would have a big chunk of cake in my fridge uneaten, ready to be eaten by me after I finish writing about it

B for … Bilimbi

Averrhoa_bilimbi_fruit_by_Sugeesh.jpgI was having bilimbi pickle today afternoon and I felt that I should dedicate my next post to Bilimbi fruit.

Bilimbi, also called irumbampuli in Malayalam is a sour tangy fruit that always reminds me of my childhood. There used to be this huge bilimbi tree in my grandma’s place and every summer it used to thrive with juicy fruits.  I used to mix some salt and chilli powder in a kutti dabba and keep on eating this the whole day.

This is an unusual tree in Coimbatore because none of my friends here have seen or eaten this fruit. So who planted this tree in my grandma’s house?

When I was in pre-kg, my dad used to drop me at my grandma’s place every Saturday morning and pick me up in evening. Sometimes I would go over on a Friday evening and be there the whole weekend. I loved being with my Grandma. She was this huge, warm, loving soul. I have extremely fond memories of her.

My Grandma used to give me chukkati pazham (manathakkali) from her garden every day. She had 2 kinds..one that has red berries and another with black berries. Every afternoon, she would go out to collect the clothes that she had left to dry in the sun. I would also tag along and help her carry towels and banians and sometimes even a saree or two.

One afternoon, she plucked some berries and gave some to her new Daughter in Law. She did not notice my crumbling face and the scream that followed. You see, the single child syndrome started very very early. I stomped off into the garden.  Poor Grandma wanting to mollify me followed my tracks to find me covered in soil with a plant in my hand. No, its not the chukkati pazham.. I had uprooted a new gooseberry plant that she had planted that morning. I must have 3 or 4 years old when this happened.

So my poor grandma went to the nursery and got a new sapling.  When the tree started fruiting only everyone new that it is a bilimbi tree. (Both trees have similar looking leaves)

After many years only my mom told me the full story behind this bilimbi tree. I never knew I had such a temper back then. Maybe it was because I could act nutty with my grandma and there was no consequences to be faced.

Well, in a way it was good I got angry … we all got to eat bilimbi for many many years.