April 15, 2011

Happy Beginnings.... :)

We are celebrating Vishu today which is the beginning of a New Year observed by all Malayalees & Palakkad Tamils. Honestly, as kids, my brother & I never understood the meaning of Vishu or the significance of seeing the Vishu-kani first thing in the morning. But the part we loved the most about this function was the vishu-kaineetam. ;p

Before I keep throwing some more regional words, let me get back to the basics.

The lucky sight/gift or Vishu-kani as it is called, is the first sight to be seen on Vishu which is considered auspicious. It mainly comprises of an arrangement (in front of God or your house temple) of different varieties of vegetables, fruits, some gold ornaments, lamps, wicks, a huge mirror, lots of flowers, a bowl of water & a bowl of currency - notes/coins. This has to be prepared the earlier night itself so that when you open your eyes on Vishu, this is your first sight of the year.

Vegetables like bitter gourd, snake gourds, fruits like grapes, bananas, apples, oranges, jackfruit or mangoes, flowers primarily yellow laburnum, some gold ornaments like a necklace, bangles, other miscellaneous items like peppercorns (spice) , lentils (dal) are placed in each half of a coconut mounted on a plate. A big mirror is kept adjacent to the arrangement so as to see the entire sight through it.

Vishu-kaineetam is the custom where all elders in the house have to gift money to all young family members and I mean it; you cannot to choose to skip giving away money to some people. 'Kaineetam' roughly translated as pocket money ranges from as low as Re 1 to a very generous Rs. 500 or even more :)

Usually the eldest family member in the household is the most unfortunate in these cases as there is no one to give him / her money in return. Its a time to collect money & spend that earned amount for goodies, chocolates or anything you want. Mom dad cant ask you to give them the money for household expenses as YOU have rightfully earned it by doing namaskaram (the full obseisance posture by boys & the partial posture done by girls) to all the elders in the family.

Getting this pocket money on Vishu has always remained a treat for my sibling & me to compete & see who makes the most money. :)

A feast (with exquisite curries, raitas) is served at lunchtime. This has to be a combination of sweet, salty, sour & spicy food. Traditional attires are brought out of the wardrobe to be flaunted in all finery. I really saw a lot of heads turning in office today as I was in a traditional Malayalee set saree & all others in the campus were in Friday casuals.

Time to go & gorge on some mouth-watering payasum (kheer) for now....
Here's wishing everyone a very Happy Vishu!

For more information on this festival - click here or here.
Ciao ... :)
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April 13, 2011

I miss you Thatha !

'Thatha', in Tamil, means 'Grandfather'.... Though for me, this word has been the substitute for many other synonyms like - parent, teacher, guardian, pillar, strength and what not...

My dear thatha, I need to thank you -
1) For always being there for me no matter what the situation or circumstance
2) For showering me with your unconditional love & blessings 24/7/365 days
3) For taking care of me more as a daughter than a grand-kid
4) For showing utmost concern irrespective of whether you were 50 or 75 yrs old
5) For ensuring I got the best of all worlds my entire life with you

Why you mean so much to me is because -
1) You kept vigil patiently outside the hospital room and slept on the cold floors while your hours-old first grand-kid struggled to breathe in the incubator for being born prematurely
2) For your family, you were always strict, strong & rigid while you turned soft, mellow & caring for me
3) You would always send me gifts while I grew up in a far away land in my early years
4) You would always speak to me on an international phone call every Friday to check on how your little princess is doing
5) You would always call me your "Koyandai" - little baby in Tamil (which hit me hard after you left as I have no one who calls me that now in the same way as you did)
6) You never reprimanded or shouted at me but always chose to pick / correct my brother. It just proved how much you loved me.
7) Every year during vacations you would come to the airport to pick us up & see us off without fail. Not once do I remember you saying - I am old now. I cant come to see you off at the airport.
7) You open-heartedly welcomed your grand-kid to come stay with you to ensure she can complete her higher studies in Mumbai
8) In the absence of my parents, you accompanied me to my numerous admission processes there-after without any excuse
9) You cooked for me & made dishes the way mom would make (not once did you allow me to enter the kitchen for fear of me getting hurt)
10) When I was seriously ill during my final year practicals, you climbed 5 floors to my college & waited for me to complete the exams to take me back home
11) You treated my college-mates & friends specially & made them feel at home always
12) You left an everlasting mark on all my college staff - right from the principal to my professors (they still remember you)
13) You always accompanied me to all my dance competitions or programmes & equally rejoiced with me when I won the prize 
14) You collected & treasured snaps of my childhood
15) You adjusted when I was having trouble with the generation gap in my initial years in Mumbai as an adult
16) You wanted me to take the job in Mumbai than the one in Pune just so that I dont go far away from you
17) You never complained that I never called you during my 7-month tenure in UK
18) You always had a soft corner for 2 people in your family - one was your son and the other was ME !

I never got to know my maternal grandmom the way I got to know & live with my maternal grandpa but I now realise that God wanted me to experience the love of both grandparents in one human being - in 'YOU'.

The 'Nirapara' ritual (filling up of a brass vessel with rice or sugar till it overflows to God; praying to Lord Ayyappa to always bless us with enough food & having no days of hunger) which you started for my good health 26 yrs back still continues.... thanks to you...

And today, being your 3rd death anniversary reminds me of the last moments you spent on the hospital bed besides those 2 people who have remained your favorites since their births - your son & me ! When I come to think of it, I feel blessed that I got to see you at the end. I needed that to feel your presence thereon every time.

I can never thank you enough for the role you have played in my life. I really miss you Thatha ! May your soul rest in peace !
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April 2, 2011

Try, try, try until you succeed at ........ BLOGGING !

True ! This being my 3rd & probably the last attempt in creating a blog. Hopeful this time round, of having the patience to maintain it, the energy to flood it with my thoughts, experiences, opinions and most importantly & necessarily - finding the time to write amidst my crazy schedule of work, home, dance etc etc.

My first encounter of an actual blog was over 5 years ago when I had just started working soon after college. A junior in college happened to chat with me online and requested me read his blog. Pardon me my lack of knowledge at that time, but I was confused and didnt understand what he meant. I waited patiently for him to explain ... till he pinged back with a web link. Unsure of what to do next, I replied - "Sure" and thought that that was probably it. Until he again pinged and asked me to give him feedback of what I thought of his writing skills. So I clicked away to take a look at his so-called 'blog' and reached a full length page recorded on that day. It took me some time to understand the purpose of writing one's personal views & thoughts on the internet and not just keep it with oneself but share it with friends, family & all.

I did read the junior collegian's blog for a while till I got busy with my other stuff. I again found myself in the same spot a couple of years later when a close office friend kept telling me to read his blog whenever we would speak, chat & blabber. I would always end up promising to read it & then forget. He eventually succeeded one day when he was speaking with me over the office line and emailed me his blog link.

"Right now?" - was my question when he asked me to tell him what I thought of it right away. He said - "Yes please. I want you to read it now." I must admit with his amazing writing skills, anyone would stay hooked to his blog. He inspired me to start a blog of my own.

Knowing the only person who I knew would read my blog, I asked him to read mine as soon as my first post was ready (yes I had resorted to coaxing my friend to read the post during office hours the same way he cajoled me ;-)). And thus I found my first follower.

My first blog didnt survive beyond a month or so due to an onsite work assignment. As I did not have a laptop or a net connection at my beck & call for nearly 6 months, I had long forgotten about my blog. On returning back to India, I did replenish my blog with few posts but that didnt seem to continue for very long either.

Getting back to the same blog again seemed a bit boring to me so VOILA... I ended up creating a new blog couple of years later with a new name, link..... everything new. I even accredited the new-found inspiration to another office colleague whose blog link I happened to read through Facebook. A well-written blog; her blog turned out to be a nice read with positive thoughts & good experiences. However, my 2nd blog also ceased to exist post December last year.

A new resolution, a new thought in a new year - one of my New Year's resolutions was to record atleast 1 exciting thought that I encounter every week in a blog. While I had the excitement & enthusiasm to kick-start the 3rd blog right away, God & my laptop had thoughts of their own. And so one fine day, my laptop decides that maybe it should not start everytime I switch on the device & that it should probably take its own call making my life harder. 3 months down into the year and what was originally supposed to start with a New Year thought has now started with a new quarter beginning & a new laptop ! ;)

Oh well, better late than never ! Welcome to the 3rd blog I am writing. Definitely intend to keep this one going for some time. Will I be successful 3rd time round?

Hmmm..... Going by the famous proverb and by a third trial, I am surely headed towards success ! :-)
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