Sunday, December 16, 2012

As An Elevator Levitated

I am a stairs person. No, it is not because I am health conscious and I revel in inner joy of burning a few calories. Instead, the reason is elevators hate me. It may sound bizarre but it is true. Initially I thought it was just another elevator breaking down.  What if the elevators you use regularly, at work or at your apartment building, breaks down leaving you at the mercy of the stairs? Not just in one city but over multiple cities? Then you know it not just a coincidence but the revolt of the elevators.

Last week on a Monday I was on the way to work. I took the elevator. The elevator started making grumbling noises and the passengers collectively commented on the noise. I was happy that I was on the way out. Anyways on the way back I realized the elevator is down and I am supposed to take the fire exits. Obviously we were not provided with the keys to the fire exit at the ground level exit or to the fire exit at our floor. We spent an hour outside the apartment till a gentleman going out of the apartment let us in with his keys!

It was all fine as our home is on the first floor. Wait, I go to office the next day to find out that the elevator in the vice-chancellery building of the university is under repair. Too much of a coincidence eh?

This was not the first time the elevators have been nasty to me. It has happened before when I was in Mysore (and later in Singapore as well). I was this naive, young thing who totally believed that the monthly pay check and space to call my own is synonymous to independent woman!

This was something I wrote sometime in 2008 based on a real-life experience. I’ll let you get a glimpse of my younger self.

A mundane weekend in Mysore:

I, on an average Saturday mid day, resemble a walking super market with a minimum of five bags (filled with assorted things vegetables, fruits, milk, ironed clothes and anything you can think off…)

I get off from my home with a single task in my mind so that I end up only with a single bag when I come back. But Women!!!God made them with shopping in their blood and eyes meticulously trained to read the “SALE” board in any language…And last Saturday I ended up with more bags than I could handle…
As I heaved up to the entrance of my apartment I lavished myself with a triumphant smile ...Voila I reached home without breaking a single cover and picking up things from road…:D :D…

The elevator in our apartment was a piece from history. It had giant retractable metal doors and resembled the ones you regularly see in horror movies ..As I waited for the elevator and I read the instructions on the left hand side wall…
“Elevator keys to be used by authorized personnel only…”
Did you ever know elevators had keys? Even I didn’t…Now that it has been documented and pasted for public reference those keys should exists…

          I put my stuff in the elevator’s floor and hit my floor number..wait wait…and it stopped…Great…I pick my packets and ..EEEEEEEEEEKSSSSSSSS I’m hanging between two floors…The elevator is stuck between my floor and floor below….I hit the alarm and stop buttons…They blink at me remorselessly..There is no electricity I realize…

I keep my packets down..Do an “appadi podu” dance feat for 10 seconds…
(But then I remembered all stories about people dying in lifts and lifts that crashed when power came…Brrrr Brrrr.)

I revel..I’m stuck in a lift…for the first time…I call up my mom and my friends and let them know about my “elevated” situation...My mom suggests that I rock the grill and scream for help..I tried…I cried HELP!!!!!!!!!!!  In all filmy ways and tunes…
(I wanted to try BACHAAAAAOOOOO KOI HAI BACHAAAAAOOOOO...then I felt it was a little too dramatic)

Then I whistled and my mom scolds me over the phone...”Girls are not supposed to whistle…”
(I wanted to ask  her “Oh Gyaan Devata, are boys allowed to whistle???”)

But 2 secs after my shrilly whistle went out my neighbors daughter came looking for the source…

“ stuck here..Can you tell the security guy that I’m here…”

I tell my mom about the little rescuer girl…Then the Don of our flat (An aunty who runs everything there, a very helpful being) whom we lovingly call Ground Floor aunty and security guy comes…

They smile at me or are they suppressing a laughter…Hmmm I flash a happy smile and wave from down under….

There in the security’s hand is a long thin cylindrical metal rod .I strain my head to watch my rescuers in action
(“Elevator keys to be used by authorized personnel only…” the words flash before me like a warning…)

He puts it into a key hole in the wall and turns it left and right with little success…After ten minutes of directions from the lady outside the lift and the lady inside the lift he quit …”Aagalla madam..”
(It’s not working Madam)

GF aunty opens the outside door to demonstrate the lever in action to him and I open the inner doors to the lift…They both look at me wondering what this little monkey is upto…I throw my packets onto my floor..I pray to Aamir khan of Ghajini for strong arm muscles and hoist myself out of the lift…Phew I’m out…I smiled at my rescuers who are still struck by the monkey like antics of the girl next door…

I learned two things
  •        Elevators do have keys
  •        Buy only what you can take home by stairs

I only had two regrets

  •        I wasn't stuck with a handsome guy with a background music “hum tum ek dibbe mein bandh ho..”
  •       My rescue team didn't include a Tom Cruise look alike that would’ve stretched his arm to lift me out and said “Main hoon Na”

P:S: My roomies comment :”I thought you go to gym regularly..Then why take the lift???”


I've not edited this piece much. I wanted it to be just the way it was when it was written. It does take me to that era and to the girl I was.
Boy, I did use a lot of full stops and unnecessary emoticons. Nevertheless I think I like her for her spunky spirit!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Age English Fiction By Indian Authors : A Commentary.

I am a reader, an avid reader. I read all genres of fiction (Except M&B and vampires. Twilight was an exception partly owing to its novelty of theme. The only other vampire I know is Count Dracula. He might have been a handsome bloke but is definitely not cut to be a boyfriend.Defintely not mine.)I read English fiction by English authors, foreign authors and translations from foreign languages to English. I read Malayalam books. Well, I grew up reading novels in Malayala Manorma much to the chagrin of my Amma and Ammoomma. (That was at an age I should’ve been reading Balarama or Chandamama.) Bengali translations into Malayalam are my favorites. Apart from communism and fish we Malayali’s share with the Bengali’s a love for literary works par excellence. I devoured Sunil Gangopadhyay’s and Asha Purna Devi’s with a passion reserved for T.Padmanabhan and Madhavi Kutty. Translations from Indian languages to Malayalam have always been a favorite with me. It was my way of knowing my country of diversity. I read through them to understand the different cultures to see the differences, to feel the invisible thread that binds us into one in spite of these differences. Whilst hoping that the beauty of the words in these pages have not been lost by translation and regretting my inability to read the books in the they were written in ;I thank DC books from the bottom of my heart for publishing these translations.
There! I have established my right as a reader to comment on books.

I totally agree that every book that is published on the face of earth is not forced upon me. I can use my deliberation to choose the book off the shelf. The scenario is very similar to that of producers who dish out an apology for a movie with a take it or leave it attitude. This we call the sad state of Indian cinema, once renowned for its world class productions and profound story lines.
The new age English fiction by young Indian authors genre is in a similar state.I am not sorry to say what I am going to say. As a reader I have some expectations from a book. Honestly most of the books that come out in this genre have zero literary value, contain cheap, under the belt, double entendre jokes and is almost always based on the author’s shattered pathetic life. Portrayed over a protagonist caught between his dreams and dreams of his family, it may also involve a romantic interest that goes for a toss somewhere in the middle of the book. And it is not until the last chapter of the book that it dawns on our poor protagonist that he/she was not the one and that sometimes one must choose to rebel for one’s life. It would’ve saved us the book if the protagonist had some sense right in the beginning.

I am being harsh, necessarily so. I have read a few promising authors and I am 
proud of them.I have been fortunate to discover some new authors of immense potential. After all I was not going to call the above mentioned rubbish genre as the future of Indian literature.I would’ve wept tears of blood if someone dared to do that. When I am browsing a book store for Indian fiction I expect books are at par with the works of Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai, Vikram Seth and others. The excerpts from their books have been part of school curriculum in India. It has become a sample of good writing for a child who steps in to the world of English language. That is an honor a new age writer should strive to achieve.   

There is essentially a difference between a journal and a published book. This is something our publishers have seems to have problems in identifying. But then somewhere it all boils down to likes on FB, re-tweets on twitter and a whole lot of marketing gimmicks. All this to sell the first 1000 copies.

I am not expecting a book to be of Nobel Prize winning standards. Just remember this; we all have made mistakes in life. We all have had relationships in life that went tragic. We have all done things we are not proud of. If all of us decide to publish books about all the above said, would you as a reader want to read it?
I am not a published author. I write simple blog posts that may or may not be interesting. So I might not understand the pains of writing a book and getting it published. Now that you are taking all the pain, please make sure that your book does not fall into the category which would sell only its first 1000 copies and never see a reprint. If you are not bothered, glow in your “five-weeks-of-fame” and risk being tagged as trash in public. And remember your books are not works of literature or fiction but a category which is might be labelled as new-age trash.

Before someone tells me that it matters only to be published and everything else is a conspiracy let me share another real life example.
Every Onam the stalwarts of magazine world in Malayalam publishes a two volume digests called Onapatippu. The pages are filled with short stories, poems, interviews, essays and commentaries. It is a literary feast more fulfilling than the Onam sadya. This was so until the late 90’s.In the 2000’s these digests were devoid of stories. I was thoroughly disappointed. The whole season of Onam suddenly felt a little less fun. Onam was always about new dress, feast and the Onapathippu filled with stories! Acha, Amma and me would reminiscence the golden days of Onapathippu.

Bereaved Acha would say,” Oru otta katha polum ilya! Kashtam!”
Not even a single story! Sad!

All of us felt the pinch of the lack of short stories in Malayalam. We read and re-read the old masters. When I think about it now, I realize it was not the drought of stories that prevented the publishers from printing stories. It was the drought of good stories. I am glad that in the meantime the publishers had not decided to torture the readers with sub-standard stories. It must have occurred to them that it is not the number of books that you publish that matters. What matters is the quality of the content. That definitely is food for thought for publishing houses that publish without discretion.
I am proud of the Malayalam publishing industry for their staunch conservative views on publishing. Publish ones worth reading in print. The rest goes where it is deserves to stay-Trash!

P: S: This year during Onam season midst of all hospital stays, sorrow and pain ,Amma remembered to tell me about the Onapathippu.

Nee kanedetha ee kollathe Mathrubhoomi onapathippu.Assalayitundu!”
You should see this year’s Mathrubhoomi magazine’s Onapathippu.It is brilliant!

It indeed is.Called “Kathayude Katha” or “The story of the story”,it contains stories published as part of the weekly from 50’s till date.I includes an interview with the author of the story on the premises of the story.And the authors tell us how the story came to be,when it was written and what made them write that story. Some based on people they have met, incidents they had heard about or some simply from their fertile imagination. It gives us the glimpse of their lives at that time and in many a case an overview of the state of things in general in that era.Needless to say a copy rests on my bedside table!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Loss And A Hiatus

I have been on a hiatus from everything except reading. I was going through a rough patch and I simply couldn’t bring myself to write or let alone spend some time by myself without feeling numb. I lost my grandmother (If you know the Ammoomma who features very lavishly in my posts) to cancer and old age. A relief from sufferings for her and a void that will never be filled for me. It is easy to preach about how death is part of human life until it happens to you. Some losses are irreplaceable .You will learn to live without the person but you will always miss their presence always.

I miss Ammoomma greatly. She was someone who intuitively knew my state of mind even when we are miles apart. My sorrow, my pains, my little joys – she knew all of them. She had no expectations out of me. All she had was pure unconditional love for her grandchild.

I am starting my first job in Australia tomorrow. Today is my last day of freedom. Today also happens to be the day I finished my reading challenge 2012.So I decided to celebrate both by doing some pickling. Ammoomma would’ve been proud of me.

She was a pickling expert. Except for the most recent Kadumanga pickle, Amma always made pickles under Ammoomma’s guidance. She would look at the tender mangoes, poke them around and announce the amount of spices required. Experience is something that comes with age and actually dishing it out in the kitchen. Aged I have, but experience? Well, I am working on the building blocks of making pickles, jams, sweets – A La Kerala Style.

Now, instant mango pickle is something I love. I don’t have to wait for ages for Amma’s consent to open the bottles of pickle left for ageing. The best part is we are done in 15 minutes flat with only one wok and ladle for cleaning up afterwards. I am the laziest cook on earth and would not give you a recipe that is difficult. Would I?

(I managed to find frozen sliced raw mangoes in one of Indian stores last week. I am scourging Chinese stores this week for fresh mangoes.I did see raw bananas and couldn't wait to make upperi’s out of them :D)


  1. Raw Mangoes (to be cut into small pieces)– 2 medium size
  2. Salt         -1-2 tbsp
  3. Chilly Powder- 2-3 tbsp
  4. Turmeric Powder –1 tsp
  5. Fenugreek – 1 tbsp
  6. Mustard Seeds – 1 tbsp
  7. Asafoetida   - ½ -1 tsp
  8. Oil  -2tbsp +2tbsp
  9. Pepper powder– ½ tsp
  10. Boiled Water – ¼ cup
  11. Secret Ingredient (Ohh!!!)

Cooking Procedure:

  1. Cut the mangoes into small pieces.
  2. In a wok heat 2tbsp oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add Fenugreek. Wait until Fenugreek turns brown.(Not too brown, mind it!)
  3. Add Fenugreek powder, Chilly Powder, Turmeric Powder, and Asafoetida.Throw in the curry leaves.
  4. Add boiled water and wait for the mixture to thicken
  5. Add the cut mangoes and salt.
  6. Once the mixture boils switch off the gas and leave the pickle to thicken in the heat of the wok.
  7. Transfer the pickle to an air tight container when sufficiently cool
  8. Heat 2tbsp oil and pour into the container. Secure the lid tightly and keep aside for 2-3 days for the spices to develop their flavor.

Cheat Code:

If you get bored after all the cutting and slicing.Do not worry. Transfer the salted mangoes in to an airtight container and keep it aside. When you feel like it continue with rest of the steps.

Oh! The secret ingredient! Mine is jaggery. A tiny piece added at Step 5.It gives a sweet edge to the pickle and is bound to tease the taste buds.

About the job. It is nothing fancy; just a nine to five contract job with Curtin University as an associate in their in-house IT department. Well, the salary would pay for my shopping binges whilst leaving some positive balance in my bank account much to Amma’s relief. After all I am the wife, I am not expected to be the breadwinner. My earnings are only to treat myself to the spa, watches, bags and books. I shouldn’t worry my pretty head about climbing the corporate ladder. My worry should not be delivering project within the deadline but delivering a baby before I turn thirty. Did that sound like a rant pregnant with sarcasm? Oh! Well then it is another commentary delivered successfully. Beep Beep Pun Alert!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Story Of A Book

I believe a book holds more stories than is told by its pages. It holds the lives and times of readers whose world had shrunk, even if for a few hours, to fit into the pages of the book whilst their imaginations soared over with an unmatched brilliance. It holds glimpses of the lives of hitherto unknown people in the notes by the borders. And some books, rarely so, hold within them a moment of history, a piece of mankind’s eternal search for order in this universe where in chaos has always been the way of life.

Books happen to be my first love. I should’ve been quite young when it happened and I have very little memory of when reading had become as natural as breathing to me. It opened a new world for me, a world I could inhabit when I chose to, and a world where everything fitted my moods. Some would call it dreamy; I prefer to call it imagination.

So there I am, in love with books and a few spare coins in my pockets.
“I am going to buy all the Poirot’s. I have all the Miss Marple’s!” I declared one evening to the husband. He looked up quizzically from his TV-trance. “You know Agatha Christie’s little Belgian detective” I added in case he thought I was talking about some spice brands!

“Really, what good is it to buy books? Why don’t you borrow from library and read it on your kindle?”He smiled congenially and went back to his trance.

I refused to rise to the bait. After all a successful marriage is not just about understanding one's partner but also keeping one's mouth zipped when a bait disguised as an innocent remark comes your way. The husband had mastered the art of ignoring baits of any size and intensity long back. I am still trying to learn the ropes of the above mentioned art form, an essential module in the “Art of happy married life!”

From that evening I have scourged the second hand shops in the city for Poirot’s. Some I found in the racks, some under the racks, and some in the boxes behind the shops. I even know the day of the week each book shop gets a fresh stock.

When I started partnering with a local charity shop to create a book corner I kept my eyes open for Poirot’s.A lovely lady with snow white hair and a laugh like tinkling of bells, Gwen my shop manager soon found out my panache for Poirot’s.
 I was sorting out books with Gwen. Keeping only the books in mint condition and sending back the others when we found a Poirot.
“Ah! Here comes your lover” Gwen said.
It was a yellowed copy of The Clocks.

“The Clocks .Gwen, in this one our little Belgian sits in the comfort of his chair and employs his little grey cells to solve the crime. Neither does he visit the crime scene nor does he speak to any witnesses.” I gibbered on nonstop. I know my Poirots’s. “It was first published in 1963 but this one was not the first edition. Which means it is not a collector’s item. This one is a mere reprint in 1965!”
 “Do you have a copy of this one my dear?”Gwen enquired.
“No darling, I wish I had!”I said flipping the pages and inhaling the scent of old paper.
“Gwen, can I buy this one from you? You won’t be putting this up on sale. It’s far too old.”
“You can take it for free if you want. Even if we return this to the centre, they might just recycle this one.”
I convinced Gwen that I did not want to take the book without paying and made her accept a payment before leaving the shop.

I leafed through the book. The first page stated boldly,
 “John Christopher Cornwell, Feb 1965, W.H Smith, London”

“Wow, this book came all the way from London. The book has travelled more than I have!” It was an amusing thought...

That evening I had to add the edition of the book to Good reads. I was unable to find the book based on the ISBN number behind the book. This was not surprising as most of the old books got published by several publishers and in multiple editions over the years. All this was two weeks ago.

Yesterday I received a very strange call, “Madam, we are calling from Christie’s, United Kingdom. It has come to our attention that you hold a title of interest to the Christie’s.Hmm...It is SBN number '1 332 978 31'!

I strained to get words out of the strange accent, “You mean ISBN number, and could you let me know the title?”

The operator continued,”Madam, it is The Clocks by Agatha Christie. I am talking about the one with is SBN number '1 332 978 31'!”

“ISBN-SBN, all the same. I have it. What is so important about it? It is not a first edition. It’s just a reprint anyway!”  I said trying to sound knowledgeable about book market.

The operator said, “It being an SBN makes all the difference. I hope you know that SBN was the first coding for books before ISBN became the accepted norm.”

“Yes, I know the story.  Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor at Trinity College, Dublin created the 9-digit code for the booksellers and stationers W. H. Smith in 1965.This was later adopted by ISO into a 10 digit code and more recently in to a 13 digit code to make it compatible with the Bookland EAN-13s.” A silly girl from UK was not going to take me for a ride. We do have internet out here and we do know how to access Wikipedia.

The silly girl continued, “I am impressed. Let me give you the background of our interest. Gordon Foster’s SBN code was first introduced to the publishers William Collins Sons & Co Ltd. They printed about 100 copies each for a few titles. The books were then sent to the warehouse of W.H Smith group of stores in East London. Unfortunately before the h books could reach the retail outlets they perished in a fire in the warehouse. The fire was controlled before lives were lost and W.H Smith was insured for the loss of books in fire. What you have with you is one of the books from the original lot.”

“How is it possible? If all the books perished in the fire…You must be mistaken.” I said trying to curb my rising heart beats.

“It is possible. We have proofs from warehouse records which ascertain that a warehouse manager, one hmmm Mr. Cornwell, had bought the book from the warehouse itself. Employees bought goods off the warehouse as it was cheaper than from retails outlets. Talk about employee welfare in 1960’s”

Cornwell, John Christopher Cornwell. My head was whirling. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. The silly girl was going on and on.

“Mr. Cornwell moved out of UK in late 70s and we were unable to trace him. Madam, are you there?”

“I am listening, it’s just overwhelming, all this information...”

“I know Madam, now listen to me carefully. What you hold is the only remaining book which contains the first SBN code of the world. It is in every right a patriarch of all ISBN books. You are now responsible for a piece of history. We are sending a team to authenticate the book .It is just a procedure although everyone in rare books section here is convinced of its authenticity. Christie’s is ready to pay you for this book.”

She named a price that silenced me with its enormity while my mind made plans,” A chunk would be mine, chunk Gwen’s and a chunk the charity’s!”

“Off course, this is only an initial judgement.Once it goes under the hammer it is all speculation.” She said before hanging up.

Did I not tell you in the beginning that every book holds within itself more stories than the one under the title? I grinned, heady with happiness, “What good did ever come from buying books? Celebrate a retirement party before you hit thirty in a villa in Spain?”

Attention readers!
This is the "story" of a book.All a figment of my imagination.Nevertheless, I do hope something nice like this would happen in my life as well.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Megh Malhar From Kerala

Megh Malhar-The Hindustani raga when sung by Tansen lured the rains from up above. Megh Malhar -the soulful late night raga that instils the skies to shed their adornment of dark clouds and soak the warm earth with shower of nectar. Ah the lovely Megh Malhar!!!

Now you must be wondering about the connection between this thoroughly north Indian Raga and the very south Indian state of Kerala. In Kerala when it rains, it rains. Period. Drizzle is only a forerunner of a heavy rain, soak-to-bone showers!
Whenever it rains in some corner of the world ,there would a malayali watching this rain he can never identify himself with. He would  reminiscence about the Edava pathi back home; big rain drops pouring down and palm fronds swinging violently in the winds. He would say, "Oru chai-yum Parippuvada-yum!" and let out a deep sigh leaving his foreigner colleague wondering what the heck does this man chant every time it rains!

Yes, parippuvada-chai the constant companion of a malayali when it rains. It's like Calvin and Hobbes, Like Tom and Jerry, Like Laurel and Hardy- Parippuvada-chai and the rains. For me it works the other way round, whenever I make parippuvada it rains. Parippuvada happens to be what Megh Malhar was to Tansen.
Today ,Parippuvada it is.


1.   Muttar Dal (Yellow Split peas) - 2 Cups
2.   Onion - 3/4 cup cut into small pieces
3.   Green chilli - 2-3 sliced in to small circlets of fire
4.   Curry Leaves
5.   Dry chilli - 2-3
6.   Ginger - 1 tsp finely chopped (optional)
7.   Asafoetida - 1 tsp
8.   Turmeric  powder - A pinch
9.   Salt
10.Oil for frying


Wash the dal and soak in water for 2 hours. Drain the excess water before cooking.

Cooking Procedure:
  •  Grind all the ingredients in a mixer into a coarse mixture. Please take care not to make a paste.
  • Shape the mixture into small cutlet shaped balls.
  •  Deep fry in oil until the vada turns a golden brown uniformly.
  • Wait till it cools down a bit and sink your teeth into the crispy crust of the parippu vada. Yummm
 Cheat Code:

You may use Tuvar Dal,Masoor dal or a mixture.It is dal of your choice.
We cooked piping hot Parippuvadas last evening. And it rained in Perth.

P:S: My friend bought a cycle and we took turns riding it around the park. I was riding a cycle after a very long time. The feeling of cool wind flowing through your hair, knowing that cycling was something you taught yourself after the balance wheels broke one by one and remembering those carefree days of childhood - After many a day I finally felt quite young and not the grown up aunty I picture myself to be.

P:P:S:As I mentioned in the last post, I went for the volunteer job for "Save The Children". I had to do was set up their young adult and kids section of books in their shop. And I found this.

Sometime in 1983 a Steve proclaimed his love for a Katie by gifting her a book. N'est-ce pas romantique?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A pickled mind and some pickled Gooseberries...

With the prolific nature of postings on the blog, you must have guessed the state of my mind. I am bored. I never thought I would say this. I miss working. I miss the deadlines and stale office coffees. I miss bitching over silly people in office and I miss taking a day off just because I thought I am stressing myself out. I think more than that, I miss shopping. You know the guilt free unapologetic shelling out of money for things I believe I need.

Since I really do not have anything to do I have turned into pickling! Here is a simple recipe for gooseberry pickle. It is tasty and uses much less oil than the ones you buy from outside. If it were not easy, I would not even recommend. You can whole-heartedly trust me on that. Oh yes, for a change, it is my own recipe.


  1. Gooseberry – 250 grams
  2. Salt         -1-2 tbsp
  3. Chilly Powder- 2-3 tbsp
  4. Turmeric Powder – ½ -1 tsp
  5. Fenugreek – 1 table spoon
  6. Asafoetida   - ½ -1 tsp
  7. Oil               3-4 tbsp

Cooking Procedure:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan, boil water (just enough cover the berried) with salt and gooseberry. Lesser the water the better it is.
  2. Allow the gooseberries to become tender.
  3. In a wok heat the oil and add Fenugreek. Wait until Fenugreek turns brown.
  4. Add Gooseberry, Chilly Powder, Turmeric Powder, and Asafoetida.
  5. Once the mixture boils, lower the heat and wait till mixture thickens and oil separates

Cheat Code:

You may use Fenugreek powder instead of the seeds. 

If you get bored after Steps 1 and 2.Do not worry. Transfer the salted Gooseberry in to an airtight container and keep it aside. When you feel like it continue with rest of the steps. Please resist the temptation of gobbling the salted berries else, you will not be able to pickle it. Happened to me couple of times!

Today I had a very interesting conversation with the better half. After moving to Perth, the husband deposits money into my bank account every month so that I get to be independent. So today, I asked him if he had transferred money to my account.
“Why don’t you first spend the money I deposited last month? “ pat came the reply.
For a moment, I thought I was in never-never land. When was the last time a husband asked a wife to spend some money on shopping?
Grinning I said,” Your wish is my command!”

P: S: From tomorrow, I start my volunteer work with “Save the Children”. My first assignment is assisting in the setting up of a children’s bookshop. Fingers crossed!

P: P: S: This post was a real potpourri. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nadan Chammanthi Podi and other ramblings

Dear Reader,

Do not worry.This is not another short story. It is not that sea of my stories has dried up but I am giving people a break. I am a very understanding person. I understand the concept of “Threshold Of Patience”. Now read on.


Some dishes are extra yummy when a particular person makes it. It could be that extra spice or the omitted spice or it could be the additional frying one need to do or the post-cooking garnishing that makes all the difference. In effect, everyone has a signature dish to his or her credit. Like Ammomma’s Sambhar with a hint of jaggery, Valliyamma’s Coffee, Amma’s kada-chakka thoran and the list goes on. Some dishes, ordinary by itself, transforms into culinary delights when they are made by certain people.

Yes, Nadan Chammanthi Podi. It’s a spicy mix made of predominantly coconut (yes, thank you, my malayali genes) and eaten with dosa, idli, rice etc. Considering my utmost infatuation with Chammanthi Podi, I can have it with anything. Once I had it with Maggi Noodles. (Maggi kind of spoilt the taste of my Chammanthi Podi) .

When I had to move to Australia, with a terrible heartache, I realized that none of these Podi’s are allowed in the baggage by the customs rules. After having lived on the grace of Amma’s sambhar and dosa podi for years (even in Singapore), this news was a shock.

Amma smirked. She was happy that her prodigal daughter was finally off her apron string albeit a little late. Undaunted I told her Eastern and Double Horse makes Sambhar and Dosa podi’s. Amma did not reply. She mentioned something about the Chammanthi Podi Valliyamma had made.
Oo La La. Nobody makes Chammanthi Podi in the market. That is how I asked Valliyamma about her recipe (The one she makes fits my palate). A sweet heart she is she wrote down the recipe for me.

Today, another jobless boring day dawned. I decided to try Valliyamma’s Recipe.

Nadan Chammanthi Podi

  1. Shredded Cocunut  - 2 cups
  2. Urad Dal            - 5 table spoons      
  3. Coriander Seeds     - 2 table spoons
  4. Dry Chilli               - 6-8 nos
  5. Tamarind                -Size of a lemon
  6. Jaggery              - 2-3 table spoons
  7. Curry Leaves         -a few sprigs
  8. Salt                    -to taste        
  9. Asafoetida            - 1/2 teaspoon

Cooking Procedure:
  1. Fry the all the ingredients in a thick bottomed vessel till it turns a dark brown
  2. Allow it to cool and powder it using a mixer
  3. Store in a dry container.
 Cheat Code:
It is not mandatory that you should use the quantities as given.Add more chilli if you want it spicy.A tad more tamarind for the tangy taste.A bit more jaggery for a sweet one if you have kids at home.

C'est simple, n'est-ce pas? And it turned out be yummy.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Iravan Katha -II

Read Part one here

Ninth Night Of The Great Battle Of Kuru-kshetra (contd..)

Ignoring Arjuna’s trembling, Iravan continued, “I am Iravan, Son of the Naga princess Ulupi of southern frontiers of Himalayas and Son of the madhyama Pandava Arjuna!” An interesting choice of phrasing as though the boy knew who came first for him any day.

Arjuna stood bewildered, his eyes piercing into Iravan’s. The great warrior was for a moment perplexed, not knowing whether to contest the paternity claim or to simply accept the boy. He knew, Iravan was the sacrifice and Arjuna will not do anything to jeopardize the sacrifice. His brothers depended on him, his army counted on him. In a split second, Arjuna knew what he had to do. He hugged Iravan, burying the boy’s head into his chest and hesitantly murmured,”Son”

Iravan hugged him back with fervor, with a yearning repressed for long. Washing away the sorrow of having deprived of a parent from birth, Iravan cried,” Father O Father!”

The camp stood silent with respect as the father-son duo hugged and erased years of bereavement.

“Father, who will mourn for me when I die? Who will weep and wail in the sorrow of my death? I will be buried and will have no right to funeral offerings as I have no wife.” Iravan stated.

Iravan wanted a wife. By Lord Ram, how can one arrange for a bride in the middle of night? This is a war camp and not a village fair! More than that who will want to marry a man who has chosen to die? The girl would be choosing to be Iravan’s widow than being Iravan’s bride!

“I would not give my daughter!”

“One should be crazy to push a girl to widowhood!”

“The war has gone to their heads. That is what it is. How else can one justify this madness?”

The fathers bristled, brothers raged. Iravan will not marry one of their daughters or one of their sisters. No, there is no bride for Iravan in our homes.

As Arjuna sat hunched in despair, Krishna shimmered in to his tent. Krishna put his arms around Arjuna and said,” Sakhave, why this long face? Is it Iravan’s wish to marry that bothers his father?”

Arjuna remained silent, forcefully ignoring the jibe. Pulling Arjuna closer Krishna smiled,” Well, Sakhave, do not worry. As long as Partha has this Sarathi with him, how can his chariot of life go to dogs? Iravan will have a bride tonight.”

Arjuna looked at his bosom friend slightly irritated,” Krishna! It is not the time for the game of words you so enjoy. Which girl would want to marry Iravan?”

Smiling congenially, Krishna answered, “Mohini”

Arjuna straightened,” Mohini? Vishnu avatar Mohini? Mohini who caused the death of the demon Bhasmasura? “

“Take a breath, Sakhave. Yes, the very same Mohini.” Krishna replied as he walked out of the tent to transform into Mohini,the temptress.One of the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu.

So there it was. An unusual wedding. Iravan and Mohini. Mohini and Iravan. A man destined to die and woman who is only a manifestation, a Maya.

Iravan was bathed in sandal and turmeric, adorned with jewels and new clothes. He looked very resplendent as a groom. His looming death seemed to accentuate his youth. The marriage was a simple ceremony. The young couple were carted off to a make shift bridal chamber decked with wild flowers at the far corner of the Pandava camp.
Iravan was shocked to see his wife. He had never laid his eyes on a woman so beautiful that he was sure that she would give the celestial nymphs a tough competition. Her large kohl lined black eyes, her red full lips curved into a coy smile, her luscious black hair, her dusky skin that smelt of champaka tree in bloom, her wide hips, and taut body like an archer’s bow. No, he had not seen any woman like this.

Iravan was wrought in despair. No, not for the destiny he chose for himself. Filled with sorrow for his young wife, Iravan asked, “Why O beautiful maiden? Why did you marry me? I will die at sunrise tomorrow and you will be a widow!”

Mohini replied in calm soothing words,” Veera, why worry about tomorrow when this night is ours? One cannot live in the fear of death. Death happens to everyone. Let us cherish what we have today and forget about what we might not have tomorrow!” 

With these words, Mohini and Iravan spent their nuptial night as man and wife.

Tenth Day Of The Great Battle Of Kuru-kshetra

At the dawn of the tenth day, Iravan was beheaded. The young warrior had walked to his death smiling. When the news reached Iran’s tent, a wail rose from its interior. A wail so loud, so desperate, so heart wrenching, it moistened the eyes of the entire camp. Mohini wiped away her sindoor, slashed her wrists whilst breaking her gold speckled red bangles. She threw away her jewels. Flowers that adorned her hair licked mud. Her red bridal silk gave way to white of widowhood. Mohini cried, shrieked, wept, and wailed for Iravan. Her eyes were bloodshot and voice hoarse from hours of grief. Her wails could still be heard as the conch shells heralded another day of war. No widow had ever cried for her dead husband as Mohini had for Iravan.

The sacrifice paid off. Bhishma fell at the hands of Shikhandi. Ha! The Kauravas did not have the great Pitamah to lead. Victory seems nearby.

In the evening, a relaxed Arjuna said,” He was a good warrior, that boy Iravan. Such a shame we had to sacrifice him.” Clapping Krishna on his back Arjuna added,”Claimed to be my son! Bah! Did us a lot of good! Ha! My son it seems…!” Remorse or guilt were not Arjuna's adornment that night.

Krishna did not utter a word.

Was it because Krishna was upset about Arjuna not mourning for his dead son Iravan? Was it because Krishna knew in two days Arjuna would mourn for his son Abhimanyu? Krishna alone knows.

Krishna walked alone that evening. The embers of Iravan’s funeral pyre were still glowing. Iravan died for his father, for the glory of his family, for the victory of dharma.

Krishna stood head bowed in reverence,” I mourn for thee, O Great Veera, I mourn for thee!”

Author’s Note: I have always been intrigued by Iravan and his selfless act even when his father does not recognize him. There are various versions of Iravan’s story and they are available on wiki. However, this version, Iravan Katha, belongs to me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Iravan Katha - I

Eighth Night Of The Great Battle Of Kuru-kshetra

The warrior stood, his long black hair flying around him, his body glowing in the golden light of dusk, his eyes placid with contentment. He looked down at the weapons that he had sharpened until they shone. The night was warm with a hint of breeze. He could overhear strands of conversation around him.

“Give it a day or two and Hastinapuri is ours”

“If you ask me, just one day, tomorrow, and Yuvraj Bhima  would mash the enemies’ heads like turnips”

There was laughing, merrymaking, and revelry for the imminent victory. There was hope and happiness about returning to one’s family.The war would soon be over, and things would be just fine. Talk of optimism in a war camp.

“Iravan!” a voice called out in the dark. The young warrior stepped forward and walked away from the congregation attracting attention to him.

Courtesy: Artist Namboothiri ,
Who is this handsome young boy? Whose son is he?”

“He is Iravan, son of the Naga princess Ulupi.”

“I meant who is his father?”

“He says he knows his mother who nurtured him in her womb for nine months, gave birth to him, bathed, and fed him. His mother taught him to swim like a fish and to run like a rabbit. She taught him how string a bow and to shoot an arrow. She did everything a father would do for his son and much more than that. He never mentions his father.”

“Looks like the father deserted the poor mother and the unborn child. I am sure of one thing ;he father is not a commoner. His father was definitely a noble.”

“True, Iravan has the eyes of a wise ruler, the body of a king and the gait of a monarch! And how he fights. Just like a kshatriya.Just like a Veera!”

Iravan’s friends unable to hide their pride added,” Do you know he has on his body all the 32 marks that are considered sacred?”

Murmurs of appreciation filled the air until the wizened old physician from Panchal croaked, “I know two other men with the 32 sacred marks in this camp.” He paused enjoying the pin drop silence his statement had elicited.

“The great Krishna of Dwaraka and the might warrior Arjuna of the Pandavas!”

Ninth Night Of The Great Battle Of Kuru-kshetra

Last night’s revelry is all but gone. It was Kauravas day on the field. Pitamah Bhishma turned out to be an astute general. He understood the dynamics of a war and the strategy for winning one. As long as Bhishma stood in his chariot, he was a formidable general and victory for Pandavas would be long cry.

Courtesy: Artist Namboothiri ,
The five brothers, Drupad, Dhrishtidyumna and other leading warriors sat around in Yudhishitira‘s tent and discussed the strategies for the next day. Whichever way they plotted they knew Pitamah was going to beat them at their own game. Vexed they turned to Krishna.

In his mellifluous voice, Krishna suggested, “Pray to Kali, the goddess of war. Pray for victory. Get her blessings with a sacrifice. A human sacrifice!”

One cannot sacrifice any human being to Goddess Kali. The person should be ideal. He should be a man with 32 sacred marks making him a worthy of the sacrifice.

Yudhishitira cried in horror,” No! We cannot sacrifice Arjuna or Krishna! It will be a disaster!”

The wise Sahadeva interjected,” Brother, We will lose this war otherwise. We do not have a choice but to sacrifice.”

Arguments were made back and forth. Words flew sharper than arrows. Between much shouting Arjuna volunteered to be sacrificed. This lead to another bout of hues and cries. The whole tent was reverberating with tension. Krishna alone remained calm and smiled at the obsession of humans with material world.

And then like a bolt of thunder in the middle of a calm night somebody dropped a message,” A warrior from Naga territory claims he was born with the 32 marks. He has volunteered for the sacrifice”

“Bring him in!” shouted a partially relieved Drupad. His son-in-law was safe.

Iravan glided in to the tent, his shoulders square and head held high, emerald eyes shining bright in the light of the oil lamps. He bowed to the elders in respect. A fleeting image passed through Arjuna’s mind. A picture obscured by the passage of time. The boy reminded him of someone. He had seen those placid eyes somewhere. Unable to recollect Arjuna brushed the thought away.

Arjuna got up from his seat and strode up to the young warrior. This young man had volunteered to die for him ;Arjuna the great. Iravan deserved his attention.

Standing face to face with Iravan, Arjuna placed his brawny arms on the firm square shoulders of Iravan and asked,
“Tell me O Veera, who are you?

Iravan lifted his face filled with pride and happiness and said;” I am your son, Iravan!”

(To be continued..)