Archive for the ‘nostalgia’ Category

My husband says I thrive on nostalgia. And that seems to be true. Today I was reading Smitha’s latest post on textures and I was pulled back into nostalgia yet again. Any South Indian worth their salt would attest to the fact that a collection of silk sarees is what a South Indian woman is most proud of, after her kids, that is! So was my ammamma, my mom’s mom.

She had a huge collection of Kanchi, Kota, Patolla, Pochampally, Venkatagiri, Gadwal and many more(these are the ones I know) and kept them all wrapped up in an old, soft cotton saree in her almirah. I remember when she thought she was done with wearing pattu sarees(this was after my grandfather died, she was a very traditional woman), she gave them away to her five daughters. Among the sarees my mom got was one maroon with yellow border. This one also had huge yellow polka dots on the body, and a green and yellow cheques Kanchi saree. Both were gorgeous but they were too treasured to be ever worn again by my mom. She kept them wrapped up, in a soft cotton saree, of course.

Ammamma only wore traditional silk sarees, ones with a large border and a solid body, my mom’s silk/pattu saree collection on the other hand spanned the whole gamut from traditional ones to modern takes on silks like turning/temple border, non-south Indian types like Paithani, Kora, Ikat, Narayanpet, to what I call ‘light’ silks like Mysore silk and raw silk. And the way my mom takes care of her sarees is amazing. She must have like a 100 different ones, that she wraps up in bundles, each bundle having a specific type of sarees. So she would not mix her traditional silk with her everyday wear Mysore silk, she separates her silk sarees by type. Cottons are also separated by Bengal Cotton or other cotton, another bundle holds all her garden sarees, and finally there is a bundle with all ‘special’ sarees, like her wedding saree, the sarees she wore for our namakaran etc. Now she doesn’t just let her sarees sit in bundles statically until she has a chance to wear them. No! She takes a bundle out every other week, airs the sarees for a couple of hours, then changes the saree folds so the inside becomes the outside, and puts them back.

Oh but we were talking about pattu saree memories here, not about how to organize sarees. For as long as I can remember, there is a whole process for selecting what saree to wear to a family event. Of course at a family event one HAS to wear a silk saree, and given that my mom has 4 sisters and a brother and a HUGE extended family, there are always weddings, engagements, namakarans, major birthdays, gruhapraveshams, shashtipurthis and the like. A few days before an event there is a whole saree selection ritual that takes place. My mom’s sisters call one by one, and they talk about what they are wearing and what she is wearing, so as to ensure that there are no color clashes at the said event. Also, sometimes the sisters have similar sarees in different colors, so they also need to ensure that no 2 sisters are wearing the same type of saree, then the discussion drifts to what jewelry goes with which saree. My mother is the youngest and she is influenced a lot by what my sister and I tell her about accessorizing, but her older sisters believe in showing off ALL THEIR JEWELRY at big events like weddings. So there is a whole discussion about how my mother should add maybe one more gold necklace to the already heavy gold necklace she plans on wearing. Then there would be another discussion about how her daughters don’t want her to overload on gold blah blah! Well, after such similar discussions with the remaining sisters, my mom would proceed to air out the chosen one(saree) and keep the blouse and underskirt ready…phew! On the day of the event there would be detailed appraisals of the sarees and jewelry and the styling etc. All this was very amusing to me, but participating in this tedious affair was never my forte. While my mom took to all this like a fish in water, I was always flailing my limbs at the prospect of having to dress up!

In spite of my reluctance to dress up, if there is ever one thing I would love is to have a collection of beautiful silks. A collection that would make the South Indian woman in me proud. Not a huge one, but a modest one, with maybe a Kanchi, a Kota, a Pochampally, a couple of Mysore silks, a Gadwal, and oh! a paithani too! Then I would air them out every few weeks, just like my mom does, and look at them lovingly. That would be my treasure, to be passed on to my children, if they are interested, that is!


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More heartbreak

I was just talking to my friend about this news link she sent me about the Srilankan maid who was operated upon to remove nails that her Saudi Arabian employers had hammered into her. And we got talking about what gives people the right to behave in such an inhuman manner with other human beings. This triggered an old memory.

There used to be this family who lived in a house diagonally behind ours, and we shared a wall corner. The family consisted of father, mother, a daughter and a younger son and there was a weak, frail old person too, the grandfather. We used to call him dadaji. Dadaji was a couple of years older to my own Tata and they both were good friends, going on walks together and going to the temple with flowers ‘picked’ from all neighbors’ plants ;-). We kids also got along quite well. So everyone got along well, but there was an unspoken tension between us two families. The reason for which I understood when I went to their place one day, and saw that dadaji lived in the space under the stairs, outside the actual house. And his ‘room’ had an aluminium plate, an old glass for water, and a thin mattress. A small bag held his possessions. He was provided 3 meals a day in his plate, and he had to eat them in his ‘room’ and wash his plate afterwards. He was not allowed to play too much with his grandkids. My parents and grandparents knew about this, and hence they were always cold to dadaji’s son and bahu.

Dadaji often came over to our place to have tea, and sometimes to eat too. One day, since dadaji was not feeling very good, I and my sister were asked to walk him home. We did so and waited at the gate so dadaji could safely walk into his ‘room’. No sooner did he step into the premises, the bahu walked out of the house and started yelling at him. I don’t exactly remember what she said but the essence was about why he ate at other people’s houses and tell them she doesn’t feed him well. I remember the tears in dadaji’s eyes. He mumbled an apology and closed his eyes.

I never ever spoke to aunty after that. We had two grandparents at home and I could not imagine any one of us yelling at them for having eaten at a friend’s place. That was the last we saw of him. 2 days later we found out that dadaji had passed away the same day the incident happened, and they only found he was dead the next morning when he did not wake up. For a whole evening the old man’s body lay there, and no one knew. Because none of them actually spent any time with him.

Why did I think about this? Because if human beings are capable of behaving in such a disgusting manner with their own relations, imagine what they can do to strangers.

I still remember dadaji’s smiling face, his old, bent body, his bald head and his flimsy clothes. He was a very nice person, who, I am sure, went to heaven, unlike his son and bahu, who are going where the bad ones go!

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and again.

There are some movies that hold your interest in spite of having watched them over and over again. Every time you watch them you discover new things, new situations, new nuances you had missed during the previous viewing. My list of such movies mainly consists of classics, but there are a few modern ones that also make the cut.

1. 12 angry men – Ahh 12 sweaty men in a tiny room with a task at hand. Men who overcome their prejudices and egos to arrive at a decision. Every time I watch this movie I find something new in every character.

2. To kill a mockingbird – Atticus Finch is Gregory Peck and Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch. The movie is 100% true to the book, and does not leave any details out. It is the simplicity of the story and the remarkable way in which the actors fir the charactors that makes this movie so popular with people. It is a pity Harper Lee stopped writing.

3. Harry Potter series – We have the whole movie series at home, and I still watch them when they are aired on the television. last night they were showing Sorcerer’s Stone on ABC Family and I couldn’t have been happier. I love the way most of the important actors have been retained movie after movie, giving them a chance to grow, literally and figuratively. My favorites are Harry, Ron, Ginny, Lupin(although his character has not been explored as much as I would have liked) Snape and the old Dumbledore!

4. The Devil Wears Prada – This one, I confess, is my vice. Most people might not think it worth watching this one more than once, but for me, it is like eating that second samosa just because it is in the plate. The way Miranda Priestly(a super bitchy Meryl Streep) scans Andrea(Ann Hathaway) from toe to the top of her head, and makes Andrea feel like crap is THE SCENE of the movie. But my favorite character has to be Stanley Tucci as Nigel. The dialog that has me in splits is:

This… ‘stuff’? Oh… ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.

5. Dil Chahta hain – There is no way I would get bored watching DCH. Every single scene elicits laughs from me. I even mouth the lines along and laugh! I don’t really have any favorite scenes, most involving Sameer and his girlfriend Priya are hilarious, as are those with Akash in the party!

6. Anaganaga Oka Roju – This is a telugu movie directed by Ram Gopal Verma in his pre-factory-crap days. The best dialogues are – “Idi pen anukunnava, kadu gan”, and “Idi gun anukunnava, kadu pennu”! Most of the people were smalltime actors at the time. Urmila Matondkar, Chakravathi, Brahmanandam, Raghuvaran and Kota Srinivasa Rao. If you can understand telugu this is a super movie to spend fun a weekend on.

8. Golmaal – All the lines in this movie are legendary. Amol Pakelar either must be like Ramprasad in real life, or must have had a tough time shaking the act off! Utpal Dutt lived and breathed Bawani Shankar. There was no way Golmaal could have been a  success without these two, oh and Deena Pathak too! basu Chaterjee must have been a genius of giant proportions, how else would you explain a 1979 movie still having us in splits!

9. Pride and Prejudice BBC series – Again a classic. It is pretty long(5 hours) but is loyal to the book. None of the important situations are missed, nor is the amazing dialogue. Small things, like the way Darcy looks at Lizzy when she is dancing with Wickham, and the way Mr. Collins hams about Lady Catherine de Bourgh are not to be missed. I love the interactions between Lizzy and her papa. Truly a must watch and one worth watching again and again!

So, go on, tell me, which movies keep you going? Which ones do you keep going back to when you want wholesome entertainment?

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Warning – This is a long and very emotional post. Please feel free to skip reading it. Sometimes some things need to be written down before you can get over them.

A couple of months back I completed the very first year of my life without grandparents. And it sucks. My last surviving grandparent, my paternal grandmother passed away last year, and life has been weird without wrinkly old people to tell you that they love you on phone.

I will not say life has stopped, on the contrary it has gone ahead full steam, but there is a gaping hole. The next time I go back home I know I will not find my ajji sitting with her feet up on the white chair, with her big nose ring, her sparking bangles and her crumpled and soft cotton saree. I have already gotten over the fact that I will not see my tata sitting on his cane chair near the gate, looking at people and vehicles on the road, waiting for my mom to come home from work and make him a hot cup of tea. Or that he will go out for a walk early in the morning and pluck flowers from the neighbor’s plants!

Both my ajji and tata were a constant presence in our lives. Me and my sister were their favorites among all other grandchildren. That was perhaps because they lived with us. My tata used to walk me back from school every single day. He used to wait for me at the school gate and initially, until class 2 or so, he used to put my bag on his shoulder, carry my bottle on another shoulder AND pick me up and walk about 5 km home. Later, as I got heavier, he used to just carry my bag and water bottle(!) and hold my hand while I walked along. Slowly I got him used to just walking along, and I carried my own bag and bottle. I remember the day I asked him if I could come home by myself, he looked sad. She is going to come home by herself, is what he told my ajji. He did stop waiting at the school gate, but he would walk to the end of the street near home and wait for me there. Whenever I took a detour with friends to chase dragonflies or to steal berries from people’s gardens it took me a little later than usual to show up, and I would find him walking towards the school.

One day, I was 13, and was sitting in my class 8J classroom. The social studies teacher was talking about something, and my father knocked on the door and asked for me. I was so excited that I was getting to go home early, and I could play with my sister. But as soon as I went out I saw his eyes were moist. I was scared and confused and did not ask any questions for fear of hearing something bad. It was not until we got home that I came to know that my tata had suffered a heart attack. It was the first time I realized that my tata was getting old, and that there would be one day he would leave us forever. After that heart attack there were numerous times when he was hospitalized for one thing or another, but we knew that he would pull through. He was a strong man, and absolutely hated doctors and medicines and (of course) injections and would keep pestering my dad until he was sent back home. There was this one time when there was a sodium imbalance in his body, which led to him acting a little weird. He used to yell at us all, and cry. After being admitted to the hospital and being given heavy doses of medicine to restore the sodium balance, an evaluator was asked to evaluate him to see if he was balanced enough to resume normal life. The evaluator was asking him questions like who is the prime minister of India, what is the capital of India, how many children do you have etc. Tata was furious and he said I might be old but I am not mad. I am better now please send me back home! And he was back home and as active as ever. After so many hospital visits I was so firm in the belief that tata would never leave us, that I became complacent this one rainy season of 2003. I was working in Mumbai and it was a fine July morning. I knew he was in the hospital but my father told me he was speaking and eating well and would be sent back home in a few days. At the Mahindra and Mahindra bus stop I was waiting for my bus when my mobile rang. It was dad and as soon as I picked it up I heard him cry. I knew this was it and I stopped listening to what he was saying. It was raining hard and thankfully my tears were washed away and my grief was not out there for everyone to see. But one kind lady saw me sobbing and asked me if I needed help. I politely declined, got into an auto and took the first flight home to say goodbye to tata.

It has been 7 years since that day, and not a day passes by when I don’t think about how cool he was, and how awesome he was and how much I regret not having kids at 20 so they could also have the honor of having been raised by him. He was the second grandparent to pass away. My maternal grandfather passed away way back in 1998, and my memories of him are all the times he yelled at us kids to wake us up when we slept late into the day while the hot sun was beating down on us on the terrace. He also dabbled in homeopathy and had a sweet goli for every malady that struck us! He was the silent types who believed in showing only one emotion, anger. My maternal grandmother, ammamma on the other hand was a picture of patience and love. From the food she cooked to the stories she told, she was the best.  She passed away in 2006, a couple of months after I got married. I was happy in the knowledge that she blessed us and that at least I had another grandparent around. And see what happened now? Even my ajji left us last year, so now my kids will never get to see who taught me to sing Marathi songs, or to eat dahi, varan and bhat or my undying faith in Sachin, or calling Andhra Pradesh, Andhera Pradesh!

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I seem to be living in the past. Just the other day, I was thinking about good old doordarshan. And chanced upon an old episode of Surabhi where they interviewed an up and coming music director from South India, Allah Rakha Rahman. Surabhi was a treat in those days. When vacations only meant going to nani/dadi/ammamma/mama etc’s village, and not getaways to exotic places like Kerala, Cherrapunji or Jammu! Surabhi used to fill that gap for me and thousands of kids like me who liked to roam the world. Every week one of their “Team Directors” took us all on a journey that would send us into a tizzy. Oh and what about sawal jawab? How many competition postcards did we send them in pursuit of that elusive 4 day-5 night free stay in one of them five star hotels at those exotic locales?

Also, did you girls ever drool on Renuka Shahane’s delicious black/white metal jewelry? And her beautiful handloom sarees and salwar kameez? I remember me and mom talking about her pretty jewelry week after week, and my sister and dad being clueless. I also remember that Renuka was the only short-haired woman I knew who wore traditional clothes, and carried them off superbly. She seemed right on the cusp of fashion in those day, didn’t she? And what about Sidharth Kak’s cotton kurtas? He was the older, calmer anchor, while Renuka was the chirpier one with her colourful attire and her toothy smile!

It is a pity there are no shows like that these days. I guess when all the audience wants is reality tv and catty women at each other’s throats, there would be no shows like Surabhi.

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Happy Sankranthi to you all.

Sankranthi to me meant lots of fun. When my sister was still a baby it meant preparing for her Bhogi Pandlu, where we would invite all the kids from the colony and she would be made to sit on a low stool, me holding her there, and one by one all the aunties coming and pouring a lota full of ber/regi pandlu and coins over her head and all the kids scrabmling to get their hands on the fruit. The first year she cried like she was being lynched, but over the years she got used to it and would scramble with other kids to grab the most fruit!

When we both were a little older, Sankranthi meant preparing way in advance, practising various rangoli patterns so that on the D-day we would be ready with the biggest and the best rangoli in the neighborhood. My mom is an expert at this and she would draw the pattern with the muggu powder and we would follow and fill the patterns with pretty colors. The rangoli business was an early morning thing and we would get up at 5 or 6 am, take a shower, wear new clothes and set about the business of colouring the rangoli. Sometimes we would go overboard and also write stuff like Happy Sankranthi and Mera Bharat Mahan(hehe, I know…weird!) in chalk. Rangoli done, we would saunter inside and follow mom about, trying to see what she was cooking.

Afternoon, post lunch was time for patang! My dad would have taken us to the patang shop a couple of days in advance to pick up what we all liked. Usually I and my sister would get cheap but shiny ones(since ours usually got cut in a few minutes), and my dad picked up the sturdy but light but not pretty, slightly expensive ones. My dad was very serious about his patang flying high, and flying longer than others’ and he took to it like business. After dad tied the ‘kanne’, with precise finger measurements, I was given the job of holding the patang and throwing it high in the air to give it a lift. Our patang would then fly high in the air, like it was destined to, until dad gave it to either me to my sis so he could catch a break. That was when the neighbourhood competitors saw a chink in my dad’s armor and cut our patang mercilessly to the ground! It ended like that EVERY SINGLE YEAR!

Evening was time to go around the neighborhood, distributing sesame laddoos and saying Til Gul Ghya God God Bola. This was fun because we got to see the various Bommala Koluvus(an arrangement of dolls) , and we kids mostly passed judgement as to whose was the best(unofficially, of course). And thus, Sankranthi ended, after we kids had all kinds of fun during the day, and we would wait for the next one, to have as much fun.

Now all we managed this year was some kheer, and some rangoli on paper!

So what did you do on Sankranthi?

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Food memories


I have been reading this tag all over the blog world about memories associated with food.
Five memorable meals ever eaten: It could be anything that makes the meal memorable – the food, the place, the place you were in your life when you ate, the company, the weather, the ambiance – heck, the guy who served the food
Now I cannot be silent where there is food in question. So I voluntarily decided to take up the tag. Here are my 5 best memories associated with food. More than the actual food in question, it was the people around, the beautiful time I had that makes these moments precious:
  • Growing up we used to rush to my Ammamma’s (my maternal grandmother’s) place every summer vacation. I and my sister would  join 3 more of our cousins in 60 days of revelry, fun and frolic in the sun. Ammamma was super cool about kids playing for as long as they want and eat what they want. She would assemble us kids in the courtyard everyday at around 3:00pm and feed us some pappu-annam and perugu-annam and tell us tales from the Chandamama. It was the whole package of annam muddalu(round balls of yummy food) and Chandamama kathalu(stories) that made it all so wonderful. We could have read the chandamama ourselves(those of us who could read Telugu) but the way she narrated them made them all the more interesting. Unfortunately, this art of feeding yummy food and telling wonderful tales died with her 😦
  • My mom is a great cook(of course all kids say that about their mammas) and we loved to eat what she cooked, but there was this one dish that she cooked when we had relatives over that made us drool. Whenever we expected my aunts and cousins home on a sunday my mom would start the preparations for lunch early. The smell of pudina and adrak would infuse the air with expectations. Me, my sister and my cousins would then wait for the signal for us to come to the dining room to eat! The very first spoonful of the masale masale “>bhat was heavenly and we would eat till our little stomachs burst, and then go out to play. Sunday night I and my sister would have leftover masale bhat again, after the guests had left. I remember we would be talking about what good time we had playing while dad would be feeding us spoonfuls!
  • Now this is a fairly new and ongoing memory. The husband does cook once in a blue moon. When he does, it is dhaba-style rajma. I just sit in front of the TV and watch food network/TLC or whatever pleases me, and he creates his rajma magic in the kitchen. Then we both sit down to a wonderful meal of rajma-chawal, after which  I retire to a long long nap. Bliss!
  • Dal-roti-subji with the EMP(Evershine Millenium Paradise) gang. When I was working in Mumbai I had 7 roommates(yeah that’s right, 8 of us lived in a 3 bedroom apartment) and at least 5 of us would assemble each night to have dinner together. One of us used to make a dal/subji and one would get rotis from the roti-aunty and we would sit in a circle on the floor of the hall and eat. Tarana would be yapping away to glory on the radio and we would talk more and eat less and the dinner would extend to hours sometimes. Most days the topic of conversation would be errant boyfriends, weird bosses and other girl troubles. If any of my EMP roomies are reading this…love you girls!
  • The one memory associated with food that will be with me forever is that of my undergrad days. We were a gang of 6 who used to hang out everyday and talk a dime a dozen, and then get home and call each other and talk again! Anyway, coming back to food, one place we used to hand out most at was this bakery aptly called Friends. We would go there during lunch sometimes, or sometimes after classes, and eat burgers and dosas and bajjis and whatever caught our fancy, and talk till the cows came home! The food wasn’t spectacular but the company was and I made some of my closest friends(including the husband) there.

Ahh this tag has left me all nostalgic and hungry. So while I wait for lunch, you guys should take up this tag.


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