Thursday, December 31, 2009

Arudra Darisanam

Arudra darisanam - a religious and cultural festival of Tamilians. This falls on the full moon day of the tamil month Margazhi. Special prayers are held at all Lord Shiva temples. Milk, sandalpaste and other cooling liquids are offered to Lord Shiva to cool the god who was burning with anger while performing the Tandava nritya -- The cosmic dance of Nataraja. Arudra Darisanam (The sight of Lord Shiva) is also known as Thiruvadhirai.

Chidambaram - a place in cuddalore district of Tamilnadu is where Lord Nataraja abodes. It is believed here Lord Shiva danced in the Ananda Tandava pose (the cosmic dance of bliss) in the chit sabha( golden hall).

Lord Vishnu is supposed to have heard about Shiva’s cosmic dance . To witness this he descended to earth as Patanjali . At the appointed hour Shiva along with his consort Sivakami treats him visually to the cosmic dance of Bliss. This is supposed to have been witnessed by Lord Vishnu. This is one of the few places where there is a shrine for both Shiva and Vishnu.

The dance of Lord Shiva is frozen into metal and today is a symbol of Indian culture and is an idol which the Bharatnatyam dancers worship. It adorns many houses to symbolize Indian tradition and culture. It has also occupied a place of pride in my house too.

Today Thiruvadhirai kali (broken rice and moong dhal cooked with jaggery) and Ezhu than kootu ( 7 assorted native vegetables cooked in coconut and red chilli paste) are prepared for naivedhyam(bhog).

There is a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Nataraja at Neyveli (near Pondicherry). It has a very big statue of Lord Nataraja. The temple is maintained very well. I feel at peace when i visit this temple.

Trip to Kerala - Part III

This is the 3rd and final part of my trip to Kerala in Dec 2008 & Jan2009

Day 3: We left to fort Kochi after our breakfast by road over a bridge overlooking the harbor. There were many cargo ships anchored. Fort kochi is a small community in itself with old world charm. Fort Kochi is one of the 3 islands which make Cochin along with Ernakulam and Mattancherry. The Europeans have left a major impact on the culture and traditional heritage of Cochin. One can see a unique blend of European, Dutch and Portugal lifestyle in fort of Cochin.

We headed straight to the southern naval command Maritime Museum, located at INS Dronacharya Kochi. It focuses on the maritime heritage of the Indian Navy. It showcases the evolution of Indian navy, its achievement and landmarks, artifacts, life size statues, paintings which highlight kerala’s trade links with Arabs, arrival of vasco-da-gama, the arrival of dutch, evolution of the port of Cochin etc. From here we walked over to a curvy non- commercial beach which had rocky shores. We enjoyed the Arabian sea waters hitting our feet.

From there to Vasco da gama square to see the Chinese fishing nets (called Cheena Vala) . A very simple place with no frills It has dabba shops, road side fresh seafood stalls selling fresh fish prawn just out of the cheena vala. This place must definitely be a haven for sea food lovers. Tender coconut shops were selling each coconut at 15rs that too in the land of coconuts.

From there we went to St. Francis church, The history of the church is that Vasco Da Gama on his 3rd visit to India died here. He was buried in the church. Nearly 14 years laters his remains were taken to Portugal. There were many antique and unique ware shops around the streets of the church. I did not pick anything.
Our next stop was at the Dutch Palace built originally by the Portuguese. Later on it was modified by the Dutch and it was gifted to the Raja of Kochi. This place has got many Kerala Mural paintings from the Indian epics and photos depicting the lineage of Rajas and the history of Kochi.

From there we went to the Jewish Synagogue but it was closed, so got down and roamed around the Jew town selling many curios.
After winding Fort Kochi went to the hotel to have our lunch and now we left Ernakulam to reach Kalady the birth place of Adi Sankaracharya on the banks or River Poorna. A very peaceful place. We also visited the Krishna temple adjoining the mutt and also the bathing ghats at River Poorna
And now drove straight to Guruvayoor. Reached there by 8pm, Booked a room close to the hotel.

After freshening ourselves we went straight to the temple for darshan. There was no queue. It was also the seeveli time and all the lamps (numbering more than 1000) were lit around the temple’s wooden framed structure designed specially into small squares with each square having a diya.The temple elephants are taken around the inner praharam of the temple with the God’s photo on one of the elephants and other elephants following the main elephant to the beats of the drums. This is called seeveli. The whole atmosphere of the light and sound transported us into a totally unexplainable divine world . After the darshan we walked back to our hotel room which was hardly 100 metres away. We walked in and out of all the shops and bought a mundu pavadai for shreya

Day 4: Bala and his friend (the family which accompanied us on the tour) got up early at 3.00 a,m to have the nirmalya darisanam. They were back by 6.00p.m. By 7.00p.m All of us were ready with the kids we now went to have the darshan again. There was less queque. We had a very good darshan and walked out of the temple with great satisfaction. Now from here we left to mammiyoor, a siva temple close by. It is mandatory for every devotee to visit this temple after worshipping guruvayoor. After a good darshan here, We came back and rested at our room and then walked out to do some shopping on the nearby shops. I bought few knick knacks, kerala mural paintings depicting ramar pattabhishekam(the coronation of Rama) and pallikonda ranganathar( reclining Vishnu) and Kerala appalams(when these are fried they look like puris).

After lunch we went to see the Elephant breeding spot belonging to the temple and the Goshala. The goshala was very clean and it also had a small tank where the local boys were having a good swim. We rested on the steps watching the boys.
Now it was time for us to leave Guruvayoor. We now headed straight to the Kerala Forest Institute’s Guest house at Peechi which was 29 kms away. We could not get any rooms in a decent hotel at palakkad/Thrissur owing to year end. So we were booked in this guest house.( Courtesy: G Chittappa who is a retired Director of Forest Research Institute, Coimbatore). We had a very good dinner at the guest house and retired to our rooms.

Day 5: The morning dawned for us at a beautiful place called Peechi located 23km from Thrissur. This place is full of lush green forests on hills and plains. It is home to numerous flora and fauna like many varieties of orchids, medicinal plants, tigers,elephants, Bison etc.This place is well known for Peechi Dam. It is a beautiful picnic spot. We visited the dam which was just 2kms from our guest house and left to Athirapally falls.One of the important waterfalls on the wooded forests of Western ghats. The water falls from the chalakudy river from a great height. I could only see it from the side since I never dared to walk down the steep for a better view. We settled ourselves comfortably amidst the small rocks on the chalakudy river and enjoyed the flow of water on our legs. It felt heavenly to see the forests around and inhaling the fresh unpolluted air with sounds of nature although there were many tourists around . After soaking in the lap of nature we trekked up the steps and drove a short distance up hill to see the vazhachal. This again is a picturesque spot amidst the forest laden sholayur ranges of the western ghats.

It was already 3.00p.m, so we drove down hill to reach (the uphill road from Vazhachal was a toll road leading to the other side of westernghats to enter Tamilnadu) Peechi. We had evening tiffins at a udupi restaurant on the highway. Got back to our rooms after a very delicious dinner at the guest house.

Day 6: This day dawned leisurely on a tiring timebound week. So got up at 8 and had tea on our balcony overlooking the terraced rubber, pepper plantations and a stream flowing below. We left our rooms after a while and went around the Guesthouse(built by lawrie Baker) and walked out of the campus to a bylane leading to the terraced plantations. It was a carefree walk on a bridge to the place. We plucked some pepperpods and a villager who showed shreya and sharun how latex was taken from the rubber plant. From the plantations we could see our room balcony. We freezed some stills and filmed some . After a small walk back, had our breakfast and started packing our things to leave for Thrissur. We winded our stay at Kerala with a good lunch and left for the Thrissur railway station.

Boarded the Sabari express at 2 in the afternoon at Thrissur, travelled past palakkad and coimbatore to reach Hyderabad.

The tour of the mind body and soul came to an end. We recharged back to Hyderabad to face our routine in the new year 2009(the year gone by) with great enthusiasm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trip to Kerala Part II

Part I has already been published Now read part II

Day 2: Got ready and headed to have the breakfast at the hotel. Delicious puttu kadla, appam & stew, idiappam, pazham puzhanghinadu( steamed nendram pazham - a variety of plaintain) , orange/pineapple juice were the menu. We had our pick and waited at the reception. Our friends family were to join us from Palakkad.

Now we hired a Tata sumo to take us on the whole journey. Now we were all set to visit Allepey (called Alapuzha regionally).

Alapuzha is a popular tourist spot. It is famous for its backwater boat trips, house boats,coir products and the world famous boat races held annually during tiru onam. The kuttanad region situated here is called the rice bowl of kerala. It is one of the very few places in the world where farming is done below the sea level. It is also called the venice of the east because of its canals. It also has a peculiar geographical feature of having the water in level with the land because of which we can enjoy the village beauty in close up from the sailing valloms. The primary mode of transport here is vallom(boat made from wood) which most of the houses have. People who can’t afford to have one make use of the vallom stop ( just like bus stop) where the people get on if they have to trade things like fruits, coconuts etc. in the city.

The two hour drive from our hotel brought us to the place(12 noon) where houseboats could be hired . We had lots of choice here. After bargaining we settled for a 4 hour drive on the backwaters. We hired a boat which was like a house( but not house boat*) had a roof of coir, 4 chairs and a bed. For the first few minutes we were all mesmerized by the house boats, the tiny hamlets, the scenic beauty - the beautiful swaying palm trees along the narrow canals winding through stretches of emerald green paddy fields , inhabited houses where clothes were dried outside, a school without children( Xmas vacation.), a resort where santa was put up, we reciprocated all those who waved at us from their house boats. After ferrying for a couple of hours we were now sick of the water smell and also very hungry. Our boat rider took us to a hotel where everything smelt of non-veg food. We could not get ourselves to eat the veg food served there. Finally forced ourselves with some curd rice and started ferrying again. By now we were not in awe any more. We found it boring and so did the children. Thank god the boys ( sharun and his friend) were carrying some video games. Then as we went by we saw a boat building workshop under a tin roof where the builders were chiselling wood and translating their exquisite expertise into beautiful houseboats. Stopped to have a look and then resumed towards the Kuttanad paddy fields soaking the beauty. We saw an islet( hardly 30X40) which had a single house. Finally made our way back to the place where we hired the house boats at 4 p.m.

Resumed our journey back to the hotel . Reached the city by 7.00p.m. Needless to say we were tired, had our dinner(don’t remember the menu) and hit the bed. Another hectic day awaiting

*A house boat has all the necessities of daily life like washing machine(with a clothes line at the rear), cooking range, fridge,LCD tv ,home theatre music system along with Dish network( the front end), an in house cook(if you prefer not to cook) , a generator and also an a/c in your bed room. It looks so similar to your house with modular kitchen etc., Many tourists hire them for 3-4 days. A two bedroom house boat costs 10 -12k /day depending on the facillites available. The biggest houseboat is a 6 bedroom boat.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The joy of christmas

It is the beginning of the winter solstice. The Christmas colors of red and green add warmth to the otherwise cool winds blowing out during winter. X-mas tree, star, nativity scene, festive holly berry,be-ribboned gifts, colored lights, red poinsettias, mistle toe, The reindeer driven Santa on the sleigh all make the moods more perkier and merrier.

All the shopping malls and lifestyle stores dress up their windows with Santa, snow, sleigh and the ice flakes. Bakeries stock marzipans, pastries, muffins, ginger breads, Yule logs, and not before I forget the plum cakes.

Cakes - reminds me of Nilgiris, the first supermarket chain of stores in India which started in 1905 always presents a cake exhibition of grand scale in Bangalore. Each year they take up a model and build a gigantic cake which becomes the highlight of the exhibition. They make big models ( height of 40 feet with sugar and gelatin) of any monument like Eiffel tower, Bangalore palace, Taj Mahal etc. They also make some small models. Latha , My sister was a food technologist at the Nilgiris, Brigade road branch for four years. She used to get the passes for the exhibition. The whole Brigade road would be decked up with festoons of colored lights and all shops would dress up their windows with red , green & white . A huge man dressed up like Santa would walk up and down the street distributing chocolates from his red stocking bag. Shreya and Sharun would be regular recipients every X-mas when we were in Bangalore. On the eve of New year(Dec 31st) the whole road would be blocked for vehicular traffic and one can see a lot of crowd there reveling to welcome the new year. It is the same atmosphere here in Hyderabad too. All the malls look decked up.

Now that this festival has acquired secular overtones, Our 300 family housing society also celebrated it with great cheer and joy. The children of our complex put up an entertaining cultural program (without bollywood/ Hollywood numbers). Shreya and her 7 friends took part in a Latin- American dance(Salsa). They were trained by one of our resident who is a good dancer. Sharun took part in the skit Noah Of Ark. Another resident rewrote the script to make it more comical.

Every time there is a festival/ occasion the residents get together. The children and sometimes the elders too provide cultural programs. The practice sessions teach the children to learn many things which are not a part of their curriculum like to work in a team, to adjust, be punctual, to make use of the given opportunity, caring, sharing etc., and so it was this X-mas too. There was lot of cheer and good will.

We have decked up the X-mas tree like every year. This practice of putting up X-mas tree started when shreya was 6 years old. We used to make all the tree embellishings at home. Chapatti dough would be moulded into balls, candy sticks, stars and then wrapped with silver/gold paper, the candy sticks would be painted white and then a shining red wiry paper would be wound around it. This time though we were besotted by the X-mas decorations stocked up at one of the Hyderabad stores. We picked up the items and decorated our artificial X-mas tree. Now we are awaiting Santa..... Do we hear the Jingle Bells?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Trip to Kerala - Part I

I am blogging on my trip to Kerala. Since I don’t want to miss any detail, I am serializing it into 3 parts. This is part I.

Last December 27th by now we had packed our bags to India’s most celebrated vacation spots- Kerala. The land known for panoramic backwater stretches, highlands, islands and the swaying palm (coconut) fringed beaches. This in fact has lent the state its name Kerala meaning --The house of coconuts.

We boarded the Sabari express from Secunderabad and reached Ernakulam next day noon. We were accompanied by another family whose children were shreya and sharun’s age . So needless to say we had an entertaining and comfortable journey. Next day we checked into Bharat Tourist Homes at Ernakulam. (Our friends alighted at Palakkad). Dumped our belongings into our rooms, refreshed ourself went to the reception to book a cab to Cherai beach. The reception guys at the hotel suggested we take a boat jetty instead of a cab. We walked half a km on the marine drive to the place where the jetty’s took off. We rode in the jetty to Vypeen Island. The half an hour ride costed us just 2rs/head.

Vypeen (also spelt vypin) is an island in Ernakulam district of Kerala. The island which is about 27 km long was formed in the year 1341 after a heavy flood. It is known to be the island having highest density of population in the world. It is connected to Kochi by a bridge from Kalamuku. There are regular boat services from Fort Kochi to Vypin Island. Narakkal is the business capital of vypin.

From Vypeen Island we took a local bus to a place close to Cherai. It was Christmas time; almost all houses were big and had a Christmas tree, star and nativity scene in front of their gardens. As we narrowed closer to the beach, we crossed many picture post card places. In some places there were no streets but only canals. So if one had to cross to the house on the other side they had to row in a boat. In variably most houses on either side of the canals had a vallom (boat like structure made from wood) tied to a tree. After an half an hour ride we were dropped a km away from the Cherai beach. From there we took an auto and reached Cherai beach. Cherai beach is called the princess of Arabian Sea. (The queen being Cochin).

Cherai Beach is a beach in the Cherai village of Ernakulam district of Kerala, south India. Cherai is a part of Island. The 15 km of long golden beach is very clean, shallow, and attracts swimming and sunbathing. This is one of the few places where we can see the lagoon (poyil) and ocean separated only by a few hundreds of meters. One of the main events in this beach is the tourism fest during December.

The beach which is usually not crowded was an exception during that time since it was Christmas vacation and moreover there was a 10 day annual cultural festival which highlighted the culture of Kerala. Shreya and Sharun enjoyed with gay abandon on the beach, there was no stopping them. I/ Bala took turns to accompany them on the sea and film their joy on our camcorder. It was delightful to see them prancing in the water and build sand castles. The setting of the sun also made a beautiful picture for a post card.

Late in the evening, we enjoyed the Kathakali dance drama on the beach. A little later we realized we had to rely on public transport so hurried out of the beach to take an auto. We were dropped at the local bus stop. Enroute to the bus stop we had to cross a narrow road whose edges on either side touched with the back waters. Here, the land was on par with the sea level. The fishermen on either side carrying lanterns and fishing made a beautiful sight.

From the bus stop we took a bus which took us directly to Marine drive in Ernakulam (Vypeen is connected to main land Ernakulam by a bridge and this was constructed in 2004). Alighted at the high court building and walked more than a km and half to our hotel. We also never realized the wariness since the whole road was full of activity as it was the fortnight preceding Christmas & New Year.

Reached the hotel and ordered dinner to the room. Mean while we refreshed ourselves from the beach sand, had dinner and snored away to deep sleep. Another sightseeing day awaiting us.

Await Part II.

Text in bold italics courtesy: Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Myriad moods of Margazhi

As already mentioned in of my previous blogs, margazhi(Margashira in sanskrit) is another favorite Tamil month of mine. This month extends from the latter fortnight of Dec to the first fortnight of the Jan. All the days of this month are festive though no auspicious occasions like marriages, starting new projects are taken up this month. The reason perhaps being one had to focus only on worshipping and not devote their energy into personal aspects. This month also seems to be the favorite of most lyricists and poets since they use this month as a part of their lyrics. Even Lord Krishna is in bhagavad gita is supposed to have said “of all the months, I am Marghazhi’

Rendering of the Andal Tiruppavai daily is one of the main events in the month. Andal, like Meera Bai was a great devotee of Lord Krishna and so she composed 30 verses in praise of Lord Krishna. Daily tiruppavai and tiruvempavai are sung in the temples. Religious minded people congregate in temples to listen to the discourse and chants. The discourse ends with the distribution of prasadam which is mostly venn pongal(Rice and moongdhal overcooked and spiced with pepper, jeera,ginger, salt and garnished with ghee and cashewnuts). Maybe, this was also done with intention that our body gets warmed up with the spices during the cool season.

Another speciality of this unique month is that people rise early in the wee hours of the morning called Brahma muhurtham(48 minutes prior to sunrise) wrap shawls or in bare bodies go around the streets singing bhajans.The first 6 months from mid Jan to mid July (Utharayanam) is the day time and the next 6 months mid July to mid Jan (Dhakshinaayanam) is the night time for the Gods. And this Maargazhi being the dawn of the day (Brahma Muhurtham) for the Gods, singing and chanting the glory of God is considered most auspicious.
The women folk design very intricate kolams (rangoli patterns) with rice powder in front of their house. The rice powder serves as food for the ants. This concept was perhaps introduced by our intelligent and wise ancestors so that we could inhale the ozone which is in abundance during the morning hours. Also by bending and stretching while putting kolams, you also exercise your body. So much of native wisdom, only we don’t realize and practice. We either question the practice or conveniently say in this scientific age it is not considered valid.

The high points of this month are also the Vaikunta Ekadashi, (the 11th day in the month), Arudra darisanam (full moon day), Hanuman Jayanthi and Ramana Aradhana (the birthday of RamanaMaharishi).

Lastly, the unparalleled Madras Music and Dance season popularly called December season. This is a cultural extravaganza for which carnatic musicians from all over the world land up on this part of the earth.

This event was started in 1927 to commemorate the founding of Madras Music academy in the month of December. This event was a result of the music conference held during the madras session of the Indian National Congress.

It is widely encouraged and patronized by very large business houses like Nalli, Havagrivas, Sundaram Finance, Rmkv, Pothy's and many more. It serves as a platform for upcoming musical and dance talent.

In short, this month the atmosphere is filled with myriad moods like religious, spiritual,health and music.

music season history courtesy: India heritage

Monday, December 7, 2009

Madras in Secunderabad

Yes, On Dec5th and 6th the whole of keyes high school ground( enclosed in a tent) seemed like mini Madras. All Tamil mama's and mami's and jean clad teens, tweens and tiny tots had gathered to watch The two hilarious tamil plays by the crazy creations troupe. It was my long time wish to see a tamil play.(seen in the still are Shreya, prithvi(sharun's friend)& sharun with Crazy mohan)

We watched the play 'meesai analum manaivi'on dec 5th.

Written by 'Crazy' Mohan, this play is a riotous comedy. directed by S.B.Kanthan (bro of mouli).

The hero Maadhu takes a resolution on Tamil New year's day(april 14) never to tell lies but he ends telling more lies. His justification of these lies is that it is in continuation of the lie told on April 13th( so it is not a new lie). Ramanujam, Madhu's 50- plus unmarried brother-in-law who falls in love at first sight with every second woman he comes across; Cheenu, Maadhu's colleague lands him in more trouble in the name of helping him; Mythili,his girl friend from Delhi madly in love with Maadhu, unaware of his marital status; and many characters like dead body gopalaswami, north indian girl Khushma Devi make the play hilarious. The whole ground was resounding with laughter.

On Dec 6th we saw 'Chocolate Krishna' a new play by the crazy creations. (though this was their 273rd stage show.) In this play Maadhu is a sales man in a chocolate company. He seeks the help of Lord Krishna(Crazy Mohan) to sell the chocolates and meet the targets set by the company. Here Maadhu is ably supported by his paati who's weakness is stealing, a flautist father who is yet to make a debut in a concert. Each dialogue was comical. The situation where Maadhu's boss gives TV interview deserves special mention. There was non-stop laughter from the young and the not so young. Two evenings well spent in the warmth of fellow tamilians. Shreya and Sharun thoroughly enjoyed the play. At home they have been enacting and mouthing dialogues. --The play hangover.

After seeing the play i was overawed by the hard work behind the play. Atleast in movies you have takes and retakes,editing etc.,. Here in the play, the players cannot afford to forget the dialogues, no retakes, everytime the set has to be erected in a new place, the arrangement of light settings and so many more things. Truly awesome teamwork.

Then, we shopped around the stalls for pickles and vattals specially brought from Madras. Hot Tasty south indian bajjis, vadais, jalebis and pongal, upma were served at the stalls outside.

We reached home in Secunderabad which was just 7kms from this mini Madras. My next wish is to see Savis's play 'Washingtonil Thirumanam'.

P.S : I like the sound of Madras to Chennai hence used the same name through out.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Karthigai and Tiruvannamalai

Karthigai maasam and Marghazhi maasam are two of my favourite thamizh months. Both are in the winter season.

Both the months are of special importance to Tamilians. This month we celebrate a festival very unique to tamilians called karthigai deepam festival. This festival is more than 3000 years old , older than diwali and navarathri. On this day many agal villakkus( lamps made of clay called diya) are lit outside the house in rows. ( tamilians don’t light diyas during diwali). We make many sweets with jaggery and arisi pori ( puffed rice) called arisi pori urandai, vella appam made with rice flour and jaggery , uppu appam made with rice powder, chillies,coconut scrapings. I too prepared all this delicacies today and shreya helped me light the agal vilakkus.
Today one could have counted the number of tamilians in my 300 houses society. It was a visual delight to see the vilakkus.

Well,now to the festival. The month Karthigai derives its name from the star Krithigai. Lord shiva created lord muruga with his divine light in this month.On the full moon day of karthigai month A big deepam is lit atop the Annnmalai hills at Tiruvanna malai.

"Skanda Puranam" sings the glory of the holy place through the words of sages Suta and Gautama, and Nandikeswara, the bull-mount of Lord Siva. It is said a dispute arose between Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the protector, as to who is superior of the two.

Siva appeared before them as a column of fire, which enveloped the entire universe and a voice from the sky said, "Whoever will be able to see the beginning or the end of the light is the superior one." Vishnu took the form of a boar and went farther and farther down into the Earth to find the base of the light but He realised the futility of His quest. But Brahma who took the form of a swan flew high and when He could not find the head, he sought the help of a flower (thazhampoo) coming down from Siva's head, to tell the world that he was successful in his effort.

So Siva cursed Brahma that he will have no temple for him on the Earth and said that no one should offer thazhampoo during Siva puja since he lied. Celestials prayed to Lord Siva to control the raging fire, as they could not bear its heat. Heeding their plea Siva manifested Himself as Arunachaleswara. The celestials declared that whoever went around Arunachala hills with reverence would be blessed by the Lord in every way.

According to another legend, Goddess Parvati once playfully closed Siva's eyes and the entire world was plunged in darkness. Hence She did penance at Kasi , Kanchi and Thiruvannamalai. The Lord, pleased with Her penance, appeared before Her on Karthigai day in the month of Karthigai. To mark the occasion, Karthigai Deepam is lighted on that day. She prayed to the Lord that the people who worship Him as Arunachaleswara should be forgiven for their mistakes, committed knowingly or unknowingly.

To mark the event a big copper vessel is kept atop the hill in which tonnes of camphor, ghee and fresh cloth are placed and lighted. The light is visible from a distance of 20 km. Known as Bhookailayam, the Tiruvannamalai hills are home for numerous temples and ashrams including those of Ramana Maharshi, and Seshadri Swamigal, and Guhai Namasivayar Temple and Skandashramam.
There are as many as 360 holy water sources in the hills, the most important among them being Brahma Theertham and Sivagangai Theertham in the temple, and Agni and Indra Theerthams on the hills.
The Thiruvannamalai temple is one of the biggest in Tamil Nadu and its compound wall runs to a length of 1,320 metres.

Having said this much about tiruvannamalai, wait for my blog on Ramana Maharishi who also happens to be my relative.

source on karthigai. The hindu.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Madhurambika Ashram --- An autobiography

Listen to the story of Madhurambika ashram.--(Bala's maternal grandparent's house)

Yes, I am an house and that is my name. I measure more than 3600 sq. Feet. My address is 97, First Street, Paramasivapuram. I am situated close to the lalgudi railway station. Bala’s grandfather Mr. Srinivas retired as a station master from Lalgudi and hence decided to stay back at this place after retirement, though originally they hail from Koneyarajapuram in Thanjavur. I was built in the year 1956.

Though I measure more than 36squares, I have not used the whole plot. I have space all round me, especially more at the back yard. As you enter I have a rectangular veranda, on the right is a spiral staircase leading to the first floor. From the veranda you enter into a passage which leads to the hall. On either side of the passage is a bedroom. The left one has a door which opens into the hall. The right one has another door which opens into a bedroom this room has 4 doors. One door to the hall, one to the adjacent room, one to the side garden and another into the right kitchen. Yes, I have two kitchens. The rear end of the drawing hall has a door which leads to a passage. This passage opens into the courtyard. On either side of the passage are two kitchens. The left kitchen usually used for patthu samaiyal (cooked food) and the right side for uncooked food .There is a pooja room in this kitchen. The passage ends in a foyer on either side of the foyer are two rooms.

The left room is used as a store room for storing coconuts and other things. There are nearly 10 coconut trees in the house. The elders in the family hire people to pluck coconuts , then it is broken by the youngsters with thenga uri(coconut cutter) and then the thick kernel is removed from the shell, dried and sent to the oil mill for making coconut oil. This milled coconut oil is then sent to all the sons and daughters house in Chennai, neyveli and Bangalore since the cooking medium of the family is coconut oil.

The right room is generally used to put all junk and this place is also used to cook oily things like savouries and sweets during occasions for the big family which unites together during occasions. The elders of this family have always done the seer murukku for weddings and all other functions in this place. Till recently they have never used the marriage contractors.

Finally, this foyer's grill door opens into Asha’ favourite place in the house --the courtyard. To the left of the courtyard is again another small house measuring 15X15 feet. This house was rented out during Bala’s grand mother’s time but later on Anna (fondly called Anna thatha --B-i-l of Bala’s grandfather) lived in this house until his death in Jan 2009. It is a single room tenement with a kitchen.

In the middle of the courtyard is a shed housing a shallow platform. This platform was used to string the flowers of the garden, or to de- stem the keerai available in the garden. It also served as a place for the elders and youngsters to relax and talk. There is an ammi kal and aatu kal(grinding stone) here. This shed is shaded by the Tangerine tree. (narthangai).The elders of my house like chinani mami, Janaki mami and Baby mami make narthelai podi out of this tree leaves. They pound the tender leaves of the tangerine leaves with red chillies and salt on the ammi kal and pass it on to the near and dear ones living away from Lalgudi. This powder is a good accompaniment for curd rice and very special for native Tanjoreans.

There is a well close to the shallow platform , which caters to the water needs of the family.It is connected through a borewell into the kitchens and wash rooms. The water is the pure kaveri water putting any water purifier to shame. Beside the well is the holy Tulsi (brindavan). The well was the play area for children like Sharun and shreya. They took great pleasure in drawing water from the well whenever they came for holidays.

To the right of the courtyard was the entrance into the neighbouring house i.e door no 96( this also belonged to Bala’s Grandfather and the neighbouring house no 95 belonged to Bala’s mother. She sold the house in 2003.)

I have many plants like the juicy lemon (each bigger than a golf ball and I yield more than 100 numbers in each season. They are again transported to all the children’s house) , vadanarayana keerai, pasalai keerai,murungakeerai , manathakali,sundakkai, plaintain trees, murungai, pasalai , narthangai, coconut, curry leaf ,vilwam,nelli maram marudani and flowering plants like hibiscus, parijadam, mullai ,malli etc.,

I have been blessed by the presence of His holiness Jagadguru Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi swamigal during one of his visits to LLI.

I have been the venue of the various occasions this family has conducted like weddings, seemandham,thalai Deepavali, poonal, nischayadartham etc.,. I have also witnessed the birth and death of various members of this family. I simply love this family.

Well , now you may ask what is so special about me?. Why should I write my history? since every house has one.

Well, Today (nov 27) my ownership is being transferred to an other family. I will definitely miss the members of this lovely family who have migrated to various parts. But, I take solace in the fact my neighbour 96 is still part of the family. I can still meet them when they come here.

With blessings and best wishes to all the family members of Seetha patti and srinivasa Thatha.

Madhurambika Ashram.

Every family member (from the oldest to the youngest)of the house is sad about the sale of the house. Due to old age and health reasons it is difficult for elders to stay and maintain the house while their children are away and they have to move over to their children's place in other cities.All of us will definitely remember the beautiful times spent in this palatial house.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Memories of 71,Kanakapura road

My thoughts now travel back to the  70’s. We then were staying in Kanakapura road in Bangalore. Our house was the corner house on the junction of four roads. Sajjan Rao circle, LalBagh west gate, Krishna Rao Park and National College Basavangudi were all just a km away but on the different roads.

Our outings in the evening would be usually centered around these places. (on Sundays though we used to visit my chitti and chittappa at Malleswaram . They stayed at the Forest Institute/else they would visit us). Neighbours and friends were few but very reliable. In the evenings we would go and visit the temples at Sajjan rao circle.

Sajjan rao circle has many temples on its circumference. In the middle of the circle is a park which also has a temple. Around the circle there are many roadside eateries. In fact Sajjan rao circle is famous for eateries.The famous VB bakery,(loved the Badam burfi's at VB), Panipuri bandi’s, dosa and idli served with onion chutney. They do roaring business late in the evening. Ramesh chittappa was staying with us at that time. If we felt like having onion chutney during dinner time, after the plates were laid on the table, I and chittappa used to get the chutney at 9 in the night. It was just 7-10 minutes walk but I and chittappa would run.

Another land mark closer home was LalBagh garden. The west gate was a 10 minute walk on the other road. IBH(India Book House) had held an exhibition at the glass house. Appa, amma and I went to the exhibition (I don’t remember if my sis Latha was born. She and I are 6 year apart). This is where I got my first Amar chitra Katha. My dad got me two books one was Ganesha and I don’t remember the other ACK. It costed 2rs/book. Perhaps the seeds of my reading interest were sown here.

Another exhibition famous in the glass house are the horticultural exhibition held during Jan 26 and Aug 15. The whole Glass house would be in a riot of colors with beautiful flowers, though i remember only the roses, Dahlia and cockscomb. All the flowering plants would be arranged in steps till it reached the roof. Major public sector companies like(those times IT companies were unheard of in Bangalore, It was Texas Instruments entry into Bangalore(India) in 1982 that changed the whole outlook of Bangalore) HMT,BHEL, ITI would participate and win prizes.

There is a lake in Lalbagh. During Ganesh chaturthi when Lord Ganesh had to be immersed, (We don’t follow the practice of immersing in my father’s side) I went with my neighbour sandhya and her father. Sandhya held the God in a round basket and I used to bell all the way from our house to Lalbagh. We then immersed the pillayar(tamil name for lord Ganesha) in the lake after a small puja on the bank.

Krishna Rao park was a km away on the other road. This place is where my mom and her friends used to take their children to play. This road also led to Nanda theatre. The mention of the theatre reminds me of an incident. My dad once got tickets for the movie Russian galaxy circus. I and my friend Sandhya went to the movie. My dad dropped us at the theatre and later picked us back. I went into the theatre and seated myself between an unknown aunty and Sandhya. When the trailers were shown, i very innocently asked the aunty whether she came to see Russian galaxy(morning show movie)/ Nagarahole( noon show movie). I was thinking two movies would be shown side by side (since the board outside claimed two shows). The aunty smiled and explained only one movie would be shown and that she too came to see Russian circus. I saw the kannada movie NAgarahole later. This movie was shot in the wild life sanctuary by the same name.

Our shopping was centered around Gandhi Bazaar this was slightly more than a km but never the less walkable. This is the place where you get things as small as a safety pin to the biggest machine.

Mavalli was another place where we shopped for groceries.This place was walkable and this is the area parallel to Lalbagh.The world famous Mavalli tiffin room(popularly known as MTR) owes its name to this place. The area behing MTR is called mavalli though MTR is near the main gate of Lalbagh.I am glad this hotel has still retained its clean old world charm. MTR foods need no introduction now that its convenience foods are present in most of the house holds. They are the pioneers of Rava idli.I am yet to taste their masala dosa at their Lalbagh road hotel though i have tried all the other items like dahi vada, chowchow bath, basundi etc. Their masala dosa's were restricted only to the mornings(till 10.30 a.m) and there would be a serpentine queue to order your dosa's. The servers here are dressed in pure white clean dhoti and coffee is served in silver tumblers and davaras(small round saucers).In those days, I was told that the cooks and servers would gag their mouths and stand in front of the mirror and breathe into the mirror to check there were no bacteria from their mouth falling into the dish. That was how sterile the kitchens were. ( i don't know if this is true).When my uncles and aunts came from chennai, We used to enter lalbagh from the west gate - pass through glass house, statue garden and emerge out of main gate only to enter MTR to relish their dishes.

These beautiful and stress free childhood days with my parents and friends are something that sends me into a nostalgic trip.

Whenever I visit Bangalore I make a point to visit the places, show them to my children. Life was very interesting in mundane things.We had no television or video games then. Boring was not a word in our dictionary.

Other than my memories, I sometimes wish I had a time machine so that I could go back to those times when groceries were packed in newspapers and then tied with thin jute rope, milk came in bottles not in plastic covers and food parcels were made with plantain leaves and then covered with newspapers. We carried cloth bags to the grocery store. We never carried water bottles and could drink clear sparkling water from the taps at our schoool. No detergents to clean your utensils but simple charcoal powder and coconut fibre instead of scotch brite.Snacks meant fried grams, jeerge mithai( colored peppermints made with jeera) and not kurkure or lays.

Traffic Jams? Well, what was that? I only knew about the Jams on the bread then.
(and don't forget we lived on one of the busiest roads)

Pollution?--- Well, what is the spelling? With so many trees lining the avenues, we knew no pollution except the falling leaves and colored red flowers of gulmohar polluting the clean roads.( if you can call that pollution)

Now with increasing awareness of global warming, hope those times will roll back and we will go back to the earlier practices.

Till then I will cherish those moments and tell my children about all those times.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My trip around Thanjavur

The festival of lights is here this year . I travel down memory lane. Last year , Before diwali we set out on a tour to temples around Thanjavur.

We left Hyderabad to reach Chennai. Stayed a night at my SIL’s house . We shopped(for Diwali) till we dropped at Rmkv, pothy’s, SKC and at shops in Pondy Bazaar. Then we took a bus to Neyveli in the evening to Bala’s mama’s house .

We celebrated Diwali at Neyveli with my husband’s aunts , uncles,cousins and MIL. As is the custom with Tambrahms, We got up early before sun rise, Had ganga snanam(the oil bath), lighted crackers, ate deepavali marundhu (this is taken before having the sweets and savouries and is made of medicinal herbs, aids in digestion). After having brunch, we(me, bala and our children) set off for Pondicherry in Bala’s cousins car.

Pondicherry is 60 kms from Neyveli . The roads were bad, we managed to reach in one hour or so.Then we drove 8 kms on the road parallel to beach to reach auroville. But to our luck all the craft and artisan workshops which I wanted to show shreya and sharun were closed. (the lady in charge told me that they are closed only on two days in a year one was diwali and the other was pongal. But we had a nice drive from auroville to Pondicherry. We went into the cashew orchards, got in and out of all the little shops that were open, had a pizza at a open air pizzeria. This pizzeria was amidst a small patch of plaintain trees. Each table had a board game. So till your pizza was baked you could play draughts,chess and keep yourself busy.

(my children and my husband at Pondi beach)

Then we crossed all the antique shops on the road and reached Pondy beach. I intended to buy some papier mache items (especially the reclining ganesha) but pondy’s handicraft store Pudumai was closed . so we sat for some time at the beach , then headed back home. We were very hungry.Enroute to neyveli not a single hotel was open for business. So came back home ate and slept.

Next day morning we left to siruvacchur along with MIL and mami in a car. My sthala puranam for siruvacchur is in my previous blogs. In the morning there was no heavy crowd in the temple. So had a good darshan of the god. We sat in front of the god when the alankaram was being done.A teenaged girl and her grand mother sang songs in praise of the goddess. When the door of the sanctum was opened . we went in to light the maa vilakku and again had a good darshan . After the final deeparadhana . we left to trichy.

We headed to samayapuram koil. It was too crowded. Managed to see the godess from far.The queque was very lengthy.

My grand wish of seeing the Ranganthar koil at srirangam was fulfilled. Actually My husbands grand parents house is in lalgudi. After my marriage, i have visited lalgudi many times but could never visit Sri rangam. I once tried getting into the temple when i was in the seventh month( carrying shreya)but the temple was crowded so could not get in.But now the wish was fulfilled.

Well, what shall i tell about the temple ? Words fails me to describe the feelings i felt at the temple. The god sri rangar had abhyanga alankaram that day. Had a good darshan . Showed shreya and sharun the sthala purana paintings and translated the pictorial story to them. There was a small museum within the temple precints , we saw that as well. The architecture and grandeur with which the temple has been built shows the excellent craftsmanship and knowledge of that generation. Went around the temple shops. The temple shops around srirrangam are famous for kalchatti pathirams.(stone vesssels).Then after some refreshment, we left to Lalgudi.

Day 2: We now had to visit our oor deivam at vadavakudi a tiny hamlet near tiruvaiyaru. The village surrounding the temple once belonged to my husband’s ancestors. The place is called Sathanur. The temple land belonged to them. The god here is Kalyana subramanyar along with his consorts valli and deivanai. Actually this temple is managed by a gurukkal whose house is beside the koil.This temple is in a sleepy town and does not have many worshippers. So the income for the gurukkal is very less from this temple. After doing the morning puja, he closes the temple and visits the temples in the adjoining villages. So when we went we had to wait for the gurukkal to come from the neighbouring village. Till such time we went to the nearby kaveri tributary. We walked across the fields(me in my madisar) to reach the Cauvery tributary. The water was shallow. So we waded across the river and reached a small Island on the river. Sharun and shreya picked up some shells. Played in the river for a while and walked back to the temple.

By then the gurukkal had arrived. We sat through the abhishekam, alankaram, pooja then as is our custom we lit the mavillaku and worshipped the god. We had lunch at the gurukkal’s house and set off to Tiruvaiyaru.

At tiruvaiyaru, we took a detour to reach the jeeva Samadhi of Saint Thyagaraja. There shreya sang the thygaraja keerthana ---- Raghu nayaka . This jeeva Samadhi is again on the banks of the River Cauvery. This is the mecca of Carnatic musicians. Carnatic musicians all over the world congregate here in the month of January every year to sing on his birth anniversary.(It is the death anniversary. I stand corrected. Pl. see comments section) Shreya and sharun again picked up some shells from this river as a memoir.

Now our next stop was Kumbakonam.The town of temples. Here we headed straight to the Mahamakha kulam. Had a dip at this kulam and went to a relative’s house (opp. The kulam)since the temple was still not open for the evening darshan.
AT 4.00 p.m WE went to the kumbeswarar temple at kumbakonam. It was not very crowded and so had a good darshan. Here again I translated the story of the origin of the temple to shreya and sharun. Then we visited a exhibition within the temple(Poom Puhar), I bought a beautiful statue of Lord Ganesha made of Papier mache.

Then enroute to Trichy we visited Thiruvalanchuzhi. This place has a pillayar temple. The uniqueness of this temple is that Ganesha is made from the foam of the sea water(kadal nurai). so no garlands of flowers or abhishekam for this god. All flowers and the darba grass are laid at the bottom of the idol.

From there we went to nearby Swami malai (one of the aaru padai veedu),Papanasam (has 108 lingas) This is also the point where lord Hanuman took a giant leap into Lanka. And the world renowned Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar temple. The tranquilness and beauty of this temple cannot be described but has to be felt. To think that the temple structure will be 1000 years old in 2010 is unbelievable. The vimanam (tower) of this temple is built with bonding and notching(no mortar used) . It truly is an architectural wonder. Look at the native wisdom, without technology and engineering studies to help them this wonder called ' Peria Kovil' ( big temple in Tamil) has weathered many conditions - natural and manmade.

After winding a very fulfilling tour , we reached lalgudi by night.

DAy 3. We spent a day in LLI, Bala's Grandmother's house where his older mama , mami chittipatti and annathatha stay. We are all blessed to have so many elders at home to guide us.
Sharun and shreya enjoyed their love, affection and care of them all along with their own patti and chinna mami. They enjoyed drawing the water from the well in the backyard( this sharun said he enjoyed the most during this trip.) The next day we left LLI to reach chennai in the afternoon(pallavan).

Day 4. Here we enjoyed the day with Bala's sister's family. We went around Besant nagar beach. had dinner outside reached home late in the night.

Day 5. We did the daily need shopping like pickles,vattals and boarded our train back to hyd.

A very fulfilling and wonderful trip.
P.S. This blog has been lengthy. hence could not do justice to what I saw on the country side of Thanjavur. The whole of Thanjavur is a treat to your mind,soul and eyes, more so if you are a Tanjorean.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Patti's kitchen

Kitchens are still a central part of a women's life though the amount of time spent has drastically reduced compared to our seniors.

Thanks to technology, we now have blenders, mixers and grinders to substitue wooden churners(matthus), ammi kal and kal ural(grinding stone). We have pressure cookers, gas stoves, microwave ovens, stainless steel, glass,ceramic utensils to substitute charcoal stoves, mud utensils, kal chattis(stone vessels) and iya pathirams(lead vessels). Earthern mud pots which kept the water cool has made way for refridgerators and also empty mud pots used to act as a store house of vegetables.

The utensils of the bygone era were made of kal(stone0,iyam(lead), brass,copper,iron,gold and silver. It was believed that when food was cooked in these utensils the essential trace elements like brass,silver etc would get into our system, even gold was used though it was a prerogative of the rich.The food cooked would also taste good when cooked on slow fire, unlike fast food which can be cooked fast and lead us fast to an unhealthy life.

Our grandmothers used to spend a larger part of their time in the kitchen nevertheless they entertained themselves by talking philosophy, stories and by singing songs along with their co-sisters , mother in law and sisters in law. So they never felt the stress. And the food cooked with the vibrations of the mantras and shlokas were very tasty.

It was a pleasure to savour the food prepared with devotion. (Is that why koil prasadam is tasty?)It would drip with love. Cousins,uncles ,aunts and parents would sit around relish and enjoy.

Today's generation know not of kal chatti vattakuzhambu(a dish made with tamarind and sun-dried vegetables), iya chombu rasam, man chatti thanni(water) etc., No shlokas/mantras.

Oh yes, Where is the time to eat leisurely?

Wake up, cook fast/ reheat the cooked food , rush your kids to the school bus. You have a meeting at 10.00a.m. Got to cross the lifestyle bridge( I am talking about Hyd traffic) before the 8.30 traffic.

Well, we have arrived women, Thanks to science and technology. It has made life easier for us.

But did u say, we are stressed.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

why the delay?

My blogger stats at says that i am a blogger since 2007 but my post was first published in 2009. Any guesses, why?. Yes, I started in 2007 with the intention of writing travelogues but it never took off that is why my blog title reads my annual visit...

Madhurakali is our family deity and the temple is in Siruvacchur on the chennai trichy highway.

We visit the temple every year either during summer/winter vacation. Legend says that this kali is from Madurai. The unique feature of the temple at Siruvachur is that it is only open for worship twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays and on other special days like Amavasai, Tamil newyear, saraswathi poojai, Diwali, English newyear(1 jan).
The temple itself dates back to the Chola times. The legend goes that the original, main deity of this temple was a Goddess Chelliamman. A sorceror had the powers to control this Goddess and carry out all evil deeds through her..
Kannagi of the chillapadikaram fame had just set the whole city of Madurai on fire as a revenge for the Pandya King who put her innocent husband to death. He was falsely accused of stealing the Queen Manimegalai's anklet.
A furious Kannagi destroyed the city of Madurai in her grief and rage and wandered around the neighbouring country-side. That is when she came into siruvacchur to get some peace of mind. The story goes that Chelli amman sought her help to free herself from the clutches of the evil sorceror.The sorcerer was killed by Kannagi and his powers were destroyed. Filled with joy Chelliamman is said to have handed her the prime position of the main deity to Madura kali. Chelli amman now resides in the nearby periaswamy hillock.However, it is still tradition to perform puja and deeparadhana first to chellayi (towards the hillock). The successors of the Sorceror’s family (called pandarams)have continued as the main priests.
The other speciality of this temple is to light mavillaku.(lamps lit on little mounds of riceflour mixed with jaggery). The temple authorities have made provisions for pounding the rice flour there itself. One has to drape the traditional nine yard madisar and go about pounding the riceflour and then mix the flour with ghee and sugar to make mavilakku.

One has to really visit the temple to experience the vibrations of this temple.

Navarathri of yore

This is my favorite festival- Navarathri. Again I get nostalgic, Back in 80's I used to spend my dussehra holidays at Mylapore.

The whole of Mylapore around the divine kapali koil would turn festive. With lot of golu bommais being sold around the teppakulam(temple pond, push carts selling gift items,balloon walas, poo kadais etc. In pattis house, the room downstairs close to the hall would be decorated. All old thagara dabbas(biscuit tin boxes),and other wooden planks would be assembled to form the nine steps. the first few steps at the top would be placed with gods (all antique man bommais, some were even 50 years old)next few steps with rishis and munis, last few steps starts with birds, animals, followed by people who help us like postman, policeman etc.,not to forget the chettiyar and chettichi. and I used to build a park on the ground close to the first step with sand and use all the items like well, coconut trees, handpump ,plastic houses(all brought from teppakulam fair). In the evenings I went with Ramani chitti /sita mami to invite everybody and we also would get invited. In some houses children would be dressed in mythological characters like Rama, Sita etc.. Nine days of sundal and sweet from our neighbours like mani mama's house(the owner of Bhanu jewellers on Kutcheri road),Sri vidya manjal kungumam kadai Mami(don't know her name), Promo's house and rasika's house etc.,

The memories of Mylapore will remain etched and last till my life time. So again this navarathri I can't help but recall....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

summer vacation

Summer vacation meant our vist to madras. It would usually be on the same day i finish my final exam, the last being kannada always. My dad would see me off at the station at Bangalore. My grand father/mama was there to receive me.It would last for two whole months at kutcheri road mylapore.

Unlike today, we had no summer camps then, but patti's house itself was like a summer camp with all my cousins from Pettaivai thalai and Dehradun.

Breakfast was usually pazheya saadam and vadu mangai. All of us were given just one vadu mangai and perimma used to keep the saadam in our palms(kaila poduradhu).After the noon meals we cousins used to swing on the oonjal in the hall,listen to stories from periya patti, learn to sew from mami,help thatha to do small works like filing etc. Evenings we would walk to santhome beach which was close by. Friday evenings were reserved for Kapali koil. Patti used to give for archanai and one of the cousins had to go with mami to the temple. But none of us would be interested. You know why?. because it was oliyum oliyum(tamil film songs) time. And none of us wanted to miss this. So at around 7.30 p.m all of us would go running away from the hall and hide in toilet or mottai madi(terrace). And another thing we dreaded was clearing the table. Again even before mami /patti calls we would runaway to our hideouts. Oh! we had loads of fun. we needed no summer camps. We learnt many values/culure/traditions/bonding with elders all free of cost.

I still recall my thatha telling the thirukural. 'Thondril pughzhodu thondraga agdilar thondril thondramai nandru'.

Today's children are so stressed out. Vacation for them means going to malls/summercamps/vacationing at resorts. No doubt moral values are on the decline. And even as i am writing some commercial mind must be thinking of summer/ winter camps for moral values.