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.