Friday, April 26, 2013

A brew of aroma, art and cheers - Kumbakonam Degree coffee

From its legendary discovery by an Ethiopian goatherd, to its standing as the world’s morning beverage of choice, coffee has come a long way. It has gone forth and conquered, marking many trendy  lounges where drinking coffee in a cafĂ© now is all about meeting friends, a social encounter. Coffee today means a great reason to be with the people you really like.  No longer is it a simple beverage designed to wake up human.

                                                    Photos taken @ Sixth sense -a coffee and art shop

Many a variations like capuccino, lungo, freddo,Mocha,marocchino, Macchiato, Americano, expresso...... what have you? You must have tried and tasted many a variations in the various star lounges and must have read its history on the displays adorning the walls.  But very few are  aware of the 'Kumbakonam Degree coffee'(KDC). The coffee  which is popular around Kumbakonam and its surrounding towns on the bank of River Cauvery.
 Unlike the above listed expensive brews, KDC is a simple beverage designed to wake up humans  and pep them for the day, so much so that this wake up drink fondly called ‘Filter kaapi’ is  a signature of culture and practically defines a community today.
 Many believe that the name of this coffee is defined by the coffee powder from Kumbakonam and so many source them from this temple city by courier to their places. Contrary to belief, it is not the  coffee powder alone,  it is the combination of ingredients and filtration technique that makes this coffee brewing an art and renders its name. 
Long ago, much before milk were sold in packets and bottles, the homes around the agricultural town of Kumbakonam sourced the milk from the home bred cows. It was a routine in most homes to milk the cows early in the morning.  The  required amount of fresh milk would be directly used for making coffee when cold storages were unheard of. And in those homes which did not rear cows relied on the milkman to deliver the cow’s milk.  To check the purity or thickness of the milk, most homes had a lactometer. The red grading on the lactometer indicated the degree of thickness of the milk. This ‘degree’ milk was used for making coffee. Hence the tag ‘Kumbakonam degree coffee’.
The style of brewing the coffee is different. The coffee beans are not indigenously grown around here. The coffee beans are sourced from the neighbouring district of Nilgiris and from BabaBudan giri(BB hills) of Chikmagalur, Karnataka. But of course, people around here have a preference some prefer Peaberry seeds, some Plantation A, some go for plantation 1. They are graded according to the ripeness. The most pure ones are peaberry(green colored called pinju kottai).  Some even add chicory for thickness, some prefer without it.
Traditionally, this is a ritualistic art in a few homes of coffee aficionados, like my husband’s grand parents place. They infact, use a silver(not stainless steel)  filter for this purpose and coffee is served in brass tumbler.  Here are a few steps how it is made –
  •   The seeds peaberry and plantation 'A' in the ratio of  1:1 are roasted in a  kadai and ground instantly in a coffee grinder.
  • The freshly ground coffee is then put in a coffee filter where hot water is added to make a decoction.
  • The coffee filter  has two chambers stacked one over the other. The upper chamber has perforations and the lower chamber is the collector. The upper chamber is where the ground coffee powder( 2 table spoons)  is put and hot water(( a cup)  is poured.
  • The resultant decoction is collected in the lower chamber.
  • The  decoction is added to the freshly boiled ‘degree’ (thick) milk and sugar.
  • The brew is done according to individual’s taste, some like it strong so more decoction is added. If you want it lighter, less decoction is added.
  • The coffee is served in brass cup and saucer called tumbler and davara’
  • To  bring it to the right drinking temperature, it is swished from the davara to tumbler and back. This brings the froth on the cup.
  • To enjoy its true taste, it is said the freshly brewed  aromatic ‘Kaapi’( coffee) should be consumed twenty minutes within the time of preparation, else it loses its zing.
 The coffee grinder at my grand parents place. It can be fixed to a wall or a table. The roasted beans are put in the white chamber & ground with the handle. a bowl underneath collects the powder.(click on it for better clarity) 
This brand  is now revved up by a few enterprising people and many highways on ECR(east coast road)  and NH 45 are making brisk business by using the brand of ‘Kumbakonam Degree coffee’. Perhaps to counter the Baristas, Qwikys and CCD’s.  Many of them have drifted from the original brewing style and does not taste closer to the home brewed ones say coffee lovers. Here neither is coffee bean  roasted, ground , nor is fresh cow’s milk procured, it is like a vending machine.

The two chambered south indian coffee filter comes in various metals like brass, silver and stainless steel. 

                                   A frothy cup of 'Kaapi' in a  tumbler(glass)  and davara(rimmed saucer)

 Many homes also use commercially branded coffeepowders, electric percolators rather than homeground seeds and steel filter. Even at my home, we use the  coffee day powder and electric percolater when there are many guests. ( filter is used only when there are few people).But the home made brew is a hit with my friends who love 'Filter kaapi' made at home by my Mil. Infact, she is the source of information for this post. I confess here i don't like coffee much and my mood swings when i smell the coffee and I gargle my mouth after a drink which is very rare. 

Information courtesy: This information was  authenticated by a employee 'Keshavan in the Sri Krishna hotel at Thirukadaiyur. He and his mom Bhavani were ex-employees at the famous mayavaram' Kaliakudi' hotel. This hotel famous in the 50's and 60's has been closed now and its employees have moved into two hotels, one at mayavaram and the other is Thirukadaiyur's Srikrishna Bhavan. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thirukadaiyur - The journey not the destination - 6

We had planned to visit Karaikal from Tranquebar,  but it was already past 6 p.m. We would not be left with day time to explore and see Karaikal.  Moreover, With the high beam lights of heavy vehicles  flashing, it  would be difficult and take more time to return home. we had to travel back 100kms to reach  home on kutccha village roads. So, we skipped Karaikal but on our return route we decided to step into  a renowned temple famous for celebrating birthdays - Thirukadaiyur. ( non tamils read  it as Thiru-kadai-oor)

Like I said in my Kumbakonam post. There are  lots of huge ancient  temples around this area  which has historical, religious and spiritual significance. And Thirukadiyur is one such. Though we have visited this temple some 7 years back, we decided to step in to absorb the vibes again.

This temple is famous for the celebration of birthdays( according to hindu star calendar)  ritualistically to vedic rites and havans. 

                                                 The traditional temple tower called gopuram

Generally it is a tradition in a few south Indian communities to celebrate the completion of 60 years, 80 years etc .  This is especially with married couple who take marital vows again on the man turning 60, 70 or 80.  This is called Sashtiapthapoorthi.(Completion of 60) .

The couple offer prayers for the longevity of their healthy life  by conducting  havans like ‘Mrityunjay homam( to conquer death) and be healthy. Lots of  herbs  with medicinal properties are put into the havan . The air released from the havan is said to relieve a person  from  health ailments and rejuvenates the body, mind and soul.  Some even conduct their children’s birthdays called ‘Ayush homam.’

Lord Shiva punishing The god of death while Saint markendaya hugs the Shivling. 

There is a legend behind the reason why it is performed here.  Lord Shiva is said to have kicked  The god of death (yama ) here  with his left leg as a mark of punishment,  while he was trying to take the life of  Saint Markendaya.  Due to this Yama was inactive for a period during which there were no deaths on the Earth. Death was conquered here at Thirukadaiyur. Hence the faith of the devotees in this place. This is the main  legend, though there are numerous legends and significance associated with this small temple town.

 All these are depicted in various  colorful paintings all around the praharams(corridors) of the temple.Another legend associated is that during ‘Sagar Manthan'. Lord Ganesha was angry with the devas and asuras that they did not pray to him before the churning.  Lord Ganesha is said to have been angry and so took away the Amrith kalash (pot of nectar) and hid it here. Which later turned into Lord Shiva and hence the name of the lord here is called AmrithaGhateswarar.(Amrit + Ghatam meaning pot of nectar)

After the darshan, we entered the  corridors of the temple which looked surreal and sublime with the beautiful  lit diyas  and the divine settings.   we saw nearly 50  arrangements set for the havans. Various herbs were placed in small  bowls made of leaves in front of the havan kund. The stage was set to conduct the completion of the couples birthday. The ritual involves renewing the marriage vows and tying the mangalsutra again.   Generally, on an average 50 couples conduct their completion of 60th birthdays here. All these arrangements are done by the couples grown up children who get blessed and have a  chance to witness their parents tying the mangalsutra. For more on this temple read here. 

The temple has facilitated online arrangements to enable devotees to book their function dates  before hand.  The temple road is flanked by many comfortable accommodations and hotel around completing the infrastructure for the visitng couples and their relatives.

 The hotels around have unique names and serve  time honored homely  traditional vegetarian  cuisine which you find is  very rare in city hotels and even in small towns where chinese food like manchurian, noodles, fried rice have invaded.

It was here at the Hotel Krishna Bhavan,  i found why  'Kumbakonam Degree Coffee' is called as degree coffee by one of the employees. I had already heard about this from my MIL, only she was not aware of the branding of this coffee.

With this post, i complete my bucketlist travelogue of my Dec'12 travel. But my journey will continue...............:) 

pic courtesy:google

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A very Indian approach to management- Business Sutra by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Book review of

                                          Publisher:Aleph Book company
                                                        Pages: 437
                                                                        INR 695

Modern Management science taught in business schools world over is based on Western beliefs. In this book, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik  wonders and writes what it would be like if management science is based on Indian Mythology.

According to him there is a premise in Indian mythology where it says if there is no intellectual growth, there will be no economic growth.  
Why we do business impacts how we do it and what ultimately gets done. “Jaise vichaar vaise vyavhaar, jaise vyavhaar vaise vyapaar”. As is belief, so is behavior, so is business. This is Business sutra, a very Indian way of doing business which he calls as 3B framework. The sutra(like the dots in a rangoli(kolam) connects Indian beliefs to business. Every idea in this book is a dot that the reader can join to create a pattern like in rangoli and will help expand your mind. 

He discusses this in three  main chapters:

The first chapter “Connecting business to belief”  gives an introduction on 3B framework, about beliefs, myth and mythology, decodes culture and connects management to mythology.

The second chapter “From Goal to gaze”  Decodes western, Chinese and Indian beliefs.

 Apart from their beliefs on their business approach,  It relates how Europeans came to India first to trade, then to convert and eventually to exploit.  Indians became exposed to the western ideas as they studed in missionary schools to become clerks in the East India company and complied with the western ideas, language and templates. Whenever a local orientalist tried to explain,  the colonists tried to point out to the Indian social issues like caste, sati and idol worship. Indians became apologetic.

So what’s the difference between the East and the West? 

When we look at Indian mythology — be it Hindu, Buddhist or Jainsim — we find new ways of looking at business. Our approach changes. Indian approach is both profit-related as well as people-centric, while Western approach is profit-centric, thus turning people into mere resources and relies more on vision and mission statements says Pattanaik. He elaborates this argument when he says that in India, you can get away by breaking rules because we value people and are more than willing to adjust. Also, this country, unlike Western countries is so diverse that one rule can’t be good enough for everyone. “In the West, which is homogenous, rules are paramount and can be implemented strictly. If you don’t follow rules there, you are in trouble. But India is complex. As one goes through the epics of India, there are rule-following heroes (Ram) as well as rule-following villains (Duryodhan), the rule-breaking heroes (Krishna) as well as rule-breaking villains (Ravan). Thus, here goodness and righteousness has nothing to do with rules; they are at best functional, depending on the context they can be upheld or broken. This explains why we don’t value rules and systems in our own country, but adhere when we go abroad.”

The third chapter is the heart of the book and I found it more interesting and enriching. “Business Sutra- The very Indian approach to management”
Here he connects nearly 145 business sutra(principles to mythological stories drawn from Indian culture(Ramayan, Mahabharatha, Vikram-vetal, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc). He believes that mythological stories along with symbols and rituals are the tools through which our ancestors shared their wisdom, wisdom that is relevant even in modern times. 

Business Sutra is an attempt to make the wisdom of mythology accessible and applicable to the corporate world. Management and business principles like brand value, attrition, hierarchy, short term goals, long term vision, governance, politics, economics etc.,   The stories are short and is followed with a case study ranging from a street side vendor to the board room of a corporation.

An example to showcase the gaze-oriented value of business sutra is how we see the world and our relationship with Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, whose image adorns Hindu homes and Jain temples.
IF we believe that wealth needs to be pursued we turn the workplace into a rana-bhoomi(battle ground)  of investors, regulators, employers, employees, vendors , competitors etc., If you believe that wealth has to be attracted, we turn work place into a ranga bhoomi, a play ground where everyone is happy. He correlates this to the story of Playful Krishna in Vrindavan( rangabhoomi) and that of the Krishna in ranabhoomi(kurukshetra).
Many such interesting myths of Indian mythology which India seems to have forgotten and the world has overlooked are  decoded by  Pattanaik. Like he says  “ Myths aren’t always to be taken literally. They have to be decoded to understand the real meaning. When someone says that ocean parted, you can take it literally. Or you can see it as an idea of something impossible happening”

The fourth chapter is actually a  decoding dictionary of Business sutra and this is very important to understand the book  and you have to refer often. In fact this is what I disliked about the book. Every now and then I had to flip over to this page to find the meaning of the various  business sutra words. For instance, the word ‘Yagna” which according to Indian  mythology means  ‘vedic fire ritual’ is actually “the process of exchange” in this book. Similarly ‘Krishna’ means  he who breaks rules to help others grow on their terms and not the ‘yadava cowherd or Vishnu avatar’

The fifth chapter is the index of sutras which are discussed in the third chapter.

With India making its presence in the International market, this could well be India’s offering to the leaders of the world. Apart from the management and business schools , I highly recommend this book to every body .  And  also  a few principles of  this book to be a part of school  syllabi to  help expand the thinking of young minds.

Like Pattanaik says in the closing lines , when the mind expands, Lakshmi(wealth)  follows. This is the essence of Business Sutra.

Overall an uplifting and enriching read, though I found the first two chapters little cloudy initially and read it a second time to understand better.

 The author Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik
Trained in medicine, he spent 15 years in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries first as a freelance content provider and then in organizations such as SIRO clinical research, Good health n you, Apollo Health Street and Sanofi Aventis, before joining Ernst & Young as Business Advisor.
That is when he met Kishore Biyani of Future Group (Big Bazaar, Pantaloon, Central) who convinced him to turn his hobby into his vocation.For over 15 years, Devdutt wrote and lectured extensively on the relevance of mythology (not just Hindu mythology) in modern times.Since becoming Chief Belief Officer of Future Group in 2008, he has specially focussed on Mythology and Management and is currently leadership coach and inspirational speaker to many organizations besides Future Group.
He consults Star TV on storytelling techniques and patterns. And is a regular in the management seminar lecture circuit. His columns on management and culture that appear in Economic Times, Sunday Mid-day, Tehelka, Hindustan Times, and Times of India, are a hit with general and specialist readers. He has written over 25 books for everyone from adults to children, for youth to business executives.

This review is a part of the biggest indian bloggers book review program" for Participate now to get free books!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The land of Singing waves - Tharangambadi aka Trankebar/Tranquebar

We know from history that Europeans had a fascination for  India.  They marked a few ideal places and  have left a stamp of their architectural legacy and cultural influence behind. Some places like Portugal Goa are famous while some like the Danish Tranquebar is pretty much unknown. It facades itself as a sleepy fishing town tucked some 200kms below Chennai, Sandwiched between an ancient maritime Chola port Poompuhar and another  French port Karaikal. Uncover it and you will discover a little slice of Danish life.  It is revived now, thanks to INTACH  and  due to the patriotic zeal and ancestral pride of the Danes who often travel from Denmark to feel the soul of their ancestors.

In 1620, a 23 year old Danish Admiral Ove Giedde landed on the coramandel  coast looking for a base to trade spices like pepper, tea, silk etc. He fell in love with this fishing village called Tharangampadi(the land of singing waves) .  He approached the Thanjavur Nayak king who was then ruling this to grant the fishing village for trade. King Raghunatha Nayaka who was in favour of international trade signed a treaty which  led to the creation of a prominent port of Danish East India company.

 What was till then the venue of 13th century Masilamaninathar temple and called Tharangampadi went on to become the base for Danish settlement called Trankebar(Danish) or Tranquebar in English.

The nearly 200 year old influence (1620-1845) has left behind a  Danish soul in the form of a Fort called Dansborg fort which is now the only surviving imperial fort on the coramandel coast . It also has a few colonial houses like the Governor’s bungalow, the collector’s bungalow, the town gate, The first protestant church in india, first printing press, a maritime museum and more.

This place was my destination precisely 8 years and 2 days after the deadly tsunami washed the place(dec 28,2012).

After the 100km road journey from the Mining town of Neyveli, as I entered the King’s street through the Town gate called landsdowne, I could feel the colonial influence. The street had colonial structures on either sides in the form of quaint houses, churches, men’s  teacher training institute.

 We first visited the Maritime museum on Queen’s street  which is now temporarily housed in a palm hut. It showcases the   life of fishermen, their paraphernalia  like fishing nets , boats, the remains of the Tsunami etc.,The main attraction is a  plank boat called masula boat*. The place is  small and manned by a local fisherman, he said it is maintained by a Dane as a tribute to the local fishing community since fishing plays a major role in the history and culture of Tranquebar. It also has a marine archaeology department whose object is to explore the sea bed along the tranquebar coast where many sailing ships during the Danish period have had ship wrecks. It is likely to be shifted to a permanent structure shortly.  It has a visitors register and when I signed in my name  at the closing hours of the day, I found my family were the only Indians who visited the museum that day, the rest were from Netherlands, Hongkong, and Mauritius.

From here we drove down  the same lane past the King’s street  to visit the Dansborg fort. A beautiful Scandinavian structure  built in Sandstone. We  walked up the ramp to reach the first storey of the two storeyed fort. It  is now maintained by TN government as an archaeological museum. Excavated ruins like  Porcelain Urns, plates,  locks, seals, cannons, agreement letters  between the king of Denmark and the Thanjavur king, palm script, the names of the Danish ships that travelled to the place, The list of the Dane governors etc are displayed.  Some Danish  coins are also exhibited and the records say, this was the only place outside Denmark where coins were minted some two centuries ago. As you walk out on the deck you also find  an execution place(galley).The base floor has a godown for the goods, a jail, stable for horses etc. All around the fort walls, nearly 13 cannon guns are mounted.  I must admit here that the exhibits did not impress me but the beautiful castle like fort did.

                            A view of the Fort from the rocky shores of the bay
After a tour around the fort,  we whiled a few moments on the remnants of the fort  jutting into the bay what was once the ramparts of the fort. The Fort has weathered many a strong tides and waves even the Tsunami of 2004. Much of the outer walls have been washed away by the sea leaving behind an eroded brick pier. This Pier was the bridge to transport the goods from the ship to the Fort and back to the ship.

It gave a heady feeling standing on a piece of history and watching  the bobbing ships in the faraway horizon while the strong breeze was enough to push me away. It was rejuvenating and relaxing to inhale the air while watching the children play with the waves and pick the sea-shells. There are not many bayside eateries or cola, gola and candy shops except for a lady selling sundal( boiled peas) and just one pushcart selling icecreams. 

 We then walked a few steps along the shore to the oldest structure in the area, the 13th century Masilamaninathar temple.This temple when built by a Pandya king  originally had three gopurams(temple tower). Two of which have been washed away by the sea while one still remains. The temple is not very active except for the lighting of the diya by the priest in the evening. The priest is one of the tsunami survivor,On the fateful day, the gurukkal said(priest) he held on to the Shivling and chanted mantras and waited for three days  till the water receded. The temple is still facing a losing battle with the sea. 

 Just beside the temple and across the Fort is the Danish Governor’s residence which is now a Neemrana Property. An employee at the property said, they have acquired a few local houses like the nayak and nadar houses and converted them into home stays like the Gatehouse (the first house on King’s street) . He also said the Danes are proud of their heritage and ancestors and often visit the Danish cemetery to pay their respects. The Danes relate and celebrate their culture here  and take a leisurely stroll around the artefacts in the museum. Infact, a group of Danes who are  proud of their heritage want to conserve the Danish heritage  and so they have come together to form an association called Danish Tranquebar association. Nearly two crores have been spent to cobble the pathways and for lighting by the association and INTACH. This heritage town is now  heading towards as a candidate for the  UNESCO’ world heritage site. 

The nearby Collectors’bungalow is being renovated to make way for a library. 
Beside the Bungalow on the intersection of the King’s street and Queen’s street is a statue you can’t miss. The statue of Bartholoaeus Ziegenbalg built in 2006. 

This place also conserves many other reminders of Danish heritage, most of them being colonial houses  which reminds us of the times when this port must have been a busy trading outpost of the Danes.

It was already 6.p.m. Two hours flew by too soon, leaving me with a decided sense of wanting to stay longer. There is so much to see, hear, feel and experience like the stories from the locals,the craft center, the interiors of the Zion church, the first rays of the morning sun, inhaling the clean  air etc.,  But in all, I had a satisfying feeling of having absorbed a beautiful slice of history, a pristine beach side, an ancient little temple. I left a little of myself here but holding so much in my camera.

Pin Tranquebar on your tourist map in case you are a history buff, photo enthusiast, have love for traditional architecture or simply If you want to relax, rejuvenate in a quaint beach town with no touristy airs.

 Oh!........  and....... i forgot to tell you........ while here on the beach, don’t forget to take a deeeeeeeeeeep breath and fill your lungs to the maximum. Because, this is one of the two places on the planet where the  Ozone readings (thickness)  are  high( the other is in Switzerland). 

Check this long photo tour( click on the pics to enlarge):

                        The 'landsdowne' town gate to enter into King's street. Note the Danish seal at the top

          Tranquebar maritime museum housed in a palm and bamboo hut has a few fishing paraphernalia, a model fisherman house, a few old  maps. This will soon be housed in King's street where a house is being renovated for this purpose.

The Masula boat is unique to the coramandel coast. It has several planks sewn together thus making it elastic. These boats helped the ships to transfer the goods to the fort. The making of the boat will be shown live to the visitors  when the museum shifts to its new premises.

           That's the Scandinavian structure Dansborg  built in sand stone. The second  largest Danish fort after Kronborg in Denmark, the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet
                                   The history of Dansborg fort at the entrance to the fort( click on it to read)
                                          A glimpse of the bay through the window of the fort. In the foreground is a cannon which is now silent but from here you can hear the crashing giant waves of the bay
              Letter from the Thanjavur king Raghunatha nayak displayed in the museum(click on it to read the message)
                                                        An old map of Tranquebar displayed in the museum
                                                    Some excavated ruins and remains

The original drawing of the fort with the outer walls which were eventually washed by the waves of the sea.

The back view of the fort, the basement has a jail, godown for stocking the goods,gunpowder,  stable for horses etc.
                                                             One of the basement cells
 A view of the collector's bungalow from the terrace of the fort.This INTACH renovated house will soon turn into a library.

  A view of the lovely little  Masilamaninathar temple, two of its three temple towers built in 13th century  have  been swallowed by the sea.

A close-up side view of the temple. The Front entrance is towards the bay.
 The brick pier through which goods where transported from the ship to the fort at the far end. The beach shores are covered with black sand.


 A view of the  INTACH restored Neemrana property ' The Bungalow on the beach'.  Neemrana is the delhi based group which refurbishes dilapidated  heritage property into a hotel property without disturbing the feel of the bygone charm. They rightly call themselves as non-hotel hotel. There is no air of a commercial space when I entered the property. A nice place for the vacationing family to stay, relax, rejuvenate and experience the Danish charm. The 13th century temple is to the right of the property.The pathways have been cobbled and ornate lamp posts  adorn the area between the fort and Neemrana hotel.

 After renovation, this hotel was thrown open to public on Dec 24, 2004. Two days later a deadly Tsunami struck the property and disrupted the functioning of the hotel for three months. It was restored later and the interiors are earthy, warm  and  stunning and  it transports you to a  bygone era, you wished you belonged to.

The corridors of the hotel on the ground floor facing the swimming pool. The terrace of this place serves as a view deck for the Bay. A nice place to relax, rejuvenate on a  vacation.
This statue of Bartholoaeus Ziegenbalg built in 2006. To commemorate the 300th anniversary of the German Missionary who was sent by the King of Denmark to spread the gospel. He was the founder of Lutheran mission and translated the bible into Tamil after learning the local language in three months time.  To print the bible the first printing press was started in India here and from  here Lutheranism is supposed to have spread across India. Hence Tranquebar is called ‘The Gateway of Protestantism to India’ and also bibliophiles know that The tamil bible is the first book to be printed in India.
 An old nadar(business community of Tamilnadu) house has been brought by the Danish association  on King's street. This is now being renovated to house a catering institute.
 The renovated Flora cottage opposite the maritime mueseum houses some of the Danish tourists.
 This is the first house on King's street called 'The Gate house'  a lovely accomodation for tourists. The  above are a few properties which are restored into quaint original Danish homes to retain the charm of the place.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On World Health day - 108 surya namaskars

 ‘Hey A, you have lost weight.’ the statement by my friend  greeted me when I entered yoga class last Friday.  Although it is nice to hear such positive statements, I take it light, because I know my body weight is dynamic.  Anyways, I gleefully said “Oh really! Phir toh teri muh mein ghee shakkar” and she shrieked  ‘Naaaaaaaaahi…ghee shakkar nahi, par oat paratha zaroor dalna”. 

  Oat paratha?!!  Are you surprised why oat paratha?     Will let you know at the end.

Before that, I will justify my title ‘On World health day – 108 suryanamaskars’

My grand parents generation or even my parents generation did not allocate time/spend money on  physical exercises exclusively. It was embedded in their way of life while they went about their daily routine.My generation and the gen next  are forced to mark  time  and spend money  on this. Thanks to our sedentary lifestyle.

Already many of us are walking,swimming, gymming or hitting the various  wellness centers/sports center. Today, Wellness in India is a booming  industry but in ancient India too, wellness had taken many forms, connotations and techniques.   In oldendays, it is believed that the sadhus and munis  were able to control their body physiologies like weight, temp and even hunger through rigourous sadhna of mantras and yoga. From yoga to ayurveda the most famous way of keeping fit is yoga which is popular amongst every generation of fitness enthusiasts. The recent surge of different forms of Yoga like power vinyasa yoga, restorative yoga, theraupetic yoga, kathak yoga, acro yoga and many more are adding popurlarity in almost every generation of fitness enthusiasts and this  has also proved one thing.  India is going back to the roots and leading the world too.  To substantiate my point, i refer this article about the US prez Obama endorsing Yoga .

I too have subscribed myself to this form.  My yoga studio is directed by a Registered Yoga teacher She along with her colleagues makes this form an art. As one enters the studio, all one has to do is follow her powerful yet soothing voice for the next one hour. It leaves us energized, Physically and mentally fit  to handle the day and a regular practice has made  yoga - a way of living for many of us.  We are more than 200 people  and she  keeps motivating and charging us by organizing various events and creating platforms for our creative pursuits on the various earmarked days like ‘World breakfast day’, women’s day, and today like last year On World health day  we performed 108 suryanamaskars.

Keeping in mind the sizzling heat in the city, it was organized at the cool environs of a nearby resort.  110 of us participated in the event which was covered by the media , and  most of us completed the 108. (I of course, gave up on one round when the skin beneath my toe tore while brushing against the mat) I still completed 107 rounds.  It turned  into a huge success lapped by the media and many e-zines( even i gave my interview for one). 

Every now and then, when many of us were raining  sweat(  my mat was wet)  and  losing energy,  we were energized with  her pep talks like “Find your edge and push yourself a lil beyond your edge to meet new dimensions of your strength and energy”, "You guyz have come thus far, stretch yourself a little more"  etc...etc. It kept us going till the end.   And many of us on this world health day today successfully completed the 108.  We celebrated the event in the resort with a sumptuous breakfast. And we were all back home by 9 in the morning to see the world around  still sleeping  on a Sunday.  So far, none of my limbs are crying of ache. I am fit and energetic. I wanted to catch up on my lost sleep since i woke up very early. But sleep seems to elude me...... I am bubbling with energy while sharing this  post about a very fulfilling morning. 

Coming to the Oat paratha topic which i left abrupt in the beginning -  Green, oats paratha ( a paratha made with multigrain  and greens was my entry  for 'World breakfast day'  online contest held by the studio.  The theme was to create an innovative and nutritive breakfast recipe using oats as a main ingredient and I won the first prize which was given today. The contest was judged by a sports nutritionist and dietician.  Will share the recipe for you folks in one of my future posts.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Parentous posts ( feb, march and April)

My latest post  @ parentous  -   "Does time fly as you watch them grow?"

Whenever my son or daughter say they are going to organise their wardrobe, my head goes for a 360 degree spin. Every time they clean it they end up with a pile of good clothes that they have outgrown. Some of which are occasionally used and some are brought a few months back.
Only these days, my head spins very fast. Any guesses why? Read more here.

My March post - The March epidemic
Come March and the place around me looks like it is under curfew. You won’t find most of the regular socializing parents, children playing in the driveways and play area. All get-togethers come to a grinding halt, hurried shopping or mandatory outings only. Read .....

My feb post - Memories to make their hearts smile

This incident happened 10 years back. My 3-year-old son refused to take the medicine (a bitter syrup) that I was holding in my hand. I sweet talked initially and finally when I was about to give up and force it down his throat. More here....

Monday, April 1, 2013

An ode to the men architects in my life

When I receieved a mail from Blogadda asking me to participate in the contest. I did think of writing about the men who have shaped  and honored my life. Then my mind started vacillating should I or should’nt I ?

Though I socialize and talk to everybody,   I am a very private person when it comes to sharing my personal thoughts and personal life especially I don’t talk about my loved ones. That is why I never link my blogs to my social network because  I don’t want anybody around me like when I walk on the road to know my innermost feelings or what’s happening in my home. You got the drift?

 Like I said, I socialize  a lot in my condominium and during the course of conversations, many of my friends do tell how their parents did not allow to make choices in their life, how some of their husbands are chauvinistic,  how their grandparents were orthodox etc., It is at these times I have felt how blessed I am to have these men in my life. Perhaps, that is why it took long for me to understand gender discrimination or male chauvinism.

Many a times I do think of writing about them but something holds me back saying maybe I will not be able to encompass my emotions for them in words and perhaps I may do injustice to my love for them. I decided i will write because it is not about  my love for them.  But how I am influenced by them.

Here they go my male mentors, my inspirers, my guides, my soldiers , my architects and more about their influence  in chronological order:

My paternal Grandfather: Today, with women working outside the home, some men share the household chores but imagine some 7,8 decades back if a man did all these things how progressive he must have been. My thatha( that is how we call grandpa)  is one.  He knew no gender biased jobs. He was at ease with cooking, making sambar  powders, serving food for the women folk of the house. Infact, the art of chopping vegetables finely was something l learnt for him apart from the ‘Never say Die’ attitude. Every time he fell he rose up like a phoenix.  One of the few traction battery experts of his time( infact, his clients say he was the only one who knew the formula which he learnt in Germany)  who held a leading position in a battery company in Bangalore.  He gave up the job when he got a call from a leading cine actress Vanisri to  start a battery company in Madras as a partner. The company sunk due to some problems. And thatha who owned 2 cars and a cushy life was left with nothing. He took up a  consultancy job to a start up company in Bangalore which manufactured battery operated moped called’ Electrona 24’. Yet again the sales did’nt pick up perhaps the idea of a battery operated vehicle was far ahead of its times. In the mid 80’s there was not much commotion about  environmental pollution. This grand pa of mine was undeterred and he rose up again  as a successful consultant and went on to work till the day of his death at age 75.  His  life is a lesson for me. Everytime I fall, I think of him and rise.  I never topped my class but he proudly said his granddaughter was intelligent and had good general knowledge.  I was his first grand child and he wanted me to be a business entrepreneur. He celebrated my first birthday with such great pomp by inviting dignitaries and sending printed  invitations. Everytime, I lose in a sport or any competition, he patted my back and said ‘Participation is more important than winning’.  His passion was cooking,  I learnt making traditional dishes from him while on a holiday to my aunts’ place (Dewas).

My Maternal grandfather: Oh! How pompous he was!! whenever  I showed him any of my article published in a magazine, he would take it from me and show it around to everybody and he would talk about to all in a wedding hall or if anybody came over.. Actually it would’nt even be a great article but he felt so proud of this granddaughter. The pats and appreciation from him were like a boost for me. He often told me “everytime an opportunity presents itself, take part don’t hesitate. Infact, make your presence felt in a crowd” His famous quote in life was a couplet from the tamil saint Thiruvalluvar “Thondril pugozhodu thondruga, agdilar thondril thondrami nandru” Roughly translates to “when you are born, you must be famous, else it is not worth to be born”  . He himself was a famous water diviner of his times who has dowsed wells in many parts of India like the tea gardens of Assam, Bengal, Mango orchards in AP and at divine places like Saint Ramana’s Ashram and the Kanchi mutt.  When I went a couple of years back to the Saint’s Ashram, the administrator said “ The wells that your grandpa dowsed have never been dry”. How his work lives even after he is gone.

Their encouragement and pats often cross  my mind and helps me bounce like a spring when I am down and low.  Both my grandpas are no more but I am sure they are watching me from above and  feeling proud when I even write a post and would have definitely bragged about my blog had they been alive. Sometimes, I think I was not even a published author or never wrote any research article, not even a topper  but why were they so proud of me. Perhaps their way of encouraging a little girl.

 My dad: Anything I tell about him will be less. Anyways this post is not about love  but how men encouraged women. Generally in some societies, if a girl child is born people feel pity for the parents of the girl child. I myself have seen people telling my  parents at the bank or at any public place ” Oh, so you have two daughters?” laced with pity and my dad would say with pride “ Yes, two daughters”. I and my sister(6 years my junior) were given complete freedom to take up the course of our study. When I have seen parents around  insisting that they follow their foot steps. My dad stood by me when I wanted to take up electronics and made proper arrangements to ensure that I study well by providing all the study materials. Even at 10 in the night, my dad would rush to the faraway shop to get me a notebook. Is that all? He never imposed his choices and let us make our own decisions. Be it about our course of study, career or about my wedding. My parents took our permission and only then decided even in family affairs. Oh! forgot to tell you, like his dad, my dad too doesn’t demarcate household chores as feminine job. He can cook, sweep, wash dishes and has instilled in me the value that doing one’s house work like cleaning wash rooms  is not degrading. And when he and his brothers gettogether, it is they who cook and serve the women folk. Even yesterday, over phone my mom told me since appa is helping her in the household chores she is able to rest her arthritic knees.

My husband:  He is  one of the coolest person who has had a  major positive influence on me. He is my Robin Sharma, Dale Carnegie all rolled in one. Everytime I turn pessimistic about some thing, he infuses the positivity in me. At every step, he has encouraged me in taking up things and doing independently. He knows my potential more than me.  I am a very sensitive person and can easily get hurt. It is he who taught be to be indifferent towards negative criticism and take things lightly . Infact, one of his mantras to me is ‘Be light headed to feel at peace’. Don’t be a football of other’s emotions and get kicked around. Just be you and do want you want as long as you feel it is right. Temperamentally and idealogically we are poles apart but we complement each other.  What’s more he is not preachy when he says all these things. His one wish is that I have to drive the car or even a two wheeler so that it will make me more mobile while he is away on official tours. But sadly that doesn’t happen, because  everytime he encourages me to take up the driving seat, I start shouting that he is not bothered about his wife’s life and other such things. So he leaves it at that while the children in the back seat chuckle and exchange glances at their dad. He too knows no gender biased jobs and can cook, chop veggies, clear tables and put clothes for drying. Infact, once while I was away on training, he cooked a new dish and now almost every weekend or holiday my children insist he cook that dish while I relax.

My son:  His mature talks influence me to turn around my decision. It was only recently On Women’s day, I was standing in the balcony feeling the cool breeze. He and I were conversing as to how the day went by. During the conversation, I told him I don’t believe in dedicating one day in a year and naming it as women’s day, father’s day, grand parents day etc., I told him it was a westernized concept to boost the sales of gift articles and promote greeting card companies.  He just like my husband patiently explained. I quote him” No, ma. It is not like that. You cook daily, care for us and help us every day. Every day if I said 'thank you' it will mean nothing to you and it will become a part of the routine. And moreover, many will be in  a hurry to reach the school bus or to office in the morning and may not say thank you to their mom/women. Many care for their  women, but people stop to say thank you and celebrate their women on women’s day”.  Well,  I did turn around my stand that day. Each time I talk to him I learn something new and I keep educating myself only to be able to converse and win arguments with him. That said, I like to lose arguments with him. And yes, he too at 14 makes the best tea, a good baker and a great chef. He even washes vessels and cleans the vessels with a soft cloth leaving them sparkling clean when I am unwell. Oh, he also makes me weak when he carries heavier things and gives the lighter things to me.

I am privileged to be born into a family where men and women complement each other and luckily married into one such family. I could write more and more about all the above men  who have philanthropy as their middle name.  They have encouraged me and made me stronger, independent and intelligent and above all instilled great values. And there are many more like my late FIL( he was such a humble person ), uncles, my colleagues, my boss, my male teachers like my maths teacher  but that will make this post a tad longer.

Perhaps that is the reason it baffles me to know that some of my friends husband don’t enter the kitchen to even drink a glass of water leave alone make tea. Some don’t allow their wives to handle finances. Some don’t allow their women to make career choice. Some are forced to work while some are forced to stay back against their choices.

This post is a part of "Soldiers for women" in association with the best community of Indian Bloggers