Friday, April 25, 2014

When I was caught and bowled

Whenever my son goes to washroom, he is never back soon. He sometimes is lost there for more than 15 minutes. On repeated knocks on the door, he emerges with my mobile in his hand. And now with half a day school sessions and IPL time, my mobile and even my laptop/ tab is never under my control. while my daughter is glued to the laptop in her room, my son is with my mobile happily watching the football matches and IPL. Now i am no cricket fan and so it irks me at times when the two war over their favorite teams and to top, I find both my gadgets in their hands. Thanks to ( My TVcable operator does not beam starsports anymore). But I try to keep calm.

Everytime, the IPL fever starts, they come up to me to ask whom would i support? My son a dhoni loyalist would say "Amma, support CSK, remember you were born in chennai" and my daughter would say"ma, don't forget you were raised and your family lives in Bangalore. Now don't be unpatriotic, Support RCB"

I say to them, " I care less and am not interested who wins or loses".

Yesterday's RCB loss over KKR triggered a verbal duel between my CSK supporter son and My daughter an RCB fan. Sad with the loss of RCB and her bro's taunt at RCB, my daughter was cribbing and ranting. And i could'nt keep my calm, I yelled "Stop being crazy and don't fight over a sport. The teams are having fun playing and making money, while you are wasting your time and energy".

That was then my daughter caught me and I was totally bowled over by her statement. "Amma, you don't understand this now and find it crazy. But you were a teen once and how many times have you recollected your cricketing stories of how you made scrap book and bunked school to watch cricket".

I could now relate to what she said. Once upon a time, I was a huge cricket fan and have done some crazy things. One of them is to maintain a scrap book. The scrap book contained photos of cricketers, their bio and other cricketing stats. It was a red diary which my dad had gifted to me . I would cut photos of all those cricketers whose interviews appeared in sportstar and other magazines like Illustrated weekly, Femina etc. Not just cricketing stats, I would even stick photos of their family and have extra stats. Like Vengsarkar's wife was Manali, Gavaskars wife was Marshneil, named after a variety of rose, Sandeep patils first wife was archana, binny's wife was cynthia, kirmani's wife was habiba and so many more like Kapil dev's hotel in chandigarh , who were the knighted cricketers etc. Infact , my parents would say, I did everything short of doing "aarti".

The craziest I have done was when i bunked school to watch "The prudential cup" in 1983. My school worked second shift from 11.30-5.15 and so i could'nt wait for the school to finish. I wanted to watch the match from the toss to the uncorking of champagne and so I and my friends bunked half a day school to reach home. Each one of us cited an excuse but it was only the next day our friendly teacher told us she knew about our plan.

Another crazy thing was when I studied in class VIII B. The whole class created lots of noise because the school did not declare holiday for a 5 dayer held at chinnaswamy stadium. The principal who walked by our class, found the reason for the noise and made us stand in the hot sun for the whole period.

All those memories I have narrated at some point of time to my children and sometimes even I wonder how cricket crazy I was as a teen. I then smiled at my daughter and thought to myself " Yes, crazy and cricket go hand in glove in our country and now with IPL is at its craziest."

While I bunked school to catch the match, today's fans can catch it on action recap , courtesy Recently, my housing society organized a gully cricket match called Force 4X4, 4 members in each team playing for 4 overs. My family participated and so could not catch IPL. They came home and caught it on action recap) and people at workstations can be connected parallely to the scoreboard through fastest score board of . As for me, i am no cricket fan,  but i love the song " Kanna, keep calm and watch Pepsi IPL on"

This post is a part of Cricket just got better! by in association with

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

of festive, traditional, local and seasonal cuisine

Yesterday most tamil homes celebrated "Puthandu" or what is known as Tamil new year. There are no elaborate poojas or rituals on this festival. Infact, most festivals in tam- brahm homes are simple family ocassions  and is related to simple rituals, feasting and fasting with emphasis on health and discipline( do my tamil blog friends,agree?). For that matter,  most indian festivals are about fasting and feasting.

The tradition of eating only fruits, vegetables and milk on some religious days, the taboo on salt and cereals ensured consumption of a large quantity of fruits and vegetables. Also, no salt for 24 hours would increase the salt sensitivity of the body which will help in progressively decreasing the intake of salt. Less salt means lesser dieseases.

Tradition of making different cereal and food items in different seasons also ensured variety and complete nutrition. For instance, whole bajra was ground and consumed in winter. Sesame seeds were eaten in winter and specifically in the month of January(sankranti). The tradition of making payasam with jaggery, dal and dry fruits and nuts ensured that nuts and essential nutrients were consumed atleast during festivals.

In south india, especially the farming community who work in the fields rely on 'pazheyadu' in summer, which is nothing but fermented leftover rice to which water is added. This is very nutritious and keeps the body cool and energetic in summers.

So many such lifestyle healthy food habits are what goes into some of our traditional and seasonal cuisine.

Yesterday's new year signature dish of "vepampoo Pacchidi" is one such. The two main ingredients that go into the making of pacchidi is mango and neem flowers(vepampoo)which are seasonal. This pacchidi is supposed to contain all the 6 tastes - sweet(jaggery), sour(mango), bitter( neem flowers),salt, spice( chilly) and astringent( asafoetida).

Most of the 4 tastes like sweet, spice, sour and salt are common in our present day cooking. But two tastes that are not dominant in modern cooking are bitter and astringent taste. The non-inclusion of the two tastes are the reason for lifestyle diseases according to S R kishore kumar

He is  a  TV chef who specializes in herbal and native cooking and his programs are very informative.  ( i presume he is a doctor/ doctorate but no clue),I like watching his show which comes with many ancient kitchen and wellness tips and the ingredients he uses for his cooking are locally available but not popular. For instance, even the simple banana heart ( vazhaipoo), Vazhaithandu( banana stem) or moringa leaves  is not popular in my local market while i get all sorts of foreign vegetables and fruits which have travelled from faraway countries. He advises to avoid  foreign vegetables which   are cold-storaged and leave eco foot prints. He insists on substituting horsegram to oats, which has the same quallity of reducing cholestrol and  gives the energy equivalent to that of a horse power. He advises to use honey, palm sugar or palm jaggery to substitute the inorganic sugar. 

According to him, people consume more sweets today partying and avoid bitter tastes of neem, bitter gourd, sundakkai (turkey berry/thai brinjal) etc. Similarly the astringent taste present in traditional and native indian vegetables like vazhaipoo( banana hearts), vtender plaintains(  raw, green and tender), pidi karanai ( not elephant foot yam, these are fist sized )  are avoided by people due to both difficulty in procuring as well as the tedious process of making . The irregular intake of such pure healing regional foods, to him  is the reason there is an imbalance in the  constitution of modern generation which leads to diseases like diabetes, BP,  hormonal problems etc. According to him bitter food detoxifies and lightens tissues while astringent(thuvarppu in tamil) present in raw fruits and herbs absorbs water, tightens tissues and dries fats.

He also warns that there is an urgent need to create awareness about the heritage, nutritional and healing value of local food and native vegetables in India to improve its intent beyond village markets. Unless urban consumers buy and money is made from these veggies, they will disappear and so with that beneficial traditional cuisine.

                         Moringa leaves( drum stick) also called miracle tree has the potential to cure 300 diseases.

             Pidi karanai( fist sized yams) not glamorous but has extraordinary health benefits in controlling BP,IBS, varicose veins, spleen and bone marrow issues etc.

To the left is the banana heart hanging like a pendant, while the right shows the florets covered with purple bracts.

 It is a tedious chore to remove the pistil and chop the florets and soak them in acidulated water to which generally butter milk is added.

But the medical benefits of the banana heart is immense. Apart from the fact, It can be used for making traditional and tasty foods like  stew (poriccha kootu in tamil)  like above or with dal fry ( paruppu usili)  or like in vazhaipoo vadai ( fried patties) below

The present day working generation finds it difficult to cook fresh food at every meal and so consume dead food which is refridgerated or preserved with chemical additives. All these, he says creates an imbalance in the food that we consume and reflects on our health in a slow and steady way leading to major diseases.

It is more than many years since I advocate traditional Indian cuisine. SR kishore kumar is not the only one who has inspired me into traditional and conscious cooking. It is also my family elders at my native, who go to the backyard to get fresh veggies and greens like moringa, kafir lime, banana stem, sundakkai, etc.,

Now, I go to the market and look for shimla apples not for the washington apples. I don't get fascinated by the kiwi fruits or the exotic vegetables which have travelled recording many sky miles. I might try them ocassionally but i am not attracted to them any more.

I source and cook the locally grown vegetables atleast during one meal and have  introduced the bitter taste and astringent taste in many of my daily menu. (camouflaged)

Will update more about such health tips from S R kishore kumar when i get to watch his program. Sadly such a resourceful person is not very famous on web and googling about him leads only to my own blog post.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nature - some memories, fun and some lessons

 I was  fortunate to grow up in  good old  Bangy town which had many sobriquets like air conditioned city, pensioners paradise, garden city etc.,. All sobriquets earned were due to its salubrious climate and greenery all through the year.  The woody canopied avenues which were  floored with blooms like jacarandas, gulmohars, laburnums, tabebuias etc. and the 300+ shimmering lakes of the city offered all the coolness that an air conditioner offers.Fans were never switched on even in summers. Today of course, Bengaluru's sobriquets could be contested.

My early years were spent near the botanical garden Lalbagh and the lush green banks of Sankey tank(lake) which had sandalwood trees and huge meadows as playground. The green lawns would end up at the rim of sankey tank which had a picket fence with a small locked gate. The many outings with my parents and relatives were to these natural surroundings. The iconic Lalbagh (west gate) nurtured by Tipu sultan was less than a km away from home while my uncle’s home at Forest Research Institute( FRI) on the banks of Sankey, was my weekend home.

Walking through the green and serene wooded trees which had their botanical names plastered on them introduced me to their botanical names. I could recognize and read the names of the various birds that chirped in the mini enclosures. Everytime there was a horticultural show in lalbagh, my floral vocabulary quintupled. The flowers, fruits and vegetables plants that were exhibited in the Horticultural show of Lalbagh exposed me to the variety. I caught sight of cockscomb, michaelmas daisy, gerbera, aster, gladioli, magnolias, geranium , gerbera, orchid, the different variety of roses, ferns,crotons while many children would have only seen in glossy picture books then. The beautiful flowers were piled up in mountains and pruned into monuments and animals.The dense bushes would be sculpted and trimmed into elephants and other figurines in what is known as topiary. Lalbagh even had a floral clock, a gift from the Japanese watch maker citizen. (don’t know if it still exists)

                                         Drawings by my daughter at age 14

All that attracted me at that age were the colors, smells and the unstructured play with the natural settings around me but the memories are vivid. As a young girl, i remember running bare foot on the green lawns with friends, hopping, skipping, playing in/out with the rope, ducking away from those buzzing bees, chasing butterflies and holding them in our hands till the color of their wings stuck to our hands, looking for the pupa in those leaves, throwing stones into the lake just to watch the ripples, the ganesh visargan at the lake, boating and so many more experiences with nature, mostly happy ones.

 One happy memory is of unearthing the mica sheets from the earth in the campus of FRI , crushing them and dusting them on our frocks. The mica dust would sparkle in the shining sun giving us joy. But there are a few not so good ones too. One worst experience was when we plucked colored printing flowers in a garden near National college and were chased by the mali(gardener). We ran as fast as we could, but we were caught and he twisted our ears, warned and let us go. One experimental thing we friends did was bring home a fat green caterpillar and we put it in a box, we threw in some leaves and waited for it to metamorphosize into a butterfly. It is another story that we all ended up with rashes and itches on our skin.

                             drawings by my son at age 11 and 9(right)

But all these experiences were playful and I was not keenly interested in nature then as I am now. But I believe these real experiences are what has inspired me to be a tree hugger, nature lover and an eco warrior today. The memories overwhelm me now, to think how those bowers, colors of flowers were bliss to my senses and could shape me. My husband and I wanted to give such real experiences to our children and so have often taken them to vacations which were not exotic destinations but nearby natural and rustic places like farms, fields, eco spots, hills, mountains, beaches, forests etc.,



                                All photos taken by my son and dot

My children too have caught onto such experiences and they find connecting with nature invigorating. On our many nature trails, apart from their fun times like the ones I had, they observe nature and capture them. They go on nature treks to find the new variety of birds. They carry binoculars and the joy they experience when they are able to identify that blue bird as tickells blue fly catcher in Anantgiri ! ( courtesy: dad's mobile phone) And yes, they were disappointed when they could not capture the passerine through their lens. Before they could adjust the lens , the bird flew away.

                             bonding with earth, air and water

During their recent exam time, it was heartening to see the teens come out for a whiff of fresh air and watch the birds build the nest, they found it invigorating to go around watering the mint stems and with each new sunrise , the stem sprouted and finally the matured broad leaves of mint ended up in their watermelon sorbet, just when their exams ended.

( in the above pics, notice the birdie taking a leaf stalk to build nest in the ac duct. and in the next photo don't miss the yellow butterfly sucking nectar from the pollens - we observe such  micro joys when we slow down in our life)

But, what touched me most and the best was their recent experience.

3 baby squirrels had fallen off a tree in the nearby forest area of the cantonment. My daughter and her friends found them and took each home. My daughter bought it home, knowing that we were against pets at home ( we don’t hate, but it is a huge responsibility to grow a pet in a home), she pleaded with us that she would take care for two weeks, by then he would be able to run and find a place for him under the sun. The whole week the sister- brother duo tended to it. They called up a co-resident who was a vet doctor and found from her that it needed a warm home. So, they housed him in a shoebox with lots of cloth paddings over a warm water bottle and rolled him in cloth. They fed him for 4 days. The baby slowly attempted to move out of the box. By then, I was not sure if we could have it for another week. Meanwhile, we also got mixed inputs like squirrel is a wild animal and should not be kept as pets. Its natural tendency is to run away from humans and grow only in the wild, while tending him at home would change his qualities and later he may find it difficult to adapt to the wild life. We thought we should release him in the forest. But we also realized it would not be safe to put him in the forest since he would be feasted by some dog or cat.

                                         ( the baby squirrel was named giggler)

Meanwhile, my daughter suggested she will contact the blue cross and ask if they would offer shelter. Thankfully, they were happy to take him but they suggested we bring him there, since their vans were  all occupied. We waited for the week end and then finally Giggler went to blue cross 14 kms away. It was heart warming to see, how beautifully they took responsibility to take care of the orphaned baby, tend it for a week and then handover it to the right people for further care. This incident has even motivated them to volunteer at Bluecross.

Nature has also inspired them to make lovely drawings, paintings, click photos etc. It is very obvious nature supplies them with multi  color visuals which they translate into many shades and colors using their creativity into greeting cards, bookmarks, photographs worth gifting. Some of their paintings, drawings and photography below.(click on it for detailing)





I wasn't that wise their age, but now i look at nature in a new way.  I sit and wonder, contemplate, reflect and admire nature.  While standing atop a mountain and looking down the valley or while the bubbly sea waves surfs up to my feet. I wonder who disciplined or trained the birds while they fly in a V formation. Who aligns, scales or designs the leaves and flowers to perfection.

 And, one of my favorite past time is lying on the terrace and watching the star spangled sky. Many a times i wonder at the working of the solar system, they are suspended out there in the galaxy and yet everything is in perfect order and they work like a well oiled machine. When observed closely nature is a great teacher without being a preacher. So many life lessons from nature. It teaches you about discipline, perfection, punctuality, determination, adaptability, compassion and many more . It would make you wonder about the miracle nature is, Ain't It?

All we need is to slow down, observe them, feel them and have fun. Like Lao Tzu says

                  "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

This post is written for Indiblogger's  and  "Nature's friends"