Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Marina memory to celebrate Madras day

My childhood summers were always   with my cousins at Madras. And during those vacation times, apart from the simple family times we spent at home, outings meant going to  relatives house, hotels, temples , bazaar streets, parks and the beach. While  most of the outings would be in my Thatha’s sturdy Amby MSR 2277 which carried 2 elders and 8 children( some times our maids nieces too would accompany making it 10 and my elder mama would tease us as “Mazhalai pattalam”  ( childrens army) , the beach  outing alone would be by walks  & cycle rickshaw  since thatha never accompanied us.

While each simple chore and incident of those stolen days of my childhood is worth recording, right now I will make this a beach  post as today August 22 is a special day.

Beach as I said was one of our regular play outs. Although beach was walkable from our grand parents home, the planning would take more than a week because our elders who accompanied  us like mami, chitti, amma or perimma   at home were busy in the evening. They had to cook meals, go to temple especially if it was Friday it would be the special archanai at kapali koil, attendng to unexpected guests( guests were regular and generally most of them came unannounced). So, till the beach outing came around, we had to be content with catching the beams of the lighthouse which fell on our terrace at night and enjoying the cool sea breeze all through the day on the terrace even on hot summer noons.

Finally, when the time came for the beach outing, we would be suitably dressed in frocks so that we don’t carry beach sand home and merrily prance on the serpentine kutcheri road and reach the Santhome beach sometimes stopping to  gaze at some of  the shops enroute.

   Santhome beach was generally an unmaintained beach where the fishing community lived  while Marina a few kms away was the fun spot.   So we would walk on the sand, our legs would’nt carry fast on the sand    but we would try to run and catch one another and walk a while till our feet came in touch with the surfing ocean of Marina. The next half hour or more would be fun and frolic in the salty air  with the ocean tides… building castles  in sand with tunnels,, ducking  our feet from the crawling crabs, sitting on the waves and drenching ourselves , burying our legs with each approaching wave, collecting shells, splashing a hand full of water on our cousins, spitting the salty beach water if ever it got into our mouth,  running away and into the wavy beach , looking out for the beams from the light house. ….all these till it almost got dark and the final warning came from our elders who till then were calling out our names like in attendance register inbetween  their family talks.

Amidst, all this  we would notice the “Sundal boy’ – a little boy  in a worn out dress and a metal tin carrying ‘Sundal” and calling out “ Manga Battani sundal”.  This is one of the signature street eats of Chennai beach . Despite our many requests , our elders never got this for whatever reason and I have never tasted this during my childhood days. 

On our way back home, we would be treated to a Choco-bar or a softy ice cream at the corner shop of Kutcheri road across the Santhome beach and then with darkness around, we would hire a cycle rickshaw , huddle  into two rickshaw and reach home carrying the beach sand in our wet dress. The whole pathway from the front door to the backyard would be scattered with beach sand  that fell of the dress and we had to wait turns to get into the wash room and freshen up.

Such simple moments that were part of my glorious  childhood that I have spent at Madras are the reasons I love Madras. Rest of the reaons like “hot weather”, “ sweat”, “ conservative city” etc pales in front of my childhood memories. Thank you Madras for giving me such fanciful moments. These will not be forgotten for they are stored in the crevices of my heart and in such blog posts for eternity. All I need  is some solitude and a trigger like your birthday to bring out such posts.  

In the past many years, I have made many short visits to madras but I could never prioritize a beach outing there.  Last year, on our way back from Singapore trip, my teens insisted we must visit the Chennai beach and so with just 12 hours at disposal to exit Chennai, we took off some time in the early morning to visit the Marina. It was a different experience this time, I never felt like stepping into the bay, I was sulky about getting wet and the sand sticking to the wet dress. I just sat on the shores and watched the bobbing ships, the waves surf up and down. I was more into observing the joggers the  kids playing around, the early morning tea shops and hotels on wheels.  I was also on the  look out  for the “Sundal boy” and  realized It was too early for “sundal” since they do brisk business only in the evening.

The elusive ‘Sundal’ which by the way is a medley stir fried boiled lentils, grated coconut, carrot , finely chopped mangoes sold in paper cones.  . Years later , I did eat this just once and that 6 sense taste still lingers now ofcourse, I make them at home….but I still want to experience that Sundal popping them slowly ,gazing at the azure waters , sitting on the beach of Chennai under the evening sky.. This is on my “to do” list on a visit to Madras.

And as i mentioned before today's beach post is special because only the first city of modern India can boast of the second longest beach - The Marina (after Miami) and somwhere down there on the shores and waves, it  holds the foot prints of my childhood.

Happy 376 birthday to you Madras - my birth town and the city that gave loads of lovely memories. 

                            On my "to do" list to eat beach sundal in a paper cone sitting on the Madras shores.

Friday, August 21, 2015

An aid to speed up my life

Today internet, computers and smart phones have become indispensible in my home. From watching movies to shopping to home office or managing home like paying electricity bills, booking tickets, bank transactions, taking school tests, online classes everything is done from our computer or smart phone in my home, Thanks to internet revolution.

That said, it is very frustrating when you are unable to do all those when your internet speed is pathetic. There are times when our patience is put to test despite taking deep breaths in between.But, hopefully with companies like Airtel launching the 4G network our jobs could be done faster and we could save time rather than wasting time watching at the “loading” or the “ buffering “. Airtel 4G that way can calm our nerves and keep our stress levels low.

If I ever had that unbelievable speed of Airtel 4G under my hood….then these are the things that would happen faster to me without my nerves getting frayed:

· I get inspired ,motivated and also learn by watching many videos on art,culture, history, music, travel, gardening and spiritual talk videos which I watch on you tube, this I would be able to watch online and enjoy with zero buffering while streaming hi-definition videos.

· E- shopping as many of us know is the latest mode of shopping. I can avail the excellent discounts and go grocery shopping online and so to use the online stores rebates which are hourly at times or first come first serve basis, a faster network is needed, Airtel 4G would come to my aid.

· Sometimes, it takes time to open some essential service sites like e seva ( telangana government portal for paying bills like property tax, electricity, water taxes etc.), banking sites, IRCTC, airline booking, movie bookings and even google, gmail, Blogspot, etc there were times it would be frustrating to see the site take time to open but with the release of airtel 4G it would be a new opening for me. For instance, Many a times, we loose tatkal tickets due to the  slow loading of site.

· I am a fan of some popular movies ( which are off theatre), and theatre (drama) I download some of them so that we can watch it as a family on weekend afternoon. This downloads will now be faster.

· Sometimes, I do upload family videos on our Geni family site to wish my extended family on special days…these uploading and downloading would now save me time and reach my relatives  & friends who live all over the world.

With world fastly moving towards mobile technology, Airtel 4g will be a boon to the Indians on the move and will help realize our Government’s dream of “Digital India”.

Despite slow connectivity and poor connectivity at many places in India, India has maintained a position in software development and in other fields of science, technology, arts and commerce. When the speed of connectivity increases then our society will be empowered with more information, knowledge and we can communicate faster making us unbeatable. Welcome Airtel 4G!

Friday, August 7, 2015

An ode to kai thari (hand loom)

As a child I often remember I would snuggle into the soft drape of my grandmom or my mom. I would enjoy the softness by rubbing my nose and love how the sari smelt….an earthy soothing smell perhaps of the dyes. It cloaked me in comfort and security when I hugged, snuggled and felt that drape.

As I grew up, I would often wander with a soft cotton worn out saree of my mom. The softness of the cloth acted like a tranqulizer, gave comfort and security just like some hold their teddy bears, I would feel my mom in those soft cotton hand woven sarees  when she was’nt  around.
That soft feel of the mull cloth must have sown seeds for my love for  handlooms or what is called “Kaithari” ( kai is hand and thari is loom) in tamil.

My mom often relied and bought her sarees from  those  Salem weavers who would bring their "kai thari" products in bundles like bedsheets, sarees, blankets towels  and sell home to home. It was so popular in Bangalore those days. So, it was with my grand mom who always bought from  the Rangachari store in Mylapore. She would even buy and send it across to her children and grandchildren. After multiple home wear,  the old  jaded sarees which turned ultra soft but never tore would then double up as baby mattresses for the brood of cousins. Some would even end up as quilts where 4 or 5 sarees stacked up would be handstitched and then fixed with multiple color pieces of cloth. And finally the tattered ones would be sanitized and used as baby nappies also. Those were times when nappy rashes were unheard of. Even thatha's  veshtis (dhoties) were never spared. 

 So many Indian motifs, designs and colors most of them specific and indigenous to their regional clusters holding the weaves,some were loosely held while some were tightly held. Each one had a story to tell about the warp and weft and each one had a liking different to others .  Even now, when my elders like mil, aunts, and mom get together they start talking about the clusters they know of , the weaves, the region, the motifs, the thread counts, etc..and about how the kai thari differs from power loom products. Sometimes, I think their knowledge on such subjects could be material for dissertation on the same.

They have all patronized and still patronize “Kai Thari” and so their love has rubbed off on me.
That is why it is disturbing  to hear that some of the clusters are closing down since it is not viable for livelihood for the weavers. We are loosing traditional master artisans and weavers along with that our heritage too. Unable to make a livelihood, they end up as unskilled labour in cities. With many MNC’s setting up their companies close to the clusters, it is disappointing to read these  traditional weavers  gennext  do not carry on the family tradition and end up as security guards in some nearby automobile company or as   sales staff  in the MNC’s or malls. Some have even turned towards  powerlooms  where the automated machinery cannot recreate the “ heritage textile” and this is no substitution for the cottage industry where one generation hands over the trade to another.

But today with the world concerned about sustainable livelihood, environment friendliness and terms like  fair labour and trade, it is heartening to note that many NGO's and the government too is turning attention to hand weaving after all this occupation leaves possibly very little carbon foot print. This infact is one of my interest. I am mostly present in all these handloom-handicraft expos to encourage these weavers and artisans.

So on our first " National Handloom Day" a salute to all the weavers of our nation who by their magical weaves give us such lovely fabrics which supports our environment. It is my wish that we all unite to buy more products "Make in India" and help the sector to save from extinction.
 So Glad to celebrate National handloom day #Nationalhandloomday today on August 7.

                Photos taken at Dakshichitra 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My longest blog break

This has been my longest blog break ever since i started blogging. What excuses do i give for this break i don't know...It could be any of these...

!) staggered vacations of my teens..April, may for son and june to Aug 1 for daughter.
2) The laptop hijacked by the children and so i was connected to the world only through my hand phone.
3) My eye pain and headache thanks to the hyderbadi heat wave
4) or was it the writer's block....I tried twice to build a post in my mind but  the words were incoherent.

I don't really know....

But I thoroughly enjoyed and revived some of my dead interests in these period thanks to my teens.

Parenting i understand is a two way street now....while i taught them they were young, now they teach me and have helped me revive some of my dead interests.....drawing, painting and these is what kept me busy  along with my spiritual seeking interest while i was away from the monitor......apart from this ofcourse, my organic gardening is still on.....I harvested some mini carrots, microgreens like mustard, methi, tomatoes, alternanthera, amaranth,curry leaf, mint , few chillies and my thai basil adds health to my  green tea. There are still heavy blossom drops in my micro farm. If it weren't for these blossom drops, i should have harvested some red bell peppers, tomatoes, and by now i should have been self-sufficient in  home grown chillies but undeterred i move on adding soul to the soil in my pots which help in building immunity for them against the aphid attacks and my small contribution to avoid adding toxic methane into the air via  degradable wastes at landfills..

What i missed most this summer was my vacation, due to the staggered holiday calender of my teens, i could not make a trip to my home town...but they did visit myhometown , while daughter was awaited, son visited my parents and in-laws  and while son went to school, daughter visited hometown and she also had an additional vacation to Dehradun, Delhi, mussorie and Rishikesh with her friend).  But we  did enjoy a few mini family vacation to the adilabad area of Telangana. Telangana tourism has promoted some lovely tourist spots which are new and eco friendly like Kawal  tiger wild life reserve, Nirmal( famous for nirmal Paintings) and i also visited Basar and mantralayam.

During the trip to Adilabad, I made an interesting observation from Nirmal to Adilabad, this is a total tribal area. People here are dependant on Agriculture that too traditional methods of agriculture... they use only organic manure like animal dung and they store the grains in a beautiful conical haystack storage and they fence their homes with bamboo sticks which are artistically crafted in criss cross patterns....although hand made they were perfectly finished like machine made. And what is it about these tribal folks that even old people have no grey hair although wrinkled and dark due to the hardwork in fields. Me thinks,  It must be that they are in sync with nature without using artificial products like Shampoo and other fancy chemical products.While i made that early morning trip from Adilabad to Jonnaram(Kawal) i found most of them were already in the fields while some were walking, that explains why these tribal locals are slim.

Ah....that reminds me...i too have made a resolution to  rely on eco-friendly products and try to avoid plastics and  synthetic and unwanted materials into my home. atleast i a first step, i am avoiding plastic wherever possible, I use the traditional coconut fibre for dish washing instead of scoth brite, i have replaced  chemicals and toiletries with eco friendly products.  I have stopped giving into fancy advertisements and am "Becoming minimalistic" and even in my painting i am trying to revive and promote Indian arts like Warli, kalamkari and other indian styles....slowly making a change for the better and trying to live in  sync with nature.

That in a nutshell ;) summarizes my break.....hope i hav'n t missed anything...

Oh yes!!! i missed something....while connected on Smart phone,... i was busy connected with friends and relatives in useful sharing of Gyan and info and i have  joined some wonderful groups on FB. The conversations there are so enriching  and i am learning a lot from some unknown friends, infact some of them are inspiring. but yes i am sensibly using the medium and gaining interesting infact has become my news paper while  the newspape at home "The Hindu" which was once considered a  "prestige" to read has joined its peers and  is only adding value to the monthly ruddiwalla and to line my kitchen shelves or maybe to fill in the sudoku squares for others at home. and to read comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes.

( will edit to add pics of kawal, carrot harvest etc.)

I hope i don't get a writers block again and i continue to blog....cause these words are flowing at 1.50am...while i generally sleep early at 9.30 and get up at 5..

Oh another news to share...while my son got an effortless 9 CGPA without external tuitions in Grade X and got  admission into one of the best schools for grade XI through an entrance test ( i must say again effortlessly, no hardwork only traditional intelligence) . On the other hand, my daughter stood All india first ( first year -I & 2 Sem) in her national institute  amongst 3000 students across various streams and various places of India . And this course of hers is not about hardwork alone but it is also about creativity, perfection and impromptly answering to a jury of 12 member ( 3 in each of the 4 subjects)..... just a beginning for her  3 more years to go.....but it was a overwhelming moment for me.