Sunday, 24 November 2013

4 Reasons Why I didn't Update My Blog: A Self-introspection

I know it has been quite awhile since my last post; five full months actually – not a very good thing either for the blog or me. In spite of a good friend, Manoj Sethi's umpteen coaxing, I didn't write!

If you ask me what kept me away from the writing for so long, then honestly, I do not have a correct answer. Yes, office work took up most of my weekdays and sometimes even my weekends.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

I don’t want to go to School

June came and so started a new academic year. For Panshul however, everything was new – new class, new people, new schedule, new bag, new water bottle, new tiffin box, some new concepts (ID card) because PANSHUL WAS GOING TO A NEW SCHOOL. AGAIN!

Yes, this is the fourth school that Panshul is attending in two years. Why did that happen? Well, simply because he’d go to a school and either he would not get adjusted there and so I’ d stop sending him or we’d move house and so Panshul would have to change schools.

Well this year I decided it would be the end of constant school changes and moving. Having decided that, I chose Euro Kids pre-school for Panshul simply because this school was located just a few houses away from my house.   

After orientation session and welcome day class, the school finally opened formally about a fortnight ago. And with that started Panshul’s anxiety, fear and insecurity at having to leave me behind and be all alone (all the teachers, helpers, and other kids; however sweet and kind they may be, they were not his AMMA – so he detested them) in that big building called school.

This meant that every day I had to find new ways and means to get him to school. I had to tell and do convincing (and trust me, convincing a want-to know-it-all toddler is not easy) things in order to make going to school interesting.

Here’s a list of things that I tried over the days and failed:

Changed our walk-to-school route so that I could show him something interesting (a new flower, a Nano car, a broken auto rickshaw) and somehow get his mind off school.
Result when I turned at the cross where his school was located, he was adamant that we go further and leave the school behind. He pulled and begged me to take him away. I picked him up, he slid down and ran away. I and the school’s watchman had to run after him to catch him! My heart broke seeing him in such agony!

Downloaded e-books and rhymes about going to school – Llama, Llama Missing Mama, The Kissing Hand, My First Day In School etc.
Result Panna loved watching the rhymes, but the stories bored him. I am clueless now.

Played with him the entire morning till it was time for school at 11:30 am.
Result – he wouldn’t stop playing till the last minute and coaxing and forcing him to come take a bath became a herculean task. I am at my wits ends.

Spoke to him about why he needs to go to school (so that he can become a big boy and ride his dad’s bike!) and how much fun school is and ASSURED and REASSURED him repeatedly that I’ll be back to pick him up after school gets over.
Resultall the talking was effective only at home. Though he seemed fine and understood every word that I told him, it all went sliding down his cheeks as tears when the school gate approached and I had to leave him! Heartbreak again. Seriously, why do kids have to go to school!?

Made simple crafts (bracelet, clock etc) for him to take to school.
Result this kind of worked. Since Panna loved ‘doing things’ he joined me in making the crafts. This kept him occupied and made his mornings interesting and fun. Yet, Panna cried when I left him at the school gate and the next day he was not interested in any craft making.  Ok, now what?

Acted Silly to the core. Every time he whines and makes a sad face and tells me, “Amma, I don’t want to go to school”, I jump up and down like a clown. That has Panna in splits and giggles.  This way he whole thought about going to school kind of becomes funny. In fact, I had read about getting the kids with anxiety about going to school to giggle and laugh out their anxiety. But I didn’t expect it to work for me. Well I guess it is working.
Result this is my current strategy. It’s been working for the past two days, let’s see how it progresses. Yay! Panna didn’t cry when I left him at the school gate! But, the constant jumping and acting clownish is bringing back my lower back pain! Ouch, it hurts! 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Remembering Annual Class Photo Sessions. Ready Everyone? Smile Please...Click!

I had my first group photo (class photo) session, way back in 1989, at the age of four at kindergarten in Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar. Now, 24 years later, my three years old son had his first group photo session at his preschool a few days ago.

On the Big Day I sent him to school dressed in his best (and my favourite) red and white checked shirt and white shorts. But in the hustle and bustle of everyday routine, I totally forgot to ask Panna how the event went and neither Panna nor his teachers say anything about it.

But yesterday (a week after the photo session) I was in for a surprise. When I went to his school, his teacher handed me two copies of the group photo. There was Panna, sitting extreme right in the front row, legs together, palms on his knees, and flashing a cheerful smile. Honestly speaking, given his daily episodes of constant crying at school, I didn’t expect Panna to put up such a happy face at the photos session! Nevertheless, I was happy to see a happily smiling Panna.

But, this group photo of Panna made me nostalgic, bringing back warm memories of the annual group photo or class photo session (as we called it) that would happen in school at around the same time of the year. This was once-in-a-year event and I loved it. In fact I looked forward to it from the time it was announced and its class wise schedule put up.

There were reasons why I loved this annual event. Firstly, we didn’t have a home camera till I was about 11 or 12 and so taking photos and putting them into albums were not a common activity at home. So, having a photo taken, even if it means a group photo at school, was something to cheer about. Plus, the photo would be published in the annual year book and looking for my photo there was one of the many things to do with a school year book.

Secondly, a class photo session means we were supposed to be in our best uniform – properly ironed, matching shades of our coffee brown skirt and jacket, beige shirt, polished brown shoes and beige socks worn up to the knees (I am talking about the girls’ dress code here) – and I loved wearing a ‘complete uniform’ on special occasions like these. It made me feel very sophisticated!
And thirdly, a class photo session means we were surely going to be missing a part of the one of the eight periods and this was fun!!

At Little Rock Indian School, the photo session was the sheer hard work of one man – our art teacher cum school photographer, Mr. Jayaprakash Sir (JP Sir in short). Little Rock had classes from kindergarten to class 12 and with more than five sections in each class. Yet, Jayaprakash sir single handedly took photos of all these classes with his SLR camera. I still remember the exact rituals of the class photo session. It went something like this –

First our class teacher led us to the photo arena (usually the area below the school’s administration office, opposite the kindergarten building). 3-4 benches would be placed in rows parallel to the flowerbed skirting the office building. The front two benches were separated by two chairs (one for the class teacher and one for the head-teacher). While the shorter students were made to sit on the front row benches, the taller ones usually stood behind those seating forming a second row and the rest stood on the benches in the third row.
Once everyone had taken their places, Jayaprakash sir instructed those sitting to keep their legs together and place our palms on the knee (just like Panna did). I guess this is one of the golden rules of a class photo session that applies to all schools and all classes! Those standing had to stand erect or slightly turn left or right.

Once all of us were ready, sir gave us thumbs-up; said smile and clicked! First photo taken, sir would say one more; giving us a few seconds to correct our uneasy (if any) postures and then click another photo. If the photos didn’t come out as well as he would have wanted, then JP Sir asked us to retain our positions until he got the perfect shot. JP sir was very good at his work and it didn’t take him long to get the correct shot, though those of us who wanted to evade going back to class wished the photo session would prolong. If there was ever a delay, it was only when sir changed lenses or there was some issue with the light.

Once the class photo had been taken and we had enjoyed our few moments of basking in the glory of JP Sir’s camera, we waited for the photos to be printed, copies to made and handed to us. All of this would take a few days. But when the photos finally came, we were thrilled. I always kept the photo in my school diary (one of the safest places in my school bag) and took it home. After everyone at home saw and complimented the photo, it was safely tucked into the family album. Then began the long wait for the year book to come along which was only in the beginning of the next academic year in June.

Such is the story of my annual class photo sessions.

And Panna’s class photo? Well, we wanted a soft copy of it and the school didn't have it. So Pavan had the photo scanned and we uploaded it on our Facebook pages, MMSed it to my in-laws and parents and here it is inserted onto this write up too! Of course, the original hard copy photo has been neatly put into the family album.
 March, 2013
March, 1989

So, do you remember your class photo sessions? What memories does it conjure up for you? Feel free to share your story in the comments section.

This blog post first appeared in on 4th April, 2013.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Nagappa Special Tea at 11:00 am

My office had a coffee vending machine. And I and my colleagues often made endless trips to the enticing machine to get varieties of tea and coffee.  

Well, the greatest advantage of this vending machine was that it was always there for us; whenever we felt the need for a beverage, be it at 9 am, as soon as we reach office, at 1 pm as we head into a meeting; postponing lunch, at 5 pm chai-time with friends or just before heading home at 7 pm. Also, the vending machine gave us the luxury of choice. We could have Latte, Espresso, Mocha, Ginger Tea, Lemon Tea, Masala Tea, Soup etc. And of course, for me, the mere presence of the vending machine and its constant buzz was a reminder to take a break from my otherwise break-free thinking and writing.

So, a coffee vending machine in the office is always a good company to have.

Then suddenly one day, the good old machine was gone. I haven’t bothered to find out why and how, but what I do know for sure is that no coffee machine meant no more unlimited coffee breaks and definitely no varieties of coffee and tea!

Nagappa Special Tea sitting pretty on my desk
However, luckily for us, in place of the vending machine, we now have Nagappa - the polite and extremely humble watchman cum care taker of the three-storied building where my office is located to serve us tea and coffee. Nagappa prepares tea and or coffee twice a day – at 11 am and at 3 pm. Of course, it’s just one type of tea or coffee that he serves – the Nagappa special. But no one is complaining.

We all simply love the tea that he prepares. I like it so that every day by 10:30 am, I start craving for Nagappa’s tea. Soon, I hear delightful sounds from the pantry – of glasses being washed, stove being lighted and cups being arranged on the tray, which reassure me that my favourite tea is on the way.

In no time, Nagappa is beside my chair, with a faint smile on his face and holding a cup of tea.
Tea thagolli madam (Take your tea, madam) he says and hands me that delicious cuppa. I thank him; he nods, appreciating my gratitude and then goes to my colleagues.

One sip of that wonderful mixture and its an absolutely bliss!

What makes Nagappa’s tea so special is that it has all the right ingredients in the right quantities – lots of tea leaves, a little milk and water, just the right quantity of sugar. It is brewed perfectly that served with utmost humility.

Nagappa’s 11 am tea makes my day. Every day.

Thank you Nagappa.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Prawns Sukka – My Style

I love prawns. Who doesn’t?

And I love prawns in all its form – curry, fried, cutlets, Manchurian, fried rice and most of all the Sukka (dry curry). I also love dried baby prawns chutney and dried baby prawns curry!

So, last Sunday when I went to the fish market I was delighted to see two large basketfuls of white prawns – fresh and succulent. I immediately decided the menu – Prawns and Spinach Curry with Mackerel Fry and bought half a kilo of prawns and 3 large Mackerels.

When I came home my gastronomic husband was delighted to see the fresh sea food and started having cravings for all things prawns. Yes, I am married to a lover of prawns! So, when I told him what the menu for lunch was, he changed it to suit his palette and satiate his cravings. His menu was this – Mackeral Curry and Prawns Sukka.

It was a good menu and I love Prawns Sukka, but there was a slight problem. I was terribly short on onions and tomatoes – two ingredients very essential for preparing a nice Sukka. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and prepare the Sukka without the two core ingredients. The tanginess of the tomatoes can always be created using lots and lots of tamarind paste. For the sweetness of the onions, I decided to use the natural sweetness of the fresh prawns by stir frying it for some time and get the delicious prawns to release its natural sweet flavors.

And there was a magic ingredient – the Sukka Powder. It was a spice mix that my aunt taught me. This spice mix has such a spicily earthy flavour that it can accentuate any dish. I use it a lot when I’m preparing chicken, prawns or clams Sukkas and also in Potato, Mushroom or Cauliflower sabjis.

So here goes the recipe to Prawns Sukka Sans Onion and Tomato.


White Prawns (peeled and cleaned) – ½ kg

Turmeric Powder – 1 teaspoon

Jeera Powder – ½ tea spoon

Red Chilli powder – 1 tea spoon

Tamarind paste – 4 table spoon (I like a lot of tanginess, so use a lot of tamarind. You reduce or increase the quantity to suit your taste).

Ginger-garlic paste - 1 teaspoon

Grated Coconut – 1 medium bowl. (Sukka is a coastal Karnataka delicacy and like all our dishes, uses a lot of coconut. However, you can replace the coconut gratings with Kopra, thinly cut slices of coconut, 2 tablespoons of coconut milk or completely skip this ingredient. The Sukka will taste well even without the coconut).

Coriander leaves – about a fist full for garnishing

Image coutesy:
Salt – to taste

Sugar – 1/2 teaspoon

Oil – 2 tablespoon

Water – 100 ml

Sukka Powder – 4 teaspoons.

Ingredients for Sukka Powder:

Dried red chillies – 15-20

Black pepper corns – 10-20

Cumin seeds (jeera) – 2 tea spoon

Coriander seeds (dhania) – 1 1/2 tablespoon

Dalchini – 1 inch long

Cardamom pods – 2-3

Fenugreek seeds (Methi) – 1 teaspoon


Dry roast all the above ingredients for about 5 mins and grind them into a fine powder in a mixer. Do not use any water. Store the powder in an air tight container. You can use this powder as a taste enhancer in sabjis, dry curries and even in rasams.

Prawns Sukka Method

1. Into a tablespoon of tamarind paste add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder and 1 teaspoon of Sukka powder and mix it well. Marinate the prawns in this mixture for about 15 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a deep pan or kadai, add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a minute.

3. Add the remaining Sukka powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and stir well for a minute or two.

4. Add the remaining tamarind paste. Stir well.

5. Add the marinated prawns. Mix well.

6. Add the sugar, salt and water and cook on low flame.

7. When the prawns are half cooked, add the coconut gratings and mix well.

8. When the prawns have cooked well and all the water has evaporated, garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

That’s it. Prawns Sukka is ready. It tasted well with Dal-Rice or Appams or Neer Dosas.

Do try this recipe and tell me how well you liked it.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Learning a Lesson in Contentment from Two Villages

Last weekend, on the eve of Makara Sankranthi, we went on a day trip to Innovative Film City, Bidadi in the outskirts of Bangalore. After pondering over whether to take the NICE road or the Shanumangala road, we decided to take the latter because my husband Pavan wanted try a different route and wanted the drive to be a little suspense filled and somewhat adventurous.

Well, the new (for us) route took us thorough some quaint little villages – two of them being Karenahalli and Shanumangala.

Karenahalli was kms from Bangalore and Shanumangala a little further off. The two little villages were actually pretty close to Bangalore, their metropolis neighbor, but they were completely unaffected by the rapid urbanization that Bangalore is witness to. Instead they actually have retained every bit of their true rustic charm.

I did not find any traces of anything city-like in these villages. Of course, we just passed by these villages – merely rode through its few lanes, never really explored it; but I’m sure even if we went on a search for city- influences, we wouldn’t find one. In fact, both Karenahalli and Shanumangala were beautiful – beautiful for their low roofed mud houses, vast green fields, narrow roads, bullock carts, healthy, well fed goats, sheeps, buffaloes and hybrid milch cows, innumerous water bodies and of course the villagers themselves – happy, innocent and busy at work.

That day being the eve of Makara Sankranthi, everyone in the village was involved in making arrangements for celebrating the harvest festival. Men were carrying home bundles of freshly cut sugar canes; the women were either vigorously cleaning and scrubbing the utensils or bathing the cows, bullocks and buffaloes. Some of them were also applying a plaster of cow dung paste to their front yards. The children were simply running about and seeing or hearing our bike approach, would stop their play and watch us pass by. Young girls were making rangoli designs and stringing flowers.

So, why am I saying all this? I mean, isn’t this how villages all over India are?

Yes, but what there is something that struck me when I saw the villagers and their simple way of life – contentment.

The people of Karenahalli and Shanumangala had no luxuries – no duplex houses, no fancy schools, no plush malls, no attaractive restaurants, no weekend getaway destinations. They did not even have proper basic amenities like a hospital or sanitation facilities. But they were happy. Happy with whatever they had – a tiny home, some agricultural land, some cattle and probably a large family. They were happy doing what they knew to do best – plough their fields, harvest crops and rear cattle for milk and wool. That was their life. That was their economy. And they were extremely content with whatever money they earned from this life. I couldn’t but help feel the complete contrast to life in Bangalore or any other urban centers of living.

We, urban inhabitants are never content, are we? We forever complain about the lack of everything –money, better job opportunities, space, water, infrastructure, facilities, essential services and the list goes on.

The problem with us is that we are spoilt for choices. There is so much of everything in the metropolitan cities that we do not know what to pick and what to let go. There are so many residential apartments and plots for sale, so many job offers piling up in your inbox, so many malls, pubs, restaurants and clubs beckoning you, so many buses plying, so many roads, underpasses and flyover, so many super specialty hospitals, so many educational institutions and so much technology at our disposal that we are unable to identify clearly what our wants are.

We are blinded by an insatiable urge to have everything or at least a little more than what currently exist, even if it is beyond our reach.

So, if we have a two BHK house, we still look for a bigger house in a better locality. If we have an Alto, we strive hard to upgrade to a Honda City. If our CTC is 5 lk per annum, we feel we are not getting our worth. We have enough options for entertainment – we have a nice family, we have friends, we have play stations, smart phones, 3D movies; yet we go in search of some “fake cities” (like we did) to have more fun!

Of course, there is nothing wrong in having higher aspirations and ambitions. Dreams and hopes for things better and brighter are always good. They help us set goals and strive hard to achieve it. But why is that our aspirations, our wants are always limitless? Why can’t we exercise restraint over our wishes?

We didn't stop to click photos, but this is how a typical house in  the two villages look like.
Photo Coutesy:
I think we have a lesson to learn from the villagers of Karenahalli and Shanumangala – a lesson in contentment, a lesson in being happy with what we have.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Remembering the Good Old Hande

A Hande is a bathing container and one of the largest utensils you would find in a traditional south-Indian home. It is a huge cauldron that is placed on an earthen stove in the bathroom and used to heat large quantities of water (up to 100 liters or more) for bath.

Made of copper this simple giant of a utensil was the pride of every hold in the good old days of joint families. Then, the women of the house filled the Hande with water at daybreak and lighted its stove using firewood and dried leaves. Soon a fiery fire would blaze, the water would heat up and a Hande-full of hot water would be ready for the entire household’s bath. In fact, the Hande-stove was always kept burning and the water level always kept to the brim until everyone in the house had finished their bath! The extent of heat was such that the water in the Hande remained warm till late afternoon, even after the fire had long died down!

The Hande fixed on a high platform.
Photo courtesy: Sharmila Vinayak
My association with the Hande goes a long way. Ours was a nuclear family, yet our home had a Hande; albeit an aluminum one and smaller in size. And yes, every morning dad filled it with water drawn from the well and mom went about the process of lighting a fire and heating the water. My grandparents’ house had bigger and more than one Handes. But, my maternal grandma’s home had the biggest Hande.

To be honest, when I was little, I was scared of this Hande. Why? One, because it was so big that it towered over my small body and I couldn’t even reach its mouth! Two, bathrooms were poorly lit and the Hande in itself was jet black with soot which created an eerie darkness around the Hande. Three, my older cousins got me to believe that there are creepy creatures like frogs, scorpions and snakes lurking inside the Hande! So every time I had to put my hands into the Hande, I did it very cautiously, taking care not to dip my hands too deep into the water, lest some horrible creature grab my hand and gobble me up!

In spite of all these irrational fears, bathing from the Hande was always an experience in itself. It was a leisurely activity, always soothing on the nerves and relaxing on the muscles. And this experience only became better during festivals, especially Deepavali.

The day before the festival, the Hande was scrubbed and cleaned with a mixture of ash, rock salt and tamarind paste to get rid of the thick soot and make it look like new. In the evening, it was decorated with marigold garlands and earthen lamp designs were painted on its surface. Then, after a short pooja to the well, would begin the ritual of filling the Hande with water amidst the sounds of the crackers, pooja bells, conch and cymbals. After the pooja to it, both the Hande and the water in it were now considered sacred and no one was allowed to use this water till the next morning.

The next morning, on the day of the Deepavali, mom would add Tulsi, Neem and Saaguvani (Teak tree) leaves to the water in the Hande before heating it. These leaves would release its medicinal properties into the water and soon the entire Hande would be filled with a special aroma. Taking large mug-fulls of this special water and indulging in a leisurely oil bath was the best part of Deepavali.

But alas, times have changed. Today Handes are a rarity and found in only very few houses and most among them don’t even make use of it. There are no wells and no firewood available. In the present days of taps and geysers and scare water supply, the Hande has made way for plastic buckets and tubs. In the morning rush, bathing now is only a 5-7 minutes affair and limited to just a bucket-full of water.

I miss the Hande and the Hande Bath. Sob.