August chronicles

Well, we’re almost into the last quarter of the year – September is here and brings in it’s wake the festival season. As I’ve mentioned several times before, I find this part of the year to be the busiest and also the days just seem to whizz by in a blur. It begins with the sonny boy’s birthday in August and then there are the numerous festivals – amidst all this are also the school events like fancy dress and sports day and school day and the day-care dance programs, the annual holiday with friends, so on and so forth…

Speaking of holidays, this year the fun began much earlier. First week of August I went on a trip with my girlfriends to Pondicherry! 😀 Though we’d been planning a trip like this for ages, it had never really materialized. But this time we just decided on the spot and what mattered was that we immediately did the bookings too. Once the dates were finalized sometime in June end/ July, within two days we booked the stay and the train tickets! I guess it helped that there wasn’t much time to dilly-dally and re-think which is why we actually went on the trip. Oh, it was awesome to say the least! 🙂 We are a bunch of 4 girls from college and it was like good old times once again; with the hubbies and kiddos left behind we had a gala time on our own! 😀 We dressed up like girls and not mommies and went about the town, taking in the sights and the experiences. We played with gay abandon in the beach and took selfies-galore! 😀 We sampled the French delicacies and did a bit of shopping too – though we found that the shopping opportunities weren’t quite what we were expecting 😦

Pondicherry climate-wise was a very hot and humid place but is a very clean and well-maintained town. We loved walking the streets of the French quarter and strolling by the Promenade, but the famous Auroville was a little too hyped we thought. Though the environs and ambience, the history associated with the place and Maitri mandir were good, it was rather disappointing that we couldn’t even get close to the mandir let alone getting inside and that too after walking a kilometer in the scorching afternoon son 😦 Nevertheless it was one unforgettable trip – starting with the train rides to the hotel stay – we stayed at a quaint little place called Hotel du’Parc which was in the heart of the town, we enjoyed it all thoroughly – the 500 odd photos that we took tell the story all too well! 😀 We hope that this is just the beginning and are already geared up for many more! 😉

August is also the kiddo’s birthday month and he turned 5 this year! And this was going to be his first birthday in the new home – we wanted to invite all the locality kids and make it special. I had taken the day off but it turned out to be one hectic day, what with having to drop the kiddo off at school and rushing back to whip up the cake and other stuff for the evening party. I did manage to get things in order in time, with some help from my mom and we were all set for the evening. And then the kids descended! There were a good 15-20 of them and boy, were they a boisterous lot! They literally brought down the roof, what with their kabaddi games and general chatter. It was quite a task to get them in order, but soon we had the other guests including the kiddo’s cousins and we were all set to cut the cake. The cake was cut amidst the kids singing the longest happy birthday song I’ve ever heard, with all funny rejoinders like “you were born in a zoo” and “you will turn 62“!! 😀

They then settled down to eat and again, I found that we had underestimated the kids’ appetite! They happily gobbled down the cake and chips, the mini-puffs, chocolates, juice and jamuns and wanted some more! In fact they all loved the cake so much that they were demanding seconds, which I had to sadly deny as I hadn’t made a very big cake 😦 Also at the husband’s cue they all chorused loudly and said “thank you aunty for the delicious cake“! how sweet is that? 🙂 But we compensated with some tangy vangibath and cool mosaranna and they loved that too! Happily satiated they then bid their goodbyes having collected their return gifts – I’d got some paints and pen-pencils for them – and the sudden silence after all the melee was bewildering! But we still had the family and it was quite late before the celebrations were done. Thus another birthday month went by and it seems the kiddo just keeps piling on the years so quickly! 😦
And since we’ve never had a family get-together for his birthday after the grand first year celebration, we thought this was a good opportunity to invite the extended family to our new home. So the celebrations spilled over to the weekend when we had all the uncles and aunts over for an elaborate catered lunch and where S cut one more cake made by his amma! I had some whipped cream left over and decided to make another chocolate cake – which incidentally turned out better than the first one and was proclaimed as finger-lickin’ good! *preening with the pat on the back*! 😀

I carried over the enthusiasm from August into September, since this happens to be my birthday month! With the expectation set very high from last year (which involved a pair of surprise diamond earrings from the hubby! *speechless*) I was hoping to spend it amidst my loved ones, and spend the Sunday outdoors with some shopping and eating-out thrown in. I wasn’t hoping for any more costly surprise gifts – my gut sent me enough warnings that miracles don’t happen often! 😉 Unfortunately things didn’t quite work out that way – other chores and commitments took priority and my birthday became the side-affair on the day 😦 with no gifts to soothe my hurt sentiments (except the sweet sis who got me a lovely chain *muah*) I was a angry sulking mess by the end of the evening. To make matters worse, I got on to the high horse and took off on my own, saying I don’t need anybody to celebrate my birthday and got caught and completely drenched in the rain! 😦 Needless to say, it won’t be a birthday that I’ll remember fondly ever! The hubby did get an earful next day that no matter what the circumstances are, he needs to remember to make an effort to make me feel special on two days in the year – the birthday and the anniversary. He can do what he wants on the other 363 days, I stated emphatically! I just hope the sting from the dressing-down stays with him and I get to some difference next year! :/

Now the days are rolling by as we approach the next big occasion – the Gowri and Ganesha festival celebrations. Again, this will be a first at our new home and I hope that we will be able to complete all the traditional formalities with fervour and enthusiasm and have a happy festival-time and experience overall! I hope to be back with more updates next month! 🙂

Fun-tastic four!

It was our little one’s 4th birthday last week! 😀 I wonder, for much longer can I call him a ‘little one’?

I’ve already spoken about my new-found-since-the-last-two-years fetish to make birthday celebrations special and personal previously. In tune with that, I set some aggressive targets for myself.
-Make the cake
-Make the frosting, which isn’t just simple butter-cream
-Make the sweet
-Invite his cousins, close family and neighbourly kids
-Cook for the aforementioned 25-30 people
-Have a celebration at home
And all the above in the middle of a busy week at work.
To be fair to myself, I had complete intentions of taking the day off so that I’d have enough time for the preparations. But unfortunately he was down with viral fever the previous week and I had to take two days off to take care of him. This left me with no option but to be at work on the day.

To add to the woes, his school had announced the fancy dress competition on the day following his birthday and they had a theme that we had to follow – birds! After much thinking and indecisiveness following his illness, during the preceding weekend we decided to send him dressed up as a crow. And so followed some hurried scourging around for ideas and procurement of paraphernalia to make the crow costume. With all of the above happening, it was a luxury to get 5 hours of decent sleep and it wasn’t surprising if I felt and looked like a zombie!

Though I did lose some sleep, the birthday celebration turned out to be quite a nice event – the sweet – almond burfi was made 2 days in advance; the cake with the whipped cream frosting was ready the day before and was assembled early morning before I went to work. I did manage to leave office a couple of hours early and rushed home to make some chocolate butter-cream for the piping. The 3-layered-cake, though lacking in finesse of a professional or store-bought one, looked quite nice with the cherries, whipped cream and chocolate butter-cream, I must say. The kiddo had a great time blowing candles, bursting balloons, cutting the cake, jumping around and generally having a good time with all his friends and cousins. Having just a couple of servings of the BBB (bisi bele bath) left at the end for myself, meant that the food was enjoyed too and there were no leftovers – so it was a win-win from all sides! 🙂

Post the celebration and cleaning up, a couple of hours till late night were spent adding the finishing touches to the crow costume. He did quite decently at the fancy dress event and there were no mishaps to the dress thankfully! We did wish that he’d been a tad more vocal with his lines on stage – I wonder why it is that all the shouting and screaming happens only at home and the vocal chords go into hiding when it is required to be of service?!

So that was one eventful week – but there was one cause for agony which ruined the good parts of it for us – on the day of the fancy dress, the m-i-l slipped a couple of steps at the kiddo’s school and now has a hairline fracture at her ankle. This means she is gonna be out of action for the next 2-3 weeks. With the Gowri-Ganesha festival coming up the next weekend, apart from her obvious discomfort and sadness at not being able to take part in the festivities; this means it is more work for the already sleep-deprived me! I’m hoping that I should be able to pull it off with support from my hubby, co-sister and sister-in-law! Wish me luck!

ದೀಪಗಳಿಂದ ಝಗಮಗಿಸಿದ ದೀಪಾವಳಿ

ಹೊಸ ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಾವು ಆಚರಿಸಿದ ಹೊಸ ಬಗೆಯ, ಬಣ್ಣದ ರಂಗಿನ ಬೆಳಕಿನ ಹೊಳಪಿನ ದೀಪಾವಳಿಯ ಒಂದು ಕಿರುನೋಟ!
ಈ ಹಬ್ಬವು ನಮ್ಮೆಲ್ಲರ ಬಾಳಲ್ಲಿ ಸುಖ, ಶಾಂತಿ, ನೆಮ್ಮದಿಯ ಹೊಸ ಬೆಳಕನ್ನು ಚೆಲ್ಲಲಿ ಎಂದು ಆಶಿಸುತ್ತೇನೆ…

  

Happy Deepavali!

Am really feeling happy with the world today! 🙂
No, nothing pleasantly untoward has happened. In fact, I am at office working while the whole other lot of them are at home enjoying their post-Diwali-heavy-lunch siesta, but that doesn’t seem to dampen my spirits either.
Guess, it is the festive spirit in the air.

There’s a lot of feel-good-factor and the celebratory buzz that I can feel. No, Diwali is not a grand affair at home – the hubby isn’t too keen on Diwali celebrations and no crackers either – just a lot of diyas, new clothes, sweets, good wishes and brightness all around. Somehow I seem to like the simplicity of this festival a whole lot more – no worries about the elaborate poojas to be performed and the accompanying preparations, no frenzied shopping for the hordes of stuff that have become synonymous with festivities. I did some unhurried shopping yesterday – just fruits, veggies, the earthern lamps for the diyas, the candles and the works – peaceful and laid-back on a pleasant chilly winter evening- with the markets already abuzz with the festive cheer.
Made me wish that all festival-eves were as uncluttered as this one! 😀

Today also happens to be the wedding anniversary of my parents. So, daddy and amma, here’s wishing you both a very happy 28th!! May this festival of lights bring in many many more celebrations your way, today and always! 🙂

On that note, wish you all a very happy, prosperous, safe and warm-with-best-wishes Deepavali!
Will leave you with this wish that conveys my thoughts very aptly –

I-Day post

Today is Independence Day – the day India became free from the clutches of foreign rule, 60 years ago. 60 years – a long time indeed. Probably there are very few people who actually witnessed the historic event and were a part of it all. They and the families of those who were in the thick of action at the time, be it the trauma of partition or the freedom struggle itself, will be truly able to feel the real significance of this day. Not meaning to undermine anybody’s patriotic fervor, I don’t think the rest of us can feel about it the very same way as they do.

Every year when this day comes around, people accuse the younger generation of not valuing the true meaning of this important day. People just consider it as another holiday and go about their tasks – planning an outing or catching up on a movie. I agree this is true in many instances, but then I wonder what would be the right thing to do to celebrate this day.
Is it enough if we attend a flag hoisting function, sing a few patriotic songs and distribute sweets, like it is done in most Government offices? Will we be true to the Independence Day spirit then? Or should we diligently watch the I-day parade and the President’s speech, held at the Red Fort, early in the morning on our television sets? Would that mean we are contributing to the celebration?

I, for one, don’t think so. I think this is a marked day, for all of us to remember and realize the struggle that our country men and women had to endure to get us the rights and privileges we enjoy today. It is a moment for us to stop and think back on the sacrifices they had made then, so that the future generations can see and be a part of a free nation. It is a time for reminiscence and to pay a thoughtful tribute to all such people who laid down their lives for the country.

It is also important for us to realize what freedom means and what it would have meant if we were still ruled by someone else. We have to question ourselves if we are making the right use of this freedom and think on how we can contribute our bit.
Instead of always complaining about anything and everything being bad, we can think on what we can do to improve it. We have to ponder on how each one of us can make the country better, by doing the small things right – keep our surroundings clean, uphold right behaviour in our dealings with people, be honest and true to ourselves and our work – this could just be the beginning.
Some of us might go a step further – contribute to the society, help the needy, participate in voluntary activities to make life better for others who are in need of help… definitely noble and deserves kudos. Any which way, I believe we can make a difference, though the magnitude of our contribution might be small.

So people, no matter how you choose to spend this day, do spare a thought and pay a tribute to the people who are in some ways responsible for the kind of life you’re leading! Happy Independence Day to all of you! Jai Hind!

Shivaratri special!

Today is Maha Shivaratri – the day when Lord Shiva is worshipped with special fervour. Several characteristic means of worship mark this day with people fasting the whole day and staying up the entire night, praying and singing bhajans in praise of the lord.

For me, the day brings memories of the small temple near my parental home. This otherwise non-descript temple – one among the several little ones that spring up in a locality, gets completely transformed on this day. The festivities begin a week in advance, with the temple premises being thoroughly cleaned with all nooks and corners scrubbed and shiny. The deities are given special baths and decked with various adornments each day. The small gopuram and the temple structure with the compound and surrounding roads are set ablaze with serial lights and there is a general air of excitement all around.

Visiting the temple on this day for the lord’s darshan is never an easy task. People start thronging the place right from dawn and this continues throughout the day. One has got to plan to time one’s visit to avoid the crowds. I remember this used to be a tedious affair during my engineering days, inevitably this would be around the time when we’d have our semester exams and I would be in the throes of exam-anxiety. One such year, the temple visit had taken an inordinately long time and I remember it was excruciating – waiting in the queue thinking about the chapters to be covered and all the while feeling guilty that it was wrong to think about my time being wasted when I was there for the lord’s darshan! I would fervently pray for my exams to go well 😀

This is also the day when the differences in the social strata are blurred, albeit temporarily. People – rich and poor, high and low are treated equal. The temple is graced by the political luminaries and dignitaries from the surrounding MLA layout; the ministers choose to walk down with their families for a special pooja and darshan and what’s more, nobody is in awe of them on the occasion 😀
As the day progresses preparations are made for the nightly celebrations and ‘jaagarane’. A pandal is put up at the back of the temple and TV and music systems with big speakers are set up. People start settling in to spend the night singing bhajans and songs. I never really got to know what the TV was for; probably some devotional movies are played over the night. Though the music with the blaring speakers are a nuisance for the surrounding neighbours people do take this liberty once a year.
I don’t remember staying up the whole night anytime, but yes exam times would inevitably see me up till late nights – I would call it studies cum jaagarane!

Finally, on a lighter note, my earliest memory of Shivaratri jaagarane is quite funny. I remember accompanying my dad to a nearby tent to watch a movie of Baby Shamili named Durga or something of the sort. Well now, neither does the tent exist at the place nor is Shamili a baby anymore!! 😀

Wish you all a very happy Shivaratri! 🙂

Sankranti bantu…

It seemed like just yesterday that we were ushering in the new year and already it was time for the first festival of the year – Sankranti. And this was special for me since it was the first festival celebration at my parental home after marriage 🙂 It went on well and we wound up by doing a whirlwind tour of Bangalore on the day, for the distribution of the customary ‘eLLu-bella‘ amongst the close relatives 😀

Here’s an excerpt on the significance of this festival:

The Sun moves every month from one sign of the Zodiac (rashi) to the next. Thus, there are twelve Sankrantis in a calendar year. However, the movement of the Sun from the sign of Sagittarius (Dhanu) to Capricorn (Makara) is considered the most auspicious of these twelve Sankrantis and is celebrated as Makara Sankranti. Kranti is a Sanskrit word meaning change. Then what is Sankranti? Samyak kranti iti sankranti, meaning sacred change or a welcome change. Since Capricorn is considered to be a sign of peace and contentment, movement of the Sun into Capricorn is considered a most welcome change and has become popular as Makara Sankranti, or just Sankranti in many places. As the Puranas say, Lord Sun, riding in his 100-spoke single wheel chariot driven by the seven horses, (representing the seven colours of the spectrum), begins his northward journey with the entry into Makara Rashi.

Northward movement of the Sun after entering the sign of Capricorn heralds warmer days, more sunlight, and the arrival of the auspicious uttarayana period. In Hindu calendar, the year is divided into two ayanas (durations), each lasting six months. Dakshina-ayana denotes the six months of southern sojourn of the Sun while uttara-ayana means six months of northern sojourn of the Sun. Bhagavadgita states that people who leave their physical body in uttarayana attain salvation, while those who pass away in dakshinayana will be reborn. Thus, according to the legend of Mahabharata, the mighty warrior Bhishma, felled by Arjuna’s arrows and lying on a bed of arrows, waited for 56 days for the arrival of the auspicious day in uttarayana before he left his body.

According to the Gregorian calendar, Sankranti usually begins on January 14 or 15. In some places in India like Ganga-Sagar in Bengal and Triveni Sangam in Uttar Pradesh, taking dip in holy waters on Makara Sankranti day is considered especially auspicious. Millions of devout Hindus gather here every year to take a holy dip on this day.

I found the salvation and rebirth bit really interesting…
Such an easy way to attain moksha! 😀

Hope all of you had a wonderful Sankranti/ Pongal
ellaru eLLu-bella tindu oLLEya maatanaaDi!
(thou shall eat the til-jaggery mixture and speak good/ virtuous words – is what it means :))