When all we desis talk of missing India and being home-sick, I don’t think we really had the Indian summer in mind, but somehow may be God thought he would be nice to us and try to replicate some Indian weather here in North America and brought on us this horribly hot summer. When we’ve waited all winter for it to get warm, so we could pretend to be outdoorsy people, we are welcomed by this sweltering heat. At least the local folks here, seem to enjoy sun bathing and putting on a tan, but for us folks from the Indian subcontinent, putting on a tan makes us go from looking brown to looking like unappetizing brownies. Becoming brownie aside, there are a few other inconveniences I have to deal with.
The grass – The heat is killing the grass. We were away for about 4 days. Once we got back, our somewhat green grass had turned brown and crunchy. You might think I am overly attached to my lawn, but if you had been in my shoes last summer, you’d understand. This leads me into a somewhat unconnected discussion, but it makes for good talking anyway, so let me explain what we did last year. It was our first summer in the new single family home. The front yard lawn suddenly start balding in patches. After some serious “nachchufying” (banter) from me, my husband looked up the internet for what we needed to do to the lawn. Somebody said we should overseed it, so he went to Menards, bought a bag of lawn seed that was on sale and spread it around. It took a good month or so, before stuff started sprouting, and boy what a mess that was. He had bought some different kind of seed. This new variety of grass, lighter green, thinner, taller grass that grew faster than the rest of the lawn started sprouting all over the place. The lawn would look good for about 8 hours immediately after mowing, but by the next morning, the bright green tall grass would be all over the place. Ugh! Walking around the neighbourhood made me want to run a bulldozer over our lawn, it looked horrible. It went from looking like a balding 40-year-old to a 40-year-old hippie. I couldn’t figure out which was better, but both were definitely bad! So this year, after having shelled out a lot of money to a landscaping company so they’d save our lawn from our experiments, I was temporarily relieved to see it nice and green before the 4 days of heat that almost killed it. Now Mr. Baldy is back
Having a 5-year-old in the house through summer is very hard. Yes, I love my daughter, but she is not easy to entertain, if you take away TV. Having to keep her in the house and postponing the time she can run out of the house because of the heat is no joke. I kind of feel bad for her though, that here she waits for warm weather, and just as it gets here, I am already telling her it’s too hard to go out.
It is kind of amusing that I crib so much about this summer, because I’ve seen a lot worse in India. I’ve lived in Hyderabad, where the heat is so bad, you’d not want to touch the walls. We’ve poured water on the terrace to cool the house down, we’ve poured water inside the house, to cool the floors down, we’ve used air coolers, and desert coolers. We’ve dealt with regular power cuts by sitting in the dark on a pile of sand outside our house and playing antakshari with the neighbours. Those were fun times, at least I learnt the first 2 lines of a 1000 songs without knowing any more than that. I’ve also dealt with the heat in Chennai. It has to be the place that disproves that famous saying “Success is 10% inspiration 90% perspiration!”. Surely, if that was true, people in Chennai must have to be the most successful in the world! It’s that place which makes you re-consider the reasons for bathing – do you really need to bathe so you can generate fresh sweat, or do you need to bathe so you can wash of old sweat?
So, when the mamas and mamis coming from India remark “Chicago romba kuloor nu sonnaa, inga vandhu partha Madrasae thevalai polarke!”, I don’t really know what to say!
Happy Summer you’all!
I can’t believe it’s been more than a year and a half since I came in here to write. What I’ve been up to all these days – pretty much the usual and I really did think I had given up blogging for good, but then, some folks persisted.
A few days ago, I exchanged some emails after quite some time with a friend from my past, and even though we hadn’t been talking or emailing for a while, he had been checking my blog for updates. When I told him that perhaps all the incessant talking for about 30 years had left me with little more to say, he insisted I try again, and even followed up with another email a couple of days later saying
Hellllloooooooo… I’m checking daily and yet to the see the blog. Is it taking so long to write one?
So, to my friend and his persistence and to others like him who may (I hope) still be checking in every now and then, I think I owe another attempt.
So, to start off I must write about our weekend trip to Munising in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. This is our second trip there, and I think I like the place even more. It is probably one of the few places in the country (at least the ones I have been to) that are devoid of McDonalds. Small little town, by Lake Superior offers much in terms of beauty and time-pass. Here are some pictures:
The beautiful scenery aside, I made a few observations while on the trip.
I realized that I am slowly beginning to like vacationing the American way. I prefer the smaller, un-crowded, less touristy towns that are calm and beautiful. That said, I haven’t reached the point of taking a vacation, just so I can read a book – I think that’s probably never going to happen and yes I would definitely prefer a Taco Bell in the vicinity.
The Munising area is popular for it’s many beautiful waterfalls. I couldn’t help imagine that if it was in India, people would not only make a beeline to visit, they would also make sure they showed up in colorful lungis and with their lifebuoy soaps. I don’t know what it is with guys under waterfalls - they bathe like they haven’t had a chance to bathe all their life. Here in the US, I’ve never seen people show any interest in bathing under waterfalls or may be I am looking in the wrong place. Let’s face it, water up in Michigan rarely gets warm enough for that.
On this trip unlike our previous one, we ventured into some of the local restaurants hunting for vegetarian food and were pleasantly surprised to find some options. When my husband commented how devoid of desis Munising was, I suggested that we’d know for sure only if we looked at Pizza hut. So, sure enough the next day at Pizza hut, 6 out of 8 tables were occupied by desis working on their pizzas. I guess it takes a couple of trips to venture beyond the familiar spots.
For the first time, we saw a July 4th parade. Apparently it is quite common for the different floats to throw out candy and for kids to pick it up. I have to admit as fun as it seemed to my 5 year old, I was a bit concerned about picking up (porikifying) candy off the road, but I was still egging my daughter to be competitive and collect as much candy as she could. I know – two very Indian traits at odds with each other. I am yet to decide if I should hide away the candy and pretend it disappeared.
Then, I ate a vegetarian pasty. For those of you who don’t know what that is, its a U.P. speciality. Basically, its a saltless, spice-less samosa filling inside what tastes like pie crust dough. It could have been awesome, if it had some salt, chilli powder and garam masala thrown into it.
In all, it was an awesome vacation. Something that got us to unwind completely, enjoy the sights and provide ample fun for my daughter. Hope you all are making the most of the lovely summer weather.
A very belated happy Deepavali to all you friends out there. I hope all of you had a happy and safe Deepavali. It was on a weekend this year, which certainly was very helpful in making it a happy festival. As far as safe is concerned, we had no access to all those 100-walas and 1000-walas.. or for that matter to the bijli vedis, and hence was all very safe. Of course, we were’nt being very safe with our health. Like every other festival with the exception of Vaikunta Ekadesi, we ate an unimaginable amount of unhealthy food that I am pretty sure is the reason I feel heavier this week, and the same reason my daughter is sick with an upset stomach at home.
In preparation for Deepavali this year, I took the Friday off and spent most of the day putting my stove to work. My mother-in-law had already made a 5-cup cake and Manankombu @ Mul-murukku. On Friday, I started off making the badam cake using a recipe I got off the internet. I have to admit that it really was much easier than expected, and turned out very well. Right after, I attempted making the Kaajalu. My mother made it long ago, when we lived in Hyderabad, and we relished it a lot. Of course it appeared pretty complicated to make, and the end product looked very interesting. I asked my mother for the recipe and added a few things I picked up from the internet and the end product turned out really well.
We had bought our usual new clothes, sweater and jeans for me, t-shirt and jeans for my daughter and a shirt and trousers for my husband. I ended up wearing a silk saree though that my m-i-l got me for the Grihapravesam. It was late in the night before I was done cleaning up and setting everything to be ready for Deepavali the next day. My m-i-l made the Deepavali marundhu which a strong concotion of different herbs etc that are useful to act as an antidote for all the junk you consume during Deepavali. She also made the oil for the “yennai sasthram” – basically heated some Sesame Oil with an unbroken red chilli and anise seeds (omam). The night before Deepavali, the custom in my husband’s family is to make bajjis. Of course nobody wants to change such an interesting tradition, so bajji was consumed. That night, thanks to my co-sister V, we ended up putting on some mehendi and slept with our hands tied in plastic bags all night.
In spite of wanting to wake up early in the morning, it was 7 when I woke up with a jolt. My m-i-l did the “yennai sasthram” for all of us and we did our “ganga snanam” and wore our new clothes. That was followed by calls back and forth to India and other friends and relatives living in the US. It seems there wasn’t all that much of a fuss about Deepavali crackers this year. Kids these days think about pollution and their eco-footprints. We had our friends P, Fa and their daughter S over and ate a very heavy lunch.
In the night, we had some sparklers saved from last year’s July 4 purchases. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it. At the end of the long day, she told me she liked Deepavali – that made all the trouble so worthwhile!
And now for some pictures..
My husband had found out the truth about the guy in the first floor portion of the two-storeyed house. He was a terrorist ready to make his move tonight. All the plans had been laid out and everything was ready for the finale, but things were going to be stopped or so we thought. My husband and his colleagues had formed a boundary around the house.. they were ready to storm. Stealthily, they broke in, he jumped out and ran, they chased him and they had him pinned down. The house-owner was bewildered, he couldn’t believe he had rented his home to a terrorist.
zoooommmm.. fast forward.. my cousins and I are all in a small house. We have mehendi on our hands and are showing if off to the uncles and aunts. It seems like we are getting ready for a wedding. Suddenly someone bangs on the door and we see men in black vests, shooting at us..
zooooommm… fast forward.. my husband drops me off by the side of the road and continues along on the same road. A black car with dark windows slows down by me right after he leaves. They bring down the windows – I see scary men inside, but they take off again. A red weird shaped car stops by me a few seconds later, they brind down the windows and I see more scary men, but dismiss the idea because I expect them to take off like the previous car did, but instead one of them pulls out a gun and shoots me down.
I wake up.. palms sweaty and my heart racing to find I am still alive and in bed, my daughter separating me far enough from my husband to not be able to grasp his hand.
And that my friends has been a recurring theme.. I’ve been plagued by frequent such nightmares since Nov 26 of last year. All the live telecasts from outside the Taj hotel have now made bullet sounds un-alien and nightmares feel so real.
It will soon be a year, but for someone who was not even there, the scars remain…
So I started off searching for instructions online on how to make the steps. I know a lot of people have managed to buy the required stuff and somehow make steps that can be assembled and disassembled, but nobody unfortunately has put up proper instructions on how to do it.
So ladeej and gentleman who struggle every year with dabbas and such to make your golu steps.. idho choodungo.. the idiot’s guide to golu padikkatu..
Decide on the number of steps – Remember you cannot randomly change that once you buy this stuff.
- Go to the nearest Menards, Home Depot or Lowe’s and take yourself there in a mini-van or SUV.
- Ask for stair risers – you have different ones available depending on the number of steps you need. Those would make the 2 sides. Ours was wide enough to need a third one in the middle.
- For the steps themselves, you could buy stair stingers (which are expensive) or you could just buy similar planks in any other kind of cheaper wood. We ended up buying 2x4x8 planks for the steps.
- Your top step needs support – so buy it some legs – I am not sure about the dimensions but we picked some up from the clearance section and then after assembling the steps, measured and cut it to the right length.
- Also get some deck screws – they have many options for this, but the cheapest deck screw would do.
- Assemble as shown below – we screwed only every alternative step, the other just rested fine without any screws required.
- Unscrew to disassemble.
During my trip to India last December, I bought a whole bunch of new dolls for the golu. I added a Lakshmi Hayagreevar statue, a couple doing the Dandia, a set of musicians playing different instruments, a wedding set, and a set of fairies (Tinker bell and friends).
The placement of dolls was quite challenging. I am the kind of person, that likes things to be simple and clean. Once the five steps were built and the cloth wrapped on it, we unwrapped all the dolls – and I realized over the past few years when I had not done my golu shopping in India, I had accumulated quite a few boring and non-essential dolls. I decided I would only put up the ones that I could compartmentalize and organize with my nice ones. I am not at all a random person – and I would never be able to get myself to put a bunch of unrelated dolls together. So, my logic was let’s put all the Gods together (like they are going to give each other company or something) on the two steps, and then let’s put all the nice ones in the middle step and the miscellaneous ones in the 4th step. The last step was reserved for small items that need precision in placement and my daughter’s toys. We recently bought her a Tinker bell set of fairies and I decided to use those rather than the stuffed toys I had put up last year. For the Tinker Bell set, I had grandoise plans to repliacte Pixie Hollow, but somehow couldn’t find the time to get all of it done. We tried to grow some vegetation, but as usual we were too late to see any green before the golu started, so I had to make do with some artificial vegetation. Next year, I am definitely going to make something more creative, like a forest or a zoo or park or a carnival – we’ll see if I can keep my promise.
We also did celebarate Saraswati Pooja and Ayudha Pooja with full enthusiasm. Pictures below…
Ok.. so the serious attempt I made at blogging a few months ago in April certainly became what can be at best termed a mega-flop. I seriously do intend to be here more often, but so many things have been happening, and kept me so busy that this blog had to go down closer to the bottom of my list of priorities. But today, since I am up early and my daughter isn’t, I figured I would put this off no further and get it done.
So how have things been in blogosphere? I have to admit, that I have barely even been reading comments these past few months, barely reading my favorites on your blogs, and almost never commented on anybody’s blog either. A lot of things happened.. we cleaned up, re-painted our old house, and then started showing it to prospective renters (which I admit is more stressful than being seen at ponnu-paarthal). We eventually found one and then moved to a home closer to where I work, and got about getting it furnished. So you can imagine, control freak that I am, how crazy things must have been.
Before we moved to our new home, we did have a very traditional grihapravesam this time round and I was very satisfied with how well it went. Right after, the season began – week after week of festivals – pullayar chathurthi co-inciding with avani avittam, followed by krishna jayanthi, followed by navarathri – to the point that I am now almost relieved that there is a weekend where I can laze around a bit and not feel on Monday like the weekend hasn’t yet begun. Also, this year since there are no planned India trips, and we rarely do long holidays, I decided I would use up all my vacation on and around festivals and prepare for them at leisure.
So, starting with Pillayar chathurthi – this was literally a week after we moved in but I wanted to do something and we did a basic pooja and offered sundal and modhakam (or sweet kozhakattai). It did turn out really well. We then went over to b-i-l’s house where m-i-l and f-i-l were also staying and did an elaborate celebration of both pillayar chathurthi as well as avani avittam. My co-sis V made a really beautiful pillayar with rice flour (since clay ganesha’s are not available for sale).
Avani avittam and Pillayar Chathurthi were quickly followed by Krishna Jayanthi. M-i-l and F-i-l were with us for this – so it was all the more fun. M-i-l prepared Seedai, Vella Seedai, Appam and Sooyam. Once again ate a lot of food. We also dressed up my daughter as Krishnar this time. After all the build-up I gave her about wearing “Umaachi” dress, I had put on a bunch of jewellery and taken off her shirt. She was disappointed to say the least. The Krishnar kaals (footprints) were a delight to do this time round – because we had hardwood and stone all the way to the pooja room. I didn’t have to make Krishnar magically fly past carpet etc.. like I’ve had to in the past.
With all this fear of Swine Flu going around, one is forced to hear and see a lot of information about pigs. I first saw a pig, when I was a few years old. I used to travel to school via the Kodambakkam high road and at the large dump yard which is now right across from the new Onyx dump yard, I used to see dirty pigs comfortably rolling in filth. I abhored pigs. Having seen those pigs, I wondered how people ate pork. But then, I saw this movie – “Charlotte’s web“. It’s kind of hard to not love a cute pink pig, that talks so sweetly and seems so innocent. So while I still abhor pork, I am now in a better position with respect to tolerating the pigs themselves.
Now that I have established my position on the interest in this animal, you can imagine my reaction at listening to this piece on the radio.
At the end, I was saying aloud.. “Do you guys even listen to yourselves?” This last section just drove me crazy..
“They had a spring in their step. They played in the sunlight and nuzzled each other in the mud. They made a lot of healthy noise. And Ermine was, well…delicious.”
I’ve been mulling over this for the past few days. I argued it, and counter-argued it inside my head.
Nri Maami (me): Firstly, how can they kill an animal and eat it.
The other Nri Maami (my head): Get over it, everyone does not think like you. They have been brought up eating meat and liking it, so they tune out the history of their food, just like you tune out the fact that ice-cream puts on more weight even though it tastes good.
Nri Maami (me): Hmm.. true, see Americans oooh and aaaw over silly things. There was a guy on Amazing race that saw cows eat out of garbage and almost started crying. How come, they don’t react that way when it comes to slaughtering the same cows and eating a cheeseburger?
The other Nri Maami (my head): In India, I’ve seen the butcher’s shop - it would have a big chopping block with an axe stuck on it, not to mention the buzzing flies, goats or whatever it is they sold hanging from hooks dead and upside-down. If you got close enough, you could even see blood. In America, I believe most people see meat only after it has been cleaned and packed and weighed and frozen. Americans may be a sympathetic lot, but it’s because they have been so carefully shielded from all that bloodshed, do they continue to eat so much meat.
Nri Maami (me): Whatever.. How could any person describe how happy those creatures were, how they skipped and played, and in the very next sentence talk about how tasty they were.
The other Nri Maami (my head): If you were growing Spinach, wouldn’t you take great care planting it, watering it, protecting it etc etc.. and in the end pluck it all out and wonder if you should make Palak Paneer or Keerai Sambar?
Nri Maami: Somehow, I cannot equate plants and animals. Yes they are both living things as we were well taught in school, yet there is a difference. Animals are higher up the list – they move and they think, so they aren’t quite the same as plants.
And so.. I continue to find an explanation that will shut at least one of the two NriMaamis up, but haven’t so far.
So, before I go on further about this and end up either converting a few of you meat-eating folks to vegetarians or I end up antagonizing the few readers I have, all I can say is
Poor happy pigs, apparently they taste better !