Happy Deepavali

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..


Were you served, Krishna?

As my regular readers know by now, my excitement levels peak around this time of the year. Starting August, all the way until November almost every other week, there is some festival or the other to celebrate. When all this has died down, comes Christmas and New Year, and customary holiday cheer.

This year my celebration marathon started with Krishna Jayanthi. As usual, Krishna was born all of three days this year. We celebrated on the second day (Sunday) for convenience when in fact by our family traditions we should have actually celebrated on Monday. We had our friends (P, Fa and S) over as well as my bil and his wife.  Since bil’s wife takes a minute to figure out that I am referring to her when I say bil’s wife, for her convenience, I will henceforth refer to them as V&V.

I started at 11 in the morning and cooked up a storm that ended around 6 in the evening. The krishnar who visited our house had a plateful of bakshanams (snacks) – Mul Murukku (a) Manankombu, Rava Seedai (which was quite a breeze considering how apprehensive I was), Appam and Sooyyam. They all turned out really well. He also had a plateful of dinner – the usual pandigai thaligai (festival meal) which always includes paruppu, mor kozhambu, kootu, karamadhu, rasam, vadai and for a sweet, akkaravadisal (which actually ended up being more like sakkarai pongal). He was also served his all-time favorites of milk, navaneetham and aval-vellam.

I had to change his path into the house though. Instead of walking in from the front door, he had to take the more convenient route from the backyard. You see, our home has carpeted floor most of the distance from the front door to the poojai shelf. The route from the backyard however is all on wood and vinyl. So I happily made feet all the way from the lawn till the poojai room, and they turned out bright and neat too.

For calling myself a maami, I actually know very few stotrams. This time however, I made it a point to at least read krishnashtakam out of the book. (I really need to improve my stotram skills a bit more.)

I was soooo happy that everything turned out well this time. I had this nagging feeling that the past few krishna jayanthis had been so unsatisfactory – this time I made up for it. I think this year, Krishna was well served!

Due to popular demand, my own interest and good weather outside the house, I took a few pictures of my krishnar kaals. Here you go…

P.S: I don’t know if any of you iyengars out there have heard of this fabulous book written by an old iyengar maami called Rajalakshmi Raghavan. It is like the bible (or may be gita) for maamis like me who go crazy around pandigai time. It has a list of festivals for every tamil month, plus what food to make, what stotrams to tell, what kolams to draw etc. I only wish it were in English. Thanks to my poor tamil skills, it is quite hard for me to figure out some of the things she has written.

Chicago ‘il Thirumanam – by popular demand

People I personally know who frequent the blog have been asking – ‘So, where is the post on the Chicago Thirumanam’. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing it, but thought people would be bored to read it. But, if you are interested, go ahead and read this, or don’t.

 The Chicago thirumanam went off really well, to everyone’s happiness and satisfaction during the thanksgiving weekend. Yes, it’s now more than a month.

We tried very hard to keep it as close as possible to what it would have been in India. Of course, many of the specimens mentioned in this post, were definitely missing.

We had 2 sessions – the previous evening was the Nischyathartham/Reception. That was followed by the wedding ceremony the next morning.

The crowd was close to 100 people. Most women turned up in silk sarees, and wore the jewellery they had access to in the US. The reception desk at the entrance was unmanned, because there were few young girls in the crowd, and those that could have done it, found it odd to stand by the entrance. All the same, we had a plate full of colourful daisies and sugar or chocolates to sweeten the guest’s mouth as they entered.

In true desi style, like all other desi parties, everything was delayed by a minimum of one hour. Thankfully, the priest who was skilled at either reciting quickly or conveniently omitting the extra frills, managed to have the thali tied, 2 minutes before the end of the muhurtham. Thanks to starting so late, our guest were in time to witness the ceremony too, else we might have had a handful of people, 80% of who would have been white-american. The poor chaps had no idea about the Indian Stretchable Time concept I guess.

In preparation for the wedding, some of the interesting things we did were:

Welcome Board & Vethalai Paaku  bags – The welcome board was handcrafted in exquisite Red gift wrapping paper and adorned by gold glitter to display the names of the bride and groom. No place for the word ‘Welcome’ when I finished. We made sure it was displayed outside the mantapam on both days.

The vethalai Pakku bags were white paper bags. We used half-page labels to print out the bride and groom’s names with the date of the wedding and Thank you written. We had it done in marroon and blue (for women and men). The stickers then were easily applied to the bag. In all I have to admit, it looked very professional. What went inside the bag was- For the men, apple and Bakshanam(Karasev and laddu) bag. For the women, there was manjal, kumkum, apple, ravikai thuni(blouse piece) and a gift.

Bags and Board

Nischyathartham plates – Found $1 trays in the local dollar store. Filled them with an assortment of stuff and sealed and tied them with Cling wrap and red and gold ribbon.

Nischyathartham thattus

Vratha Bakshanam – More $1 trays from dollar store.  No Kai-Murukku experts here, so managed Mul-Murukku in large sizes, Nukkal, Therati paal (from Ricotta cheese), Om-podi, Appam, and bought out Laddu and Mysore Pak.

Vratha Bakshanams

So, that in brief is a little of what happened those two days.

Satisfying Deepavali

Two posts ago, I ranted about how much I missed Deepavali in India. To somewhat offset my self-pity and bitterness at being away in ‘America Naadu’, I decided I would take extra effort to make Deepavali enjoyable. So, I took it upon myself to make available 3 sweets and 3 kaarams – that would definitely bring home the Deepavali spirit. With the help of my experienced MIL who made Thenkuzhal, Ribbon Pakoda and the ‘Veetuku – Veedu’ popular 7-cake, and Badushah bought from a Bangalore Iyengar Samayal Kaarar at $1 a piece, I reached my goal by myself making Manankombu a.k.a Mul Murukku and a fancy sweet called Lavanga Lathika (the name of which many people had a hard time remembering). So, by Deepavali day, we had plenty to eat in the area of Bakshanams.

On the morning of Deepavali, all of us had new clothes, Deepavali marundhu. We videotaped the ‘Ennai Sasthram’ of my daughter who was quite amused by the whole process.

d photo

My office is well represented by the TamBrahm clan. We stand at a dignified 100% of the total office population. So, all of us decided there was no harm whatsoever, and that in fact it made absolute sense to have a ‘bada khana’ of good pandigai sapadu. The women folk in the office decided we could skip our business casuals and show up in salwars. We planned a very satisfying menu which started with bisi bela bath and ended with theratti paal for sweet. I don’t want to earn the ‘vaitheruchal’ of those who had a busy Deepavali at work by describing the menu in detail. I think it will suffice if I say, all of us had a hard time keeping our eyes open for the rest of the day.

I also learnt from a friend, that fire-crackers are available around July 4. Next year, I plan to stock up in July, so I have nothing to yearn for but the company of my family in India. Next Deepavali will be even better.