Search this blog and beyond

Thursday, January 21, 2010

We can help Haiti

Reading fellow bloggers: Psss It's Efrutik's world and Life as it goes on..., I was motivated to write this post. I realized sometimes how caught up I can be in my own small world.

It has been over a week since Haiti was hit with a massive earthquake with a 7.0 on the Richter scale. The capital Port-au-Prince was all but flattened. While rescue aids pour in, much of the country is in chaos not knowing how to organize relief efforts. That much is common knowledge to most of us. I realized though that with over 72,000 people dead and millions who have lost their homes just the governments cannot do much.

I am certain each of us can contribute in some way. Let us take some time out to donate and spread the word. Checkout Efrutik's blog or this PBS link to find out more. Please make your own assessment on which organization to donate to.

Let us do our bit to help Haiti.

Picture Courtesy -

Monday, January 18, 2010

Celebrating Pongal

Pongal, is a festival of farmers to celebrate the bounty harvest of various crops by thanking the sun God Surya, the rain and the farm animals, especially the cow. The word Pongal itself means to 'spill over' symbolizing prosperity.

The festival is celebrated over four days. The first day is called Bhogi where people discard their old by burning them in large bonfires. This practise is not followed in a literal sense these days due to pollution concerns. In our family we clean up the house and enjoy the holiday..:).

Day 2 is called Thai Pongal which is when we actually celebrate elaborately.

Kolam at the house entrance

This kolam was drawn out by my mom in front of our house. The white powder is actually rice flour and is said to be food for the ants in the days before ( to some extent even now..). Women actually take great pains to draw them out and it sometimes turns into a competition of sorts. So if you ever happen to see one, try not to step on it for your own good..;)


The ritual of reciting mantras and offering flowers to the sun God drawn out underneath.


The Indian version of candles.


Pongal is also the name of the dish made on that day. Its simple to make and tastes yumm... (click here for recipe). There is also the sugar cane which is very typically used in the ceremony, but only people with rather strong teeth (not me) dare to eat the fruit directly. A huge meal is made and we gorge on it for the rest of the day.

Day 3 is Mattu Pongal which is special for all the cows as they are bathed, decorated and well fed. People commonly tease each other as being the cows of the family and specifically come and wish you on that day to pull your leg. We just follow one tradition for Mattu Pongal since its perhaps been a couple of generations since our family owned a cow.

Kanu Pidi

The kanu pidi is kept as an offering to birds and other small animals at homes. In villages, a rather violent sport of Jallikattu equivalent to the Spanish - Running of the Bull is played. It is ironical that the day that the cow is worshiped, the bulls are put to such test!

Day 4 is Kaanum Pongal where people generally visit family and friends. The entire city gets so cramped up that day as everybody is outside trying to meet somebody else.

I had such a good time this year during Pongal since I am celebrating the festival after a couple of years. I must have put on a pound just from the amount of food I ate these 4 days...:)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

India blues

When I left India for the first time to pursue my Master's in Canada, we had an orientation program at the university for international students to get over the initial culture shock, which was quite useful because indeed my country's culture is hugely different than that of Canada. At that point I literally laughed seeing an option for students returning back to their countries to attend a workshop on what is called as Reverse Culture Shock. Ya rright! Like I need to be trained on how to feel home at home!

It has been more than 3 years since I have been living outside of my country, and I have known every single time that I come back what the term means. When you step into an unknown land you research so much and you gear up yourself for the worst scenario, but when you go back to your own home, you relax and assume things would be the same as you had last seen. You are caught completely unaware when things do not go as you plan.

Every year I look forward to December as thats when I travel home but the trip always leaves me pondering and confused to some extent. India is a chaotically progressing country. As I take the ride from the airport to my house, I see yet another fly-over construction, the tripled traffic in narrow pathways, the bizarre situation of a bullock cart, pedestrians and a Mercedes traveling on the same road where lanes are drawn out just to be criss crossed, some religious ceremonial song blasting on a loud speaker, men still urinating on walls right next to public toilets (why, why, oh why?), several big chain stores bull dozing on the smaller community markets and familiar neighborhoods gone to pave way for huge apartments. Once being a joke among friends that our neighborhood was more like a village, the progress now is to the extent that I am actually terrified of crossing the road swelling with vehicles.

As I enter our home, I do an initial inspection to see what has changed. My mom eagerly looks on and challenges me to spot the differences. As soon as I am done with that I always crack open my suitcase to show them the gifts I bought, even if it is 2:00 in the morning. As few days pass, I somehow feel sad that so much has changed without me being a part of it. The weddings I missed, the friends and family I am unable to see as they have moved elsewhere, the latest news and gossip which I am somehow unaware of, a kind of impatience with how things work very differently in India and most of all with how I always seem to fall sick when I get back home no matter how cautious I am.

Well, I have most certainly improved on preparing myself when I travel back home. I start on some of my medications right from day 1. Nobody wants to fall sick for half their vacation. I make special efforts to bug and bother all my friends and family and try my best to catch up with them. I listen more to whats going on on their side rather than going blah blah on Netherlands..:). I have realized that my city was perhaps the same even 3 years before. Mostly its my attitude and expectations that have changed.

And some things actually do get better. Home cooked heavenly food everyday, visiting favorite hang outs, watching Indian commercials (I know that sounds silly, but they are darn good), pampered by frequent visits from a chunk of family that lives 10 minutes away, friendships that get deeper and stronger, a few new ones and towards the end always the thought of never returning back. Does everything depend on the way you look at things? Then I chose to look at the beautiful marigold...:)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ushering in the new decade - here comes 2010

Glow of Hope

Wish you all a very very happy, healthy and a prosperous new year...Where ever you are and in which ever time zone, I hope you are having a great time. The picture above is a painting (artist - S.A. Haldenkar) I spotted recently in an art gallery at Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore, India. It shows an Indian lady clad in a traditional 'Saree' holding a lamp. I am sure we could all do with tons of renewed hopes and its fulfilment this year..:)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...