Monday, November 9, 2020

Of Gods n goddesses, fine dining and finding things - part 1

 Kannur is a quirky land. With quirks that are lovable to the Kannur folk, but very weird, initially at least, for the non Kannureans.  

Our Gods too, are Gods with a difference. They are, you could say,  of the people, by the people, for the people. Muthappan is one of the human-Gods, who take on a godly character when he dons the headgear which is believed to give him godly powers.  Not all can do it, 40 days of strict vratham are a prerequisite for the human to be able to don the head gear n transform into Muthappan. Taking swigs of his favourite toddy, he dances to that uniquely Muthappan beat; jumping n smiting his chest with his sword, he mingles freely with his devotees, telling them stories,  listening to their joys n tribulations, accepting whatever dakshina the devotee can afford, and in turn, he comforts them, advises them, gives them direction, laughs at them, questions them and in some cases, extracts a fee for services offered. You are to go back n give him his due only if you think you’ve got what you prayed for. Here too, Muthappan can be very clear as to what is owed and what is not.  

There are different Muthappan kaavus throughout the length n breadth of Kannur. And if you offered up a promise at a particular kaavu, Muthappan has to be offered your thanksgiving at the same place. An uncle of mine prayed to the Muthappan at Kunnathur padi to help him secure a ‘job in the Gulf’. Muthappan told him not to worry, that he would definitely look into it, but that he should come n ‘see’ him after that when he came home. Within a month of that prediction, the uncle found a job, n happily left for Dubai. When he came back for a visit, he dutifully visited Muthappan. Now, Kunnathur padi opens up only for one month in the year. Since that wasn’t the month my uncle came down for a visit, he visited Muthappan at Parassinikadavu. In gratitude, my uncle clasped Muthappan’s hand, reminded him of his prayer n promise, and passed on the dakshina. Muthappan took the dakshina, told him that he was very happy to see his bhakta, and then gave back the dakshina to my uncle. Saying that he was very happy to see his Bhakta remembered his promise, but the dakshina needed to be given to Kunnathur padi, as it had not been asked for by the Padi Muthappan, not him. 

It is uncanny the way he can see into your mind and tell you things you aren’t aware of yet/you’re going to tell him. In the first month of my pregnancy, when I visited home, and visited Muthappan entirely by chance, he told me- you have glad tidings for me? About a little leg about to enter your home? 

And to another Canadian cousin, to whom I was acting interpreter, he reflected that she was going to come to a turning point/parting of ways. Said cousin was finishing her MBA n scouting for jobs, so we were a bit confused over the 'vazhithirivu', but then put it down to her finishing her studies n embarking on a career. I also gave allowance to the fact that I might have misunderstood him, for its not always easy to decipher what he speaks. But not so. Within months of her going back to Canada, she discontinued her MBA, and joined up for Medicine, following in her dad's footsteps. 

Definitely not a savarna God, Muthappan eats fish, n meat, n drinks toddy (or whatever tipple the devotees bring him). One of the things that endeared Muthappan to me was that his vahana was a dog and dogs could be seen freely mingling with the devotees inside the shrine. 

Muthappan is invited home as well, as an offering, and that is when the whole locality lands up at the devotees home. He has been known at times to wait even long after all assembled devotees have 'seen' him, for some devotee who was on the way and was delayed. The family might not have know of the relative’s impulsive visit or delay, but Muthappan always knew. And never let down his bhakta. 

Whichever shrine of Muthappan you go to, the devotee will always get a glass of tea, n boiled  vanpayar (cowpeas) or kadala. If nothing he will at least get flattened rice. And like he says, Muthappan never lets go of the hand stretched out to him for help.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

To get to read or not to

Sonny boy used to LOVE being read to. But as he grows up, while he does read, I cannot call him a book lover :-(  Both the Acha and myself are voracious readers (I used to be, at least), and that he isn't, is a fact I find it very hard to reconcile myself with.

He can watch anything on a screen- tv, computer, phone, tablet- anything, and he can spend HOURS in front of it. Which gets my GOAT!

Now he's 13, and while he can hold forth at length with an audience ( he has his Acha's gift of the gab), ask him to write, and its a different story. He's taken French, and I'm the tutor, and we're at loggerheads with each other during our sessions, because there are so many words, where the French and the English are derived from each other, and he doesn't know, because his English vocabulary isn't good enough. Because he doesn't read enough.

I used to keep putting embargos on gadget/screen time, but the Acha was the more lenient, 'fun' parent. Whereas I was deemed the heartless non-fun parent. My worry basically was that all this screen watching was only adding to his lack of focus, and lack of persevering with anything. This year, the Acha finally woke up to the realisation that it might soon be too late, and his son might never enjoy letters the way we did. So, we've jointly told him absolutely no screens, except on weekends. And this we did, using the excuse that 8th, 9th, 10th, there was going to be an awful lot to study.

So far so good. It helped that his marks were not too good, which hardened the Acha's faltering resolve. Me- us moms are made of sterner stuff. :-D 
Hope he takes to reading. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

The reading bug bites again, phew!

It had been ages since I'd read any new books. I just couldn't seem to find the concentration to keep at it, or rather the luxury of time to get lost in it.
Things haven't really changed, life is as busy as ever. In between, I even let go of the driver and the cook that I'd experimented with having. But then, all of a sudden, I got back my reading mojo. And that fills me with joy. I'd dearly missed my reading.
I'd been buying books, of course, but instead of finding their way to the bed/bedside table, they eventually got tucked into the book shelves at home. Not any more but. It all started with some Agatha Christies I bought in Aug. Easy, familiar, much loved writing.
Then I bought an author I'd been wanting to read for a long time. I'd not been getting her first book, n I'd wanted to read that. I found it finally. Anuja  Chauhan, and Those Pricey Thakur Girls. I loved her. It was a little like Pride n Prejudice, a little like M&Bs, very very readable, eminently enjoyable. Need to get more of her.
Then I bought The Girl On The Train. It was a little difficult to get into initially, but then slowly the bait caught. I read it on the flight from Delhi,  I read it from home, I read it on the train to Kannur, and with barely a few pages left to finding why he did it, and if the girl on the train would get free of him, I forgot the book at my mom's. Aaaaarrgggghhhh!! The frustration!!!! I had to wait a whole month before I could get it back, but when I did, I was able to immediately carry on like I'd read it yesterday.
A dear friend gifted me Divakaruni's Before We Visit The Goddess. I love all her books, Palace of Illusions the most. . This one was different. It was one single story, but spread across generations. And as usual you get entangled in the skeins she weaves so skilfully, almost effortlessly. She makes you want to know more about each character. . . , it would almost be like Roots.
And then, I bought my first Dalrymple. The Acha was a fan and had read nearly all his books, but I wasn't much into travelogues. Even so, a couple of years back, I'd read Nine Lives ( that was my introduction to him) n been entranced with the lives he wrote about. This time, it was The Age of Kali, and I understood more about stuff I'd read only headlines about. I wasn't as politically aware at the time of those happenings as I am now and reading about some of  the whys, the whats and the hows, chilled me. I loved reading about the Madurai Meenakshi temple. I'd bought it because it also had a piece on Chottanikkara Amma. But I was disappointed with that piece. The Devi in his story is different from the Devi in my heart. But then, like he himself put it, you must be god loving( I wouldn't say god fearing either, I don't fear the goddess, I love her like a mother) , only then can you understand her power. Or her infinite grace.
That's all for now. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Renewing jottings

Its been a while that I've been thinking to restart my blog. So many happenings left unrecorded, except for short notes on FB. And FB doesn't come anywhere close to blogging.

This year, Vijayadashmi was celebrated from Cochin. Owing to a death in my family, Sonny boy and I were unable to participate actively in the puja, but we made for very good passive onlookers. And after the puja ended, all family members got together, and wrote this mantra on plates of rice.
Om hari sree ganapataye namah
avignamastu gurubyoh namah.

We also wrote the first letter of the Malayalam alphabet. With much hilarity, as there was much confusion over new and old letters. but finally, all of us did manage to write, peeping into others' plates where required. A little 'chitting', but in a good cause. :-D

So here goes, once again. May the Goddess bless that this time there is no break.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Fatal February

Looking back, I think that Feb spelt misfortune for Trinity.

When we brought her home, after that terrible, horrible wound/burn in her thigh (we still don't know how it was caused!) we were soooo happy. And then in Feb, she got all listless and was off her food.. . .  sure sign of being unwell in a lab! The vet who came home to check on her, diagnosed it as pyometra, and thankfully immediately referred her to another vet who specialised in gynaecology. And he operated just in time. A little later, and her uterus would have ruptured and that would have been the end. But we got lucky that time. She was saved, her earlier vet continued the post-op treatment, and she got back to her old self pretty soon.
This was in Feb 2010.

There followed 5 glorious years. Till Feb 2014. I had gone for Attukaal Pongala, and had just come back. Trin had been left at home for the weekend while we were gone and Ratnamma used to come in to feed and walk her, as usual. She was overjoyed to see us back and jumped all over us.  But in the afternoon, she was off her food. The next day, Ratnamma said there were traces of blood in her potty. We took her to the vet, who said it must be indigestion and asked us to deworm her and gave us some other medication as well for an upset stomach.

She seemed to get better, her appetite was back. Till the next day, when she puked blood. I was at office. The Acha rushed her to the vet. She puked more blood and started passing blood in her stools as well. They said she must've been poisoned, and put her on drips. The Acha was asked to get her blood checked from CUPA Hebbal. The Acha called me and told me it was a bad scene and asked me to get over to the vet asap, as he was leaving for CUPA with her blood.
Till date, I have no memories of that auto ride. From Bannerghatta Road, to Varthur, I just prayed. For her to at least remain alive till I got to her. The Gods heard my prayer, she was alive. But so weak, so weak, she could barely lift her tail at seeing me. I had never seen my darling like that. And she kept puking blood and passing blood in her stools as well. Poor thing. She'd strain to get up and outside each time the retching started, and she felt the urge to go potty. She didn't want to dirty the place. It was all I could do to not break down, but hold on, I did. I stayed strong for her.

Finally the Acha came back with the glad tidings that she was not poisoned. Her blood report was normal. Our relief was short lived, though. For Trinity continued to be passing blood. The vets were unable to figure out what was wrong. But the drips seemed to have done some good. She was able to stand up, and a dull shine had come back into her eyes.
There followed a harrowing week where we'd bring her for her drips each day. Finally the vets consulted a professor of theirs. We took Trin there. Maybe it was because Trinity was a new patient and he was not familiar with her symptoms- he gave us a huge tome and asked us to read through a passage to see if the symptoms matched. The symptoms did. Based on that, he diagnosed haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE). We were asked to continue with the drips and maybe a blood transfusion would be necessary if she lost too much blood. But he said to continue at the old clinic inspite of his clinic being so much closer to us. I will never ever take a dog of mine to him ever again.
A whole week was over and we were clearly doing nothing for a cure, except for giving her drips. We kept asking the vets what could be done, and the vets kept saying we had to wait and see. I learnt how to disconnect and connect a new bottle, so that we could give her drips from home.The next day, her vets gave her blood transfusion, as she'd lost a huge amount of blood by then. Was still losing.  But that didn't help. If anything, her condition worsened.  We tried giving her papaya leaf juice to get her blood count up.

The next day, ( Sonny boy's B'day) Acha and I decided to consult another vet a friend had recommended. At the new place, they took all the tests all over again. The blood had reacted, she had a bloated stomach, and her lungs had problems as well. The vet asked us to leave her there and come back in the evening. We'd never left her alone at the other clinic. But she was having some medicines injected intravenously, and she was terribly weak. We'd carried her in on a rug. She'd be unable to climb into the car, out of the car, into the house, and then repeat the same thing all over again in the evening.We left with a heavy heart. She was going through so much, it seemed kinder to put her down. But neither of us wanted to voice it. We held on to a small sliver of hope that she'd get better. By some miracle. In the evening we came back and awaited the vet with dread. He saw us and said that she was responding to the medicines, but was still very weak. He took us to her. She was standing up and delighted to see us, tail wagging nineteen to the dozen. She jumped on us, and whined happily. We were so happy we were nearly in tears. We hadn't thought to see her so well, so soon. We looked back at the vet and smiled a grateful, joyful, misty smile at him. He smiled back, but asked us not to raise our hopes, she was far from being out of danger. Anything could happen still. She was in the extreme stages of tick fever. But we were more filled with hope then, that at any time in the last nightmarish one week to ten days. The vet suggested that we leave her there and come back in the morning. We were glad to leave her there. We went and had a glad B'day dinner. No b'day cake as we 'd all been too worried for that.

The next day, we went to the clinic with hope, but she was worse. It was as if the previous evening, she'd known that it was Sonny Boy's B'day and didn't want to sadden him or us, and had put on a 'happy and well' act. She was happy to see us, yes, but she was disoriented, and didn't want us touching her face. She was in a cage kind of place so she wouldn't fall off (we presumed). Her doctor had left by the time we reached, and would come back only in the evening. We left with a heavy heart again. I kept looking back, not wanting to leave her there so forlorn, but the Acha told me to come off, as we needed to allow her to rest which she could do better when we were not there.

This was at about 2. We planned to come back by 4.30, after picking Sonny boy who'd be back at 3.30.. There was a colleague's wedding I had to attend, I planned to come, see, Trin and then leave, show my face at the wedding and then rush back.. At about 4 however, I got very restless, I just couldn't sit still and all I wanted was to go to the clinic and see her. And then I got a call from the doc. Asking us if we could come soon. I just knew then. I asked him- How is she? Is she. . . ? And then he told me that she was no more.

To my dying day, I think I will carry the regret that I didn't stay back with her that day. That I was not with her, holding her paw, holding her close, when she left.
Poor Sonny boy was devastated. He knew she was unwell, but was not prepared at all for her death.
We had our last drive with her that night, a spent Sonny boy on my lap and Trin on the back seat. . On her journey to the PFA pet cemetery at Kengeri.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Of dogs- well trained and otherwise

Sonny Boy is in Cochin for part of the Xmas hols.
An uncle there has a dog, Micky.
Ever since Trin left us, he's been happy to be with any dog that he comes across, and yesterday, he'd spent the day at Micky's house.
He just called me, and told me that I would be very unhappy if I saw Micky. Apparently, if you asked Micky to come, she would come, if you asked her to go, she would go, she would sit, roll over, and all that, at one's behest. Seemed to me to be a well trained dog. So I asked why I would be unhappy with that.
But Amma, dogs should not be so obedient! they should be naughty.
Speaks volumes for darling Trinity's obedience. :-D
Also- by now he's read Marley and Me ( the abridged version, not the full one, didn't want him to read the original one, I could barely complete it myself without tears trickling out of my eyes, and that was before Trin passed away) and he's entirely convinced a dog should be footloose and fancy free.
All we need now is the pitpat of little paws to enter our lives and enrich it once again.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Of sambar and varutharacha curry

And its back to square one. The cooking, I mean.

The first cook we had was good. Her chicken curry was delicious!! But she was unreliable. And would take leave often. She also skipped work for an entire week that I was away from home. Without any notice whatsoever. A hassled, irate husband told me to send her packing. Well, she had to come before I could send her packing, but what I did do, was to get another one.

This new one didn't have a mobile where we could call, but was punctual to the dot every day.Only thing was - she was a cook who couldn't cook. She made decent chappatties, which was what she made the first 2 weeks, but that was the most she could do. She couldn't make north indian (aloo capsicum), she couldn't make south indian ( morukari - similar to north indian kadi) . She had to be literally shown everything else. I asked her to make potato masala curry once-
"I want potato curry made with coconut.  Like the moru kari I showed you. .  but you have to saute it first. You know?"
"I know," she nodded.
Having had prior experience of her happy nods, I proceeded to tell her in detail what all I wanted in the coconut paste.. And I laid out all the ingredients to be sauteed- onion, red chilly, cumin, pepper, chilly, curry leaves, even the requisite amount of grated coconut.
And off I went, to facebook in peace.
I wish I had taken a picture of that curry.
Madame 'chef' sauteed it to perfection yes,  but didn't grind it!! The curry was full of grated, sauteed coconut and other stuff. Husband told me - "You and your varutharacha curry! She's a kannadiga, she doesn't know all that, ask her to make normal stuff."

I was traveling again, so I asked her to make sambar. I couldn't think any more normal that that for a south Indian. This was around the time the price of dal was shooting up. What can I say? She made sure that the husband  knew that she hadn't wasted any dal. He kept it carefully in the fridge for me to see when I returned a couple of days back. I could count alll the innumerable dals in the sambar, which lay separately along with the ladies finger and drumstick and onions and tomatoes.
He looked at me miserably. I didn't know whether to laugh or to commiserate. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

So for now, its back to me and my 'divine' cooking.  And the husband is being very helpful, extra so!