Mar 30, 2011

Close encounters of the animal kind

Yesterday I bought a bunch of sardines from our local lady fishmonger (fishmongeress?? :-)). Buying fresh fish from her is an art in itself. All the fish that she will hold up for inspection will have red gills and firm flesh. But once she is gone, I always find that she has mixed in some day-old (I'm being conservative here) specimens into my purchase.  The reason why I don't buy fish more often is all the work it entails. Unlike super-cleaned supermarket fillets, here the fish come with all their organs intact and it's a slimy and time-consuming process to descale and gut enough for a curry.

To make it easier, I tuned in to my favorite FM station and sat down on my shady backsteps to clean the fish. That's when things got interesting. A crow watched my proceedings with interest and signalled his own interest with some significant cawing. I threw him a sardine head. He flew down, eyed me suspiciously and then flew offf with it. Okay, a few moments later, he was back on the same tree and cawed again. I threw him another titbit. This time, he flew down, and before picking up the food, he set up a loud cawing. At first I flattered myself that it probably was crowese for 'Thank you', until I heard an answering chorus from all around me.

Then the trouble began. They arrived in ones and twos, no doubt alerted by my first crow of the all-sardine-head-you-can-eat buffet. They edged closer and closer if I didn't have heads ready for them. Then one hapless crow who had a coveted titbit already in his beak was cruelly attacked and robbed by two others and was being pounded on his back when I threw a stone to break up the fight. Those three flew up to my back wall and sat there abusing each other in cacophonous crowese (I was glad I didn't know the language, no doubt some of it was meant for me too...) till I had more sardine heads to throw at the abusive trio. So it went on till I was down to the last couple of fish which I cleaned super fast and took all the remains and buried it in my garden. I was just glad that I had escaped unscathed! Lesson learned - use fish remains only for manure and not for entertainment!!!

This incident was too close to another that happened just last Tuesday. After handing over our Indica, we took a bus to Kollur, the tiny temple town in Karnataka that is the favored more by Malayalis than the locals. On Tuesday morning, we got up early and had darshan. The sleepy town was still not fully awake when we got out looking for breakfast. I had just a small drawstring bag with me into which I stuffed 3 of 4 laddus that we had bought from the temple. The extra laddu had a paper cover of its own. After breakfast we slowly walked to the Souparnika river ghat. The Souparnika was emaciated in the summer heat, but the water was cool and clear. We all stepped in to where the water just covered our feet and watched as tiny fish gathered around us.

Soon, my DH pointed out some monkeys sitting on a rock across the Souparnika from us. We watched them and in a little while another procession of monkeys came trooping from behind them and crossed the stream jumping from rock to rock. The leader was passing to the left of us as we watched quietly and had reached our side of the river when he stopped and turned. He immediately took hold of my dupatta and wouldn't let go. My family didn't understand that it was the bag that he was after. We tried splashing water and though momentarily he let go, as soon as I stepped on to the shore, the monkey again caught hold of my dupatta. A local standing on the shore shouted to us that the bag was attracting the monkey. DH, meanwhile had got to a safe distance taking our toddler with him. I weighed my options - my new dress that was Mom's birthday gift to me and bodily injury or the bag? By this time there were more monkeys blocking my escape route. Then I had a brainwave! I took the solitary laddu that wouldn't fit in the bag, waved it in front of the leader monkey to make sure he saw it and then threw it as far as I could. As expected, all the monkeys followed the laddu. I escaped with my dupatta and bag (with hotel room key) intact. Lesson learned - don't carry bags into monkey land!!!

Mar 25, 2011

Bye, bye Indica!

She was my husband's first car. After our wedding a couple of months later, she also became our first family car. She was there to receive me as the bride of the family and lent her quiet golden elegance to the ceremony...

She drove over 600 kms to our tiny little rented apartment a month after the wedding and we all started our new life together.

We soon found out that she had little endearing characteristics. She was afraid of thunder - when an especially strong one shook even the buildings at night, she would start wailing and we would drag ourselves out of bed to shush her back to sleep. She did the same every year during the monsoons till we built Karthika and gave her a closed garage where she could sleep peacefully.

When we had to travel abroad, she went back to Kottayam to stay with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. She attended my sister's wedding even when we could not...

When we got back, she moved with us to Thiruvananthapuram. Once again, she arrayed herself out as bridal vehicle for my sister-in-law's wedding...

She drove us to several sites in the early mornings when we hunted for a space to call our own. Our second baby came home safely ensconced in her cozy comfort. When Karthi was being built, she was there every weekend to view the progress...

Soon after the work was completed, we had to move to Pune for a year. So our little Indica took a long trip on a cargo truck to be there with us. Once again in the company of other cars in the flat, she was again the favorite haven of several cats like she had always been. And she didn't stop wailing on stormy nights. Back home last year, she happily drove us up all the way to Munnar and doesn't she look pretty among the green hills?

Last weekend, she took her final journey with us. On the first leg, we stopped at Guruvayoor and she rested at the hotel while we went to see Unnikkannan in all his glory. The next day, she purred over the hilly terrain up to Mangalore and took us to our old haunts in the city and a couple of homes that we had rented. She looked happy to once again be among the KA-19s.

Finally, this Monday, we handed her over to her new owner who admitted her to the service center to fix up a few blemishes and to spruce her up for her new life. When we all last saw her, she was hoisted up with her bonnet open and we all said laconic goodbyes to her. Afterwards at the hotel, my son and I spent several quiet minutes together till we confessed to each other how we already missed her and shed a few tears. Yes, you are just a machine, little Indica, but you took us on innumerable trips, drove us out on midnight emergencies and were part of our family for nine long years. You are so dear to our hearts that when we chose another car to join us, we selected one from your own family...

Bye, bye, Indica, our big, little car. I still can't get over the fact that you are not here any more, so I will just pretend that you are in for a well-deserved pampering spa session at the service station. May you have a wonderful life ahead of you!

Mar 5, 2011


Exam times are here, revision is in full swing and I am left wondering here about the types of lessons taught to our children...

For example, in my son's first standard English text book, there is a lesson about a frog who is about to be eaten by a tiger (poor tiger, slim pickins' ???) The frog escapes by saying that he is covered in mud and would like to wash himself before the tiger tastes him. Of course, the lesson's name is "Clever Frog".

Move over to the Value Education book - here's a lesson about an honest goat. She is threatened to be eaten by a lion (this lion probably came down to a village because the tiger was reduced to catching frogs). She asks him for enough time to get take her kids to her uncle (guess she was a single mom). The goat then COMES BACK! But the lion is so impressed by her honesty that he leaves her alone and presumably goes off to hunt any dumb frog that might be left over.

What are our kids supposed to take away from these lessons? Is any story acceptable as long as it is presented in the animal fable form? Are we supposed to let our kids swallow both lessons without questioning? Apart from the fact that school authorities ought to be a little more careful when picking out books, I guess it is the job of parents to ask the kids what they think about the lesson. I could say that the goat was dumb. But then one could also argue that her consciousness level was very high and after securing her children, she was ready to sacrifice her physical body, leading to the upliftment of their soul. Gosh! By the same token, the frog was really a rogue to have escaped by lying??

Hmm, but I taught my kid both the lessons and found out that he didn't care about it either way. It was just a lesson to him. May be that is the way these lessons should be taken - just to be skimmed over superficially. The real values they will learn from the behaviour of those around them - including their parents. After all, there is only so much a story can do.

What do you think???

Mar 4, 2011

My first Idiyappam/Noolpputtu

I was excited this morning when I entered the kitchen - I was going to try making idiyappam for the first time ever! I was so excited to try out my new shiny steel sevanaazhi...

I took the packet of idiyappam podi, followed the instructions to the letter and happily filled the sevanazhi with the sticky dough, squeezed out one nazhi-full onto idli moulds liberally sprinkled with grated coconut and put it on for steaming. Then I proudly called my DH to see it. He took one peek at the now steaming appams and frowned. He has this habit of comparing eatables to the most odious things imaginable - so I begged him not to do so. No, he was just wondering whether the appam strands were supposed to be that thick. That is when I went through the stack of the different chillu that came with my sevanazhi and found this...

Don't get it? Below are both of the chillu - I had first used the one on the left - no wonder my DH started calling it "vadam" (thick rope) puttu instead of "nool" (thread) puttu!

Things went on swimmingly since I changed to the right chillu and I made my DH a huge idiyappam instead of the dinky iddli-sized ones to show him my gratitude....

Yeah, it looks pretty and tasted good too. Doesn't it look pretty coming out of my sevanazhi?

The only drawback was that perhaps I followed the instructions on the packet a little too closely. The dough was tough and I was really glad I have stuck to my new year resolution of doing upper body workouts with weights. Please don't attempt this feat till you are at least doing 10 push-ups a day. I would have been laid up and worse, my family would have had to go without breakfast if I hadn't been exercising! :-)

So much for my adventure of the day. Now my tummy is full!

Mar 3, 2011

A "Craft" all my own!

Ha, ha, I bet that got you wondering...

It hasn't been a slack time here at Karthi with the houseful of people keeping me busy and going out much more than before. But I did manage to do some "decorating". In all the years we spent in rented apartments and homes, I never put up any personal photos on the wall, just reserved personal photos for the walls of our own home. But once we got here, I became even more hesitant to put up photos. For one, I couldn't decide on good spots to hang a picture from. Then I was also scared of drilling holes on our pristine walls (might explain why I cringed each time the termite exterminator drilled holes every foot or two along our walls last week). I also do not like the idea of hanging up a conventionally framed picture - it reminds me of the old irayams of yore where the whole family stared at visitors in rigid black and white photos all with the cream-colored mat and black frame. Okay, okay, I know there are lots of good frames out there nowadays, but I couldn't bear to put our pics behind glass. So this came about:

See the two pics on the wall? Can't see them properly? Ok, here's the closeup of one...

and here is the other...

This "crafty" decoration just cost me the price of printing the large photos and a couple of sheets of chart paper (construction paper). I also pleased my recycling self by using packing case cardboard. Hmm... may be I should tell you how I made them.

I took two thicknesses of cardboard and bound them together with a few pieces of tape. Then I covered one side with white chart paper, covering the edges of the cardboard and taping the edges of the paper firmly on the other side. I also cut a piece of chart paper big enough to cover the edges and glued that on so that the other side looked even too. Then I made a loop with discarded packing string and glued it to the backside.

After the glue was dry, it was time for some fun! I squeezed out some paints and used two contrasting colors for each frame and had fun slopping the color on and blending it. For the black "frame", I marked off a ruler's width along all four sides and doodled with a black fine point pen to my heart's content. Then I pasted the pictures in the "frames", glued two hooks to the wall and hung up the pictures. I was deliberately non-perfectionist in my execution of the frames and I love the rounded edges and the lack of glass. And then, nothing beats the satisfaction of DIY, even if it's very simple DIY!

Wondering about the first picture? Well that's my hubby and me, the day after our wedding!

Spring/Summer Projects

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