Thoughts After Visiting MS Subbulakshmi’s House In Madurai

In a narrow, narrow, narrow alley called Mela Anumantharaya Kovil Street in Madurai, one can find the house that the legendary South Indian singer MS Subbulakshmi once lived in. This fact isn’t known to many, not even the locals who live and work around the very house!

Thanks to a blog post by a fellow passionate travel blogger, the husband and I got to know of the house. Having grown up with the music of this legend, we were quite eager to see her house, on our recent holiday in Madurai. We did manage to visit it, too. Do check out my post about this!

The 2016 Year-End Meme

It is the end of the year, and I am in introspection mode. Hence, this post.

  1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before? 
  • I took up a short meditation class with The Art Of Living group. I haven’t been following anything they told me to follow, post the class, but it sure gave me an insight into yoga and meditation. I hope to go deeper into this in 2017!
  • I delved deeper into the world of food blogging. I began to understand different types of ingredients and cooking processes better, started experimenting a lot more. I started attending various food-related events, and started getting to know the food bloggers’ community in Bangalore a bit better.
  • We celebrated the kid’s second birthday.
  • I experimented with a part-time job, quit after a short stint, and became a full-time stay-at-home mother.
  • We visited Calcutta, a place I had always dreamt of visiting! We got to be a part of the Kali Pooja celebrations there, something that I will always cherish.
  • We visited the Sai Baba temple at Shirdi, another place that I had always wanted to visit.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next?

The only two ‘sort of’ resolutions I had as 2016 began were: To lose weight and begin to lead a healthier lifestyle, and to figure out what I wanted to do with my time post baby.

I would say I haven’t succeeded at all, with respect to the first resolution. Today, I am even more heavy than I was at the start of 2016. 😦

With respect to the second resolution, I have been moderately successful. I still haven’t figured out exactly what I should do, but I can say I am on the way. 2016 saw me experimenting with a few different things, trying to understand myself better as a person. May 2017 make me see light in this regard!

Now, for 2017, I have the same two resolutions plus three new ones.

1. I want to seriously lose weight and move on to a healthier lifestyle (which is at odds with the food blogging that I do, to be honest).

2. I also want to delve deeper into myself and find out something that would keep me satisfied and productively occupied, without having to compromise on my time with Bubboo.

3. Moreover, I want to devote time, money, energy and attention to fulfilling those little dreams of mine, like travelling to a place on my bucket list or buying something that has always been on my mind.

4. I want to work on bringing Bubboo up really, really well – do what it takes for that. Not that I am not doing that already, but that is a large life area I’d like to dedicate more focus on in 2017.

5. Finish all those pending tasks that I desperately need to get around to doing. They have been pending for ever. Create a passport for Bubboo, for example, and get Aadhaar cards for us done, things of that sort. Hopefully, the house and our lives should run more smoothly once we get around to doing this.

3. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I would say there are a whole lot of moments from 2016 that will stay in my memory forever. Little moments doing silly things with Bubboo, for instance, or attending my first event as a food blogger.

4. What was your biggest achievement of the year? 

I began to accept myself the way I am, began getting comfortable with myself, began understanding myself a whole lot better.

5. What was your biggest failure? 

I failed at keeping stress at bay. I failed at keeping mommy guilt at bay. I failed at keeping my weight under control. I We failed at maintaining a spic-and-span house.

6. Did you suffer illness? 

Yes, I did, off and on. Let’s just say 2016 wasn’t my best year, as far as health was concerned. In fact, I have been appalled at just how vulnerable my health is, in 2016.

7. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? 

To be honest, my family’s. We were at loggerheads through most of the year. This is one thing I hope will improve in 2017.

8. Where did most of your money go? 

Baby stuff, the running of the house

9. What did you get really, really, really excited about? 

Nothing really, really, really excites me these days – there is always something or the other on my mind, things/events have been happening at the last minute, and I have been unable to really soak in the feeling that I am about to do something exciting.

That said, I was happy about attending the food-related events I attended, celebrating the bub’s second birthday, and visiting Calcutta.

10. What song will always remind you of 2016?

This song. I loved the wealth of meaning in it. And, yes, I heard this song only in 2016!

11. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? 

I think I am at the same level.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of? 

Been more mindful of the voice of my heart, maintained a better home, maintained my weight, and paid more attention to my health in general.

13. What do you wish you’d done less of? 

Eat junk food.

12. Did you fall in love in 2016? 

Yes. I began to love myself more in 2016, I would say.

13. What/Who was your greatest musical discovery? 

To be honest, we haven’t been listening to much music at all. There has hardly been any music playing at home for the last 2 years, which does make me really sad. I can’t say I made any new musical discovery in 2016, except for the Mohabbat Hai Yeh, Jee Huzoori Nahin song I mentioned earlier.

14. What did you want and get? 

Time at home, with the bub.

15. What did you want and not get?

Peace of mind

16. What was your favourite film of this year? 

I didn’t watch many movies in 2016, but I caught up with some good ones that I had missed while living under a rock after childbirth. 🙂 Of these, I loved PK, Ki & Ka, and Piku.

17. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 

I turned 34 this year. I had a mostly blah birthday – I got my periods the same day, I remember, and the hubby was working. The OH and I fought over some silly thing. We then went out for an Italian dinner, and the bub behaved – that was the only bright spot of the day. Oh, and my mom made me some awesome gajar ka halwa, just like the old days, and that totally, totally cheered me up!

18. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Losing weight, for sure.

19. What kept you sane?

Blogging and cooking.

20. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. 

I’ll tell you more than one!

  • If you love something about yourself, your life or the people around you, acknowledge it. Be grateful.
  • Keep doing the things that nurture you.
  • It is okay to put yourself first, if you aren’t harming anyone else in the process, that is.
  • Believe in yourself before you try to get others to believe in you.
  • Acceptance is important, but make sure you aren’t complacent. If there’s something about your situation that you would like to change, work on it.

21. Which new places did you visit in 2016? 

Shirdi. Calcutta. I saw Madras with new eyes, too.

22. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Dil dhoondhta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din

That’s it for now, folks!

How has 2016 been for you? Do take up this meme and reflect on the year gone by!

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This is not the first time I have taken up this end-of-year introspective meme. Check out my previous versions of the very same survey.

In 2012

In 2013

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

Like last year, there are three days of communal celebrations planned in our apartment for Ganesh Chaturthi, in our apartment.

Yesterday, a couple of the fathers in the apartment went out to buy a Ganesha, along with a group of children. Ganesha entered our apartment in a car, to the shouts of ‘Ganpati Bappa Moriya‘. Bubboo was all excited to see this, and has been saying ‘Ganpati Bappa Moriya’ since last night.

The ladies in the apartment have made lists for a week now, dividing chores, choosing menus, buying groceries. They have ensured that there will be prasadam offered to Ganesha every morning, a light dinner for the apartment dwellers the first two nights, followed by a grand dinner the third night. It is going to be a potluck kind of thing, with every family coming up with one dish or the other on whatever days they can. I am in charge of the lemon rice tonight.

The men of the apartment have cleaned up the party hall, spruced it up with a coat of paint, decorated it with paper lanterns and colourful tissue paper, booked a priest, and bought all the paraphernalia necessary for a Ganesha havan. They have also made budgets, collected money from all those apartment dwellers who are willing to contribute, meticulously maintained accounts, and allocated money for all the little chores happening around the apartment for the festival.

The kids in the apartment have been busy practicing their dance moves, speech, drawing and painting. On all three days, the little champs will be performing something or the other in front of the other parents and kids.

Like last year, this year too, we are hoping Ganesh Chaturthi will be lovely get-together, where we get to know our neighbours better and taste dishes from different parts of India. We are hoping to see the glow on the little ones’ faces as little prizes are handed out to them for exhibiting their talents so bravely.

I love how Ganesh Chaturthi is a communal celebration here, more than just a family thing. I love how the celebrations have a very personal touch to them, rather than being just another impersonal apartment association thing. I love how the little champs, thanks to the performances, are comfortable talking about anything and everything to other kids and parents alike. I love how there is a buzz in the air around the apartment, and how all of us will actually feel sad after the Ganesha immersion, a rarity in these times when festival celebrations have become a mere namesake. I love how the men and women in the apartment feel free to talk to each other, help each other in any chore from vegetable chopping to plating up dishes. I love how everyone takes up responsibilities of their own here, small and big, and fulfills them. I love how we are all learning and imparting life lessons to our little ones, even as we have fun. I am so very glad Bubboo is a part of this, that is getting to see festivals celebrated this way.

How are the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations going to be this year for you all, folks? I hope you will have a lovely day, too!

 

 

 

Of A Little Boy And His Ganesha

So, we just got back from a sort of break at the in-laws’ place. We left home thinking we would stay for a couple of days – the OH, Bubboo and I – and ended up staying for 10 days. We didn’t even take extra clothes with us, because we had no intention of staying over. But stay over we did, and we did have fun too.

We ended up doing a whole lot of stuff out there, pigged out on a lot of lovely food, explored a lot, relaxed and walked and spent time with everyone in the extended family, read a bit, came up with a whole lot of ideas to write about, shopped, and what not. Bubboo was thoroughly entertained by everyone, and she entertained everyone with her antics as well. This is the first time I have stayed at my in-laws’ place for so long after we moved out and into our own house, in 2009. We must have stayed with my in-laws for a sum total of 4 months before we moved out. So, you can imagine how fraught with emotions my time there now was.

I came across so many relics there, from when the OH was a little boy, and they brought a lump to my throat. They reminded me that this mature, cool, composed person who is my husband was also a little boy, once upon a time.

This Ganesha idol, for instance.

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This colourful idol came home once when the OH and his brothers and sister were kids, for Ganesh Chaturthi. The little-boy husband religiously decked up the idol with flowers every day and offered sweets to the Ganesha. When the time came for the Ganesha to be immersed in a lake, the little OH sobbed incessantly, hugged his mom’s feet and begged for the idol not to be taken away from him. My mother-in-law was told by her mother-in-law that tradition (the taking away of the Ganesha idol to be immersed in a lake) was no reason to make the children in the house unhappy, and so the family decided to let go of tradition. The Ganesha stay put in the pooja room of my in-laws’ house, and that is where it stays till date. Every year, on Ganesh Chaturthi thereafter, it is this Ganesha that is prayed to and offered sweets. Thanks to my mother-in-law’s meticulous housekeeping, the Ganesha is still in lovely shape, apart from peeling paint at one or two places.

Sweet, right?

These little anecdotes from the real life of real people – this is just what I love hearing. They tell me more about people than they tell me, through their words.

I will be back with more such stories shortly. Till then, you guys be good!

Impressions Of Dastkar 2016

I have been visiting Dastkar every time the exhibition comes to Bangalore, since 2011 onwards, I think. I have seen the fair grow, from a simple collection of stalls selling wares from across India, to a huge event that has become nationally and internationally popular. This is, I think, both good and bad. The good part is the large exposure that craftsmen from different parts of India are getting through the fair, the bigger platform to sell their wares, and the chance at a better life for themselves and their family. The bad part is the tinge of commercialisation that has started to colour the event of late and high prices. This was what was running through my mind as we visited Dastkar 2016 at the MANPHO Convention Centre.

Dastkar has become quite the high-brow event now, and it is tough, at least for me, to really buy many of the wares that are on sale here. I would actually have loved to get the Kota sarees and the earthen pots that were on display at the fair, but was stunned when I was told they cost INR 1800 and 350 respectively! Yes, I do understand the need to involve middlemen in an event this large in size, and I do understand the huge amount of work these craftsmen put into their creations, which I do not intend to demean that in any way, but still. Prices cannot be 5-6 times what they cost in their place of origin. I think I would rather stick to making trips to different parts of India, as and when I can, and buying their specialties right from the source.

This commercialisation has already coloured my experience of various other Bangalore events, the cake show and Chitra Santhe included, and I am sad to say that Dastkar too has joined that list. 😦

That said, not everything at the fair was priced way too high. If you take the time to look closely, you can indeed find great deals here too. I did buy some gorgeous plates and bowls for my food photography, an earthen planter for my balcony garden, and some earthen whistles (yes!) that sing like a bird when water is filled into them.

As always, attending Dastkar turned out to be an enlightening experience. It broadened my horizons, and taught me about the rich diversity of arts and crafts that India boasts of. As always, the event was colourful and beautiful, a feast to the senses and a photographer’s delight. I got lost in taking pictures of all the gorgeous wares displayed at the fair which, I will, hopefully, share soon in a separate post. Considering that I have been visiting Dastkar every year since 2011, this year’s visit pointed out how much has changed within me and in my life, just as it does every year.

Like it does every year, Dastkar 2016 too made me think – of the little changes I can incorporate to lead a greener, healthier lifestyle, to make a difference to the world around me, the little ways in which I can change my home. Last year, the fair inspired me enough to switch to hand-made soaps and try out terracotta jewellery for the first ever time. This year, I picked up a couple of Eco Femme cloth sanitary pads for myself – I will, hopefully, soon be crossing over to sustainable periods, if all goes well. 🙂

Like last year, this year too, I felt the food court at the fair could have been much better organised. It did have some delicious fare on offer, but it could have been a better representative of the foods from different parts of India, I thought.

All in all, I had mixed feelings about Dastkar this year. It left my heart full but sort of heavy, if you get what I mean.

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For those of you who are interested, the Dastkar Nature Bazaar 2016 is on at the MANPHO Convention Centre, near Manyata Tech Park, Hebbal, Bangalore, till August 15, 2016. The entry fee is INR 40 per head.

 

Is It Just Me….

…. who feels that buying fabric off a bale and getting it stitched by a tailor is quite charming and romantic?

For me, there is something quaint and old-fashioned and lovely about going to a fabric shop, getting enchanted by the silk and cotton prints and tulle and organza, dreaming up dresses for yourself and your family, having lengths of fabric cut out and paying for them, and then going to the tailor and explaining what you want, brainstorming with him/her, and then watching the fabric becoming a beautiful dress or frock? It is a process not unlike the making of a beautiful statue from a piece of stone. It takes dreaming to see what a piece of uncut stone will look like when made into a statue, and then going on to convert that dream into reality.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s wife (and so do many of my friends) tell me it has been ages since they went to a tailor. Now, all they do is take their pick from the hundreds of ready-made kurtis available in malls or cloth shops, and mix and match with a pair of leggings. That way, they can have different looks for a single kurti, and can avoid the hassle of visiting the tailor umpteen times and running the risk of the final product turning out to be something totally different from what they had envisioned.

When you use a tailor, yes, those hassles are to be anticipated. I agree. I have had my own set of problems with tailors, but still. There’s something to be said about the joy of wearing a dress exclusively tailored for you, something you envisioned and which the tailor makes exactly the way you wanted it to be (that does happen!). There ‘s something about wearing a dress that wasn’t produced, along with thousands of other dresses, in a factory, not keeping you in mind at all.

Back in Ahmedabad, I have had a few favourite tailors and a whole lot of favourite fabric shops that I would frequent. I have always been on the heavier side, and have always found it difficult to find good ready-made dresses that didn’t cost the moon. Tailors helped me mix and match, made garments for me that fit me perfectly, made me look good and kept me comfortable. There were goof-ups, too, but then that does happen when you are working with people, right? I found a serious lack of good running fabric when I shifted to Bangalore, as well as a dearth of good tailors, and my parents continued to get all my dresses stitched in Ahmedabad and couriered to me, til they moved to Bangalore too. After 7 years of staying in Bangalore, I found a tailor who spoke my language, who understands my needs and stitches the kind of clothes I need. Touchwood. My interactions with her make me happy. I finally have somewhere to take all the bits and pieces of fabric I picked up from here and there. I now have an idea of whom to consult for all the little frocks I have dreamed up for Bubboo, but didn’t have anyone to talk to about. Yay!

That said, it might not be long before this small business establishment, the tailor shop, becomes a relic from the past, like telegrams and landline telephones and STD booths. Well, times change, and the things associated with those times have to change too, I guess. This is not a change I am happy about, though.

If We Were Having Coffee…

… I’d tell you that Bubboo went on to recover from her bout of cold and cough, only to lose her appetite completely. For the last week or so, she has just been refusing to eat. She just doesn’t eat anything, which has put all of us in a panic. We have tried everything we could – changing her meal times, giving her different types of food that taste different, giving her different textures of food, feeding her at different places, feeding her with other kids, and so on and so forth. Nothing has been working. We have even consulted a doctor, who says she has just lost her appetite and needs to find it back again, and that there’s otherwise nothing wrong with her. This is the third time in a row that she’s unwell – first the loosies, then the cold and cough, and now this. All of us are tired to the bones. It feels like we haven’t slept in ages, thanks to Bubboo not sleeping well through the night, and being super duper cranky and clingy these days. It is painful seeing her so tired and distressed – she has never been sick this long. I just wish things get back to normal soon!

… I’d tell you that I feel drained of energy, which is understandable given the repeated bouts of illness that Bubboo is going through. My exercise and healthy eating has taken a backseat, consequently. I so want to get back to proper eating habits and my daily walks. I feel so unhealthy now, on top of being stressed out. Not a good place to be in, definitely.

… I’d tell you that there are a few events coming up in Bangalore that sound super duper exciting, and which I’d love to go to, provided Bubboo gets well by then. First, there’s Dastkar starting on August 6th and then this very interesting event at Lahe Lahe on August 15th. Fingers crossed!

… I’d tell you that I am finding it tough to believe that it is August already. August! The eighth month of the year is already here! Didn’t 2016 just start? Just where is all my time going? It is actually scary when I think of it.

… I’d tell you that I have been thinking of all the good times that we have to look forward to, now that August has started. Independence Day is going to come up, and Janmashthami and Ganesh Chaturthi are not far behind. I hope our apartment’s management association has something exciting in store for us this festive season as well, just as they had last year.

… I’d tell you that we have been considering schools for Bubboo. We are still not sure when to put her into a school, and what type of school to put her in either, but we have been reading up, asking around, just generally researching. We have come across some interesting options for kids.. I think we need to do some more researching, and then we’ll be ready to take a decision regarding her schooling.

…. I’d tell you that it has been almost a year since we shifted to this place. A year! I am happy that it has begun to feel more like home now than it used to in the initial days after shifting. We are discovering new places and things around us, finding out favourites, getting to know people and making new acquaintances. I have had a ready topic of discussion with the other mothers around – Bubboo. We have been talking about our babies and what they do and what not, and it has been quite interesting. It has been fun, eye-opening, and informative. 🙂

… I’d tell you that I have been trying to stick to my habit of reading a little bit every day, in spite of all the hullabaloo that is a part of my life these days. That said, almost all the books I have been picking up lately have been, sort of, lacklustre, even the good ones. They don’t seem to have that magic that I used to find in books earlier. I am so waiting for me to discover that mind-blowing read that will stop me in my tracks. Ideas, please?

… I’d tell you that Bubboo is going to turn two, come October! Two! I have been looking forward to her birthday, all the shopping and planning that comes with it, too. 🙂 We aren’t yet sure what kind of celebration we’ll be having for her birthday, but we’ll be having one for sure! I have been checking out dresses and cake designs, but haven’t reached a conclusion yet. Do let me know if you have any ideas on these two fronts, please!

… I’d also ask after you and your loved ones, as to what you have been up to, and how has life been lately.

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For Weekend Coffee Share, a very interesting meme here. Do check it out!

 

 

Shocked

I wrote this just yesterday, proclaiming my love for balconies that are open and not grilled in, ones that look onto a road. And, today, I get to know of a toddler falling from the second floor of an apartment and meeting his death. It all happened in a matter of seconds, apparently, while the mother was preparing breakfast in the kitchen and keeping an eye on the child. Theirs was an open balcony, and the curious child somehow managed to jump over the railing. The news has shattered me. I am upset ever since I read it.

This is something that could have happened to anyone. However much you keep your kids under strict supervision, they have this way of distracting you, of getting into something in a matter of seconds while you go to grab a glass of water or visit the loo. Day by day, I realise this, more and more.

Bubboo has already started doing gymnastics in the balcony. She is very, very curious. She loves the balcony. She loves looking out. I do keep a tight eye on my child, but she still distracts me, frustrates me, shocks me, every now and then. This piece of news, as I see it, is a lesson in parenting. It comes at the right time, telling me to do something that I have long been procrastinating on – cover up our balcony.

I can’t be careful enough when it comes to ensuring a good life for my daughter. I don’t want to keep postponing a task indefinitely, and then regret later about not doing it earlier. Safety comes first, especially when it is my child in the area of concern – our likes and dislikes later. It is probably time to get that balcony covered. I will learn to take it with a pinch of salt.

May the soul of the deceased child find peace, and may the parents find strength.

 

Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.