Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Mandharai Leaf

Earlier this week, one of my friends spoke to me about a South Indian delicacy called Kanchipuram Idlis.  We then went on to talk about how these idlis are sometimes steamed in small cups made out of the leaves of the Bauhinia Creeper plant; locally known as the Mandharai plant.

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                 Image courtesy            
        http://indiabiodiversity.org

The leaves are big and have a lovely fragrance.

Picnics and train journeys in my childhood were incomplete without these Mandharai leaves, as all our food was packed in dried Mandharai leaves.

These were then wrapped-over with brown paper and tied into small compact packets with twine – one for each of us. We had freshly steamed idlis soaked in chutney powder, tamarind rice, lemon rice and the South Indian’s must-have curd rice.

We usually carried food that would keep till our journey ended. These leaves were easy to carry and easy to dispose, healthy, organic and recyclable.

We eagerly waited for the train to leave the station, just so that we could get started on our packets. Pickles were packed in another small leaf.

The Mandharai leaf lends itself so beautifully to creativity. Artistically- folded, dried Mandharai leaves can be made into recyclable cups, bowls and plates.  These are usually stitched together with strands of fibre. These cups are called ‘dhonnais’.

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                     Image courtesy
              http://www.spiceindiaonline.com

If you ever visit South India, you should eat piping hot Venn Pongal (a local breakfast delicacy) in a ‘dhonnai’, and wash it down with strong filter coffee.

What’s the best gift you can receive?

All of us like gifts. I am no exception. There are gifts that we remember with fondness, others that trigger memories of first love, some truly special ones from our parents and siblings, crazy ones from friends, and the list goes on.

Some of my all-time favourite gifts include my first watch from my parents, hand-made vouchers from my kids for Mother’s Day (which gave me vouchers to call on them to run errands, give me a massage, bear hugs and mom-special kisses), the pair of earrings my husband gave me after our engagement, and so many more!

So what are gifts? They are material reflections of people’s love and affection for us. Through the gift, they tell us that they have spent time looking for a gift that can adequately express their sentiment, and what you mean to them.

Then again, gifts need not be tangible – they can be simple acts of kindness in everyday situations – like the time my husband drove me to have mango ice lollies, at midnight, during my first pregnancy, or the times my dearest Dad woke up late in the night to make a cup of coffee for me, as I crammed for exams! These are even better gifts, simple acts of kindness.

But the best gift, according to me, is to accept other people just as they are!

Letting a person be himself or herself is the greatest gift you can bestow on another.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Would love to know…

The Viewing Point

When I was about seven, our home was on the top of a hill, part of a long row of houses.

About 150 metres from our house was a green slope, that had a vantage view of our little town. During our school summer holidays, we often went to this place, and sat down to take in the view of the town. All the buildings looked like matchboxes, and the people like scurrying ants.  The sky was a lovely blue with cotton puff clouds floating lazily. Sweet little birds flew across the sky, going about their busy day.

We usually carried a small bag with pear, peaches and potato wafers.  We spent many hours letting imagination take over, playing games, discussing so many, many things.

Our viewing point gave us two special treats – one was a clear, uninterrupted view of the local Race Course; the other was a view of the huge circus tent that was usually put up in summer in one of the local grounds.

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Image courtesy – http://www.en.wikipedia.org

We watched horses being walked by their trainers, we watched them streak past in races, small black and brown streaks from where we watched, white jockeys on their backs. The wind sometimes carried the voices of the commentators to us; sounds that came to us in waves and bursts.

We predicted wins from afar as we munched into golden peaches.

The circus tent was open at the top to allow space for the trapeze artists to swing from end to end. From where we sat, we could see their heads coming up for a fleeting second, as they reached the top and then went down again to amaze the audience below.

Before we went to the circus, we speculated excitedly about the lions, elephants and clowns that we would see, as we crunched into salted wafers!

After watching the circus, we dissected the whole show, minute by minute.The glitter inside the circus tent, was so exciting.

Our days under the sun from our viewing point, were even better. Lazy summer holidays, lying under the sun, coming home rosy cheeked.

Inside the house, it was always cool; and we splashed our faces with cold water. 

Days of pure bliss!

The joke’s delayed

Last week, one of my friends had been to Korea on work.

To overcome the language barrier, there were interpreters and translators in every meeting.

My friend told me something, which I found quite funny.

During their meetings, after the initial shaking of hands and good mornings, the Koreans would talk, the interpreter would translate into English, and then my friend would respond in English, then the interpreter would translate it back into Korean. This went on, back and forth till both teams had settled into a rhythm, and were more comfortable with each other.

By the second day, they were comfortable enough to joke with each other; the funny part was the Koreans would say something funny and laugh. The interpreter would translate, and wait for my friend and his team to get the joke. They would then laugh.

Once my friend and his teammates got the joke, both sides laughed with complete understanding.

Language is no barrier. Jokes can be enjoyed with anyone, even if we have to wait a bit!

Contemplation – A short story

Veronica woke up with a mild headache. Her head felt heavy, and she  wanted to hop right back into bed. Sadly, that was not an option.

She worked at a primary school, and taught Grades 1 and 2. The headache only got worse as the day progressed. She popped a couple of tablets before she entered the Grade 2 class.

Twenty, bright-eyed six and seven year olds looked at her, some smiling, some lost and some grinning.

Today’s lesson was on the basic food groups and healthy diets. As she settled the class down, and gave out the worksheets, she heard a sudden snort of laughter. When she looked in the direction that the sound came from, many innocent faces met her eye.

In a few minutes, stifled laughter that could not be contained anymore, erupted. The laughter came from a little imp named Aarav, whose eyes crinkled in mirth. He held his stomach, as his body shook with this sudden laughing bout.

The headache was shaking Veronica’s insides, and with barely concealed irritation she asked Aarav to explain what he found funny.

The little boy pointed to a cartoon on the worksheet, which showed an elephant seated in a restaurant, with a plate before him that contained just one apple slice. A bubble next to the elephant read, “You call this a healthy diet?”

“So what’s so funny in this cartoon?” asked Veronica.

The laughter continued unabated. A few other shoulders shook silently.

Veronica said, “Aarav, I want you to go to the ‘Thinking Corner’ and contemplate your actions.

So Aarav went to the said Corner, and sat in the chair that faced away from the class.

Veronica’s headache got a little better.  The class went on. Veronica watched Aarav. She saw his shoulders shaking from time to time.  After a while, he seemed to have settled down.

She called out to him, “Aarav, you can come back to your seat. Have you thought about what you did?”

Aarav replied, “I did Ms.Rodrigues, but I still find it very funny.”

And the laughter started all over again. The laughter was contagious. Soon the whole class was laughing.

Veronica smiled and joined in. It was just one of those days!

My favourite uncle

Growing up, we’ve all had our favourite uncles, aunts and cousins. There were some ‘go to’ aunts and uncles, who indulged us, some whom we went to for advice and then again, others whom we didn’t bother with.

My all-time favourite uncle was my Dad’s younger brother. When he was with us, fun times were not far away.

From birthday cakes to surprise treats, he made our childhood days so special.

One absolutely special memory with him was  ‘Kids’ Movie Night’.  Whenever a new children’s film played in one of the oldest cinema houses in town, our uncle took us to watch them – ‘Annie’, ‘Lassie come home’, ‘Herbie goes Bananas’, ‘Jungle Book’ and countless other wonderful films.  We usually went to the 6 pm show on Saturdays.

When we stepped out of the theatre after the movie, the roads were usually deserted. Due to the biting cold, we wore our sweaters and caps, and walked back with our uncle.

On the way back, we usually made two stops. The first stop was just outside the theatre at a peanut seller’s stall. He was an integral part of the movie-going experience. He stood behind his stall, roasting peanuts in a huge wok, which had sand at the bottom. The spatula with which he roasted made a metallic grating sound, the only sound that could be heard on that road.  The warm fire of his stove set his face aglow, as he smiled at my uncle in recognition.

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Picture courtesy – http://www.wikihow.com

He deftly rolled paper into cones and filled them to the brim with warm peanuts. We slowly munched our way through those yummy peanuts, as we headed towards our second stop.

This was a small, quaint tea shop, which served great coffee and tea (as I discovered when I grew up). But, when we were with our uncle, we got to have warm, creamy glasses of fresh milk and cookies to go with them.

My uncle chatted with the owner, as my sister and I drank our milk and compared our white ‘milk mustaches’, giggling at each other.

We discussed our favourite parts in the movie, as we held our uncle’s hands and walked back to our cozy home.

Not a cent…

A couple of years ago, my son came up to me, and asked if he could start getting pocket money on a regular basis.

I asked him if he needed to buy anything?

“Yes, I need many things. So,  I thought I would plan out what I need, and buy it with my pocket money”, he said.

We agreed on an amount, and a few chores that he needed to do to earn a portion of the pocket money. The deal was signed.

After a few weeks of saving up, one evening, he came to me with a list of things he wanted to buy.

So, we went down to the local super-market, and a stationery shop. 

My son looked for all the items he wanted, noted down the prices, added, subtracted, deleted and prioritized…and then guess what?

He did not spend even a single cent!

I asked him for the reason.

He mulled over my question and said, “Things are so expensive, I have to plan better.”

I smiled. Kids…give them their own money and they are loath to spend it!!