Friday, September 28, 2012

Ayyo Amma Madrassi!!

I hate being called a Madrassi!!

The promos of the new Rani Mukerji film Aiyyyyaaa, suggests it is about the Marathi mulgi wanting to marry a Madrassi ladka, while resorting to obscene gyrations in skimpy clothes to suit the Madrassi fantasy of feminine allure while screaming Pullingum and Streelingum and everything in between just makes me want to scream my frustration from the rooftops!!!! And dare you say, develop a sense of humour! I'd say say that to me after you get your facts right!

We of the races of the brown skinned,  do not all trace our lineage to the unimaginatively homogenised population of brown/black/dark skinned men and women. The depictions are always of resplendent nine-yard silk sarees, a yellow cloth bag and white 'lungis' and of course a couple of 'Ayyo Ammas' thrown in for good measure. We are all stamped with the royal seal of being the citizens of the erstwhile Madras.Even if your history is strong enough to help you argue that Madras was also the name of the Residency that comprised of five princely states encompassing a larger geographical area than the city, I'd still tell you to go back and read up on how even in the days of the British Raj, Mysoreans and Hyderabadis would have killed if they were all clubbed with the Madrassis!!!

The region called South India or Dakshin Bharat of today comprises of four states not one. Our scripts differ, our languages differ and if you ask any 'Madrassi', they will probably be able to identify the region from which the other Madrassi ( as you tag us) is from with microscopic preciseness!!

Now, that we have set the tone for the post, let me clarify - this isn't a rant! We have so much to rant about which have already been ranted about - The Ayyos, the Ammas, the Rajnikanth jokes (which I must agree we also louuuve to participate in), the Nariyal and Nariyal tel jibes. But amidst all this, I was trying to see what are the points of commonality that could make me look the other way, when someone calls me Ohhh you Madrassi!

Guess what I came up with - FOOD. Food is the greatest unifier ever. I was looking at international cuisine and I realised that every region has its own cuisine and what we call Italian - could be Roma, Napolitan, Sicilian and what not. Take Chinese food for instance - (Ahhh not those made in oily unclean woks in your neighbourhood by the Bihari boy, who came to be a cleaner at the neighbourhood kirana shop! ) - the spicier versions can be from Sichuan, Manchurian is in fact a regional style of cooking from Manchuria and not all that is red and batter fried!

Coming back to the Madrassi point I was making, I was explaining it to someone very dear but very ignorant about 'Madrassi ways' that there is no South Indian/Madrassi khana or food category! 

Malayali cuisine is leaps and jumps different from Tamilian or Kannadiga fare. The fiery Telugu fare is a class apart! Now this led to the interesting twist in the tale - the ignorant posed the next question - so whose cuisine is idlis, dosas and sambar? Now you have me stumped!! In Kerala, we make doshas, in Tamil Nadu dosais, Kannadigas do dosas too!! Hmmm...I can tell you a madrassi sambar from a Malayali sambar and the kannada or telugu saaru.  A sambar without coconut oil tadka isn't kosher in Kerala - try serving that in any of the other three states and the finicky nose would shrivel up quicker than you can say sambar! But then come to think of it, these are all the culinary interpretations of multiple chefs speaking four different languages to cater to the palate of four different brown-populations!! Similarly an idli by another other name would taste just as divine with coconut chutney, sambar and the podi (known to the uninitiated as gun-powder!) The taste of the podi might differ, but the concept is the same - the rendering different.

On this subject- a delicate clarification - if you are in Kerala, you can ask for and get a sadya. ( That's a traditional Onam sadya in the photo alongside!) Go to Madras and ask for one, and you might draw a blank unless the person you asked this of  is a Malayali (which is a pretty plausible possibility anywhere in the world!). Sappadu in Tamil Nadu is verrrrrrry different from the sadya in Kerala. Comparing the two might be like comparing mozarella cheese and mascarpone cheese!

So the other day I made rasam and then ran to the nearest Udipi and picked up vadas - medu vadas to you, uzhunnu vadas to me and udad vadas to some! And then plopped it with that yummmmm sound into the boiling rasam..Left it there for about half an hour, ladled it into two steel bowls and in three minutes flat, the bowls would have looked unused were it not for that lingering smell and a stray bit of kari-patta that was ignored..And the satiated tummy sent a placatory message to the seething brain - 'No one knows which of the four South Indian cooking moghuls made the rasam or the vada. But whoever did, created a widely replicated masterpiece.'

So if you swoon Ayyo Amma you Madrassis and how you cook this, I'll probably be benevolent enough to smile at you and pass you another bowlful of yumminess. For the rest of the time, I'd say forget it and pass you a Social Studies text book to get your history, geography and general knowledge up to speed!!!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Intimate Whispers By The Seaside

The sea is violent - Im here to see her anger, feel her pain as she rolls in the waves to break the will of the stones.

I am perched on the stony ledge - perched at a spot that arrogantly mocks her- 'Dare you touch me. I shan't move, make me melt if you can'.

With each passing minute her anger grows. I can sense her channeling her inner tides - they in turn feed off the demons she nurtures in her heart. With each roar, she spews foam and froth. Every mad rush to break herself against the stones ends in complete disintegration. Each attempt is a mini-defeat. After each defeat comes the rallying of the spent force, a strategic withdrawal only to return, the emotions once again bundled into untidy waves of ferocity.

I am a mere speck, two eyes on an inanimate rock, the heart that throbs to tell the story. The book on my lap shows tell-tale signs of moisture - did the waves that tried to maul the rocky ledge leave behind a trail of tears?

I doubt it. I think water seeps through the cracks in the ledge, soaking it slowly like the pages of my book. And before I know it, stones could struggle loose from its bondage, the ledge would turn a fickle guard against the marauding sea.

I roar my pain out, but the waves outshout me. The saltiness of the sea water droplets mingles with my tears - I now have a bit of the sea within me.

The half read, much soaked page mocks me - have I finished judging who the winner is?? The ledge has lost its rigidity, the sea has shattered a million times to be whole again. And I?? I live half soaked, half dry to tell another tale.

(Photograph taken at Mumbai Marine Drive by dusk) 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Fight Against Cancer

My family has a terrible secret in its closet...Everyone knows, but few acknowledge, we all seek solace in the medical truth that it is not hereditary...

Today I lost another family member to cancer...

Dad's brother - the one closest to him in age.

A death in the family is a jolt in multiple ways - you worry about the impact it has on family members, you wonder about the impact it has on those older than the one dead - its an alarm of your mortality too. No one wants to admit that death scares them. That unknown abyss that we plunge into leaving behind all our loved ones, our responsibilities, our dreams, hopes and aspirations.

This is the third member of his closest family that has succumbed to cancer. My grandfather on Dad's side, his oldest son and the second one - my two uncles- out of a family of 9, three deaths due to cancer is already an odd of 1 in 3.

My last meeting with my uncle was in April this year. As he gave me my Vishu kaineettam, he smiled as if he knew a secret none of us did and said he does not see much life left in him. He wasn't diagnosed then, I remember telling him to not think negatively. He smiled then and said I know. He was a good astrologer, perhaps he believed the planets were unfavourable. I find it difficult to live by horoscopes. But then his prediction rang in my head as I got the call this afternoon saying he's no more.

The day my uncle was diagnosed, I remember feeling a gut-wrenching fear. The patterns are the same, the writing is on the wall. Everyone in Dad's family has a weak stomach - they are prone to acidity, stomach cramps and living life on Gelusil and other antacids. Ulcers and stomach ailments are usually brushed deep into the medical charts as no one wants to compromise on the spice in their food or a change to their diet. Two brothers in two years - the pattern is a little too frequent for comfort. I have realised with a sense of disquiet that my young-at-heart father is now feeling age catch up with him - perhaps when you lose people you grow up with, that sense of passing time is inescapable.

Could we have done anything to keep my uncle alive for longer? The rational head says he died before the pain and suffering got the better of him. He died within three days of the realisation settling in that it was not chronic stomach ulcers that were the cause of his illness but cancer that had eaten into his stomach and liver.

Many in my family seek solace in leaving it all to destiny. Was there a way the cancer could have been detected at an early stage, giving him a better chance to seek cure? Death does not wait for anyone, sure it does not, but how do those that are touched by death but have to continue living embrace the finality of it? How do you learn to continue living a new life after thirty five years of togetherness? I fear for the living, the dead as they say are in a better place, where no suffering touches them.

For the living, the scars and regrets last their lifetime.

I wish there was a way of beating hereditary predispositions. I wish there was a way of not having to constantly brace for errant mutant cells that corrode organs and then slowly sound the death-knell. For a while at least, I know, every little niggle, every hint of pain comes with the paranoia of whether I'm ignoring warning signs from my body, whether Dad is from his.

We don't have a choice, do we?? We make the best of what's in our control - just cock our ears to what our body is trying to tell us perhaps?? And even as we do it, give our best to bringing that smile on the face of our loved one..leave a lot of happy memories that like helium balloons float around, bringing smiles even through tears.

Here's a toast to all those who have gone ahead, watching us from there.. Hope you all are together, hope that we have a home to come to, when we eventually make our way there some day.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Smell of Freedom

Hello bloggies,

Its been ages, wonder if at least a few of you who added me on your subscription list remember. I have been a bad bad girl! I make these wild announcements of Life 360 and what not and then disappear without a trace. My friends, Lazy Pineapple and R's Mother have been sweetly coaxing me back but trust me, it wasn't lack of inspiration or lovely encouragement that kept me away. 

It was work! ( Now where have you heard that excuse before?!!) 

But since June 21st, the day I published my last blog, I have been places, done things and unlearnt a few truths, gone on the backfoot, stretched myself a little too much for comfort, had one too many bumps and bruises and what not...

So much to tell you, so little time.. The coming months are likely to be hectic too according to my zodiac forecast, now why is it that when I'm looking for doomsy forecast, I turn to the Hor(ror)scopes??

Its one hour to midnight my time and I'm determined to ensure that my next post is logged in for 13th September. Why the 13th if its not Friday?? Well, 13 is still a 13...wickedly mysterious, vaguely discomfitting and when combined with Friday, positively ominous..

However, there is something the horrorscopes missed...The smell of Freedom..

After months of letting my work, think my thoughts and key my words, this evening I broke free... when I sealed the envelope on the courier that contained my blood and sweat of two months, there wasn't a sense of bubble burst that I felt, it was more like a sigh of the freed!

Am I rambling today? Kind of like all over the place?? Well that's a peek into the real me..the me behind the facade of Journomuse..I'm a rambler, and especially when I'm free of fetters, of worries of having to sound sensible and precise. For the last two months, that is what I have tried to be...precise, error-free and dot-on-time. Now I have the time, there are no deadlines to chase and time is my buddy. And from somewhere nearby, the smell of freedom wafts by..

And do I have a twitchy nose?? Like a little puppy, I'm going to chase the smell down.. It smells of treats of little bite sized bitter chocolate, of time for books and big mugs of coffee, for secret browses through guilty pleasures...lots of fun and laughter..and snuggling under the blanket not having to wake up if I so please... It's the life! :)

Now that also means you shall hear from me more often...there have been a few travels...some new experiences... I shall tell you about it all...for now, sit back and smell that smell...that smell of Freedom...

You know how Freedom smells to does it smell to you??

Write in, let me know...I'm waiting..Blogging is fun when you tell me too..and then we shall discuss and maybe the next time I smell Freedom, I shall smell a bit of your favourite smells too..

PS: That photograph was taken on one of the journeys to South Mumbai...watching the Sunset by Marine Drive, that's some experience..that smells like freedom too...:)

Much love,