Sunday, December 9, 2007

Miles to go before I sleep ...

I have decided to merge both my blogs into one. From now on impressions on my travels will also be posted in my " miles to go before I sleep " ....

Sunday, November 4, 2007


"I am going to be a spider witch"....." I 'll be a mermaid"... I am a princess"..." I love being a butterfly".....each one was eager to share the details of their costumes for the Halloween. This was my first Halloween and I was amused at the excitement that filled the innocent faces of the kids who had gathered home for their regular dance sessions. I asked them " What is Halloween?" and the answer I got was , It was a day when we will get a lot of candies....and we get new costumes for our costume party!"

Then I got a note from my son's school regarding the Halloween party! They were supposed to go to school in a costume and take with them gifts or treats to share with their friends. So I went searching for the costume of his choice to the mall. The whole mall was filled with the spirit of Halloween. there were spooky corners which sold scary masks and costumes...,there were special offers for miniature chocolate bars and candies....on the shelf stood pumpkin shaped pails with different facial expressions ...!!!
"Amma , I don't want to wear any thing scary!" ......My son came up with his demand!....his eyes stuck on the red costume of a fire fighter and he was satisfied.

Still I did not get a satisfying answer regarding the roots of this festival which seemed to have gained a wide popularity , second only to the Christmas. The festival is now commercialized , and the real reason behind the festival seemed to be missing. I digged a few books and searched the internet and found out that this was originally a Celtic festival with its roots in Ireland.It is named after " All Hallows even " or Eve of All Hallows Day or All Saints Day.Romans who later invaded the Celts seem to have blended in their customs into this festival.It originally symbolized the end of summer and beginning of the dark period or winter.It was called "Samhain" by the Irish, who celebrated this day with bone fires and bambrack( a traditional fruit cake).It was also believed to be the time when other worldly creatures roamed the planet ! There fore who ever , left their homes disguised in costumes in order to be in sync with the outside atmosphere.They used to roam around with a lantern made from gourd(jack o lantern.... which represented the plight of jack the farmer whose spirit roams around, who is denied entry to heaven or hell due to a spell from the devil).gourd was later replaced by pumpkin, which is more abundantly found! The poor in Ireland used to knock at doors and beg, and in turn would pray for the souls of the bereaved. This has been transformed into "trick or treating" today, where children run from door to door in their costumes and are given treats !

The Roman Goddesses Pomona ( Goddess of fruits) is remembered by the custom of bobbing of apples. This is a game where apples and coins and thrown into water and is supposed to be picked up with out using the hands.

Though the festival is not celebrated in its olden significance, it is a great time of the year ...when each house hold welcomes you with the colors of autumn, signs of harvest, symbols of ghouls and ghosts and witches....the pagan festival is redefined to fit into today world... celebrated with a difference!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kanna and Sree go Apple picking!!!

I was waiting with Sree my toddler, for my elder son Kanna's school bus to arrive. I couldn't help wonder at the tapestry of nature , as my eyes fell on the swaying colorful trees as they performed their autumn dance. All the colors were compressed in the costumes these trees wore , creating a divine aura of joy and bliss.
" Anna bus , Anna bus" , yelled Sree as he heard the approaching yellow school bus.
" Amma, Anna come in magic school bus. Sree also go in magic school bus with Anna" he added.

Kanna came running , his face beaming with pride , his out stretched arms eagerly waiting for a warm squeeze and a loving hug. He started elaborating the days events at school... trying not to miss every opportunity at arousing jealousy in his little brother.

"I have something special to give you " said Kanna as he opened his school bag and pulled out a few papers. On it were given detailed recipies of apple sauce , apple sauce cake and apple muffins.
" Amma, I am going to help you make these!" he declared.

There was home work to for me .. it said " write why is your child the apple of your eye?"

" Amma, my teacher lives near an apple orchard!
Amma, you know what , my friend Zac brought apple sauce to school today!
Amma , you know there are red , yellow and green apples.......if we slit open an apple we can see a star...........

He went on and on ....and apples were the main topic of discussion through out the day!

We finally decided to go apple picking at "Erwin Apple orchard", which was a 20 minute drive from our place.

On Saturday morning , off we went to the apple orchard. We first took a ride around the farm on the farm wagon.. trying to figure out which variety of apples we would fill in our plastic bag , that we bought at the counter.We passed the corn maze , the pumpkin patch and finally arrived the apple orchard.

Red and golden balls were dangling from small healthy looking trees , which was a real treat to the eyes. Some trees were covered with these from top to bottom , that even my two year old could easily pluck them with out any one's help. The golden delicious were so tempting and inviting that it reminded me of Adam and Eve's first temptation. Our hands involuntarily held the golden fruit , and it came off its branch with a slight twist. Before long all of us were busy munching the juicy treats as we roamed through the rows of apple trees trying to research on the juiciest ones.

Adjacent to the apple orchard was the orange pumpkin patch with huge pumpkins....Kanna went in search of the perfect pumpkin which he could carry ...the long search finally came to an end after trying to lift each pumpkin we saw ....finally we discovered kanna's perfect pumpkin.

After a long day of apple diet .... we once again succumbed to the freshly made apple donut and apple cider before heading for the games that were organized for kids.

Our apple cake

apple pickle

Back at home , we made apple pickle, apple sauce and apple cake .....while Kanna stirred the dry ingredients , Sree and Appa blended the wet ones .....we all anxiously waited for the cake to bake ....its aroma arousing our taste buds....As the kids savored the apple cake ...I could catch a twinkle in their eyes , a glow on their faces !!!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Life is Relationships....................................

In this journey called life we come across umpteen number of people. We pause to exchange a "hi" with many.....with some we manage a shake hand.....with a few we sit down to chat and with a few others we hold a bond. Life is relationships......

The few countries I visited in the past seven years have enriched my life with beautiful bonds.....
when I tread back my memory lane , its these beautiful moments created by some wonderful friends that I am reminded of than the places I visited.

I would like to dedicate this post to four loving couple who made my days memorable in the four foreign countries I visited. There were many more lovely relationships which I still treasure today ....but these couples have surely etched their names with their infallible love and untainted friendship.

Kajiyoshi San and Sadami San of Japan

They were the most polite people I have ever come across. Sadami San was kind enough to prepare a full vegetarian course meal , when she invited me to her well decorated traditional Japanese home. Kajiyoshi San was one of the librarians in the library which was opposite to our apartment. How can I forget the knock at our apartment door at 4.30 in the morning....on our last day in Japan. We would have missed our flight , if he was not at our door step to bid a final good bye to us. He was in his seventies , but still helped us with all our luggage and dropped us at the railway station .

Mrs and Mr Jaison Shang of Taiwan

Our first day in Taiwan. My husband PP had already left for office and I was feeling homesick and far away from home. Just then the phone bell rang , and a female voice introduced herself as Mrs Jason , wife of Customer site Manager of PP's project.She was already waiting for me in the downstairs lobby , to show me around . She helped me purchase necessary groceries and fresh fruits and vegetables from the local market and I was already feeling very comfortable . The warmth and the kindness , we receive when we are far from home is so precious.

Mr Naas Ferriera and Mrs Wickie of South Africa

They were the most jovial and energetic couple I have come across. There enthusiasm and energy is so contagious , that they skillfully trap us in their magical web of love and friendship. My baby had started calling Mr Naas " abu"( meaning grandpa in our mother tongue.) Once they invited us home for dinner , which was an unique experience. Naas was cooking hot and fresh buns for us in his open hearth oven in his back yard. Each one had to prepare his or her own dinner.We were each provided with pans and small portable stoves. They had cut a variety of vegetables and cooked a huge casserole of rice and lined up a row of various spices. We could make a meal from the ingredients they had provided and eat from the pan. Each one came up with a different variety of rice which all savored in the warm embrace of friendship.

Mr George Chacko and Mrs Anuja Chacko of USA

I am glad to have met these wonderful people , who have made me and my family feel so much at home. Anuja 's support in exploring my artistic talents and also establishing a personal bond has made my life here more fruitful and enjoyable.

I feel fortunate to have been exposed to various cultures through my travels. If not for these experiences , I would have been like a frog in a pond.....leading a cloistered existence ....the nomad in me is thirsty for more travels and more experiences.....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A relaxing Dessert !

Would you like to have your favorite creamy ice cream that tickles your taste buds and swims down your esophagus ?
Would your like to have aromatic and glistening gajar ka halwa with the intoxicating smell of ghee ?
Why not try the thick sweetness of palada payasam , enriched with the flavors of condensed milk ?.......
Do not mistake this for a food blog, though I have dreamt of starting one....

These are a few of my favorite desserts though the list can get longer in a jiffy. I was notorious for being a picky and fussy eater during my childhood. Though my affinity for food has deepened as I grew up , there is something that has remained constant temptation for a nice dessert. You can put a full stop to your meal only with an exotic dessert! It cools down , relaxes and also rejuvenates your tired digestive system after it has to assimilate , grind and digest the heavy inputs.

The same calming and soothing effect is met when you get a good assertive foot massage at the end of long hectic day. I am fortunate to enjoy this daily doze of dessert at the end of each day, which is like a balm , and which has all the properties of a sleeping pill. And my daily therapist is none other than my husband PP.

When we were in Taiwan I grabbed the opportunity of offering my feet to a professional foot massager. The board " FOOT MASSAGE" used to be so inviting , and I always suppressed my temptation of peering into the road side massage rooms. But I finally gave in ; and on one of my usual walks to bargain for fresh vegetables from farmers , who displayed their crops in the congested and noisy streets, I stopped at one of those boards ...and found few people in a queue awaiting their turn for the massage. I too joined the group. I could also hear pleading and yelling voices from the customers who were already tasting the efficacy of the massage .It was finally my turn ... and soon realized the secrets behind the pleading and yelling voices.The half an hour massage that followed was an experience that I find difficult to put to words. You have to experience it.

The person who massaged my foot kept on talking to me in Chinese , but I was not in a state to explain that I did not follow their language .. If I opened my mouth to speak I knew I would not speak , but only scream. After the massage I was given one and a half liter of warm water , which I was supposed to drink . Even though my bladder could no longer endure the pressures from within, by the time I rushed back home .....I went back every week for more of those massages.

Though the massages were painful, it promised energizing each and every cell by removing the blocks that have piled in our body!

Here is a small video of a Taiwanese foot massage, which brought back memories.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Power of Prayer!

Its only a few months since we came to US . A month after we arrived, we visited a temple 15 miles from our place. It was not like the temples I have gone to in India . It was an ordinary brick building, which never gave one a clue that it was a temple. But my impression changed as I stepped into the building which housed beautiful icons of various Hindu Gods.There was a large hall for meditation and the atmosphere was calming. I enjoyed the silent vibrations that penetrated the surroundings. I found a huge accommodating auditorium at the basement of the temple. A function was about to commence in the auditorium. A deep desire to perform at this temple sprouted in me.The splendid auditorium was so beckoning! I made a silent prayer .....It was a genuine and intense prayer......! To me prayer has been a communication ...for when ever I communicated clearly my prayer has always been answered....!

Even with very little exposure and limited by the fact that I am a total stranger ....My prayer was answered!
I danced in the Bharatiya temple last week and I enjoyed every moment ! Things have materialized in a very short span of time ...which have confirmed my faith in prayer !

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Staying Connected!!

" It was dark ... and she squirmed and huddled close to her sister trying to get some sleep. Those were days when there was no current and electricity in her remote village.....but nature's abundance of fresh air and cool breeze caressed her with their soothing lullabies. Though she belonged to a large household with a huge old house and acres of fertile land, she never had a room or bed of her own. Compartmentalization and selfishness were traits unknown was all about giving and sharing...! She shared a central hall with the whole family which was transformed into a sleeping room at night. It was not a hall but a place where she used to weave her own dreams ... and her imagination soared up high with all the fabulous stories her mother would tell them during those twilight hours.

But today , some commotion outside was forcing her keep her eyes open and ears sharp!!! She could hear her uncles and grand father and father in a rather commanding tone and she was alert. Suddenly she heard " Thief ! Thief!" and could feel a fire inside her small tummy!!
One of her Uncles came rushing in ......" Do you want to see a thief ? " he asked. She climbed on his shoulders holding on to him tightly.....this was the most adventurous moment of her life! She was going to see a real thief ! She never thought a thief really existed .. and even if there was one he never belonged to the homosapien species ....he would be from some "homonstero sapien" species alien ....who is alive only in stories.. with monstrous features .. horns and huge body and fierce eyes!!! And now how brave would she be if she could just face that creature even though from the shoulders of her uncle !!!

Out they went to the veranda ....they had caught a thief who was trying to steal coconuts from their trees ....
" did you see the thief?" asked her uncle.
She couldn't spot any one other than a tiny man held by one of her other uncles....who was bowing down in shame and embarrassment and trying to make excuses like..." i had just come out to relieve my self! i had to attend to nature's call!" ......
there was no monster or gigantic figure - just a normal human being!.....She was surprised ......!!!!"

I heard this story from my Amma when I was a girl . It was not a story but a real life situation of my mother's childhood. I loved hearing such incidents from my mother and Grand mother . Such stories laid strong foundation for creativity and bonding.It was a good way to stay connected. Story telling is a beautiful way to let the kids explore their imagination....and who can do this better than parents and grand parents! One of the most precious moments I enjoy with my kids is our story time . The time when they are rapt in attention, their eyes trying to capture every bit with out a blink .....the stories opening new doors to their dream world....their soft bodies leaning on me and embracing me with their undivided attention.

My kids seem to be extremely lucky, as they have had story sessions with their grand mother and also great grand mother. But today, as we are away from home , and away from our dear ones my kids are missing their grand parents! .... but surely not their story time . My parents who were initially apprehensive to computers and hesitated to approach them .... are today using them with ease! Internet and Google talk have made distances seem little ones screams from here are so deafening to my parents and also to their neighbors ! My naughty ones eagerly wait for their ammumma and abu to call.... so that they can start their story time!....I can't help smiling when I see my little ones rapt in attention....alert to the sound of their grandmother's story line , plunging onto their world of imagination.....laughing and giggling along the way....shouting "one more kaani ! one more kaani !!!....".

times have changed.... though jobs have taken us far apart ....from different parts of the globe we still find ways to stay connected!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Standing Meditation!

"Are you ready?" said one of them.
"Hmm....I think so....What am I suppose to do?" I en quired.
"Do nothing! Just stand still" came another voice.
"Ok" I replied thinking that it would be an easy job....JOB? .....yes.. it was a job.. I was supposed to be paid at the end of the day!

Thus I started to work....I stood still staring straight.....And In turn I saw many pairs of eyes staring back at me....
Who doesn't like to be noticed ? ..And I was being showered with all the attention anyone could aspire to in a foreign land!

Now let me share with you the story of how I landed up at this job ....a job where you are supposed to do nothing.

It all began in one of the Japanese classes which was offered to foreigners in Japan. We were nearly 20 students from different parts of the world and we were initiated into this language by three Japanese ladies.
One of our teachers was especially kind to me and would praise me every now and then , leaving me a bit embarrassed. One day she came close to me and stood there just smiling at me. I greeted her and reciprocated her smile ...but I felt she was not satisfied . She continued staring at me .....After a while she asked me whether she could make a portrait of me . This was an unexpected question .....She was part of a painting group and her group would invite me to their painting school as a model for painting! I would be paid too , once they finish the portrait.

That is how I landed at this interesting job!....Interesting .....only for a while....My legs started aching nose started eyes started drooping.....but the enthusiasm that reflected on the faces of my friends made me carry on . Each minute seemed to be stretched to infinity...

.I realized doing nothing was not easy! Our mind tries to invent new things all the time ....that when it was supposed to shut still kept on talking as a matter of habit! ... I realized this was the best opportunity to slow down my mind by shifting my attention to my body....I tried relaxing from my feet upwards....I could feel a latent energy come to life in each and every cell of my body...the life force was rejuvenating me and I was enjoying it.....I seemed to have stood still for quite some time.....but it was now a meditation I enjoyed....aching legs, itchy nose and drooping eyes were no longer issues....

This is the snap I took with the artists at the painting school.

As I returned home that day I was feeling fresh and new!....May be we should meditate on any job and really live life...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Simple joys of living!

Her hands were continuously working on those pile of clothes.The warmth of the sun and the smell of breeze were still emanating from those clothes...making me feel like just snuggling on them. Her face would beam with pride as she stacked up those clothes in neat racks, categorizing them according to size.

I still remember her squatting down with a bar soap and scrubbing brush...teaching me how to hand wash the clothes, with out wasting water. Every drop of water was precious, after all it was Chennai. She would wrinkle her nose in displeasure as I used to hang the clothes on the clothesline. She used me lecture me on the art of drying clothes. Her hands would then handle those freshly washed wet clothes as an artiste approaches his canvas...untangling all the folds ....each and every inch embracing the warmth of the radiant sun. Her work done she would smile at her own artistry....satisfaction bordering those lips. This was my Grandma. I used to spent my whole summer vacation at her place and today I can tell she has deposited many thought provoking moments in my memory bank....which I retrieve every now and then to enrich my life today....

Today I don't have to hand wash my clothes... washing machine has taken over....and there is the dryer which helps us dry clothes in winter!....But as I would like to deposit some rewarding moments into the memory bank of my kids, drying clothes in my patio with them is a task which I wish to undertake.

The other day as we were enjoying those wonderful moments at our patio I was approached by my neighbor. I could read a sign of displeasure on her face.
"Why don't you use the dryer?" , she inquired.
"Its very bright and sunny today. I thought it would be better for the clothes and also for my pocket...and more over my kids love doing this chore", I replied.

She was still not happy. " You see, people here do not dry their clothes outside", she continued...
"oh, what a pity..." I thought...
" I know ... I still wonder why people here do not dry their clothes outside?"I replied.
I knew she was considering me as an old fashioned Indian, not yet ready to adapt to the modern American life style.
I realized there was no point in explaining to her about the joy I experience while hanging those clothes with my little ones.They were learning numbers ,colors and were also being home schooled in sharing and taking responsibility.These were simple joys of living I wanted to LIVE....for I am sure they would one day be retrieved by my kids from their memory banks and help them LIVE their lives!!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

At a Japanese farm house!

" Kombamwa!!! Is it Nanditha san? I am Tamura ! We wait you in ready? We wait OK? ".................
"Kombamwa!!! Ok Tamura San! I 'll be right there!" I replied and took my bag and rushed down.
I was ready, as I knew how punctual these Japanese were....I could never move around according to the IST ( Indian Stretchable Time) here. We once took a wrong train and traveled in the opposite direction unaware till we reached a new place!!( all because we boarded the 7.35 train instead of 7.34!). Can you ever imagine this in India ?

Mr and Mrs Tamura were waiting for me in the car.
" Wow! Your Indian dress nice!" complimented the couple.
" Arigato!" I thanked them in Japanese.
" You Japanese good! ... Indians clever!" I bowed at Tamura San's compliment . They were always surprised how Indians could handle so many languages!! I had the extra privilege of knowing Malayalam, a language which can be credited for offering maximum flexibility to your tongue!

We had a long drive. We were heading towards the country side, and I enjoyed every bit of the serene picturesque panoramic beauty around.Each day in Japan was a new experience for me . I enjoyed these experiences and encounters.After an hours drive we reached a small farm. This was unlike any place I had visited before. I was invited to give a performance! I wondered where I would perform, for I did not see any signs of it! There were a few wooden chairs, around fifteen in the yard.

We were welcomed with all warmth and I was receiving all the attention and care of a gaijin( foreigner).
It was getting dark, and still there were no signs of any formal function! I wondered and worried what PP would be doing back in our apartment.I had not fixed dinner expecting to reach before our dinner time .....I rang him up on Tamura San's mobile and explained to him the situation I was in . He told me not to worry and that he had fixed dinner ! I felt a lot better ..!

As it was getting darker the crowd was slowly increasing .....Tamura San told me,"come, lets go for walk!"
What did this mean! Was I brought all the way here for a walk? And that too, when my stomach was grumbling , partly due to hunger and partly due to the turn of events here! I had never been invited for a performance, and asked for a walk! I would have preferred to walk with some casuals on ! Now here I was all decked up in a silk saree, with matching jewelery, and make up! I thought I was invited for a dance performance !( thank God I decided on not wearing the dance costume....) Imagine walking in Japan in a Bharatnatyam costume....with all the farmers!

"we show you the farm"....Tamura San could surely not see my facial expression in the dark....We had to be very careful....there were damp and swampy areas and I could hear ducks quacking away in their coop.
All my uneasiness vanished as I got the first glimpse of the moving stars dancing in front of me! This was a rare sight ! I had never seen something like this before! They were numerous! As we continued walking we were surrounded by them ....They had created an aura on each one of us....I was transported into a different world altogether ....They were the fireflies!... Yes ! and this was the firefly festival ..! The whole farm was glowing with their light ....I felt as if I have entered a fairy land! I remember seeing fireflies when I was young ... but never were they so huge in size or infinite in number!

As we walked backed to the farm, I felt the fire flies had kindled my spirits and evoked a sense of calm with in.They reminded me that each of us carry a light with in us....which when it glows can transform our land into heaven.....

Back at the farm house, I was not bothered about dancing with out a formal stage or a hall packed with audience! I danced under the twinkling stars and in the midst of glowing fire front of a small audience , who lived a life of simplicity! I was honored! My performance was followed by a musical symphony...which played ethnic country music! I was fascinated by their instruments and music which transformed one into a different horizon.

Later, we were served food under the stars....They loaded Tamura san's car with lot of their farm products, ! Which was unloaded at my apartment...It was their gratitude ! their token of love.....What I experienced was so precious , so valuable .....I treasure those moments , at the fire fly festival!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kanna and Sree visit the Zoo!

" Anna , Anna !.. ... wake up, anna! " There was urgency in the 2 year olds tone.

His brother was still in bed and didn't show any signs of waking up.

"Anna , wake up Anna , today we go zoo! " Now Sree was on top of his brother , Kanna and was howling into his brother's ears!

"Yeaaaa! Zoo.... Zooo! both of them were in heights of excitement already!
"Sree, come lets brush our teeth " , now the 5 year old Kanna took over.
Within seconds they hoisted themselves besides the wash basin and proceeded with their brushing!

"More paste! Want more paste" , Sree started crying....
"NO!" replied Kanna, " more paste will spoil your teeth, see how I'm brushing"
"I Want , I want more paste", Sree invited his mother to the scene...She some how explained about the whole lot of wild animals waiting for him at the Zoo and wound up the brushing!

"I give fish food...."Sree yelled.
" wait for me.. wait for me...." Kanna almost knocked his brother down.
By the time the fish food was in the small aquariam, there was enough on the ground too!

"give me milk! give me fruit loops!" Sree squatted on the kitchen floor.
"I want cornflakes , with honey and banana and lots of raisins!", Kanna squatted beside his brother.

"I want the red bowl", shouted Kanna.Their mother knew well what would follow!She sighed...
"Red me ! red me!"now it was Sree`s turn. Mother sighed again, wondering when she would be able to strap them on to their car seat.
Red bowl was given to the younger one (as usual), Kanna was bribed with an extra spoonful of raisins and pacified with an orange bowl( explanation: orange and red hail from the same "family!").

"Amma, Sree is eating from my bowl!" complained Kanna. Mother knew well, there was no point in yelling at Sree, for he had the most powerful weapon, his heavy down pour with thunderous sobs!

Mother again brought Zoo to the picture, and cajoled Sree with thoughts of wild animals eagerly waiting to see their beloved friend Sree!

"Come on Sree , lets play in the bath.."
"All my animals need a bath, Wait Anna, let me get them", Sree was busy picking up his bath toys.

Today it was father's turn to give them a bath, while mother packed snacks.
"Amma.....! Sree is splashing water all over the place" mother ran with the mop....while father scooped them from the bath !
Both were hanging on their father's shoulders like langoors....

" Sree wants Anna shoe!....Anna shoe!" Parents Sighed in unison, this was yet another hurdle they surpass daily!
Sree was adamant at wearing his brother's shoe , and that too all by himself.
"Animals want to see Sree's new shoe.. or else they will cry!", Kanna came up with a new tactic which consoled Sree.

Thank God!... not much of a drama today!...Parents were relieved!

Finally Kanna and Sree were buckled in their car seats...Kanna picked up a book... and so did Sree...Kanna started his usual enquiries," when will we reach the Zoo!" Sree echoed.."when ZOO WHEN ZOO!"

"Give me something to eat!" Kanna pleaded......" Sree MA..MAMA , SREE ma..mama!" Sree followed..
Mother passed them the apples hoping the snacks would last through the Zoo visit!

In the Zoo Sree and Kanna enjoyed their train ride....

"This is Thomas the tank engine....", Sree was excited.

Both the boys were so happy to see many peacocks, just walking along ....

" See , see they are dancing!" Kanna spotted.

"Did you see the flamingos, Sree!...look at one sleeping on just one leg!" Kanna tried to imitate!
" You know how they get their color? " Kanna continued without waiting for an answer."They eat food with beta carotene!"
" Sree,so you should eat lots of carrots! OK" , Kanna had started his non stop lecture.

They hopped into the Kangaroo shelter and even saw a baby kangaroo peeping from its mama's pouch.

"Did you know how Kangaroo got its name?" asked father.
"NO"..Kanna replied.
"once a foreigner visited Australia and asked one of the aborigines what the strange animal was? The Aborigine replied,"KANGAROO".. MEANING I don't know!.From then on Kangaroo got its name!" explained father.

"Amma Maamum, I am hungry" Sree said.
They had a picnic lunch under a tree.

Then proceeded to see the other exhibits.Till five in the evening they walked around the whole zoo... amused by the animals...

" Amma , legs are aching how long will it take to reach our car", Kanna was tired.
"count till 100 and you will be there!" said father.
" come on Kanna, if you finish counting till 100 and still do not reach the car , then Appa will get nice beatings! OK" Mother raised up Kanna's spirits!
The thought made him laugh and he started counting loudly inviting a lot of attention.
By the time Kanna reached 100 , father was running - Sree, Kanna and Amma close behind.

Return journey was easier as there were a lot of things to talk about.All had a light dinner and plunged on to the bed.
"How was the day? did you enjoy it?" asked Amma...
"Zoo no good! no dinosaurs!... Why no dinosaurs!....Sree like dinosaurs!"

"ONCE UPON A TIME, long...............long.............ago.......there was a dinosaur...."When Amma started a dinosaur story Sree was happy and he involuntarily closed his eyes with a baby smile still on!

"I wish i could see dinosaurs too.. i like Apatosaurus and Triceratops and Stegosaurus.. you know why ? they were herbivorous...." Kanna too dozed off to sleep , weaving his own dreams!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A small victory!

My childhood days were spent in and around a small township.The township had a hospital, where I was born; good schools where I did my schooling; temples adjacent to our school where we used to bribe God for our tests and exams and also for the tasty prasad of bananas sliced into small triangles and sprinkled with sugar.Our township had small shops where we could purchase all necessary groceries and vegetables, and one Martin's barbershop, where customers queued up for their turn of haircut and to hear Martin's interesting stories.Rather than taking me to a beauty parlor, I was often taken to Martin for trimming my hair, and I used to enjoy his pamperings as a child. After nearly 25 years, still my father has his hair cut by Martin and whenever I go home, my father takes my son to Martin's barber shop, where he still pursues his job with the same old enthusiasm.

I am not going to write on Martin and his hair cutting techniques...... ; I was just trying to fly back in time and pay my obeisance to my Guru MARTIN!
It was in Japan , when I first tried my hand at this art.I do not have any formal training in this arena, but my regular visits to Martin's barbershop would have surely stimulated the artistic expressions in my fingers! Language was always a big hurdle we had to face in Japan.Though I picked up the basics of the language necessary for my survival, initially even the mere task of shopping was Herculean task.After facing umpteen number of embarrassing situations, Our whole team rather preferred to have long hair rather than approach a hair cutting saloon.

I was impressed when one of my Japanese students ,Nishijima San told that she herself cuts her husband's and children's hair.All our team members including my husband PP were now slowly transforming into Neolithic Homo Sapiens with enough hair to put two tiny ponies!This was when I first armed myself with scissors and comb and cajoled my husband into agreeing to be my guinea pig! (privilege of the newly wed)!. I inwardly saluted my guru , and started to cut in all directions...My hands just moved according to my imagination....After the job was done I knew it was not perfect... but PP gave me a satisfying smile...( you know why? ... he could only see his front cut... if he dared to see his back cut: but he was least bothered.....)

This was my strength ! With each haircut I learned a few tactics and techniques...Today I manage to give a decent haircut to PP and my two boys....And also save $35 on the 3 haircuts! .... I rejoice in this small victory!

Enjoy this virtual haircut (hat tip to Mishmash). Do use your head phones for a good laugh!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A secret formula!!

An instant rewiring occurs in your cerebrum and within no time your priorities change, your attitude changes. The only thing that is permanent in life is change! Yes, when one takes a leap into motherhood,what occurs is a metamorphosis. One sheds the layers of youth and finds oneself suddenly embraced in the new layer of womanhood.Those thoughts which once diverged to your likes, dislikes, your passions , pursuits , your hobbies , jobs ... all now seem to converge at one core, your child.

My passions and interests blurred away into the unseen past, as I cloistered happily into the innocent warmth of my baby. His smile, giggles and baby talk filled up my whole space and time. I was away from my home land, in a new environment , surrounded by a new culture. I was not woken up by the bicycle bells of the milkman or paperwala, or by the spluttering sound of the mustard seeds in hot oil accompanied by the aroma from the kitchen. As I peered down from our eighth floor balcony all I could see was people rushing for their jobs and kids rushing to school. My husband too had to rush early to his office. But I never felt lonely, I was charmed by the unearthly beauty and love that sparkled from my baby.

When he was 4 months he turned over on his tummy gleaming with pride at his new achievement, on his new world view; at five he managed to sit upright, not yet mobile, still unable to explore new horizons.Whenever I turned on my music system ,I noticed his head and tiny hands keeping in rhythm with the music. I was excited, and in order to amuse him started to dance with the music. Like a doll which responds with the turn of a key, he would blush with peels of laughter which automatically was reflected on my face too! I wanted to amuse him more, and one day took out my precious dancing bells (Chilanka), which I had not used since I conceived. This time I had a dance music on and danced with my dancing bells, and to my amazement I found my only audience sit upright and clap his hands with a toothless smile.

I was possessed by an intense desire to perform. But circumstances were different now. I was not in India where there was more exposure and oppurtunuties for my art.Here I had a wonderful audience, my baby who never hesitated in applauding and appreciating my every move and turn. Keeping my desire burning within I danced everyday before, the best audience ever, satisfied after every performance.

Days passed, my baby was fully accustomed to every step I took and every expression that came along. One day, my husband announced the 30th Anniversary of FORD in Taiwan (Ford was a client of my husband's company) and proudly said that I was asked to perform Indian dance. The secret formula had worked once again for me. A formula???

yes! I know formula that has worked wonders for me....

"Desire + Effort = Grace" You should have a strong desire and should put in your maximum effort, you can harvest miraculous results!

I danced for the anniversary celebrations before a huge audience, but my precious little one was enjoying every move from the front row in his father's lap, applauding and smiling his toothless smile!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Tea Ceremony!

When ever I hear the word "tea" , there is an incident that comes flashing to my mind, and the thought of it makes me smile. Let me narrate it to you.

It was a very busy day. My father was ironing my costumes for the day, my mother hurrying over the eleventh hour preparation of the lec-dem she was about to deliver, and I was busy in front of the mirror , dressing up for the dance performance. My brother had to shoulder the responsibility of tidying up and give an appealing touch to our front room , for we were expecting a guest. He would be here any moment. He r he would have secretly appreciated the tea making abilities of his school going son.

Meanwhile Amma was ready and rushed to the kitchen to get a sip of the remaining hot tea, for she was having sore throat. I could see her gargling intermittently in the morning with hot salt water. She had to give a long lecture in front of a crowd ,
and she always relied on home remedies.As soon as I saw her taking her sip of the tea, she involuntarily spat it into the kitchen sink, her face filled with a strange expression, something nearing the "bheebhalsa rasa" ! I ran to her, worried
witnessing her strange behavior.
Amma was shouting at my brother, "Did you serve this tea to our guest ?". My brother nodded a yes .
"You made tea with the water I had heated up for gargling! It was loaded with salt , Oh! my GOD! how could we serve it to our guest? " she gasped.
His asking for water and his strange inquiries regarding tea drinking in our community did have a meaning! He had courteously finished his salt ginger tea , suppressing his natural facial expressions.
When my mother explained to him what had happened and mumbled her apologies he just replied, " I'll never forget this meeting!"

This was an incident which took place nearly 15 years ago. But how could one forget such an incident.
I wondered what tea I would be served,as I was on my way to Kajiyoshi San's house. I was invited by this gentleman,whom I greatly admired, to his house for a tea ceremony.Tea ceremony was an entirely new experience for me.

Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San , welcomed me to their house , which reflected their aesthetic sense and love for Nature. As soon as I entered their house Sadami San directed me to a small water fountain they had fixed at their entrance where I was asked to wash my hands and face with a bamboo laddle.The cool flowing water was energizing and revitalizing. I was directed to a room which was sparsely furnished , but had something in it to elevate one's spirits.The room was a tatami room, the floor spread with reed mats.

There was antique pottery and unique calligraphy,and a humbleness and simplicity about the whole ambiance.

The tea ceremony first began in Buddhist monasteries and was known for its medicinal values.The monks had the tea made of bitter powdered tea leaves to keep themselves awake during meditation.The coming of Zen Buddhism , made it more popular. It was called " Chado or Sado".This tea ceremony lasted for 4 hours.The host would go through the detailed preparation of tea , giving emphasis to each an every movement. There was a perfect unison of the body , mind and spirit during this ceremony.It reflected Japanese spiritual tradition and culture.The guests will be first served a sweet, which should be eaten sitting in "vajrasana" on the tatami mat.Then the guest will be served the first serving of thick brewed tea.There are rules to be followed here too. The guest lifts up the fine work of pottery which holds the tea ,asking permission from the person seated at his left , whether he can have it.Carefully turning the front of the bowl , to face him he can sip the tea.He should now wipe the place where he had sipped with the small finger of his right hand. Then placing the bowl in front , now the bowl facing away from him, with his elbows on the knees one should appreciate the art work on the pottery.The bowl now is passed to the person sitting on the left.The second serving is a dilute version of the tea.The whole process is like a meditation which flows in a very soothing and slow motion.It is practiced as an entertainment for spiritual upliftment.It is a process where you are taught to think of others first.I went through this whole process , thoroughly enjoying every moment.At the end of four hours I was feeling lighter and purged.
I am grateful to Kajiyoshi San and his wife Sadami San for giving this taste of Japanese culture .
I too mumbled the words with a bow as I said oyasu minasai (good night) to my friends," I'll never forget this meeting!"......

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dear Sinnah , with Love !

Dearest Sinnah ,
" hoe hangeth methyo ?" I know what would be your answer ," hoot danky! , my sweetie!"

This is a letter that I always wanted to write to you , but never could.I was so much entangled in the ocean of life that I hardly found time to switch off my mind and relax . But better late than never . Though I know that you will never be able to read this letter , I'm sure that you will definitely get my message .
I remember my first day in South Africa , the day we first met .That first day our conversations just began and ended with a mere hello . My first assessment of you was that you were an unapproachable , distant , sober kind of a person . But appearances are deceptive .You turned out to be rather the opposite .We became fast friends , got along with each other . You never knew to smile but only laugh out loud. You always marked your presence .

I always secretly admired your insatiable energy ... you never stopped unless your job was done . Whenever I enter my kitchen , I think of you , dear . You were the best teacher ever !Though you had not seen University gates or ever dreamed of a bachelor's degree in education , I understood that it was the passion that mattered . You don't need the certificates for approving your merit . Yes , you taught me to bake ! You taught me to equally celebrate the successes and disasters .

Whenever my cakes insisted on keeping their rough hard demeanor, resisting to accept their natural fluffiness , you were smart enough to transform them into yummy desserts !Your fingers played the gimmicks of a magician ultimately tickling our taste buds !

I will never forget the day when you saved me showcasing once again your skills . One evening I got a phone call from PP declaring that there would be 8 people for dinner . How will I satisfy my guests at such a short notice? I panicked ! Then you took over . I saw you transform into a creative artiste with the power of an entrepreneur . I followed your instructions and with in minutes a big vegetable casserole was ready . You quietly withdrew from the scene leaving the whole credits to me . I felt like a puppet , but was relieved that you held the strings !

My baby was growing , and exploring the wide world around him , he was accepting every challenge of his new found mobility .The bungalow where we stayed provided an apt arena for his experiments and discoveries .I used to spend most of my time running behind him . I couldn't find him one day in his usual favorite spots , and was suddenly alarmed by a zooming siren .Then I spotted him pressing a red button which was a security alarm . I remembered what PP said , " All houses in South Africa had alarm systems as it was a highly crime prone area ."!

Our residence was surrounded by armed guards with fierce sturdy profiles .They had their rifles , all set for an attack behind the closed remote operated gates !
You were the one Sinnah , who came to my rescue when I hesitated to step out of the house , fearing a rapid fire .I peeped out of the window and saw you boldly explain to them the situation created by my young one , in Africans !

Your face trying to hold back tears is etched in my memory , dear Sinnah . When we shifted to a different apartment ,you never stayed back to say good bye . But I know why !I have known the child in you , avoiding bitter scenes . Then I also cannot forget the ever glowing face of yours when you payed surprise visits to me with a bunch of wild flowers . How you waited on my kitchen table asking for more "achar"( my mother -in-laws home made pickles), to smear on the bread instead of butter .

When it was finally time for me to leave South Africa ,you were thoughtful enough to tuck in a soiled paper into my hands with your phone number scribbled on it . My most valued gift which I carried along with me was the baby pumpkin from your kitchen garden !I'm sorry to tell you Sinnah , by the time I reached India , your phone number was incomplete . The paper had torn and I was unable to decipher the rest that remained .

But Sinnah , let me tell you something ! I believe there is a store house above us , like a satellite , its the thought sphere ! Both of us can tune to the same channel !And enjoy the broadcast in our thoughts !My antenna is well tuned to the wonderful moments we had together ! So I am not missing you Sinnah !I wish you all good things in life.May wonderful thoughts hover around you , dear..tune to them and enjoy life !


My this post is a letter to my helping maid in South Africa . She started work every day at sharp six in the morning .She was an embodiment of energy and reflected through her simple deeds undeterred passion for life.We rarely come across such people in our life , who are content with their roles ;and accept life as both sides of the coin .

Friday, June 15, 2007

At the beauty parlour!

Dawn embraced daylight , Sun's mighty radiance gave way to twilight , tapestry of evening sky paced slowly into dark night's deafening silence . Days passed into weeks , weeks into months and months into years.... I bid adieu to my carefree years , and plunged into an entirely rewarding and responsible phase of my life , motherhood . As I cradled my new born , just feeling his soft tender body , just staring at his innocent little face , nothing around me seemed real except that single moment !

As I was moving ahead in this life's voyage , it was time for me to pack my bags for my next nomadic exploration . We flew to Taiwan , an island off the coast of China , with our 2 month old baby . This was not just a journey to a new culture and diverse surroundings : it was more of a journey within . It can be called a spiritual retreat . I was shedding my self centered thoughts which were now dominated by my new born baby . It was a time when my priorities unknowingly changed . I was never tired of the busy days and sleepless nights....My batteries never failed.....I was continuously charged by the unconditional love of my baby .

I loved our routine evening walks , when the tiny eyes brimmed with joy and curiosity , refusing to blink and appeared like cameras without shutters! I enjoyed trying to decipher the pictorial calligraphy on the roads , and was amused by the Chinese script . One of PP”s colleague was a victim of a very embarrassing situation once . He had once been to Taipei and was on his way back to his apartment . He was careful enough to have a slip of paper with the place he wanted to go , written in Chinese . In the bus stop , he stood with this slip of paper above his head like a placard , and his face brightened up with a smile . All passers by just stared at him as if they were watching an insane drama . He waved the large slip of paper to all the bus drivers , but in vain . When he could no longer stand the sarcastic stares , he ventured to try his hand at gesturing.... with expressive facial expressions and hand gestures he blabbered to a lady in the bus stop about his destination . She burst out into laughter at the mimicry , for she could follow English . She also pointed out that all the while he was holding his thoughtful placard upside down . How was he to know ? He made it a point to mark the top and bottom of his future placards .

Such situations can always be treasured for future entertainment .After our three months stay in Taiwan , we befriended a newly married Indian couple . We started spending our afternoon's together , our gossips filled with nostalgic memories , recipes and all girl's talk . She was a very beauty conscious person and came up with an idea of visiting the beauty saloon . Though I hesitated in the beginning , I was bribed by the luxurious thoughts of a relaxing facial .

I hung my baby on his sling and one afternoon the two of us marched towards the nearest beauty saloon . As soon as we reached there , we were pounced upon by two ladies like vultures on their well awaited prey . My friend wanted to shape her eye brows ! And she began exploring her communication skills...after a good fifteen minutes monologue she seemed successful in letting her audience grasp her thoughts ! She beamed with success as she reclined on the ornamented chair . One lady swabbed my friends face clean while the other went to collect her tools for shaping the eye brows . She returned with a new razor .....and started shaving her precious signs of beauty ! My friend was unable to move for she was soothed by a razor and my appeals seemed to vaporise in the air .Should I explain more on her looks and expression when she beheld her own reflection!

Now it was my turn...I needed a way out of this dilemma ....My only Saviour was my son who was fast asleep clinging to me ....I slided my hands on his thighs and pinched him....he burst out into loud sobs !I had succeeded ! Trying to cajole my baby I rushed out of the parlor....Shortly my friend joined me after having payed for her makeover ! She spend hours before the mirror with a black eyebrow pencil trying to make variations of curves.....and shut herself in her apartment for weeks till she thought herself presentable .

I thanked my darling with hugs and kisses , and couldn't stop my giggles at the aftereffects of handicapped communication!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Taste of Japan !

The alarm went off and his hands involuntarily reached out in the direction of the shrill piercing beeps! These were not enough to motivate him out of bed , for he was weary after the load of work he had to tackle in his new work environment. He had recently come to Hiroshima , and hoped to bring his wife along in a month's time. Again the alarm dutifully beeped . It wasn't going to let him sleep. He finally dragged himself out of bed and suddenly realized that he had no time to waste. After getting himself ready he halted near his fruit basket for collecting his lunch . He always had a soft corner for the fresh and juicy fruits , and he was glad that he had an ample supply , here in Japan . Suddenly , he remembered that today he was invited for lunch into a sushi -ya . He wondered what that meant , but didn't want to offend or hurt the feelings of his Japanese colleagues .

He was always fascinated and intrigued by the traditions Japanese upheld . He was experiencing it even in his working environment . They always took a very long time in decision making , but once the decision was taken they always stuck to it. But today he was also going to taste Japanese food . He secretly longed for the ethnic Indian cuisine , roasted crisp dosas , idlis and the aroma of freshly prepared sambar haunted him . He always enjoyed reading his newspaper with the strong filter coffee accompanied by the subtle aromas from kitchen . He could easily make out the breakfast menu , just by taking a few deep breaths...It would be the right time to do pranayama! .

Now he was freaking out on fruits . But today being a Japanese treat he waved sayonara to his all time saviors and hurried to his office . At lunch time their team gathered in a sushi ya or a restaurant where especially sushi is served . Sushi is a traditional Japanese delicacy . Once you had agreed to participate and taste the Japanese food there was no going back .... The sushi they would be serving him today would be made out of raw fish, sea weed and rice. He had tasted Kerala fish curry once, when he visited his friends place , as he belonged to a family of vegetarians . Eating raw fish would be adventurous . He was not sure whether he was ready to take up the challenge but he was hooked .

He saw the strange appetizers being served on a conveyor belt . He politely took the Sushi which was meant for him . He was also served the "wasabe" sauce. He was told to dip the sushi in the sauce and eat it at a stretch ! He just did as he was told and saw the eager faces staring at him curiously . He put the whole piece in his mouth and found that the sauce was the most pungent thing he had ever tasted in his life . It was so strong that he could feel the pungent vapors spreading all over him. How was he supposed to eat it now . He had to keep a brave face and whatever was in his mouth should find a medium to pass through his gut ! His eyes caught a tap that was serving sake(rice wine )...With the Japanese delicacy still in his mouth he poured the sake into his glass and flushed it into his mouth....He was relieved , for he had managed the situation !

He saw his colleagues and saw their triumphant faces beaming with joy for having served him the best food ever . They were eager to serve him more , and just before they were about to help him with his second serving he grabbed a plate from the conveyor belt which was now displaying desserts!

This was how my dear husband PP , experienced the first taste of Japan.

I would like to share with you a humorous video which will give you a clearer idea on Japanese food etiquettes and traditions! Enjoy watching!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

My travels, my impressions

Enter your e-mail ID below so that you can get all my blog posts as e-mails in your Inbox.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Friday, June 1, 2007

Those thirty seconds of my life!

The early hours of dawn...when everything around you is still so fresh and new...when nature welcomes you with its warm embrace and early melodies....when the world outside you have not yet usurped your thoughts....when you feel totally secure after the everlasting balm of nature , sleep......yes, this is the time of the day I love most....and I was already up from bed as usual. But wasn't there something unusual in the air ?...For the past one week it was not the chirping birds ,those tiny little ones who always reminded me of the Japanese shop attendants ,( tirelessly bowing down to each customer and endlessly singing thank yous and good byes) ,who woke me up;I would suddenly jerk out of my bed , holding on to the side stand for support , so that I don't fall. Once I even woke up and found myself on the ground....and experienced life on the floor!

Today was nothing new!But it would be all over in a few seconds...I could still feel the dawn and still bathe in its warmth. But today , I was sure to drag this topic into our daily gossips and discussions ,over a cup of coffee. It was Sunday and unlike all the working days ,the whole day was relaxed. It was a day when we skipped our breakfast and preferred to take brunch instead.....

After our brunch , I immediately put forth my experiences of the past week....and was disheartened to find no serious concern on any of them....They all seemed to have taken it for granted.....none seemed distracted ! Good... all of them seemed to be evolved now . I was sure all of them had experienced those same tremors , shaking the whole of Higashi Hiroshima ....but now it had become a daily affair...could you ever imagine an Earth quake taken so lightly!The past whole week we were experiencing tremors and still , those were no more hindrances to our sleep ?

The word earth quake takes me back to my school days .I still clearly remember Mr. Babu Vargheese, our geography teacher, walk into our class without even a piece of paper. He never failed to locate students who tried to shy away from his questions which were darted like infinite arrows... We had a chapter called Earth quakes and Volcanoes , and I still remember memorizing Japan as the world's most earth quake prone areas. Who would ever imagine living in that far off island after a decade and more and above all getting to know the real taste of earth quake !!! All the natural disasters seem not for us , until you have a first hand experience of it!

Today, it was one week since we experienced the real earth quake.It was a fine Saturday afternoon, and we had Tomito san and his wife for dinner.I was all set for dinner with the typical Kerala cuisine, Idiyappam and stew! I also prepared black channa curry (kadala curry), which is my husband PP's all time favorite!There was still plenty of time for our guests to arrive and we decided to take a stroll and visit our near by shoji market to stock some juice.I loved shopping here as , by now I had gained enough expertise in calculating which item was thrown up for sale on which day of the week.As we were admiring the freshly arrived vegetables we were awestruck to see all the vegetables and fruits fall from the racks....when we looked up we saw the ceiling fans shaking vigorously....yes I was also shaking!I saw many terror stricken faces running for life....they didn't know where they were running to but were still running. Some tried to hide under the shaking tables !I could see PP's eyes stuck out and mouth open!And what was I doing by the way? I was involuntarily chanting hymns but quite loudly (it must have been an attempt at warding off all evil ;a tradition that my brain could still replay in times of need ,that had seeped into me from my childhood family prayers around a lighted lamp). This phenomena lasted for 30 seconds which seemed to be endless....

[Watch the earthquake on You Tube - Ignore the music by the way !!]

This earth quake was rated 6.4 with an epicentre at Kure an adjacent prefecture.Window panes flew, roads cracked,few buildings collapsed robbing two lives.Japanese cities were earth quake proof and build to satisfy the outcomes of these unforeseen disasters....After those 30 seconds I was surprised to see life flow back to its normal routine... With in hours roads were re tarred, houses were kept moving on and people got back to their tasks.We reached back home and had dinner with our invited guests! The after effects of these earth quakes kept repeating in the everyday tremors....which lasted a few seconds....

This earth quake did open my views about the value of time...which waits for no man....each second is important, precious! Do not let it pass... live the moment!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The magic spice that works wonders!!!

He was feeling terribly lonely and upset, for this was the first time he was in his house without his wife. This was no more a home to him, without her around. For the first time he realized, how much he had got used to her. She had managed their lives with such skill, that life just flowed so smoothly for him. He was always welcomed home with the appetizing aromas from their kitchen, where she used to cook wonders! He was always eager and proud to invite friends and guests home for lunch and dinners, for he was sure she would present on their table her magical recipes, rich in color and quality!!!

The thought of her food made him feel hungry as usual. He involuntarily opened the kitchen cupboard where she used to store her goodies, home baked muffins and loafs. As he took his first bite he was transported into a different world,"yes, this is the taste of heaven!", he thought. Now he will have to spend two more days without her in this house. She was hospitalized for a minor eye operation. He was grateful to her for having prepared and stocked upon his favorite frozen meals and mouth watering raisin breads.

He recalled the day when he first set foot in their new home. The day was well etched in his memory. His mind had captured it like a black and white photograph. How could he forget their day of wedding!The day when this wonderful women stepped into his life, and became his life itself. Those were nostalgic moments......laughter and music of bygone days still echoed in his ears.

He took a second bite of the coffee muffin......every thing his wife prepared was always special. He was not her only silent admirer. He had heard numerous praises for her culinary magical skills. He had worn each of her praises like a feather in his cap. As he took his third bite, his memory flashed back to a few years when he was helping her out in their kitchen. He remembered how adamant she was, giving him strict orders not to touch her spice box, which was a wedding gift from her mother. Even after all these years she still preserved it like a treasure. He had spied her dutifully opening it whenever she was cooking, and wondered what magical spice it was ...... it needed no refilling , and still served to be a major ingredient of all her recipes. By the time he was finished with the last bit of the finger licking muffin, he was filled with an intense urge to open the spice box and find out what contents it held."She was not going to find out any way..." he assured his guilty self.

He slowly opened the spice box, doubly careful, not disturbing any of the magical contents...He saw something he least expected. He was awe-struck.....He saw in it a white note which was at the verge of wear and tear. Was his wife hiding anything from him? His heart missed a beat...How he had dotted on her and loved her!!!He felt an ache in his throat.... what would he find when he opened this treasure of hers?... what was the secret that she withheld from him for the past 25 years...?He was totally blank as he opened the note.....He could well recognize his mother- in- law`s bold hand writing... it read"what ever you cook my dear, do not forget to add in this magic spice, YOUR LOVE..."

Now he understood exactly, how and why her food turned out to be so special.....

What does this story have to do with my travels, my impressions? I`ll tell is this magical spice which came in handy for me, when I was a novice in the wonderful world of spices and flavors.

We were alloted a three bedroom apartment in Japan, which we had to share with two other team mates. Our team also occupied yet another apartment in the same building. So there were seven of us who made a real good team.....majority of us were vegetarians....and I could see that our team members were living on fruits and chocolates. My conscience pricked when I had to cook just for the two of us. I offered to cook for the whole team and I relished the look on their satiated faces.....They turned out to be my guinea pigs ,who readily obliged to every experiment that eventually was tested on their palates.

One evening I planned to make semia vegetable upma. Semia is a vermicelli or wheat noodles which I carried along with me from India. I cut all the vegetables, all set to cook : poured boiled water on my semia....I just needed to strain it , so that they don't stick to each other; and then season it with mustard seeds, jeera (cumin seeds), turmeric powder, green chillies and curry leaves, and blend it with the stir fried vegetables."Trrrng....Trnnnnn.g......rang the telephone...............................................................

......................after the long chat over the phone I completely forgot about the soaked vermicelli, which had now turned into a paste. Now what will I cook for dinner? I need to satisfy seven tummies..I could not afford to throw this over cooked vermicelli .... but feeding them this gruel would be definitely cruel and sacrilegious on my part. We could hardly get any Indian stuff in the remote country side we stayed...and each and every bit of groceries we carried along with us was of utmost value. “Annam Parabrahmasvaroopam”, goes a saying in Sanskrit, meaning food is God .I had been a fussy eater as a child giving infinite tensions to my mother....But here, in a land far away from home I realized the divinity in food.

So what do I do with the over soaked paste......Eureka!!!!!!A bulb sparked somewhere in my cerebellum and off I went surfing my cupboards for stocked up flours.....There was the wheat flour, semolina, all purpose flour and the rice flour.....I blended all these in equal proportions adding the overcooked semia and water to make a batter. I now opened by spice box(my mother gifted me !!!), adding a dash of pepper, turmeric,coriander powder and yes.. also an extra dash of that magical spice , love .....I stir fried the vegetables and seasoned it and added this to my batter making it look more appealing and colorful.

That night we had a sumptuous dinner, with vegetable vermicelli dosas and hot and spicy sambar. I was overjoyed to find that my friends shared an increased appetite that day. I experienced the joy of serving , the joy of giving......

When I met our team in Japan they were mere strangers to me..... but in no time we were sharing a roof and our food ... and here away from home I still had a family... I felt great. Yes ....magic spice works wonders!!!........

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My first job in Japan!!!

As I was reclining on my rocking chair today, just trying to relax ,my thoughts flashed back to seven years , and I could definitely feel my lips twitch into a wide smile !!!.Just recollecting those memories made me feel like grabbing those precious moments, those moments,I surely don`t want to let go.Then why not let those experiences live again,why not unlock them and put them down here.

I have been fortunate to visit and stay in various countries, where I could get a first hand knowledge of the various cultures, traditions,customs and different people.I traveled to the land of the rising sun,Japan, along with my husband and stayed there for an year.Then after a short stay in India, I could stay in Taiwan for yet another year.My next stop was at South Africa,where I again spent a couple of months.Back in India,I planned to settle down with my family.But as always, man proposes and God disposes.Providence had it that I again pack my bags (which were now exceeding limits as we were not two anymore, we were four!!!).We flew to Detroit, and we are here now ,I know not for how long.The most important lesson these travels have taught me is to live the moment.I have also realized that it is best to travel light.Light , not only in terms of bags and baggage... but also in terms of your very own self.In our journey of life , the lesser the baggage of troubles , grievances and past unhappy episodes we carry, the more comfortable and enjoyable the journey becomes!!!

When we first boarded the plane for Japan,I was filled with all excitement and thrill, not only regarding visiting a new country but also about flying for the very first time.To crown it all ,this was also a honeymoon trip for me as we were newly weds, slowly getting to know each other (this is a rare privilege only arranged marriages can offer). I received Japan with all the wonder and awe of an infant.... for the people and the language they spoke, was very new to me.All of them looked so similar,so brisk ,so formal....I wondered if I could ever get to know them. After my first few days in Japan, my fascination and enthusiasm slowly started to drain....the dark clouds of loneliness and homesickness had dawned on me.I felt stuck , unable to decide what to do next.....My husband was loving and caring ; but I knew for sure that I needed to explore....But where do I start....I was in an unknown place, surrounded by unknown people... i found it impossible even to get a glance from any of them.How will I survive !!! But yes..... I could hear it very clearly ringing in my my state of utter helplessness, I heard my inner voice speak to me .Something was awaiting me....

That very day I went out of our apartment and headed towards a library which was situated in an adjacent building.I found that it was mainly having Japanese books , though a section was dedicated to English, which had very few books to match my taste.On the notice board I spotted an advertisement......"If you are interested to talk to Japanese women in English, please contact, Tomito San."I jotted down the number and as soon as I got home I spoke over the phone to Mr. Tomito.He was speaking to me in broken English, but seemed to be very amiable.He asked me whether I was interested in teaching English.I told that I was interested , but I didnt follow Japanese.He assured me that my prospective students could follow English and that wouldn`t be a hurdle.I was ready to give it a try.Tomito San(San was used instead of Mr. and while addressing kids one was supposed to use chan.), agreed to pick me up at my apartment at five in the evening.Though I put up a brave face,I did feel the butterflies in my stomach....I was going to an unknown place with a total stranger.Tomito San came at the said time and took me to his home where his wife was waiting for us. Slowly I started feeling better.They lead me to their language school which was attached to their house...there I found a few doll like faces about ten years of age, seated with their parents.There was a black board and a huge world map, with special markers around India, and around Kerala, where I hail from. Tomito San had already done a research about India and started delivering his well prepared speech. I was seated like a guest of honour. In my stomach it was no more butterflies but fire..... What was I supposed to do? I was totally unprepared...... was I supposed to deliver a speech?

Tomito San wound up his speech and looked in my direction .....what did this mean?... I had not heard a word of what he said...moreover it was all in Japanese...

Now it was my turn to speak.... All the faces were intendly staring at me.....I needed to speak very slowly gathering my thoughts clearly and carefully.I was supposed to start my class right away ,and the parents will assess my caliber as a teacher.This was much more difficult than appearing for my post graduate viva.

I introduced myself and then went on to ask the names of my new students.I posed a question at them.,

"What is your name?"They seemed blank.

I spoke now with more affirmation and also started using my hands and facial expressions.I repeated my name and once again asked their names... No answer still...
Was I FAILING?....What to do next?

......Suddenly I remembered a rhyme I used to sing in my kindergarten...

"If you`re happy and you know it clap your hands..."
I might have looked like a fool singing and clapping my hands all of a sudden... but it clicked. All of them started clapping hands and I could see the parents bowing their heads every now and then. Whom should I thank now ....may be my kindergarten teacher who taught me this rhyme!!!
After the singing and clapping all of them got up and like the dolls who start talking with the turn of a key, I could hear them say " Arigatogosaimata!!!"(thank you) with a long bow. I too bowed down though I was unsure of the degree of curvature, meant for a Sensei(meaning teacher). As we were about to leave I was handed an envelope, which I again received with yet another bow. I was eager to know what lay inside ... I hurried home and found 2000 yen , Yes I was appointed teacher to an English language school..... and that was my first salary in Japan.