Category: Religion

Why I’m not too thrilled about Bakrid

I’ll pick up where I left off in my last post.

In it, I was basically trying to disconnect religion and celebration of festivals. I would request you to read this article with that mindset, because otherwise, 1.57 billion people are likely to be offended, which is definitely not my intention.

As you may all know, today is Bakrid.

If you know me, I think you already know what’s coming.

Goats. Slaughter. Cruelty.

My boss, Arjun, brought up an interesting point today. He pointed out how Nepal completely banned the Gadhimai cow slaughtering festival, where 200,000 cows are slaughtered meaninglessly and right in front of each other, once in five years. Even I remember signing an online petition against the festival, although I don’t know if that made a difference. But he said how nobody even bothers to raise a voice against slaughtering of millions of goats during Bakrid. Even if someone does, their voice is drowned, because newspapers like to pick up stories like this one instead. (Seriously, just read that headline.)

This afternoon, when we were discussing it, I said it’s completely horrible to slaughter animals, especially in people’s homes, where there are children watching. When we’re supposed to be teaching children to love animals, they watch their family axe one in the neck instead. Seriously, there’s no love lost in this country as it is. Why add to the unpleasantries?

My colleague was (a bit too) quick to point out to me that Hindus are no less. That Brahmins slaughtered and ate meat before too. I was a bit irked because my argument had/has nothing to do with religion. Whether it’s a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim slaughtering a cow or a goat, I’ll hold it against him. In fact, the whole cow-slaughtering festival in Nepal was a Hindu affair and I am dead against it. My whole argument is about the lack of rationale. Any person with the ability to rationalise his actions, should not be slaughtering anything. That’s about it.

Even if you want to eat mutton, or as the festival calls for it, distribute it to the needy, then go buy mutton and give it to the needy. There’s a certain procedure to slaughter animals and believe it or not, the kind way of slaughtering them is officially called the Humane Method. There’s a reason it’s called “humane.” Ideally, you’re supposed to render the animal unconscious and then slaughter it, if you have to do it at all. Not hold it by its hands, legs, pin it down and then struggle to slit its throat with a regular house knife and let the poor animal bleed to death. (The fact that the Humane Method is not practiced in most meat shops is a completely different story by itself. But that’s no justification for this.)

My point is, it does not make sense to carry on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years simply “because it’s there!” Heck! I don’t think most people even realise the significance of Bakrid! In fact, the story goes that Allah, to test the faith of Abraham and his son, Ismail, asked Abraham to sacrifice his son through a recurring dream. When Abraham agreed and was in the process of slitting Ismail’s throat, he was shocked to see that there was a lamb instead of his son. Basically, Allah saw that Abraham was so faithful that he was ready to sacrifice someone as dear to him as his son, and replaced his son with a lamb.

The whole idea of Bakrid stems from this story. You’re supposed to sacrifice something dear to you. Not a goat that you buy off the internet the previous day. There’s nothing near or dear about that.

So, please rethink your values and principles, not as a religious person, but simply as a person. Think about it from a non-violent angle and please put an end to this mindless practice.

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How to make epic chakkli like my mom

How to make epic chakkli like my mom

As you may all know, today is Gokulashtami / Krishna Jayanti. It’s the grandest festival in my house and we all love it; “we” being my neighbours, my friends, cousins, colleagues, random strangers who visit the house during the festival, etc. I doubt the excitement is because Krishna was born. I mean, it is, to an extent. But a lot more excitement is because of all the thindi. My mom makes chakkli, kodbale, muchchoray, tengol, kadlekai mithai, kobri mithai, kadlekai unde, puri unde, rave unde, besan laadu, chigli and so many other thindi items with weird names. She makes this every year without fail and in HUGE quantities.

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Krishna overdose

We give all our neighbours, friends and colleagues the thindies on the day of Gokulashtami. And it’s not just anyone making the thindi. It’s my mom and her best friend, Prema aunty. They’re out-and-out pros! Anyone who smells the chakkli-making immediately pops into my house for a bite. Uttara, who hadn’t come home for some six months (although she lives next door) came home yesterday, secretly broke her fast and ate a piece of chakkli. Such is the effect of the chakkli frying smell.

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Crunchy chakklies

This year, I thought I’ll help my mom out a bit. I decided to make chakkli. And I decided to write the recipe, just for fun. The mess around the house, the atta flying all over the kitchen, boxes of thindi on the dining table, the aroma of elakki, sugar, ginger, and the spicy warmth of kodbaley and tengol really added to my festive spirit.

So here’s how you go about making chakkli.

1. Ask your mom if you can help. She might usually turn you away because you’re no good. But this year, Prema aunty can’t make it because she has baby-sitting duties. So my mom gladly obliged.

2. Watch and learn. My mom works fast and she’s not the most patient person in the world. If you don’t get it right ten times, she’s gonna ask you to go away. So learn quick.

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The mould and shaping plates you need to make chakkli and other confectionaries

3. You need akki (rice), uddin bele (black gram) in a 4:1 proportion. Wash them, dry them, roast them and take them to the guy who makes it aa powder. Flour mill guy. “Bees kondu banni,” says my mom.

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The beesing guy

4. After that, add salt to taste, heat some oil and add that too.

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Before kneading

5. Add water, some hing, and knead it.

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While kneading

6. You need to smack it hard before you put it in the mould and squeeze it. You gotta smack it like you mean it. Don’t do it half-heartedly because otherwise, the chakkli will break while you’re squeezing it.

7. After that, slowly squeeze it into the chakkli shape. Make the hole in the centre big so that your chakkli looks big. (Tip: Avoid making the circular shape while squeezing. Squeeze out a straight line first and then make the shape with your fingers. The dough is delicate, so be careful.)

8. Slowly put the uncooked chakkli into pre-heated oil and let it fry until you get the desired colour.

9. Don’t eat it until you give it to Krishna for pooja. (You can skip this step if you believe that God resides in you.) I had a conversation with my mom regarding this and it went like this.

Me: Why do we make thindi for Gokulashtami?

Mom: Because Krishna was a thindi potha. Haven’t you heard all songs go, “I’ll give you that, come here. I’ll give you this, come here.”

Me: So he accepted a lot of bribes? Yeah, I think I’ve heard that. Krishna was a manipulative person and he accepted bribes. He was corrupt. Blah blah blah.

Mom: Before you say anything else, know that Krishna resides in you. So, everything you’re calling him, you are those things too.

Later…

Mom catches me eating all the thindies, bit by bit.

Mom: Swathi! You’re not supposed to eat it you mental girl!

Me: But the Krishna in me was hungry and needed the food. He is tempted easily and he couldn’t control himself.

Mom: Sighhhh

#Sorry

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Epic chakklies in the making

11. Anyway, after the pooja, you’re done! Eat it. Devour it. Try and share it.

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All the thindies

I love how yesterday went. My mum said, apparently when Krishna was born, it rained heavily with no prior warning. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. It poured in the afternoon on a REALLY hot day.

And I also went and gave some cows a few bananas.

Also, Nuvena surprised me today by turning up outside my house after a visit to Iskon.

It was such a happy, productive, festive and Krishna-ish day! :)

I hope many more youngsters like me don’t dis festivals just because religion has a role to play in it, and it’s “cool” to be agnostic or atheist or whatever. Just go with the flow, take what comes at you with an open mind, celebrate the festival without causing anyone harm and be happy!

Happy Gokulashtami! :)

God, are you listening?

Dear God, I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite some time. In fact, I thought about it during the second week of September, when I came to meet you at the Malur temple. At that time the #IceBucketChallenge was at its peak and I saw you participate too, except it wasn’t voluntary. You were not only doused with ice cold water, but also ghee, milk, curd, honey, sugar, banana pulp, turmeric and so much more. You were in the form of Lord Narasimha that day, the lion-headed form of Vishnu, mythically known for ripping out Hirankashapu’s intestines. I was wondering why people were feeding you, a carnivore, with things that I eat as a pure vegetarian. It struck me as bizarre. But Su offered me another explanation that those were not for you to eat, but they were used to give you a nice snaana so that you can have glowing skin – like royalty, is what she said. But for all I cared, it was just a waste of a packet of Nandini milk and curd, because you were just a rock, sitting there with a poker face, not responding to the beautifying treatment one bit. Instead of wasting it, I could have eaten it, or given it to one of those poor people outside the temple, who would have relished a rare meal delightfully.

Nevertheless, I had a pleasant time at Malur anyway amidst nature, the farmlands, the gigantic shady trees and the stray animals there. Also, at office yesterday, we also did a pooja for you. This time, you were in the form of Saraswathi, the flawless, calm Goddess who plays the veena. Or at least I’m guessing that’s who you were, because I couldn’t see the idol the poojari was dressing up. You were hidden beneath all those flowers and clothes. I was standing way at the back. You might not have seen me either. That pooja was like a test of patience for all of us in office. It went on for half an hour, and 30 people stood before you, shifting restlessly from one leg to the other, sending text messages to postpone meetings and waiting for the final aarti so they could get back to their chairs.

Now, you may wonder why I’m telling you all this. It’s just that every time these kind of mass prayers happen, I never get to talk to you enough. Besides, I’m more comfortable writing to you than talking to you. And I don’t get the point of mass prayers anyway, because at the end of the day, it’s just that one faithful person really praying to you. Everyone else is in their own world, mentally distracted. I don’t mean to offend you by saying you have just one guy praying to you, and I know you know what I mean because you can see right through me, through everybody. That’s what I’ve been told ever since I was born anyway. I don’t see a point in trying to make a conversation with you, because I need to have my eyes closed to concentrate, and a few people find it amusing when I keep my eyes closed. I have been through that phase of course, where I giggled when people tried to concentrate. It just doesn’t make sense. There’s too much distraction. The point of praying to you is to be able to talk to solely you, to thank you for everything you’ve given us and ask you for everything else that we want, right?

I wish you’d let people know that one doesn’t have to travel a thousand kilometres to see you and pray to you. Chumma you let these people do what they think will please you and you laugh at them inwardly. Don’t think I don’t know. It’s not cool, God.

Please somehow let people know that you don’t care about that hundred rupee note that they put in the aarti, or the silk saris they adorn you with or the thousand shlokas they chant without knowing what it means. (I myself can chant the entire vishnusahasranama and I have no clue what a single word means! This blogpost is way more meaningful to me.) Tell them that they don’t have to waste precious resources on idols, when there are a million poor people in this country who don’t have a single rupee. Tell them that all they have to do to please you is be good people. Tell them they don’t have to go out of their way to be good. Even a simple act such as picking something someone dropped and returning it to them is good, right? I sure hope so. It was nice talking to you, God. Thanks for listening.

Happy Anniversary appa and amma – A day trip to Her Hill

Hi all, it’s been a while since I last wrote, hasn’t it?

This post is about a short trip we took to a place called Avalabetta around 90 kms from Bangalore. But it turned out to be more than 150kms for us.

You see, my family and I love to travel. These one-day trips, especially, attract us a lot, because my dad loves to drive and if he makes up his mind to go somewhere, which is quite rare, we all readily agree at the opportunity! And we all love to sing in the car as we drive. Yesterday, my sister was missing, so not much of the singing happened. Besides, NO one knows about Avalabetta and there are no signboards anywhere. So we had to concentrate on the roads.

Our day started off with dropping my doddi at the airport, because we were all headed in that direction anyway. She left to Calcutta to meet her daughter. She is my favourite doddi. We bid her goodbye and got onto the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway.

Not too far away, we spotted a really fancy temple. Oh! It was my parents’ anniversary! 31 years! That was why we went on the trip in the first place. So they were in a very thankful mood, for being happy together for 31 years. (Obligatory ‘touch wood’). They’re a role model couple for me. (Minus the fights on what to watch on TV. Hehe.)

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Aanjaneya temple en route Nandi hills

So here, this is the temple.

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Appa and amma at the fancy temple. Their phones were off the hook with people calling to wish them. My parents are too popular pa.
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The gopuram of the temple

It was really pretty, but honestly I didn’t get the temple feel. When you visit a temple, there’s something about the atmosphere that makes you feel like it’s holy. This was just too modern and fancy. Like Iskcon. I don’t feel like Iskcon is a temple. Anyway, outside that temple, there was a tamarind tree, where we went and plucked some unfortunately ripe tamarinds. They were not nice. We all like the unripe, sour ones! Slurrrppp!

So back on the highway. We began looking for a Peresandra, from where we had to take a left turn (according to some random website called Sutha Mutha).

(PS: We assumed someone very reliable had told my father about Avalabetta and given him proper directions, but turns out he read about it in Bangalore Mirror and decided to follow what the paper said. (I didn’t know people relied like this on newspapers. I must be more careful about what I write.)

Anyway, we were lost after a while on the highway. Well, there was Google maps, but we didn’t really know what to look for, because everyone we asked didn’t know Avalabetta. We didn’t know how to pronounce it. We called it AvaLabetta (Like ‘her betta’ in Kannada) but they pronounce it Aavalakonda. The localites there are Telugu speaking people. So we were all confused.

After finding Peresandra, we were looking for a place called Mandikal. (I read it as Knee Leg in Kannada but it’s actually Knee Stone in Kannada). From Mandikal, a right turn would lead us to the foot of the hill. On our way there, we saw a bunch of farmers doing something interesting on our right. We just had to stop! I ran to the farmers and asked them what they were doing. They were harvesting potatoes! There were so many potatoes cropping out of the mud, and we got so much joy from pulling them out of the mud; it almost felt like we were creating them!

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As these cows walked, the plough dug the potatoes out of the ground, thereby making it easier to pick them up! It’s too cool
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Appa picking potatoes
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Me, just being a poseur as always!

Also, I was hell bent on playing with puppies, calves, kids (goat babies), anything. It’s a thing I like doing when I’m on trips. But I couldn’t find puppies anywhere. I found goats and their babies but they were too scared. I heard this one buffalo crying. I thought he was calling out to me. I took a banana for him and went to him but he got so scared! I was offended.

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I hate you forever, you buffalo!

Back en route to our destination, Avalabetta. But wait. We all had to pee. But of course, there are no fancy rest stops in India. So yes, we all secretly watered someone’s mango grove. Sshhhh..

We finally got back on track. The farmers we helped actually told us were were off route. So we took a U-turn and asked a bunch of people that directed us correctly. We found the foot of the hill and began our journey up. My my! How horrid the road was! It’s under construction still and we thought our car would conk out. But it has very high self Esteem and couldn’t conk out. It took us up the very steeeeeep hill until we got on top.

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The view from above

Phew! The view was beautiful! There was not a soul in sight and we had the hilltop all to ourselves! It really is like a non commercial Nandi Hills. It was really sunny, but during Winter the place will be ideal. There’s a Forest Office guest house atop the hill, so if you ever feel like waking up to that view, and watching sun rise/set there, you can stay there.

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Anniversary photu
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There are pretty flowers atop the hill
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I made a ring out of one of them. Learnt this at Mount Carmel College I think. And yes, I’ve bitten off two of my nails.

We went to the temple at the hill, and I think I forgot to click pictures there. The pujari said it is more than 1,000 years old. This was more like a temple. Old, non-fancy, with the smell of karpoora and teertha, it was perfect. The deity was inside a cave, so going from a really sunny courtyard into a cool cave felt otherworldly. It was a Narasimha temple, the God our family is supposed to pray to. My mum told me that my dad was supposed to be named Narasimha, if not for Ramesh. (Thank God they chose the latter!) 

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The one picture I clicked while climbing a bit to the temple after parking our car

After praying there, and being ripped off by the pujari, who took 700 bucks from my dad, we went down in search of food. We stopped at Peresandra again, which is apparently famous for chakkli.

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Chakkli beka saar?

Dabba thara ithu. After eating the chakli my mum makes it’s impossible to eat other chakkli. We also ate cucumber from the road, which I had a craving for. Then my daddy bought us Nandini majjige. Yum!

We stopped for lunch at a Panchagiri hotel, which looked all fancy from outside but was like a cave inside. Not a cool cave, this one.

After lunch, we decided to stop by at Bhoganandeeshwara temple, which is at the foot of Nandi hills. A little out of our way, but according to my sister, worth it. The temple was lovely. Built during Vijayanagara empire’s reign, it has amazing architecture, but of course all the sculptures are half destroyed thanks to invaders. That adds some sort of affect to these South Indian shiles.

Also, make a note to not go to Shiva temples during Shivrathri period.  Apparently there was a mela going on, so it was REALLY dirty. But there was a very traditional, kola. I don’t know what you call it in English.

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As long as you don’t concentrate on the water, this is a pretty picture I think
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The vast interiors of the Bhoganandeeshwara temple

 So from this temple, we left and came back home. It was a long, but fun day! A good trip after really long. So thank you dad, mom, and thank you car and thank you dad for driving the car.

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Such a posey picture!

Thank you for being a role model couple for me. Hope you guys grow younger with time. I don’t think I need to tell you both that I love you. So I won’t. : P

Cheers! : )

My thoughts on pulping Doniger’s book. Your “liberal” mind won’t like it.

Ok I’ve been reading a lot about this Wendy Doniger and her book The Hindus – An Alternative History.  

When I got to know of the book and how Penguin was going to destroy all the copies of the book in India (I use the word destroy, because the word pulp only paints a picture of tomato juice in my head), I wanted to know why. My sister logged onto Twitter, read a few lines about how the cover picture is of Krishna sitting atop a group of naked women (on one of their backsides, mind you), and how Shiva chopped handsome, young Ganesha’s head off because he suspected an oedipal relationship.

I know all of you are ranting on about lack of freedom of speech, and Siddharth Varadarajan has cancelled his contract with Penguin and Arundhati Roy wrote a sarcastic open letter to Penguin. But somehow, I find it hard to swim along the tide this time.

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Judging the book by its cover?

When I read parts of the book, I was outraged. I’m really not a Hindu nationalist or as some angry ‘pseudo secular’ people term them, “Hindu fascists.” I’m just a normal girl, who says a couple of shlokas if she gets scared at night while sleeping alone, simply because her grandma taught her those lines, which of course don’t make sense to her. They simply comfort me. Yes, I am a Hindu. But I’m not religious. In fact, I believe some of the customs are ridiculous. (I’ve written about those before.) And if this writing could anger me, how do you think it’ll impact religious people?

I understand that Wendy has researched on Hinduism for the better part of her life and she is entitled to her opinion and she has every qualification and right to write a book about it. But publishing such a book in India can only cause outrage. It’s like publishing a soft-porn ish book on Islam in Afghanistan or a sexual account of Jesus’s life in the heartland of America. Would anyone be cool with that? In fact, no one would be cool with that even in India. One must understand that India is not ready for such books. I could probably digest all those sexual connotations in the book and carry on with my life, but would a 23-year-old like me pick up a book on religion and read it? I doubt it. Unless they’re into literature studies or something, the chance of liberal-minded youngsters reading the book is slim. So who would read such books? The middle-aged – my parents, your parents, grandmothers, whoever. And people like Siddharth Varadarajan and Arundhati Roy might be open-minded to such “blasphemous” writing, but the average reader will not.

When just about 74% of India is literate, i.e., they know A B C, you think they’ll understand the complications of modern religiosity? Heck I needed to go to ACJ to learn about all that and the leftist college made me a little liberal in my thoughts, which I suppose is a good thing. But it’s really not alright to hurt the religious sentiments of others.

My sister says India has double standards. If the same thing was published about Islam, wouldn’t publishers succumb to intolerant people and pulp that as well? If you so desperately want to read the book (because that’s what the ultimate agenda is when you publish a book), go find the pdf online instead of ranting about it all day. I have it open on another tab right now. It’s not that hard. If you want to pay for it, then buy an e-book. No one is stopping you from reading it.

In a country like India, religion is something dear to everyone. It’s something they rely upon. And I’m not saying this only with respect to Hindus. Faith is what keeps Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains and people of all other religions strong. There is no place where religious people can achieve community and solidarity like at a temple or a church. So you can’t go about hurting religious faith.

So what can come out of such a book? Nothing but anger, incite and negativity. Even in the West, it’ll make people believe that India is an extremist patriarchal nation. Because that’s what the book represents. India is patriarchal, I agree, but not as exaggerated as it is in Doniger’s book. The thing is, if you go through her book, it’s really interesting. She has written about the possible origin of the vedas, of how humans came to be, how people began to worship cows, vegetarianism, about suras and asuras, it’s pure research. Maybe what Penguin could have done is edit the “blasphemous” parts of the book and publish it. 

At this point, it’s not even about freedom of speech. It’s about maintaining peace and happiness. Ok I sound like a hippy, but isn’t that the ultimate pursuit? Happiness? I read Meena Kandasamy’s poem the other day, here it is. It’s just so full of anger. She is always so full of anger and sarcasm. I want to shake her and say “Be Happy For GOD’S Sake!” Oh wait…

A small comparison: In the case of rape issues in India, women can’t be rebellious and say, “I’ll wear less clothes and step out. Because they can’t tell me what to do. Blah blah blah.”

It’s not about being rebellious. It’s about being patient. It’s about waiting for the society to be ready for such things. It’s about co-operation. We’re in the process of getting the country ready for such things. That’s why we’re still a developing nation. So for God’s sake, just wait for when the time is right and then publish any book you want and people will either accept it or do away with it. They won’t make you pulp it.

Now is not the time. Not yet.

How to celebrate Sankranti – A glorious picture blog

Hello everyone!

It’s that time of the year again! Err.. Ok I don’t want to start this post like that. Let’s start over.

Hello everyone!

Hope you’re doing good, enjoying the two days off that you got from work, or the one day – either for Eid/Pongal/Sankranti. I’m a Tamilian. Ideally I’m supposed to celebrate Pongal in all grandeur. But I learnt only today what the festival is about. To ‘pong’ in Tamil means to overflow. So the festival basically is a celebration of life, praying for/wishing that everyone’s life overflows with happiness, isn’t that nice? But I don’t like pongal. The dish I mean. So I won’t write about it.

What I do like, is sakkare achchu. And ellu. And the toffees and chocolates and little toys that people generally give along with the ellu bella. If you’re confused, I’m gonna give you a tutorial of this Sankranti festival. Not the religious bit, but the colloquial bit. I’ll tell you what all people do for the festival, and since I don’t wanna ramble on, I’ll show it to you in pictures.

Sankranti is a festival that’s celebrated to thank God for a good harvest. My mum says Samyak (Excellent) + Kranti (Revolution) = Sankranti. I have no clue if that’s right. Anyway, you’re generally happy about your good produce, so you feel generous. So you distribute things. Here are a bunch of things that are shared with others. All pictures shot on Malleswaram 8th cross.

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Sugarcane
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Sweet potato and ground nuts
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I have no clue what this fruit is. It’s called yelachi hannu in Kannada.
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Same fruit
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Turmeric, along with it’s stem.
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Of course, during every festival, there have to be betel leaves (to present to guests along with kumkum and turmeric) and mango tree leaves.
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Are flowers harvested? Don’t know. But it’s part of any festival.
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This man wanted to pose with his tulsi garland. : )

Those are a few of the things we share with everyone. Of course you want a box or something to put all these in. So currently, markets are FULL of colourful boxes and plates!

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Ok these boxes are boring
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These are more like it! These kind of boxes used to get me all excited as a kid!
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Tarle boys
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I think this is one of my favourite pictures from the day!

And of course! The festival is about ellu bella (essentially sesame seeds, jaggery, groundnuts, cobri and some sort of gram. Dad says donkey gram. Sigh.) When I said colloquial, this is what I meant. It’s what the festival is known for now. They even harvest ellu (sesame seeds), and share with their well-wishers.

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And women who make all these things are all excited this season.
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This colourful saunf is my favourite stuff in ellu bella! : )

The best part of the festival is, of course, sakkare achchu.

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Let’s hope the kid didn’t make that eh?
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A garland of sakkare achchu

So I found this garland of sakkare achchu. I’d never seen this before. I clicked a picture of it. And then the owner of the store came along and said “That’s not how you click a picture. Go stand there… Haan stop. Now as I’m explaining the garland to you, you click a picture.” This is what I got.

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“This garland is used on God’s idols and on children when an aarti is being done.” *Applause*

There are just too many varieties of sakkare achchus. You’ll get tired of them really. There are colourful ones also but I wouldn’t recommend them.

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I just don’t feel like eating these

Why don’t I feel like eating them? Because I get mom-made, melt-in-the-mouth sakkare achchu and those are the only ones I have ever eaten. And they come in the coolest shapes. Check these.

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The coolest ever! B-)
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I love getting my mum to pose for pictures. It’s such a laughter riot! Haha! Oh! Also, she means to say, “Look what I’ve got for you! (Provided you come home)”

I’ve titled this post as a glorious post for a reason. There are TOO many pictures. AND I’m going to show you HOW to make these achchus. So only those that have lasted this long in the post will get the secret, precious tutorial.

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Step 1: You have to get moulds that look like these or like in the picture before my mum. Without them, you’re going nowhere.

Step 2: Soak 1 kilo of powdered sugar in water overnight. The next morning, boil it and while boiling, add half a glass of milk. Strain into another vessel with a muslin cloth.

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Step 3: You’ll be making the achchu in batches. So take a small quantity of it, heat until it boils in a smaller vessel. (shown in the picture).

Step 4: After a few minutes of boiling, take it off the stove and begin to stir it, until it turns from a clear liquid, to a dense white liquid.

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Step 5: Pour the liquid very quickly and carefully into the moulds. You have to be quick because the liquid will solidify very quickly.
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Step 6 – Wait for around 5-7 minutes
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Step 7 – Once you think it has completely solidified, open up the mould and carefully take out the achchu.
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Step 8 – You have to be careful because the sugar is too delicate. It’ll break if you’re not handling it with care.
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Step 10 – And tadaaaaa! Look what you’ve got! A classy, tasty, melty, sakkare achchu! : )
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You can make it in any shape you like : )

So that’s that. Anyone who has eaten my mum’s sakkare achchu will know what I’m talking about when I say it’s out of the world! I don’t have a sweet tooth really, but I eat it anyway. My mum says the stirring bit (Step 4) is the key to the perfect sakkare achchu. Now I’d suggest you don’t completely rely on this blog post if you’re making the sakkare achchu. Call my mum if you have to or read up a proper recipe. But I hope this gives you an idea of how it’s made.

So go spread sweetness, with everything Sankranti-ish! I’ve spent an entire day on this blog post, not to mention, gotten a really sticky camera and a tanned face. So thank you if you actually scrolled down until the end. (Even if you didn’t read it, I’m glad you saw the pictures!)

Also, if you’re not celebrating Sankranti, go out and walk around the markets around you. I had such an awesome time clicking pictures of all those vendors on 8th cross. They are such a happy people.

Ok enough. I’m tired. Bye : )

Mother of all processions!

If you live in Malleswaram, somewhere around 8th main road, you probably witnessed this HUGE, endless procession! It was biggest procession I’ve ever seen in my life. Except maybe for the Disney parade. I’m talking about in Bangalore. It was mad! I’ve seen the annual procession of the Ganesha temple down the road before. I’d seen men hanging by the skin of their backs onto hooks and stuff. That procession was horrifying. I’d never do that if you offered me a million dollars. But this one was organised by (I overheard this when a dad was explaining to his daughter) the Gowd Saraswath Brahmins. It’s 11:20 pm and the procession is still on, the last portion of it is currently going past my house, with some God’s idol. I don’t know which. It was just such a nice, vibrant gathering with the streets lit up with flash lights and fire tricks and everything! I ran out with my camera, only to click some not-so-great pictures. It was simply fun.

So these guys turned up first. Krishna and Arjuna. The Krishna looked so much like the Krishna on TV! But I don’t think Arujuna is quite that fat.

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Oh look at them posing for me!

They were in this grand chariot, which I didn’t get a picture of, because I was too close and I don’t have a wide angle lens. So next came the masked dancers. I don’t know if they’re masks. They’re costumes I guess. Gigantic costumes. Check this. You’ll know what I’m saying. 

Now generally, I avoid going close to all these people, because they’re all usually drunk. But today, there was just so much happiness in the air and the mood to celebrate engulfed everyone. Not to mention, there were so many policemen, I felt quite safe.

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For some reason, this brave boy on the right side, went and punched that guy’s face. I witnessed it myself. But that guy never stopped smiling.

These dolls were followed by a massive mannequin with a 6 pack, spitting fire towards the sky, like he owned the world!

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“That’s right! Bow down to me you weaklings! Who’s the king now, eh?”

Behind this guy, was a floating idol of Durga ma. She just floated all around the place and this guy who was handling it, tried his best to not let her crash into tree, because 8th main road is full of gulmohar trees.

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Durga Ma was all over the place. I’m just saying she was omnipresent.

After that, was my favourite bit. It was this HUGE face of Kali ma, maybe. I’m bad with Goddess’s names, so forgive me and correct me if I’m wrong.

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Do not miss the cigarette in his hand

Following this was a bunch of guys bursting a few crackers. So I went and hid under my blanket for a while. Then came a live version of Durga Ma, in a glorious chariot, full with her body guards and everything!

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I was being stared at by raakshasas. :o

After that were the most enthusiastic boys! They’d put Lady Gaga to shame! They were even doing the exact same dance as her. Check this!

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Don’t they really outdo Lady Gaga?
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Don’t they?

Haha. Anyway. Following that, was the best set up for the night. It was this HUGE larger than life-size model of the Samudra manthana (churning of milk in the ocean), a story that appears in the Mahabharatha. It was astoundingly grand and fully functional. I mean the whole set-up rotated, to show that they were churning milk. I was truly amazed.

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Then there were a whole lot of random things. Like a huge truck full of kids. I don’t even know if something like that is legal.

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Kinda scary, if you ask me

The rest of the night was just nice, with everyone in the neighbourhood having stepped out of their houses and caught up for a chat. It was such a welcome change after days and days of monotonous work and all that. We all just sat there, with the doggy, playing statue, gossiping, doing each other’s hair, etc. It’s nice to have such occasions once a year.

That’s about it.

Cheers.

I’m a Hindu; I worship coconuts

Don’t assume I’m from Kerala. I’m very much a Bangalorean.
So here’s the story. We had a pooja in my office yesterday. Everyone was excited about it. Not the pooja itself, but the box of sweets they were going to get after it. That’s a ritual apparently. “Oh! It’s Dasara! We’re going to get that box of sweets! Yay!” was what I heard in office when I entered yesterday morning.

It turned 4. That’s when the pooja was scheduled. Everyone gathered. Even the Johns and the Alis. The Philips and the Parkers and the Clements as well. Of course there were Guptas and Chatrapathys also. It was a nice secular meet. That’s around 30 people. The men assembled in front and were all tall. I couldn’t really see anything, so I assumed a spot in a corner, leaned against a computer table and watched everyone. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. The poojari went on and on with his mutterings. Everyone grew impatient. The crowd started scattering. Slowly a person or two trickled away. And then whole bunches of people went away. They took their boxes of sweets, without the pooja having ended, and left for home. I made up my mind to show swalpa respect and stay. I wanted to see which God needed such long prayers to be pleased. I moved a bit towards the centre, from where I could see the poojari and the deity he was throwing flowers on. I saw it. It was a coconut.

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We have always worshipped coconuts. Ever since I was a child I have seen coconuts kept on silver pots with a few beetle nut leaves on them. I don’t know why I struck me as so absurd! I realised I have never given it a thought. It seems like the most ridiculous thing to do. Devote so much of your time to a coconut when you’re going to get absolutely nothing out of it! The only thing you can get out of it is some elneer and cobri, which you can get in a matter of five seconds. I thought there must be a strong enough reason. So I looked it up. Of course I found a reason. (Someone thought it was because there was an abundance of coconuts in South India! Haha!) It’s actually supposed to be a coconut kept in a mud pot. The mud pot is supposed to symbolise the Earth. I have no clue why, in my house, we keep silver pots. Are we so rich to symbolise the Earth with silver? I don’t know. Anyway, moving on. The coconut, apparently symbolises divine consciousness. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can’t imagine how a coconut can represent any sort of consciousness. It’s just so hard to understand! I mean, it’s alright to draw parallels between these things. It’s probably even fun and entertaining! But sometimes Hindus just push it too far with these things, worshipping cows and lingas (Gosh! And some Hindus complain that Islam is a patriarchal religion). I feel I sound a bit like my dad here, but instead of worshipping a coconut for an hour, you can go do something productive, which will probably make you much happier than putting all your hopes and prayers in a coconut. After all, happiness is the ideal end product of all your prayers, right?

Religion, I believe, controls man too strongly, stronger than it should. I’m glad my generation is a little more level-headed than our parents’. I’m not saying I don’t like religion. I’m not an atheist. I’m not agnostic either. I’m a Hindu. But religion is a man-made thing. You can bend the rules. You don’t have to follow what someone made up 30,000 years back just for the heck of having something to follow. I’ll tell you where I’m getting at.

For the past few days I have been seeing big, healthy, furry sheep all over the city. Ideally I’d be so happy to see them. But it just depresses me. It even pushes me to the extent of crying sometimes. WHAT is the point of breeding sheep with so much love and care and chopping their heads off so heartlessly in the middle of a crowd as part of a festival? I haven’t ever seen the ritual happening, but it just angers me and makes my throat clog, thinking of the sheep’s cries when its head is about to be chopped off.

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Oh don’t you just want to hug them!

Just to be fair to Muslims, I decided I’d read up about it before ranting on. I typed “Why do Muslims kill- ” on Google, and Google’s first prompt “Why do Muslims kill each other?” Lol. I have nothing at all against Muslims. I’m just sharing what I read, so don’t get mad! So yeah, I read that Ibrahim offered to sacrifice his son Ishmael to Allah. But Allah sent a sheep instead. So they now sacrifice sheep instead. Alright it’s your religion, it requires you to do a few things, so go ahead. But before doing it, think. Religion is man-made. You can design it how you want it. I feel like shaking everyone and asking them to go back to the basics, back to when man had just evolved. Do you think he knew anything about religion back then? I doubt it. He was bored of the usual faces he saw everywhere, so he let his imagination run wild, and drew a few out-of-the-world things on walls of caves (like a half-animal, half-human figure). The epics are all scriptures that a lot of men and women put together over a period of time, just like today’s fantasy fiction books. Back then, man had never seen or heard of such fantasy fiction and began to worship it. That’s where man went wrong. He took things a bit too seriously. Oh look at me ranting on! These are my thoughts on the origin of religion. You can absolutely ignore them.

Now why I’m writing this post is, I know a lot of you Muslims don’t strictly follow your religion. It requires you not to drink, not to smoke and a lot of other rules that are pretty difficult to follow. So if you’re breaking those rules anyway, then please don’t participate in sacrificing helpless sheep. I’m not asking you to turn vegetarian. Don’t do it in the name of religion, that’s all. Because after all, a sheep is just a sheep. Like a coconut, is just a coconut.

PS: I don’t mean to be a killjoy, I just finished ayudha pooja and wasted lots of lemons. Still keeping it festive! Hope you read this post in a light-hearted manner, like all my posts are meant to be read. Cheers!

The making of Dasara

It’s that time of the year when you climb on stools, creep under beds, cough and sneeze at dust-laden dolls that you fished out, and give some part of your house a makeover. Yes! It’s Dasara – those ten days of holidays, Durga Pooja, Dandiya oh well! Those ten days of doll-keeping, putting-series-lights-outside-the-house and calling-fidgety-kids-home. My sister came over, to help arrange the dolls, because she was in this whole loop of excitement, having called 100 people home and done up a mini Amsterdam in her own house. It was 10pm when we got started.

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STEP 1

Step 1 – Pull out old, extremely heavy trunks from under the bed. To do this, you require utmost strength. Or you require utmost ego to not back off while your show-offy skills have failed. You must go ahead and manage it, you’ll crack a hip, break your back, not much else. And not to mention, you must click a picture with shaky hands. (All this, thanks to a completely non-helpful dad who chooses to watch rubbish TV instead).

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STEP 2

Step 3: Unveil Toy Land. The dolls may shade their eyes because of sudden bright light. Hence, to protect them, carry out this process during the night if possible. You are also likely to be in awe of rediscovering the same old dolls again.  Calm down. You have a lot of work left. You’ll see them for the next ten days whether you like it or not. So move on.

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STEP 3

Step 3: Collect the dolls in a coloured basket. They like colours. They love colours. If you use a plain brown basket, it’ll just feel like a normal day and none of the dolls will smile. If you use colours, you’ll also get nice pictures.

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STEP 4

Step 4: Get these guys out. They are the heart of the set-up! Without them, there is no Dasara. Why? No clue. Wait. Let me read up… Ok found nothing on the Internet. But my uncle says, “Raja Rani only signify Lakshmi and Narasimha.” He speculates that it could also be because the concept of celebrating dasara with dolls originated in Mysore, 403 years back (1600’s), which was then ruled by kings and queens. And then he randomly went on to explain to me that Tipu Sultan was a greedy fellow who did fight for independence against the British but at the same time wanted to be the monarch of Mysore, which back then, extended till today’s Bellary and on the other side, till Sultan Bathery, which is now in Kerala. Phew! That’s something! Moving on.

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STEP 5

Step 5: Bring out ALL flat objects from every nook and corner of your house. Cardboard boxes in which your dad has stored Castrol Oil, the box of the microwave oven you bought eight years ago, CAT, 2nd PU and Engineering text books, the table on which your massive keyboard is kept (because nobody cares about me having to find a tiny spot on the bed to sleep on, since I’ve to share it with this giant musical instrument), a few of those remaining metal planks you specifically got made for Dasara but your dad decided to take them to the garage, store his tools and make them immovable, all these help you form the steps that your dolls are going to sit on. Do remember that superstition has it that you must NOT have an even number of steps. It has to be either 3, 5, 7 or 9 steps.

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STEP 6

Step 6: Cover it up with a white bed sheet. Nobody generally uses these white bed sheets except during Dasara. If a rat has chewed a nice hole through it, then go buy a new one, because a coloured cloth will just be non-Dasara-ish. You could also go lift one off a hotel room.

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STEP 7

Step 7: Have a broken gramophone in your display.

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STEP 8

Step 8: Ok just kidding. Get your dad to fix it. Give him some work. Seriously!

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STEP 9

Step 9: Make up stories with each toy. Here, for instance, is a routine sighting in India. A pretty girl riding a bike, and a creepy guy ogling at her, sitting in his Vespa. (Supriya don’t get mad. I know you gifted me that creepy guy in sixth grade).

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STEP 10

Step 10: Give him a girlfriend, shut him up.

Step 11: Add a few traditional dolls to the set-up. They’re the highlights. All these psuedo foreign made-in-China dolls are all just fillers. Dasara is nothing without the Dashavatara, the aforementioned Raja-Rani, a few dolls that constitute a village of some sort, showing daily activities like the churning of butter, etc, people bigger than the houses they live in, animals bigger than the forests they live in, a few dolls of Gods and Goddesses and whatever else you can think of. I, personally, would encourage you to keep absolutely anything you want, even something as absurd as a toilet paper roll or a broken cell phone, if you find the necessicity to, or if you can weave a story with it. My mom, though, wouldn’t encourage that so much. So I suggest, to keep everyone happy and satisfied, you confine yourself to that Harry Potter wand you made in tenth grade or giant tarantula toy you once bought to gift to your niece, but decided to keep it yourself, or your toy reptile collection.

Also, here are a few pictures from my sister’s and my cousin’s houses. My sister, like I said, was full enthu and made a mini Amsterdam, full with a hidden RLD and some marijuana and everything!

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Study the photo slowly. Take your time
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The traditional Golu

Also, my cousin made a cute little village, where babies are as big as cows. Oh the magical fantasies of Dasara!

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The sign board says “Way to Gaavadagere village”

That is what Dasara has been like for me this year. Would love to know how yours has been. Ok I’m kidding. Don’t bore me. Ok kidding again. You can show me pictures. :P

You could also read this blog that a second cousin of mine maintains. It’s REALLY good. She has written about Dasara and has some mindblowing pictures!

Ok go now! Go have fun at Dandiya or Durga Pooja! Keep it festive! :)