Janmashtami is approaching and the time for churning out Gokulashtami delicacies is here. We Tamilians treat Baby Krishna to sweets and savories - yummy crispies like murukku, cheedai both the sweet and salty variety and anything that one felt like offering him - the explanation being that since Gokulashtami denoted his birth he could be given things that children relish. Not that older people like me don't relish them but these are supposed to be children's favorites and we could have a bite if we felt like it. Now my good friend Meera found this very funny.
"The Lord is an infant and should be offered milk, curd and a generous amount of butter. He has no teeth so how will he eat all these deep fired hard stuff?" she'd ask.
Not to be outsmarted I'd ask her if a new born could be treated to butter and curd and the question would remain unresolved.
I always feel that festivals in India are unique. It is during these festivals that good, wholesome home made delicacies were served. Sweets were exchanged and ladies socialized with others in the neighborhood. Whether it is Ramnavami, Navaratri, Deepavali or Sankaranthi all Hindus mark out the day and special items are carefully prepared and distributed after having been duly offered to God. Id-ul-fitr and the sewai one gets to eat from our Muslim friends or the cakes distributed during X'mas, Easter and New Year were also looked forward to with equal zest. I notice that I keep going into the past tense while I type out this piece. And why not? Making sweets at home has now become an onerous task and it seems easier to order them from the nearest sweet - mart. I won't be surprised if I tell my grandchildren some 5 years from now that when their parents were children I actually made sweets at home.
No, I am not blaming anyone. It is just that times have changed. Joint families have become a thing of the past and with both husband and wife working no one has the time. Moreover with machines taking over, even simple tasks like washing one's own clothes or pounding a little 'masala' seem impossible. When the body does not exercise it starts rejecting food that it cannot process and one starts gaining weight - me included. Believe me I've hand washed clothes as long as the children were in Jamshedpur and used the manual wet grinder till I was nearly 50 years of age. I'd return from college around 2 in the afternoon and soak a bucketful of clothes. I'd wash them at 4 in the evening and let the water drip while I went to fetch milk and when others picked up clothes that had dried I'd spread out clothes for drying.
"it is not good to dry out clothes when birds return to their nests. It is just not done at odd hours."- someone or the other would point out.
I had no choice. If I washed clothes in the morning I'd be late for work and/or my husband and children would have gone hungry. Ask me to do it now and I may get panic attacks. BTW my washing machine is out of order and I am deliberately not getting it fixed so that I may wash my own clothes if not that of the entire family. I may give in when winter sets in but this little task gives me immense pleasure. Clothes seem to be cleaner and my walking speed has indeed increased. When I really lose some 5 kgs of weight I'll let you know!!
We seem to have been better off without the TV. Ignorance was bliss indeed. We have News channels reporting the use of synthetic milk to prepare sweets and this in turn is made up of urea and detergent. Synthetic paneer and Khoya (Paal gova for Tamilians) with carcinogenic additives are being sold or so they say. I'd really like to know if News channels are exaggerating information to improve their TRP or if it is indeed so. Last week I had invited a friend's family for dinner and my husband made me prepare some mysore pak at home citing all kinds of examples of adulteration sending shivers down my spine. My friend was bringing her son and 77 year old mother along and I just could not take the risk.
Coming to adulteration, my husband had gone to grind some Sambhar powder and he saw a man grinding some 50 kgs of turmeric. The man added atleast 20 kgs of cheap quality rice and 10 small bottles of some chemical that gave the turmeric powder a rich yellow color. He was shocked but there was more to come. The same man ground a very poor quality of throw away red chillies and again added a chemical that gave it a bright red color. The laborer who did the grinding confided to my husband that this was a regular practise but could not tell him what chemical was being added and whether it was safe for human consumption. He paid the man extra money to clean up the machine before putting our stuff into it. I wonder if all the branded masalas in attractive colours are prepared this way. Luckily or unluckily my husband does not like the packaged masala availble in the market and we prepare our own. I would not know if pepper corns and papaya seeds were mixed but at least I see to it that no chemicals are added to our masala. Nowadays he packs masala and gives it among friends for a nominal price and even without any advertisement I notice that the masalas are in great demand even though some products are a little costlier because he does not buy at wholesale rates and is therefore not cost efficient.
I seem to be drifting from one topic to another. But I do feel like talking about all such problems that are hazardous to the physical and mental health of society. The front page of any newspaper contains all kinds of negative reports. Swine flu seems to be spreading in most places. I hope each one of you and all your friends and relatives are taking utmost precaution. Those with little children should be extra careful not to take them to crowded places.
I can go on and on. But let me sign off with a story.
A woman went to the doctor and said that she wanted to reduce her weight. The doctor asked her to go for brisk walks in the morning and she refused saying that she had arthritis and could not take the risk. More over she was prone to cold and cough and the chill morning weather would aggravate the problem.
He asked her to exercise at home using the tread mill or stepper. She refused saying that her enlarged heart which would pop out if she over strained it.
He asked her to do aerobics at home. She vetoed the idea saying that the marble floor in her bedroom may cause her to slip and fall.
In a similar vein she rejected every suggestion made by the doctor. She could not survive on a high protein diet since she had gas problem, boiled vegetables were out because she hated bland food etc. etc.....
Finally after exhausting every possible solution the doctor said-
"Sit on a comfortable sofa right in front of the TV, take a remote in your hand, surf channels and watch TV all day."
She said -
"That is exactly what I do and my weight keeps increasing."
Happy Janmashtami to all of you!!