Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Each week I have a date----with my Closets!!!Tedious but necessary----these contain my wonderful Treasure of different types of Fabrics---gathered from all over India---and very close to my heart---hence prized possessions!!!
My Steel cupboard contains my real hoard---beautiful Silk Saries from almost every corner of India.The East is represented in the Jewel coloured intricately hand embroidered Kathas, Dhakaai Jaamdaanis,Baalucharis,Assamese Mekhalas,Ikats and Bomkais-----Banarasi Silk ,Kashmiri Silk and Chinon represents the North,shimmering multi coloured Patolas,Chiffon Lehariyas represent the extreme West,delicately woven gauzy Chanderis,Kotaas and Maheshwaris are a symbol of Central India----commonly known as the "Dil" or Heart of India ,The handwoven Paithanis,Irkallis and the traditional "Garbhareshami Lugadis" from my native Maharashtra,and last but not least, the beautifully rich thick Silks of the South----Kanchipurams,Dharmavarams,Gadhwal
s and Pochampallis----all so very beautiful and rich----the wonderful feel of these Fabrics is enough to transport me to a different time and place!!!
Those days I wore only Saries----and just loved these beautiful six yards of Fabric----but what I loved most was the traditional Stuff!!!We used to have Fabric Exhibitions in Mumbai at the time----Pavilions used to be put up of different States----so it was a must visit place for me.Many trips would be made there to pick up beautiful Block printed,hand Embroidered,hand Woven Bed Linen,The beautiful Bomkai of Orissa,the intricately woven shimmering Banarasi------not to forget the delicate Lucknowi Chikans from Uttar Pradesh and the light as Air Kotaas----these would be made from superfine Cotton with a Gold Thread woven into them----very beautiful but so expensive!!!
I began collecting these---Traditional styles which were timeless---Temple borders,pure Siver Thread hand woven stuff---one at a time till today I have 2 Closets full of these and a heart full of Memories associated with them.I still have my beautiful wedding Banarasi "Shaalu"----fully woven with Silk and Gold Thread---still radiant like new!!!Seeing my obsession with these Sudhir suggested that I hold Exhibitions of these after Lotta's marriage.Bad idea---I'd fall in love with the stock and hand pick the ones I liked----then proceed to fix exorbitantly priced labels on them---ensuring that no one bought these----all the profit I made would be poured into buying these!!!!
My switching over to Salwar Kameezes brought me no relief from my avarice---I began collecting wonderful Pure Cotton Stuff----I cook in heavier material though I love buying those for the Girls----again intricaately hand embroidered Kathas,Chickans,hand woven Kotaas---Maheshwaris,Chanderis and Traditional Marathi "Khan" fabrics----these are my truly beloved and prized possessions----in June I've promised myself of drafting my Will---settling the score of my beloved Jewel Coloured Memories!!!!With the exception of my Wedding Sari the rest will be divided between my Girls equally----I'll leave home dressed in my "Shaalu" on my last journey!!!!
Monday, May 03, 2010
Vacations have an aura around them------the very mention of these relaxes the tense muscles and soothes frayed nerves-----that's way I react to them!!!!For me the thought of just not hurrying around all the time-------just the thought is such a boon!!!
Since childhood Vacations have been special for me----apart from the Home Work alloted to us during the longest Vacation----May to July---which fell in the middle of the School year-----filled with hot,hot Summer days!!!!We also had Vacations for Diwali and Christmas---the weather would range from balmy and cool in October-November for Diwali to cold and chilly during the Winters in December.Christmas----that was a fabulous Vacation---thanks to it being the year ending!!!Life started anew after that---a New Year and a New Class,Books------I can still remember the beautiful smell of those new books!!!!
The Seasons all had a special flvour to them----the Summer Vacations brought with them Watermelons and Cantaloupes grown in the Desert of Rajasthan-----ripened in the hot Sands under a blazing Sun---full of juicy sweetness!!!!There were also the wild Mangoes gathered from the Trees growing wild----these too used to burst with sweet juice----we'd just wash them and suck the Juice later eating all the remaing pulp on the Skin and Seeds-----till there was nothing but the white Seed and thin Skin left!!!These Fruits used to be kept in a Tin Tub filled with Water to cool them down-----all Mangoes,Watermelons and Cantaloupes.A favourite after Dinner Dessert was flavoured Watermelon------a large chunk would be cut in the rind of the Watermelon---and a mixture made from 70-75% Rooh Afza(an Indian Sherbet) and 25-30%Water would be poured into the inside of the Fruit.The chunk would be replaced in it's original position on the Rind to seal the Fruit----this would be placed in Water leaving the cut part of the Rind above the level of Water---and set aside for the whole day.At night the Watermelon would be cut up and eaten----it used to be Heaven to eat it---with the Juice dripping down our chins!!!In June the deep Red juicy Cherries,Plums,velvety Apricots and Peaches,Pears would all descend on the markets from the hilly regions of the Himalayan Foot Hills----Figs,Litchies,Loquats and the cultivated species of Mangoes,seedless White Grapes----my mouth's watering----I better stop!!!
The Diwaali Vacations meant loads of Fun for us----Mummy's frienfds and their children would arrive by 10.30 a.m. each morning for a week before the Festival---the women carrying their Kerosene Stoves and raw Ingredients for the various Maharashtrian snacks.Since we had a Cook,Lunch was no problem----we kids would have a great time---sneaking onto the back Porch where our mothers were busy rolling out, roasting,deep frying,or binding various traditional Sweets and Savouries-----various Laddus,Chirotey(Saat Padi),Shankarpaaley,Chakli,Chivda,Sheva,An
arsey----too many to list here!!!These were stored in huge Steel drums called"Saaths" and these drums could accomodate a minimum quantity of 15 Kgs. at a time----today I salute their capacity to make three different items daily by Tea time using such primitive equipment!!!All this would stop in the evenings when all the fathers too would congragate at our home after leaving their Offices!!!After that Daddy'd insist on everyone leaving after Dinner----we'd be a minimum of 30-35 people daily for Dinner those days!!!Even today the memory uplifts my mood each time I remember those days---------hospitality had a different meaning and wore a more welcoming look then!!!!
The Winter Vacation too had it's own characteristics------the markets would be flush with our favourite Vegetables----milky white Cauliflowers,crisp white Radishes,juicy Green Peas,sweet Red Carrots,ripe Red Tomatoes-----everything would be organically grown both in Kitchen Gardens and on the Vegetable Farms.The juicy "maltas" were a Winter speciality---like an Orange but extremely sweet and juicy these were consumed by the dozens!!!These days were a hub of delicious activity----"Aamla" the Indian Gooseberry would flood the markets as would tiny sweet red juicy Carrots---these would be cooked in Sugar Syrup(Murabba) and preserved for the coming year---a favourite accompaniment to our meals!!!So also the wonderful Sweet and Spicy Pickle made from Cauliflowers,Turnips and Carrots---this Pickle would cook in the Winter Sunlight in Ceramic Jars ----with cloths tied round mouths of these Jars------ drinking in the Sun's rays!!!These were the days of thick creamy Soups and roasting Potatoes,Sweet Potatoes and Yams n the fire burning in the Fireplace of the Drawing Room!!!
The smell of cooking Sugar Cane Juice would hang in the air near the Sugar Cane Plantations----huge Iron Woks would be placed on white hot "Bhattis" or Stoves built into the ground to retain their heat.These would be fuelled by the flat chips of the Juice removed Sugar Canes--------it used to be a hive of activity.The best part was to join these farmers for Lunch----simple fare of Corn Bread,Mustard Greens,globs of fresh White Butter and the huge Punjabi Glasses of frothing creamy "Lassi"( Butter Milk)!!!This and many more similar memories even today leave me replete with satisfaction and happiness---I have lived those wonderful days----to my heart's content---so no regrets moving on.
After my marriage Vacations meant getting up in a more leisurely fashion---I'd be up at Dawn for getting everything organised for the morning Rush Hour-----by 8.30 a.m. the house would be empty----leaving me gasping for breath----hence an extra half hour in bed would work wonders!!! Luckily the School and Court Vacations always coincided---so we'd plan our Trips and book our Tickets----this way we travelled over most of the Indian Sub-Continent.The Indian Railways those days were a joy---we all loved the Food the Railways provided----it added a special spice to the Journey-----besides certain Stations on the Routes were famous for their Specialities----Baroda and Godhra for Masala Milk and Ice Creams,Mathura for it's fresh and soft Pedhas,Karnal for it's spicy Chholay Bhaturey,Agra for it's Petha------so many places---so many flavours----so so many beautiful memories----today I carry a treasure trove in my mind's eye!!!!!!
Today we lead a sedentary life---the day begins early---normally by 7a.m. then Tea,Yoga,Breakfast-----Sudhir leaves for Court by 10.30a.m. and my help arrives by 11 a.m.----cooking,getting the House organised---and then Lunch---finally SP---till about 4.30p.m. after which Yoga again on the Terrace,my evening "Adda" in the Compound wih my "Cronies",Dinner at 8p.m. sharp---and to bed by 9-9.30 p.m.----it's not a very heavy schedule as such---but still Vacation beckons!!!Vacations are still a laid back period for relaxing and destressing---unwinding your daily routine to a more leisurely pace---even if you don't venture out the daily rhythm changes!!!!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Temple itself is a simple White washed building----it's Priests live on the premises in large homesteads called the "Vaadas" next to the Temple.They do not use any Onion or Garlic in their Food--ever---- and devote all their lives to serving the Goddess----hereditary service is taught to each generation from childhood!!!Each particular "Gotra" or set of people have the same Priest----marriage within the same Gotra though not forbidden is not very popular!!!
The beautiful surroundings of the ancient Temple are very picturesque.The Pagoda styled single storied Temple rests like a Diamond set in a Green Ring----the backdrop of a thickly wooded Shady Hill at the back and surrounded by lush Emerald Green Paddy Fields.The atmosphere is laden with the heady Perfumes of all the Wild Flowers blooming in the Hill at the back----the thick Wood resounding with Birdsong as well!!!The deep Cerulean Blue of the Sky sets the perfect foil for all the Colours to glow like jewels------no human hand can match the perfection of this canvas!!!The road meanders lazily through this landscape----the serenity and stillness of the atmosphere adds to the mystique and charm----highlighting it's Timelessness!!!
The Temple itself dates back to the late 1500s or mid 1600s---it was rebuilt many yers after the Potuguese invasion and occupation.The large Temple Complex also houses the offices of the Saraswat Trust and the rooming Units built to accomodate the Devotees during the "Maaghi" Navratra which falls during the period of the waxing Lunar cycle----say roughly in February/March.Reservations are made almost a year in advance for the Devotees who wish to occupy these Units or "Blocks" as they are called--consisting of a large multi purpose Room,a Kitchen and a Toilet and Bathroom---let out by the Trust for a nominal rent.We were lucky both times we visited to get a ringside view of all the Ceremonies and Rituals from the Balcony on the 1st(2nd.) floor.Many Devotees have formed bonds with the locals----each time they come down to the Temple,these women appear to do their domestic chores!!!
The Ceremoniesof the Nav ratra(Nine Nights) include a nightly Procession of the Goddess in various Vehicles----Chariots,Palanquins and Birds----of this the Solid Gold "Palkhi" or Palanquin reserved for the fifth day and the Solid Silver Peacock are two of the most dazzling "Vahanas"or Vehicles----both created from the Gold and Silver presented to the Goddess by grateful Devotees for fulfilling their various wishes and dreams.The Deity is dressed in gloriously coloured Silk nineyard Saries-----and decked with Jewellery in Gold with a surfeit of precious Gems---Rubies,Diamonds,Emeralds,saphires--
-of ancient lineage and the highest quality---it is unforgivable to offer anyting of lesser or cheaper value to Her---this holds true of Saaries,Jewellery,Gold,Silver and even the Pearls She wears.
The Procession begins after 9p.m. each night---lit by the huge Silver lamps---the Air scented with Incense and the intoxicating heady perfume of the various types of the Jasmine garlands adorning Her Person and mode of transport----the beautiful Hymns sung in melliflous and melodious tones-----all add to create a surreal atmosphere---one is transported to a place where only the Moment--the NOW exists---all else just fades away into oblivion!!!!
The Deity is very real---She communicates through Her priests by giving Signs called "Kauls"---all gathered ask for Her Permission to leave---and sometimes She witholds it in certain cases--those people denied Her leave continue to serve her devotedly without a murmur till She relents and lets them go.Those nine days we all eat "Sattvik" or pure Food----I used to fast on Bananas and Milk-----the rest not eating any Non-Vegetarian or Vegetarian Food containing Onion or Garlic----to keep the body pure till the Rituals are over. Those performing the "Maha Rudra" or the "Laghu Rudra" Ceremonies fast till all the rites are performed----5 days for the former and 1 day for the latter.Those days there used to be "Maha Prasad" served daily in the huge Dining Hall of the Temple---served on Banana Leaves and sponsored by various Donors---singly or togther in groups----the Feast would go on for 3-4 hours each afternoon----She alone knows how many people participated-----there used to be a never ending queue!!!!
We have been blessed to take part in the "Maha Rudra" in 1978 and the "Laghu Rudra" in 1983---both times staying at the Temple and taking part in all the Religious festivities------the indescribably exhiliarating feeling of being gathered close to Her Heart envelopes me still.Today She is my Mother---I confide in Her,ask Her advice or unburden my soul to Her in Her warm embrace.Our relationship today is one is to one and very personal-----a deep bond beyond all the Rites,Rituals and Ceremonies dictated by orthodox Worship.Today I no longer need to seek Her out---She makes Her Presence felt around me----I know that She is there with me---and always will be!!!!
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