How would You React to the Wrong Order Delivered?

I pride myself on being very low maintenance in many things and kind in many ways. Except things like integrity, quality of work etc. I am a sucker for strict adherence to these values because of my Grandpa’s strong influence on me during my early years.

So, on most things I am very low maintenance. For example, food. Serve food to me cold, salty and all messed up and I will still complement you. Because, I appreciate the great effort and beautiful heart behind it.

I also have a very high tolerance level – both physical and mental.

Think physical tolerance – 2 boys without epidural, bagging Mt. Whitney peak at 14,500 feet 22 miles round trip in 19 hours with 25 lbs backpack.

My mental tolerance beats my physical tolerance in many ways.

Side note: That said, my BS tolerance is waning very rapidly as I age. And, guess what? I am at an age (and given my freakishly high intuition levels and ever growing knowledge of the brain, body language and psychology) when I can spot BS from several miles away. When I spot BS, I won’t make a big hue and cry. I simply don’t have the time for that anymore.

Anyways, with that in the background, let me narrate the happenings from today afternoon.

I had the most wonderful lunch date with a new friend.

I ordered basil thai fried rice. The waiter was a new guy at the restaurant and told us he was learning the ropes. My friend and I were deep in conversation as he brought a veggie curry with white rice. I noticed it. But, let it slide.

Because, I am on a see-food diet.
I see food.
I eat it in moderation.
And, appreciate it. That is my Dad’s teaching. He always told me to be thankful for food…whatever form it was in.

So, I enjoyed the pow wow and the chow!

But, here is a thought that remains with me. I could have very kindly told the waiter that he brought in the wrong order…and that I was ok with it….and gently warned him to be more careful next time. By doing that simple act, I could have saved him the disappointment (or even the angry complaint!) of a future customer.

There is no black and white….only shades of grey. 
There is no right or wrong in any of our experiences. 
They are just life experiences.

I am curious. What would YOU have done and why YOU would have done that? Be cognizant of the fact that most of us make these little decisions in life in auto pilot mode. We don’t over think.

What is your first gut reaction?

Food is One of the Most Important Connectors

Food is one of the most important connectors.

Food connects generations.
Food connects friends.
Food connects family.

Doesn’t the aroma, the texture, the taste, the sight of food always remind us of days long gone? Of meals shared together many years ago. That memory of togetherness stays with us….still fresh…like we are in present there at the dining table with friends and family.

May be it is the aroma of brewing coffee that reminds us of Amma’s filter coffee.
May be it is the way I try to make mom’s recipe of parrapu podi for the boys.
May be it is the way I try my best to do karthigi adai to keep my MIL’s recipe alive.
May be it is my attempt at making sabodana khichdi today evening.

It reminds me of my lovely girl friend Gargi. She makes the best sabodana khichdi on the planet. She is also got a few more recipes up her sleeves. Her grandma’s recipe of mouth watering ladoo and her spicy rajma curry are to die for.

Bon Appetite!

Nostalgia Reminds us that some Beautiful Moments are Past Us

Sometimes love arrives in a carefully packed zip lock bag after traveling 10,000 miles across oceans and continents.

Nostalgia is defined as the “sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The feeling can sometimes be evoked from music, a pleasant memory of the past, or any sensory perception that was crystallized in time by a fondly experienced moment.”

Nostalgia. Has is struck you how nostalgia strikes when you least expect it? A whiff of a perfume as somebody passes by. The smell emanating from somebody’s cooking. A voice that reminds you of somebody long gone or somebody far away. A face that looks so familiar.

I met Subha in Trichy during Fall 1993. We became fast friends really fast. I got to know her family. They are the kindest and sweetest souls. Whenever we visited her house, her mom fed me and my friends. Over the next three years, I slowly acquired the acquired taste for mahali kizhangu pickle.

My grad school friend Rathna once told me that there is a quota for everything. Eating mom’s rasam has a quota. You don’t realize the quota is done until it is done.

I didn’t realize my quota for mahali kizhangu pickle was done until it got done. My four year stint in Trichy ended in Summer 1997 and so did my quota of Suba’s mom’s mahali kizhangu pickle.

After two decades, we remain good friends.

When I visited her in Summer 2014, mahali kizhangu was on the menu. I teared up and (as usual!) laughed my way through it with some dumb jokes.

This weekend, she sent me a zip lock bag full of mahali kizhangu pickle with her family members who were visiting Austin. Thank you to her family for bringing the goodies.

I opened the ziplock bag today evening and nostalgia hit me hard. My senses took a ride through a time long gone by. My mind was transported to Tiruchy. The hot weather. The dryness. The cold curd rice her mom served with so much love. I can almost hear her dad’s voice “Ambal, Nalla sappadu di. Innum konjum mahali kizhangu pottuku. Unnaku piddikama di.” (English Translation: Ambal, eat well. Take some more mahali kizhangu? You like it, don’t you?)

I wish I could go back to those days. Relive them. Relive them more fully.

Alas, I can’t. None of us can.

But, here is the beauty of nostalgia.

Nostalgia reminds us that some beautiful moments of life are past us. It reminds us to live this moment. To live this moment more fully.

Because, there is a quota for moments that we have. As Rathna said, you don’t realize the quota is done until it is done.

I’ll go back now and eat some more of those cherished mahali kizhangu pickle.

I hope this post rekindled your memories of a day long gone by. A taste long gone by. A smell long gone by. A person who is special to your heart.

I urge you to pick up your phone and call that old friend and start by saying “Remember when we….”.

Happy Pongal

Thai Pongal is a Tamil harvest festival. Thai Pongal is a four day festival which according to the Gregorian calendar is normally celebrated from January 13 to January 16. The day marks the start of the sun’s six-month-long journey northwards (the Uttarayanam). This also corresponds to the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Makara or Capricorn. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation to the Sun God for providing the energy for agriculture.

Thai Pongal - Ambal Balakrishnan - 1

Karthikai Deepam – Keeping Traditions Alive

Karthikai Deepam or Karthikai vilakkidu is a Hindu specially Tamils Festival of Lights. The festival is observed in most Hindu homes and every temple, and falls in the month of Kārttikai (mid-November to mid-December) as per Tamil calendar.

Today is Karthigi Deepam. It brings back many childhood memories.

My sister and I would eagerly wait for the sun to set. Then, we would wait for the lamp to be lit in one of those distant hill temples. As soon as we see the lamp lit, we would race with each other to light up the inside and outside of our house with little lamps (called agal vilaku in Tamil).

We had to keep the lamps filled with oil through out the evening. We also had to move the wick up every few hours.

Amma soaked rice the previous right. Appa and I would hand (dry) grind the rice. Amma didn’t like it to be too mushy or too coarse. Appa and I would take turns grinding it to perfection. Then we would add sugar and cardamom. Appa made mava vilaku and Amma would put ghee and a wick to light the lamp.

This was one of my favorite festivals.

I didn’t realize until much later in life that as I was lightning the lamps in my house in Chennai, there was a little boy named Kumar who was doing the same in Trichy, about 300 kilometers away. He was eagerly waiting for his to mom to make his favorite karthigi adai filled with coconut pieces. He couldn’t get enough of the sweet appams and salt appams that she made.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

I find myself doing the same for Adi and Ari. We are going to be lighting the lamps later today. I am making them sweet appams. I am getting ready to grind adai and throw in a lot of coconut pieces. I know the boys will gobble it all up.

Despite my lousy cooking skills, I know they’ll look back fondly at the sweet appams that their Amma made. I know they’ll light the lamps. I know they’ll try their best to keep traditions alive.

Holiday season is upon us. Keep those traditions alive. Whether it is the egg nog drinking or the pie eating contest. Whether it is the gathering around the piano to sing a few holiday songs or getting out in the cold and making a few snow angels. Light up that holiday tree and marvel at it like a little child.

Keep those traditions alive. Because, we live on for eternity through those traditions.