On the Spice of Life – The Story of Paruppu Podi Past

{Paruppu podi, paruppu means dhal and podi means powder in Tamil. It is also called Spiced Dhal Powder.}

Amma grew up near border of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. So, she spoke both Tamil and Telugu fluently. We celebrated festivals of both states. Her cooking also had influences of both states. I grow up hearing about gongura pacchadi and pulusu that Amma had grown up with.

From my childhood, I ate paruppu podi. Thatha, Appa and Amma would make it together. It used to be Appa’s job to buy the different ingredients (red chilli, black pepper, different types of lentils etc) . Thatha cleaned and sun dried the ingredients. Amma fried the ingredients to perfection. Appa helped Amma run each of the ingredients through the dry mixer/grinder. He would keep asking “Pothumadi?” (Which literally meant “Is this enough?”) Amma would inspect inside the dry mixer/grinder and based on how coarse or fine that mixture had been ground too…. she would ask Appa to either continue or stop.

When I was very young, it was Thatha’s duty to run the powder through the sieve and place the sieved paruppu podi in a dry container.

As years passed, and I grew up, I noticed that Amma would sneer at Thatha for sneezing when he did the sieving. Appa wouldn’t sneer at Thatha…but his body language told me that he didn’t approve of Thatha’s spilling even a bit of the precious paruppu podi when the transfer happened to the dry container.

To prevent Thatha from sneezing and getting sneered at, I volunteered to do the sieving and storing job. This wasn’t an easy job. As I sieved the powder, I would feel the urge to sneeze. But, Thatha (when Amma’s back was behind him), would shake his head vigorously. All that vigorous head shake meant was “Don’t sneeze. You are going to get in trouble with her.” I mastered the skill, over the years, to hold the sieve further away from my body (and nose) and complete the sieving without a single sneeze. When I was nearly done sieving without a single sneeze, Thatha would look at me very approvingly and give me a thumbs up.

Then, I had to carefully, transfer the paruppu podi to a dry container without dropping even a bit. I realised very early on that this was an impossible task. So, I decided to learn from the best. I followed Appa’s example. I first did the sieveing and ensured that the sieved powder feel on a large sheet of paper. Then, after the sieving was done, I held up the paper and dropped the paruppu podi carefully into a dry container as Appa looked on approvingly.

I grew up during rather simple times. Nobody praised me openly. Nobody said “Great job!”

Appa and Thatha’s approving looks and thumbs up was all I got. Well, that, and lack of Amma’s sneers. That was a high enough bar to live up to.

For many months the family would enjoy the paruppu podi mixed with hot rice and ghee (clarified butter) or sesame oil.

On Bittersweet Endings

I bet, like me, you are about to wipe the sweat of your brows and say “Whew!”.

Another school year is almost drawing to a close.
The boys are wrapping up their exams and activities.

I am getting ready to feel relieved as the boys start their summer break. The numerous activities, appointments, curve balls, carpools, pick ups, drop offs, reschedules, rehearsals, wins, losses of the last school year ……I don’t know how the boys and I got through it. I only know that we didn’t just survive…but, we thrived through the experiences.

When something begins, we know it will end….eventually. But, the whole bitter sweetness of the school year end is always a moment to marvel at.
Is it not?

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget …
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.

One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.

So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them
and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.

For one last time.

-Author Unknown-

On Encouragement

In Tamil there is a word called “sevagi”.
It means a woman who serves.
That is how I see myself when it comes to the family.

A sevagi.
A person who serves.

I am a friend, a coach, a nurse, a counselor and all the job roles encompassed that every mom is.
I see myself as a sevagi….that is my primary role.

ll of us could do with a lil pat on the back and encouraging words.
Don’t we?

So, I am very grateful for the fun notes the boys leave around the house for me.
I was elated to see this page that was propped open and left on my laptop.

On Winning with Compromise

The stuff one has to do to raise kids is overwhelming.
Of all those things, having to compromise is the BIGGEST.
That skill doesn’t come easy.
It is kind of like growing a muscle.
It requires very hard work.
It requires lots of practice.
It requires going through pain.

Compromise. That is the BIGGEST. For any relationship.

If I had known I have to compromise so much to raise kids, I am not even sure I would have had kids in the first place.

That said, I realize that when I compromise, I ultimately win….well, JOINTLY.

Not bad, eh?

On (At Least) Giving Back What You Got

My mother-in-law (Girijia) had a rather quirky relationship with her mother-in-law. But, when it came to building a relationship with her own daughter-in-laws, she tried her best. She put the right foot forward and always tried to grow and nourish our relationship. She wanted to maintain a strong bond with her grandkids as well. This task, as we all know, was never easy. I applaud her for trying her best till the very end of her life.

She gave me what she never got – a loving, caring, nurturing relationship.

So, I just continued to enjoy all the things and moments my mother-in-law gave me for as long as I was blessed and privileged enough to receive them…the things and moments she herself had been deprived off during her lifetime.

Amma (Devi) lost her mother when she was still a toddler. Thatha (Grandpa TVS) didn’t re-marry. He raised Amma by himself. Thatha adored his daughter and did everything possible to give her a good life. But, he was also a very busy man. He was a Muncip (sort of a Mayor) for his village and also a full time farmer. In short, Amma didn’t get any of the things she gave me. The feeling of coming back home to one’s mom, mom’s comfort food, mom’s tireless effort to raise one’s child to a better future..she didn’t get any of those.

Every time I came back home after a long day and got fed hot sambar or potato fry (trust me, when you come back from a super-hot-day in my hometown, all you wanted to do was drink was something cold and relax under the fan), I didn’t ever complain. I took it from Amma’s hand and told her “Romma nalla irruku Amma.” (which meant, “Mom, is it very good!”) Once in awhile, I would casually, drop a hint saying, “Nallika vena coola thayir sadam pannriya?” (which meant, “Mom, can you make some cold yogurt rice tomorrow?”). She didn’t get the hint whatsoever. Serving hot fresh food to her daughters was her way of showing her love.

She gave me what she never got – a loving, caring, nurturing relationship.

So, I just continued to enjoy all the things and moments Amma gave me for as long as I was blessed and privileged enough to receive…the things and moments she herself had been deprived off.

Let me ask you a question.

What are all the things and moments you  have been blessed and privileged enough to receive?

I am not asking you or me to pay forward those things we haven’t received.

That is too much of a stretch and requires a very BIG heart….much like the one your mom has.

But, whatever we received….those things..those moments…those gifts…at least that, we need to give back and pay it forward, right?

Don’t you think so?

You don’t have to feel obligated and rushed to say “Yes Ambal!”.
Just think about it. That is all I am asking for.

What are all the things and moments you  have been blessed and privileged enough to receive? Are you giving it back and paying it forward?