Category Archives: Living
Living Each Day
September 2014, it was when I was composing an email to my office colleagues in the US, the thought occurred to me that they did not know anything about the festival Onam and for me to convey what it is all about will be boring them out with an two page essay which they are bound to ignore. So I decided to tell them what is the spirit of Onam ? I did what every sensible person with a computer does these days, opened Google and searched for spirit of Onam. I clicked on a link that looked promising and to my joy this one had various pictures posted by a young photographer who has captured the various festivities like the Pookalam, the Thirvathirakalli (a dance form performed by women), Pulikali (a routine where people paint Tiger images all over the body and a hunter), the vallomkali (or the boat race). I thought to myself, yes this is it, this is what it feels like to be home on this festival. Feeling satisfied that this will be best way to tell the story, I sent the email across and started my preparation to go home.
Onam is a major festival celebrated by Keralites (from Kerala) everywhere. My brother and sister in law had planned to join me for my journey back home to Kerala and give a surprise to my parents, who were expecting only me and my wife for this year. It was for the first time, after my marriage, all of us will be home together on this special day.
And so it was, that on the evening of a rainy 6th of September, me and my wife opened the front gate and walked into my house to see my beaming dad, mom, uncle and aunt. No wonder they were ecstatic, when behind us walked my brother and sister in law. It was a day, probably after 4 years, we were all under the same roof and I was glad to be there. The next day started with everyone exchanging new clothes and a sumptuous feast. I remembered, the last time the house was so noisy probably when me and my brother as kids were running around the house, years back. This came close, with the excited chatter and laughter, as though everyone is trying to speak out as many words was possible, in a shot span of time.
Finally, the day arrived, when my visit came to an end , and with a heavy heart I started traveling back to my busy city life. As my car sped through the back roads on the way back, I was trying to recall every happy moment that we had back home. This was quiet a different experience for me from the previous years and I believe for many Keralites nowadays as well. All Onam days start off with heavy shopping. New designs of saree, jewelry, shirts and trousers hit the market and so does all the other shops giving lucrative discounts on cars and household items. And then we have quiet number of people, who decide to patiently wait in front of liquor shops despite the rain to celebrate the event. All the TV channels prepare for the festival like no other, with programs like interviews with famous film stars, new movies, telecast of live events like the Pulikali and Vallomkali, comedy shows and the popular one, where lot of Television stars sit together and discuss about how they used to celebrate Onam. Then, there are new movies that get released . It was these days which everyone waited for. So is this the spirit of Onam, I thought, everyone wants to be at their best and doing what they want to do to enjoy themselves.
And I immediately saw the irony. Except for the essential clothes that we got and probably the feast that we had at home, I had not done any of the things that we are supposed to do for Onam. We missed all the “good” programs that were coming on TV, my mom did the Pookalam in the morning that I missed. And I did not have enough pictures to post on Facebook , where we were seen doing the things which we are supposed to do on Onam. All I had ,was some family photographs and a capture of various expressions of people clicked randomly, while we laughed and talked.
I turned and looked at my wife, who was smiling to herself, lost in some thoughts of the previous days. And then I knew, I had my answer. Yes, I had missed all the programs on TV, did not watch the movies, lost out on all the discounts and did not even buy any new equipment at home, but I remembered every moment that I spend the previous few days. I remember the smiles, I remember what we talked and it felt good to think about them again and again , a deep rooted desire to be in the same place, same circumstances again and again.
It was wonderful. I don’t care how some film star celebrated his Onam, that is his/her memory and I want my own. To be with the ones, whom you really love and to live every moment, however short it may be. Perhaps our ancestors decided to celebrate this festival for this special reason. A time for everyone in the family to come together and bond with each other. All the so called festivities and the events that are part of the season, is for one and only reason. People are social beings, irrespective of all the differences that they have, when they come together for as small a task as plucking flowers or cooking or dancing, they forget their differences, bond and really enjoy each others company. It is not important what the activity was , it was important that everyone enjoyed doing it, more like the competitions that happen in preschools, where everyone is a winner. Having fun was important, and so is the feeling of togetherness.
It is the same spirit that many other festivals share like Christmas. It is not about presents or Santa Claus or the food, it is about togetherness, bonding. That is the spirit of Onam as well. When I looked back I can remember only the bond and the togetherness that we shared. Irrespective of what festival that you celebrate, it is important to understand the simple fact, people have the spirit and not the activities themselves.
Ever since I watched the movie “The Bucket List”, I wanted to make my list. I have not finished that growing list yet but didn’t think it necessary to wait for it to be completed, before venturing to act on one of them. This was one of relatively easily achievable things at home, so I started off with an endeavor to learn to cook something complex.
The first thing that came to my mind, when I thought of a challenge , was the Chicken Dum Biriyani. With my amateur cooking skills, this was going to be an uphill task, as I feel, the preparation is complex, time consuming and one with an easy alternative of ordering a better one from the nearby restaurant. The risk of cooking this for dinner though was negated because it was a Friday evening, there are two days to recover.
So I started off. Well! experience in project management has its shortfalls – You tend to see things as projects and associate a timeline with each phase.
So here it is..
The CDB Project:
Extensive research is a must to reduce failure and risk and so as many professionals do, I started and finished with the first two links in Google. Link1 Link2 I have to thank these bloggers as they were instrumental in me achieving my goal.
Next was to look at my inventory list and find what is missing, and that meant shopping which ended with heavy shopping bags before the start of the preparation phase (which takes around 4 -5 hours). I do not want to go through each step here, which obviously I will leave to the experts and I have no intention to make this a cookery blog.
The next phases gives an emotional experience of a good movie with the onions that made me cry, the frustration that they are not getting fried fast enough, the anger that you misplaced the ingredients, the doubt that I missed something important, the reassurance that things are alright, the anticipation of eating a good meal, the fear of sleeping on an empty stomach and in the end, the smile when you learn that it is not as bad as you thought it will be.
After around 6 hours of labor and toil, the dish was finally ready and having tested this on my wife, I can say that it is edible and till today afternoon, I do not see any side effects, either on her or me. So I think it is safe to conclude that the Biriyani that I made is good. However, I will not boast to have made a perfect dish as well, those will go into the improvement plan for next time.
I feel cooking is fun and as it includes the act of creation and has the element of risks / challenges, it is a very powerful way to instill a sense of achievement.
This item in my list is crossed now. I have indeed learned to cook something complex and good!