Getting Ready – EARLY!!

Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success. – Henry Ford

The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. – John F Kennedy

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abe Lincoln

…and so on..

Lots of people and it seems , very successful people have given their slant on being prepared.

Well, here is mine:

Being prepared days before an event –  IT FEELS GREAT!!!

I  could add bells and ribbons and balloons. It feels so good.

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The event that found me prepared days before was the Annual Mission Sale at Ooty. A small local event , attended by locals only ..since they don’t advertise. We had a lot of books from our library to sell .

I had sorted out the books over a week, Left to my basic ‘things-will-happen’ instincts, I would have packed them the night before. But, my maid was going on leave. And then, who would lug the boxes up the stairs?

So, I was driven to pack the boxes a week before the date! This for a person who packs the night before travel.

Preparation really feels great. And may the feeling last long enough to to get the worm to turn and turn and keep moving !

P.S: Yes, we sold a lot of books!

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Fourth for this Week

It had to be the Pudumund Marlimund Road today.  We lived on this road long ago but never ventured too far down the road. Of course it had grown and changed. Lots of small houses around Forest Gate , each with its set of drums and basins and tubs kept ready to catch the water tanker . The road stretched and curved  beyond the fork to Anikorai into more pastoral reaches.

Houses became more  scattered. While the presence of large bungalows with glimpses of colourful gardens added grace. Suddenly at one corner  opposite Adyar House was the brightly painted  police station of Pudumund. At the side were a dozen bashed and broken up cars , swept up from Ooty’s roads.

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Somewhere there had to be the Marlimund lake, for which the road was named. Probably dry and swampy. Still I had to see it. And discover it I did. A beautiful sweep of water near the small dam. At the back, where waters must have collected from springs and rain, cows grazed peacefully on the green cover. Even the pipe drawing water from the reservoir stood 2 feet above the water level.

Lets hope and pray and believe in the good monsoon,  predicted.

Stepping out

I was looking forward to May as a time of rest and being at home and pottering around but all that is getting a bit too restful . My friends are busy with visiting children or visiting their kids. The town is too crowded to drive and park and do anything much. I’ve been doing a bit too much work in the  garden with not so good consequences for my back although the garden is looking rather colorful .  So Im finding it rather painful to walk on slopes. And I’m not sure that stoicism in this case is a good thing. So haven’t been walking much either. All that is my sad story. 
Then today there was a friend setting off to the hills in the Northeast. 
And after getting over the wave of envy and resentment that washes over one when someone else seems to be doing something adventurous which we wish we had the gumption to organise ;  I thought -I am living in the damn hills after all!  So why dont I use this time to explore .
I  took the car out to the Lovedale road, parked and walked along for an hour. I got my walk on level ground on a nice well tarred road which contrasts with our pot hole ridden one ; a new place to explore, velvety green tea fields on one side, tall trees on another, vistas of train track and tunnels.
Most of all there was the joy of stepping out of my usual ruts . It takes a little leap to do something new, to go somewhere new… and to do it alone. And the happiness in overcoming inner resistance to actually do something a little difficult is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
 Somewhere new I promised myself every day of this week.
In the rush of leaving I had left my phone behind, so there was no stopping to take photographs. Another time!

Strawberries

Strawberry picking! The first notion to go is that one gets paid by the farmer.

We pay for the rush of pleasure one feels when sighting rows of 29-jan-pscarefully tended plants, each  with its little bunch of  red red  berries  hanging there waiting to be plucked and bitten into with heightened senses.

The sunshine, the ease with which we pluck the fruit, the feeling of doing something very romantic and new and straight from all those books we’ve read all add to the moment.

And then we carry away boxes to be eaten, turned into jam,smoothies, puddings … Promises in the offing

Leap in with shaky legs

I spent a day in Kuala Lumpur  on the way to Adelaide.

A simple statement with a bunch of  feelings behind it.

When the ticket to Adelaide was booked, there were a couple of  niggling factors. One was, the flight started at Cochin, a few hours from Coimbatore. Then there was a 15 hour break at Kuala Lumpur. The ticket price I thought overrode the nuisance value.

But still, I was dismayed thinking of the  15 hours  at KL airport. How was I going to spend the time? Encouraged  by my daughters, I got a visa for the day.  Later, I started getting cold feet. How would I manage? What would I do? What if I  got lost, got cheated. The overriding fear I realised, was the thought, what if I don’t get back to the airport on time. 

Slowly, things started getting clearer. The travel agent got me a room at the airport. Since it was free, it was bound to be a basic room but at least,a  base . I read a couple of websites about the attractions of  KL. Only two, the Petronas Towers and the Batu Caves seemed to be a must. I got advice from a cousin who travels often to KL on buses and trains from the airport.

Still  there was a lot of tension inside. How was I going to manage by myself in a strange airport, strange city? I told myself that it was okay if I never left the room at all. If I went out and never made it to any of the right places, it was okay. Just going out and back would be an achievement.

Packing, weighing choices on stuff to be included,making arrangements to travel to Kochi and then the actual waiting at the airport for several hours to catch a midnight flight was draining. I didn’t think I was going to feel good after a few hours sleep .

Next morning at KL airport, there wasn’t much difficulty in finding the hotel. The hotel was right there in the airport, and had  little electric cars to take one there. The lobby  was swanky with a courtyard and waterfall.The room was terrific.  At some point in life, one has to spend some time alone in a luxurious room and truly savor it. I was loath to leave.

There is an express train from the airport to KL Sentral which is a hub for the train system. There are also buses which take longer but are cheaper. “Economy or faster, which do you choose? asked the lady at the counter. I chose the train. At KL Sentral I had to go to another area to get a train to Masjed Jamek. Getting off, I walked around the area. The guide maps said several important buildings were located around the place. I never found most of them. But I did find Central Market where I happily spent a couple of hours. For  lunch, I headed where the school children gathered assuming it would be fast, good and cheap.

Everywhere I went in KL, I asked young people for directions and they were very helpful, even accompanying me to the spot or ticket counter. Only talk to Tamil people I had been advised. Be wary about pickpockets. But Chinese or Malay or Tamil, people were nice.   And that I think contributed most to the feel of the city.

Back to KL Central and another train to KLCC to see the Petronas Towers. I did see them but couldn’t manage a ticket to go up.  One placed ticked off. I wanted to see the Murugan at Batu caves so took a train there. This was a slow one. Murugan was huge, towering 140 feet above the ground. Next to him were steep steps to the old temple. Huffed upwards and  marveled at the limestone caves.

The sanctum opened a  few minutes after I got there which seemed rather meaningful. I had to give grateful thanks for the way the whole trip had unfolded magically well. Throwing my heart over in spite of fears had given me rich experiences and a feeling of adventure.

There was time to get back by bus to the airport, freshen up,have a meal and check in. A wonderful day.

Use it or Lose it

After a long spell  of being  caught up with family affairs, I can say ‘My life is mine again’. Touch wood, while touching base.

Among the processes of getting back to ‘ life as I knew it’  is cleaning house. With a long spell of rainy weather combined with the  delightful but strong presence of a two year old;  the house certainly needs it. Putting things back, clearing up,  giving away  a lot of stuff gives one a semblance of order and inner peace.  Another activity which I’ve begun recently is a jigsaw puzzle.

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 Helping kids with jigsaw puzzles at Siragugal made me realise how much I like solving them.  When my daughter presented me with a 1000 piece picture  of the Twelve Apostles which  we’d visited  (flown over for 10 precious minutes by helicopter) near Melbourne on the Great Ocean Drive, I was delighted.

Until  I unpacked the box and saw the endless tiny pieces of sea and sky cloud when  my only thought was  ‘Oh my God. I can never never do this. Who in their right minds ever does this?’

One day I began. I set up the low table in the living room which gets lots of light. I can see this is a project which is going to spread over months. Normally, one would begin with finding the edges but I don’t think that will work too well with this.  I had to begin with sorting the pieces by colour. And then re -sort by shades .  Now I’ve learnt to peer closely at the pieces and study the slight differences of colour and pattern. I’m sure there is a magic method  which seasoned aficionados use, but I’m learning with this one.

Three weeks later, when one corner of the picture is in place I am hooked. Its become my post -lunch habit to sit there poring over the pieces till my knees hurt or I have to go. Some days I am pulling out and reconsidering and rearranging the pieces again. Some days, all I can put in place are a couple of pieces. But when I know that this is  the right spot for this piece, then  there is a terrific sense of satisfaction like Wow My Brain is ticking so right.

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In the Ywca here at Ooty , there are several framed jigsaws  hanging on the walls. I used to wonder why it was such a big deal to hang them on the walls . Now I know.

Jig saw puzzles are not big here in India. We are not a country of hobbies and hobbyists.

But reading up, I believe

Jigsaw puzzles engage the brain to retain information on shapes and colors in order to choose pieces that will fit together properly. This hunt for pieces requires your brain to memorize what each piece looks like or should look like and what kinds of pieces you are searching for in order to complete the picture. Doing this repeatedly reinforces short-term memory.

 So I’m hanging on to something that was rapidly slipping away   and having fun 🙂

Ps: Thanks Anita for prodding me to write again. 

Jackfruit vaaram

This has been jackfruit vaaram or chakka azhcha . Our Calicut sambandis ( the Malayalam word is quite different I know but what ?) loaded us with jackfruit from their garden when we visited them recently.

I love jackfruit but have never been faced with such  variety in various stages of ripeness.  So, I’ve had to experiment. Like the banana tree, all parts of the jackfruit can be used.

Fruit – Eaten when ripe.

Seeds  – Cooked with potato,  as curry in the usual South Indian style.

Strands – surrounding and separating the  fruit inside, can be fried into chips. I forgot whether they should be dried first but they tasted good, fried fresh.

Raw jackfruit – to be made into curry Kerala style -chakka  Puzhukku. Its like our kootu only without the dal.

The complete recipe is here. 

Or Cuban style from  BBC Good Cooking mag. The base is really very good, though I skipped many ingredients like the white wine and olives.Could be used for other vegetables or meat.

Cuban style Jackfruit Ropa Veja

Jackfruit – 1  raw, peeled and separated into stringy strands. 

Onions – 3 sliced.

Red pepper – 1 sliced long and thin

Yellow pepper – 1 sliced long and thin

Garlic cloves- 3 chopped

Tomatoes – 4 deseeded and chopped

Tomato paste – 2 tbsp

Tomato puree- 1/2 cup

Cumin powder – 1 tbsp

Coriander powder –  /2 tbsp

Green chilles – 3 cut in half lengthwise

chilli powder – 1/4 tsp (my addition)

 white wine  – 150 ml

olives – 1/2 cup

capers- 1/2 cup

chives- 3 tsp

oregano – 3 tbsp

parsley – 3 tbs

Method:

– Heat 75 ml oil in  large pan until it begins to smoke.

– add onions, bell peppers; allow them to turn a deep brown colour, stirring only when necessary

-add garlic and cook for 30 secs

– add tomato pieces and cook till it has given off liquid

– add tomato paste, cumin, coriander and cook for 5 min

– add water (white wine) and allow to boil

– add tomato puree, green chillies and capers

– bring liquid to boil. Add jackfruit with a little salt and simmer on low flame for about 2 hours until tender.

– add a little water when necessary

– add chives, parsley and oregano

Serve with a little ghee rice or saffron rice.

And if the fruit ripens too much, just turn it into chaka varati or jackfruit jam. Its simple, just takes a little time.

Ingredients :

jackfruit – 1 cup

powdered jaggery – 1.5 cups.

powdered cardamom (optional) 

ghee- 1/2 cup.

Pressure cook jackfruit and then mash well or grind in a mixie.

Dissolve the jaggery in a little water. Strain

In a heavy bottomed vessesl, heat jaggery, mix in jackfruit pulp and then cook them together on slow heat  for about 30 minutes. Start adding the ghee in dribbles and mix it in well.

Cool; store in fridge and take out small portions to eat with chappatis or bread or could be stuffed in something like poli.

Ready for Distribution . If you lived in ooty too, you would have got some:-)

 

First Vehicle, Lasting Love

 

My scooter is back!

Painted, primped and smart. People ask when did I buy it :-))))

For many years of its long life, the scooter was a bilious peacock green because well, my mechanic is a glib tongued,incidentally good-looking,  Muslim. And that was his choice when I asked him to get it painted.

The  two children learnt to drive on it, with many resultant scratches and bumps. And other people drove it when I wasn’t looking and made it a  sorry, tired  looking vehicle. Which everyone wanted me to abandon.

But there is something about your first vehicle with a lot of family history in it, that you don’t want to part with it.  An old Ambassdor which is part of our childhood sits in the garden of my father’s house, steadily rusting and rotting away.

So, I had it fixed up against all sane advice. And seeing it look like it looked 20 years ago, is like welcoming a friend in from rehab.

The  con artist  gave me an astronomical bill for the work, that I paid without a murmur. Later, I had heartburn and thought, how could I not even do the token argument?

Winding in and out the  crowded roads is fun. I might end up with six different kinds of backache,  but for now, its nice to be reunited with an old friend.

 

I Have to do this Today!

Have you ever been engulfed by the feeling – I have to do this today?

It can be brought on by externally imposed deadlines or sometimes, by an internal mad feeling that engulfs one, sweeping all rationality aside.

And so it was with the iron grill door that has stood unpainted for over a year -but suddenly seemed shorn and naked and badly in need of some colour – today. Over the past month, a painter has been flirting with the idea of painting the door and more, but hasn’t committed. I had been dithering too over colour choices in my mind so I hadn’t pinned him down. After reading Steve Jobs, I see it is okay to go back and forth when you are doing something creative. It also seems okay to be completely yourself – when you are successful and can get away with it – but that is another track of thought.

Sunday morning, a day of bright sunshine , when I didn’t need to go out seemed ideal to do the job myself. How much fitness is actually needed to paint a grill? Not much.

I changed into old painting clothes; got out some half full tins of paint which I thought I could mix, and looked for the brushes. They weren’t to be found. I called the maid, and she didn’t know either. I called my husband who was out to see some patients to buy brushes and paint. He said he didn’t have sufficient money ( why a grown man would go out without any is beyond me) and to my rage, came back without the paint.

The feeling had now engulfed me totally- enough to make me go out in weekend Ooty traffic which crawls inch by inch and look for a hardware shop which was open on a Sunday morning; park far away, and walk to the store.

Now, that I was painting it myself, safe black or white or even green wouldn’t do. I had to experiment. Even choosing colours for a grill gate is tough when you have no pictures to fall back upon and are mildly creative. The important thing is to practice restraint, otherwise one can get carried away.

Sometimes, persevering, in spite of a lot of obstacles in the way, backfires. But this time, the rest of the day went well. The door isn’t done yet because I have to buy some more paint. Will post a pic later. But it gave me time to think about creativity.

The 5 Factors needed for creativity are space, time, time confidence and humor says John Cleese. Read more here. The last specially makes me feel alright about mixing bright colours.

Very very rarely do we do anything original. Mostly, we borrow or build upon other people’s ideas. But, that shouldn’t stop us from giving our own twist  to whatever we do. Makes the ride enjoyable.