Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tea & Me

I was waiting to write on this topic for a very long time, finally this day has come. I cannot say that I never had tea when I was a child. I used to have it very rarely, in small quantities, on & off – mainly for the fun associated with it in having with others. When I was in classes like 10th & 11th, observed that it was also a stress buster.

The process of making tea appears to be a fairly simple one. Boil the milk, and then keep it aside. Boil water, when water boils, pour sugar into it, then pour the milk that was kept aside, and then add tea dust (powder). The boiling order can be changed, like first boil milk, then add water, and then sugar into it, and then the tea dust (powder). But as a regular tea drinker, I observed the method of preparation and the order in which is done, has a huge impact on the odor, color and taste of the tea.
I still vividly remember the process and the tea that was made in my grandparents’ home, when we visited there as kids. It is an elaborate process, and it needs an article on its own. Anyways, I will try to be brief and add it, since I don’t want to miss it here. In those days, it was the vintage firewood store, which used to be installed on the floor, normally outside the home. My grandmother, with grandfather’s help will lit the stove. It needs some effort to create and sustain the flame in that stove, which is an art by itself. First, some small pieces of dried sticks or small peeled bit from the big logs should be placed in the stove, and lit with a matchstick. At times, camphor is also used to create the initial flame. Then it has to be blown with the help of an ‘oothaankuchi’, which is nothing but a small hollow black iron rod, which is about a foot in length. As kids, I and my sisters were fascinated by this ‘oothankuchi’, and we used to take it from my grandmother and take turns in blowing the stove. Sometime, it brought in fire, or increased the intensity of the fire. But most of the time, it will put off the fire which was there already. But, invariably, this process which creates smoke, brought tears in our eyes. But we were never deterred to try it again.

Once the fire is consistent, my grandmother keeps the tea satti (a small aluminum vessel), that is designated for the sole purpose of preparing tea. Then, she will pour water into it, and when it boils, sugar is added. The sugar used will be jaggery, the brown colored one. Rarely the refined sugar, which was known as ‘aska’ was used. No milk will be added – this tea is known as ‘vara tea’. If I translate this, its literal meaning is ‘dry tea’, but it actually means ‘tea without milk’. That tea had a unique aroma, taste, which I never tasted again, later in my life. Probably, the water, firewood stove, jaggery, and the proportions, brought in that taste. And moreover we used to have it, sitting outside the home, in the open air, chatting with each other and that too in the early morning hours like five to five-thirty, when the sun was not out.

Later while in high-school, when I got into the habit of going for rounds in my cycle, I had a particular route that I followed on most of the days. While returning back to home, sometimes I stopped at ‘Aruna Paal Depot’ - a famous tea shop in our area - had a tea and then proceeded back to home. The tea there used to be very tasty in those days. Still, my tea habit stayed at 1 or 2 teas a month, until I went to hostel for my UG in PSG Tech Coimbatore.

On the first day at hostel, in the evening, from the hostel mess, they had a kept a small kettle with tea in it. I didn’t take the tea nor had any idea to take , until my roommate said that “Whether you take or don’t take, you have will be paying for it, as it is added to your mess bill. Immediately I fetched my tumbler from my room, filled it will tea from the kettle and had it. It was divine. Probably due to the ‘siruvani thanni’ (water from siruvani river), it had a unique taste. This slowly made me a habitual tea drinker. In those hostel days, especially in the third year, I used to go for long walks to the nearby areas, and while coming back, used to visit the  ‘NMB bakery’ and have tea along with egg puff, a combination that was famous in Coimbatore.

While in the second year in PSG Tech, we had Industrial training for about a month, during the semester holidays, wherein we have to be in the PSG Industry, and observe the Manufacturing process there. In the factory, an old man used to bring coffee in the morning and tea in the evening. He used to push a small cart in which there will be a big cylindrical container in which he used to bring them. Coffee in the morning and tea in the evening. Since we were student trainees, he wont be giving to us initially. But after going through a round around the factory, he used to come to us, and distribute the left over coffee and tea to us. Upon knowing that my father is a Railway Employee, he used to give additional cups of coffee, sometimes upto three. It was when I was having the third coffee that my team-mate Jayaprakash identified my small emerging paunch, and make a remark about it. Over the years, the paunch kept on growing, and I got rid of it nearly after twenty years, after I became a fitness freak.

While doing MCA, the number of teas I used to have in a day kept on increasing, with me going for a rounds in my cycle, coming back home and asking Amma to give tea. This also shot up our sugar expenses. Until my marriage, most of tea I had in my home were black tea, the milkless one. So, the expenses on the milk never shot up. In those days, I also started to have money, since I will be given money for taking the bus tickets to college. So, though minimal, I always had money in my pocket. This enabled me to have tea in any and every shop along the way to college, in the shop in front of our college, while waiting for the evening bus. Later I realized that it could be "stress teaing", as during and immediately after having the tea, the mind will be blank for sometime, when we wont remember any of the problems in our life. So, continued consumption will keep the mind blank, away from problem, for a prolonged time. 

Now let me make a note of the price of the tea in shops, which made a drastic change in my tea habit. My Mom says that she remembers that a tea was around 6 paise, when she was a child. Dad recalls that it even was at 5 paise. But as far as I remember, I paid 50 paise for the earlier days, which I occasionally used have when I was in high school. Then it went to 75 paise, then to 1 rupee, then 1.5 rupees, then to 2 rupees, then to 2.5 rupees. Most of the tea that I had while at PSG was 2.5 rupees. Then to 3 rupees. Now I have joined a job and started my career as a Software Professional. Which meant that now I got access to free tea in office, and hence my spending on tea in the shops reduced drastically. But still as I was a Bachelor, staying alone in Bachelor accommodations, I still used to have then and there in the evenings, and in weekends, in shops.

The evening teas I used to have in a shop, after a long phone call to my friend, sitting in neatly laid chairs and tables were some of the teas, I enjoyed a lot, gazing at the traffic on the road.

After a long time I went to Aruna Paal Dept in my native, and while purchasing the tea token, he asked for 5 rupees for tea. That changed everything. I paid five rupees, got the token, got the tea, and started having it. That's when I thought that 5 rupee is too costly for a tea, and that I should stop immediately. That was the last tea for which I paid 5 rupees for a tea in a shop. After that I stopped having tea in shops. I mean I stopped paying and having alone, just for the sake of having tea. I still used to have when I go out with Appa, and later when I used to go out with my friend. I had those teas just for companionship and togetherness.

Thus my long time habit of having tea in tea shops came to an end. As a software professional in corporate companies, I still had access to free tea and coffee in my offices, which I used to have. Mostly one in the morning and one in the evening. Over time, I became allergic to coffee. If I have three coffees in a row in a week, invariably that brought stomach pain and sometime acute head ache. Hence I had to drop coffee in my life, except very rare occasional ones.

In the meantime, I became a fitness freak, and as a fitness freak and a health conscious person, I started identifying those habits that I should stop, and stopping the habit of having tea stood first in the list. That's when me and my friend decided to stop the tea habit. Worse... it was not an easy habit to break. Exactly at the time when I used to have tea on other days, I felt the tea taste in my tongue, and after a couple of hours, got acute head ache. For almost two days managed, but on the third day, we couldn't hold anymore and my friend prepared tea. Words cannot explain how the tea we had pacified my mind, and brought a kind of peacefulness. I understood how addicted we were to tea, and stopping that is going to be very very difficult.

Thus, we started to have tea again. After many years, we tried the same experiment again, and again we failed after a couple of days. But over years, we reduced the size of the tumbler, and the quantity of tea we had. I understood its not the quantity that matters, but just tea that matters, even if that's going to be two or three sips. 
To this day I continue to have tea - only the free office ones and the ones prepared in home, and that too in small quantities. But I am sure that, one day, with great will power, will conquer this habit of having tea. 

In any case, as a tea drinker, I enjoyed this "Tea Podu" song a lot. Click the below link to watch.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Story of Boy Besties

Note: The following was originally written by Poet “Manushiyaputhiran” in Tamil in uyirmmai.com. Having enjoyed reading it, I tried by best to translate it to English, just to test my Learning, Understanding and Proficiently of Tamil. There could be some mistakes in the Translation.
I think I passed, at least on the border. Hoping to improve my proficiency further.

The Story of Boy Besties

A Boy Bestie 

Is Not the One made of dreams,

But, is One made of tears.

A Boy Bestie 

Is Not the One who lives

Half-An-Animal and Half-A-Human,

But is One, who lives as

Half-A-Husband and Half-A-Lover.

A Boy Bestie 

Waits for that moment,

When the girl gets into trouble

To help her at that time, waits near her

Not only as a shadow, but as a shadow’s shadow.

A Boy Bestie knows,

In front of her husband,

How distant he should appear,

And also as her friend, at the same time.

A Boy Bestie knows how dignified,

He should behave in front of her lover.

That every moment he should prove that,

He is just a neighbor or an Outsider to her.

He very well realizes that he is used,

Just as a handkerchief by her, when she cries.

But the thought that he is used,

At least as a handkerchief, consoles him.

A Boy Bestie performs carefully than a doctor

In fixing her health issues,

When she gets into worries, he consoles her,

Like how her mother used to do.

A Boy Bestie

Exaggerates the small problems of the girl

And carries them on his shoulder,

He goes in search of a fountain

When she asks, for a glass of water.

A Boy Bestie is always eager,

To pay the bills, in restaurants.

Spends long hours,

To buy gift for the girl.

When she slips on the stairs, To him

It appears as an worldly injustice.

A Boy Bestie

Gets fondly hugged by a girl,

Leans on his shoulder for support

A Boy Bestie wonders

If at any time, can he hug or lean on her

In a similar way.

A Boy Bestie

Is one who feels like a Dog tied to a chain,

The length of the chain determines

The love he can show or get,

And this makes his heart broken.

A Boy Bestie always

Keeps himself ready for use

And like a soldier waits for the orders

His horses of love

Are always ready to jump into action.

A Boy Bestie is always waiting

For the girl to get betrayed by his lover

For the girl to get doubted by her husband

For the girl to get hurted by her friend;

That’s when he can emerge there

That’s when a small door opens

That’s when he gets space for his words.

A Boy Bestie secretly fantasizes that

At sometime, a wonder will happen with the girl

But that never happens,

But when that happens for someone else

In front of his eyes

He asserts himself that,

He needs even more patience.

After not talking for two days,

On the third day,

In the name of being generous,

He himself calls on her mobile,

As a coward, 

who could never materialize

His suicidal decisions.

A girl who was never with him

But who is always with him

Is something

A Boy Bestie

Could never understand.

A Boy Bestie

Neither has the irresponsibilities of a lover

Nor has the powers of a husband

He changes himself to be both the

Father and the son of the girl.

A Boy Bestie

Once in a while, tried to tell his love to the girl

She first shows a shocking reaction on her face

And creates the image of an unexpected one.

A Boy Bestie shivers with guilt

And offers a hundred apologies

And that becomes a huge funny scenario

And he too joins her and starts laughing

For that funny scenario.

No one is born as a Boy Bestie

Fate takes its course somewhere

And sends a flower to those men in hunger.


Original : By Manushyaputhiran  (In Tamil, To read the original click here)

Translated in English by: Pavala


Friday, July 05, 2019

Did water come today???

Our new home is next to a college. There is a round-the-clock security in that college, who stays and lives in a small security room near the entrance of the college. He is a short, dark, old man, probably from some nearby village, who had come to Chennai to make a living. Unlike a traditional security, he never wears a security uniform. He is always clad in a white vesti (dhothi) and a white shirt. At times, in the evenings, I have seen him going out in his cycle, wearing only a dhothi, and a towel on his right shoulder, wihout a shirt - a sight that is no so common in this city. Initially I didn't make any effort to talk to him or to establish a rapport with him. As I strongly believe that the interaction with the neighbors should very limited, and as a general rule, the more close they are, the less the interaction should be.

It was the common corporation tap on the road, that brought us together. Water comes in that tap once in 2 or 3 days. I fetch a pot or two and use it for some special purposes :). Last week when I was returning after dropping my little friends in school, I saw the watchman thatha, and asked him, "Did water come today?".

Immediately he started replying "I am fetching water from this tap for more than 12 years...", Though that is not a direct reply for my question, it gave me a confidence that the direct answer will follow soon. "I have a built a house... The owner helped by lending some money...". Probably he was referring to the Owner of the college. At this point, I interrupted "Where?? in Chennai???". He seemed to get a bit annoyed on hearing my words. He replied "What?? Chennai??? Why should I build in Chennai... I built in my native...". So according to him, people who do not have a native, will build their home in Chennai. As he is a one with a native, he has built his home in his native. "Which is your native??" I asked... He was prompt to reply "Aranthangi... Near Pudukottai..." and he smiled while giving this reply.

At this point I told him that "I am from Trichy...". I normally never tell this to anyone, as I myself was not sure if I can call Trichy as my native. But now I told this to the security thatha, so that he doesn't think that I am a nativeless fellow. If owning a home makes you a native of the place where its built, then I definitely have two natives. And partially have one more native :). But as my Mother used to say, the place where we live, and the place that gives us a living, is our native. So, at the moment Chennai is my native :).

At this point I wish to remind the Readers that my initial question to the security thatha was "Did water came today?" and that question wasn't answered until now. Thatha went on "Avar romba nallavaru..."(He is a very nice Guy), pointing to our apartment. Probably he was referring to the builder, who built and sold that apartment to us. Thatha continued "The land belongs to the "John" behind this building. (The neighbour behind this building was "John"). He bought it for 70 lakhs, four years back. Initially he had his office here. I was working in that office for sometime. He is a very nice Guy. Now also he asked me to get a maid for cleaning the office...". Thatha went on and on and on. He continued "Now I have pledged some of our jewels and I am paying for them..."

I lost all hope of getting an answer to my question, and was about to leave, as I understood that the thatha will never stop talking as long as I stand there. I said "Saringa" (Ok) and turned back to enter our apartment, at which point the Security thatha said "Water didn't come today... It comes once in three days... It will come tomorrow...". I replied "Ok, Thanks..." and went inside our apartment. I turned back and saw him slowly walking towards the college gate.

- Pavala


Ilayaraja and his efforts to learn a Musical Instrument

The first question I asked when I got to know that my cab mate's name is Ilayaraja
was "Do you play any musical instrument?". For sometime I was using the company provided cab to commute to office. He immediately said "No," but went on to add "Infact, I tried" and continued "When I was in Madurai, in the floor below my apartment, there was a music school, where they teach music to kids" (So, our Ilayaraja stayed close to music, at-least.)

Ilayaraja added "Once I went to that school teacher and told him that I want to learn a musical instrument... And also told my wish to learn violin...". But the master had told him that he will get neck pain eventually as the violin had to be held in-between the shoulder and the cheek..."

Undeterred and also to do justification to his name, my cab mate still wanted to learn a musical instrument. So, he replied to that music teacher, "Sir, then I will learn guitar.." For which the master also agreed.

Our friend bought a guitar, paid the fee to the Master and started attending the classes. But soon, another trouble came. The musical notes were too difficult for him, to understand and to learn. So, after a couple of classes, Ilayaraja told to the Master "Sir, the notes are a bit difficult for me to understand and remember. So, can I drop Guitar and switch to Keyboard...". For some reason Ilayaraja have come to conclusion that the notes for Keyboard should be easy, as playing a keyboard is very easy. Not need to strain at all, all we have to do is to select a key and press it. It always gives some sound, unlike the violin or a flute, where it takes weeks to hear the first sound. But he lost all hopes of learning a musical instrument when his master said "The notes are same...".

After this incident, he stopped going to the classes, and never thought about learning any musical instrument in his life again. But it seems that frequently he comes across this question "Do you play any musical instrument..." Whenever people get to know about his name. I was happy in a way. When people hear my name, all they ask is its meaning, and what it refers to. Had my name been something similar to Ilayaraja, life would have been a bit more tough.

- Pavala

Sunday, March 24, 2019

My Exercise Mat

My Exercise Mat:

I still remember the day, when I first saw that mat in Sekar Emporium. It was a small
one, made of nylon, in a light-blue & white combination woven into an image of Taj-
Mahal, folded and kept inside a cover. It was lying inside a big iron-mesh basket,
along with other items. I was a bit hesitant to that buy, as the idea was to use it for
doing exercises. My friend convinced me that even if I dont do exercise, we can use it
as a floor mat for guests, while eating. Conviced, I decided to buy.

[Pic: Exercise mat spread out]

It lay idle for quite sometime, and started using it slowly, as I started doing
exercises regularly. Initially it pricked here and there, due to the small needle like
fibres in it. With the help of scissors I cut them as and when I noticed, and slowly it
got transformed into a smooth one, with usage. After sometime, I added a small hand
towel to lay my head.

In the initial days of my exercise routines, I have slept on it for hours, even after
doing a 5 minute workout, and my friend used to wake me up when she notices. Also, I
have slipped on it a couple of times, while doing workouts like jumping jacks and
burpees. Later on I moved these workouts out of the mat. It served faithfully for many
many years, and I refused to discard it even when my friend asked me to do so. She even
got me another similar mat, which was of green and white combination. I used the new
one for 3 to 4 days, and switched back to my old mat.

[Pic: Mat with its original cover]

I still have it with the original cover in which it came. And still I am using it
regularly. But, now, as we will be moving to our new home, time has come to discard it,
as I have agreed to my friend that I will discard it when we move from this home.
Though I can still use it for a couple of years more, I have finally decided to discard
it, to give way for new ones.

I dedicate this post to my first and lovable Exercise mat, that has served me loyally
for many years, on which i acquired the habit of doing my exercises regularly. It may
physically go out of my life, but it will continue to live in my memory forever.

[Pic : Me on my exercise mat]

[Pic : Exercise mat - Front Side]

[Pic : Exercise mat - Rear Side]