Friday, March 26, 2010

It Can Be Called Aviyal

When any one ask about my blog,the first thing they want to know is what is the it about,the subjects that are dealt in.My answer is its an AVIYAL.

Aviyal is a dish that has a unique place in a typical South Indian cuisine. Aviyal is considered an essential part of the sadya. Vegetables commonly used in aviyal are yam, plantain, pumpkin, carrots, beans and brinjal. This dish can be made into a gravy and eaten with rice or be made into a semi-solid side dish. The word "aviyal" is also used to denote an assortment or a mixture—this sense being derived from the way the dish is made.

It is supposed to have been invented by Bhima (one of the Pandava brothers) during his agnaathavaasa. According to the legend, Ballav (Bheem's name during this time) when he assumed his duties as the cook in the kitchen of Virata, did not know how to cook. One of the first things he did was to chop up many different vegetables, boil them together and top the dish with grated coconut

How to make aviyal:
  • Grind coconut with green chilies and cumin seeds in paste and keep it aside.
  • Heat coconut oil in a thick bottom vessel, add vegetables and cook it on a low flame without adding water.
  • When the vegetables are cooked, add turmeric powder, salt and mix well.
  • Put bananas and mango pieces in cooked vegetables and cover the vessel.
  • When steam comes out, add the coconut paste and stir well.
  • Remove from fire and garnish it with curry leaves.
Hope you will try out....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Summer Camps hit the city

The summer month of April indicates opening of various summer camps in every nook and corner of the city. Most of these camps aim at building up the creative, communicational and personal skills of children and a few others are academic oriented. “It has helped me to make a number of friends and boost up my confidence level.” says Vidya, a ninth standard student who has been attending summer camps since the past two years. “Majority of the families are nuclear where both parents go for work. So they prefer their kids getting engaged in creative activities rather than wasting their time.” says Ravikumar, a businessman. There are three summer camps in Sambandham Road of RS Puram, all on the same lane. Lalit Kalakshetra, having a tradition of 18 years, conducts art camps for kids as two different courses depending on their age groups. Children till the age of 13 is given the foundation course covering drawing,abacus, karate, music and dance. In the advanced level, for kids above 14 years, are given a coaching of B.Arch entrance test along with other courses of painting, designing, and photography. The students are given a certificate approved by the Bharathiyar University.Coimbatore Cultural Academy (CCA), with four centres across the city, comes out with a 21 day program for kids of 5-14 years. It provides a blend of arts, sports and development programs under the same roof.“Our camps make the kids better people physically, mentally and socially.” says Sasikala, the in-charge of Smart Kids Summer Camp. The camp along with usual courses provides coaching in social etiquette, soft toy making and western dance. Besides certificates and Best Student Award, the Academy also offers free health-check up,screening of educational movies etc. The summer camp which has been successful for last 7 years has half day and full day programs for kids of 3-18 years. Helen O’Grady, an international drama academy conducts drama programs and English speech classes in 5 schools across Coimbatore.The academy insists students to attend at least three years of classes which aims at increasing the confidence, self-esteem and verbal skills. The Integral Yoga Institute conducts 6 day camps for kids of 8-14 years. Training is given in yogasana, meditation along with other arts and craft skills. The average fee structure of these camps is between Rs. 750- 5000.

Cruising through Kathakali

Sruthi in her Kathakali coustume; (Above)Sruthi S Menon

Learning computer application is hard, performing Kathakali is even harder. Sruthi. S. Menon, student of II MCA of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham has been handling both. She has been performing Kathakali in more than 30 stages for the last nine years. She has learned this art from Kalamandalam under the guidance of Kalamandalam Krishnakumar and Kerala Kalamandalam Venkataraman. She is also an expert in Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi.Excerpts from an interview with Sruthi Menon:

What made you to get into the world of Kathakali?
Love and passion that I developed for Kathakali over the years. When I was in eighth standard, I started learning it for the purpose of participating in State Youth Festivals. As I won prizes for two consecutive years, I started studying it seriously and systematically.

Why is it hard for girls to learn Kathakali?
All the steps or adavu of Kathakali is designed for men only. It is very adventurous and needs concentration. You should be healthy enough to carry the vesham (costume) and perform.

Did you face any opposition in performing this art?
There was opposition especially against a girl performing in temples. I’m the first woman to perform in Palakkad Hanuman temple. Luckily I had support from my family members though not from every one.

How is your experience in Kalamandalam as a student?
The training is tough but the ultimate result is good.

Among your performances, which gave you the best satisfaction?
There are three performances. My role as Dakshan in Dakshayagam for Ekadasi at Guruvayur in 2004, next Seetha in Lavanasura Vadham for Ramanavami in Palakkad Fort temple in 2005 and finally hanuman in Kalyana Soughandhikam in Amrita School of Arts and Science in 2007.

How can you distinguish Kathakali and other art forms?
For all these forms, you must have the sense of expression and rhythm. In Kathakali, the expressions should be exaggerated to make the audience understand even if they don’t know mudras.

How is the support from faculty and students here?
I did my BCA in Amrita campus, Kochi. Every one supported me which helped me to perform there twice. Here most of the time, I rejected offers thinking about my studies though my teachers and friends stood with me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Superstars of Thrissur

I clicked the picture on my mobile on my way home from Thrissur.I would call the natives of this place as the most craziest people in the case of elephants and temple festivals or pooram.Thrissur has the largest number of domestic elephants in hand.When you enter the district you are welcomed by big flux boards of elephants put up by their fans associations.From there I could make out a few names of superstars in elephants like Guruvayur Padmanabhan, Mangalamkunnu Ganapati and Netchikattu Ramachandran. Here elephants are addressed as he or avan and she or aval.The poorams are rated on the number of elephants.And unfortunately this place has the maximum tragedies because of elephants turning violent.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Being a Namboodiri

Many people believe that I use 'Namboodiripad' along with my name to show that I belong to so called upper caste.Actually I'm a person who don't even wish to reveal my religion.All I used to say is I'm a veggie.As I grew up seeing and experiencing the struggle and difficulties of Brahmin girls,I wanted to tell the world I'm also a human being from the same community.

While reading this,you may be wondering what's the extra burden that they face compared to their counterparts in other sections of the society.History tells so much about the miseries of Kerala Brahmin women.But don't think everything is clear and now they are free birds.It is hard for Indians to change from past to present especially when it comes to religion,ethics,class,caste,rituals and gender.The same is the case in Namboodiri community also.

"When I got a chance to participate in that TV show,many from my community realised it is not a taboo for us.All where living in their own world of puja and rituals,though I also do and believe.They may learn carnatic music or dance which they are forced to end up after their marriage." says Dr.Heera Namboodiri, a reality show winner.But how many Heeras can you find in that community?Namboodiri girls mainly prefer medicine,engineering,teaching or banking which are considered to be 'safe and secure'...There is no one in the field of politics or barely one or two in the local administrative level.Again you may not see a lady police from this section...

The efforts of VT Bhattathiripad and other eminent leaders have surely improved the conditions though there are many illams where women are still forbidden to come to poomugham or the veranda when there are 'strangers' outside.Even now when a baby is born,it is to be announced as 'unni undayi' (a baby boy is born) and in case of baby girl,it is 'pettu' (delivered)...

The saddest part is every one is ready to follow.There is logic in following rituals and norms that has something good in it.The main preachers of all these worst customs are women only who may be well educated.

I don't think God has laid down all these rules which make one gender to enjoy all rights and other to suffer.Again Almighty is not the one who wish to seclude the female species of the priest community to bear everything in silence.

So I'm not ready to be an antharjanam (roughly translated as 'a person who lives without seeing the outside world')...I need to breathe fresh air;I need to see the sky,birds and trees...I need to live and enjoy like others...And I'm sure I'd chosen the right way and God will be with me always...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peevees-A World which I Can't Deny

I was expecting this from somewhere.So it was nothing new when my school friend asked me to write something about Peevees Model School.But my dear girl...what should I write,what can I write,how will I write and about whom should I write???Your question has made my nights sleepless.I can't blabber something about that institution where I'd found the real meanings of knowledge,love,compassion and friendship.

Peevees,it was not just a school...It is a world of dreams,ambitions,expectations and hopes.I would call it my fairy land.That institution has shaped me into what I'm now.I was in Peevees for 5 years and its the best time I ever had.Even now,when I see the school bus or a kid in that uniform of blue and white checks,it make me stand still.I'd always prefer to be known as a Peeveeite than by any other designation.

To write about teachers,they are the best teacher cum friends I'd ever seen.We could ask anything from academics to their love affairs.I used to wonder how they can be so open to their students.Their commitment towards us was the only factor that made them not to fly away from Peevees.I don't know whom all to mention.Still I owe each and every bit of what I'm to all my teachers there especially Urmila Ma'm who was with me from the day I entered my school in LKG to the day of farewell in XII; Binu Sir,Salam Sir,Kuruvila Sir,Sasikala miss,Sadique Sir,Subash Sir,the names are endless...

Now coming to friends.If you are a peeveeite,you will know what is the specialty of PEEVEES FRIENDSHIP.Something pure and sacred.It may be one year or even a month,you will get a bunch of friends whom you'd never find anywhere else.You can contact them for anything and everything.They will stand by you when you need a support.Whenever I'm down,I used to call anyone and soon I'll be relieved.I may not speak to them about my problem,but the way they talk,the amount of care they show itself make me relax.Sometimes they used to call me when I feel I'm in need of a friend.I used to wonder how could they read my mind.If I start mentioning any one name of them,it will end up in a big list which is too long for others to digest.

I wrote something because I can't deny any requests from my Peeveeites.I don't know whether it has any readable stuff.But I'm happy that finally I could manage to write about Peevees and so I could sleep well today...

In No Man's Land

For a nation like India that mixes tradition and social system with anything and everything, it is hard to imagine that the next Bill Gates would come from the country. The system is so water-tight that the individual has no option but to follow in absolute silence.

The youth is accustomed to live in total submission to the existing customs, without being allowed to initiate any change essential for progress. They are discouraged from thinking out of the box. Worn-out ethics still rule the nation. Each person is tied down to responsibilities that are mostly redundant.

The expression ‘academic freedom’ is rare in India’s schools.Students are forced to study a set of subjects and are not allowed to make a choice. The changes that have come up in the education system lately are mostly cosmetic.Students were once evaluated on the basis of marks. Now grades do the same job. A pupil with high grade is considered brilliant and others,however creative, are nowhere in the scene.Parents and educational institutions put tremendous pressure on students. The current system hardly boosts their creative abilities.They are not encouraged to think and express freely.

Even when it comes to the system of marriage, a person has to go with the society’s mores to earn a ‘good name’ in the community.A youngster has no option but to study to earn good grades, then get into a good engineering or medical college, get a job that brings a heavy pay packet and finally, settle down with an opulent marriage. So youngsters are not encouraged to be torch-bearers of change,but made human clones who eat and breathe grades, marks and placements.

Individuals who rebel against the preset social norms are seen as people who fail their parents and bring their family dishonour.They become outcasts. Fear of isolation and need for a social environment make them stick to the thousand commandments of society.

Out of the 113 crore Indians, hardly one per cent would be ready to question and overcome the prescribed conventional model. So from the majority, we cannot expect a Bill Gates. But there is hope from the meagre percentage, on whom the rest,who will still be glued to their hopeless mores, will latch on for glory. Forever.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oasis of Love

Meher Children’s Village, an oasis for orphans in Madukkarai, was far off from illusion we had of an orphanage. When we entered its large gate, we could feel the largeness of the place as we walked across the gate to the home. “Ellam ennude thangachi makkal mathiri” (“I feel all are like my sister’s kids”), mind the words of the van driver Kumarasamy, about Meher kids. The dedication for these kids is quite visible from security guard to the supreme authorities.

Sitting in the office room that had framed a Meher family tree with a kid’s picture on each branch, Davis Jayaraj, the manager, insisted only on one thing, not to click photographs or videos. According to Davis, “we don’t want to make this a zoo for people.” This makes the kids, especially the teenagers, uncomfortable, and so journalists are not entertained much for the same reason.

Inspired by SOS villages, R. Kumar and his wife started Meher in 1993, which is now literally a village with 95 children and 13 mothers. These mothers are the employees of this organization earning a salary of Rs.4,000/- and is committed to take up 7-8 children. Before they could become part of the Meher Group they are being confronted with various problems that they will have to face as the kids grow up. Usually these mothers would be singles, widow or divorcees. More than education, the ability to communicate with kids is the main criteria. The new mothers are trained under senior mothers. “I have been the part of this institution for past fifteen years and though disturbing at times, I am happy to be with these kids.” says Vasantha, a senior mother. The main task of these mothers is to take care of the children and give them a homely environment.

‘Meher Eira Charitable Trust’ does not get help from any organization or government. It is a family owned organization without any branches. They do not believe in advertising and work hand in hand with various NGOs and police. The organization is contacted when a distress child under age of 5 years is found. Before making them a part of Meher village, a thorough background research of the kid is done. These children are provided home and financial support is given inside the village for their education and other basic necessities till the time they find a job or get married. The financial assistance might stop with the growing age but the emotional support is available till the end.

The kids and their mother lead a normal middle class life. They are given education in English medium schools. Sports and recreation facilities like karate and various dance forms are taught. Once in a year, these kids are taken to tour for a week. Proper physical and mental care is taken as Davis uncle of these kids said, “This is the only home they know to look upon and come back to.”

Something to remember

Indu--does this name ring a bell in your ears? Hope it does. She was one among us, the MBA student who took her life last Tuesday afternoon. This unfortunate incident happened in Gargi Bhavanam, the PG girls’ hostel of Amrita University. The leap she took from the third floor was a leap from life to death.

One could easily identify the MBA girls’ hostel wing block with the cheerfulness and chirpy sound that felt soothing and irritating at times. We would wonder can there ever be a day that can go without their hustle-bustle. It happened on that fateful Tuesday… But this quietness was absolutely terrifying.

The saddest part is, even when that wing was still, some others where having fun in their own private world. Evening, when some first years of the same wing were informed about the incident their answer was quiet shocking and paved a way for giving out this report. They cannot be blamed as they were unaware of this incident and they could not see anything unusual with the girls sitting in the portico and having their tea and snacks laughing around. It was true; many were busy with their gossip and silly discussion. There were other few trying to get juicy information. But none of them faced the reality; there was one among us gone forever…

Whom to blame for such an attitude, the youth or the society…? The culprits are not just the so called ‘fun loving’ youth. Every one must know the real meaning of ‘humanity’. It is not only the charity and service alone but also something called relationship that should be nourished within us. It is necessary to develop this bonding among the individuals with whom you are associated in life. Then only we can be called as HUMAN BEING.

One should not forget, today it was someone we didn’t know or was only an acquaintance but some day it can be our close ones. It could be that girl or a boy whom we smiled while crossing the path but never took a few minute to know them more. We lose a chance and special moments that could have altered our life. Someone might want to reach us or maybe we reach someone touching their heart. No one’s life is so meaningless to be forgotten or erased in a day or two. Every soul needs to be respected our chance will come to …

Indu, taught us a lesson even while departing, life is too short and unpredictable… We need to live every moment of it… Do not give up your close ones for coping with the tedious world and their pressures … Everything we have will be lost when we are gone… The only thing we can ever leave is our memories and bonding we ever shared… Do not lose the chance we are being given… This might be our only chance to really live not only for ourselves but also for others.

A walk through the dusty village road

I walk all alone through the dusty village roads...Many come and give bright hopes and make me believe they would walk with me till the end of the road.But when they find a diversion,they walk away from me in silence.I don't expect any one to join me neither I deny when some one come to me.I also don't care when they are more comfortable with some one else.I never complain because every one has their own space and I enjoy my walk.I'm happy in my world perhaps happiest and thankful to God for giving a life in this world...