Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holy Cow!

Way back in the 1960s, my grandparents suffered a series of tragedies. A row of children died as soon as they were born or a few months after. When my mother was born, she was quite sickly as well. She had some kind of a liver problem which prevented her from ingesting food. They took her to Dr. Jemmi, then the most famous Liver specialist in Chennai. Unlike so many doctors today, he prescribed a simple home remedy: Buy a cow, raise it organically with good fodder and feed the children with milk from the cow. Apparently, he challenged my grandfather, "Let's see how your children don't become healthy in two years' time!"

So my grandfather bought a jersey cow, Rani, and he raised her dutifully. And true to prediction, my mom and her elder brother improved steadily and became quite healthy! I've heard this story told so many times over and over. But I've always thought: why bother raise a cow when you can buy milk?

I got my answer recently. A year or so back, I started reading about going organic. That's when I discovered the horror stories about milk in the US. Cows are never allowed to see the daylight, cooped up in huge factories, fed anti-biotics and milked using machines. There is much more information about this torture if you google for it. I am pretty sure part of this is going on in India as well. Anyways, I was so upset that I thought of swearing off milk for a while.

I don't mean to sound very superstitious but if you extract a product out of an animal/plant that gives it great agony physically and mentally (think fear), does it not affect the person consuming it? All the evil karma probably goes into our lives. Anyways, that's when I started thinking about solutions. Going organic and supporting local farms definitely helps. However, these are not long-term solutions. When anything becomes a business, there are certain compromises that have to be made for profits.

Personally, I feel like the right thing is to have a cow per household. A household pet will never be treated harshly and can provide enough milk to sustain the family. And we would know the source of the milk and rest assured that it won't have some scary chemical in it. Definitely not a simple solution because maintenance of another living being is complex. Given our lazy lifestyles and apartment living today, it seems near impossible. And I am no exception.

But the hope is that some day, I might see light. If we are convinced and set our minds to it, I believe this is possible at least in India. The exercise involved in cow maintenance might just get us IT-types a workout and maybe, people will learn to respect all animal life? Or we find a different solution to the milk situation?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recent events in life have proved to me that self is a very good leader. I know that sounds very ego-maniacal and presumptuous. Happenings in the past 6-7 months have shown that 95% of people

a) don't know what they're supposed to do next
b) don't bother to do it even if they know what the next step is,

Given that even people in supposed leadership roles fumble around in either a) or b), think self is much, much better off. Even if I don't know whether the next thing I propose to do is "correct" or not, I have some idea of what I can do next. People seem to crave leadership and decisions -- good or bad doesn't matter. Maybe this is how Hitler and all other tyrants of the world had such huge followings. The trick is to just do something or pretend to do something..:)

PS: I know that is a weird mixture of "self" and "I" in this post. Effects of reading Bridget Jones. Please excuse..:)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


For the first time in my five years in the US, I took the day of Deepavali off from work. This year, I was having we-are-not-celebrating-ANY-festivals-fatigue. I got tired of spending all festive occasions in my grey cube in drab jeans & an unironed T-shirt under the harsh glare of the computer screens and fluorescent lights. I desperately wanted to feel the festive season of my childhood -- making sweets at home, watching special programs on TV, visiting friends and family, wearing new clothes and bursting crackers. So we did what we could here. We lolled around home, called India, watched looooots of Sun TV and K TV and ate quite sumptuously.

S attempted cashew cake yesterday. It turned out like a gooey halwa instead of the perfect, mysore pa-like consistency he was hoping for. But the taste was just decadently rich and yummy!

The evening was spent at a potluck with about 20 people. And needless to say, we ate our fill, watched snatches of "Annamalai" and chatted away. Now, after being immersed in festive mood for more than 3 days, I am having trouble coming back to my "regular" life. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Ha" moments..

The best pieces of writing are those that touch your heart before your mind has even fathomed the meaning of what you just read! At those moments, my heart exclaims "Ha!" with pleasant surprise and admiration. I had one of those this morning when I read these lines from Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet":
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The cult of guardian deities or "kaaval deivams" in Tamilnadu is something I've been trying to fathom for a while. It is not that I don't believe in it but I cannot relate to it. Our guardian deity is in a village called Thandalai, about 5 kms from Tiruvarur. It houses a very small temple to Shashtha or Ayyappan, Badrakali and the more famous "Eetty Manickam" (The Manickam with a Javelin). Anyone in the surrounding regions of that village will be able to point you to the temple of "Eetty Manickam". All vehicles, especially buses and lorries, passing via that temple will stop, drop a coin toward "Eetty Manickam" and then proceed on their way. Legend has it that if they do not do that, they will meet with a fatal calamity. For many years, the temple drew a sustenance based on the charity of these passers-by and still does even though it now has other sources of funds as well.

Until the 1990s, our family had no idea of this temple. Somewhere along the way, many generations past, we'd lost the memory of this place. In the early 1990s, my eldest Uncle was looking to marry off his eldest daughter. Try as they might, they couldn't find a satisfactory alliance for my cousin. One day my Uncle had a very vivid dream of a temple in an isolated village. He dreamt about a Badrakali in that temple and was told that because we had neglected this deity, the marriage of his daughter was being delayed. He could accurately describe the temple, its surroundings and the way to the Badrakali sanctum. But no one in our family knew what this temple was. Finally, my grandmother had some vague recollection of a place near Tiruvarur that was supposed to be our guardian deity. So my uncle hunted around that area for a while and figured out that there was a little-known village called Thandalai.

The entire family consisting of my Uncle, his three younger brothers including my father, their spouses and children made the visit to this place. We worshipped there and when we went to the Badrakali sanctum, my Uncle swore that it was exactly as it was in his dream. "Eetty Manickam" came as a surprise to me. The image was of an English-looking guy in khaki trousers and shirt, with a gun and a white horse. The statue was huge and stood on the outside of the temple. Here's where the drivers threw their coins. "Eetty Manickam" was supposed to guard the village at night and many villagers swore to hearing horse hoof sounds in that area. Anyways, after propitiating the gods there and promising to go back every year, we returned. Soon enough, my cousin got married and we attributed it to the temple.

To go back to the beginning of this post, I have trouble relating to these "kaaval deivams" because of their punishing nature. I've never believed in fear-induced worship and many of the Ayyanars, Karuppannasaamis,Ellai Kaalis, Badrakalis seem to be very punishing. But I suppose their very nature makes people feel protected if they offer the right worship.

S & I just started watching "Marma Desam - Vidadhu Karuppu" and that prompted me to write this post..:-)

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Sometimes, it is good if life deals you a couple of crushing blows when you are young. You are bruised, hurt and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Life is all dark. But youth has a way of overcoming all hurdles. You pull through and maybe the experience leaves you accustomed with failure. You know what it is like to fail, be a failure and you know how to get through it. If the first taste of hardship one faces is in adulthood, it becomes hard to digest. It is impossible to say what drives humans to death but maybe, it won't lead to this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How Women Hate..

This has got to be one of the most succinct and hard-hitting articles written on how women "feel"! :) Yes, the "feel factor" that men have so much trouble understanding. I can't recall the number of times in a week that I've said to S,

"Did you feel the vibe there?"
"Did someone say something?"
" one said anything. But did you feel it?"
[Greeted by confused look]
" If nothing was actually said or nothing happened, how can I "feel" anything?"
"You know, you should not spend so much energy on such things! "

This article had me chuckling and nodding through-out!:) All ye women , do read and enjoy..