Sunday, 25 October 2015

Tamil Nadu Travel Series: The In-famous Tirunelveli Halwa

   Everybody knows the meaning of 'halwa' in Hindi. But in Tamil, it has another sarcastic meaning also - 'to cheat'. For example, I say, 'ennakku halwa koduthittan' means, someone has cheated me (meeti churi chubana). Now imagine someone giving you 'halwa' while buying the real halwa!!! Tirunelveli halwa is very famous all over the country. All South Indians would vouch for it. During our trip, Tirunelveli was our last place of sightseeing. We visited Nellaiappar Temple while keeping our ears and eyes wide open after the horrific experience at Suseendram.The temple there is so beautiful and breathtaking.

      After worshipping the deities there, we went around looking for a reliable shop from where we can buy the famous Tirunelveli halwa. Most of them directed us to a particular shop which was nearby (I'm forgetting the name of the shop). So we went there and the shopkeeper gave us 3 or 4 varieties of halwa to taste. We selected the ones we wanted to buy and ordered 7 kgs of halwa in all.  We could not see the box/vessel in which the halwa was kept but the weighing machine was out for us to see. The packet in which he put the halwa was also not transparent. At that time we didn't have any doubt about  the quality as we had already tasted it or about the quantity as we could see the weighing machine per se. It was all packed nicely in attractive gift boxes. All of us went home happily with the satisfaction of buying  authentic Tirunelveli halwa.

     Next day, after  reaching home we took out the halwa to distribute to others. Oh my goodness! What I saw gave me a shock. I could not believe my eyes. While the authentic one we tasted literally melted in our mouths, this one tasted like rubber -  neither we could swallow it nor spit it but could only keep chewing it! It was so different in taste, look, colour and texture.  At first I thought maybe that's just the box I kept with me but when I asked my sister and one of our friends, I realised that the entire 7 kgs was fake halwa. Everyone realised what a fool we became at these cheaters' hand. I have travelled to many places and done a lot of shopping also. But this kind of cheating never happened with me. The lesson learnt is.... beware the 'halwa givers' of Tirunelveli!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Tamil Nadu Travel Series - MASTERY OVER THE LANGUAGE

    My relatives back home keep advising (nagging) me on how and why it is important to teach Tamil to Abi. I myself wanted him to learn the language and he too was trying to speak. But still there was always this little bit of doubt whether he will remember or not because of his surroundings. Much to everyone's delight, the long summer vacation in our village has really helped Abi master the language. 

What is most amazing is he can not only speak Tamil so fluently but also translate most of the words to Hindi when required and vice versa!  When my father was here, Abi was playing the interpreter between him and other local staff. It was such a pleasure watching him play that role so perfectly! But sitting here, I didnt have an opportunity to put other relatives' doubt at rest.

During this Tamil Nadu visit he has impressed everyone he met by speaking in Tamil. Living out of our State, I rarely get to attend family functions but this time we had an opportunity to attend my cousin's son's marriage.  I remember attending the same cousin's wedding with my daughter when she was 3 yrs old - now for his son's wedding I attended with my daughter's son!! Its here that Abi had a chance to meet most of our relatives. The tiny tot instantly impressed everybody with his language skill. In fact, people there have given him a certificate that he not only speaks Tamil well but also speaks  it better than his mother.

Of course I too got some appreciation for not letting him forget our roots :) 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015


     It was a Friday when we landed in Kanyakumari. After experiencing the beautiful sunrise at the confluence of three oceans, we bathed at TRIVENI SANGAMAM.  Next on our itinerary was the abode of Thanumalayan temple at Suseendram which is about 14 KM from Kanyakumari.
This is the only shrine dedicated to TRINITY and also an imposing figure of ANJANEYA which is carved out of single block of granite. While there are many beautiful things to describe about this temple, today I am limiting myself to these to two deities  only because I want to share a different experience with you all here.

     We reached the temple around 10:00 a.m and there was not much crowd. As we entered the main entrance,  two pandits standing there started explaining the history of the temple and the importance of the deities there. They went on to say that placing a 'tulsi mala' to the main deity and a 'Paan ka patta' mala to Anjaneya would be very auspicious for our family. We felt very nice as we thought we were getting to know about the temple practices from the most authentic sources and also discussed amongst ourselves as to why important temples in other places dont follow this. So we bought both the malas  (which was sold by those two pandits there itself) and moved ahead. Initially we were mildly surprised to see the attention being given to us by successive pandits for as we walked forward, we were coaxed into buying a 'deepak thali' for the Navagrahas (here you will find the Navagrahas on the roof and not down below like in other places).

We still had the paan ka patta mala to offer to the giant Anjaneya. So we moved closer to him, but yet another pandit popped out from a corner saying NO, you simply cannot offer the mala to the God without 'panneer kudam' (kewra water) and butter!!! Even before we could understand what was happening, the 'panneer kudam' was in our hand with the butter sitting pretty on the kudam (pot) and of course, everything came with a price! By this time all our enthusiasm and devotion was over and we wanted to get away as soon as possible without creating any scene. So, we quickly paid the amount and were about to join the queue. Alas! there is a separate entry for those with kudum in hand and a special charge to be paid for that!!!

 By then  my father had lost all his patience (we had been trying to pacify him to be quiet, not wanting to create a scene) and confronted those people. On seeing him so furious, the  person who was charging for the kudum vanished from the scene and another pandit quickly took the panneer kudum and butter to offer to the God.The panneer kudum which is suppose to be filled with kewra water was just plain water and that too went back to the seller without being used, to be sold to another unsuspecting devotee - RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES! The whole thing happened in a jiffy, that we did not even get a chance to say no to anything.

By the time we came out of this ordeal, we forgot about the devotion and beauty of that place. We simply felt as if we have escaped from some robbers, PHEW!!! What a relief it was to be out of there!

The temple is so very beautiful. If ever one plans to go to Kanyakumari, it is a MUST VISIT PLACE, even if you are not a 'theist'. It is treasure house of sculptures. Just BEWARE  of the day time robbers.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Abi's maiden stage appearance!

     Can not remember how I missed out on sharing Abi's first appearance on stage last September when he was in Play school. It should have its place in my blog long ago. But never mind the delay. Here it is...

    It was his school Annual Function. He was selected (or so we thought) for a group dance. When I was told about this I was very happy but at the same time I was very sceptical about him. So I warned  his class teacher about how he does not like to be "taught" anything. Also he was very shy to do anything in front of outsiders (he is improving now). I told her that she need not hesitate to drop him if he does not perform as per the requirement. But she seemed very confident and convinced me that Abi is doing very well during the practice sessions. She even showed me the video of children practising the song and I saw Abi doing the steps like all other children. At home we tried to make him dance without much success.

     On the D-Day, he was to wear his dress from home except for some accessories and reach the venue some 3 hours prior to the function. It was in the afternoon (he was not used going out in the afternoon, usually it was his sleeping time). The programme started at 6:00pm. We were there waiting eagerly for Abi's song. Their turn came around 7:00pm. We tried to spot him on the stage, but as all the tiny tots looked the same, we couldn't make Abi out.. When we finally did, can you guess where?....IN HIS TEACHER'S LAP! The song started playing, some children started dancing and some started crying, but they were all at least standing on the stage - all except Abi! His teacher tried to put him down  on the stage and dance, but he did not budge and only wailed louder! After the song got over we went and picked him up from his teacher and he was so relieved to see us there (I suppose the teacher too!). 

     The teacher said he refused to wear anything on his head or hands and no make-up  We noticed that the other children were wearing some head gear and ribbons on their hands. He was so petrified to see so many children that too some crying, some sleeping and too many people around him. Only during the course of the event  we came to know that all the children of the school participate in the annual function, somewhat compulsory (600+).  So the tiny tots item was somewhere in the middle. The long hours of waiting and seeing the sea of people in an unknown environment caught Abi off guard. I wonder what will he do now, if he participates?  All of us had a hearty laugh seeing Abi on the STAGE! Good thing is we captured it all on video and will tease him with it when he grows up!

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