Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ayilyam and Moolam (redux)

There have been many desperate questions asked here regarding the ill effects of Moolam and Ayilyam. At the very outset, let me clarify that my inspriation for writing that blog post was only a phone call from a distressed father whose daughter’s birthstar was Moolam. It reminded me of the various sayings about various birth stars. They are all based on the customs being followed by the society at large. Other than that, I have not done any astrological or vedic research to find the truth behind these sayings.

As such, as I have written many people simply follow the custom, thinking that if so many people follow it, there must be something in it. At the same time, I have also heard from people who run to the astrologer for every small disturbance in their life that they don’t believe in the saying that girls born with Moolam and Ayilyam stars bring ill luck to the husband’s parents. I have also come across situations where the marriage of the boy has been delayed for long period because his birthstar is moolam or ayilyam, though the saying goes, “Aan moolam arasalum” (the man with bithstar moolam will rule the country).

All these beliefs came into existence when the marriages were fixed solely by the elders of the family and the groom and bride just tied the knots as per the elders’ wishes. They had no say whatsoever in the selection of their partners. The elders made sure that they selected the groom or bride as per their beliefs. There was no question of selecting a bride or groom if they thought the birthstars or horoscopes did not match. Many a time, the father or mother of the groom (when the other parent was not alive) came forward voluntarily to accept a girl with moolam or ayilyam, to the relief of the girl’s parents.

In today’s world, when most of the girls and boys select their partners, it is not possible to observe such customs. No girl or boy is going to find out about the other’s birth star when they start seeing each other. It would perhaps be prudent for the girls and boys to give enough importance to such matters, if they know about their parents’ views on these. It may save them from a lot of disappointment and distress, if they still want to get married with the blessings of their parents. Or else they should be brave enough to shoulder the responsibility of their decision. After all, as I have said, Moolam and Ayilyam are not considered to bring bad luck among many other communities in our society.

In the olden days, the horoscopes were matched by learned astrologers alone, whereas today we see that everyone has something to say about horoscope matching and hence so many right or wrong dos and donts. No one wants to ignore any astrological advice, whether coming from an astrologer or a common man. They are so confused and do not want to take any chances. I have even heard people saying that only 3 or 4 stars will match with some particular star and so on. All these things have made selection of a good alliance even more difficult.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Elsewhere In The Empire

The Blandings Media Empire never sleeps. While I'm taking a break from blogging here, I've put up a new post on my stories blog. The story of two cats and a monkey and sharing everything alike is up on Kathai Kathaiyam Karanamam. Meanwhile, my handsome and charming son continues to chronicle his discoveries in India: Interesting advertisements on TV, the new Bangalore airport (messes and all), and much much more. He seems to be much more prolific than I.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Recipe: Aavakkaya

Aavakkaya is the pickle synonymous with Andhra Pradesh. The utterance of the word “Aavakkai” tickles the taste buds. And when you make it, you cannot but help your mouth watering. The aroma of the newly made pickle is so intoxicating. Aavakkaya literally means pickled with mustard powder (aavalu in Telugu means mustard) and rightly so, mustard powder is the main preservative here along with gingelly oil.

When one of my son’s assistants brought home a basket full of mangoes, I was at a loss not knowing what to do with so many raw mangoes. I asked him why he brought so many mangoes when I would have been happy with 2 or 3. “Pickle them, Mummyji,” he said. That’s when I thought of making Aavakkaya. As I had not made this pickle in recent times, I called my friend Sujatha, to ask for the method. She promptly said, “I will come tomorrow and help you. Keep chilli powder, salt, mustard powder and oil and other things ready.” I was only too happy to get the things ready, as I did not have to worry about the final product. I have been getting to taste Sujatha’s mother’s Aavakkaya every year. And they are superb.

She specifically told me not to buy the mustard powder, but to buy mustard, sun dry and grind them fresh. "Or else," she said, "the pickle will taste bitter." So I went and bought all the ingredients and sun dried them . I also washed all the mangoes thoroughly and dried them in shade, by spreading them in a clean towel, to remove all moisture.

Sujatha came promptly at 11 am next morning and we started the preparation.We cut the mangoes into large pieces and measured them. Accordingly we measured the other ingredients. Here is the ratio:


Raw mango pieces: 5 measures ( approximately 3.5 Kg)

Red chilli powder : 1measure (I used 300gms. One may add upto 500gms., depending on individual preference)
Freshly ground mustard powder: 1 measure ( here again those who like the taste of mustard oil can use upto 500 gms )
Salt: 1 ¼ measure(8oogms)

Whole fenugreek seeds: 50 gms

Turmeric powder: 2 tbsp.

Good quality gingelly oil: 1 ltr


The mangoes should have firm stone inside.(the stone should be attached to the flesh of the mango and when cut through, the stone should still be attached to the mango pieces.) Wash and dry the mangoes in a clean towel in shade. Cut them into large pieces.Discard the soft seed portion .
Keep the other ingredients ready(in the proportion given above).

Keep a large glass jar or earthenware jar washed and sun-dried, ready. (As I was in Hyderabad, where I function with minimum kitchen gadgets, I did not have a glass jar or earthenware jar. Hence I used a large pet jar).

Now comes the most difficult part. Mixing the ingredients. Sujatha insisted on mixing them with hands. I would have preferred mixing them with a large spatula, as my skin is very sensitive to chilli powder.

Mix all the dry ingredients(chilli powder, mustard powder, salt,turmeric powder and fenugreek seeds) thoroughly. Take another large shallow pan for the final mixing. Into this pan, transfer a portion of the cut mango pieces. Add a portion of the pickle masala to the mangoes. Pour 1 or 2 spoonfuls of gingelly oil and mix the contents thoroughly with hand or a spatula. Transfer them to the jar. Repeat this process, until all the mango pieces and pickle masala are used up. Top the jar with the remaining oil and pickle masala, if any. Keep the jar in a cool dry place. Within an hour, you can see the gravy oozing out of the mango pieces and within 2 to 3 hours, there would be a 1”top layer of oil and gravy above the mango pieces(called “Oota” in telugu). This is the sign of right quantity of ingredients, said, Sujatha’s mother, when I called her to report the event. Stir it thoroughly with a dry spoon every day for 5 days, she said. I followed her instructions and the results were just superb.