Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas 08

A Merry Christmas to All!

Although I might seem a little late with the cheer, the spirit of Christmas surely lingers around till New Year and hence it cannot be late.

As usual I did a quick tour down memory lane to see what I had been doing during all those Christmases in the past.

When we were growing up, Christmas meant 10 days of holidays at school, nothing more. We knew of only one Christian lady teacher in our local primary school whom we affectionately called “Christiani teacher”. To date, I don’t know her real name. I also do not know if she and her family celebrated Christmas and if so how. It was so until I went to college when there was a bang. Suddenly I was surrounded by Christians all around and that too, who in Malayalam are known as “Sathya Christianikal” (true Christians), for I went to a Jesuit college far far away from home (2 days and 2 nights by train) where all my close Malayali friends were Christians. My best friend was Sister Regis. It was there that I learnt about the true spirit of Christmas. All the girls in the hostel went to the college chapel everyday and knelt before the altar. I went to midnight mass on Christmas Eve along with my friends. We had plum cake and ginger wine after the mass. I don’t think I had tasted cakes before (cakes had eggs and moreover our village did not have a bakery then).

After marriage and arrival of the children, being in Bangalore, we got to see lot of happenings during Christmases. The most important ritual during those days for Christmas was a visit to the “cake exhibition” organized by Nilgiris. With children around, we started buying cakes for Christmas and New Year and their birthdays. Around this time, we were served home baked biscuits just out of oven during one of our visits to our cousin. I was surprised that some one could bake such crunchy biscuits at home. We immediately asked her from where she learnt the art and she told us about the course she attended in baking and confectionery. Without much ado, I joined the course also and the rest is history.
We started baking cakes on all occasions, Christmas, New year, Easter, Birthdays, Anniversaries, you name it.
So this year also, we baked a cake for Christmas, well in advance, as I was coming back to Hyderabad before Christmas. We have now standardized on the procedure . Only this time, we made a smaller cake. We used the following ingredients.

Maida : 80 gms
Eggs: 2 (large)
Sugar: 65 gms
Butter: 65 gms
Baking powder: ½ tsp.
Baking soda: ½ tsp.
Cinnamon powder: 1 tsp.
All spices powder: 1 tsp (I used home made garam masala)
Mixed nuts and fruits: 250gms (marinated in rum)
Caramelized sugar : 2 tsp

We used walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, cashewnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts, raisins, figs, cherries, dates and candied peels. My handsome and charming son enthusiastically poured in liberal amount of rum into the jar of nuts, I might have exercised a little more caution.

Merry Christmas to All Once again.

PS: Turns out that around the Blandings Media Empire, Just Landed is also trying to spread some Christmas cheer.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Our preordained destiny

Every day we are confronted with so much violence by way of terror strikes, ghastly accidents etc that there is a general feeling of insecurity all around. Suddenly nothing seems safe. One is not sure of returning home safe at the end of the day. If you thought air travel was unsafe, train travel is no better. Even waiting at the railway station is not safe anymore. Walking on the roads has never been safe. Just yesterday there was an incident of a vehicle mowing down innocent school children in Kerala. What is happening? Where is the end to all this? Who is responsible? Is there anyway any one can help? Nobody has an answer.

In times like these, our old timers used to get strength from their strong belief in preordained destiny. Whenever things went out of our control, we heard “everything will happen as preordained.” Perhaps that way, there was not much anguish in happenings over which we had no control at all. Let us do our best to keep things under control and then “Bhagavan vitta vazhi” (as God pleases). Does it mean that God is pleased when he allows some unpleasant things to happen? The answer then is that we have to bear the fruit of our Karma. Why is God taking away a child’s life so soon, what sin has he committed at such young age? The answer is, “he is given Moksha (salvation).” He just came into this world to fulfill his remaining karma and attained moksha once he achieved that. You cannot escape karma or destiny. We were told the story of Parikshit Maharaja to illustrate the point.

No story of Parkshit or other philosophies will wipe away the grief of someone who has lost a mother or father or wife or husband or sister or brother or son or daughter. It is very hard to accept the fact that a beloved son or father or mother or daughter is not going to come in through the doors any more. And then nothing is going to bring them back. Life has to move one. We need some anchor to draw strength from however small it might be. The whole world prays for that strength.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Heavens Smile On Us

As were taking a stroll after sunset yesterday, we were mesmerized by this extraordinary sight, a smiling moon. It was as though the heavens wanted to tell the terror battered Indians, “Cheer Up! There is still Hope!”

Come on Indians, We shall overcome!