Food, India

Jackfruit truffle! :)

Cooking at home is one of the best ways to spend time with oneself and with others in the family. On the lines of the saying β€˜Family that prays together stays together’, I feel it is more apt to say that a family that cooks together and/or eats together stays together 😊 – especially in this challenging time of the pandemic. Cooking and/or eating tropical fruits/vegetables takes me down through memory lane. It brings back memories of my childhood with grandparents and cousins.

Not a summer passes without getting to taste the two exotic tropical fruits – mango and jackfruit. Despite being in a big city, mangoes we have aplenty – on pushcarts, supermarkets, organic stores and on roadsides too. Although the jackfruit seems to be elusive most of the time, we manage to get hold of one jackfruit every summer. This year too we got lucky and got one jackfruit from a known source. We were quick to clean and devour the delicious fruit and this time I decided to make good use of the seeds as well. I found a recipe was a dessert recipe instead of the usual stir-fry/curry recipe.

Known to be packed with healthy nutrients which provide remarkable benefits, I quickly took to the chore of cleaning up the seeds. Firstly, they need to be dried well before cleaning as they are very slippery and hence would be difficult to handle. I kept it out to dry in direct sunlight for a couple of days. Once it dried completely, the outer covering which is whitish was easy to peel off. Then what remains are seeds with a thin brown skin. I used a knife to scrape out most of the skin. Some prefer to use the seeds as it is. I prefer to scrape the skin. The recipe I was going to follow was, to present the powdered jackfruit seeds as a truffle. I was certain that my kids would find it appealing as they, like most kids are influenced by western dishes.

So after lightly scraping off the thin brown skin I toasted the seeds on the stove till the nutty aroma wafted around and the seeds started spluttering. One of my friends mentioned that in the traditional kitchens of Kerala these seeds would be toasted directly in the firewood stove and that would have a better aroma and taste as compared to the same procedure done in the modern kitchens. I did reminisce those days when I would watch and sometimes help my grandma to ignite and kindle the flame in her firewood stove using a thin long cylindrical hollow rod.

Then after I allowed it to cool a bit, I powdered the toasted seeds in a mixer. Next step was to make the caramel sauce which would help to bind and shape the powdered seeds into a laddoo. For this I melted the required amount of sugar with a little water and waited for the sugar to caramelize. Once the sugar started to caramelize, I added heavy cream and mixed it well and poured this delicious sauce to the powdered seeds and shaped the mixture into laddoos.

Now I just poured melted chocolate onto the nutrient packed laddoos and voila! It turned into a truffle. The seeds of an Indian fruit shaped into an Indian sweet and disguised as a western one was an instant hit.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of making this jackfruit seed truffle. My kid’s approval of the dish in disguise indeed has motivated me to bring in more such recipes and has further deepened my passion for cooking. Looking forward to my next tryst with the jackfruit πŸ˜‰.

– This is a guest post by Dahlia Joseph!

India, Musings

Indian luxury! :)

Most think the Western world is a land of luxury but India has its own hidden luxury particularly for women! πŸ™‚ When I stepped into India after a long stint, I had forgotten about this type of luxury! In fact, this type of luxury had taken more forms too! πŸ™‚

Yes, I am talking about the maids and other helps of India! πŸ™‚ These are various helps in India without whom the Indian home engines will grind to a stop!

Maids –

The maid in India is primarily supposed to come in only for cleaning, but does various other things too. In cities like Bangalore, the maids will give a lending hand to everything in the house like dusting, cutting vegetables, a little bit of cooking, doing the dishes, putting the dishes away, sweeping, mopping, making tea and many, many more chores. Since the maids will be from a poor financial background, the people who employ them will also help them in any way they can(like paying for their children’s education, paying for the vaccination and more)

Cooks –

We do not need to order food from outside all the time when one tired is cooking at home in India. Cooks will come and make the dishes that you require them to make. Some of them will in fact buy the things for you and make them at home for you! πŸ™‚ They can make rotis, sabjis, rice, grind the idli -dosa batter for you and more. This ensures that you eat healthy home food all the time! πŸ™‚

Drivers –

Do you not feel like driving in the crazy Indian traffic? Just hire a driver…:) There are experienced drivers who know the ins and outs of the city and can take you wherever you want to go.

Gardeners –

While the above three people are required in most homes in India, a gardener might be needed only in case of an independent house and if there is a necessity.

All these people are a blessing to many an Indian household and life would not be the same without them. The Western thought is always to do the chores on their own and since manual labor is expensive, machines are employed to get the same effect. The Indian luxury though is a world apart! and is easily affordable too πŸ™‚

Upon our return to India, I was initially amazed by the availability of so much of help and was trying to do things on my own. But I soon caved in and cannot do with my maid today! πŸ™‚ The lockdown of 2020 in India(when maids and other help were not allowed) showed that we could do our work if needed be(the American habits were still residing in us! :)) but I have embraced the Indian luxury and cannot live without it today!

P.S. I only have a maid, I like to drive and don’t mind the minimal daily cooking! πŸ™‚

This post is the 9th post for BlogchatterHalfMarathon

college, exams, India, Musings

How is remote work/learning going?

The pandemic struck and there has been one reality that has been binding the world. It is of remote work and learning. Remote work and learning is a reality in India as of today. With three laptops (and an almost working laptop! :)) and Teams meetings and Zoom calls in my home, it has not been an easy experience.

Prior to March 2020, I was the only one doing remote work and now, my whole family had joined in! πŸ™‚

What have we learnt from the whole remote experience?

  1. Small children can manage with phone/tablets but those devices are not suitable for older kids
  2. If older kids and working parents are involved, then, each will need a separate laptop(maybe some manage without the same)
  3. Bandwidth issues, network connectivity, dropped calls are all a reality
  4. Many had suggested a Wi-Fi extender, but we had shied away from it – but a Wi-Fi extender is a great boon! πŸ™‚ Even though phone companies advertise for great bandwidth, we realize it falls short, once we start using it! Hence the Wi-Fi extender is the greatest boon to help us.
  5. With meetings and classes in different rooms, different sounds from different rooms becomes a reality! πŸ™‚
  6. However good the laptops maybe, with time, they seem to crash! 😦
  7. The mic does not seem to be work or the camera does not seem to work or the unmute button does not seem to work or everything works great sometime! πŸ™‚
  8. School/college seem to get over by a certain time, but work never seems to get over! 😦
  9. Zoom fatigue or Teams fatigue is real
  10. Schools/colleges have figured how to conduct online exams after struggling with it for some months
  11. Teams is good IMHO! πŸ™‚

How has your remote work/learning experience been? Have you finally got the hang of it? πŸ™‚ How do you and your family manage?

Here’s to wishing that the end of remote work/learning is around the horizon! πŸ™‚

This post is the eighth post for BlogchatterHalfMarathon

Family, Festivals, India, Parenting

Joint family system vs Nuclear family system – which is better?

India is one of the few countries which has a unique family system – the ‘joint family system’. In a joint family system, it is not only the parents who stay with their grown children and their spouse but there may be other members of the family living together as well. There might be two or three generations of a single paternal or maternal lineage living together. There might be a single family head or a group of elderly family members under whose direction the family might thrive. In a joint family system – food, career, religious regulations, responsibilities, finances might all be shared.

The nuclear family came into existence under the Western influence in India. The nuclear family consists only of the mother, father and the children. Once the children grow up, they will embark on their own independent journey. In a nuclear family, the roles and responsibilities might be shared by the husband and wife.

While many think the joint family system is dead in India, it is not. The bigger cities might not see it as much but the joint family system still exists.

Advantages and disadvantages of a joint family system:

The advantages of a joint family system will definitely be the ability to live together with anybody. Caring and sharing might be the motto behind all joint family systems. Trying to live with one’s own family members might not be easy all the time. But the people in a joint family system have definitely mastered it! πŸ™‚ Learning to let go of certain things, adjusting to each other’s personalities, sharing the financial responsibilities are some of the advantages of a joint family system.

Children will be moulded better by learning to live with everybody. Adults will also get the companionship that they will miss in their old age. There might also be more events and celebrations at home. Children might learn the authentic way to celebrate religious festivals rather than Google it! πŸ™‚ In addition, child care and taking care of elderly will not be given to organisations and will be managed in the family only.

The disadvantages of a joint family system might be the same as the advantage of a joint family system(what an irony! :))

No one might be constantly be able to live with everybody all the time and one will feel like they need some “me” time and “alone time”! There is also a possibility that you might be able to take any independent decisions and act on it instantly.

Advantages and disadvantages of a nuclear family:

The advantages of a nuclear family might be:

  1. the ability to take independent decisions and act on it instantly without asking anybody
  2. Not having to manage too many personal relationships
  3. Just the freedom of doing things your own way
  4. Not having to listen to anybody! πŸ™‚

The disadvantages of nuclear family might be a little more different than other reasons. In a nuclear family, in many instances, the financial responsibility might fall solely on the husband’s shoulders. Thus, running a family, managing the household and the children has to be done only by 2 people (which is not an easy task) The husband -wife duo have to run to other people(baby sitters, day care centres, maids, cooks) to smoothly run their life.

So, which is good for whom? That just depends on each person and each husband-wife duo. If they are not comfortable in a joint family setting, it is better they manage alone and brave it all.

However, man being a social animal and we from India loving family and celebration – it is quite a possibility that most Indians cannot live away and alone all the time! πŸ™‚ and they will live in a bit of both families combined together…:)

This post is the seventh post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

Festivals, India, Religion

Six abodes of Lord Muruga

Did you know that Tamizh kadavul, Lord Muruga(or Lord Kartikeya) has six abodes in Tamil Nadu? Lord Muruga himself is known by different names in Tamil Nadu. They are Kandan, Kumaran, Karthikeyan,Subramaniam, Balamurugan, Murugan, Balasubramaniam and many, many more. My own father’s name was Shri. N. Kandaswamy which is also one of the names of Lord Muruga.

The six abodes of Lord Muruga are known as ‘aaru padai veedu’ (six abodes) Each abode has a story associated with it. I have visited three of them for sure. Here they are:

Tiruparankundram:

Tiruparankundram on the outskirts of Madurai is the first abode of Lord Muruga. The God is known as Subramanya swamy in this temple. According to legend, Lord Muruga is supposed to have defeated the demon king Surapadman here. He also got married to Goddess Deivanai, daughter of Lord Indra at this very place. Because of this significance, it is considered to be very auspicious to be married here.

Tiruchendur:

Tiruchendur is the second abode of Lord Muruga. The temple is situated on the banks of the Bay of Bengal in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu. The God is known as Sri Subramanya swamy in this abode.

Soorasamharam (victory of Lord Muruga over Surapadman) and Kanda Sashti are celebrated in a grand way in this temple.

Palani:

Palani is situated in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. It is home to Lord Muruga in the form known as ‘Lord Dandāyudhapani Swāmi‘. This is the third abode of Lord Muruga. Legend has it that Lord Muruga was angry since he did not win the fruit competition and stood in this place as a recluse. You can find more information about Palani at this site: Palani.org

Swamimalai:

Swamimalai is the fourth abode of Lord Muruga. The God is said to be teaching his father the meaning of the word ‘Om’ in this place. He whispers the meaning of the word into his father’s ear and there is a statue depicting the same story.

Swamimalai is located in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. There are 60 steps to reach this temple. The God is known as Swaminatha swamy in this abode.

Thiruthani:

Tiruttani is located about 100 km from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. This is fifth abode of Lord Muruga and the God is known as Subramanya swamy in this abode. Those who pray to the Lord in this abode are blessed with mental peace and happiness.

Pazhamudhircholai:

Pazhamudhircholai is located 25 kms north of Madurai, India. It is the sixth abode of Lord Muruga. The place is fertile and dense and is supposedly the place where the God’s other consort, Valli had lived. The God is known as ‘Solaimalai Murugan’ in this abode. Lord Muruga is seen with both his consorts Goddess Valli and Goddess Deivanai here.

The wordy duel between Tamil poet ‘Avvaiyar’ and Lord Muruga is said to have taken place here.

I have visited Palani, Tiruchendur, and Tiruparankundram for sure. Have you visited the other shrines? Which have you enjoyed the most?

This post is the sixth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India, Musings, US

Which is your favorite cuisine?

I am no foodie but do give into extravagant taste drives once in a while… πŸ™‚ Having said that, my tongue was led into an international expedition 25 years ago when I stepped into the USA! πŸ™‚

I think India itself had limited choices then and I was not exposed to all the International delights! πŸ™‚ Having a better half who loved to explore different tastes and cuisine, I soon learned to appreciate the different types of food! πŸ™‚

These are some of the cuisines that I have tried :

South Indian cuisine πŸ™‚ –

South Indian food is cumbersome to make and is definitely delicious when made with a deft hand! πŸ™‚ (which I don’t have πŸ˜‰ ;)) Idli, Dosa, the Pongals, Idiyappams, Puttus, the biriyanis, the kulambhus, the sweets and savories are just a small number of dishes that will take your tongue on an amazing journey!! πŸ™‚

Mexican –

Mexican food is definitely cooked differently from Indian food and is much less tedious to do it too. I do love the Soft tacos, Tacos, Chalupas, Taquitos, Burritos, Nachos,  Enchiladas, Fajitas, Quesadillas and more! πŸ™‚

Chinese –

I know two versions of Chinese cuisine – one is American Chinese and one is Indian Chinese! πŸ™‚ Chinese cuisine involves soups, noodles, chow mein, lo mein, orange chicken and more. I have not been a regular consumer of Chinese food , but suffice it to say, that I appreciated it as well.

Italian –

Maybe, the one cuisine that I really had a tough time getting used to was Italian cuisine than any other cuisine because of the lesser amount of spices used. Pasta, Pizza, Lasagna, Pasta salad are what come to my mind right away.. πŸ™‚

Thai –

It has been quite a while since I have had pure Thai cuisine, but loved the Pad Thai, Green curry, Red curry – all of which are sure tingle anybody’s taste buds.

American cuisine –

American cuisine might be a melting pot of different cuisines, but the Mac and cheese, bagels, waffles, fries, burgers, cheeseburgers, chilis, clam chowder, fried chicken and other dishes do give your taste buds a party! πŸ™‚

From all the cuisines that I have tried – which have I loved the most? I think I would be slightly more partial to the South Indian foods and Mexican foods more than other cuisines just because of the taste! (though I have loved all of them and learned to appreciate all types of food)

Which is your favorite cuisine? Is it different from the ones listed above? Do drop your answers in the comments below! πŸ™‚

Have a nice day! πŸ™‚

This post is the fifth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India

Quiz about my homestate! :)

I belong to Tamil Nadu, India and even though it has been 25 years since I have moved out, it is still a pleasant feeling whenever I visit it even today… the language, the conservativeness, the flowers, the saris, the dance, the music, the respect…there is nothing equal to that even today! πŸ™‚

Having said that, how well do you know my state? Take this short quiz and learn more about Tamil Nadu today!

Click to start the quiz

This post is the fourth post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

P.S. If you don’t know the answers, please message me! πŸ™‚

Health, India

Vaxed?

“Have you taken the jab?” “Why haven’t you taken it as yet?”

These are some of the questions that non-vaxers have faced. While I can understand the concern it is quite annoying to hear it repeatedly. I can guarantee that 99% of the people would have encountered vaccine anxiety prior to taking the vaccine.

From the day the vaccine has been out in the market in the world it has been filled with controversy. There have been many who have been extremely eager to take it from Day 1, and many who have shied away from it and yet many who are on the fence and still deciding. Vaccine hesitancy and vaccine shyness is just an ordinary process that normal human beings experience. This is happening all over the world and in my view is just a normal human feeling.

Why vaccine shyness?

I know of many who have hesitated to take the vaccine(inclusive of me! :)) Even health workers may have slightly hesitated to take the vaccine themselves or give it to their family members.

Why does this happen? To put it simply – it is just a fear of the unknown. Nobody has taken the vaccine before and nobody knows its side effects (and really, no one can predict the side effects) And if you are in your late 30s and beyond, you may already have some health concerns which may aggravate your hesitancy(or any age for that matter)

A lot of articles and videos on the Internet do not help the vaccine hesitancy in any way either.

How to overcome it?

With time, vaccine hesitancy will come down as more people realize it is the need of the hour. They will see other people taking it and be motivated to take it as well (which is already happening in India) While I am not a doctor and never believe in forcing anybody to do anything – I do believe that most people will take it if you give them some time. In the mean time, it is good for all the vaccinated/unvaccinated people to remain safe!

My advice for all the vaccine hesitant people – “Don’t read too much…just do it” πŸ™‚

and my advice for all other people – Don’t keep asking the unvaxed about their vaccination status – most will do it!! πŸ™‚

P.S: My entire family got vaccinated after all the initial analysis! πŸ™‚

This post is the third post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

India, Musings, Religion

Is each state of India loyal to a particular Hindu God?

As my ponderings and observances continue, I have always wondered how each of state of India seems to be more loyal to a particular Hindu God. For those, who are unaware, Hinduism has a lot of Gods and Goddesses.

Some of them are:

Lord Ganesh

Lord Karthikeya

Lord Shiva

Goddess Parvati

Lord Hanuman

Lord Ram

and many other Gods and Goddesses. Each God may also be referred by different names across India as well. The mythological stories surrounding the Gods will also vary across India. For example, in Tamil Nadu, Lord Ganesh is considered to be the first son and Lord Karthikeya is considered to be the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Which state is loyal to which God?

As I have observed, each of the Southern states seem to favour a particular God( which is not to say that the other Gods are not revered)

In Tamil Nadu – we have ‘Tamizh Kadavul’ Murugan (or Lord Karthikeya) though we can see little idols of Lord Ganesh adorning every little nook and corner too

In Karnataka – Lord Hanuman (every nook and corner in the state will have a little idol of Lord Hanuman)

In Kerala – I have visited Kerala only two or three times and I think Kerala might be favoring Lord Aiyappa (Sabarimala temple) and Lord Krishna

I am not too sure about Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – but I think they may be favoring Lord Narasimha more than other Gods

Maharashtra may be favoring Lord Ganesh more than any other God

Similarly, I think most of North India may be favoring Lord Ram and Lord Shiva

In West Bengal , I think Goddess Durga might be more revered than other Gods

In Odisha, Lord Jagannath might be revered more than other Gods

Why does this happen?

The only reason why it may be so, is because of the religious significance attached to each place. For example, one of Hanuman’s birthplaces is said to be in Hampi, Karnataka. Similarly, there are a lot of stories attached to Lord Karthikeya and his six homes(aaru padai veedu) in Tamil Nadu.

I am sure all other places have their own mythological tales which creates the God for the place.

What are your thoughts? Do you think each state in India is more loyal to a particular God?

This is the second post for the BlogchatterHalfMarathon

college, IIT, India

2nd year at IIT, Roorkee – A Mother’s perspective

And just like that we are done with the 2nd year at IIT, Roorkee too! πŸ™‚ Like last year, I would like to reiterate that I am not studying in IIT, Roorkee πŸ™‚ but my son is…. you can read my last year’s post here

July 2020 and beyond:

The pandemic struck in 2020 and India went through a grueling lockdown from March 2020 to June 2020. Once June 2020 arrived, hopes were high for a return to normal life. Could schools re-open, could colleges re-open and could people return to work? Unfortunately though, the virus was just getting started! 😦 From June 2020 to October 2020, India’s first wave was crushing everybody and with no vaccine then, it was not wise to re-open anything. Nobody understood the cycle of the virus as none of us had ever lived through a pandemic.

IIIrd semester at IIT-R:

IIT-R decided to physically reopen the college in July 2020, but had to scale back the plans as the virus was raging all over India. Online classes became the only way that classes could move forward. IITs have students from all financial backgrounds and from all over India(even North East India) It was quite unfair to assume that everyone would have a stable laptop with an even better Internet connection! Many had left their laptops in their rooms in Roorkee, in March 2020 when they left for their mid-semester break! (inclusive of us! :()

Surveys were conducted to assess the situation and how many had good devices through which they could attend classes. When it was felt that all students could attend online classes, remote learning started. The initial hiccups were there and everyone missed campus life and campus learning. All yearned to go back and do a normal living(which has not been possible even till today!:()

The staff and students slowly got used to this new way of learning. Mid-term exams had to be scrapped as most were figuring out the logistics of conducting exams. Those courses that had lab components were pushed to the next semester(in the hope that colleges would reopen atleast by January 2021….which could also not happen) Videos were shown of the lab experiments and students could understand it that way. Quizzes, tutorial sheets and presentations were introduced to grade the students.

There was hope that ‘R’ land could re-open at some point of time in the New Year and students could physically give their end term exams. January 2021 came and went but B.Tech 2nd year students could only give online exams.

Overall, the third semester was a learning experience for both the students and staff of IIT-R. All of them had to get used to this new way of studying and assessing the students. The third semester was not a gruelling experience academically but it was an uncertain one thinking that the college would reopen soon.

IVth semester at IIT-R:

The fourth semester at IIT-R started in February 2021 running almost a month behind. IIT-R battled pandemic chaos in its own environment.

In January 2021, when COVID cases had ebbed, few Master’s and Ph.d students were asked to come back to campus. A small set of COVID cases were detected in campus which soon swelled to a nearly 100 cases! Testing, isolation and treatment is not very easy in R-land. Many staff and students were impacted and the second wave was becoming more difficult for everybody. The second wave was touching more people and conducting the fourth semester was not an easy one.

Inspite of that, classes went on almost normally and there was more structure to the classes. Having gone through one semester of online classes, both students and staff knew what to expect. Quizzes, presentations , tutorials were given and this semester was definitely more academically challenging than the third semester. You could finally feel the IIT heat every once in a while with the son screaming “stressed”! πŸ™‚

Clubs and groups in IIT-R were also running online with new recruits and new activities.

Since the COVID second wave was affecting off-campus students and on- campus staff, the end-term exams for fourth semester was cancelled after a survey. Students were graded on their previous assignments and grading was tight! IITs were slowly learning the art of “continuous grading” instead of putting most weightage on the final exam(though most weightage was on the mid-term exam this time)

Overall, the fourth semester was a much more satisfying semester than the third one since many have accepted this new way of studying. It is quite a certainty that the next semester will definitely move ahead in the same way.

My feelings :

While, most of us were initially grumbling about this new reality that has been thrust on us, as a mother I felt content that my son was safe at home and did not get caught in the hostel in the 2020 lock down. Thoughts are always there about when he might be asked to go safely back, but I think that day is still a few months away.

Son though feels that he is missing a portion of his precious college life, but I am sure life will have a lot of good things in store for him for the future but for now though… we have to bow to the rules of the pandemic and stay safe!

Note: My son returned from IIT-R in March 2020 and has not returned back since then. Hopefully, the world will become safer for all us to return to the real normalcy soon!

This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.’