Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That's me

Chennai was a huge learning experience for me. When i arrived here with a 4 month baby and all on my own i remember feeling lost. Back home there was so much of support and too much fuss about this baby and the mother that i was feeling extreme loss. i did not know the language and just like a thunderbolt the entire operation of managing the family of three fell on my head. i remember just how i would prop up my son on my waist and just stand in the small balcony which overlooked an untidy area where construction was going on and kept pitying myself. In between out of sheer helplessness i would cry for don't remember how long while
my son gurgled with delight to see the animals that would be seen...buffalows, cows and even goats. He in his Godly self was oblivious of his mom's pain. But THANK heavens he was.

Now it's time for me to leave this place and i am crying again. But it's funny if anyone sees me right now. i will cry a bit and also smile at the same time. Right now i feel i cry at all the fulfillment i got...all the learning that happened when i was on my own...all the experiences mostly lovely that i had. That joy gets me emotional perhaps, so the tears.

During the day all the aspects that was endearing to me about Chennai keeps reverberating in my mind and these encompass both physical and spiritual. Yes that small step towards the spiritual and i don't even know if that is being spiritual but whatever started here in Chennai. It came naturally as i watched people around me following the traditions and some of the traditional and cultural part also trickled down on me.

Yes i try to emulate and it gives me a sense of calm to my restless self. That part of my self which always wanted, had many desires of materials. Looking back i realise that i was such a demanding character some years back. i won't say i am not now but the severity of that has now settled to an easy level that disturbs neither my mate nor me.

Now as i go about my routines folks around here have started calling me spiritual. In fact some see me and after a brief greeting ask me, "So Shivani how far have you progressed in your spirituality?" One particular gentleman just asked me this a few days ago. i am like... stumped. Didn't know what to tell him. i mean i did not even understand what he meant.
If going to temples, places of pilgrimage, reading Holy scriptures...mind you just reading them , and following traditions like doing the specific Poojas on their assigned days, if that is being spiritual then maybe i am.
But the fact of the matter is i don't consider that being spiritual.
i still don't know what being spiritual means.
In fact i think i am still reeling hopelessly in this materialistic world just trying to get hold of my senses which makes me want so many things and yet people look at me as spiritual.
Here i am making a list of all those endearing things about Chennai...starting from
                                    Malli poo

Tanjore Paintings



Kamakshi Villakka

                                                                                                     M S Subhalakshmi and her Suprabhatam

Venkatgiri, Mangalgiri, Sungadi, Coimbatore Cotton, Kodambakkam Cotton, Kanchi Cotton, Madurai Cotton, Devendra...of course the shimmering Kanchipuram silks.

                                                   Vaitha Kozhambu

                     All Chettinad Non Veg items

The fact of the matter being that i am still reeling in the beauty and elegance, taste and aroma of all these and not satiated as yet. Have just visited a few temples, participated in a still very limited number of discourses...have yet not memorized the Suprabhatam even. And the closest i have been to about all the cultures and traditions is that i enjoy the scents in the atmosphere, indulge in the paraphernalia on the streets during festivals...delight in decorating the exteriors with palm leaf thoranams and flowers...try to emulate the poojas performed...have just got a hang of some of the basics.Some facts here and there be it about how a Kolam is done with the help of dots when intricate twirling patterns are first layered out in dots. Then the pattern is worked over and around them.
Or about the Kamakshi Villakka. i was first confused about how to place them but the helpful and timely guidance from my friends here dispelled my doubts about the placement as to whether you should be facing the Goddess depicted in the deepam or that the Goddess should be facing the auspicious East.
 i learnt that this particular deepam will have one wick and it is to be lit with the wick facing the North. It does not matter how you place it but lighting the lamp facing North is considered to bring wealth as North is the direction of Kuber-the lord of wealth.

i always feel that ladies here really have a knack about how to drape the saree correctly. The borders follow neatly the contours of the waist as it should and the number of pleats of the pallu just sit elegantly over the body flowing neatly behind. Have yet to master the art of this and also of the various cuisines. i  keep trying.
Maybe my fervour at all this trying is giving people some vague sense of me being spiritual.

There is something about the pace of the city and the surroundings that it showers some of it's essence on you
perfuming you in the aroma of Sambrani and Malli poo. Making your kitchens aromatic with Kalpasi and curry leaves.

i am glad i learnt about the mystery herb Kalpasi and understood fully well what my biryanis were lacking. Or if i wanted that mouth watering Chicken Chettinad then apart from Star anise and Fennel i got to use a dash of Kalpasi.


Now all my bags of gift items to be taken back home includes many packets of Kalpasi requested by my family members especially those who have visited me here and got to taste my biryani which is not as cumbersome and demanding as the Dum  Pukht or the Hyderabadi biryani but still a very fulfilling and aromatic one. Thanks to this mystery spice which some tell me is a dried rare flower and some even (mis) informed me about it being some rare lichen found inside a particular kind of well in a particular region somewhere in Madurai.
i know who i have to ask to get the correct answer but i am just waiting for an opportune moment when i can meet the naturalist in person and have a tete a tete about Kalpasi and others that i am still clueless about.

In between all these i have just managed to discipline myself to visit a few renowned temples in and around the city. Once inside i feel like a small speck in the vast ocean of devouts and am dumbstruck by their commitments towards the Holy One. i try to close my eyes and connect in a way that i see no more, hear no more but all i can hear is my own mutterings of ,''Hey Bhagwaan!! Hey Bhagwaan!!". i try to rant off all the chants i know which thanks to my good upbringing i know quite a few and come out of the temple campus still feeling so small. Still doubtful if i am any better person than i was so many years ago when i used to fret and fume over materialistic desires. To own this and that. i question and question and the answers i get is far from what a spiritual person should get. i  guess...

Looking at myself i have a lot i want to win my battles against. Craving for non vegetarian for instance being one of them apart of owning a bit of this and that of Chennai. Just lighting the Kamakshi Deepam correctly is not sufficient. i am still waiting for that Light to shine upon me which gets rid of these desires and directs me towards a still more enriching and fulfilling path.
That journey which once taken should lead me to my own sense of richness where i feel small no more.

Right now i feel like i am still groping.
And i wish people should stop seeing me for what i am not.
They should stop their unsolicited advice on what all i should do...the so many self realisation programmes i should join and just let me be.
Just let me read...let me visit...let me follow the whiff...for it shall lead me...
"What you WANT is irrelevant what you've CHOSEN is at hand"... Spock (Star Trek)
For being on my own in Chennai when i had arrived i found the fulfillment of being a wife...a mother...learning through trials and errors and finally looking back now with no regrets whatsoever.

Sometimes though i wonder if all this would've happened the way it happened if i was not in Chennai but somewhere else.
A blogdost of mine recently blogged about something similar...about the place you are in...whether you like it or dislike it.
i feel that every place has it's own temperament and it's suitability depends a lot upon your own prejudices.The goings may get tough or easy but it depends upon how well you are able to assimilate the positives and ignore what is not conducive to your own enrichment.
i smile now with that warmth of how wonderfully i was groomed in Chennai to be the person i am today.
Now i look forward to my new destination with added hope that it should guide me towards a newer and still richer journey.
 "In the final analysis the hope of every person is simply peace of mind"...Dalai Lama

Although all my lessons intact from Chennai i will remain a staunch Chennaite.

Image Courtesy:


  1. Enjoyed the post. You truly are a Chennaite and will remain so for the rest of your life due to your values and excellent upbringing. I too feel that every place has it's own temperament and it's suitability depends a lot upon you than anyone else. I am positively sure you will do very well in your new home. Here's wishing you and your family the best.

  2. @Tandarin thank you for reading and acknowledging.
    i see ur comment and smile...the day will be fantastic with warm thoughts yet again :)
    Thank you for all ur good wishes.
    Good wishes for you and ur family too :)

  3. Shivani:

    You leaving Chennai?!?! Awww. I am sure Chennai will also miss you when you depart to another place. You post was wholesome that it covered every aspect of your experience in Chennai. Being a Tamil myself, I don't much like Chennai. As Mr. Nike mentioned, you are a true Chennaite and shall remain so. I am sure that the new place will also warm to you in terms of food, weather, love, people, art and life in whole. Here's wishing you the best in the new place.

    I shall await to read your descriptive blog posts from the other place as well.

    And thanks for the mention. I am truly honoured.

    Joy and much love,

  4. @Susan:
    Thank you Susan actually am quite awed by ur thoughts and the pleasure was completely.Thanks.
    Just when we were getting to know each other.Maybe another of those Murphy Laws...
    Sure i shall keep blogging and look forwards to urs and all my other loyal blogdosts...perhaps meander into some of urs.
    Sure will overflow with descriptions...warm in terms of all that you have just mentioned.
    Will now be in touch always...wherever...whenever.
    Hugs...i felt like hugging you with joy today
    and yes Joy ALWAYS,

  5. darling ur feelings 4 chennai r so true.u hv gifted little bit of chennai to me name a few,podi,tanjore paintings,kalpasi, deepams,elegant sarees,biryani masalas and lots kids had so much fun@ur place.thanks 4 knowing the city well.we love chennai b'coz
    of u.nevertheless we r going 2 love any place on earth where u live.

  6. @Gauri You are so right about this...i guess even the most remote corner is interesting when we are together.And everything needs to be laughed about.
    Thank you sweetie not only for reading but also for enjoying every bit of my Chennai with me.:)

  7. Chennai- Singara Chennai, haha loved the post i remember as a kid loved sitting in the balcony and watching the cows grazing , butterflies flying in the remote yet homely 'Ayanavaram'. Yeah it will take some time to get used to the new place , but yeah when we get the time we should go back to our old home .

  8. @Aakaash thank you Sonna for taking time out from ur maddening work load and sharing the nostalgia.
    Yes Sonna we will together go back...right now it seems that it's the place we belong but then again it's que sera sera...

  9. """i am still waiting for that Light to shine upon me which gets rid of these desires and directs me towards a still more enriching and fulfilling path.
    That journey which once taken should lead me to my own sense of richness where i feel small no more.""" wow...... i think there is a philosopher in your head! kudos! i do think on the same lines. cant wait to see you write more on such stuff...

  10. @Kiran thank you for reading and considering it worthwhile to call my thoughts as philosophy.Yes i will be writing more on these lines and feel happy that i have someone listening to me and even understanding me to a certain extent.:)