Lucky And Vin

Our Imagination let loose; Opinions raging; Views bouncing between the pros and cons; Inventions and Solutions; Recipes for Success; Confusion of Relationships – All this and more under one roof between Lucky and Vin

   Jul 17

Karkadaka Maasam

It’s nearing dusk and thankfully, the rains have ceased. As I walk hurriedly to the temple nearby, I can hear the shlokas of the Ramayanam from nearly every house I pass.. It’s 16th July 2012 and the Ramayana maasam has begun.

Sree Rama Rama Rama,Sree Ramachandra Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Ramabhadra Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Sithabhirama Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Lokabhirama Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Ravananthaka Jaya

Sree Rama Mama Hridi Ramatham Rama Rama

Karkadaka masam popularly known as the Ramayana Masam in Kerala and the Aadi maasam in Tamil Nadu falls on the last month of the malayalam calendar and the fourth month of the Tamil calendar. Malayalis have always referred to the old solar calendar of the malayalam era “Kollavarsham“.

From special discounts on religious books to a ready-made mix of ‘Karkadaka Kanji’ or ‘Marunnu Kanji’; a special gruel made during this season (some call it the Monsoon Soup Recipe(!)), the city markets are all set for this ‘panja’ maasam – the month of scarcity, because it is also the time of the torrential monsoons of the South when the days are dull, gloomy and rainy. The Karkadaka month has long been identified as the period for preventive treatments and rejuvenation therapies due to this very reason.

As per the Hindu astrological almanac – The Panchangam – new ventures and auspicious functions such as marriages are not held during this month.

 Some Important Rituals:

KARKADAKA VAAVUBALI/ Pithru Tharppana (propitiating the departed souls)

A ritual dedicated to the dead ancestors and relatives is performed on the Amavasi or no moon day in the Karkadaka Masam. Thousands of people visit the sea shores and riverbanks to offer ‘bali’ to their departed ancestors. Temples and religious organizations make elaborate arrangements for the ritual. It is believed that the souls of dead ancestors attain ‘moksha’ or eternal peace when ‘Vavu Bali’ is offered. It is performed under the guidance of an elderly person or priest.

Darbha (a type of long grass), pavithram (ring made of darbha grass), cheroola (a special herb), ellu (sesame), cooked rice, water and banana leaves are the important accompaniments needed for performing bali ritual. The ‘bali’ ritual done on a banana leaf is finally taken to the river/sea by the person who offered the bali and that person dips in the water along with the offering leaving it in the water.

Pithru Tharppana

Pithru Tharppana

In 2012, July 18th and 19th are the dates for the vaavubali. I think this year it begins at around 3:30m on 18th July and goes on till 19th July.

A karkadaka vaavubali story: You may be wondering why there is a special day for this, right? One of my friends told me that it is assumed our ancestors live on the side of the moon which is not visible from earth. New moon is the day when the sun rays never reach the side of the moon which is facing earth, due to which we cannot see the moon. It means that the sun rays are completely on the other side of the moon, where our ancestors live – which is like noon time to them.

Similarly full moon day is that day where sun rays are completely on the side of moon facing earth, so it will be night time for our ancestors. So one day for our ancestors is 28 days for us, with new moon day as meal time and full moon day as midnight for them. So when we do a bali on new moon day, we are actually serving lunch for our ancestors.

So what is special for the new moon day of karkadakam? It is assumed that Devas live on Meru parvat, which is on the north pole of the earth. In Geography classes, we have learnt that there are three months in a year in north pole region when the sun never sets. It happens when the sun is on the utharayanam and reaches the max north area. Similarly there are three months where it is completely dark there, when the sun is on the dakshinayanam. Here, we can consider that one day for Devas is same as one year for human beings, with dakshinayanam time as night and utharayanam time as day. The middle of utharayanam time is the lunch time for Devas, which comes in Karkadaka vavu day!

So it is inferred that we are choosing for vaavubali, that day in a year when we get an opportunity to serve lunch for the Devas and ancestors together.

Ada courtesy Hari Menon Photography

Ada courtesy Hari Menon Photography

In northern Kerala, people also believe that the dead ancestors pay visit to homes on the Karkadaka Vavu (കര്‍ക്കടക വാവ്). Therefore people prepare and offer Ada (a sweet made of rice) to the departed souls.
Some of the important places and temples to offer Vavu Bali are:
Thirunelli, Varkala Papanasam, Thirunavaya, Sri Sundarekhsa Temple in Kannur, Thrikunnapuzha, Thiruvillavumala, Shanghumukam in Trivandrum, Aranamula, Thiruvallom, Kollam Thirumulavaram, Aluva.
Karkidaka Vavu Bali

Karkadaka Vavu Bali

RAMAYANA PARAAYANAM– Decades ago, Karkadaka Masam used to be one of the difficult months due to heavy rains and floods. To ward off nature’s fury people used to read the Ramayana during this month. Ramayana means “the march (ayana) of Rama in search of human values.”
Ramayana Vaayana

Ramayana Paraayanam

The famous Malayalam Version of the Ramayana titled Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu written by Thunchath Ezhuthachan is the one recited during this month. After lighting the evening lamp, devotees sit before the nilavilakku (traditional Kerala lamp) and recite the Adhyatma Ramayanam in a particular rhythm. The reading of the epic is managed in such a way that the reading ends on the last day in the Karkadakam Month.
The Ramayana is a smriti which is translated as “from memory”. It is composed of verses called Sloka, which are in turn grouped into individual chapters called Sargas, wherein a specific event or intent is told. These chapters or sargas are grouped into books called Kaandas where Kaanda means the inter-node stem of sugar cane, or also a particular phase of the story or an event in the course of story telling.
According to The Hindu, academic M.G. Shashibhooshan says, “The month represents a time when there is heavy rain and people read the Ramayana to build self-confidence during the difficult times. It is not always possible to complete the entire book, so mostly ‘Sundarakandam,’ the fifth book is read.” Sundarakandam is the fifth book in the Hindu epic – the Ramayana. It depicts the adventures of Hanuman. Surprisingly, this ‘Sundarakandam’ is the only chapter of the Ramayana in which the hero is not Rama, but rather Hanuman. Hanuman’s selflessness, strength, and devotion to Rama are emphasized in the text. Hanuman was fondly called Sundara by his mother Anjani and Sage Valmiki chose this name over others as this kanda deals mainly with Hanuman’s journey to Lanka and back.

Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana Hanuman

Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana Hanuman

aapadaam apahartaaram daataaram sarvasampadaam. .
lokaabhiraamam shriiraamam bhuuyo bhuuyo namaamyaham..

” I bow again and again to Sree Rama who removes (all) obstacles and grants all wealth and pleases all. “

This is a salutation offered at the start of reading any scripture as per tradition. This prayer is for removing all obstacles encountered. The prefix Sri to Rama indicates that Rama is always accompanied by Sri, His consort Seetha in the form of goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi.

Ramayana is not only significant in the spiritual element embedded in it but also holds out ideals for every home and family. The Ramayana is the legend of Lord Rama. But it is not just an account that should be read during a particular period or a poem of mere presentation.

It tells the story of a noble human being, his bonds and relations, how a man should behave, the path that is to be chosen for a good life and more. We can trace out the duty of a younger brother to the elder one which is reflected in Lakshmana and Bharatha. The extreme and untainted attachment to his master can be seen in Lord Hanuman. The unadulterated loyalty to her husband and tolerance can be spotted in Sita Devi. Ramayana focus on fraternity of brotherhood, lenience, endurance, dedication and devotion.

If we can get our children to read The Ramayana, it will have a profound impact on their minds. The Ramayana describes the epic battle to wipe out Evil. It not only teaches us dharma, it also sheds light on the unpleasant situations that we may have to face in life and the choices that lie before us. It teaches us that problems are inevitable in one’s life, but if one is filled with wisdom and devotion one can overcome any problem.

 

AYURVEDIC TREATMENTS

 

Some people drink Karkadaka Kanji, a gruel mixed with herbs and medicines, in the month.

The Making of Karkadaka Kanji

INGREDIENTS:

1 teaspoon each of the following herbs:

Aashali (Peppergrass or Garden Cress), Fenugreek (Uluva), Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander seeds, Aniseed, Dry Ginger, Black Cumin, Nutmeg, Cloves, Varattu Manjal (Curcuma Longa), Uzhinja (Cardiyospermum Halikakabam or in Sanskrit, Indravalli), Thazhuthama (Boerrhavia diffusa or Hog Weed), Kurunthotti (Sida rhombifolia) roots, Kari kurinji (Strobilanthes ciliatus), Puthirichundu, Changlam piranda, Ayamodakam (Caraway, Persian cumin or Ajwain), Ariyaaru mix.

1/2 cup Navarra Rice (A special kind of rice grown in Kerala. Unlike brown rice in spite of its health benefits, this rice is still not included in main stream cooking.) You could also use par boiled rice (matta ari)
2 tablespoons whole mung beans (green gram)
2 tablespoons broken wheat

1/2 cup fresh milk
1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon ghee
2 pearl onions/shallots
1 teaspoon salt
Jaggery/Karipetti to taste.

METHOD:

1. Boil the herbs,beans, rice and wheat in a litre of water.
2. When the rice, beans and wheat appear cooked add both the milk. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and jaggery, stirring to combine.
4. Heat ghee in a pan and sauté the chopped shallots to a golden brown colour. Pour the tempering over the kanji.

Karkidaka Kanji

Karkadaka Kanji

 

In these days of city living, I think it’s easier to buy a karkadaka kanji mix because it’s very hardto find all these herbs unless you have an ayurvedic store nearby or you live in the countryside.

NALAMBALA DARSHANAM (obeisane at four temples)
A pilgrimage to the four temples dedicated to Lord Ram and his brothers is undertaken in the Ramayana Masam. It is believed to be a ‘punyam’ (heavenly reward of holiness). The Nalambalam is of Rama and his brothers Baratha, Lakshmana and Satrugna. The worshipping and praying at Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar, Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Shatrugna at Payammal (all in Thrissur district) and Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikulam (in Ernakulam district but somewhat near to Payammal) in a day is the practice. After the Darshan at Triprayar in the morning the devotee is supposed to worship at Payammal before noon.
There is even an order in which we need to go about paying respect to the Gods – The pilgrimage has to begin with Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar. Bharatha is the first brother of Rama. The next worship is therefore to Bharatha. The second brother is Lakshmana. It therefore necessitates the next worship at Moozhikulam where Lakshmana is. The final worship is to Satrugna at Payammal.
Read interesting stories about the Nalambala Darshanam at Karma Kerala – Gods & Goddesses. I love such stories and I think you will too :))
LAKSHMI PUJA
This month is considered as the month of Goddess Lakshmi. The Lalitha Sahasranamam is chanted to invoke Goddess Devi and archanas are offered. The day before Karkadakam commences, there is a spring cleaning like process known as “Chettaye Purathakkal“. Not only is the exterior cleaned on this occasion but the purification of mind and body is also observed. During earlier times, from Karkadakam 1 onwards a set of auspicious things including Ashtamangalyam and Dasapushpams were arranged in front of the nilavilakku in the morning. Normally used auspicious things were gold, rice, sandalwood, small casket containing vermilion, vaal kannadi (a special kind of handled mirror), small lamp, kindi (metal water pot with a spout) and kasavu mundu (dhoti with a gold brocade border). Dasa pushpams include tulasi, karuka, mukkutti, kayyunnyam, krishnakranti, cheroola etc. This ritual was called Lakshmiku Vaykkal or Sheepothi orukkal for prosperity. Nowadays, Hindus are not too strict on these procedures.
GANAPATHY HOMAM & BHAGAVATHY SEVA
Most of the temples in Kerala will conduct Ganapathy Homam in the morning and Bhagavthi Seva in the evening throughout Karkadakam.
AANAYOOTU & SUKHA CHIKITSA FOR ELEPHANTS
During Karkadakam temples in Kerala will witness Anayoottu. Marking the beginning of the treatment season for elephants, a mass feast for elephants will be held at the Vadakkumnathan Temple at Thrissur on the first day of the Karkadaka maasam, attracting elephant lovers from far and wide. Freshly bathed elephants with sandal-paste and vermilion smeared on their foreheads will be lined up at the southern tower of the temple to be fed rice mixed with ghee and turmeric, fruits, cucumber, dried coconut, sugarcane and jaggery.
Aanayootu @ Vadakkumnathan temple

Aanayootu @ Vadakkumnathan temple

 

This is the only month when the elephants of Kerala especially those at Guruvayur, have a 30 day time off for ayurvedic rejuvenation followed by nearly a month of complete rest.

So go ahead and have a great month ahead!! Get yourself pampered by ayurvedic drinks and massages, visit temples and feel that sense of peace pervading your mind, feed the elephants, pray to your ancestors and read the Ramayana 🙂

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   Jul 10

Hotel Fusion

Hotel Fusion, a stone’ throw from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the cable cars and bus transport is right at the heart of downtown San Fransisco. There’ pretty much access to the entire city of SFO!

Hotel Fusion Entrance

Hotel Fusion Entrance

Observing a night club – Infusion Lounge – located beside the hotel, I was a bit apprehensive.  The Guest Service staff at the front desk were very courteous and we were told that our room had been upgraded from the Queen that we had booked to a Junior Suite! Can’t say I wasn’t thrilled to hear that.

The room unfortunately, was not too spacious. A Junior Suite at the Hotel Fusion is a single room which has been divided into 2 spaces – the inner bedroom with an attached bathroom and the outer area where there was the daybed, a comfy chair, a small tea table, the mini fridge, a combination safe and a desk with a chair. This division made the room feel a bit small and cramped with all our luggage camping right in the front as there was no extra dresser to keep them in. There was a tiny closet area behind the door where the iron board and iron were placed. The carpet was well worn. It may have been vaccumed nevertheless we just weren’t confident letting our infant son crawl over it. Believe me when I say he was not happy with that restriction! 😉 So, we allowed him access only on the bed or the divan in the front room. The bed was very comfy and I loved the very spacious and well lit bathroom.

Not our pic..but the very same room

The room we stayed in had no view; instead it overlooked the windows of other rooms – which was not a pleasant feeling. But it wasn’t a deal breaker for us as we didn’t have to open the windows and we could just pull down the thick curtains 🙂 Plus, I guess being on the top floor and on the other side of the night club, we escaped the music (that I heard some other customers describe and complain about) from the Infusion Lounge.

Breakfast was served in a small room on the top floor. So obviously we had to take what we needed to our room to eat. We enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast on that first day. There were oranges, oatmeal, different croissants and cakes plus orange and cranberry juices and milk/tea/coffee. All tasty, but having to have the same stuff everyday morning got a bit tiresome into the second day! It is just impossible to actually have the same menu day after day even if it is available at sharp 7am till 9am. Calling this menu a ‘continental breakfast’ may be a teeny-weeny tad lil bit far fetched…I’m not sure..but hearing ‘continental’, I’d been expecting something more elaborate… like including doughnuts, bread/biscuits with ham/sausage/bacon, scrambled eggs, cheese, toast, salad…you get the idea..

Breakfast room

Breakfast room

The staff was quite accommodating and friendly even when we wanted to use the microwave after breakfast hours. Room Service too was very polite and pleasant. They clean the room daily unless specifically asked to let it be. I loved coming back after a windy and sun-burnt day of touring the city to find 2 mint chocolates on the pillow and the sheets turned down in readiness for bed.

Personally, I felt Hotel Fusion to be a pretty safe place even though it is in downtown SFO. The elevator operates only if the room key is inserted into a slot in the lift. The rooms have a dead bolt. And, there are bouncers outside the lounge every night. Hence the pathway outside the hotel is usually free of crowds. On weekends, after 10pm, I noticed an extra security personnel (who looked like an FBI agent with his headset and black suit ;-)) outside Hotel Fusion (the hotel had closed its doors too) who made sure that none other than the hotel’s customers entered the hotel. I felt secure. What more does one need!

We got to hear about this hotel via an offer on Expedia which combined the airfare and hotel accommodation for a fair price.  However, I think if we had planned our trip earlier and maybe added a 10 or 20 USD more we could have booked at a hotel with a more spacious room.

I wasn’t taken up by San Francisco city. But I would recommend Hotel Fusion to friends visiting SFO or choose this hotel if I ever had to go over to SFO again.

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   May 23

Mom to Mom – ‘Sharing Wisdom’

I came to the US with a pack of Pampers from the UAE for my 3 month old baby. I specified UAE because believe it or not, my son developed rashes from the Indian pampers but was very comfortable in the UAE pampers.

I am not the biggest fan of disposable diapers (except during nighttime). However, I realized it would be too hard to keep up with the washing and carpet cleaning in the US if I were to use the cloth nappies that my little guy was so comfortable in in India.

So when I reached here, I went through a whole lot of reviews – I know, I know.. you must be wondering how paranoid I must be to have gone through reviews for a baby diaper!!! But I can’t help myself. I did. –  and found that Pampers had real bad reviews. So as you must have guessed, I was pretty hesitant to go in for it. Plus the boxes are sooo large here! In India, we get trial packs of 2 or 5 diapers. But here, each box is like 32 diapers, 72 diapers and so on! Isn’t that enough to scare away any new customer?!

While wandering the aisles of Safeway, I saw this brand called Mom to Mom. It sounded safe, secure and baby friendly. Obviously..From one mom to another mom sharing wisdom.. who wouldn’t keep buzzing back to this very appealing brand ?! Also, it is a cheaper brand and the only one that had a box available with the least number of disposable diapers packed – I think around 22 – 27 diapers. (Hey! You do have the larger boxes but I wanted to test them first.)

Initially I did not realize that this was a Safeway product, but V compelled me to try a new brand to at least see if it was alright with our son. May be he too was taken in by the tagline! 😉

Anyway, we tried it and guess what! We loved it. Our son was happy with it. No rashes, no irritation. It did not feel too stiff to me. Also, it did not leave baby’s bum damp even though in the morning he would sometimes (take note: very very rare sometimes) have a very wet diaper.

M2M Sharing wisdom

Now, we use the larger boxes. They truly are soo much better than the name brands.

As we gave the diaper a try we also tried the unscented Mom to Mom Supreme wipes. Those were great too. Once we started using Safeway’s product, we haven’t felt the need to change to another brand.

Mom to Mom is pretty affordable and very efficient. O! Did I forget to mention that they are very cute too? Each size has a different animal’ picture on them and some wigglies too 😉

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   May 23

Carrot Halwa

V just loves Gajar ka halwa (Carrot halwa). I guess you could say it is one of his favorite desserts. I think it is because this dish is yummmmmy and healthy! 😉

Ingredients:

2.5 cups or 500 g grated carrot

2.5cups or 500 ml milk

150 g sugar

1/2 cup ghee (pour slowly as required because you may not actually need the full half cup)

1/4 cup mixed dry fruit (fried almond, cashewnuts, raisins, pista)

Method:

Place milk and grated carrot in a hard bottom pan. Bring to boil. Cook over medium heat until the milk dries up. Keep stirring so as to prevent the mixture from sticking onto the pan.

Add ghee and saute for almost 10min. Next add sugar, cardamom powder and the available dried fruits. Stir continuously for 5-10 min.

Stir well and fry on low heat until the ghee starts to separate.

Gajar ka halwa

Being packed with fresh carrots, it is beneficial in numerous ways such as improved vision, prevention of cancer and heart diseases, anti-ageing properties, glowing skin, healthy teeth and gums and as a body cleanser.

What other dessert can satisfy your sweet tooth and be low on calories at the same time?

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   May 22

Love or not?

“WOMAN COMMITS SUICIDE AFTER TIFF WITH HUSBAND”

The headlines jar from the paper as I walk past the newspaper stand in Delhi. Normally I would not give it a second look because these days such news are the only stuff the media is concerned about. And as each year progresses, the more atrocious the crimes get! But, the names of those involved is what stopped me. (O no, I’m not going to reveal the names.. Let’s just say the husband is RT and AJ is the wife’ name.)

I’ve known RT and AJ from my school days. They were my seniors and they were the cutest couple around.. Of course I never realized they were seeing each other till much later..but it was very clear to whoever saw them together that they had a very special bond.

It was a shock to hear that AJ suicided! And the reason was a tiff with her 18 month old husband RT who was the love of her life! I mean, how was it even possible?! That was the first question in my mind. Maybe it was a murder. Who knows..

This incident got me thinking about how precious life is and how precariously balanced love is in any relationship. It is not something you can take for granted and neither can we safely assume that it is going to last forever. In olden times, yes. Maybe it did last forever. But now, the times have changed and even though it is supposedly modern times, we all are still in search of that one true love which somehow seems elusive to many.

Even being in love is not enough. It can fade..It can vanish..It can be misplaced..It can be trampled upon..It can be destructive..Love can make even the most controlled people lose control.
What is most difficult and so much more important is to STAY in love. To be able to make the relationship work.To be able to let go and trust each other, understanding without words what your partner needs. And in the end, to BE there for each other in the face of all else. If you have that, then you are most lucky. You can find a way out of anything because you have love in its purest form.

Talking of love, it is not just what you have or try to beget between a husband and wife that I’m talking about. You have soo many different kinds of love. Now, assuming that it truly is a suicide, if AJ had just paused a moment and thought of her parents, her friends and all those people who care for her and want to see her happy, she surely would have been dissuaded from this rash act. She could have been in due course of time even if that meant a life without RT. Maybe that just wasn’t enough to change her plans. The problem is as I read somewhere else,..marriage is more about what you do when there is no chemistry rather than what you do when you’re full of emotion. The real passion comes when each partner does acts of kindness….when they don’t feel like it…

Even now, it is hard to believe that such a bubbly and cheerful girl who was well loved by so many, who had a single boyfriend whom she loved more than anything and whom she married after so many years together, who even bought a pet with her husband a month earlier, willingly took her life!! Wouldn’t that make anyone think twice and want to learn what exactly might have gone wrong?

LOVE..Those four letters which can wreck havoc at such short notice.. which can make or break lives.

I’d always felt that if you have love, you can work through anything. But now, I wonder. Can we really work through anything? Can love not get so manipulated in our heads that it can twist its deep roots in our heart making us think things that may not be true, do things that may not be right. Can we survive when love becomes warped? When it feels like you are being pulled in two directions.

Would you end your life or try to see a way through even if it meant more misery, tears and humiliation?

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