13th Day Ceremony.

In a clear sign of advancing senility, I clean forgot about some photographs that I had taken on the 20th of last month when I had gone to attend the 13th day ceremonies following the death of my cousin at Thane.

The practice in my community is that we mourn for 12 days and finally bid the soul goodbye on the 13th day with a homam performed at home. A Homam is a ritual where offerings are made into a sacred fire. The root word of the Homam is ‘ha’ which means ‘offering’ or ‘sacrifice’ in Sanskrit. In northern regions of India it is called havan and in southern India it is called homam, but the meaning and the procedure is same everywhere. Homam is performed in almost every significant event or ceremony of a Hindu household life. It is an important religious and spiritual practice among Hindus. There are different kinds of homam depending on the purpose and the presiding deity of the homam.

Agnidev or Fire God is the deity in this particular ceremony. Herbs, twigs, fruits, grains and ghee are offered into fire chanting appropriate mantras. The smoke that comes out of the fire is spread far and wide. This purifies the atmosphere. At the end everyone circumambulates the fire and offer obeisance. The dust of burnt ashes is applied on the forehead.

My nephew Jaisundar and niece Meena were great caregivers for their mother Devi during her last days and they sent her off from her mortal coils also with great care and attention to detail. My cousin, that is the brother of the departed Devi and his wife Vijaya had come from Chennai and the occasion gave me the opportunity to catch up with them too. There were five Shastrigals (Tamil Brahmin Priests trained in all Hindu rituals and the Vedas) who performed the rituals very well. At the end of the ceremony, one very erudite priest explained the significance of the ceremony in English to us modern Tambrams who did not have a clue.
Feast 2

The homam was followed by a fantastic traditional Tambram meal served on plantain leaves and it was with great reluctance that I left Thane to return to Pune.

Two photographs are shown below.
with agni

sundar and meena

The top one is rather hazy because of the smoke that is sine qua non for this ceremony. The lower one shows Sundar and Meena participating in the rites. My regular readers will remember Meena the Lion Lady.

Modern Entertainment With Grand Children

These two are Kedar 5 and Sarang 3, my grand nephews. Behind them reading, is my sister in law Shanta. The photographer is my brother Arvind.

The boys were completely engrossed in a film clip being shown to them by their very indulgent grand father.

Can any of my readers recall being indulged with anything like this at that age?

Arvind had this to say about the little fellows.

“I have not had the pleasure of seeing two boys growing up together, for a long time. Though, Rukki has two boys, Raghav is a mild fellow. (Ruki is Arvind’s daughter who lives in Bengaluru and Raghav is her son.) But these two rascals remind me of my childhood days with my two brothers.(Implying either that the two others were rascals or all three were!)

The other day, the older fellow hid all his miniature toy cars under my easy chair cushion, so that the younger fellow wouldn’t have access to them. Unfortunately, I happened to sit on the chair and felt all those little cars poking everywhere under me. I yelled at him and the secret hiding place was blown,

Then he hid them inside my pillow cover. The younger fellow was searching for them and in the process stuck his head inside the the pillow cover. He could not extricate himself and started yelling. The mother came and started yelling at them both, and couldn’t get their names straight. Regular Ara.Bara,Ramana, repeating. (Our mother inevitably used all the three names to call one of us.)

Yesterday, Kedar and Sarang pulled out the pillow cases and used them for a sack race. One more yelling from the mother and a few curses; the modern version of “kaattailey poravangalaa”. (Kattayiley Poravangala, is Tamil to call some one a corpse. One that is scheduled to lie on a pile of wood to be cremated.) This is a curse used particularly by the Tambrams. (Tamil Brahmins. No kin to the Boston variety, this is the real McCoy.)

Usage And Abusage.

One of my favourite reference books goes by the title of this post. The author, I am sure would not have thought of this new shocker for me.

Our newspapers are frequently advertising a new Mutual Fund offering.
The advertiser is a highly respected and conservative, Tambram (Tamil Brahmin) family run company from the South of India.

My understanding of this advertisement was straight forward. Promoting a new MF. I was made wiser by my son who thought that this was hilarious. I was puzzled till he asked me to google for ‘Golden shower’. Before disambiguation, I was led to this wikipage.

I am now wiser by hindsight. I wonder if the Sundarams are!

The Complicated Me?

This post has been in the making for some time and finally was triggered by a recent exchange of mails between me and a very perceptive and dear friend. I hope that this is the catharsis that will bring about some badly needed change.

A little background. My friend had been hard of hearing for many years and only about a year ago was fitted with hearing aids after a successful surgery for cochlear transplant. The two of us meet infrequently but exchange mails and SMS messages often.

The exchange was triggered off by a reference to a book by my friend who wanted me to check out and if found interesting enough to buy it. I checked it out, found it not up to my current levels of interest in the subject of social psychology, and advised him about it. That led to another set of exchanges, starting with this:

“Rather surprised. The impression I took away from my last visit to you was of someone increasingly impatient with appearances. On the other hand your blog suggests that the Tambram in you wont go without a Nobel. Perhaps the breaks that arise so subtly in our dialogue are due to this. (Tambram is short for Tamil Brahmin, the community to which I belong. For a great write up on the community, you can read a literary icon of India, Kushwant Singh here.) My friend suggests that despite many dissimilarities with the stereotype, my innate Tambram qualities come out unexpectedly and with some impact on the immediate neighborhood!

“The dialogue that I refer to is with with one of the many yous. The you on the gaddi ( Gaddi is the ceremonial chair that Gurus sit on.) at the moment is said to be the Sage of Kalyaninagar but I have a feeling that he has been installed there by a you that’s in rebellion against another you. You’re quite a complicated guy!” ( I live in Kalyani Nagar, a suburb of Pune, and my friend lives in St. Patrick’s Town, another suburb, about fifteen Kms away)

I responded with this message:

“I yield to the sage of St. Patrick’s Town. I am complicated only to those who try to find hidden agendas in me! I simply do not have any. I wear my heart on my sleeve as it were! This being so unusual that people tend to find me a very complicated fellow!”

This led to some more exchanges which are not relevant to this topic, but ended with this message:

“My mistake, incurred in the course of conversations in the pre-cochlear days. Reinforced by the evidence of Tambram irregularities. Seriously speaking though, you do appear to be groping your way through some inarticulate crisis. Obviously something to do with your wife’s demise but more than that at the same time.”

The last paragraph is very perceptive of my friend. I have been noticing a tendency to be short tempered and easily annoyed in the recent past. Today, at lunch, an innocuous statement by my father sent me off into orbit and it took me some time to cool down and get back to my normal self.

Some post lunch meditation and introspection helped me to identify the problem of a simmering “Why me-itis”. I have now been a caregiver for nine years and perhaps it is natural to want out. After my wife’s passing away in March, I have been focused on looking after my father and perhaps have over done that. Yet, present compulsions prevent any drastic decisions towards achieving that status of wanting out. This is the possible reason for the “inarticulate crisis”. I am not a psychologist, but this makes sense to me. Between my father and me, “Status Anxiety”, each coming from Head of the Household positions into a unavoidable yet a new equation is upsetting to both. This in turn is perhaps making me appear as I do to my friend.

I need to work on that understanding a bit, lest I end up being a care receiver instead of a care giver. This possibility was advised to me by my late wife’s Cardiologist who warned me to live my life too. I have not been doing that the way I can, and I think that I should now change.

I wonder if I will be nominated for the Nobel for introspection and blogging about it! The Tambram in me will then be satiated.