Friday, March 2, 2007

wisdom, wadas, and weekend with natarajan!

i spent 5 wonderful years of my life, in kuwait, from 1987 to 1992. worked in an oil refinery, looking after the maintenance of online process gas analysers. we lived in a 3 bedroom flat, and everyone else, other than me, in this flat, was from tamilnadu. by the time i returned to india, my mother cud never understand how can a guy return from a 5 yrs stint in an arab country, and be so used to sambar-n-rice! i owe it all to the excellent, and exotic culinary skills of my senior colleague mr s natarajan. i was a 25 yr old bachelor then, and natarajan was in his early forties. a man of wisdom, and exceedingly good at conjuring up some amazing traditional tamil recipes, i loved to spend time with him. we had a 5 day week, and on thursday mornings, natarajan used to prepare a huge pile of parappu wadai, or daal wadas, made out of chana daal, for all of us. i used to be with him during this whole process, in the kitchen. every minute spent with natarajan was a learning experience for me. he was an ocean of knowledge, whether u ask him anything from our religious scriptures, communism in russia, the civil war in the usa, our independence struggle, etc etc.weekends in kuwait were thursday n friday. we would get up early on thursday mornings too, while every one else slept, the preparation for the wadas wud begin. it wud start with him bringing his cassette player in the kitchen, and play some lilting ilayaraja numbers, or at times, he would play "suprabhatam". then he wud begin the wada process, first he would meticulously chop the onion very fine, grind the daal soaked in water overnight. next he used to grind black pepper, lots of it, coarse. he said one shud feel the pepper cracking under our teeth while eating the wadas!! mix all the above, along with salt, chopped coriander, finely chopped ginger, lots of curry leaves, and grated coconut. believe me friends, i am yet to forget the aroma of these divine wadas.and while the process wud go on i used to ask him questions, mainly on our scriptures, since he knew a lot. i remember asking him once, the reason behind hindu women putting kumkum or a bindi on the forehead. was it just to do with fashion or was there more to it? he gave me a wonderful analogy. this is what he said to me:a woman was the head of the home. lets compare the home with the universe. look at what happens in the mornings. the head of the universe, the SUN, rises early in the morning. as the sun rises, there is a crimson glow at the top first, as if nature is laying a crimson carpet for the chief guest to arrive. and then slowly the sun appears, it is crimson too. and once the sun rises, the whole world rises with it. the sun provides the energy to everyone, as people go about their daiily chores. it controls everything from the top, it is the undisputed boss for the entire day. finally at dusk, the lord decides to call it a day, taking away the red carpet, and the crimson ball with it.similarly, early morning, the lady of the house gets up first, puts a red bindi on her forehead, which resembles the sun, puts some more sindoor at the parting of the hair, this resembling the crimson glow, and goes about taking charge of the home, waking up everyone, providing them with energy(food), being in control of things, managing the entire home,and in the evenings, or at the end of the day, a job well completed, the lady goes to bed, taking off the crimson bindi, along with the sindoor. a very unusual, but an interesting comparison. you know something? sharing a secret with you all here. my respect for the lady of the house increased after hearing this explanation from natarajan.incidentally, natarajan and wife now live in trichy. with both the sons well settled, he has now retired from service. and i do miss his wisdom, and his wadas. weekends will never be the same.....


J.KANNAN said...

My dear Anand Bai,
V very good incident nicely and well narrated. Great Natrajans and your blessed one, to have got the opportunity of associating with such wondefrul person.

I have called it a day with ibibo, following your decision.
I want to concntrate on power blog.
You will certainly find intresting post in my blog "http://jaykayram.blogspot,com
I had not been concentrating on this for some time as I got involved with Ibibo. I shall start posting on this from now on. Please read through my profile to know more about me and my family. When you visit Chennai be our guest to accept our hospitality. Me and my wife only are living in a 3 bed room apartment as my only son is married and out of India.All the best to you and your family.

With Love

Sharmila Murthy, M.S.,C.Ht., The Life Path Guide. said...

Dada: this is a great story. and as Mr J Kannan says: very well narrated. While reading through your blog, I felt I was sitting there with you, as always my invisible self (who knows wearing Harry Potter's invisibility cloak) and soaking in all the warm from the early morning kitchen, with daal wadas and pepper and the wise conversations.

I true love coarse black pepper. The way I make them is with a belan or pliers. How did your Anna make crushed black pepper?

I also realize that when we write from the heart, we can write about anything and it is always worth sharing.