Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Appa's Birthday Month!

Click here to read the first post ( first month!)

Click here to read the second post ( second month!)

Click here to read the third post ( third month!)

Click here to read the fourth post ( fourth month!)

September 18th is Appa's birthday, he would have been 81 this year. I thought it would be befitting for my one and only brother ( elder) to write a post about Appa this month. He is blessed and lucky to have spent most of his adult life with both Appa and Amma. I really envy him for that alone! :-)

When Janani asked me to pitch in with my thoughts for the montly series of memories about Appa, I was in a fix - what do I write??  I am not a story teller, I don't have a flair for writing like Janani. Additionally, she is always very expressive whereas I am a little subdued. However, I am still going to give this a shot as it is “APPA” and I will put down some of my experiences.

I am touching upon a lighter topic, since it is his birthday this month and I want to make it a happy relatable memory for all of us.

Appa and Food

For people who don’t know Appa, or the little they know of him, he was not very particular about food.  He had the habit of not talking while eating and he has maintained this habit from the age of 12(this is something phenomenal I think as this needs a lot of discipline).  Hence when we all sit to eat together and eat he would not talk at all.  So even if the cooking needed salt or was salty he would never comment, he would just eat it as-is.  Amma/ J or I would realise only when we eat and modify accordingly.

Appa was also a fantastic cook, not that Amma is not ;-)  Both of us have learnt so much of cooking from him.  He was famous for his Curries, Rava upma, Sakkarai Pongal (Sweet dish) etc.  Appa’s Rava Upma is to die for… I realized that he relished food so much when we see him being particular about the ingredients, needed for the dish. He would insist on cooking it himself. I chanced upon so many recipes that he had collected and written down very meticulously while going through his dairies. 

That was no surprise given he was an absolute perfectionist!

Even when we go out for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner he would be very specific about the places we go to or the food that he eats. Breakfast would be Pongal & Vadai or Rava Dosa.  If it is Idly, it has to be the Adyar Sangeetha - he wouldn’t go anywhere else.  He would say "I don’t get such soft Idlys and the sambar that goes with it anywhere else".   

Lunch mostly would be the Woodlands, and it would be the South Indian Thali. We would all know what he would order if he comes out for food with us, it would be the Bhindi sabji with Naan, or the Rava dosa as I had stated earlier. Even while he was in Paris with Janani, he would be very specific about the Indian restaurants there and would comment on the quality not being up to the mark. 

I was the most obedient, soft and gullible between the two of us ( note the sarcasm!), that I was always awarded the best of the punishments given the fact that Appa was a strict disciplinarian.  I apparently told him exasperatedly, during one such episode " Iru ..iru, nan periyavan aaanapram, ungalukku thayir saadam dan tharuven"...roughly translates to " Wait, wait...when I grow up, I will give you only curd rice"!!! J… He would relate this to everyone very often, laughing about it. He would comment that at least he says he will give me curd rice, that's more than enough! Now that he is not around I feel "oh my god I can never sit next to you and share our banter while having food…"

He would not want us to order food through Swiggy or Zomato because the food would not be piping hot.  He would walk up to the street corner tea shop ( Nair Kadai) and bring home those crispy Vadai and he would say "Nair Vadai thaan da Best" ( Nair shop vadais are the best!)... Appa, I miss you whenever I cross that shop and see the bubbling vadais being fried.

He would frequent Mylapore in Chennai, for buying his quota of flowers for his daily puja. His visits would always culminate with Mami kadai Vadai and Bajjis near the Kapaleeswarar temple. He preferred sweets to savories.  Poli and Mini Jaangri from A2B, Bombay Halwa from Parrys (no not the France one ;-) but in Chennai, India.  He was a diabetic but under control, he would never worry about it, he would say the days he eats few more sweets, we can always take an extra dose of the medicine.  He would never say no to Pakodas (Crisp and hot!).  He would buy it and come and offer it to all of us.

Appa also LOVED coffee.  He would never say no to an extra cup when offered.  During J&S visits to India, there would always be a coffee session at 11...  this would be prepared for S only by Appa with lots of love and exactly to his preference.  In the earlier days, he would go all the way to T Nagar to buy a specific combination of filter coffee powder from Pandien Coffee.  Needless to say, it would not be without a visit to Geetha Café or the Balaji Bhavan for his round of Dosas.

He used to make amazing Sakkarai Pongal and Rava Kesari during the many pujas done at home as an offering to god.  He would insist on making it himself and it would turn out to be Yummmm with extra ghee and nuts.  He would say if there is no ghee then there is no Pongal or KesariWhen others cook any sweet dish he would say it is nice but a little more sweet would make it better to suit my taste.  My wife would always say "Appa, this is made exactly to match your taste" which meant there is always an extra spoon of sweetness to the dish. 

This month happens to be his birthday as well (18th Sep).  He would love his birthdays and would tell us that every 18th of the month would be his birthday and he would celebrate it.  Any birthday in the family will have one payasam or the other made by Appa.  His ask of gifts playfully will always be in gold.  He would ask us "how much of Gold are u gifting me???"

In India the 80th birthday (Sathabhishekam) is very auspicious and is celebrated in a grand manner. Sathabhishekam is the set of Poojas and rituals that are performed for the couple when the 81st year starts or when 80th year gets completed. It is usually organized by the couple’s children. This is considered as one of the most important function in our Hindu Traditions.  It is performed when the person completes 80th and enters the 81. The birthday is celebrated in accordance to the Nakshtra (Star) that a person is born rather than the English birthday.  

The 80th birthday according to Indian traditional customs goes this way that when a person sees 1000 full moon in his lifetime (Pirai in Tamil) based on the lunar calendar he completes 80.  Appa would have celebrated it in May.  Technically he did see 1000 moon in his lifetime given the fact that life does form while you are in the womb and if we included it he did complete 1000 Pirai.

Wishing you a very happy birthday Appa.

He was a perfectionist.  Anything that he did had to be perfect.  Something both of us strive to emulate.  He would make sure it was perfect and always on time.  Very disciplined in life.  So much to learn from u, our guiding light, friend, philosopher. 

Naina (that’s how I fondly call him) Sangeetha beckons u…..