Wings and Chirps

Wanderings of an Itchy Feet

#WordlessWednesday #1 – The Bench

The wooden bench opposite our tent at Kabini River Lodge, Kabini, Karnataka, India. Picture clicked on #Nikon P900.  June 2016.

#MythicalMondays – Manjadikuru

Most of you now know that I hail from Palakkad District in Kerala. To be precise, a small village between Ottapalam and Shoranur, the two nearest railway stations. The infinite train journeys to Kerala on-board the Kerala Express or the Mangala Express remain a significant part of my childhood memories. We made a lot of friends. Even though most of those friendships lasted only for those 48-50 hours of journey, many a teenage love stories bloomed and died during this short period of time. Some of these had me as the supporting cast while a few others had me as one of the lead characters. But each one of these died within few minutes of getting off the train while a few others breathed their last only when we found a new crush.

There is another incident, a regular practice during our temple visits, especially Guruvayoor, which I hold very close to my heart. Stirring the manjadikuru at the Shree Guruvayoor Kshetram. The magical little red seeds. It is believed that the seed contains 12 tiny white elephants, considered lucky for a dozen wishes. At Guruvayoor temple, a large ‘ottu uruli‘, a heavy-bottomed vessel, is placed near the entrance to the sanctum of the temple and it is filled with bright red “manjadikuru” seeds. It is believed that the devotee who places his hands in the ‘uruli’ and ploughs or stirs through the seeds three times is cured of all diseases and attains prosperity.

Here’s a story that I read online. A Tale to Tell From Guruvayur
by Anjali MenonThe exact story that was narrated to me by my maternal aunt, Girija Mema.

The origin of this practice lies in folklore of the temple of Guruvayur. According to the story, a peasant woman who lived in the northern province of Kerala was an ardent devotee of Krishna and aspired to someday visit Guruvayur temple. It was customary to bring offerings to the temple, but she was too poor to afford any gifts. She knew of an old tree that shed beautiful shiny red seeds, so she gathered a handful of them. Leaving the safety of her home and loved ones, she set out on her quest to reach Guruvayur. It was a long, perilous journey on foot during which she had to traverse rivers and deep forests.

Four days later she arrived in Guruvayur. Apparently it was the first day of the month, and the local ruler or Naaduvazhi would visit the temple on the first of every month. To display his devotion, he would donate an elephant every month as an offering to Krishna. Officers of the Naaduvazhi cleared people away from the path to make room for the ruler and his elephant. During the procession the women was knocked to the ground, spilling her precious pouch of red seeds on the ground. Immediately the elephant went berserk and began to run wild. People ran for their lives as the mad elephant began to destroy everything in its path. Unable to control the elephant, the Naaduvazhi prayed to Krishna for a solution to this dangerous dilemma. Suddenly a voice was heard from within the temple: “Where is my Manjadikuru? Where is my devotee, who you have insulted and hurt? Where is my gift that she lovingly put together?”

As the story goes, the people apologized to the woman and gathered up her seeds that were scattered on the ground. With her pouch full of seeds she was escorted into the sanctum of the temple. After submission of her offering, the elephant returned to normal. In memory of her offering, even to this day, a large urn of shiny red seeds is kept within the temple.

These are called manjati in Tamil and Gulgangi in Kannada.

We used to have this tree at my paternal grandmother’s (Achamma’s) house and it was customary for us to spend our days at her house picking up Manjadikuru. Whoever managed to pick up the most was considered the richest. In fact, Achan who was always an angry young man too joined us in picking up these seeds, much to the annoyance of Achamma as she had to keep waiting for him to finish playing with me.

While most people land in Kerala to buy latest design gold jewellery or kasavu sarees or enjoy the famous delicacies like puttu kadala, kappa with meen curry, or a sumptuous sadya, I bought two packets of manjadikuru at rupees forty each from Guruvayoor temple on my last visit, about two years ago.

What do you think is on my list for purchasing on my next visit? It is an uruli. Uruli is a traditional cookware extensively used in Southern states of India. It is commonly made of clay, copper and bronze. Amma has inherited a huge Ottu Uruli from her mother and brought it to our house in Delhi. I want an ‘Ottu Uruli’. A bronze one to be kept inside my Pooja room with my collection of manjadikuru, kunnikkuru, kowdi and gomti chakra stones.

Do you know that astrologers across India and probably the world use kowdis for their calculations? Why?

More on this in my next #MythicalMondays post next week, Kowdi and the Panikkar

A Whiff of Nostalgia

This morning I woke up to this beautiful blue sky decorated with cute patches of crispy white cotton wool. It felt like a drop of dew after months of drought. You ought to experience the worst to be able to appreciate the good. After experiencing infinite number of days of multiple layers of soot and unimaginable levels of air pollution, today looks good. A delightful, cheery and shiny morning with occasional eclipses as the bright orange ball of fire hides behind the visibly bigger cotton patches.

I woke up as usual and sipped my glass of hot water that the loving husband lovingly brought me. He then barged into the washroom for a quick bath before leaving for work. I thanked the inventor of mixer grinder as I ground the leftover saag from last night and kneaded it with the flour for the paranthas. Boiled a few potatoes and made the masaledaar stuffing too. The man who is a foodie and enjoys every bite was delighted. First star of the day, I dreamt.

Task number 2. Switched on all the lights and tried to wake up the girls singing ‘Darling aankhon se aankhein chaar karne do’ in my melodious voice as they curled once again into the cozy razaiis. Stop it, Mamma. 5 minutes more!” Couldn’t blame them but the strict mommy sprung into action and tickled them out of the bed and pushed them into their respective bathrooms. Fed them and packed them off to school with a “I’ll miss you.”

Dropped in at Mom’s place for exactly 7 minutes and rushed back home at the speed of light to escape the house-help’s wrath for making her wait for precisely 3 minutes.

Once she is home, I am like that witch on the broom who runs from here to there at super speed clearing up the mess that we jointly created throughout the previous day and the Mahabharata Yudhha that had taken place just that morning . I hate winters for the extra workload of folding the jumbo razaiis, the jackets, the sweaters, the blazers that have to be hung all around the house. Plus the number of times one has to turn the washed laundry to get it all dried.

I was folding the washed laundry when I rushed to the househelp who was cleaning the utensils. A whiff of air brought in an old yet unforgotten scent from yesteryear. That’s when the mind started playing this ad.

I was confused as to why me of all the people on earth. And why 555? This was one of the few things I disliked from what our generation had to bear with. Such sick colour, texture and odour.

Kiran, yeh 555 jaisi smell kahaan se aa rahi hai?” 

“Pata nahi Didi. Mujhe bhi lag raha hai.”

Actually this has been going on since past 3-4 days and today I studied the pattern. It was only happening every time Kiran was washing utensils. I made a few calculations in my mind and drew up a picture.

“Pakka! Bartan ki tray ke pass aaloo sadd raha hoga.”

“Par Didi aap to har do din mein tray saaf karati ho.”

“Kahin dish washing gel ki smell toh nahi?”

“Naa…pata nahi kya hai. Ho sakta hai bagal waale ghar se ho.”

This is when the detective in me caught the fumes coming out of the geyser plug point. It was melting. A bright and sunny morning with 200 ka fatka early in the morning. Glad that nothing major happened. Just thought of sharing so you check your plug points well in time.

While you’re off to check your connections. I’ll savour this parantha. Now you know the reason for my health…right??? 😀

Yellow-throated Marten

The yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula) is an Asian species of marten. M. flavigula, sometimes also known as the kharza, is the largest marten in the Old World, with the tail making up more than half its length. Its fur is brightly colored, consisting of a unique blend of black, white, golden-yellow and brown. It is an omnivore, whose sources of food range from fruit and nectar to small deer. The yellow-throated marten is a fearless animal with few natural predators, because of its powerful build, its bright coloration and unpleasant odor. It shows little fear of humans or dogs, and is easily tamed. (Source: Wikipedia)

Picture clicked in October 2017 at Malla Ramgarh, Nainital, Uttarakhand, INDIA.

Incy Wincy Spider

“The spider’s web: She finds an innocuous corner in which to spin her web. The longer the web takes, the more fabulous its construction. She has no need to chase. She sits quietly, her patience a consummate force; she waits for her prey to come to her on their own, and then she ensnares them, injects them with venom, rendering them unable to escape. Spiders – so needed and yet so misunderstood.”

~ Donna Lynn Hope

Picture clicked in October 2017 on our way to Chithai, Almora from Nathuakhan in Uttarkhand, INDIA.

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