Category Archives: Abu Dhabi Diary

Deepawali – The Victory Story

Deepawali in the south of India or Diwali in the north, the festival signifies victory of good over evil. In the north, it is Lord Rama’s homecoming, after his victory over Ravana; In the south, it is the day of Lord Krishna’s victory over demon Narakasura.

Now, my victory story, doesn’t involve any such philosophy. It is the victory of perseverance, victory of persistence, diligence, commitment and the list is endless. Why have I suddenly drenched myself in a sea of boastfulness? Let me elaborate. Exactly on the victorious day of Deepawali – I was a changed person. I suddenly felt my soul reached an unexplainable ecstatic state – with my victory over two things.

One – victory over the tricky Athirasam and Two – victory over the complicated Boondi Laddu! Doesn’t that sound awesome??

Athirasam

Athirasam has always been a tricky affair, since my first article on Athirasam in November 2011. It seems to have been a long journey, but this time, I am a contended soul.

I prayed very hard to all Gods, not for me, not for Athirasam, and also not for the Gods to whom I devoutly offered…. but extensively for my family. They are super appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen. A few times, I succeeded making replica of flattened pumice stone with the athirasam batter. Though it was capable of breaking any tooth, as strong as diamond, they appreciated the polished texture of the thing I made.

A few other times, the batter disintegrated in oil, they sweetly commented, it looked like blooming flowers in a lake. I was smart enough to stop with the first batch. I converted the batter into Appam with Banana or sweet Paniyaram. I even got hugs and kisses for being so very innovative.

Though, my heart brims with pride, having made them proud, on such countless occasions, I could somehow feel they were worried souls, on the eve of Diwali. They were in fact getting panic attacks, when I was preparing the Athirasam batter. With a true feeling of helping them out of this stressful situation, this time I prayed to all Gods, with utmost Devotion.

Thankfully, the Gods didn’t drop – good looking, perfect athirasams from Heaven. That’s when, I started to think, and hence, got so much stories to share with you guys.

So what made the difference? There were a few things I thought I should re-analyse. All numeric ratios were checked and they seemed just right. The measurements were perfect; the ingredients were exact; the procedure was flawless. I felt like a school going kid, with my math problem gone wrong. All formulas right, done in the exact step by step procedure, rechecked several times….. but the answer went wrong. All my teachers stood in front of me, and seemed to be telling me – Maths is all about Practice. Not only Mathematics, anything in life comes with a price – and the most important of all might be…. Time – Devoted Time to practice and practice again.

I realised, making Athirasam was more than a tough mathematical calculation. Practice was not enough. But, learning new nuances from continuous practice helped. What I learnt from continuous Practice is listed below-

  1. Rice flour used for Athirasam needs to be moist and not too dry. That’s why, raw rice is soaked, dried at home for an hour or so, and powdered in the mixer while slightly wet.
  2. Jaggery used should be the darker variety and also one which is right for syrups – we call it the ‘Paagu Vellam’ in Tamil.
  3. Though the ratio is provided, always keep additional rice flour. Because, some varieties of jaggery might take in more flour. If there isn’t enough flour, the mixture would be watery, a consistency not suitable to make athirasam.
  4. Also, always mix rice flour to syrup and, do not pour the syrup into rice flour. This helps in binding the mixture well, and gives room to add more rice flour if needed. But, while pouring syrup into the flour- one might end up having a very thick batter. And, if there isn’t more syrup in hand, it would be difficult to alter the consistency of batter.
  5. The most important of all – THE SYRUP…. that makes the difference. What we need, is a single-string consistency or soft ball consistency syrup.

Soft Ball consistency – How to make the quintessential syrup?

  • Heat jaggery with 1/4 cup water in a vessel to dissolve
  • Filter when jaggery is dissolved and make a syrup.
  • Check for Soft ball consistency? When the jaggery is boiling well in the vessel – keep a bowl of water and add a few drops of the syrup. The drops should settle in water and one should be able to make a soft ball out of the droplets.
  • Soft ball consistency is same as single string. Take very little syrup in between thumb and index finger (be cautious… the syrup is too hot), now, single string should be formed. This is the right consistency of syrup.

Now, after getting the consistency of syrup right, add the rice flour to the syrup and let the batter ferment overnight.

For recipe and ingredients of Athirasam, and my initial stories on how I learnt athirasam from our family kitchen, visit – https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/25/the-tricky-athirasam/

RICE FLOUR

The next important aspect of this year’s Athirasam making was the rice flour. I had store-bought rice flour, that was Idiyappam maavu. While I was wondering, how to use this flour, as an easy option .. this website came to my rescue. https://www.sailajakitchen.org/2018/10/adhirasam-recipe-using-ready-made-rice.html

It had an answer to keep the store bought dry rice powder in moist condition. The author asked to sprinkle water little by little on the rice flour, and after mixing, powder the bread-crumb-like flour with dry ginger and cardamom in a mixer. The moist rice powder for Athirasam is ready.

Isn’t this super smart! I adapted this method, with a slight correction in the syrup consistency- accurately soft ball.

Thank You Sailaja! you made my Day!!

After allowing the batter to ferment overnight, I made athirasam on the day of Deepawali. Gods had answered the prayers of my family. My Athirasams were just perfect.

I had mixed feelings… Had I scored full marks in mathematics? Or was I an athlete, who has just reached the finish line, faster than ever? I touched my head…. do I feel a chef’s cap? I suddenly realised, my feet didn’t touch the ground, then, I pressed myself down.

It might sound like an exaggerated triumph, but, this is no mean feat either. My mother agrees with me. Since Deepawali until today, she has been the lone soul, to have listened each word of my triumphant story of Athirasam, in complete silence on the other side of the telephone. And just said, ‘I’m proud of you’ with tears in her eyes, that I could visualise through my BOTIM call.

Navaratri in Abu Dhabi – Binding Traditions Stronger!

Come September, there are a number of festivals in line. And, for an Indian household, festivals mean exclusive traditions and exquisite food. Pillayar Chathurthi passed with mouth watering Modhakams or Poorna Kozhukkattai. Then came Navratri/Navaratri with many varieties of Sundal or the Healthy seasoned Lentil salads.

This year, Navaratri/Navratri was a special affair. Living in Abu Dhabi, one doesn’t feel out of homeland, with millions of Indians, especially South Indians quite huge in number. But, it is certainly an amazing place where festivals are celebrated in their best traditional way, with undoubted authenticity.

My Navaratri in Abu Dhabi, reminded me of Chennai, where I would go to houses of relatives and friends, to see Golu – the display of dolls/artefacts and many more, in beautifully decorated steps. Golu, showcases the innovative decorations of mostly the women in the house, and ofcourse without gender bias, the men do give a helping hand. Whoever contributes to it, It is creativity at its traditional best.

Why Abu Dhabi reminded me of Chennai, is purely because, the Golu display, Traditional attire, Sundal and singing of Keerthanais in Carnatic music, all part of Navaratri back home, came as a complete package this year. The only difference being, back in Chennai, I went in Pattu Pavadai – the traditional dress for little girls in south India; here in Abu Dhabi – I took my little daughter who came in Pattu Pavadai.

Nostalgia heavily strikes the middle aged .. has any philosopher/psychologist mentioned it? If not, then it’s me to profess it to the whole wide world.

I truly need to thank my friends here, Radha, Rekha, Shalini and Uma, who took me in a time machine and made me relive those splendid memories. Back at home, in one’s own homeland, one is always part of the already built-in society. Sharing traditions and remaining rooted, becomes an easy affair there. Here, in a land of one’s livelihood, one needs to become part of a new society, as well gather parts of their own society to remain culturally rooted. This Navaratri/Navratri and Golu that I write about, are not community events, transferring the cultural current from a core transmitter. Most admirable part here, is that, these women of the household, professionals in their own walks of life, have independently and individually transmitted the tradition and culture, they learnt from their parents, to friends and members of an extended society.

Here are a few pictures of the fascinating decorations in their homes, arranged to perfection. The Navaratri celebrations with the Golu, provided splendid feast for the eyes, soothing traditional music for the ears, scrumptious food for the tummy, and glorious memories for the heart.

The first home that I visited… Golu at Radha’s

the beautiful steps

the Krishna concept

the Devis

the Ganeshas

Golu at Shalini’s..

the beautiful steps

such eye-catchy colours..

the Krishna concept..

surprising twist.. Cambodian concept..Apsaras and Angkor Wat

This one, rekindled my Khmer Memories. Cambodia holds a special place in my heart, for the history of the land, warmth of the people, traditional cuisine and the connect with India, especially Tamilnadu- during the eras of the Pallava and Chola Empires. Nostalgia Overloaded. For more information on my love for Cambodia – please visit – https://dosaikal.com/category/the-cambodia-diary/

Golu at Rekha’s..

the beautiful steps…

Thanjavur thalaiyatti bommai – dancing dolls of Thanjavur – the shopkeeper’s gallery

A big ‘Nandri’ my friends!!

Hand Crafted Poetry!

What a way to start my UAE Diary!! After Holland and Cambodia, it is time to start a new adventure in a new country. What more can I expect, than an artistic push to kick start my Diary in the UAE..

Recently, Ms. Mani Suri, esteemed spouse of the Ambassador of India to the UAE, H.E. Navdeep Singh Suri, displayed her unique pottery creations. Ms. Suri’s 12 year passion, saw the perfect limelight in the midst of the Arabian sands, visible through the glasses of the 90th floor exhibition hall, in Burj Mohammed bin Rashid Tower, near the World Trade Centre,  Abu Dhabi.

She is a professional herself, working as the Design Head of a Production Company in Jaipur. She holds a Masters Degree in Economics from the Guru Nanak University in Amritsar, Punjab and additionally a degree in Communication Design from the USA.

A creation is always a mirror of the artist’s mind. In many cases, it represents the personality of the  creator. The exhibition named – ‘Down to Earth – Mani’s Vibrant Creations in Clay’ showcased the simple person that Ms. Mani Suri is, and yet a vibrant social personality, her friends know her to be.  

Earthy Hues- so close to Mother Earth

I regard handcrafted creations of any medium- be it fabric, metal, rock or clay, as highest forms of artistic creativity.   This one exhibition,  the medium being clay, transferred the connoisseur to an arena, so close to Mother Earth, far away from the mechanical world,  thereby showcasing the artist’s truest appreciation of life.

mother

While ‘Mother’ stimulates nostalgia, ‘Desert Safari’ and ‘Palm Tree’ show the Arabian Charm;

‘Soulmates’ and ‘Lotus’ are synonymous to perfect; if these are perfect, what do we say about the ‘pomegranate’ -flawless? If pomegranates are flawless, the other pomegranate – ‘Anar ka Dhana’ with tiny seeds intact is a stunning thing to watch.

desert safari


palm tree

soulmates

pomegranates


anar ka dhana – seeds intact

All creators are narrators too. This one narrates her flaws too.  The crack in the pot and her perseverance in putting it back to a better shape is inspiring. Optimism has brought out one of the most beautiful pieces in the collection.

optimism at its best!

The colours are striking like those in the ‘Rainbow Ride’ or the ‘Sunshine’.  ‘Cheer Up’ truly cheers you up with its vibrance.   It’s surely an apt name-  ‘the vibrant collections’.

rainbow ride


sunshine


cheer up

Pottery or Poetry?

Ms. Mani was introduced to clay in South Africa, and since then clay from different parts of the world, has been an integral part of her life, hopping off and on different destinations, with her Diplomat husband. She continued her game with clay in Egypt and Australia subsequently.

The products displayed had different creative techniques – rustic, metallic, glazed or the sheeny finish and what not. The artist has gloriously played with clay and her imagination.

One of my favourites is ‘by the beach’.  The relaxed mood that the artist transfers to the onlooker is the success of such pieces of art. The happy mood that ‘let’s go, party’ throws on you is not to be missed.

by the beach

let’s go, party

The ‘Mother Hen’ and the ‘ugly ducklings’ are given such befitting names. 

ugly ducklings and mother hen

The work of pottery is nothing less than poetry in clay. But the names given to the pieces shows Ms. Mani’s interest in playing with words too. interesting and a few definitely fascinating…like the ‘hat trick’, ‘peekaboo’ or  ‘Copernicus’.

hat trick


peek a boo

coppernicus

 

When asked which piece of art she considers her master piece till date, Ms. Suri says – “I can’t name one, all are my children”.

Life can be driven by several forces. But, to lead one that is driven by Passion, is certainly an accomplishment in itself. ‘Down to Earth’ portrays this positive celebration of Life- symbolising Ms. Suri – the artist and creator.