The social life of Tambrahms is full of 'functions'. This is the collective noun for an assortment of socio-religious occasions, when one dons expensive saris, jewellery, rubs shoulders with numerous relatives and, most importantly, FEASTS! Life in Chennai over the past fifteen months has been filled with Kalyanams, Shashtiyaptapoortis, Sadabhishekams, Poonals and Punyajanams.
The first thing about Tambrahm events is that they begin early. Very early. It is not unusual for 'muhoortams' to be scheduled as early as 4 AM. When I was getting married, my father made noises about a 6 AM 'muhoortam'. I put my foot down and said nothing earlier than 10 AM would suit me unless he wanted me to fall asleep at my own wedding. Thankfully, I got my way. I suppose he had visions of me pitching forward into the sacred fire!
Back to the 'functions' I mentioned earlier. I am a vetran of at least a dozen. Now I'm not complaining. Attendance at these events means my husband and I don't have to do housework for that day. Besides, I'm a foodie. And the fancy food served at these occassions are a great attraction.
When one arrives, usually around 7 or 8 AM, a steaming hot cup of filter coffee is immediately pressed into your hands. With that, you sink onto the nearest plastic moulded chair and take reconnaissance of the area - or at least whatever you can manage in that sleep deprived state. The filter coffee helps. You're then better placed to critically review the array of pattu saris and gold jewellery worn by 'Maamis' of various age groups. You then catalog them as 'Wow!' , 'Hmmm. But not for her age', or 'how kaatan'(a term best known to alumni of my alma mater. Also known as Ghaati). This pleasant reverie is broken with summons for breakfast. Or as we call it here in Chennai 'Tiffin'.
Tiffin consists of idlli, vadai, pongal, accompanied with coconut chutney and sambar. Sweets are also served. Usually a halwa or kesari. You gobble it up and wash it down with another (disposable) cup of heavenly filter coffee. After this brief repast, you return to the main 'function' venue and commandeer the nearest plastic moulded chair to resume the aforementioned review of kanjeevarams. Occassionally, a known face walks by. You greet them and then reproach them for not having visited your home. They smile and nod and inform you that so-and-so's son has flown down from the U.S. for the occassion. If you know of any 'nalla ponnu' (good girl), do pass on the information. He lives in New Jersey and is in software. Naturally, you think. Thats the template.
The function has progressed. It is nearing 10 AM. You poke the spouse in the ribs and ask 'How much longer?'. For 'lunch' that is. Yes. Tambrahm functions serve lunch that early. 'Let us try to get the first 'pandi'" The very first guests to be served. If you're alert, you maybe be successful. Else, you'll just have to wait in line, hanging over the shoulder of some poor guest, who made it to the first 'pandi', willing him/her to finish their meal at top speed.
As you take your seat for lunch (barely two hours after breakfast), a fresh green banana leaf is laid out in front of you. A tumbler of water is set down beside it. Deeper pockets would serve bottled water. A 500 ml bottle for each guest. You sprinkle water on your leaf, cleaning it in readiness for the food to be served.
The first thing to be served is 'payasam'. Not much. Just a drop to begin the meal on a sweet note. This is followed by a spoonful of 'thayir pachidi' or a salad of sorts mixed in curd. Next comes some sort of fruit salad - banana, grapes, dates in honey. Coming up close behind this are the dry sweet, vadai and aplam (pappad). Next the vegetables are served. Usually an 'usali', aviyal and potato fry. You are now ready for the rice. Steaming hot mounds of it are heaped on your leaf and its is usually good practice to be alert to the quantities. The ghee is spooned over the rice. You mix it with the rice and create a small crater in the mound for the sambar. The sambar flowing down the sides of this makeshift volcano is reminscent of Mount Vesuvius. The 'sambar rice' is followed up with 'More kozhambu' (the Tamil version of Kadi), 'rasam sadam' and 'thayir sadam'. The meal ends with a delectable cup of payasam.
Feeling like a beached whale, you rise slowly from your seat and make for the hand wash. Your hosts stand by and chide you for eating too little. You field the remarks expertly and head for the star of the show - the person/s for whom the celebration has been organised. You meet them, smile, make small talk, mark your attendance and are ready to leave.
On the way out, you pick up the 'vettalai paaku/thamboolam' (beetal leaves and coconut) and the 'bakshanam' (goodies to munch on later) and head for your car. All the while remarking "good food. But its the same fare everywhere no?"
I tell you, there is no pleasing some people!!!
- Welcome!Blogging is a form of self expression for me. I find it a wonderful, democratic space. So often in life, our articulation and expression are controlled by environment-like relationships or work place. Here, it is only about me and what I want to say. I write about anything: books, movies, issues, rants...anything which strikes a chord in me or makes me think. Life's lighter moments, highs and lows, causes, opinions. Anything. I follow no structure. It is all about self expression - a form of empowerment if you like.
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