Monday, September 29, 2008

Maithreem Bhajatha

Maithreem Bhajatha
Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati
Translation by
(This prayer was written by Paramacharya of Kanchi to be sung in the U.N. Assembly by Smt.M.S.Subbalakshmi during its 50th anniversary and dealt about universal brotherhood and peace as enshrined by the Sanathana Dharma. An English translation was also attached. Fully realizing that my translation would be far inferior, I decided to do the translation on my own and present it here in the form of a verse. I am sure the admirers of the great savant would pardon me for such an attempt.)

Maithreem Bhajatha Akila Hrith Jeththreem
Atmavat Eva Paraan api pashyata
Yuddham thyajatha , Spardhaam Tyajata ,
thyajatha Pareshwa akrama aakramanam
Jananee Prthivee Kaamadughaastey JanakO Deva:
Sakala Dayaalu Daamyata Datta Dayathvam
Janathaa Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam
Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam
Sreyo Bhooyaath Sakala Janaanaam.

With friendship please serve,
And conquer all the hearts,
Please think that others are like you,
Please forsake war for ever,
Please forsake competition for ever,
Please forsake force to get,
Some one else’s property,
For mother earth is a wish giving animal,
And God our father is most merciful,
Restrain, donate and be kind,
To all the people of this world.
Let all the people, live with bliss,
Let all the people live with bliss,
Let all the people live with bliss.

Vaishnava Janatho

Vaioshnava Janato
(The man of God)
Narasi Mehta

Translated by

One of the greatest Gujarati poet-saints, Narsi Mehta introduced philosophical poetry into the bhakti world of Gujarat. He composed about 740 songs. 'Vaishnava-janato', the prayer song popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, is a composition of Narsi Mehta’s. This soul stirring poetry moves any theist. I have taken the liberty of translating this poem by substituting “Man of God” instead of “Vaishnava”. I did this because I felt that, what the poet must have meant was that.

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who knows the pain and misery of others,
Who tries to help others in distress,
And who does not have pride in his mind.

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who respects and salutes all,
Who does not talk ill of others,
Who keeps his mind pure in words and action,
And whose mother is considered blessed by all.

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who views everybody as equal,
Who considers other women as his mother,
Who never tells lies all his life,
And who never yearns for other’s wealth.

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who never has any attachments,
Who is strongly detached to worldly pleasures,
Who is addicted to remembering his God,
And in whose mind are all the holy places of the world.

He and he alone is the man of God,
Who has no greed and deceit in his mind,
Who has forsaken all pleasures and anger,
And whose sight is thirsted for by Narasi the poet,
For the entire family gets salvation on seeing him.

Parthasarathy and Natarajan

After I completed my post graduation in Annamalai University, (1960) I was lucky to get admission in the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta. On the day that I had to start to Calcutta, I received an appointment order as Statistical assistant in National Sample Survey in Trivandrum. I knew that I should accept that because the financial condition of the family was not good. But my great father told me that I should study further, because I was getting stipend. He said he will manage the affairs of the family for two or three years more. The first problem to be solved was dress. For the five years preceding, I was wearing only white Dhothi and White shirt. I along with my father felt that I should at least have a few pants. There was no tailor in my village who could stitch pants. The time left was short. Father had a very close friend Sethu, who was running a hotel in Vishakapatnam en route. My cousin Visweswaran was working in his hotel. I got down there by one train and within a day, a few white, poor looking pants were stitched at lightning speed. Next day I reached Calcutta. I had not spoken in the phone till then and for the first time was forced to call the warden of the hostel to get directions. That gentleman was speaking a benglish accent. Some how, I reached ISI. I stayed there in the hostel for the next one year. I made many friends. The strongest attachments were made with three people.
Shri K.R.Parthasarathy, an intellectual with craving for studies was one of them. He had been much poorer than me. He took free food in other’s houses when he was studying. He scored very high marks and worked 4-5 years as a lecturer. He saw to it that his sisters were given in marriage and his parents were taken care of. He was at least 7-8 years older than me. More than a friend, he was an elder brother who took care of me in the hostel. He later completed his PhD and again became a teacher of Mathematics in Madras. He is retired and well settled. I happened to meet him once in the eighties and spoken over pone to him once or twice I do have e-mail contact with him.
Sri K.S.Natarajan (Nattu for me) was my very close friend. He came as a sun shine in my life. He came along with me to specialize in Agricultural Statistics. Some how he could not continue after one year and after a few jobs landed in the Census office. I saw him several times, whenever I used to go to Delhi. Nattu is in Madras now.
I had several other good friends, during this one year. Chidambaran who has settled in USA, DR.Subramaniam Swamy who is one of the leading politicians of India, Dr.Panchapakesan who has settled down in USA, Sri.G.Narayanamurthy etc are the notable ones.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Political Parties

Political Parties
(published in Kalki, 31st August 2008)
Translation attempt

Political parties,
Make fun of our country,

One parties name is written in blood,
Taken from the wounds of our religion.

Film posters are pasted,
On the back of the democracy,
Talked about by Russo.

Elections are not able,
To prevent a country,
From becoming land of terrorists,

Make the camaraderie evaporate into gas.

Empty the black money,
From some where else,

A miser,
Who did not get a post,
Paints a new party flag,
Using the colours of his desire.

Tearing the screen of a cinema house,
A hero comes out with anger,
For registering a name to his political party.

People who set fire to themselves,
Drag and bring their family members,
Near the sacrificial altar of a party.

Never have flags flown at half mast,
For the people dragged away by Tsunami,
Nor the people swept away by raising waters,
Nor the people who died of starvation,
Nor those who were buried by an earth quake.

I do not want to see,
My nation’s flag,
Being defeated by any party’s flag.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Origin of Sambhar

Origin of Sambar

You would be all surprised to know that chillies entered India only 400 years back .So also tomato, potato and onion were introductions from our western settlers to India around the same time. Then the common sense question, which all of you should ask is how was Sambar prepared in South India before that and how were the North Indians preparing different Sabjis without Tomato and onion. I have been searching for an answer to this riddle for quite some time I was also intrigued by the name Sambar. No word in any of the south Indian language gave a meaning to that word. I was thinking it has to do something with Sambharam (Collection). But I was not able to connect this word to Sambar.
Before 400 years tamarind which is of south Indian origin was being used in all the south Indian states. The preparations were called by various names. It was Pulungari (dish with tamarind in Kerala), Huli in Karnataka, Pulusu in Andhra and Vattal Kuzhambu, poricha Kozhambu, Karai Kuzhambu, Pitlai etc in Tamil Nadu. Ofcourse, the traditional Kerala cuisine did not use chillies or tamarind but relied only on pepper for pungency and Buttermilk and mango for adding sour taste. In most of these cases the souring agent was tamarind and the thickening agent was cooked green gram dal, rice powder or ground coconut paste. Asafetida and Toor dhal which were not available in South India were not used in any of these dishes. The agent which added pungency to all these was still Chilies. Possibly before chillies came, they were using pepper powder .Then all of a sudden I realized that the preparations on the death anniversary days did not use chillies, asafetida as well as toor dhal. The main dish equivalent to Sambar, which was called Pitlai, was prepared using tamarind, pepper and green gram dhal. This must have been the precursor of the different Tamarind preparations mentioned above. When I was toying with this idea, I landed on the write up by Dr.Padmini Natarajan, which I quote Verbatim below: -
“South Indian food, people and culture are inexorably linked to a ubiquitous dish as in idli and sambhar, sambhar and rice and so on. Each state in the South prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to its taste and environment.
The genesis of this dish has an interesting tale linked to it. The Marathas were ruling Tanjore. Sambhoji was a great cook (the male clan members to note) and very fond of his amti with a handful of the tart kokum thrown in. In a particular season the kokum that was imported from the Maratha homeland did not reach the bare larder of the king's kitchen. Sambhoji was cooking and the minions were shivering in their dhothis to tell him that his favourite dish could not be made that day. A smart Vidushak, who had been elected sous chef for the day, decided to solve the problem. He whispered in the king's ears that the locals used very little tamarind pulp to gain a better sourness to the curry and that Sambhoji should experiment with this variation. Voila, the dish with the tuvar dal, vegetables, spices and the tamarind pulp was cooked and served by the king to his coterie. The court declared the dish an outstanding preparation (they had no choice with the king as Chef) and thus was born sambhoji's amti that in time became sambhar”
Thus the modern Sambar which we use is named after a king of Tanjore called Sambhaji. Due to distance from his native place and difficulty in getting Kokum, he used Tamarind and possibly added Toor dhal, which is mainly grown in Maharashtra and Gujarat. He might have added Pure Asafoetida which was used as a spice in Maharashtra. From then on lot of research must have gone in, in getting to the modern version of several types of Sambar.
Still I am wondering how North Indian Sabji was prepared without onion and Tomato!

Mom of Dad /Appatha

Where did you Go, my mom of my dad (Appatha)
Ramya Chendhi Shanmugam, Bangalore
(Tamil poem From Mangayar Malar , September 2008)
Translation attempt
I have never even murmured a word.
When I passed by you, even at times ordinary,
When I happened to see your sunken face,
I have not even thrown a soft smile at you.

In this world of hurry bury,
In which we are drowned in our thoughts,
I have never asked from you,
Those paths that you have passed with pain or pleasure,
Nor the burden that you carried always with a smile,
Nor listened to your stories that you wanted to share.

My mind which did not bother about you,
And my body which disregarded you ,
When you called me at rarest of the times,
Are making me sad with sorrow now.

You have gone leaving all of us sad,
To the place , where no one comes back.
Even if I shout, drenching it with copious tears,
Will you be able to hear my voice now?

Why did you go away, mom of my dad?
I would be waiting for you with anxiety,
With all the love that I had for you,
For your coming again to my house.
Would you come as my daughter, mom of my dad?

Quo Vadis Thathas and Pattis?

Anna and Akka will become mama (uncle) and Mami (aunty) when they cross the thirties. The role that they have played till then changes a lot. They were studying and leading a happy carefree life till then. Suddenly the new mama has to work and work a lot, to earn lots of money. His sisters get married (Mami?) and take up the job of running the house. The job is much more difficult than mama’s job. But the world does not recognize it. Nowadays, she has not only to manage the house but also work like her husband and brothers. Naturally she is surrounded by tension and is edgy. This state of affairs goes on for a long time. Children come in to the house. They become annas and akkas and slowly are groomed to become mamas and mamis. It is at this time that the mama and mamis realize that they have to become thathas and Pattis.
While Pattis who are healthy continue to be a part of the household management , by providing help in cooking and looking after the grand children, The thatha who was till then wedded to his work is left high and dry. Suddenly he finds that he has nothing to do.
The pleasant chit chat with children, the intermissions in the kitchen over planning of menu, discussions about future of their children etc are again not there. Since Thatha had spent most of his life in talking with friends in office, he does not know any of his neighbors. His friends have all become thathas and rarely move out. He finds that his children are earning much more money than him and are not bothered about the small wealth that he has. His grand children who prattle sweet nothings in English do not understand why their Thatha is so morose. The only friend in the house (his wife who is a Patti) is extremely busy looking after the needs of his grand children. Nobody seems to be interested in politics or newspaper. He, not being used to sit in front of the idiot box, finds it very boring. He broods and worries. This makes him imagine all the sickness that he has only heard.
Then comes the next stage. Patti who was needed as a service provider is not able to move out due to arthritis. Her grand children do not like the food prepared by her. .They would prefer north Indian food, pizzas and burgers. The brooding gang becomes richer by one more member. The sick tired people in the house are doubled. Suddenly the mami of the house realizes that, there are two useless people in the house, who have to be looked after. The home that was heaven becomes hell to thatha and Patti. If God gets angry and presents them with serious sickness, they crush themselves into dust. A nurse or a nurseman is appointed to look after them. Some mamas and mamis think that it is too much of a botheration and send them to old age homes.
These old age homes do not help them much. One hundred percent of the occupants of these homes are brooding thathas and Pattis who start cursing the world and the social order from morning to evening. Of course God has been kind enough nowadays. Many of them fall prey to Alzheimer’s disease. This blessing disease makes them forget everything and possibly they are no more brooding. He has also been kind enough to recall them back after some time.
What can we do about this pathetic saga? We can definitely keep ourselves very busy by engaging ourselves in some hobbies or social activities. It would be preferable that as long as the physical dependence does not set in, we live alone in our house .We (Thathas and Pattis) are a very influential lot. We can surely build up Senior citizen homesteads like those existing in USA. In such societies we can build up a social culture of our own without disturbing, the youngsters. WE can organize day care centers with transport facility so that when the Mama and Mamis go to office and Akkas and Annas have gone to college, we can be safe and build up a social life in such centers.. We can contribute a lot with our knowledge. We can surely teach lot of poor children at our home. If we are of the talking type, we can do fund collection for several good deeds. We can visit old age homes (if we are not already in one) and bring cheer to those lonely souls. We can help our friends and their wives, if they are sick. What I am trying to say is that, we should make others feel that these Thathas and Pattis are also very useful members of the society.

Babu, Shivadas and Sundararaman

In 1957 I passed out my intermediate class and much against my wishes got admission in Annamalai University near Chidambaram. Slowly the fact that I was very poor was sinking in o my mind. Unlike all other students of the university, I was not dressed according to the norms of the day. Possibly God brought Sundararaman as a solace to me. He was a son of Sri Dorai Samy of the Kanchi Kama Koti Mutt of Kanchipuram. The Acharya paid his fees and requested one of his devotes to feed Sri Sundararaman. The only condition the Acharya put was that he should maintain a tuft. Sri Sundararaman was poorer than me and we both got attracted to each other. Since I could not get hostel accommodation during the first year, I was staying in a relative’s house at Chidambaram as a paying guest. Daily after the class, me and Sundararaman used to walk home. Almost the entire year, he was the only student to whom I did talk. We became close friends.
In the next year, I got admission in the hostel. Life became more difficult. The monetary position of father was becoming bleaker. He was not even in a position to buy me the white Dhothi in sufficient numbers. I had four tamilian room mates, whom I did not like .Some Malayali students near my block used to tease me for my unseemly looks. One day an angel decided to look after me. His real name was Nalinakshan and he was studying M.A, in Social sciences. His college name was C.K.Nalina Babu. He understood that I am suffering from deep inferiority complex and used to spend a lot of time in correcting me. In those two years, not only I got rid of my inferiority complex but became a normal human being. Another of Babu’s protégé was P.Shivadas, . Babu made our life. We both were known as Babu’s kids. Unlike me, Babu and Shivadas were dressed extremely well. Both of them drove car. They had many girl friends. In fact they were extremely popular people in the hostel. I do not have any qualms in saying That , I am like this because of Babu .Babu used to call Sundararaman my wife and he used to call me Sami.
After I left Annamalai University Sundara Raman became a teacher there. He chose teaching as his profession. He went to various places and has settled down in USA as a teacher. He continues to be a great follower of Kanchi Mutt. I had last met him when he was working in Madras some 7 years back, I spoke to him over phone when I was in USA.
Babu also became a teacher in Ernakulam.I met him twice or thrice. Once I did visit him in his house, took lunch with him. At that time I saw his very pretty wife and equally pretty daughter. Later after my marriage, when things seem to be breaking down, I interacted with Babu. He bolstered my life by very encouraging words. True to his advice things did take a turn for good. Two years back, I was informed that Babu is no more by our friend Shivadas. I cried a lot. He was the elder brother, hat I never had. A true angel of God, who appeared in my life and showed me the right path. Babu, my pranams to you.
Shivadas after a stint of service as a scientist is settled down in Ernakulam. I met him last year , when he visited Bangalore. I do exchange mails with him.

Pathan and Balakrishnan

I passed out my SSLC in the year 1955 from Hyderabad and joined the Sree Kerala Varma College Trichur. I studied I.Com for two years there. This was the first time in my life that I knew that we were poor. Till 1955, I used to dress up like any other fashionable boy in pants and Bush shirt. But before going to Trichur my father told me that he cannot afford such luxuries any more. The two years in Trichur was spent in gaining knowledge and introspection, I was so good in mathematics, that once I answered all the questions including choices correctly. I was given 150 marks of 100 for that exam. This made me very famous. I was also selected as the best student of Intermediate.
I was staying in the newly constructed hostel there. I made two very close friends during the year 1955-57. They were Pathan and Balaksrishnan. They were a study in contract.
Pathan alias K.K.Padmanabhan was a Nair boy hailing from Cheruthuruthi. His father was an assay officer in the OOrgaum mines of KOlar. Pathan and me were classmates, room mates and close friends. He introduced me to Malayalam literature. During these two years, I read almost all the best novels published in Malayalam. These were borrowed from a village library (Trikumarakudam). Pathan completed Intermediate with me and came to Bangalore for a job of a steno in Kirloskar. I again met him briefly during a study tour at Bangalore in the year 1961. He was at that time working in the district court as a steno. We spent a very happy time for a day. After this Pathan disappeared from my world. I came back to Bangalore in 1984 and tried my best to locate Pathan. But God was not kind.
K.P.Balakrishnan was the son of the Principal of the Ayurvedic college at Kottakal. In the final exams in inter , he scored extremely high marks. He was a very great scholar and very studious. His acumen for understanding anything was really great. We spent several hours in scholarly discussions. I still remember a walk by us to a hill near by, on the top of which Ramakrishna Ashram of Trichur was situated. I missed him a lot after 1957. He studied Physics M.A., in Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam and later appeared for IAS/IFS. He got a very high rank in both. He chose to join IFS.I searched him a lot but could locate him in Sweden as The ambassador to India. At that time, I did contact him once but then afterwards , I could not contact him.
My mind always thinks of these two friends,. If only I can meet them.