Pongal Oh Pongal

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Happy Pongal to all my dear visitors of Duasenku who are celebrating Thai Pongal and as for those of you who aren’t, well, have a great and blessed day.

For those of you wondering what Thai Ponggal is, it is a thanks giving festival celebrated by Tamils around the world. I can’t think of a simpler way of describing it than to share the following, which is part of a “Happy Pongal” message forwarded to me on WhatsApp by a relative of mine. As I don’t know who initially penned or more accurately typed this message, I shall leave the source as “Anonymous via WhatsApp”.

Happy Thai Ponngal to all Tamils, wherever you may be celebrating. Thai Ponggal may have its origins as thanks giving by the farmers of South India. Every farming community of this world had and still have their own versions of thanks giving. The most commonly recognised being the North American Thanks Giving. The Koreans celebrate Chuseok, the Japanese version is Tsukimi, Gawai in Sarawak, Sukkot by the Jews and the list goes on.The central purpose of these festivals, whatever they might be called was to say thank you for the good and bountiful yield. This central theme is not lost even in this modern era. We may not be an agrarian society anymore. But we are still bestowed with plenty. We are surrounded by loving family and friends. We are free from major health issues. We have not missed three meals a day. The list could go on. We are thankful for all these. Thai Ponggal and all other such festival is a good opportunity for us to thank everyone who had touched us in our life in the past year.
Pongal-oh-ponggal” – Source: Anonymous via WhatsApp

Thai Pongal, falls on the first day of the month of Thai according to the Tamil calendar, which more or less falls on the 14th of January (on some occassions it has fallen a day or two earlier or later than the 14th of Januar). On this day, at the break of dawn just before sunrise or during any of the auspicious period of time throughout the day, we would start off by boiling milk in a pot.

20180114_074045Traditionally, this was done on a stove fueled by wood or coal, with gas stoves being increasingly in use for this purpose due to the practicality of doing it in high-rises or in the city. Again, traditionally, the pot used to boil the milk would be an earthen pot but these days we also use pots made out metal or more accurately, stainless steel.

 

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Anyway, going back to the boiling pot of milk on the stove, someone would stand guard and monitor the boiling pot of milk, ensuring that the stove, if it is coal or wood powered, has sufficient fuel to successfully boil the milk in the pot. As the milk is almost at the boiling point, we would all be summoned by the guardian of the pot of milk, to gather around it, at a safe distance of course. When the milk eventually boils over, out of the pot, everyone present would shout out in joy, “Pongal Oh Pongal”.

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Once the euphoria of the milk boiling over comes done, we would put rice into the pot. The rice will be cooked in the boiled milk, with brown sugar, raisins, cashew nuts and some spices for additional taste. Once cooked, the result would be sweet rice, which in Tamil is called Pongal. A portion of the Pongal, is first served to God as an offering of gratitude for the bountiful harvset, before the Pongal is served out to all those present. Interestingly, in Tamil, the word Pongal also means boil.

Now, I would love to talk more about Thai Pongal but I got to go back for another serving of Pongal before it runs out. Otherwise, I would have to wait another year for more. So, if you are interested to know more about this festival, a good place to start would be Wikipedia[1] or a simple search on Google for “Thai Pongal”. Till my next post, have a great day.

P.S.:

1. I was just kidding about having to wait for another year for more Pongal. One can always get it after prayers at most Hindu temples on most if not all festive days.

2. The featured image is an image sourced from Wikipedia courtesy of Thiagupillai.

3. All images in this post (except for that mentioned in 2 above) are courtesy of Duasenku.com.

Welcome January

Photo by Pok Rie - pexels-photo-132037
Source: Pexels – Photo by Pok Rie

Almost two weeks on, the euphoria of staying awake through the last hour of the last night of 2017, ushering in the first minute of the first day of 2018, would have somewhat faded away. The excitement of being together with dear friends and families, would have come down a notch or two, if not more. The vivid awesome display up above the sky and the reverberating loud booms that followed it, may seem to be a distant memory now. Memories of the fun experienced and the joy felt, celebrating the New Year that is now 2018, might have moved an inch or two by now, deeper into the dark recess of the mind.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

As the sun rose and set as it has always done, over the days after the 1st of January 2018, the euphoria, excitement, fun and joy felt throughout that day, may have receded for some and might have even been forgotten by others. The reality of the things that needs to be done, waiting to be done or should have been done ages ago, may start setting in. The regrets of not having attained the things that were planned to be achieved in 2017 or those carried forward from 2016, may start weighing in. The helplessness felt at not being able to achieve the lofty goals that were set last year may start sinking in. Worse still, that sinking feeling of not having done enough to complete that one or few things, that was the focus of much, if not all of 2017, is something that can engulf one in, easily. It is easy to drown oneself in self-pity and become paralysed, if allowed to, when looking back on what was not accomplished, in 2017.

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Source: Pexels – Photo by Kaique Rocha

The reality is, helplessness, regrets, sinking feelings, self-pity and being paralysed about those that we did not yet achieve in the past year, does not have to be what we carry into and through this brand new year that is 2018. See, that is the beauty of the month that is January. It provides us an opportunity to start off with a clean slate. It gives us the time needed, to make use of the lessons learned from past errors to achieve greater victories, over the 365 days of the year. It allows us the chance, to build a stable platform from which we can climb and scale greater heights, over the 52 weeks of the year. It leaves us with the avenue to pace ourselves and move slowly but surely towards inevitable yet glorious victories, over the 12 months of the year. Come January, we have the space of one entire year to achieve anything and everything that we want to achieve, in 2018.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

Simply said, just as surely as the radiant sun rises and sets every single day, regardless as to if anyone actually noticed it or not, we too will be able to achieve what we have set out to achieve in 2018, with the right mindset and tools. To begin with, we should have a vision of what to accomplish and then come up with the plan on how to achieve it. If the destination seems to be looming large and overbearing, break it down to smaller parts. A wise person once told me, to think big and start small. Just as how one feeds little children small and bite-sized portions, so they manage to complete their meals, so too should our plan be, with simple and achievable milestones along the way, until we reach the final destination.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

 

Where we have many goals to be met in 2018, start of with the simpler ones and pace ourself for the long run to meet the less simpler ones. Another alternative would be to prioritise the goals and focus on those that gives the most benefit. My former boss, would always advise my team and I, to go for the low hanging fruits. They are not only quicker and easier to harvest but it also makes it faster to show results with. These quick and easy wins will allow us to accomplish the milestones along the way. More importantly, they boost our confidence during the long journey to achieve the seemingly difficult yet attainable goals. The fact is, there are always profitable low hanging fruits in our life, if only we allow ourself to seek and see them. Don’t ignore them just because they don’t seem to be as worthy as the ultimate prize at the end of the long journey.

All goals, requires planning in order to attain them. The more complex the goal is, the more meticulous the planning may be. It is as simple as driving from one place to another. The drive becomes smooth and straight forward when we are clear and certain as to where we are heading and how we are going to get there. It is only when we are not sure of the actual destination, do we become lost and end up late or worse still, skip the destination altogether. It is not for nothing that Benjamin Franklin[1] is attributed to have said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. Determining clearly what we want to achieve and then planning out how to achieve it makes the goal that much easier to attain and seem so much closer to being attained.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

Last but not least, is to simply keep track, look and reflect upon the progress of the pending goals and even those that we have managed to accomplish. Some of them may have been easily attained. Some may have become even more challenging to achieve. Some goals may even no longer be a priority and can therefore be canned. Vital resources can be redirected to other important goals. The thing is, if we don’t take a look at where we are heading from time to time, we may not accomplish much or be spending more time on things that aren’t important. At the same time, soak in the excitement and joy of having accomplished a goal and use it as a boost to work on the remaining ones. Take heed of the lessons from past misadventures and missed opportunities, to improve on how we go about working on completing the slightly more challenging goals.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

This year, I am going to take heed of the advise from the wise man and my former boss. I will think of big goals but start small as I pace myself along towards them. I will go after the low hanging fruits, as I scale perilous heights is search of my goals for this year. There will be the usual ups and downs on the journey, filled with twists and turns, which life simply seems to be always fond of doing. With planning, re-planning and periodic reflection on what I am doing and where I am going, achieving most, if not all my goals for the year, seems to be that much easier now, than it seemed to be a year ago. I, am glad to say “Welcome January”, so I can start of yet again with that clean slate. With God’s grace, I will achieve what I am meant to achieve, this year. So too, shall you. Trust yourself, put in the effort, allow God to guide you along the way and experience 2018, as a great year.

Traditions and festivities

 

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Source: Duasenku.com

Last week, I took a drive downtown into Masjid India, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. In what has now become an annual ritual around the weeks before Deepavali,  I brought my parents out to do some shopping. Yes, the annual Deepavali shopping. The shopping trip that almost all in the family looks forward toward, except, perhaps the one who is funding the trip. The trip with my parents, brought back old memories of similar trips with my mother and myself and later on, with my brother, to outlets such as Globe Silk Store and Tangs located just outside of Masjid India, along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Back then, my mum, brother and I, would board the bus in the morning heading to Globe Silk Store. We would first go into Globe Silk Store and then Tangs, located a shop or two away, sifting through shirts and pants, finding one set that we liked and more importantly of the right size and within the budget. After spending a significant amount of time, we would finally make our choice. During that time, mum would pick a set for our father.

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Source: Wikipedia

Once we were done, it was time to follow mum to the various textile shops that sold materials as well as sarees. Mum would painstakingly go through the material over a few shops. After spending considerable amount of time at each of them and looking into what is left of the shopping budget, she would make her purchase. Then, depending on how much was left, we would get some savouries, to mark the conclusion of the shopping trip, before heading home by bus.

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Source: Duasenku.com

Aside from shopping, the other major preparation was the making of traditional savouries. My mother, in cooperation with some ladies in the neighbourhood would get together after lunch, to make different types of savouries and complete them by dinner time. Different savouries would be made on different days.

My brother and I contributed to these activities too when we were not away at school. Our official role, was to assist with bringing over the raw materials when the ladies were comfortably seated by the stove, washing of the utensils and later on, arranging the savouries into the designated containers as well as the post-cooking cleaning.

Then, there was our unofficial role as the food taster. Unofficial, because none of the elders were aware of such a role. Food tasting would be done stealthily by first removing the said artifact to a secret location and then savouring it before being caught red-handed. One of my fondest memory of this part of the preparation was that try as hard as I may, I never could locate the savoury filled container, once it is hidden away, until the day of Deepavali. I never quite figured out how my mother managed to hide it, in a little house, even till today.

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Source: Pixabay

The final days before Deepavali, would then be filled with the annual spring cleaning. Curtains would be brought down and washed, while a fresh set would be hung up. Cushion covers and bedding would be removed and washed, while fresh sets would be put in place.  Fan and lights would be dusted and wiped. Cobwebs would be cleared. The floor would be swept, scrubbed and then mopped. Every single surface and corner that we can lay our hands on would be cleaned. Late nights were the norm. With lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion, tempers tend to flare before cool heads prevailed.

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Source: Pixabay

The eve of Deepavali was typically spent with all of us glued to the t.v. screen after a hearty dinner. The few available t.v. stations would play the latest Tamil movies for our viewing pleasure, helping us usher in Deepavali. As typical Tamil movies goes and adding on the numerous advertisements consisting mainly of Deepavali wishes as well as the late night news, we would end up sleeping way past 1 or 2 in the morning.

The morning of Deepavali would be spent with baths, excitedly getting dressed up in new clothes, seeking blessings from parents and more importantly, receiving our annual bonus, in the form of Deepavali “ang-pow”. After that, it was off to the temple by bus while our father would follow on his ever reliable “Rolls Royce”, his ever dependable Raleigh bicycle. Once we were done with prayers and quick visit to our relative’s house, it was time to head home, rummage through the containers of savouries that have magically appeared and most importantly doing justice to them by consuming them, while watching, again, the various Tamil movies being aired on t.v.

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Source: Pixabay

These traditions or rituals, pretty much remained the same with some differences, as my brother and I grew up through our teenage years, before going away to the university and then becoming tax-paying citizens of our beloved country. The differences were in how involved we were in the preparations prior to and even up to the eve of Deepavali. Mum would still do her annual pilgrimage to Masjid India to buy new clothes for us, with the difference being, without us most of the time. Mum would still prepare savouries for Deepavali, with us being absent through most of it. Mum and dad would clean-up the house, with us making occasional appearances to help out.

During the transition between the teenage years, young adult and then adulthood, the significance of the festivities changed. It was no longer as exciting as it used to be as a child. It was just another annual affair like the many other festivals scattered throughout the year. For a time, it became an event that we arranged annual leaves around, get together and spend time with ones that we love.

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Source: Pixabay

Over the years, as my parents aged, I matured as an adult, started my own family and then my brother got married and started his own family, I have begun to appreciate these age-old traditions and festivities. More so, as my wife and I embarked on our own journey as parents with our little boy. I realise that I have gone a full circle in regards to how I viewed these traditions.

I was again involved in Deepavali shopping with a slight change in the role, in that I am now the worried financier of the shopping trip. This year, there was also the added shopping, for our little boy. I was again involved in making Muruku at home with my wife. I was again involved in cleaning up the house as comprehensively as I could, with my wife. I will most likely spend time watching whatever movie is being aired on the t.v., on the eve of Deepavali.

Going back to last week in Masjid India, after almost being done with our shopping I took my exhausted-internally-yet-putting-up-a-strong-face-externally parents for much-needed lunch. Over a hearty vegetarian meal, I realised how grateful I was to God for giving me the opportunity of a happy conversation with my parents. We spoke about the old days and the mischief that my brother and I would get into. We spoke about how my little son is working hard to live up to those standards. We reminisced a little on some events of Deepavalis past. Thanks to traditions and festivities, I realise that I am able to create more wonderful memories and opportunities with my loved ones. Memories and moments created with the help of traditions and festivities, that remains with us for as long as we live. Something that I hope our son will cherish when he is older. That is indeed something to look forward to.