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.

Budget and the balance

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Source: Pixabay

In a day or two, the Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister of Malaysia, would be presenting the national budget for 2018. Now, I am not qualified in any way as an economist. The closest I came to studying economy in recent times, was back during my days studying at the university. Even then, I think I studied it because it was one of the compulsory subjects that I had to take. So, I may not be qualified in that sense, to say a word or two, about the budget once it is presented.

However, I am pretty sure that I will have a thought or more about the budget, just like my fellow Malaysians, once the budget is presented. It would be hard not to do so, when the budget would impact us in one way or the other, especially financially. The mainstream media and most blogs that focuses on finance or Malaysian current affairs, will provide us with colourful graphics, summaries and simplified explanation of the complex budget. All that is left to be done for us mere mortals, is to pour through all this information to digest what benefits are in store for us and how the budget affects us, if any.

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Source: Pexels

While thinking about the upcoming national budget, I reflected back on my own attempts to create and then maintain a healthy well-balanced budget. I can assure you, it was no easy feat. It was one that was built on observing how my parents balanced their budget and then making adjustments to the current economic situation and needs. Though I had the benefit of my parents’ experience, balancing my budget was mostly trial and error, with some really hard lessons learned early on, such as accumulating debts is not a good idea, especially unwanted debts.

Of course, coming up with a budget for one person or a family, is simple enough, although it may look daunting and complicated in the beginning. Considering the initial complexity, it made me wonder how much more complex it would be to come up with the budget for an organisation, let alone an entire nation. I then put some thought into what I would do, if I had to come up with the budget for an organisation as the person responsible for its finance. Three simple but interesting things came to my mind immediately, based on my experience in balancing my own budget.

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Source: Pexels

Firstly, I will only spend on what is needed for the organisation and more importantly, can afford to spend on. I will have to avoid the urge to spend on something that is needed but can be ill afforded at the moment. Better still, I will have to avoid the urge to spend on something that I would like to have but not really need, especially when I can’t afford it. It may be another matter of course, if I had an income the size of infinity but even then, I would have to learn to spend only on what is needed as there may come a day, when the income the size of infinity might shrink to the size of a little pea. In simple terms, this is a case of spending within the limit and prioritising what the money is spent on.

I could further reduce the cost of what I need to purchase by opting for different brands with regards to the item or service that is needed. For instance, when opting for a comfortable car, I may opt for Honda or Volkswagen instead of Rolls Royce or Bentley. Similarly, when opting for ballpoint pens, I may opt for the brands like Stabilo or Faber Castell instead of Parker or Sheaffer. I will definitely not be found buying pens consting in the range of hundereds, each.

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Source: Pexels

Secondly, I will have to decide where to spend the money at. This sounds simple but can become complicated when matters of the heart or conflict of interests, comes into play. For instance, the decision on where to take folks at the organisation for a nice meal, as a treat for a job well done. If I don’t know of any friends, family members or simply, folks with vested interest, who happen to own a restaurant or chain of restaurants, then the decision on where to go will be quite simple. It would be made based on a place that provides a good meal, the right environment, meets the budget and fits all the other criteria of where to go.

However, if I do know of friends, family members or simply, folks with vested interest, who happen to own a restaurant or chain of restaurants, then the decision on where to go, could become complicated. Instead of deciding based on the agreed criteria of where to go, the decision might end up being made based on the relationship with the owner of the restaurant. Now, this may not be a bad thing, if it happens to fit all the other criteria on where to go, is it not? Then again, the easiest and also the right thing to do, would simply be to stay out of the decision-making process and allow others to make the decision based on the agreed criteria, on this occassion. I can’t have my organisation eating at my best friend’s restaurant every time, if I end up draining the coffers of the organisation to do it. I would most likely run out of money to pay for the next meal.

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Source: Pixabay

Then, while preparing the budget, I would look into areas where I can reduce and if possible, eliminate any wastage and leakage. There are many ways this could happen. For instance, I may literally look into reducing and removing leakages. Getting someone knowledgeable, equipped with the right skill, to look into leaking pipes, taps and faucets would help reduce wastage, both in terms of water and money. There will likely be an initial cost involved, to get the right person to do the job. However, this money would likely be well spent in the long run, since it will reduce and eventually remove leakages altogether.

In terms of wastage, I may look into eliminating the need for printing out physical forms, bills or receipts, if there is no real need to do so. Most often, soft copies of these documents are more than sufficient and serves the purpose that the documents are required for, such as managing claims or submission of requests. Reducing the paper trail not only saves the organisation money but also goes some way to help save the environment.

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Source: Pixabay

So, as much as coming up with a budget may be complex affair, I think balancing the budget could be easier, especially if we put in the effort to pull it off and bear in mind some simple facts or rules. Yes, it takes discipline, loads of it by the way, to maintain a balanced budget but in theory it is possible. Having struggled initially in coming up and then maintaining a balanced budget for my family, I do have a lot of respect and appreciation for the effort and thoughts that would have been put in by those responsible in coming up with the national budget. I am pretty sure, they would have thought about different and cheaper alternatives, made unbiased decisions and looked into reducing or eliminating wastage or leakages, among others, would they not?