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Entries in indian festival (27)


A day sheet calendar and a long time tradition

It was 1989.. and my parents were helping me pack to go to Varanasi to study. In the last minute my dad decided to get me this day sheet calendar that showed the Tamil month and date information.. It was a beautiful calendar with a golden Ganesha stuck on the top of cardboard. 

We had just left Chennai the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi to go to Varanasi. It has been 30 years and almost the same date. 

That year went by and the day sheets were all used, but that golden Ganesha was separated from the calendar and kept in the room. As a teenager, I did not have to do a pooja for Ganesha by myself given by father was performing it in Chennai. I used to go to the local temples in Varanasi to celebrate. That did not mean I would not do a Ganapathi pooja by myself. Would do that every now and then, thanks to the training I got from my high school. We had a Vidhya Ganapathi at the school entrance and I got to do the daily pooja for him including abhishegams. If you want to learn deference and get a grip on faith, doing an abhishegham to an idol that the entire school will come to worship in a few hours is one way to start!

Then I ended up in the US. Again, I would call my parents and enquire how the pooja went and dream of kozhukattais and if lucky some married senior grad student or local professor would indulge us with some kozhukattais (modhaks, dumplings). 

Once I got married, things changed. It was time to perform the pooja as head of my own household. San tried her hand at making kozhukattais and her first experience had her almost in tears. Then she slowly improved and once her mom started coming to visit when the kids were born, things took an interesting turn. She turned pro..

Also over the last 10 years, my MIL has been here for many Ganesh chaturthis and made the usual kozhukkattais as well as my favorite "ammani" kozhukkattis.. which I would come home and roast with some grated coconut and eat. Some years were good and some were bad.. that we almost had no celebration

This year we are fortunate to have Ganesh Chathurthi as a national holiday in the US for Labor day. Got to do yoga early in the morning, come home and do the pooja.. to the same day sheet calendar Ganapathy! If it has been your "go to Ganesha" for 30 years, it is now the gold standard!

The photograph makes it look big.. it is only 5 inches tall.. but to me it means something. Was thinking about my dad this morning. As a teen, the one thing I wanted to be after growing up was "not him". He has a lot of good things about him as well as some lousy stuff. The lousy stuff is now long gone.. Once he crossed 55, he was a different person.. maybe because he realized the kids were grown up or he wisened up or realized that no matter what he did, society is going to do what it does. 

For all his faults, I do have him to thank for many things in my life that provide me an anchor of sorts.. be it in a good way or a what not to do in my life way. Was thinking of him in a good way today. 

Was also missing my MIL today. San was at it the entire morning and was complaining of her hands hurting while making the kozhukkattais. Having cut my finger deeply while helping with Veggie cutting, my utility in the kitchen reduced.. San is an Obi-Wan at this.. but MIL is Yoda. Getting visuals of my MIL in a yoda costume saying "kalari it, you must", "hurt, it will".. 

Now it is time to round up the tummy with some good eats... 

This year, we also managed to pack and carry a nice small decorative table during the recent India trip. We got a large Ganesha as part of Jr.'s arangetram decor and were looking for  a nice place to put the idol. This table makes a perfect stand for the Ganesha. Everyone in the house is now placing flowers on it when they get a chance. 

Ganesha is my favorite of all the Indian gods, so it is no surprise that we celebrate this festival the way we do! 

There was a time when the kids used to get involved.

These days, given high school and growing up in a different place different time, they look forward to the kozhukkattai and they come when the pooja is almost done. 

Sooner or later they will realize that unless they learn to make the Kozhukattai's themselves, they will be missing out!

Time to start a Kozhukkattai making class next Ganesh Chaturthi... 

Happy Ganesha or Pillaiyar Chathurthi to everyone who is celebrating!


Even a rainbow might feel under dressed

This weekend we celebrated Holi in Union city with friends. Many years ago, we made this a local event in a park in Cupertino.. but that was just the 15-18 of our close gathering.. last three years we decided to join a much bigger crowd of a few thousand people and it is a lot more fun!

As usual I get to take pictures of the group and send to everyone. I love editing photos of the happy faces after coming home as much as jumping up and down with colors everywhere! 

and then there are the kids.. just amazing.. innocent.. putting colors on themselves and everyone.

I had put some of this on FB already, but given my FB acts up and no one knows what will happen over time, posting some of that in the blog as well. 

One thing that is amazing is that playing Holi with strangers or friends and family works the same. San and jr. went into the crowd to meet our friends. As I walked into the crowd with a heavy camera bag on one shoulder and a camera on my hand ( I had to protect the lens from being powdered!!) a kid came running out of nowhere and hit hit head on my lens.. By the time I checked to make sure he was fine, he ran into the crowd. Now I was lost.. trying to stand on tippy toes to see if there was any chance of locating the tallest person in our group.. while doing that a group of strangers asked me if they could put color on me. I said yes and they promptly colored me! Then they shared their colors with me to put it back on them. 

At this point I would not have recognized myself anyway and when I finally found our group, they were all giving me the look that said "so, you have already been playing Holi with someone else all this time!" . 

Also the group is totally international and inter racial. Probably there were people from every country in the world there.. not to mention pet dogs. Even the dogs were colored and they seemed to be enjoying it! 

Some pictures from the celebration..

A picture of the kids taking a selfie.. it is my favorite shot of the entire album.. I would like to see that actual picture. They never smiled like that when posing for me.. but their smiles on the selfie must be priceless!! 

Also made a composite of all the recent Holi celebrations.. Missed the little one the last few years. She always ends up with a conflict of sorts on these days. Next year I have begged her to come celebrate with us...

Finally, a video with snippets that were recorded partly with iPhone and partly with the 5D Mark ii... that shows how grand this was!

The bay area is truly an amazing place.. We get to celebrate everything in style! 

Happy Holi to everyone! May your life be colorful and bright !!


Holi hai!

This year we knew that if we did celebrate, we would go to Foster city for a repeat of last years celebration. This event is very well organized with a nice DJ, great music and a lively crowd. We were not sure if the weather would co-operate. Even though it was raining in Cupertino when we left, it was nice and pleasant in Foster City. 

A sea of people celbrating and dancing together to music.. 

and the colors! 

did I say "sea of people" ?

although I pulled off this shot, the idea to make her lie down on the floor full of color was not mine. It was her friend Anika's. Any good photographer should always copy compositional ideas.. with pride! 

I have one child that co-operates for photos and another one that does not even show up to the celebration because she is going through a "photo-aversion" phase of life! It was heart breaking for me to miss the little one this Holi. Will wait for her to turn around.. 

My 5D Mark ii saw its toughest time today in the park, with fine color powder flying everywhere.. some kid threw powder directly into my lens. Still managed a lot of good pictures for the day (some of which will be shared in the events FB page). Spent a good 30 minutes cleaning the camera after coming home. It was a good thing that the 70-200 never even came out of the bag. Took everything with the 24-105mm.

The iPhone never came out, but wanted to try the portrait mode and got this shot in the parking lot.

Not happy with the way it defined the edge to cut portrait. Had a shot with the 5D that Jr. took just before we exit the park..

Used refine edge (to be fair spent 20 minutes on this image) but the end result is way better than the iPhoneX. Apple has to improve on the Refine edge algorithm to get smooth edges for shirts and sharp edges for hair sticking out..

There is no family portrait this year, but there is always next year...

Wishing everyone a happy Holi! May your life be filled with joy and color!


Celebrating Deepavali in India 

It has been 25 years since I was in India for a Deepavali ! You can celebrate all you want in the US of A with family and friends, but somehow nothing comes close to being in India on Deepavali day!

On a whim, got last minute tickets to go to India straight from my business trip and spent the weekend in Chennai. I have spent 3 days with my parents in the last two years and made a promise that will go see them even if it was a solo trip without wife and kids and even if it was only for a weekend. Glad that I made it.

San got me tickets on Air Asia. That was an interesting thing in itself. These guys take the Airbus flying quite literally. It is like a local "bus" ride in the "Air". They take this "low cost airline" concept to an all new level. An unnecessary security check within their own gates to throw out my water bottle and then charge for water on the flight! It was an all time low on my flying experience list. Once I reached Chennai and got a bear hug from my niece, that was temporarily forgotten. 

Then I got to see my dad, which was one main reason for going. He has tremors now and is conscious of it. So he doesn't come to the phone or skype often. That said, he manages it pretty well. He knows when he cannot talk and stays silent and is very meditative. When the tremors subside, he is normal and goes about his usual activities. 

He asked me to take pictures of him this time...

Then there was our second failed attempt at recreation of the old picture routine.. 

Lots of fireworks! 

Lots of fireworks.. 


I taught my nephew how to hold an oothubaththi to a Kuruvi vedi and that experience alone was priceless. The poor kid had fractured his arm and was just out of his cast, but was so hyped up that he was running around the terrace with me in all that excitement. 

He reminded me of someone all the time... me!

My niece did my hair and make up as part of Diwali and I sat through it patiently thinking "my sister used to comb my hair for hours, then my kids did it.. you are probably the last one to get the experience of combing my hair as there is not much left to comb these days!"

Fireworks are not the same anymore from when we were kids.. They sell these fireworks where each piece is like a long tube and they are like 4th of July fireworks, expensive and fancy. 500 rupees for just one piece but very nice. The entire city was lit up with these things! It was non stop from every roof top. Just an amazing sight to watch. The smiles on the kids faces.. it is something to see when every kid you walk by is just all smiles! 

Here is a video composite of the whole fireworks experience.. this doesn't even come close to being there!

(WARNING : the background noise in this video is very high !) 

Then there was the sweets and savories. My mom made sure that 177 yoga classes for the year were nullified in 177 minutes. To summarize "she kept me well fed" for the three days. By day two, I started saying "enough" before she even put anything on my plate, because she would continue to pile it on my plate for a good two seconds after my saying stop! Some things never change. Had just told my brother to lose weight and go do some yoga and he gave me a look and a smile that said "if you live with mom in the house, no amount of yoga is going to get your weight down". He was right. Have put on a good 5 lbs in 3 days!

If you are wondering how come I have eyes only for San.. look no further.. think there is a gene for that which gets passed on.. 

It has been one hectic but memorable trip! 

Heartfelt wishes, belated as they may be, for everyone's lives to be filled with light and happiness! 


Holi 2016

Holi came and went this year. Given my travels, was glad to be part of a Holi celebration with the gang last weekend. As a kid growing up in Tamil Nadu, there was no Holi. My best memories of student days in Varanasi are of Holi.. 

Great time with friends, Colors, Baang, the mud bath at the end to wash off colors, a feast, did I already mention baang?!

We did celebrate in style at the local park with dry colors and great food! This year it happened again. We started seeing familiar people show up to our group only to realize there was another larger group planning the delayed Holi in another area of the park. Pretty soon, we merged the groups together for even larger fun as every family in our group knew someone from the other group!

Jr. was at her best and she had a lot of fun with her buddies. This one is probably the best shot from the entire collection of pictures for the day... 

 Then we did get a family portrait. Yes, the litle one looks plain compared to the rest of us. She had to go to a  meeting right after the Holi party and did not want to shower. So we respected her request to "not be Holi'ed"!


All said and done, it is great to have the company of people who can put a smile on your face and make you celebrate with abandon! 

Was thinking of IT-BHU all day.. three buddies in the group are my seniors from College and that made it even more special. One thing my college trained me for well? If not Metallurgical engineering, it is to play Holi with style... and to teach our kids how to play Holi!

Here is to the festival of colors !