Sunday, June 23, 2013

The chronicles of the TAM BRAHM: the power of the curd rice

* all pictures in this post are from the blog

Ever so often I sit and wonder about all the cultural influences that have shaped the person I am today. I have one half of dilli blood with some spice from Andhra and another half of some good old Tam brahm iyer blood. all wrapped into a real Mumbaiya package. Now I live in the u.s where the opportunities  to flaunt any of these cultural influences are few and far between. A major part of my lineage is the typical curd rice loving, engineering preaching, kaapi crazy iyers from the heart of Tamilnadu.  Although I havent experienced much of the iyer influences in my upbringing, this particular piece is a bit   of an over the top, tongue and cheek tribute to my iyer brethren 

when Varadarajan Ramasubramaniam was born in a hospital in the suburbs of chennai, his first cry was enough for his father Mr Ramsubramaniam to plan his son's life and career. In his mind he had already decided the future steps for his son vardhan, 
1. PSBB school chennai 
2. IIT coaching from 8th grade 
3. computer science at IIT Madras  
4. M.S-->Phd at stanford or Berkley
5. job at google, microsoft or apple
little baby Vardhan was in for a tough life ahead. his first birthday was held with much fanfare with all the "Maamis", athais, athimbers present in their full gusto, after all baby vardhan was to go on to become a patent holder and change the world of technology in the years to come. as per plan, first pit stop was PSBB Chennai.

Vardhan getting into PSBB was celebrated with the customary "paal payasam". vardhan went to school like any other disciplined boy with slick oiled well groomed hair. glasses that he had to put on pretty early in his years and the holy vibudhi which magically stayed untouched on his forehead for the whole day. Vardhan studied hard, aced his classes consistently and was particularly good with Math and science. right according to the script, except for that one year when  the cricket bug had caught Vardhan and his post report card conversation with his dad was something like this

Vardhan detested the yearly summer breaks although it was a bit of repite from studying. these breaks included trips to the millions of temples in the south and hours of standing in the darshan line under the scorching heat  (or more famously called "Agni Nakshatram")

at the ripe age of 9, vardhan had his iyer version of Baptization, his 'Upanayanam'. the summer festivities at the ramasubbus was a sight to behold. kancheevaram saaris everywhere, diamond "mukkuthis", filter coffee aroma everywhere and a lot of loud iyer folks giggling, talking and enjoying this momentous occassion. Vardhan was over awed by the occasion. he pulled his grandfather aside to clarify how he was related to the people who had come down for his poonal and this is the answer he got

Vardhan made his way as planned into the IIT Madras for his Btech in Computer Science. the "Paal Payasam" was back as a mark of celebration. IIT proved to be a cultural shock for him. he met lot of people from the "north". He was shy in his intital days but as days and years went by, vardhan blended well with the folks . the alcohol consumption started and the daily "sandhi" count went down. he developed a special affinity towards egg maggi. one thing he didn't change was the academic prowess. Vardhan continued to excel. his weekend trips back to his home in Naganallur were filled with ammas special pampering. he devoured some special delicacies which included Moru kozhambu, vethai kozhambu and avial.

next pit stop in the Vardhan journey was getting to the U.S.A. A fully sponsored M.S +Phd gig at Stanford awaited Vardhan on his way to conquer the silicon valley. extensive research was  done in the Ramasubbu household with phone calls, panchagams and expert astrological calculations just to find the exact date of departure to the u.s. His amma had some important tips for him. she had packed uraghai, had given him special training on sambhar making, rice keeping, 2 min rasam and many such gastronomical delights. Vardhan found all this more stressful than IIT. his appa had given him a copy of pictured depiction of sandhyavandhanam and about 50 phone nos and email ids of relatives in the U.S. A sobbing Mrs Ramasubramaniam bid goodbye to her son. on the flight, Vardhan had decided that this was his time to be independent and live life as he wants, enjoy the freedom and have a blast.

what turned over the next 6 years was even more hard work than before. days and nights spent in the lab. the sambhar rice was replaced by peperoni pizza and moru by corona. the daily bath, vibhudi, sandhyavandhanam and idlis were replaced by once a week bath, no sandhyavandhanam and an omlette for breakfast. on his trips back to india, vardhan brought back loads of gifts for his mom and relatives, but was often faced with this response

for Vardhan's graduation, the Ramasubbus took their first journey across the seas to see their son be anointed as Dr Varadharajan Ramasubramaniam. on seing their son at the airport, the first thing that Mr Ramasubbu asked was, "Dei are you wearing your poonal?". (Vardhan was smart enough to wear a new poonal right before coming to the airport). Vardhan planned a special "temple less" tour to show his parents around the U.S. Mrs Ramasubbu wore her best Kancheevaram saaris for the Vegas leg of the tour. at the end of the tour, Vardhan's mom popped the question ," kanna, vitchu maamas sister in-laws's cousin's daughter Sripriya has completed her M.S and is moving to the silicon valley for a job, we know the family very well. do you want to meet this girl?".

6 months and a theortical horoscope matching process later, vardhan was in chennai getting married. sitting on the marriage podium topless in front of a raging fire, vardhan was sweating proffusely. standing behing him, Mr Ramasubramaniam was a proud man, the dream that he had 28 years ago was reaching completion.

Vardhan went back with his newly wed wife back to the silicon valley and went from strength to strength conquering the highest echelons of the computer science world. he was blessed with a son and when he himself was trying to be the strict father like his own father was, the tide had changed

Vardhan had lived a very academically successful life, he had good money, great education and a great family. his constant yet powerful companion throughout his life journey was the good old  curd rice. he consumed it every day without fail. be it U.S, india, IIT or his multiple world tours, the curd rice stood by him and was at many times his sole gastronomical delight.

my dear friends, the curd rice is the single most important delicacy in the Tam Brahm household. it is all curing, digestion helping, ultra energy providing and above all the most simplest of foods one can have. there is a popular folklore down in the tam brahm households that the titanic sunk because they didn't serve curd rice aboard that fateful night.

P.S: this article is not intended at anybody and I am in no way trying to malign the Tam brahms. I am one of them and have just taken the liberty to have some fun