Tag Archives: madurai

Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

30 Jun

Swamusings ~ the new blog series by Swamy that’s a breeze to read, reminisce, reflect & relate/respond to…

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Swamusings #1 ~ Ah, that fresh morning cuppa!

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Was wondering for a while when this was going to happen… 🤔
And it finally did, today!👍

Ah, at last, an App for a very unique Indian need – that fresh morning cuppa…
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Living in MeraBharatMahan is an entirely different ball game compared to the western way of living, which most entrepreneurial ventures and their apps cater to. Implementing them as-is for akhand Bharat simply won’t work as expected, not just because of the extreme diversity, but also due to the nano cultural nuances, that date back to many a millennia, which the entrepreneurs of considerably young western societies (in terms of culture, not age of people) have no clue about and choose to ignore in their zest for rapid global expansion. 🙄 Oh, the twenty something millionaires and their billionaire dreams…
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Buying milk afresh and systematically preparing and enjoying copious cups of aromatic filter coffee or adharat chai, first thing in the morning (and many times a day, afterwards 😜), is a very unique Indian thing – practically a habit ingrained in the Indian psyche. From the long gone days of zero-carbon-footprint milkman who brought it in aluminium (oh yeah, it’s pronounced with an ‘i’ you ithings-obsessed forbidden fruit man’i’acs) cans and delivered it at every customer home to the reusable glass bottle days to the abominable single-use plastic sachet days of now (take that you – still – plastic-packet-delivering quasi-government entity that’s yet another commercial wing of the plastic-ban-implementation-attempting government), getting fresh (hopefully, who is going to check with the cows!) milk everyday is a must-do activity in many a middle class household, upper or otherwise.

Even today, in established residential localities, one can see uncles and grandpas buying milk sachets from the same vendor (for a few decades, at the minimum – despite the persistent ‘absolutely no customer service whatsoever’ motto of quite a few Aavin vendors, aka that quasi-government entity), during their morning walks. Who gives a damn about the walk – other than the family doc – it’s the current affairs chat with age-old pals and the fresh milk that’s important 😂.

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While this walking/talking/milk buying ritual is happening outside, there’ll be another ritual happening inside the houses to which the fresh milk is headed, in parallel (or is it simultaneously). With the ubiquitous M.S. Suprabhatham bgm (thou may upgrade the device that emits that enchanting evergreen voice to a smartphone+bluetooth speaker combo, but thou shalt not replace the song/chant, ever), lamp(s) get lit in the puja room, with a dash of fragrant smoke from agarbatti and/or sambrani, and the coffee maker starts the warm-up routine to delight the household souls, as unfailingly as the sun that rises to warm and light up the world.

The filter may be a generation or two old brass (பித்தளை) or eversilver (chrome) one or one of those electric coffee makers made by Preethi, Prestige, Philips and the like. The he elders disapprove of this modern thingamagig of course, but have grudgingly allowed it to take over the beloved kaapi filter’s place, in many households. But the coffee brand and the blend is so sacrosanct (Cothas in Swamily, at present – post the strong recommendation from Swamy’s Chithappa, who himself is a long term coffee connoisseur) to each family that even attempting to change it is tantamount to treason.

During his childhood, Swamy remembers visiting the friendly neighbourhood coffee (powder) maker ‘LR Swamy Coffee’ in SS Colony, Madurai, whenever the routine purchase of freshly ground coffee-chicory blend was done by some senior family member. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that a significant part of that entire street was always filled with the bewitching aroma of coffee, all day long. In fact, there was even a hand-operated mini-grinder at Swamy’s grandparents’ home (where his primary education years were spent), which was used to make freshly ground coffee powder at home. While many families in that neighborhood may’ve eventually moved on, it won’t be a surprise if LR Swamy Coffee is still around, grinding aromatic coffee afresh, for a handful of diehard nostalgic customer fans.

As soon as the milk arrives, it gets boiled with froth in a few quick minutes (when the walker impatiently scans the headlines of newspapers – full reading cannot proceed just yet) and a small cupful of milk is offered first to the family deity in the puja room. Next, the aromatic coffee decoction (which, in the western world, is called coffee, btw, heh.. heh..) gets mixed with the right proportion of milk, in multiple tumblers seated inside dabaras. Depending on each coffee connoisseur’s insulin generation capacity & capability, either excess or the right or less or no amount of sugar is added to each tumbler. Then the back and forth pouring between the tumbler and dabara happens a few times, before the piping hot first cup of frothy coffee of the day gets delivered to its connoisseur, who starts relishing it sip by sip. And thus, yet another day dawns in the (typically South, but mostly some parts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka) Indian household. A similar ritual happens in the chai consuming households, obviously.

Oh, for the uninitiated (in what’s collectively known as South Indian culture, which is obviously a misnomer, for the four South Indian states are as different as Madras Filter Kaapi and Kerala Kattanchai), traditional coffee preparation is on/near the very top of the must-learn things list of a new bride, who is keen on blending in with her new family (you are denied the opportunity to accuse Swamy of misogyny for he is the one who typically performs this morning ritual @ SwamyHome 😂). The manni / maatruppen (daughter-in-law) who masters the magical art of making the perfect family coffee is pretty much guaranteed to become the new superstar of a typical tradition-bound South Indian family, overnight, err… overday!

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Now that an app is available for home delivery of fresh packaged milk, daily, the uncles and thathas can have their daily morning cuppa, without having to venture out of the comfort of their abode – if they choose to, that is. To entice many of them, the SUPR app not only assures to deliver fresh milk (as fresh as processed milk can be, of course) daily but also throw in a few sachets of free milk. While Swamy can’t endorse the app without actually trying it (now you know for a fact why none of the SwamyView reviews can be fake), be assured that he is one of those South Indian coffee connoisseurs, for whom the daily morning fresh – and strong, and hot – cuppa is as important as the daily Kriya.

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P.S. The multitude of ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’ food stalls that dot the GST (that would be ‘Grand Southern Trunk,’ not that notoriously popular all-encompassing tax) road aka NH47, at least until Vizhuppuram, that serve coffee in brass dabara-tumbler are mostly nondescript tea stalls that learnt to milk the decoction coffee nostalgia (pun very intended) of travellers,quite successfully. While some of them are quite good, others should just stick to selling chai and Bru coffee, instead of insulting genuine filter kaapi lovers.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

Past in Present!

15 Apr

The extended Swamily recently made a road trip to his home town Madurai, for his mother’s 70th birthday celebration ceremony (the traditional way with homam or havan, vedic chanting, etc). After the ever-customary Temple visit & purchasing all kinds of stuff (from eatables to brass items to Nannari sorbet to clothing to sticker bindhi to lamp wicks to gift items to rug cloth bags for saving the planet from plastics to what not…) and now-customary visit to Ramana Mandhiram (RamaNa Maharishi‘s uncle’s house, in the lane opposite to the South Gopuram of the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar temple, where BhagawAn had the profound death experience, while still in his teens, which set his historic one-way trip to the sacred town of AruNAchalA aka ThiruvaNNAmalai, to shine his “Who am I!” spiritual light on the world), they had some time in hand to visit the residence where they’ve spent several of their formative years. 

Present Past… 

During the return journey, the family took a quick detour into a suburb of Dindigul called NGO colony, where Swamy lived for a few years, during the middle & high school years. Swamy’s sister-in-law #3 (of the 3) made an insightful observation, when the extended Swamily were about to get down from the vehicle to see the old house at NGO colony, Dindigul.


Past Past… 

After being away from the family for a few years (for better education, he was left with his grandparents & maternal uncle’s family in Madurai, during the Primary school years, which happened at BAla Gurukulam & Sri VidhyAlayam schools, in S.S.Colony), this independent house (Swamy Sr’s first own house – quite an achievement then, for an honest government servant with a fairly large brood & an extended family) is where Swamy lived & studied from 6-10th standard (@ MSP Solai Nadar Memorial HSS, which apparently remains one of the top schools in the town); met with a life altering (quite literally) sports accident (shattered the knee cap due to improper landing at long jump – for which the PET didn’t bother to train anyone – that too immediately after a sprint, for which Swamy seem have a natural flair) not only abruptly ended his potential sports career (India still awaits an Olympics Gold in Sprint 🐥) but also forced him to discontinue the scholastic education (due to incorrect treatment by an allegedly drug-addict doctor, which resulted in 2 surgeries & prolonged the period of recovery to several months) that he (pretty much always) did well in (a State Rank in S.S.L.C & University Rank in Engineering will sufficiently substantiate that claim), for an year (which eventually made him Anna to his fellow students, then onwards, simply because he was an year senior to them 😜); became an ignorant agnostic for a short duration (blaming God for letting him down😣); turned believer (is it gnostic! 🤔) again; discovered (or re-discovered) his talent for sketching & writing (no formal training in either craft, other than joining a popular online course for painting & promptly discontinuing it soon 🙃); silently appreciated the value of family (hint: his left leg was in a PoP cast for months, due to 2 surgeries to fix his damaged knee, so he couldn’t go to the restroom on his own for awhile – at least until he could pull himself around with the cast 🤕), et al.


Long story short… or in today’s SoMe terms – blog story tweet 😁, that house occupied a significant number of gray cell real estate, to store piles of unreal memories, letting the mind reminisce the long gone past, as and when it liked. And there are a few other places like that as well (Swamy Sr was a humble – untainted as well – government servant, who was routinely transferred from one town to another, every two or three years), not only in Madurai, but also nearby towns like RAmanhAthapuram, Dindigul & UtthamapALayam.


Present Past… 

Incidentally, Swamy was inadvertently visiting some of these places, in the recent past, for different purposes. As a serious seeker, he is fully aware that there are no accidents or mere coincidences in Life. So, his sister-in-law’s (an intellectual & writer similar to Swamy, but doesn’t dabble on the spiritual space, unlike Swamy) remark triggered a thought train… (ah, that bloody wily mind… how glad is it to be in the thick of pointless action again.. & again.. & again.. 💭😱).

Here’s what she said (may not be verbatim, but close enough)…

Anna, you seem to be the most excited person, who wants to see this old house!

A pertinent point, considering the group of people getting out to see the house (now in dilapidated condition, locked out without any inhabitants) included 2 (out of 4) of his younger brothers (who too have lived there) & one more sister-in-law (who is familiar with the house) & the other s-i-l’s parents (who happen to be paternal aunt & her husband, for the brothers & thereby familiar with that house as well). The 3 kids (of the younger brothers) & the driver were just curious about all the excitement of the (yet-to-grow-up) adults, as they had no clue about the place. But the kids were naturally excited about climbing the wall & exploring the ancient dwelling of their parents, where they probably were the past replicas of them in the present! 😯


After spending a short while, checking every part of the house (it was locked, but one can go around, climb the stairs to the open terrace & also peep through the partially shut windows) & recalling a few interesting (or intriguing, depending on the perspective) incidents, the group left the derelict place, overflowing with memories of a long gone, but obviously not yet forgotten, past. The smartphones captured the house, frozen in time, for posterity, as it’s quite possible that none of them may ever visit it again! 


Past in Present… 

As the vehicle continued to clock kilometres on the expressway, speeding towards Chennai, so everyone but Swamy can rush back to their survival routine the next morning, Swamy recalled a different incident, from his Master Sadhguru’s life, which resonated with what he’s now going through. 

It’s called the Karma YAtrA, which enabled those involved in Sadhguru‘s consecration of the Dhyanalinga, (a one-of-a-kind perennial energy form, consecrated using the ancient mystical process of PrANa PratishthA, which is his Guru’s will that took him 3 births to complete), to experience their past, the memories of which was impeding their participation / presence, by exploring places of their past!

(you may know more about it here… http://isha.sadhguru.org/mystic/dhyanalinga/consecration-process/karma-yatra/)

After reaching Chennai late in the night (which can also be termed as early in the morning), taking a brief nap & waking up fresh, listening to the cooing & chirping of birds, it became clear to Swamy that, he has started visiting places of his past recently, not to remember the past (that was a reality a long time ago, but obviously not anymore) but to let go of it (as it has no relevance or value to the spiritual pursuit, progressing towards self-realisation). For good! 
Though Swamy’s state of awareness is still limited to only the Present Past (past events of the present birth / lifetime) and yet to expand to the Past Past (past events in previous lifetimes), he’s at least clear about what needs to be done in the present, ASAP, about the past… Quickly cover a few more places that enshrine memories… to complete the Karma yAtrA, i.e. journey to the Past in Present! 👍👣😌🙌

Be joyful 😌 & spread the cheer 🌻
~Swamy

@PrakashSwamy 


Im-mortal!

18 Sep

Im-mortal ~ a tribute to a true Legend & pondering about how mortal even such legends are – especially in the fickle human memory! 

Yesterday was the birth centenary (not your hilarious annual celebration of the day you stepped out to survive this silly world) of a once-in-a-lifetime… Nah… Once-in-a-millennium… Uh, huh… Once-in-a-creation kind of artisan, whose name is synonymous with her craft. Yet, as far as Swamy knows, none of the prime time media – including the most democratic of ’em all, the Social Media – did much to commemorate the momentous occasion!

Graphic: Awards, accolades & global recognition for the legendary MuSician (source: msstribute.org)

Before we get to the name, here are a few (there are very few in the entire history of human existence, btw) parallels, to give you a perspective of what we’re conversing about…

Football (no, we won’t call it soccer, like the unsure citizens of the global big brother nation) – Pele’

ScienceEinstein (no silly comparisons with Edison et al here, he remains incomparable)

WritingTwain (very debatable, but let’s just go with the longevity here)

ArtMichelangelo (we can add Craft too here as he dabbled in far too many things, so well)

PoetryBhArathi (as far as Swamy is concerned, there has been no one as versatile & skilled as the MahAkavi

ComposingBeethoven (yep, there are far too many like Back et al, but no one will have any problem with nodding their head for the big B)

PhilosophySages who wrote the Upanishads (if you haven’t read them, then you’ve no idea about the purpose of your human birth)

ActingChaplin (you’ve no idea – just shut up & go watch his silent classics)

StrategyChAnakyA (start reading his ArthasAstra, before buying yet another strategy tome) 

AutomobileFord (“you can have the model-T in any colour as long as it’s black” – ‘nuf said)

DefianceGandhi (just imagine the ‘half-naked fakir’ standing up against the once-mighty empire where the sun never sets – according to them, of course)

Leadership – Captain Cool aka MS Dhoni (just Google him & you’ll know why)

Guess you have a fair – even if only faint – idea of where we’re getting to by now.

Graphic: Life time line of the legendary vocal artist who simply has no equal (source: msstribute.org)

The legend – truly, in every sense of the word – we’re conversing about is MS Subbulakshmi, fondly known as MS Amma. She’s to Classical (& Devotional) Music what Pele’ is to Football (& all the aforementioned greats were to their respective art / craft / chosen space). 

She was popular at the age of 10. The popularity graph kept going up, up & away, defying celebrity gravity, all the way to her being awarded the Bharat Ratna – the highest civilian honour in India. She sang all over the globe, including the UN. Heck, even Gods wake up daily listening to her melodious rendering of their praise (e.g. Venkatesa Suprabhatam rendered by her is officially used in Lord Venkatachalapathy aka Balaji temple at Thirumala to wake the Lord up, daily – incidentally, millions of households too wake up with her signing the same – even today).

Her list of honours knew no limit, yet she remained humble all her life.

Her remuneration & gifts were sizeable, yet she donated most of it for charity (still goes on).

Her popularity was more than heads of states and celluloid celebrities, yet she remained intensely private.

She could’ve easily been a Diva, yet chose to remain deeply rooted in devotion – to her craft & the creator.

She went all over the world with an entourage, and she always travelled, stayed and ate with them, without any airs. 

She was the symbol of devotion, piety, simplicity, eminence, elegance, grace, gratitude, benevolence, humility, loyalty and a lot more things that we hardly see in a celebrity today.

Yet, this once-great nation seem to have collectively ignored this legendary performing artist’s existence, on the momentous occasion of her birth centenary. Other than a few concerts by true devotees (who saw her as divine incarnate) and probably a commemoration lecture or two, the voice that still wakes up millions – including the Gods themselves – has already faded away!

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Human memory (& loyalty) is a fickle thing. It forgets greatness easily – especially when the great ones aren’t around anymore. Humans are silly beings stuck in their mUlAdhAra chakra, who will remember only things that they can feel and experience with their sense organs, collectively. 

Someone like MS – arguably the greatest classical + devotional artist of all time – is still remembered when they hear her Suprabhatam or Sahasranamam in the morning. But that’s only one of the 5 senses – auditory. As soon as the song is done, she fades away from their pointlessly busy survival mind. Until the next morning.

Sujatha – arguably the most diverse & exceptionally talented (& needless to say, hugely successful) is remembered during the annual book fair. Or while reading one of his many amazing books – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, classics, science, God… You name it. And then forgotten entirely, until the next book.

MahAkavi BhArathi – arguably the greatest poet that ever walked the earth – had just a handful of people attending his funeral. His poems will make even a Millennial kid go wow, even today. 

KBalachandar – arguably the most daring director ever in the history of Tamil cinema (& TV), who also happened to mentor two of his greates superstars Kamal Hassan & Rajinikanth – is hardly remembered by the fans now.

Tagore, Palke, Premchand, Rajaji, Balasaraswathi, Mali, Ravi varma, Ray, RK brothers, Patel, GD Naidu, Sarabhai, Ramanujan, Dhyan Chand, … 

All of them, and a lot many more global celebrities – sportspersons, musicians, actors, writers, leaders, business icons, astronauts, artists, architects… – who once were celebrated as immortals, are all probably lamenting at how mortal they indeed are, muttering with a sigh, “I’m-mortal”! 

MS probably isn’t regretting it one bit because she treated her celebrity status – almost unheard of in her time, making her even more mystical – adulation, awards, accolades like one of those enchanting sarees she used to wear for her concerts. Useful & valuable at that point in time, but of no importance whatsoever once the concerns was over. 

In a way,

MS was a Yogini. Nada Yogini. Music was her sadhana


Singing with utmost devotion, from the core of her being, was her daily penance – to attain the ultimate liberation. She seems to have been created, nurtured, celebrated and protected by the creator exclusively to sing his praise (that her husband + mentor was named Sadasivam isn’t a coincidence). And boy did she do that.. And how!

MS, the mortal being, became the MuSic, the immortal being! 

You may cherish Swamy’s hymn tribute to the true legend of Classical & Devotional Music MS Subbulakshmi here ~ Isaiyarasi (இசையரசி – Queen of Music) 

You may know more about the legendary perfect performing artist here ~ msstribute.org

Who cares if the media didn’t care to acknowledge the immortality of her MuSic? They must be too busy chasing the next Im-mortal story. Until the next one. BAUHumbug!

Slide an audio CD of MS into your hi-fi or just search for one of her many immortal songs like Kurai Ondrum Illai on your smartphone or tablet. Close your eyes & open your ears. Listen deeply as her immortal voice caresses the deeply hidden devotion within you. Let the joy drops, i.e. tears flow. Repeat. Until you comprehend why (& how) MS is synonymous with MuSic!  

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

~Swamy

@PrakashSwamy   

Just another day in paradise!

18 Apr

Today was the birthday of this soul 42 years ago at the temple town that never sleeps and known for it’s ruling Goddess, 2 of the 6 padaiveedus of her younger Commander-in-Chief son, fragrant Jasmine, roadside Eateries serving piping hot gourmet dishes with a smile anytime of the day, branded Goli soda and nurturing of the Tamil language for ages from the Sangam period.

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111 (at last count) wishes have poured in, for someone who doesn’t give a damn about wishes and also wrote a blog about wishing! Which makes one wonder about this dogged obsession of people to wish one another on different days, especially on birthday!

What has one done to deserve a wish on that particular day, which is just a bookmark in anyone’s long winding, occasionally joyful, otherwise painful journey called Life, which after all is just the aftermath of karma accumulated in the past lives, according to Sanathana Dharma, otherwise known popularly as Hinduism!

Of course there are days that are certainly worth celebrating. In Life’s long history, such as…

  • The haloed one in 528 BC when a prince got enlightened and became the Buddha
  • March 10, 1876, when a bearded scientist called his assistant in the adjoining room over an acoustic device
  • September 11, 1893, when a young Swami from Bengal made a historic speech in far away cold Chicago that warmed up the hearts of millions across the world
  • May 29, 1953, when a Nepali Sherpa and a Newzealander shocked the world by standing atop the world’s highest peak
  • May 6, 1954, when a British runner stunningly cracked the sub 4-minute mile…
  • April 12, 1961, when a human defied gravity and flew around the globe for the first time

Or the day when an apple fell on a scientist’s head… when a wall dividing two sides of a nation was demolished to unite them again… when a certain loincloth wearing lawyer freed a great nation sans any violence… when a biscuit maker’s son took his 800th wicket…

Those are days worth celebrating, forever. But the day of birth of a mere mortal, who hasn’t made a dent in the universe yet?

“Ah, c’mon. When did your cup become half empty?”, said a voice from within. At once, the compulsive optimist in me sprung to life again and nudged me to find at least one valid reason to celebrate. I promptly obliged and here are two!

First historical, for present is past in future and who knows how this soul will be remembered in future! I was told many a times that my grandfather used to call me Apolloer & here’s why – The spacecraft Apollo 13 apparently landed safely on earth exactly on the day I was born. So let me humbly take credit for ensuring it’s safe landing, which can only be attributed to my birth! Or the birth of all Arians who were born on that day, anywhere in this world.

And the second is spiritual. What’s a Swamystery blog without at least a sprinkling of spirituality? If death is considered the ultimate liberation from this Life, wretched or otherwise, then every birthday is a not-so-gentle reminder that we’re one more year closer to liberation. And that in my view dear readers, is certainly worth celebrating. May everyone wish to their heart’s content anyone who is closer to liberation – knowingly or otherwise!

But for the enlightened souls who figured out Life as an endless beginning and chose to guide those who dared to at least dip their feet in the vast spiritual ocean, to accept Life as it is, any day – birthday or not – remains just another day in paradise!

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