How would you feel if you meet your childhood friend? Happy, Excited and Nostalgic I am sure, and all these feelings would transport you to those days when you played with your friend, spoke those sweet and innocent nothings. The same thing happened to me when I met some of my friends from Soviet Literature Hub. Surprised? Well, I am talking about some Russian Books for kids.
Growing up I read numerous Russian Books which were translated into Marathi. I grew up in a small town which is 60 km away from Nagpur, called Bhandara. Though it was and still is a district place, it has some excellent schools. Then, there was a rich tradition of reading, which continues until today. These schools were instrumental in inducing reading habit in children. Me and one of my very best friends “Prajakta” used to read a lot. She was two years older than me, but I was very very fond of her. She was my window to the world of elder girls who were in the higher classes than me. She was fond of Russian Literature and had many many books. The best part was she used to lend these books to most of her friends, and I was her bestie so all the books that she had, she used to share with me.
The first Russian Story that I read was called as “ Vasilisa – The Beautiful”.
It was a huge black book which I read over and over again for 20-30 days, and with a heavy, heavy heart I returned the book. I never saw that book again, but I carried Vasilisa in my heart for over 20 years.
Soviet Literature was a common phenomenon for children who were born in the 80s or 90s. The distributors had an excellent distribution network as I read today and also had brilliant translators and publishers. After some time it all stopped for reasons unknown around 1991.
Today, when I see my daughter reading Jeronimo Stilton or Thea Stilton, I wonder if I could get her those books to read. Mostly those were the folklore of Russia, which was different. Vasilisa The Beautiful was about a beautiful and poor girl Vasilisa who is trapped by a witch “Babayaga,” And the story unfolds.
The story is almost like Cinderella but different in context and the depiction. I should say it was far from mundane or at least I felt so.
Today, as I read Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” I was reminded of Soviet Literature. Some simple aspects of these books including Leo Tolstoy’s novels are that they are amazingly easy to read.
Maybe the credit goes to the translators, but again, if there is no much meat in the literature, the translator would undoubtedly fail in the endeavour.
Currently, I am reading Anna Karenina, and so far it is terrific. The depiction of each character is fantastic, you can easily picture all the characters and can see the narration as a motion picture in your mind. The other wonderful book which is on my reading list is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and the third book would be Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Unfortunately, the contemporary Russian writers are mostly unknown. But there is so much to explore in Russian Literature.
I wonder after these many years, all the books which are written by Russian Writers still seem relevant to today’s scenario. Recently, I found a facebook group for Soviet Literature in Marathi. They crowdsourced the books ( Russian Books Translated in Marathi) across the world and wondered what?
I found Vasilisa – The Beautiful as it is with the black cover.
But the only difference is that I would not be able to hold it, it is in the digital copy (scanned version). I saw the book I felt like I met my childhood friend. The nostalgia took me to the 1980s when Vasilisa and I spoke some sweet nothings on one beautiful mid-summer afternoon.
I have heard about Sapiens – A brief history of humankind book from one of the 100 relatives groups in WhatsApp. One of the topics was the evolution of Indian Hinduism. I was like with handcuffs at the corner yearning to par with the relatives on this difficult subject. The discussion became very interesting with a couple of critical points. No sooner, I spotted a colleague with the same book and learned the good reviews. I decided to wait no more.
Everyone has learned different myths about the evolution of the humankind. This book had a very strong start that makes you grasp faster with verve. It is possible that you could read the 400 pages in one full sweep.
It is unbelievable to read how the agricultural revolution is considered as history’s biggest fraud.
Agriculture investment is supposed to be the best weapon against hunger and poverty for billions. The author had the strong nerve to explain how small wild grass of wheat manipulated Homo Sapiens to its advantages and how agricultural revolution played a divide and rule for ten thousand years.
This line has stuck in my mind –
“Follow your heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day”.
It looks similar to the old Hindu saying how we live in the dreams of Lord Vishnu. Everything happening here is all in the dream of the Lord Almighty. The book explains how much natural instinct gut we have lost in the last thousand years unlike the animals trusting their natural instinct gut.
The author has surprised the readers with other startling insight that cooperation is based on shared fictions.
That is not yet worst and bewitching topic of the cognitive revolution. The author has come up with a theory about how gossip played an important role in the development as the dominant species on earth.
Gossip theory should be one of the oldest theories evolving the language and staying alive.
The author must have smitten the readers to enjoy the Gossip theory. It looks like a joke but I must say I have started to believe how gossip helps us to stay alive.
I would not recommend the book to strong religious believers. The book is very provoking to change the mindset of science and religion ideologies. The book is for those who are looking for answers.
If you already know the answer from your viewpoint or from the ancestors, then there is no point to waste your time to read this book.
This review is written by Arun Ramakrishnan who is an avid reader. Arun is in IT profession and is a rationalist by nature. He has a very different insight about the worldly world. Occupied by his two daughters ( Pet and a Human) Arun loves to read and write reviews. He also writes blogs on Project Management, Quality Assurance and fundamental tenets of Agile. Here is the link.
P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.
These were never my favorite things to eat. I have never cherished eating Shankarpale. First thing about them was their different name (Shankar in Marathi Means – Shiva ) and Pale means small vessel so there was no connection between Shiva and the Small Vessel and the sweet.
I was never enthusiastic about the whole thing because may be Aaji or Aai used to make it mostly during Diwali and it was just one of the savouries that they used to make so my attention was diverted to other tasty things like Chakli ( Murukku), Chivda, my favorite for 35 years 🙂 I think I was born to love Flattened Rice and all the recipes made out of it. More on my love of flattened rice later. So, this odd named savoury called Shankarpale were never in my list of favourites until somebody presented me with a very crunchy, mushy and sweet version of it.
I was spellbound to eat those small pieces of a wonderful snack which could be relished with a cup of tea or coffee especially in the afternoon. Post meal 2-3 hours is the time to eat something which you can munch on. It can be puffed rice, chivda or my newfound love Shankarpale.
Instead of giving into those sugar laden donuts, tea cakes, biscuits, it is better to savour 3-4 Shankarpale, I realized it late and felt that this is the most sustainable snack I can ever have. We can also replace maida to wheat flour in due course to make it better. But deep frying should never be avoided ( I mean baking something which needs to be deep fried takes the whole concept and nutrition out of it ) Instead of eating 10 we can munch on 5 but the Shankarpale need to be deep fried.
Me and Shrilekha were brought up in a Orthodox Brahmin household where FOOD was EVERYTHING. It was nutrition but more than that Food was a Soother. My mom was a fantastic cook, she was naturally good at making everything. I do not think she has learnt any recipe from anybody. It was her quest of providing her children and her family authentic and nutritious food which made all her recipes special.
As I remember, she was discovering a different way to make the Shankarpale more crispy, ultimately she did and we were excited to have her new version of small biscuits. She even made it with cumin and salt, for people who wanted cracker type Shankarpale.
Why I am reminiscing all this is because yesterday I was making Shankarpale for Joshi Caterers and I slowly slipped into the past. The whole process of making the dough, rolling it, making it into perfect square and frying it was therapeutic.
Mom used to make all snacks either pre lunch/dinner (main cooking ) or post lunch/dinner when there is no disturbance of serving other things. I used to call this as her “Udyog” means business. 🙂
As per her guidelines, I completed everything yesterday and started making Shankarpale post dinner, till around 9 PM. How was it? If you ask, it was heavenly.
With food I have strange equation, now a day, more than eating food, I have started enjoying the process of making. My sincere confession is that I never enjoyed cooking, I am still very reluctant enjoying it but yesterday was different.
In childhood one just eats whatever is served with a bit of tantrum, during teens one can chose what is to be eaten but with very less knowledge about food, during twenties we realize the process behind cooking and most of us try to survive, in thirties, we have a choice whether to eat a lot or make people relish the food made by you..I have chosen the later. 🙂
P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my first post.
Dressed in a simple cotton saree with a huge bindi on her forehead carrying a round cane basket of flowers going for a door delivery of flower garlands Kumudavalli is all there to enchant you.
She is soft spoken but there is a kind of strength in her walk. As she crosses signals and busy roads, she is sure that her basket of flowers will be empty by the end of the day. Sometimes you would also see her chewing her favorite beeda but that too not very often. Every evening 6.30 to 7.00 she would start from her home walk all the way to Mylapore to deliver flowers.
Flowers are her life. They have helped her make a livelihood. Her son is now working in a big company and daughter duly married with kids. She is happy but says that she has to come and sell the flowers to keep herself busy.
You can get all types of flowers from her. But she is very fond of Tulasi. Whenever I ask her why she gets me so much Tulasi, she says “Put it near the feet of Lord Vishnu, he loves Tulasi.”
Kumudavalli has no marketing, no social media. All she has is word of mouth and an amazing customer service. When she first met me, we were staying at the rented house. One evening she came and told me that the house owner ( who were not staying there) used to get flowers from her for last 20 years and she would be happy coming to that home again and give me flowers. I was more than happy and said yes to her. One more trait of Kumudavalli’s flower business was that the flower packet was never more than Rs.10. If I ask her more flowers for some occasion, she would ask me money only at the end of the month. Her flowers were always fresh and she would know what goes on what day. For example during Ganesh Chaturthi days she would bring red flowers and suitable flowers to Lord Ganesha.
On Saturdays, which is called as a Lord Vishnu’s day in Tamil Nadu, she would bring suitable flowers to Lord Vishnu and loads of Tulasi.
Along with all the matching flowers she would put a gajra of either mogra, chameli, jai or jui,kunda and the likes. Here there is a tradition of giving flowers to any lady who comes home at any point of time in a day.
It is due to Kumudavalli’s flower packet that I have never missed giving flowers to any Sumangali ( Married Woman) coming home. One gajra will always be there at home no matter what.
She was the one who gave us amazing garlands for my Sister In Law’s engagement. These garlands were specially made with Rajnigandha’s flowers, with roses in between tied tightly with the thread made of banana stem. They are sure as heavy, but create such a beautiful memory of that event through their fragrance.
As the days of Shravan approach I usually tell her to include some bilvam in the flower packet.The bilva patram would be neat ( 3 leaves as a piece without any holes) and she would deliver it without any fuss. The price of the flower pack would be little higher like Rs.12 but her customer service is impeccable.
She knew that there is small kid at our home, as she came everyday, she would tie a gajra for my dear little K even when she had a boy cut. 🙂
I call all lady flower vendors Kumudavalli ( Kumuda – Flower Valli – Creeper). I feel that is the best name for all the ladies who deliver flowers to households. Kumudavalli coming to Shrilekha’s home does not know how to count. She is an old lady but looks stunning with two sided nose pin and a nice cotton saree. She usually tells Shrilekha to count and give how many flowers she has given in that month. 🙂 I always feel that she has a deep belief on the customer and the trade that neither of them would cheat her.
Above all, for all Kumudavallis there is the Lord who knows all the accounting 🙂 HE would never do anything wrong for these ladies who are working hard twinning flowers and threads for HIM.
I saw her first during my first visit to Chennai and fell in love with her. Her Pillai style Madisar usually green, maroon with a matching blouse, with a signature KumKum on the forehead brought in all the beauty. She was amazingly beautiful but looked gorgeous on Friday as she brightened her skin using some Manjal or Haldi. Grey hair tied in a bun always I mean always adorned with flowers.
This was Krishnammal whom we fondly called “Aachi”.
Aachi married Thatha when she was in teens. From her village she came to a city called Madras. Back then, Thatha was working in a temple at Nungambakkam. There were no all weather roads in Madras but Aachi used to deliver his lunch box by walk. Whenever somebody tells me this tale, I can imagine old madras and the way this beautiful saree clad would carry the hot lunch box ( 6 tier with spoon) for her husband.
How lucky Thatha was to have such a dutiful wife.
She was diligent in her chores. As they stayed in temple house or Agraharam, she used to do all the household work looking after her kids, grandkids and great grandkids. Till she was alive, the house was always full with people. She has brought up number of children with such an ease. I now feel that Aachi loved to be surrounded by people. Her way of welcoming and feeding each one of us is unforgettable. Once I remember I overate enormous amount of food because I could not say no to her. This is not only my story, they say, one could never resist overeating food made by Aachi.
All her recipes are gems, food made at Aachi’s home would give run to any five star hotel food or for that matter Aru Suvai’s food (no offense to Aru Suvai 🙂 ) ( Aru Suvai are the Famous Caterers in Chennai) may be as
Aachi would pour all her heart in the food that she would make.
We used to stay near her home in Mylapore then. She would come home around 5.30 in the evening walking from her house just to see us. She would come, ask me about Sham’s whereabouts, my job and what I made that day. At the age of 82-83 she would walk and come home. She used to rush back home immediately because she never liked to stay outside home after 7.00. I have got scoldings many times for being out after 7.00.
An ardent believer of god, she was the only person in Mylapore who can call Lord Kapaliswarar by a pet name “Kapali”. I was amazed at the way she could walk and go to Sabarimala even at that age.
There is a Nellika(gooseberry) tree at Aachi’s place. While being pregnant, I used to munch on those, even now I do but then it was special. She noticed it and one evening she brought a fantastic tangy pickle of those hand picked gooseberries. A gesture which I would never ever forget. Aachi has touched many lives through her food, her demeanour and her number of kind gestures but what remains with me is a loving and caring being who was standing for 5 long hours outside the labour room just to overlook whether the doctors are doing their job properly in making me deliver a baby girl.
Rightly so, we named our lil one after her.. Because her majestic being lives in our heart day in and day out.
P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my first post.