Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas

We in Chennai had a wonderful Christmas. We started with dinner at the Marriott on Christmas Eve, so that Ashwin and Priya could enjoy the traditional spread not usually available at home here (roast turkey, ham, and to Priya's delight, lots of lovely imported cheeses). Then home to hang stockings with care, and yes, Santa does know how to find Chennai! Much happiness Christmas morning when this was discovered. Then, a lovely church service, tasty Christmas breakfast, and family over for fun, games, and the traditional Indian festive Christmas dish - Biryani - yum! Hope that all you blog followers enjoyed your holidays as much as we did - here are a few photos for you to enjoy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Boys are Back in Town. The Old Boys are Back in Town.

December 20Th, my Alma mater, Madras Christian College High School held an all school reunion, "The Old Boys Meet". It's been 28 years since I graduated. There were quite a lot of old boys , including a student who passed out in 1938. The years I spent at MCC (1973-1980) mean a lot to me, so it was great to meet my classmates after such a long time. As one would expect we have all aged; no hair , white hair, big belly syndrome etc. In spite of the difficulty recognizing them, it was a special to meet all my friends and get back in touch. The group pic includes Dr Clement Felix, our headmaster at the time, in the blue blazer. These days, most of my friend are into Facebook, and because of that I have 12 friends on my Facebook page. Its great to be part of the Facebook generation, though Leann feels it's a bit juvenile for 45 year old men to write on each others Facebook wall.
One of my favorite things about my school is the grounds. The main grounds have been left untouched - one field is used by the Pace Foundation to train the future cricket stars of India. It gives me great pleasure to watch Ashwin play soccer in my school, where he has coaching every weekend, and to see Priya run and enjoy all the open space - a rarity in Chennai!


Priya and cousin Joe, in a police box.
Leela's grandaughters Sangeeta and Shalini, with
grandneices/nephew Priya, Ashwin and Helen.
The dayam board and shells, with Priya throwing the shells, below.
December celebrations also included my Periamma's (translates into 'big mother', ie. my father's elder brother's wife or very close relative as we would say) 80Th birthday celebration. So the weekend of December 7Th, we joined cousins, aunts and uncles to celebrate in Vellore, a city a bit north of us in Tamil Nadu. About 50 people showed up and there were tributes, songs, dance and plenty of food.
A high point of the weekend was Saturday evening's game of Dayam which is a complicated game somewhat similar to "Sorry". 21 players, including Priya and Ashwin, started playing at 9 PM and continued until the game was declared a draw after 5 and a half hours of non-stop playing -though there were plenty of red towels throw in for challenges. I guess one could call it a success since everyone was on speaking terms after the play!
Happy Birthday Periamma.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Last Tuesday, the 9th was a national holiday here - Bakrid, also known as Eid-al-Adah , or the 'Festival of Sacrifice'. (It commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God was reportedly so pleased, he substituted a ram. Here, Muslims typically celebrate by killing a goat, and sharing with friends, family and the less fortunate).
Since we all had the day off, but weren't planning to sacrifice a goat, we decided to head out to the Courtyard Marriott, where we had heard that they had build a large gingerbread house in the lobby. Large it was - about the size of the average single car garage in Jamaica Plain. Ashwin and Priya were really impressed, and Priya managed to charm the staff into prying a couple of ornaments off the house for them to take home. We had a wonderful meal - there were both eastern and western items, including some favorites that are hard to come by here in S. India, cheese, salami and pizza!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Carols All Around

Christmas season continues apace here in Chennai - with lots of music! Sunday night the Christmas Choir from CSI Redeemer's Church put on its long rehearsed for carol service. Both the adult and the children's choir performed. Leann and Ashwin, respectively, have been practicing with their groups all fall. The music was wonderful (totally unbiased observation here) and a great time was had by all. Check out the photos at top of Leann and Ashwin in their 'rumba jazzy' Christmas choir attire. ("Rumba" means really, or very and "Jazzy" means jazzy in Tamil).
In addition to the concert, there have been "carol rounds". All the churches here seem to host these - our church sends out a group every night for a couple of weeks, who walk or ride in a van to homes of church families, covering a different neighborhood each night. By the end of the two weeks, every family in the church will have had carolers visit. Ashwin was part of the Sunday school group that caroled on the 5th of December. Leann was part of the English choir that covered the 15th and 17th. Both of us went from home to home, singing and overeating as we politely accepted the snacks that almost every home graciously offered. Ashwin's group didn't return until 2:30 in the morning! The older folks were in by 1am, as we cant stay out as late. (I'm sure, just the start of Ashwin's bedtime eclipsing mine!) Tonight, a group of carolers came to our house from the Lutheran church Prabhu's parents attend. From the perspective of both the caroler and the listener, this is a lovely tradition, enhanced by the balmy weather in the 70's!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas 2008

Christmas season has begun here - with a grand start at Ashwin and Priya's school. No politically correct celebrations in India.  One can expect exuberant celebrations from all religions during their respective festivals.  On December 3, there was a Christmas Pageant at school.   Priya was in a  100 student strong choir which included all the students of nursery and kindergarten classes. And they sang there hearts out. Ashwin was in the school play, "Follow the Star" and was the youngest member of the group. His selection may have been partly due to the fact that some of his teachers had seen him on TV when he was interviewed on the day of the US election. 
Last night Ashwin went carolling with his Sunday school group and returned home at 2 AM, with his pockets stuffed with candy.   Next week, there will be a Choir Concert by our church Christmas choir, which Leann is a part of. Then she will we going on carolling rounds a couple of nights as well.  (I don't know if she can stay awake)

Wedding Season

Winter is the busiest season for marriages in South India, and wedding parties are becoming regular events for us. Last week, we were invited for a special wedding ceremony by my colleague Dr Koka from Boston Children's Hospital. His niece, Sahi was getting married in Chennai. The reception was at a lovely wedding hall call AVM Rajeswari marriage hall . It was so nice to meet Dr Koka and family, and the food and music were great. In traditional south Indian style food was served on banana leaves and eaten with the right hand (no utensils). One of the photos above is of Leann, Ashwin and Priya digging in!
About ten days before the wedding, we were at an engagement party for Prabhu's cousin Jikki (in the photos at top, she's the woman in the lavender sari talking with Ashwin). She will be married in mid January. There was a celebration at the groom's family home in Tambaram, which is just south of Chennai. A large contingent of family and friends travelled there in a minibus. At the celebration, Ashwin and Priya were excited to be part of the procession bringing gifts to bless the betrothed - Priya carried fruits, Ashwin carried a platter of nuts and sweets - all traditional gifts given to wish for an abundant sweet life together. Then, there was a wonderful meal including the traditional festive dish, biryani, followed by music and singing. A great time was had by all!

There are a few photos above from both events