Sunday, January 18, 2015

Goodbye 2014 Wishing all the readers of my blog a happy 2015. Grand children, barbeque, Pondicherry and other stories

Figure 1 - The Prabhakar Clan - 31 Dec / 01 Jan 2015

2014 was a great year. We travelled a lot – both overseas and domestic. Our trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe was outstanding. Both the countries offer a lot to any tourist. SA is extremely well organized for tourism and one returns with a lot of all round satisfaction. Domestic travel included visit to Mumbai and Kodagu for Golf at the ‘Coorg Golf Links Club. The company, weather and the lush Koduva surroundings made the trip a very memorable one. Any travel for that matter is very welcome and breaks the monotony of day to day routine living. It is invigorating and provides great opportunity to unwind, bond with friends and enjoy the bounties of nature.

2014 was indeed a very great year for our children Vivek and Shubhra – Akhila and Anirban. They celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in August. How time flies! There was a round of celebrations in Bengaluru. We joined them with utmost pride and happiness. In addition, Akhila and Anirban hosted a party for their friends in Mumbai. Anirban decided to secretly fly us to Mumbai for the function – it was a complete surprise for Akhila. Both Jai and I wish all of them many more years of happily married life.

October was a very special month for Vivek and Shubhra. Chumbak opened their ‘Flag Ship’ store on CMH Road Indiranagar,Bangalore. The store was inaugurated on 26 Sep 2014. It also houses their various offices and the design centre. Chumbak - now has 100 stores across India. Their footprints are also found in Japan and Dubai. The flagship store is an epitome of kitsch design, appealing especially to the younger generation. In a matter of four and a half years Chumbak has established itself as a front runner in kitsch design in India. Their India-themed souvenirs are extremely popular. They have now moved on from being ‘India Centric’ to ‘India Inspired’. With this great leap, Chumbak is expected to expand very rapidly across India and abroad. Chumbak’s success attracted many domestic and international media to stand up and take notice – Foremost being ‘Forbes India’ which did an elaborate article on Chumbak in their Sep 2014 issue. However the highest recognition of Chumbak came from none other than  Sheryl Kara Sandberg Chief Operating Officer of Facebook when she quoted Chumbak as part of Facebook’s  Earning Call in July 2014.The credit goes to Vivek and Shubhra who have toiled very hard all these years with amazing passion and utmost belief in themselves and their dreams. Jai and I wish them "Godspeed, fair winds and following seas .Bravo Zulu.”

Figure 2 - Front view

Figure 3 - Jai's happiness is all evident

We eagerly look forward to this time of the year, for daughter dear to arrive from Mumbai in end December with her ‘Marine Commandos’ – Ayaan, Agastya and Aarin. The local ‘GI Jane’ Samara enthusiastically joins us to receive the cousins at the airport. The fun and frolic starts in right earnest from the airport – no time wasted. In the ensuing two weeks the house becomes a bee hive of endless activities. Each year, the inevitable change in the children is evident. As they grow older, their activities also change, posing different challenges to the parents and to the grandparents (for a shorter duration). They are more independent, especially the twins and do things on their own. They proceed to the park on their own to play and ask for food when they are hungry, sleep when tired and so on. Akhila now has freer holiday time to indulge in watching TV, reading books and having endless cups of tea with Jai while catching up on their lives. Our neighbour’s children Sanika and Sambhav join the ‘Strike Force’ from the very outset. The six children get along very well and enjoy each other’s company.

Figure 4 - Sambhav and Ayaan at the back. Saanika, Samara, Aarin and Agastya seated

Having the family with us is extremely therapeutic. It gives us an opportunity to be young once again and indulge with them in picnics, storytelling, participating in their activities – be it gardening, feeding cats or gathering fallen tree twigs for the bonfire. It is great fun resolving their internal fights and arguments – who will sleep next to tata and aggi, who will drink from the green glass, who will have the first dosa and so on. I suddenly get a surge of pride and feel very important, sitting in judgment over these ‘complex’ social problems. 

As per the Prabhakar household tradition, we had the ‘Grand Christmas Barbeque’ on the 24th of Dec along with a large number of friends and family. Barbeque adds a special meaning to any get together – the fire, smoke, starry sky and aroma of barbecued chicken act as a catalyst to enhance the level of merriment. The children love any night outdoor activity and participate in it fully. It is very important to have a proper barbeque stand and dry charcoal. This year I got a new stand made to my specifications. Right type of marination and the duration are very critical. Another vital point is to separate the ember and the meat by at least 6 inches – this will ensure slow and steady cooking. A good basting sauce will certainly add extra zing to the dish. Paneer, potatoes, mushroom and onions provide a good vegetarian fill up.

Figure 5 - Barbeque in full swing

Figure 6 – Opening gifts from Santa

Figure 7 - Setting the X’mas mood

This year we went to Pondicherry for our family reunion in three cars. The roads are in very good condition and the drive was smooth throughout. We went via Kolar, Chittoor, Arcoat ,Tindivanam to Pondicherry. While travelling with children one has to cater for more number of stops along the way. In all, we took approximately eight hours to reach our destination.

We stayed at the ‘Red Lotus’ hotel in the city run by a German couple. The hotel has been done up very well with each room having a different colour scheme with matching decor. The hotel is very well maintained – clean and tidy. The USP of the hotel is ‘Danielle and Chris’ the owners – they are excellent hosts – very friendly and approachable. They go all out to interact with the guests and make them feel comfortable. The breakfast is tasty, sumptuous and interesting – with a combo of delectable idli, sambar, eggs, a variety of breads and croissants with relishing coffee and tea. The hotel has a well appointed terrace to eat and relax. The children had a whale of a time running around the terrace, the older ones lying down with their kindle and the twins playing with their toys. The staff is very helpful and courteous. Overall the ‘Red Lotus’ was a very good experience.

Figure 8 - Danielle and Chris’ the owners of ‘Red lotus’

Figure 9 – Feeling totally at home on the terrace – Red Lotus

Figure 10 -  Exploring French quarters

Figure 11 – On the promenade – Agastya and Samara

Figure 12 – Impromptu French Street Play?

Pondicherry in itself was a bit of a disappointment. We had visited the city way back in 2004 and we were very impressed then. The city is bursting at the seams – extremely over populated with far too many two wheelers and cars on the road. The ‘French Quarter’ is now all but a name. The quality of food seems to have dipped a notch or two in the last ten years. Travelling with two foodies Vivek and Anirban meant, eating at exotic places – our share included dinner at ‘La Maison Rose’ and lunches at Naturellement Garden Café in Auroville and  ‘Theevu Plage’ on Bodhi beach. While the children explored different restaurants to whet their dinner appetite, the grandparents (in all five) stayed at the Red Lotus with the grandchildren and enjoyed a bit of quiet and solitude and comfort food. 

Figure 13 – Ayaan in - La Maison Rose

Figure 14 - at Naturellement Garden Café in Auroville

Figure 15 – Samara striking a pose with mama and Poonam nani at Naturellement

Figure 16 – Theevu Plage

Figure 17 – A private moment on the Bodhi beach for Vivek

Figure 18 – Colorful companions – Shubhra, Akhila and Jai - Theevu Plage

Figure 19 – Samara and Ayaan showing off their Taekwondo prowess – getting drenched with no extra set to wear. We had to buy fresh clothes on the way back!! 

Last year my daughter Akhila had given me the task of decoding rituals and pooja to render it understandable, meaningful and interesting to the children. It was a very huge task indeed. In the past, whilst the mantras and devotional songs were played on the laptop, the children just sat there – bored and anxiously waiting for the rituals to get over. We find ourselves just going through the motions without understanding very much. Both the adults and the young find it difficult to sit through the entire proceedings.

This year we observed a different format. The entire ‘Satyanarayana Pooja’ was in English and narrated to the children in an extremely understandable fashion by me. The idea of seeking God’s blessing for undertaking all activities in life and thanking the God in return, was conveyed to the children in an interactive fashion. They participated in the proceedings willingly and enthusiastically. The narration was laced with stories which related to the present context and were easily understood. The entire festival was video graphed by Akhila. It has come out very interesting. I plan to improve upon this year’s performance and put up a better performance for ‘Ganapati Pooja’

We celebrated the New Year party on 31st Dec at home with the children and grandchildren. A Bonfire generated lots of bonhomie into the beginnings 2015. We bid farewell to the old year and welcomed the New Year by letting go two Chinese lanterns. 

Taking stock of 2014 - Akhila continues to be a successful home maker and strives very hard to run a taut ship. She had her hands full looking after three young children and creating an excellent home atmosphere. Her involvement with the family is total. With the twins entering their fifth year, she will have some spare time now onwards to rekindle her creative pursuits. 

Through the year Jayanti worked unstintingly to ensure Freedom International School- - consolidated its position of being one of the best schools in Bengaluru. The school will be starting its 11th and 12th standard from June 2015.The school has steadily and firmly made its mark in the field of education.

Anirban was busy throughout the year. They continue to do well and consolidate their position as leaders in celebrity and sports management.

Figure 20 – Rita and PK in a very contemplative mood

Figure 21 – Akhila and Shubs lighting the bonfire

Figure 22 – Daughter and Mother all pleased

Figure 23 – All the pretty girls – Priyanka, Akki and Shubs

Figure 24 – The Lions – Anirban and Vivek

Figure 25 – Samara with mamma and dada

Figure 26 – Farewell dear 2014

Figure 27 – Ayaan with his Tata – Cubbon Park

Figure 28 –Train ride into 2015

Figure 29 – Twins back to the Jurassic Age