Friday, 19 April 2013

Shri Ramanavami and My First School .....
Shri Rama Navami.... The festival evokes so many fond memories of early childhood. The earliest memory of the festival was way back in the sixties when I must be barely five years old. How strange life is and how wonderful games our memory plays. We may not be able to recall what we did a 
month's, a week's or even a day's back. But certain events, incidents are so vivid in our memory that like a marquee they roll in front of our eyes as if they are happening today!

On Ramanavami evening amma would dress us and we would run along with her to ShriRama temple on Gubbera Betta in Raichur. Come to think of it – why was it called Gubbera betta? What does it mean? Then we never bothered and now it doesn't matter! I was about four years old then and we left Raichur when I was maybe eight years old and subsequently have never visited that place. But I can recall the street, road, trees, flowers as if it happened yesterday. Childhood memories!

From our house through a narrow lane we would go via “Gowdara Kamanu"  an arch in front of a cluster of houses belonging obviously to some gowda. After passing Narasimha devara gudi we would go through a road leading to amma's tailoring class which had a big kenda sampige tree. The petals of the Kenda sampige would make a golden bed with strong vibrant scent everywhere.
Incidentally amma was learning tailoring and would buy meters of clothes and stitch dresses for we four sisters – exactly the same color, same design and none of us ever complained. In fact we used to be extremely thrilled to bother about such insignificant things like similarity of the dresses. Of course this situation lasted for maybe 5-6 years after which we would feel embarrassed to walk together in similar dresses once we grew up!
Past the tailoring class we would come to the end of the road with some steps leading to the main road. Across the road after few yards the feet of the betta would start. It was not steep but would slowly mount over a vast area.
The most interesting point was after climbing the mountain for 5-10 minutes we would come across my first school – Thatawatarayana Gudi! Common, even I also don't know the meaning of the word or the Lord who presided in that Gudi! It had a stupa – a stone stambh outside and like all ancient temples had two prakaras on both the sides of the entrance.

Once we get inside the temple after a few steps again there were two more prakaras on both the sides and the center leading to the sanctum sanatorium. Which God was there inside? Whose temple was it? In fact was there any idol inside? Honestly I don't know. I knew for sure that so long as we were inside I have never come across any puja or prayer inside. For God's sake IT WAS OUR SCHOOL! Maybe it was what nowadays we call pre-school, but I remember one teacher teaching us. There were two classes – one each sides of the prakara.

Even among us – those tiny tots – there used to be some rowdies who used to bully others and I remember the biggest weapon we weaklings had was our fathers – rather their profession! Surprised? Don't be! Whenever we were bothered our only refrain would be “ Do you know My father is a police? I will tell him”. In spite of the repetitions this same threat used to work wonders every time!
I know I am deviating from Ramnavami and temple but I cannot help sharing these interesting tit-bits I come across on the way to temple. My narration would be incomplete if I miss THE interesting part or rather its absence in our “school”.

Since it was a temple – a makeshift school – there were no toilet facilities there. And God forbid you can do nothing of that sort inside the holy temple. On the one side of the temple were high rising mountains we could not climb and on the other side were tiny huts and houses which would be targeted by us!
I think the duration of the school used to be around 2-3 hours and the aunties there were always ready with their sticks if anybody dared to go near their huts and tried to lift the frocks or pull down the pants! Still we used be successful at times planning our little adventures at the unexpected odd hour and would leave them fuming. And yet at some other times they used to win, running out of their homes at the smallest sound and barge towards us. If we ran all along till our houses, it used be less due to fear but more to relieve ourselves!

Ok let me come to Srirama Navami. Further uphill from our school, on the mountain was Srirama temple where amma and her friends would gather for pooja. All our interest and attention would be on the steel carriers with handles which aunties would bring filled with a wide variety of Kosambaris. Immediately after pooja amma and her friends would sit around, exchanging the prasadam and we would thrust our little hands in front of everyone, sucking in with glee the spicy juice running down our forearms. And then there would be Nimbe Panaka – lemon juice to wash down the hot spicy Kosambaris.Yumm....
Other than the Kosmbari and Panaka amma used to prepare what we used to call Ramadevara Prasada, being called gulpavate here in Bangalore. My father used to fondly call it “Prasada Pheda”.This is arguably the easiest, tastiest and healthiest sweet one can prepare at a very very short notice. Recipe? Here it is....

Gulpavate Unde ( Ramadevara Prasada )

Preparation Time            :     5 Minutes

Cooking Time                 :    10 Minutes

Ingredients :

Wheat flour                             2 big cups
Soft Jaggery (Unde Bella)          1 ½ cups
Pure ghee                               ¾ cup

Instructions :

Ground jaggery nicely.
In a thick bottomed kadai heat ghee, add wheat flour and fry till
the raw smell goes and the flour turns golden brown.
Turn off the heat, add the grounded jaggery and some more ghee.
Roll into round laddoos.

PS : Instead of rolling into laddoos, this can also be savored in powder form.

Happy Cooking :-)