Posted in Personal

Paint Their Dreams

Samson, 12, had come to draw himself as the Prime Minister of India; as an afterthought he says, “I think I should be the Chief Minister first, and then I’ll strive to be the Prime Minister.” Is this some audacity? A little kid, who says he is 12, but barely looks 10, is saying this, when one of our volunteers asked him, what he would draw for the ‘Dreams of Chemmenchery’ painting competition. Unable to contain his curiosity, our volunteer further prodded, “So, what does a Prime Minister do?”

His answer, the insight and his style of speaking, amazed us, and soon all of us were flocking around him. Samson, also told us how he planned to major in political science and work on socially responsible activities as a student. One of us rightly remarked, “see he has already got his supporters”. He was right, none of us could ignore him or his dreams, his conviction and sincerity made sure that we all would connive our best to see this little person’s big dream would be catalyzed to reality.

Little Nadiya, all of 4 years had come to draw balls, and had brought big and small bangles too. She loves playing with them. She goes to her school regularly so that she can play with balls; she doesn’t have them at home.

Many younger kids were happy to draw houses, mountains, trees, crows, sun, streams, cars, balls, dolls, etc., but the elder kids were more creative than each of us who were explaining the theme to them. They wanted to be traffic police and obey the traffic rules, be nurses and doctors and save lives, wanted to have good schools, good pharmacies, good police stations, be teachers, police, administrators and so on.


AWARE has existed as a social media group for the last 3 years, and we have been working directly on issues faced by women and children, both in the urban, and semi-urban areas of Chennai. Chemmenchery has well-built urban slums, one-room houses, where families have been rehabilitated 25 km away from the fishing hamlet of Nochikuppam, post-tsunami. Traveling up and down to the fishing harbours of Nochikuppam, has made it very difficult for the families here. With meagre livelihood options, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, it is the young children who are affected the most. AWARE has been working here for the past one year and conducting Holistic Community Development Project in Chemmenchery through intervention programs on

  1. Early Years Programme – focusing on pre-school education
  2. Street Classes – on improving reading, writing and basic arithmetic skills (6-14 years)
  3. Conversational English Classes for Adult Women – supporting mothers to engage in their children’s studies
  4. Creating Child Friendly Spaces – providing avenues for child inclusive community development

We have been conducting weekly drawing competitions for the children (3-15 years) there, inspiring them to dream and paint their dreams. Each child is given a set of colours and stationery as a parting gift. We also, visit their homes, and provide them with a certificate of appreciation, signed by our volunteer teachers and the child’s parents, assuring the kids our support in helping them realise their dreams. WE have reached 100 students now, we have to reach 5000 students more.

As one of our volunteers said, “I have never received a certificate as a student, but today, when I presented the certificate signed by me, it was an extremely proud moment”. Such thoughts inspire AWARE to do more.

BeFunky Collage

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Posted in The Lazy Cook

Mangakarri – Raw mango in Coconut milk

‘Mangakarri’, or better called manga or mango curry is a ubiquitous item in all Indian kitchens once the Mango season starts. I know this, because, all my friends, from any part of India claim to have their own versions of gravy for both raw and ripe mangoes. It was never a surprise to know that there would be variations all over India, but this one is very special.

In Kerala, we usually use both the raw and ripe mangoes in gravies and pickles; although raw is usually reserved for pickles and also as a tenderizer or to add sourness in other gravies, ripe ones are made into sweet gravies.

In my part of Kerala, ‘Mangakarri’ means just one thing, teary-eye spicy and finger-licking yummy pickles made of big, raw mangoes, cut into small perfect cubes. These are sufficient enough to gobble down a plate of huge brown rice (Kerala Matta), no one would care for any other gravy to go with it. But, eating this alone with rice every single day, seemed too much far-fetched, even if it came from my no-fuss, foodie hubby. When we had this conversation, mango season had long gone, so I just got him a bottle of mango pickle. He was not particularly excited, but I attributed it to the lack of a home-made pickle. Soon, I had realized that I can never imagine to even reach his expectation of a home-made pickle; MIL is the certified best pickle maker in their whole town.

Few months later, at his aunt’s house, I had an amazing curry with rice. The spiciness, sweetness, sourness and richness; it was a deadly combo. Finger-licking me, sheepishly asked for more of the yellow curry. That was when my hubby had decided to notice that there were many other things around him, other than his food. With disbelief, he corrected me, not ‘yellow curry’, but ‘Mangakarri’. OMG!!! I just could not believe it; this was his favourite ‘Mangakarri’. I could not believe it; my humble pickle was nothing before this majestic gravy. Every one of his family were shocked, they could not believe that someone had never ever heard or tasted this heavenly dish. They told me that htis dish is originally from few areas that fall along the borders of Ernakulam and Thrissur districts of Kerala.

So, I rest my case, marry out of your caste, community, religion, or region to experience the best of gastronomic fares. And if you are family, you’ll also get to know some serious secret tips😉


For Marinating

1/2 kg raw mango, de-seeded and cubed, 5-6 shallots sliced length-wise, 1 small-sized onion sliced length-wise, 2 tbsp chilli powder, 1 tbsp turmeric powder 1 tbsp corriander powder, 1 tsp salt and 1-2tbsp vinegar.

Mix all of these well with hand (I can’t stand the heat of chillies, so I use a ladle) in a mud pot and keep covered for 30-45 minutes

For Sauteing

Heat coconut oil in a wok or clay pot. Once hot, add 2-3 big onions sliced length-wise, 3-6 green chillies sliced length-wise, 4-6 cloves of garlic and 1 inch ginger julienned, a twig or two of curry leaves and once the raw smell goes, add 1tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tbsp corriander powder, and fry again. To this add the marinated mango, thin coconut milk (350 mL), cover the vessel and cook on low flame.


The mango would have been well cooked in 10-12 minutes, open the cover and add thin coconut milk or water, if more gravy is needed, and let it boil well, again. Once done, add thick coconut milk (250-350mL – depending on volume of gravy desired), mix the ingredients well and switch off flame.


Add coconut oil in a wok, and splutter mustard, fenugreek (uluva), 10-12 sliced shallots, 4-5 broken big red chillies, 1 tsp turmeric and few curry leaves. Add this to the gravy. Add a few more curry leaves and drizzle some more coconut oil on top, if desired.

This can be served with Rice, Apam, Idiyappam,Pathiri,  Chappathi, Bread, Bun etc. The gravy thickens on cooling. Once cooled, can be stored in fridge for up to 4 days easily.




Posted in Personal


Five years back I was hit on the head by a drunk man at the signal on the Gandhi Road in Velachery, Chennai, barely 100m away from my destination, Velachery gate, IIT Madras campus.

I was on phone, and was describing how a young man was acting particularly strange, trying to poke and disturb the bus driver of a bus that had a short halt at the signal. Soon, I saw him approach me, I moved and made way way for him. It was just too sudden, I was hit on my head. My friend, at the other end of the phone could hear the sound, and then it was only the sound of traffic. He could not hear my voice.

It took me full 5 minutes, and so many calls from my friend to slowly come to my senses. The time was 6:35pm, February 2011. Sun was still there, few street lights were also glowing. One of the most crowded signals here, filled with young and old, men and women, bustling with activity.

I could not sit up. The impact of the hit was pretty severe. I was expecting someone to help me get up, I wanted some water, I wanted to cry. I felt SHAME. Shame for not reacting. Shame because no one helped me. I was ashamed to be left all alone. Even, before I could make sense of anything else, SHAME engulfed me.

Soon, I could hear voices around me, few women stared at me, few men looked all confused, 3 young men (around 18-20 years) came closer and said, “Macha, no one cares that she’s been hit. Anyways, she’s on the floor and ready for more. Let’s do whatever we want, no one would care again.”

I just froze, I don’t know for how long. Suddenly an old man, a shopkeeper who had been witnessing all of these told me, “Just go away somewhere and be safe. This place isn’t good. All are under the influence of alcohol. The guy who hit you was taken away by his friend. He won’t harm you further, but others can. I have to leave, don’t get me involved in this.”

I don’t know where I got the energy from. Next I remember, I am running towards IIT gate. I got inside. Sight of the security guards made me feel safe, but I chose not to tell them. I did not want to answer why I was outside campus alone after 6pm. No, we are not forbidden to do that. I regularly used to go to a cafe outside campus, and mostly alone, and would not return before 7pm usually.

My phone was still ringing, my head was hurting bad. I talked to my friend. Told him what happened. He was already on his way. He told me to call other friends too. I called another guy who stayed outside campus. He brought in one more friend who knew Tamil.

My head hurt bad, but there was no visible injury. I was asked to take an X-ray, since the hit made me unconscious.

We went to the Velachery police station and gave a complaint. Initially, they refused to believe me. They judged me because I went with 3 male friends and no female friend to report this. They told that the spot had a TASMAC shop and that it could have been some drunk guy for sure. They made me go with them to identify the attacker. We insisted that all of us would go together. We got to know that IIT campus which has so many other schools and colleges nearby, and is located within the Institutional Area, filled with more than 100 institutes, had  at least 6 TASMAC shops around it. After few days of persistence, lack of any leads, ignorance from police and discouragement from all those who were close to me, I gave up on the case.

Five years have passed, the injury healed, the story’s been shared so many times, but still the SHAME remains, because every time people say “somebody could have helped you then”; but no one has ever said, “had I been a witness, I’d have done ………………”