Tag Archive: Tamilnadu culture


Food has been a very important component of lives in this earth regardless of the nature of the organism consuming it. Hunger is common for all organisms and in some species, new borns are born with the skills to squander for food immediately after birth. Food has been interspersed with culture from time unknown. Food also intersperses with society and individualistic ethnic practices across the world. Tamilians do have a very ripe culinary history and it becomes important for anthropologists and social learners across the world to know about the culinary practices of one of the most ancient and diverse cultures in the world.

I was reading about Tamil food as I am interested in cooking. However, whatever I found, gave me the ingredients and recipes but no history. That’s when I found this book and few more books by Prof.Bhaktavatsala Bharathi on Tamil anthropology. History inspires me. I haven’t yet any of his books completely, but was impressed with the details provided in the books. Presently reading Tamizhar Unavu – An anthropological chronicle written by Professor Bhaktavatsala Bharathi, who works for Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics & Culture (PILC).

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This is a compilation of articles that were published in Kalachuvadu issue on September 2005 along with requested articles from eminent writers from Tamilnadu. Writers as diverse as Perumal Murugan, Po.Velsamy, Naanchil Naadan, Solai.Sundara Perumal, Pazhamalai, Melanmai Ponnusaami, Kazhaniyooraan, A.Muthulingam, and Shyamala Gowri have contributed to this book. This is just a partial list. The complete list includes few more eminent writers in Tamil.

The book also includes a foreword by Bhaktavatsala Bharathi which is very informative. Starting from age old practices of food consumption to the most recent invasion of the food industry by Mansanto, the historians and writers have given a wonderful account of Tamil culture. In fact, I should say, when I complete this book, I will opt for Tamilian cuisine anytime rather than the fried and fast foods offered by American restaurants and food chains. The cuisine and the culture and the society are intermingled and this has been analysed geographically and anthropologically. It is a book worth reading.

Try it – It costs INR 250.

You can buy it here – தமிழர் உணவு.

During the sabbatical, which is today, I started to read a book by Peyon. Peyon is a Tamil ghost writer, who writes in Tamil. When I started reading the book, I felt like writing about it and I started to write about it while I am reading it. So the ability to write and read seemed interspersed but I am actually doing it at the same time. While one eye and one hand is holding the book and reading it, the other eye and other hand is looking at the laptop typing it.

Meanwhile, my wife is in the kitchen. She is not cooking but she is pregnant and is expecting a baby. There is no point in her being in the kitchen. But still she is there while I am lying down in the bedroom reading this and writing this.

I am in Tirunelveli today. I was here yesterday. I will be here tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, I will be here. Next Friday, I will be in Tirunelveli. It rained here. It rained yesterday. It will rain tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, it will rain. Next Friday, it will rain in Tirunelveli. Sunlight is scarce. The clothes are still wet despite their dryness.

While reading Peyon, I realized that I cannot write like him/her. However, when I write like him, I understand that I can write like him. So I wrote like Peyon and I wrote like him. Peyon and him are the same. Peyon is different from him because Peyon has a name. If Peyon did not have a name, Peyon will be him.

There is another Payon. He is in the website. Peyon is in the books. Him is also in the books. Payon and Peyon are almost the same expect for the single lettar. My wish is that. That Peyon, Payon, and Him meet with me. I want to see who writes better or me!

p.s: That’s what Peyon could do to you. Open-mouthed smile 

Peyon is one of the best contemporary writers in Tamil literature. He is a ghost writer. Not the classical ghost writer. Classical ghost writers write for someone else. Peyon writes for himself and his readers. His style is atrocious and his humour is unbeatable. Try reading Peyon when you find time. Rather, you can find time to read Peyon.

No ebooks please. Though you can download “Peyon 1000” – compilation of tweets by Peyon from his own website, the other books of Peyon, namely, Thisai kaatti paravai, Paambu thailam, and Kaadhal iravu have been published by Aazhi publishers.

They are not very expensive. Paambu thailam costs around 100, Thisai kaatti paravai and Kaadhal iravu costs around the same. Buy them. Worth it.

Between, the prelude was just a try. Don’t bash me for it. If you wanna bash someone, bash Peyon, Payon or Him. Comments are welcome.

Hey All,

Do you all love Age of Empires (AoE)? I love it. Rather, I loved it.

Those were the times of PII systems. For those who were born after 2000, the P is actually Pentium. We had Pentium processors first, then came Pentium II and then Pentium III and so on. My association with the computer game started during the times of Celeron processors which were inferior to the Pentium ones.

The year was 1997. I was in tenth standard. The exams were over and we did not have anything to do in the vacation. Beer and stuff were out of reach. Computer’s were the next big thing in life. People were speaking about jobs in computer companies that were paying huge amounts of money as salary. So computers were inviting and I joined a computer class around 2-3 kilometres from my house.

The fee was around 200 bucks. They taught me MS-DOS. Yes. Fricking MS-DOS. Everyday, I used to go there at around 09:30 am and sit and get the instructions done by 11:00am. Once the instruction session was over, we used to have the practical. Practical was interesting because it allowed us to handle the computer. The MS-DOS was not interesting. Ten days into the class, I had made friends there. A good friends taught me well and he taught me some tricks too.

The trick included accessing a folder called games and play a F1 game in a system with MS-DOS. With nothing else to do, that was the only option. Still, the game was very addictive and it just took me a day or two, to get addicted to it. I played the game until the summer holiday was over. Once the summer holidays were over, I did not get a chance to play a computer game until I met few more friends with computers at home.

Ashes 97 had been released. A friend of mine had the CD and we went in everyday to play the game at his house. He had a computer with Pentium processor. Super fast. However, he could not allow us to play the game in his computer for long because of some family issues. His family had issues with us sitting inside the house and playing. Ashes 97 CD was borrowed. We made new friends in tuitions. I used to go for a physics tuition and I was friends with the physics sir’s son. His brother had a computer. When his brother was not around, we went in and used the CD and played the game. We had cheat codes. 131 used to make the batsmen hit a lot of sixes and 321 made the players drop catches. What nice times those were.

But this honeymoon phase with the computer was short-lived because the system conked one day. My tryst with computers were over for good.

It was not until the April of 2000 that I touched the computer again. Dad bought us a computer – A Compaq Presario PII with 128 MB RAM. That was like rocket speed when compared to my friends systems. The system also came bundled with some CDs and games. I got an encyclopaedia and a tank game called Recoil. Recoil was my favourite game until Microsoft released AoE. That was a stunner!

I was madly in love with AoE until 2004. I used to create a huge map and do all sorts of nonsense customizing and create a lot of resources with cheat codes. I made many forts and lot of cavalry. Making the cavalry march towards the enemy fort with battering rams, Gatling guns, Catapults etc. was a beautiful sight. Achieving the victory was sweet. I had played many more strategy and simulation games after that, but nothing beats AoE. It was right royally a game for the kings! My exploration led me to a variety of games. You all must have forgotten those. I will take you back in a trip to the past.

Will continue! Got to clean the house as wifey’s seemantham/valaikappu is tomorrow. Entire house is being cleaned and I am being frowned upon.

Before I go, I am going to write about AoE in detail, in the next post. More games will come with subsequent posts.

Got to go. Bye.

Hi All,

You must have heard it. The Emu propaganda in Tamilnadu reached it’s peak in the last 6 months. With cinema actors working overtime to promote emu without any logical reasoning behind their promotions, the bubble was set to burst anytime. And it did burst spectacularly well. I had been reading about emu’s and the project models of similar scams for quite some time now (from the moment I saw some 6 emu’s, roaming in my Uncle’s farm).

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Any new product/project operates on the basis of supply and demand. Even when marketing a product that has every chance to fail miserably, the introduction of the product in the public market may create a fallacy that the product is going to be successful. There are some products which are carefully and strategically marketed so that they create a virtual demand. Since this virtual demand cannot resist the abundant supply with the progress of time, the supply catches up with the meagre demand and the structure collapses.

The emu story

When the emu market was flourishing in the early 2000s, the price of emu was very high. Early breeders were very successful and were able to lure more new breeders into the trade based on their own economic growth, because the early breeders had a demand for which they could supply. Once the breeders started to flood in, the number of emu chicks increased. This happened because the first generation emu chicks that were imported, reproduced. New yearlings were sold to farmers and barn owners, who brought in more sophisticated technology to increase the produce.

By the end of 2012, there were almost 300 firms promoting emu business and more than 12000 farmers and barn owners had invested in the business. The amount collected was INR 150,000 for provision of 6 chicks. The chicks were supposed to be bought at the end of 1 year by the firm that supplies the emu’s to the farmers. Despite paying INR 150000 as a deposit, the farmers were forced to pay more money to build sheds to aid in maintaining the birds. The farmers were promised returns of more than 1000 INR per every bird every month. So a farmer investing INR 150000 on 6 emu chicks was assured of a return of INR 7000 every month including maintenance charges. For a more detailed pricing, please click here.

Before we go into the analysis of why our farmers trusted the emu business, we need to look at another aspect.

Why the emu business was doomed to fail?

Firstly, any product has to calculate its supply-demand well. A breeding pair of emu actually produces more than 120 breeding pairs in 5 years. The growth is exponential. So the calculation failed miserably because the demand was met easily. It would not have been an issue if the end market had developed. That was the second reason.

Any business runs on the supply-demand equation. To have a suitable demand, the business needs to have ample number of end users. The entire emu industry was built on speculation because I haven’t personally met anyone who has told me that emu meat tastes great. Despite the scientific evidence of the medicinal properties of emu oil, the industry failed to take off in India, because the promoter’s of the emu market anticipated the Indian population to indulge in emu. Knowing Tamils, no new meat is welcome here. The traditional poultry, fishery, and red meat industry is very strong in Tamilnadu and for a new product to have a bite into that market, it would need much more than medicinal property as a USP.

Since the beginning of the emu sale in India, there was no clear cut market for emu. The situation became worse when the restaurants refused to serve emu meat as an alternative to poultry. This made the promoters of emu to open their own restaurants and continue marketing their products.

The projected rates of the emu products were as below:

  • Emu feathers  are used  in hats, dresses, computer and car cleaning brushes and household decorative items. About 400 to 600 grams of feathers would be available from a bird and would fetch about INR 200.
  • Emu skin is used in the production of shoes, wallets and other stuff. Cost is around 700-1000 INR per square feet. A matured bird will provide 8-12 square feet of skin.
  • Emu oil is used for its medicinal properties. It sells at around 3000-4000 INR (refined) or 1000 INR (raw fat).
  • Emu meat is consumed and has very low cholesterol levels. One (1) kilogram of emu meat sells around 350-400 INR.
  • Emu eggs – I have no idea about the price.

so when you consider a fully grown bird that would weigh around 40-50 kg, excluding wastage, you should be able to sell around 35 kgs of meat. So in total, a bird should provide you an income of 30000 when it matures.

The problem was – the demand was not so. I haven’t seen anyone even posting a message on emu products. However, the promoter’s were going guns. The poultry stronghold districts of Salem, Erode, Namakkal, and few others were the areas targeted by the promoters. The poultry industry and agriculture industry was already handicapped by existing problems. The farmers were looking out for a source of income and emu looked like a boon to them. They fell into the trap.

Why a consumer base did not develop?

The answer is very simple. To accept emu, it had to be an integral part of their culture. Indian’s prefer the traditional meats. Secondly, there was not so good news for emu meat when more information started reaching people by means of various media. A study by Taylor et al (1996) showed that emu meat was inferior in taste to beef and pork meat. Another study by David Holben (2009) stated that people preferred cow or turkey meat over emu meat.

The biggest blow came when Food and Drug Administration of the USA listed emu oil as a health fraud in its website under the topic “bioterrorism and drug preparedness.” Individuals were not willing to buy emu meat to be cooked at home because they were sceptic. Even the restaurant’s that were set up by the promoters to sell emu meat were only looked on and did not have many visitors. Other restaurants looked up on the emu meat as a non-sellable investment in their menus. For people in India, emu meat was neither healthy for a good price nor exotic to be sold at a higher price. The prices plummeted in 2011. In 2012, the bubble burst when the promoters could not pay their breeders enough money to keep the business going.

What will happen after this?

Emu farms have been sealed, proprietors arrested, and money has been lost. Emu has lost the trust of Indian public after this scam.

To know another thing, this scam is not the first emu scam in the world. There have been reports of earlier ponzi schemes with emu (Ontario in 1996). In fact, the inspiration for this post arose by reading an article by Calum Turvey and David Sparling, 2002. I am heavily influenced by their article. My sincere thanks to them. Some parts of this post may be a copy but my ideas synced with theirs totally and they had explained it in a better way than me.

But then, the marketers and promoters will come up with something new to lure the money out of not-so-wise investors.

laughing-emu

What should you do?

Google first. Speak to people. Ask a more important question first – Who is the end-user? Analyse the supply-demand situation. Study about it. Read about it.

Let’s not make Tamilnadu the home of Ponzi schemes. The economic times has quoted “Bestseller in Tamilnadu will be a book titled “For dummies: Identifying Ponzi schemes.” Sad, Isn’t it?

All you have to do is to ask questions! Happy weekend. Comments, shares, likes, and criticisms welcome.

The local foods I love

Hi All,

After the seafood post, I have come back with another topic on local food/snack items I love. This post is oriented only to Tamilnadu and Pondicherry. Foods from other states are not included. Let us move on to the list.

Rank # 10 – Vada pav in Sowcarpet, Chennai

Sowcarpet is famous for its north Indian population composed predominantly of Marvari’s. I have tasted Vada pav in Mumbai and in interior parts of Maharashtra (Kolhapur, Miraj, Sangli, Nagpur etc.) The vada pav available in chennai cannot be as good as those. But still, 1 place where I got stumped was Sowcarpet. There are quite a few joint’s in Mint street where you get Vada pav’s. Mukesh, a friend of mine, took me there for a visit and I had a sumptuous lunch with vada pav’s only. I don’t remember the shop’s name. Maybe I will catch up with Mukesh and post the name in the comments here. Smile

Rank # 9 – Curry bonda in Pondicherry

We used to travel by motorcycle’s to Pondicherry while in college. Once during a visit, few friend’s went ahead and were waiting for us near the entrance to Pondicherry (Near the university in ECR). While waiting, they stumbled across this roadside eatery that was selling bonda’s. When we joined them, they suggested it to us. The outcome was just awesome. We have had masala bonda’s, mysore bonda’s and even turnip bonda’s in a variety of places, but never had tasted mutton bonda’s or beef bonda’s ever. This eatery served those stuff. The prices were unbelievable. I think they charged us INR 2 for a mutton bonda. I had a suspicion that the bonda’s had beef, but never mind, they tasted good and the beef/mutton was well cooked. No regrets. I haven’t seen that joint after that visit. Maybe someone from pondicherry can help us locate it again.

Rank # 8 – Muttai masala in Red hills, Chennai.

Muttai (egg) masala was introduced to me by my friend Rajesh. Rajesh is a practicing dentist in the Red hills area. When we eventually met during our first year of college, he took me to red hills and showed the awesome burmese cuisine available on the roadside eateries there. There were many varieties – Atho, Moina and Muttai masala. Of these, the one I was/am still fascinated about is the mutta masala. It is not the typical egg curry you get to eat with dosa in restaurants like ponnusamy etc. Its a boiled egg cut into two with a custom made masala thrust into the centre. The masala is partly crispy and the egg containing it has to be thrust into the mouth fully and then chewed. This is one wonderful food you could get in Redhills. Never miss it when you cross Redhills.

Rank # 7 – Muttasu in Aruppukkottai.

Muttasu is a variety of sweet which is available very easily in the Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli districts in Southern part of Tamilnadu. Its a jalebi kind of sweet made of jaggery. If you go to Aruppukottai bus stand, you will find all shops having towers of Muttasu. They are very cheap, probably not very hygienic. But as I have earlier said, for me, taste matters. I don’t mind getting poisoned with food as long as it is tasty. You can try this. It’s not bad always!

Rank # 6 – Asoka halwa in Tanjore.

Asoka – the sweet is called that. Its a type of halwa predominant in the Tanjore district of Tamilnadu (Thiruvaiyaaru to be specific). It’s an awesome sweet dish that took me by surprise. The taste still lingers. Made of yellow split lentils (moong dal/Payattham paruppu), this one is high on its ghee and sweet content. Diabetic’s can taste it once in a year!

Rank # 5 – Kaaraa chevu from Sattur and Kovilpatti

Sattur and Kovilpatti are small towns located in the Madurai – Tirunelveli highway. Sattur is famous for its sevu. Sevu is a spicy snack, consumed very commonly in the southern districts of Tamilnadu. I don’t know what they add to make the sattur sevu special, but it’s definitely special. My uncle, who works as an English professor in SR Naidu college in Sattur brings home the sevu, everytime he comes home. That is my Dad’s favourite. They also make wonderful Muttasu!

Rank # 4 – Godhumai halwa at Laala kadai, Madurai.

Madurai is a foodie’s heaven on earth. I will do a separate post on the foodstuff’s available in Madurai. It would actually take more than 3-4 posts to cover them totally. But no one can miss this godhumai (wheat) halwa in Madurai. Right opposite to the railway station, the Laala kadai starts serving halwa at 4 am in the morning and goes on until midnight. This is one place where you can get hot hot halwa.

Rank # 3 – Kovilpatti kadalai mittai

Kovilpatti is famous for its kadalai mittai (Peanut candy). A booming small scale industry in that region, preparation of the kadalai mittai is a versatile opportunity there. Just like how dindigul is synonymous with biriyani, kovilpatti is synonymous with kadalai mittai. They mix peanuts with jaggery and allow it to set. When its almost set, they are cut into small squares or rolled into small balls and are packed. Try it to remember the taste. No kadalai mittai in the world can beat kovilpatti kadalai mittai.

Rank # 2 – Tirunelveli halwa

The name says it all. There are a variety of shops that sells halwa in Tirunelveli, but only a few are actually good. Iruttu kadai located opposite the Nellaiyappar temple, Shanthi sweets located close to the junction, Ganesh pasumpaal stall near the Nellaiappar temple tank are few outlets where you get wonderful halwa. I am planning to do a shoot in the Ganesh halwa shop as the owner is known to my in-laws. You can expect a detailed photo story on halwa making in a few months. Caution – You may find numerous Shanthi sweets across Tirunelveli. None of them is original. Please enquire locals and get the halwa. Else you will regret the taste.

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Rank # 1 – Jigartanda in Madurai.

Again, the name says it all. Jigar means heart. Tanda means cool. A drink which will keep your heart cool is Jigartanda and it stays true to its name. It is also a drink/dessert that will make you throw away all those coke/pepsi kind of drinks. A coolant made of agar-agar, badam ice cream, a unique solution known only to the makers and an essence to add flavour, Jigartanda is Madurai’s own drink. You don’t get it elsewhere, and if you get it, it’s not Jigartanda. Jigartanda is very good in two shops I know. One near vilakkuthoon and another one in Manjanakaara theru – both in Madurai. Don’t ever try that in Murugan idli shop or any other outlet. Or rather try it there and then try it in these outlets. You, for sure, will know the difference. Two pictures for Jigartanda because it wins the first place.

There are many more.

Macaroons in Tuticorin

Rose milk in Modern Restaurant, Madurai

Jalebi in Rohini’s, Porur, Chennai

Basundhi in Nandhinee sweets, Valasaravakkam, Chennai etc.

Since the post is about my favourite’s, I will settle with the above-mentioned. What are your favourite’s?

durgamuthukumar

Crowdsourcing based nurtering

UYIRI

Nature writing in Tamil

செங்கொடி

கனவுகளுக்கு பதிலாக அறிவியல், கண்ணீருக்கு பதிலாக போராட்டம். போராட்டமே நம் இருத்தலுக்கான அடையாளம்.

cruzantonyhubert

experiences - travel - photography

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