Squirrels, Berries & Fringe Myths

We had been on a trip to Crater Lake over the summer. Among other things, we hiked a little bit around the lake, taking in the marvelous view. The lake is a mesmerizing sight sparkling in its deep, pristine blue. We indulged ourselves in small hikes that afforded us beautiful views of the lake and the surrounding Cascade mountains merging into the Sierra Nevadas in the South. It was one of those places where nature cures, nature soothes and all that. The son is my ardent nature companion, and the pair of us went looking for pinecones and acorns.  It was steep going.


We stopped at one place to take a few breaths at a spectacular rock placed there for the purpose and we saw a little squirrel. We may have been nervous during the hike, but it did little to wrack the squirrel. Up close the son noticed that unlike the squirrels near where we live, these fellas were smaller and had stripes across their back. He said in his excited voice that these were the ones that had helped Rama build his bridge and nearly gave the poor squirrel heart failure with his excitement.

I peered closely, and so it was. Here were little squirrels that looked like the squirrels mentioned in the ancient myth of Ramayana. According to the story, the little squirrels were helping Lord Rama’s army build a bridge from India to Lanka so that he could save his kidnapped wife, Sita, from the clutches of the evil demon-king Ravana, in their own small way, with little rocks and acorns.  Lord Rama was so impressed with them, that he picked one of them up and stroked its back lovingly. The legend goes on to say that is why squirrels have stripes. The son had heard the story before, and  was understandably excited when he saw the stripes the squirrel’s back. I suppose the story must have sounded silly to him when it said, “That is why squirrels have stripes on their backs.” Because the ones he sees do not have stripes on their backs, and that is the sort of discrepancy that will keep the fellow puzzled and curious for days.

<Squirrels with stripes on their backs>

Chipmunks or Squirrels
Pic obtained via google search

I was reminded of that little story when I read the news items that Remains of the Day had won the Nobel Prize. Remains of the Day examines the concept of work, and why it is an important factor in man’s life. Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 10.08.53 AMHow often have we been asked our names, followed by a what-do-you-do? How does one attach a sense of importance to one’s work, and feel purposeful about it? Sometimes, it is by means of attaching ourselves to the goal of the entity you work for like the squirrels did. But maybe, it is to the concept of work that we need to attach our purpose to like the bees do.

This year Deepavali – the festival of lights came like the coat-tails of a comet after a string of tragic events – fires, shootings, floods: catastrophes both man-made and natural shook the populace. But now is a good time to throw our mind back to these oft forgotten little mythological tales, the fringe stories that provide food for thought. I must remember to tell them the hilarious tale of the old lady, Sabari, tasting the berries before giving them to Lord Rama.

I looked forward to the chat with the children while drawing up a rangoli outside the house using colored chalk. It is a beautiful feeling of light. The triumph of good over evil, a call to nurture our inner light and so much more.


Mythology, fairy tales, and magic are all so beautifully interwoven in our magic of story-telling. Heroism and quests for the inner self are never jaded. Starting from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Avatars of Vishnu,  Ramayana & Mahabharatha,  Odyssey & Iliad, the Bible and right down to Harry Potter, it is a story line that always enthralls, and is ever relevant.

I’ve come to the conclusion that mythology is really a form of archaeological psychology. Mythology gives you a sense of what a people believes, what they fear. George Lucas

In all these millennia, it seems little has changed, and so much has.

Please share some of your favorite fringe tales – I would love to hear them.

The Kitchen – Part 2

The parents left last week leaving me to raid the kitchen pantry to assess inventory levels, come up with reorder lists etc. No more of asking for grocery lists and shopping for them on the way back from wherever I went.

So, I snuck in there wearing my ‘Back to Work’ expression, lighted a few scented candles to keep me company and throw me light and joy and all that. It was so close to Diwali after all. I must tell you, the brain felt a bit dim like wanting to curl up with a good book and coffee. However, work is first and I persevered.

I remember the mother running a factory in there a week before she left. Give her a festival like Diwali and throw in a few grandkids and that is all she needs. She was set to run away with the menu and make twelve different types of snacks. I had to put up a valiant fight and stop her at (one moment, I am counting) eight. Good Lord! She made EIGHT different snacks in 5 days and I ate them all. No wonder I feel like I have a tractor in my stomach. I told her not to knock herself out. Sigh. I really am not as efficient as I think am I?

The Exotic Flavors
The Exotic Flavors

Anyway, back to inventory management, I noticed several different kind of flours and powders that I don’t even know the use for. Apparently, they are what gave flair and flavor to whatever I so gratefully ate in the past few months, For instance, I now have about 4 pounds of rice flour in the kitchen (I rattled my brain and found that I might use about 100 gms of rice flour in all the recipes I knew)

What am I supposed to do? Give a person a problem like this and it could have them flummoxed for days on end. Not me. I have always been known to be a problem solver. So, I deftly picked up the rice flour, and all the other packets that looked alien to me and threw it into the freezer. It can be dealt with when the matriarchs visit next, or if I find the expiry date has been reached before then.

If, in the meanwhile, anyone has recipes for using rice flour in a risk-free, short and easy manner, please shoot them recipes to me.

Some Precious Spittle for Diwali?!

Our family loves Diwali. The light seeps into our hearts and our inner self glows with all the mellow happiness of good food and excess sweets. President Obama makes sure that he wishes folks a happy diwali too and I loved his message urging us all to remember our less fortunate brethen as we celebrate this wonderful festival. I tried to beat the greeters, but by the time I went online and blogged about a Diwali, folks were already losing the mellow looks that ghee and sweets bring on.

In fact, they seem to have gone a step further and are vying with each other to act nasty. Like this open challenge and I quote:
"A local religious leader has announced a reward of Rs 5 lakh for anyone, who spits on lawyer and BJP MP Ram Jethmalani’s face for describing Lord Ram as a bad husband."


Hardly the spirit of a wonderful holiday to pay good money for spitting at folks. Yet there it is: religious leaders are the ones apparently loaded with money enough to squander Rs 5 lakhs for some precious spittle. Ugh.

This seer went on to proclaim that "A threat presupposes violence and spitting is a harmless non-violent act." I doubt whether his stance would be the same if he were at the receiving end for some reason.

PS: I am not going into the the whole Ram-is-a-bad-husband argument for obvious reasons.

The Burp Aspirant

I stood at the back of the class to soak in some knowledge as I went to pick the daughter up from her school. The conversation I witnessed was illuminating to say the least, and of course I am always eager to illuminate my readers with the pearls of wisdom picked up from elementary school classrooms so here I am.

One boy seems to have triggered the discussion – when asked about his aim in life, this boy fearlessly set aside what he had learnt at his mother’s knee and answered. He said with a very serious face that he wanted to learn to burp really loudly.

To which the class responded in a first class manner. They positively received this response, beamed at him, giggled and cast him admiring glances. One chap whose eyes were gleaming with mischief even got up to congratulate him. I am not sure I would have liked to be the teacher just then. I don’t know what I would have done – probably attempted to burp loudly myself and show them how disgusting that sounded – but there is a reason I am not teaching elementary school classrooms.

The teacher groped for a while – he was evidently taken aback – but these school teachers are made of stern stuff. He came back nicely and told the class how it was easy to learn certain things later in life, but some other things it is easiest to learn when young. The burp aspirer did not seem convinced. He used a line used earlier by the same teacher that being young made it easy for them to learn things quickly. According to him, due and diligent practice at burping will make him a A-grade burper just the same way slogging at Science would fetch him A-grades in Science. There was merit to the line of thought obviously and I found myself unable to uproot myself from the discussion.

I could have given the boy career advice had I known the lucrative charms of being a world class burper, but alas I did not know that myself. Moreover, it was a competitive world out there – do you know how many people can burp loudly? Millions. So, what was the point of intimidating a burp aspirant no matter how young and inexperienced he is?

What I could have just done was to invite him for our Diwali lunch. I am not sure everything fits into the frame here, but there it is. A no-burper could have managed an A-grade burp after this meal.

BURP! Happy Diwali to everyone!
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