House Warming

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Banana leaves and flowers decorate the gate

Last Monday we were invited to a house warming at the home of my mother-in-law’s cousin. He had recently completed a renovation to create apartments for his two daughters and their families on the floors above his home. In India, buildings begin with the ground floor on street level, and the 1st floor is the level above the ground. This ceremony was for the apartment on the 2nd floor. The pooja (blessing) had taken place the night before, which includes a fire in the center of the hall (living room) and offerings of fruits and flowers. A Hindu priest chants shlokas (prayers) and rangoli patterns are made on the floor with rice flour. Below s a photo of the pooja that was performed for my neice’s naming ceremony in 2014. This is before the fire was lit and smoke filled the room!

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After seeing the apartment we went downstairs for a traditional South Indian Meal. We begin by washing our banana leaf with water and wiping it off with our hands. There are no utensils given for this meal and it is thought that both the banana leaf and eating with your hands enhances the flavor of the food. I don’t profess to know all about the ins and outs of the South Indian Meal, and it varies from region to region, but I do know that there is a prescribed variety of foods that are placed in precise areas of the leaf. My meal began with a small mound of salt on the upper left and a sweet tapioca paysam on the lower right. Then across the top is a row of pickle, chutney, salad and some vegetable. We we given papdum crunchier on the left side and in this case we were served a baby mango curry. The main course is served in the center beginning with a heap of white rice and some sambar. In this case were were also given bisi beli bath on the left side. Once the sambar is finished we are given rice and rasam and then mosuru, or curd rice. Then desse

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South Indian Meal – almost finished

Some people fold their leaf when they are finished eating, but I was told by my sister in law that this can have various meanings for different occasions. Best to follow  what those around you are doing.

Did I mention that the meals are served by many shirtless men wearing lungi (South Indian wrapped skirt)? How could I forget? They move up and down the aisles with their stainless steel buckets of food, ladling out each variety before you can say ‘bus’ (enough)! It is only after all the guests are served that the hosting family will sit down to eat.

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Taking a cell phone break after the meals are done

We are sent home with two bags. One has a coconut in it and we are given banana. The second one has a prescribed set of gifts that vary little. Below, the green package at the top is a blouse piece, to be stitched at a tailor to go with your sari. Underneath is a 10 rupee note that was given by a family member during the meal and an envelope with 200R. On the right is a sweet block of jaggery and betel leaves, and on the left are bags of crunchy snacks and ladu sweets. At the bottom is a packet of betel nut powder to be eaten with the betel leaves, and red and yellow kum kum (to dot your forehead).

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Contents of the gift bag

I couldn’t resist including this beautiful Laurie Baker style home with that was next door. Venkatesh has been a big fan of his designs, built with brick open work patterns, for years.

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Laurie Baker style home

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