Archive for December, 2009

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Tirunelveli Halwa

December 27, 2009

Tirunelveli or Nellai (as called in Tamil) is a town that is situated near to Kanyakumari/Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. This place is very famous for its Halwa – The jelly like sweet made out of wheat and ghee that almost melts in your mouth! In fact, Tirunelveli Halwa has become a brand in itself! It is easily one of the best sweets I have tasted so far.

People here say that the halwa recipe is more than hundred years old. Some say that the halwa recipe has come to the South from North India. In fact, the owner of a hugely popular stall called ‘Iruttu kadai'(Literally meaning dark shop) is a North Indian, perhaps settled here. It is also said that the halwa gets its special taste because of the water that is used to prepare the same is taken from Tamaraibharani river which runs in the place.

Iruttu Kadai in Tirunelveli
Iruttu Kadai is the most popular shop in Tirunelveli for Halwa. The opens only at 5:30 PM in the evening and remains open for a hour and a half or till all the halwa is sold out. We were lucky to get half a Kg of halwa when we went there at 7:30 PM when the shop was almost closed and only one door was open (see picture above). It seems that earlier, there were no lights in this shop and in the evenings they used a candle to run the business, and hence the name. Now there is an electrical bulb in the front of the store. It seems that the halwa bought from Iruttu Kadai doesn’t get spoilt even for 2-3 weeks. In fact, the people say that the halwa tastes better after a week! And yeah, there is not even a name board for this shop – If you see a bright flashy board in a shop called “Iruttu Kadai” you can be sure that it is not what it claims!

Santhi Sweets in Tirunelveli
Another hugely popular store that sells excellent halwa is called the “Santhi Sweets”. You need to be careful with this one – There are so many shops with the same place all over the town. But there is only one original! Above, you can see the photo of that shop located right next to St.Mary’s Medicals. The photo was taken at 11:00 PM in the night, and look at the crowd at that time! Fortunately, this shop is open almost 24 hours. People there say that the Halwa from Santhi Sweets is best consumed hot immediately or at least within a week.

Lakshmi Vilas Shop in Tirunelveli

Another less popular shop (but recommended by some local people) there is called “Lakshmi Vilas”. This shop has good milk halwa and muskoth halwa as well!

Below is the photo of the halwa from all the three shops. In my opinion, the halwa from Shanti Sweets is the best, and Iruttu Kadai halwa is a very close second! The photo of the jelly like halwa is also published below.

Halwa packets from Iruttu Kadai, Shanti Sweets and Lakshmi Vilas

Tirunelveli Halwa
Neighbouring Kanyakumari is a very popular and a must see tourist destination. Do consider going to this town from there, even if only for the halwa – It’s worth your efforts 🙂

Destination Infinity

The address of Iruttu Kadai and Santhi Sweets are given in this link.

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Religion is the opium of the masses…

December 19, 2009

He was rich, he was powerful, he was influential and he was addicted.

He was the president of the trust which owned one of the most influential temples in his location. The temple was so popular that it drew crowds even from the neighbouring states. Naturally, when there is such a high foot fall, there is bound to be good commerce in and around the temple. And he controlled that commerce.

He was not born rich or influential. He was the son of one of the priests of the temple. As was the custom, be too became the priest in the same temple. He had a certain charm and style of saying the prayers. There was a lot of life in his ways. This was noticed by the temple authorities and he was asked to chant the prayers during important and special occasions as the collections were generally higher when he conducted the sessions. People were mesmerised by his skills and were happy to donate considerable amounts.

His administrative skills were also not un-noticed. He made sure that the queue moved faster and special prayers were started on time and ended on time too. People liked the punctuality he introduced. He interacted well with both the temple staff and the devotees. He understood their concerns and often took steps to rectify them, as far as was possible in his capacity. These small gestures made him the favourite of the devotees as well as the temple staff. After a point of time, he was even considered lucky and was requested to preside over many of the functions and important occasions of people. Especially people who were rich and influential. That enabled him to develop a lot of important connections. All this took so much of his time that he did not have any time to get settled in a family and have kids!

Eventually he was made the treasurer of the temple. This brought him in the direct contact of all the trust members and enabled him to have a clear view of all the money that was exchanged between various parties. He knew exactly how much money came in and where it all went. During his period, the collections to the temple increased tremendously and hence no one, including the members of the trust bothered to look into minor details of where a certain share of it was going to. He knew the loopholes of the system and the money flowed freely in to those loopholes. Rather, he was able to direct the money into them quite perfectly.

Once he started to make more money, he wanted even more. And then, a lot more. He was able to make any amount of money he wanted to, and he was still in the good books of the trust members as the donations and collections kept increasing as well. After a point of time, he had so much black money that he had to open an account with a Swiss Bank. After all, the income tax department could raid the houses of important people any time! And he did not want to part with his money in the form of taxes, to the Government. First, it was made illegally and second, why should he give the Government any money? What did the Government do to him anyway? He was a very hard negotiator, even for small amounts and never spent huge amounts of money on anything.

In due time, he became the President of the trust. He started to make so much money that he had no idea of even how many zero’s were there in the value he held in his Swiss Bank! He had so much money.

Now, in his death bed, he was only worried about one thing – What would happen to all the money once he passed away?

He realised just too late that he had been addicted so much to making more and more money that he never thought about spending it! All his happiness came from making more and more and more of money alone. Money, in his case, became a commodity rather than being the medium of exchange, that it normally is!

Religion is the opium of the masses.
Sure. Like how,
Money is the opium of the rich.

Destination Infinity

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Neighbours

December 6, 2009

Neighbours always share an interesting relationship. They don’t belong to the same family (like relations) and they are not selected by each other (like friends). But still, they know so much about each other and participate in the important events of the other families. Sometimes, they keep in touch with each other even after being separated for a long time. Of course, they also gossip about each other! This story is about two such neighbours, who were faced with similar situations but chose different paths. And when their paths crossed once, they were shocked to find out the power. The power of influence.

Ram and Shyam knew each other since they were kids. Their families were neighbours for atleast a couple of generations before they were born. Ram was the only son in their house and Shyam had an elder brother and a younger sister. All of them played togeather, went to school togeather and grew up togeather.

There was one more common factor between the two families – The temple. Their houses were very close to the biggest temple in their district. The temple was not only a cultural powerhouse, but it was also the place where a lot of economic activities took place. Over a period of time, the land value around the temple increased tremendously. Naturally, their houses were also sought by a lot of merchants who wanted to set up shop close to the temple.

Ram was the only son in the family and he was not interested in the temple service that their family was involved into. He wanted to start a business of his own. He worked for some years in a neighbouring shop and eventually set up his own shop inside the town. The initial years were very hard. There were times when his financial situation was so bad, that he wanted to almost quit the business. But somehow he was able to get some loans and invest further in his business. The only reason why he was able to get loans was the house which he owned – since it was so close to the temple, it was valued highly, and people were not very reluctant to give him money. He was also of the opinion that if the business fared badly, he would sell the house and buy a smaller one in the town and settle the loans. But everytime he took such risks, he was able to get some returns from the business and settle back the loans. People thought it was due to his hardwork, but he thought it was pure luck! Anyways, slowly the business picked up and he no longer had to take loans as the business was doing pretty well after a few years. He was quite satisfied with the revenue earned through his business, and now thought he should sell the house and buy a similar house inside the town and use the remaining money to expand his business.

Shyam, on the other hand was not the only son in his house and had to share it with his siblings. There was not much of problems when they grew up, other than the small fights they had within themselves. It started when all the three of them were married. Joint families always give people the impression that they are getting less then what they deserve and the other families are treated better. Their family was no exception especially when kids were born and responsibilities increased. They did not have much expenses other than the clothes and food which was shared among all the families. But the temple, where they worked paid them a modest amount, which was shared till then. The siblings had other ideas and wanted to move inside the town so that they can earn more money in other ventures. Each had their own idea of what to do, and naturally they wanted some money to invest in whatever they wanted to do. They thought it was the right time to sell their house and share whatever they get equally and start living independently. Based on the amount of money that was offered by the merchants, each of them was confident that they can buy a house in the town and still invest in some ventures. Basically, they were not able to resist the offer of the merchants – they wanted the money.

It was at this time that both of them got lawer notices from the temple. The houses, it seems were leased to them for 100 years by the temple, and the period was expiring in a couple of months. Since, they were not interested in continuing the temple service, the temple wanted the property back.

They got the shock of their lives. It was evident in their voice when they spoke to each other the next day.

“Did your father ever tell you about the lease agreement?”
“Not even once. Not even when he died, I always thought that we owned the house”
“My God. I took so many risky loans thinking that we had a property for back-up. Just imagine what would have happened if the business had failed at some stage. In fact, I asked my father if we can sell the house if there was a huge loss, and he nodded his head!”
“At least, you have your own business to depend on. We don’t have anything. We were totally dependant on the property, and now getting to know that the property is not ours, we are clueless as to what to do next. We never learnt any trade or business. God!”

They had to move on, and they did. Ram was able to afford a rented house and worked harder in his business with the goal of buying an own house. Since Shyam and his siblings had no regular business to hold on, they decided to stay togeather and share whatever was brought by each of them. One family made more money one month, and another made more money the next month. But they always shared whatever they got. It was required, as no one had means to regular income at that point. They had to support each other to help themselves and somehow were able to adjust, share and live togeather.

The same people who were not able to live togeather just a few months back due to the wealth (rather, non-existent wealth) were able to live togeather now!

They learnt the hard way that assets like Gold and Land can either make people work more and take more risks (or) can make people totally dependant on them. The investments made in gold and land can vanish instantly at any time, but the investments made to acquire them cannot vanish suddenly. Without such effots, gold and land are only metal and mud.

Destination Infinity

PS: Don’t depend on inherieted property. Its more important to inheriet skills.