In our tradition, kids’ ears are pierced around the Ayusha Homam: the first star birthday (incidentally, we follow the lunar calendar for all religious purposes, hence the ‘star’ birthday normally occurs on a day different from the regular one). We celebrated the ayusha homam of my li’l one last week and his ears were pierced the day before that.
I’m sure lots of you are going to go pierced “his” ears? Yes, we pierce even boys’ ears! In the olden tradition, men continued to wear their earrings right into adulthood. Strictly religious people and those who conduct religious ceremonies or take part in them still wear them these days. My father-in-law does too.
These days, of course, parents prefer to follow the ritual but remove the earring when the fancy subsides. I remember my brother wore his earrings till he started school. The funny part is, you can still see a tiny hole (even if it doesn’t go through the other side) in the ears of a lot many men who’ve had their ears pierced in childhood. As a kid, I remember making fun of my father about this.
Tradition rules that the piercing should be done with the kid sitting in the lap of the kid’s uncle or grandfather. Don’t ask me why though! Since my brother, who’s away at engineering college, couldn’t manage to come, a cousin of mine, who was in town, filled in. My fellow starting howling the minute he was made to sit on my cousin’s lap. I guess he was more petrified of all the people milling around him than scared by the thought of getting his ears pierced, which I doubt he understood at all.
But the guy who’d come to actually pierce the fellow’s ears was quite experienced in this area and he finished the job within a matter of seconds. My boy was okay in a couple of minutes, especially when he was handed the television remote control. Yes! That is his favourite toy.
While we’d ordered food from outside that day, my mother-in-law prepared two things. One which is known as Kaapu Arisi, something that is made only on this occassion apart from the naming day ceremony – punyavachanam – the 10th day after the birth of the child. I’ll post about that next week when I will be doing traditional dishes the whole week. Since this week is all about occassion special food for the 30-day Blogging Marathon I’m taking part in, I’ll tell you about the Thengai-arisi payasam (Coconut and Rice Pudding) she made that day.
Thengai Arisi Payasam
Coconut – 1 (small)
Rice – 1/4 cup
Jaggery – 200 gm or so (this is an eyeball measurement and will depend on how sweet you want it)
Cardamom – 2 pods or 1 large pinch of cardamom powder
Almonds – a handful (you could use cashews instead)
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Milk – about 2 cups (see Notes)
Water – as required (2-4 cups)
Break open the coconut and grate the flesh. You could also break the flesh into smaller pieces and grind it
Wash the rice in three changes of water and drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Grind it coarsely
Soak the almonds in some water for 30 minutes and grind into a fine paste
Heat the ghee in a heavy bottom big pan and add cardamom pods (in case you’re using powder, don’t add it now)
Add ground rice and sauté in ghee for a couple of minutes till it starts to change colour. Don’t let it brown though.
Add ground coconut and milk/water and cook on medium heat till rice is cooked. Keep stirring every now and then. Add more water as required
Break jaggery into tiny bits or grate it. If the jaggery you get has impurities, dissolve it in some water and set aside for 10 minutes. The impurities will settle at the bottom. Pour the jaggery water into another container. Be very careful towards the end. Discard the water when the impurities start coming in. Alternatively, you could strain the jaggery water and discard the impurities
Add the jaggery to the cooked rice-coconut mixture and mix well till well blended. Cook for a couple of minutes and remove from heat. Add the cardamom powder now if you’re using it
Thengai-arisi payasam is ready to serve!
You can skip milk totally and use water altogether. While milk does five a nice flavour, using water alone make it no less tasty thanks to all the coconut in there. We made in minus milk since one of my sisters-in-law is on a no-milk diet