Jul 30, 2022

My Favorite Madurai dishes ...

 As someone who was born and had grownup in Madurai, Good food (especially non-vegetarian dishes) is something I terribly miss after coming to Bangalore. Madurai for me is a foodies' paradise - both at home and outside. This post is just a nostalgic journey, looking back on some of my favorite food that bring back flavorful memories... (the list is in no particular order). 

1. Sura puttu (Shark Scramble) - Sea food is always my favorite, as most of my friends know. So its no surprise that Shark finds a place in this list. Sharks (Milk Shark / Paal Sura) were not commonly available in those days and were considered a delicacy whenever so. They were prepared only in the 'puttu' form- scrambled with spices and coconut gratings and had a unique flavor and taste. 
The best puttu I have tasted outside my home was at 'Kumar mess'. The quantity was less and overpriced , but the taste was authentic. 
My wife's prepration!

2. Mutton sukka /chukka( Mutton fry/dry) -  Deep fried Mutton preparation always brings back memories of my grandma (Annie aachi). She used to make the best ones and she always used to give it as a snack on a small plate to me fresh from the pan.  
In those days , Konar kadai (simmakal) was my favorite joint to taste boneless chukka along with Kari dosai.. 
my try at Chukka

3. Urundai kari / kola urundai (meat balls) - another dish that brings back memories of my grandma. As a kid, I used to sit by her side and watch her roll the meat balls by hand. As soon as they come out of the pan, she'll give them to me fresh and hot...They will melt in my mouth in their full textural and flavorful glory! 
You can get decent ones in places like Amma mess & Chandran mess, but nothing can replace the perfection of homemade ones.
My wife continues the tradition...

4. Ayirai meen Kolambu (Loaches) - I have fond childhood memories of hunting for these little fishes in the muddy streams (that connect to vaigai river) for my aquarium. These fishes have a distinct muddy flavor that comes with their source and need good cleaning before cooking. They are generally put inside a pot of butter milk to make the fish spitout the mud. Amma mess and Kumar mess prepared the best ayirai meen kolambu. My late friend Mr.Balan always made sure that there was Ayirai meen from Kumar mess on the lunch menu whenever I visited Madurai to meet him.
The first Kumar mess at Chinna chokkikulam

5. Viral meen  (snakehead murrel) - Another fish that comes alive in the market. Whenever I accompanied my grandma to the Karimedu fish market as a toddler, grandma always used to get one of the smallest ones for me and it used to survive for a few days inside a Horlicks bottle! 
Its one of the tastiest fishes  I have tried  and the fried fish is quite popular in most restaurants in Madurai.  The Viral meen kolambu at home was always lip smacking !

6. Uppu kandam (dry mutton) - This was a preparation of meat invented before the era of refrigeration! As a kid, I remember this was a common scene - lines of marinated meat pieces on jute string left to 'sun-dry' on the terrace... Uppu kandam with curd rice was divine! This is a dish that has vanished from our kitchen after the advent of refrigerators! 

7. Mathi meen (Sardines) - my favorite fish any day and arguably the tastiest sea fish of them all ! I can eat unlimited fried Mathi fish. Even the kolambu prepared by my mom was uniquely tasty. 

8. Savvurotti varuval (Goat spleen fry) - One of my most favorite dishes. It is made in the mutton Chukka style and needs some cooking skill to make it perfect.
I remember frequenting the Sri Janakiram  hotel at Thalakulam at night during my younger days. This food joint is a mandabam that gets temporarily vacated during the Chithirai month for the deity to rest as the procession passes through Thalakulam. Rest of the year they made  the best Savvurotti varuval in those days!

9. Nethili  (Anchovy fish) -  One of the tastiest fishes in any form - fried , dry or in kolambu ! Nethili karuvadu (dry fish) can be eaten as a snack. Fried fishes go well with any main course. 
home made Nethili fry

PS : Here I have not included my favorite dishes like regular Goat meat, Liver, Brain, etc and sea food like Crab, Prawn, Squid, Seer fish, Emperor fish etc that are part of my regular & frequent diet. The list only includes food items or preparations that have become occasional on my table now a days...

Jun 13, 2022


The last 2 years, Covid fear and lockdowns had forced us to shift to OTT platforms for movies and we had almost forgotten the joy of watching movies on the big screen. So it was time to revive the big screen joy and we thought no better movie to do it than "Vikram" the Tamil block buster starring Kamal Haasan! The Inox cinemas at RMZ Gallerial mall was the nearest choice . My wife still had some apprehension as the news of a 4th covid wave outbreak was doing the rounds...but finally we took the risk and booked it for the Sunday. Vikram is a larger than life action thriller that was creating quite a buzz ever since its release last week...and we had to see it on the large screen!

Coming to the movie... 

The Film shares the name "Vikram" with the 1986 spy movie of Kamal Haasan. There was a bit of nostalgia for me there but apart from the title theme , there was hardly any referencing with the older version. For the records, I still love the old Vikram title track composed by Ilayaraja! 

After the decent success of Vikram in 1986, it was expected that Kamal and Sujatha(the writer) will make few more sequels in the lines of a 'James Bond' series...but that did not happen.... But after 36 years, we finally see the new Vikram!  

 Title track from vikram ,1986 , sung by Kamal Haasan 

Director Lokesh Kanagaraj has made the first true action genre film in Tamil as far as I know. If you are ready to ignore the logical flaws and cinematic liberties that go with Indian films, you will be able to enjoy a gripping action entertainer even though spun around a done and dusted story that just moves superficially. The style of film making is something to relish and will set the bar for future action Indian films. By linking events and characters to his previous movie "Kaithi", Lokesh has attempted to create a universe of his own... Anirudh Ravichander has rocked with his BGMs !

Fahad Fasil - I was already a big fan of Fahad's performances in Malayalam movies....having watched so many of them on OTT in the last 2 years. It was refreshing to watch Fahad on the big screen finally and he did not disappoint. The first half belongs to him! 

Vijay Sethupathy -  has done a quirky badass villain and has given his best to make the character interesting and colorful all by himself. But there is not enough support to his character arc from the director. A tad disappointed the way this character weakens and ends... Its confusing whether to believe he is a ruthless don (by the hype of his introduction and comparison to Pablo Escobar)  or a weak paan working under another bigger don.   

Kamal Haasan -  Happy to see him play a character his age. Its hard to believe he is 67. His intensity and style carry the movie to another level in the second half. He makes this film worth a watch on the big screen!

Overall its just a hyped up, fast paced commercial film !

official trailer


Jun 11, 2022


My own recipe of Mutton sukka  -

Ingredients : Boneless Mutton, bread crumbs, finely chopped garlic ,green chilli, shallots ,curry leaves and broken cashew.  Of course the right doses of pepper powder& turmeric powder and a final throw of tomato sauce. 

Jun 6, 2022


"Being not only his class teacher, but a well-wisher and mentor during Ashok’s early school years, I was quite fortunate to detect Ashok’s unmatched skills in drawing/painting through my Talent Hunt scheme, which endeavored to unearth the hidden talents of the students. He was the ace up my sleeve to challenge other schools in the inter-school competitions. He never failed me at any time throughout our schooling period......
When I happened to browse through “Ashokism 75” comprising his digital expressions of art, I was
flabbergasted by his extraordinary talent and creativity with profound imagination, depicted with even
minute details....  Ashok has mastered both in his paintings and poetry. Both go side by side. “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen”. 
Overall, I was amazed by his astonishing creations. The real painter “doesn’t paint the world he sees, rather he paints the world he feels”. That feeling is exhibited genuinely in his paintings.
Congratulations Ashok and wish you all the best in your life and career!"

Kalaimani T
Teacher, Tamil Poet, Writer, Photographer, Journalist and Art lover
Sydney , Australia, https://www.tkalaimani.com/

The above is an extract from the tribute of Mr.Kalaimani published in my book "ashokism75 - Digital expressions in Art" 

My first victory certificate 1988
If I have to name only one teacher from my school who had the most influence in my life, I have to say it was Kalaimani sir. Apart from being a good Biology teacher, Kalaimani sir took upon himself the role of mentoring students in extra curricular activities , especially in the fields of Art.  He was the one who identified my artistic skills when he conducted a Talent hunt competition when I was in the VIII std.  There was no stopping me from that point as I was able to participate and win many competitions in and outside my school. My inclination to take up a creative profession also came from the self confidence I was able to develop in my artistic expressions in my formative days...The encouragement and push from Kalaimani sir during school days is something I am always indebted to. 

Mr.Kalaimani  proudly shows off his student's work to his Aussi colleagues, 2022

Mr.Kalaimani's daughter holding 'Ashokism 75' ...a gift on her birthday from her dad!


Receiving 1st prize from Mr.Karunaidasan as Mr.Kalaimani reads out my name...1988

May 22, 2022

Ashokism award 2021..Sarpatta Parambarai


The Covid lockdown years of 2020-2021 have not given me many good Tamil movies to watch. So my entire interest had shifted to Malayalam films. I was instantly sucked into  Malayalam films with their variety of themes and honest story telling. Thanks to the lockdown and OTT platforms, I could discover some of the best of Malayalam movies of the past few years with extremely varied subjects like Kumbalangi nights, Trance, ayyapanum koshiyum,  RIP, angamaly dairies, joji just to name a few.

So in short i couldn't select a Tamil movie for 2020 ...and for the year 2021 I could hardly find a competition for Pa.Ranjith's Sarpatta Parambarai.

After watching Pa.Ranjith's earlier two disappointing Rajini films, I did not have much expectation to start with. But this one brought the director of Attakathi and Madras back in the limelight. This is without doubt Ranjith's best and proves what he is really capable of if he is left to his own. Great story telling, carefully edited and presented tastefully with an amazing cast.... A boxing story set in the 1970s with layers of the social , cultural and political milieu of the day added deftly over the narration , makes for a long yet delightful and  believable movie. Arya as the lead 'Kabilan' is perfect. Pasupathy as "Rangan master" has done what he does best! John Vijay as "daddy" and Shabbir as "dancing rose' are characters that will delightfully linger on your mind amidst the intensity of the movie. Santhosh Narayanan's background score has strengthened Ranjith as usual. This movie packs a punch !

May 9, 2022

20 years together...

 Its been an unbelievable journey with my beloved wife Beulah ! As we cross together the milestone of 20 years of married life, I look back and thank the Almighty for being with us through all the ups and downs in life.