The heart should blossom… like a neem flower!

Gulabi poovai navvaali vayasu…

Something something, something something tum pum pum…

…goes an old Telugu song – the Telugu version of the title song from the Hindi blockbuster Yaadon Ki Baraat… a song which for some reason I’ve always sung (if what  I do with lyrics and music can be called singing, that is!) as Ugadi poola vidagaali manasu… well, in my defence I still don’t see too much difference between singing, The heart should laugh like a rose (the original) to my version which means, The heart should blossom like a neem flower – the Ugadi flower! In fact, i think mine should become the standard version – it’s a healthier version after all with neem flowers and everything! And you know what they say about a romantic heart in a healthy body, right? Oops, was that a healthy mind in a healthy body? Never mind – everyone has a right to poetic licence – whether Juvenal or me!

So back to my healthily romantic Ugadi flower – the abundantly-produced-during-this-season flowers of the neem tree – smelling as sweet as the rest of the tree’s products – bark, twigs, leaves, evn the flowers themselves – are bitter to the taste! A bit like some people I know!

Ugadi is round the corner and memories of many earlier Ugadis come flooding back… my children were always excited about this festival because the evening before, after school and the workday were done, we used to set out to one of the temple markets close to where we live and buy exciting stuff like mangoes, mango leaves to decorate the doorway to the house and most importantly – coloured kolam (muggu/rangoli) powders. Home, tea-d, bathed, we’d get down to the serious business of decorating our threshold – each of us got one area and you could draw what you wanted in it! Mine, of course, tended to be traditional and the ‘dotted’ variety whereas the kids, who had not learnt any of the traditional stuff, decided what they wanted to draw and colour. Rules were you could help if help was asked for, admire but not criticise – anyone’s works of art! Festival, right?

And so we had pink elephants with one orange eye and one purple, finished off with a green tail – all needing to be explained because I thought it was a mouse (!), mice which looked like earthworms, trees which looked like ghosts – all frolicking across our threshold! We may never have won a prize for art but definitely for spreading joy – in the form of many half-concealed giggles from neighbours!

Kanch’s exuberance would always overflow her limited (even now!!) artistic ability but her heart would overflow with the joy of creation until she couldn’t bear it any longer… and I’d get squeezed and hugged to within an inch of my life! One memorable occasion, she hugs me and asks, “Can I become you when I grow old?!!!” Ugadi that year was THE BEST! Weel, she may not want to repeat that today, but sadly K, we do end up being more like our parents than we realise!

Then of course, festival food was always to be looked forward to… Ugadi pachadi, pulihora, roast baby potatoes, chakkara pongal and whatever else they wanted…

So here is one of our favourite foods for Ugadi… the celebration of life’s flavours – sweet, sour, salty, chili hot and astringent (iguru)…


  • Raw mango – 1 – chopped finely
  • Neem flowers – washed well – 2 – 3 tbsp
  • Jaggery – 1.5 cups – grated
  • Green chili – minced – 1 cm piece
  • Salt – 1 pinch
  • Tamarind water – from a small marble sized ball of tamarind soaked in 1 cup water.
  • Water – 2 cups

Mix everything well and let the jaggery melt completely. Chill and serve.

I don’t serve this only for Ugadi but several times through the long Indian summer – it’s a fantastically ‘cooling’ drink.

And here’s the link to the song from the movie – my version is yet to be shot but this one is passable 😉

Click for song