Friday, November 30, 2007

Upon leaving November

I think I have quite a gift for thinking up recipes. They may have existed before, but since I didn’t know of them when I thought of them, they’ll remain my discovery.

Here’s my version of the egg paratha.

Now, I eat a lot of eggs. Especially in the form of curry. Most times, I eat the regular egg curry with garam masala and tomatoes. But it’s easy to get tired of. So, sometimes, I have egg curry that is cooked in onions, tomatoes, and ginger to which a little soya sauce and/ or blackbean sauce is added. Then, once the egg curry is made, I like to chop up a few eggs from the curry into itsy pieces – the size of chopped onions when you slice them for an omlette.

Then I use this chopped up egg as stuffing for the parathas. To make the paratha more flavorful, it’s good to add two or three spoonfuls of curry to the dough while you knead it. One could add chilli powder and coriander for the zing, but it works just as well without.

This paratha comes out nice and thick and packs in all the satiety of a good, yummy lunch.

And with that flip of the paratha pan, I bid November goodbye.

Monday, November 26, 2007

As the eagle flies

It’s Monday morning. This day comes after a lovely weekend in Pune – where we lay in dribbles of warm sunshine in crisp, cold mornings. And took a late night walk under a full moon. And got dressed to eat chocolate cake and celebrate J’s birthday. And snuggled under thick blankets and slept like children.

This morning, perched on the window ledge of my office pantry, was a big eagle. Its lush thick feathers seemed to have rolled in a palette of taupe and russet and then gently dusted with flecks of burnt sienna and gold. It devoured a dead animal meticulously.

Majestic - this cryptic harbinger for the week ahead.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Past, Present, Future or whatever else it’s called

A friend of mine recommended ‘The Glass Bead Game’ by Herman Hesse. I’ve tried reading Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’ and it seemed like a sordid ordeal to me. Understandably, I was wary of picking up this book. So, googled the dope on Hesse’s work and, well, it will take some initiation before I take it up. It seems to be set in an unidentified period and involves a game that has specific rules, but these rules aren’t spelt out clearly, but only alluded to. The game involves an expert (Magister Ludi) and, as with other oeuvres of Hesse, there are plenty of philosophical mechanics to bring out essence of spiritual crises, travesties of soul-search in society, etc. etc. Suffice to say, I don’t think I can tackle the subject just yet.

Although it did get me thinking on the dimension of time. The future, it seems, arrives too quickly. It’s funny when I think that at one time ‘1984’ was ‘futuristic’, and now, it is more than two decades ago. If I try to imagine the future and think of what sort of gadgets there might be, it’s difficult. Because most of the gadgets have already been invented. Sometimes I think that whatever can be thought about has already been thought about. There is no new ground to cover.

But maybe if you really look waaay into the future, you’ll see the tip of a teeny nubble of something new. It’s the beginning of time’s circuitous cervix. So, when you look ahead, you don’t see the future; you see the past.

Maybe I should try to read ‘Siddhartha’ again. The ‘Glass Bead Game’ seems to be out of my league.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's on my mind...

I was just talking to a colleague and she mentioned having a fear of confrontation. She presumed that this fear stems from some kind of self-esteem issue. I agree. I think the very notion that only like-minded opinions will please me stems from an esteem problem. I feel encouraged when people share my opinion, I feel discouraged when they don’t. If someone tells me that a particular task is not up my alley, or that I don’t have certain strengths, I would not discuss this further. It wouldn’t occur to me to ask the person, “Why do you think so?” Although there may be instances to the contrary, I think that people do not criticize to hurt. Most times, they are critical because they don’t understand. Not understanding another human being irritates us, and so we criticize.

In recent times, I was very critical of people who disliked celebrities or good-looking people or any category that attracted reverse discrimination. It’s not that I particularly adore Aishwarya Rai, but I used to find the backlash against her to be pretty disproportionate. Now, I think everyone who thinks she is cold and calculating, just tried to understand her and couldn’t. How could someone so beautiful get abused? How can someone so stupid as to get abused act with celebrated filmmakers? How can someone who worked with such filmmakers deliver such duds and get married to a tree? And despite it all, how can this woman have the audacity to just keep her mouth shut, get on with life, and continue her flirtation with stardom? How, possibly and conceivably and unnervingly, can this person get away with it?

Ditto with Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears or mothers who stay at home or parents who go to conferences leaving their children behind or men who decide leave women who have changed their minds regarding children or parents who push their kids at math camps….I think we get exasperated because we, at a fundamental level, believe that we really can’t get very different from one another. And when we see a person make life choices very divergent from our own – take up paths we chose to avoid, we struggle to comprehend it. We try to see if we could’ve done something like that and not have to pay for these choices dearly. If we fail to find common ground, we despair. It’s like trying to open a familiar-looking box. You know that there’s a twist in the procedure – you probably have to press a button or unhook a clasp or rotate it in such and such manner – but you can’t do it and the box remains closed.

So, you try to understand someone else’s life but you can’t find the way. That person’s life does not fit in your scope of comprehension and the box remains closed. Damn the box! Throw it out!

Getting back to that fear of confrontation – I definitely have it. I don’t like being criticized and I unfortunately perceive several things as criticism. Like if someone says I have broad hips. I feel bad. But it’s not a criticism. An observation. It may have been put across with the intention of making me feel bad, but most often it’s not. I’m seen with a cropped t-shirt over fitted pants, and that’s an observation someone will make. I feel bad because I believe that broad hips are undesirable. So, the value judgment is what I’m making in my head. Not someone else. As with Aishwarya’s case (and I do not arrogate myself to her position), maybe someone looks at my body type and sifts through his or her files of personal aesthete. Upon not finding a match, the person genuinely tries to understand why I choose to wear what I wear and ‘get away with it’. The summative response of all this sifting, analyzing, rejecting, and understanding is, “You have broad hips.” This statement need not mean anything more unless I ascribe any further sense to it.

So, one area of what I would like to study is maybe we are the only ones who judge ourselves. Everyone else is just trying to make sense.

With the amount I ramble, I wonder how I will ever be able to come up with a coherent research question. But I think, right now, what I’m really interesting in asking is, ‘Who really judges us?’ or no… ‘Are we more similar to each other or different from each other?’

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pop Tates, Ph. D., and prettiness

I am feeling so ill. My throat is lumpy and sore. I can’t swallow anything, and I am feeling so groggy. I detest taking any kinds of medicines, but I did today. I should avoid doing that in the future considering it made me feel worse.

Last night, I dined at Pop Tates, Saki Naka, with a friend from work. It was great fun, once we reached there. Before that, we walked for 45 minutes from our office as we couldn’t find an auto. I was a little squeamish at the prospect of walking through assorted browns of decay, dirt, and loud truckers. My pal, though, tromped confidently ahead, making way with nothing more than the force of her directed stride. I followed. Meekly. I was dressed in a sari and flat sandals that were selected to show off my pretty ruby toe-ring. Instead, I winced every time I stepped on a sharp stone.

We reached PT, slightly sweaty and dirty, but oh..so relieved! I introduced her to Virgin Margarita (she had a peach, while I slurped a strawberry) and she really liked it. I like watching people enjoy my recommendations. She didn’t quite care for the jacket potatoes, though. PT ripped us off there. This dish comes with ranch dressing, as per the menu, but we just got plain, watery chutney instead. Upon a stern confrontation, the stammering waiter insisted that it was ranch dressing indeed. Some ranch it came from!

My pesto-based pasta came thickened and coagulated with cheese, but my friend’s dish was really interesting. She had pasta in a Thai sauce with vegetables. It was spicy and tangy and very tasty. I dolefully finished my food, while she polished off each scrumptious crumb with a satisfactory grin. I am definitely trying that out the next time I am there.

*************************

Some new developments in my life have left me dizzy, and mostly not in a good way. There is a lot going on, but at some strange, pit level, I feel calm. And it’s not the calm before the storm, it is the calm after. The calm you get testy about because you expect it to forebode something dramatic. But no. It is the calm that is asking you to rebuild from scratch. The onset of a humungous challenge, and the victory is nothing more than the sight of an innocent sunset and a good night’s rest.

My body is going haywire and I definitely need it to behave itself. It sleeps when it wants to, wakes when it wants to, trudges through important moments, and gets sloth-filled. No, I just have to let it know who’s boss. (Have to hurry before I get fired!)

Secondly, my brain can’t get centered on anything anymore. I just can’t coherently put down anything in a sequence. And this is when I have finally decided to get started on my academic aspirations. I wish to do my Ph.D. in two years. I aim to begin at 30, as I will have 1 year of conscious journaling down to my credit. Now, what is conscious journaling? And why 1 year? Well, this year has seen a lot of see-sawing. So, whenever the vicissitudes come about in waves, it is important to focus on a bigger picture. (I think I had mentioned something like that in one of the articles I had written for HT – it was on break ups…my life is an ongoing irony.) And the bigger picture is not really all that BIG. It’s just that much more interconnected. Like a microchip or a blood corpuscle. (Just realized – ‘corpuscle’ sounds like ‘sorputel’. There must be a famous Goan biologist at play there.)

So, from Jan 2008 onwards, I will meticulously document my thoughts and observations and little factoids. This will help me accomplish a few things:

- get me disciplined into focusing on my research question, at least for a half-hour each day
- see some kinds of patterns in societal, emotional, or mental framework, thus helping with narrowing down/ fine tuning my premise, etc.

So, the theme from now until the next few years is to focus on heavy-duty intellectual engagement and scholarship.

Maybe I should keep a separate blog for this. But if I am studying interconnectivity, should I categorize? Perhaps I should as I would like my writings on my thesis to be strictly academic. Then again, what difference does it matter where I put up an academic piece of work? It will either be read or ignored or commented upon. And well, insights are what matter.

Now, I begin my preparation to become a formidable force in beauty and brains. Correction: brains and beauty. The latter needs more work.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Diwali

I am not in the best of moods now, so I think I will talk about my baby nephew, Karan, to lift my spirits. He is getting more spherical by the day and is rising to be his Ma and Pa's pride and joy. "He's a sporty sorts", my cousin tells me. At barely two and half months, I don't understand how 'sporty' he can possibly get. But parents of new-born children get slightly dim, I think. My cousin told me that the two month old has taken up 'cheek fight' - where he pushes his plump cheek against that of any volunteering face, and then promptly pummels it with his soft, pudgy fists.

"He always wins!", my cousin laughs.

Right. So my nephew, who may in the future do something significant such as discover a planet or something, is currently being heralded as a formidable cheek fighter. What a champ!

Really, parents!

My nephew is so cute, though. A veritable carrot dumpling!

Lighting diyas is an interesting experience. The wick is so sad and droopy when it is greased with ghee, lying coiled like a wet dream. Then you light it and it burns - clear, sharp, and straight. Setting fire is a good thing, sometimes.

Then, after the diya is lit, you may move to another sleepy wick. But perhaps you are not careful and the hot wax drips on your finger or you almost touch the tip of the flame, and suddenly the incendiary snip jolts you out of your reverie. The diya continues to burn sharp and stong. But maybe there's a wind and the flame wavers. You quickly cup your palms around it and tenderly fortify the jubilant spot of light. Even fire needs to be tended to gently, no matter how fierce it seems.

In manner of extrapolation, that's the way to love an Arien, perhaps?

From champy Karan and Arien aunt - wish you all a fabulous Diwali!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Saree Days

Today, I am wearing a black cotton saree with a sandalwood border. I was supposed to have worn an orange and purple silk one. But when Ma unfolded it in the morning, she realized that it was too small. I didn’t know one could shortchange a couple of yards of a saree.

I don’t like wearing cotton sarees too much. They bloat around me and feel so crisp and edgy – like I’m living in the middle of a paper dosa. Chiffon is my favorite. Or Crepe or georgette. Silk looks nice, but it’s too formal for me. No, I think I would always go for chiffon. It drapes easily and I find it much easier to manage than a cotton float.

My blouse is pretty sexy, but it is a fact I have taken care to camouflage for office.

If I could manage my sarees better, I would like to not have it as occasion wear. It is not all that unmanageable. I think the last time I had trouble with an outfit was when I worn dungarees to someone’s house for lunch. Going to the loo was pretty complicated.

By now, I think I have traveled in buses and trains wearing all kinds of clothes – billowy dresses, tight skirts, long, trailing ghagras, snug jeans, etc. etc. So, a sari seems pretty tame in comparison. However, I don’t look very nice in a sari. I look better in other garments. In my opinion, it’s balderdash when people say all women look beautiful in a sari. Well, some don’t and I am one of them. My husband used to say I looked beautiful in a sari but would actively encourage the idea to change into something more ‘me’ – which basically is t-shirt and shorts.

In fact, I think everyone looks great in t-shirt and shorts. Of course, length and fit would differ from person to person, but there is always a type of t-shirt/ shorts combo that suits everyone.

I don’t like salwaar kameezes too much. Unless the kurta is tight-fitted and the salwar is the colorful, loose patiala type. But chooridars are complicated, and they rarely suit anyone who isn’t tall, so that’s out as well.

I have a black and fuschia set that is very pretty. The kurta is short, barely hip-length, and really snug with cap sleeves. There’s a slim line of fuschia sequins at the hem of the sleeves and the patiala is a vibrant floral print. I love wearing that.

In fact, I like well-fitted clothes and fabrics that hug the body. Now that I travel in trains and crowded buses or walk through densely peopled streets, I don’t want to take anymore space than I absolutely require. It is strange, this little shift in my head. But I suppose I am much more keen on compactness now.

Handloom is awesome. I have a beige hand-painted handloom sari that has a Japanese haiku interpretation with the Om symbol. It would look really sensuous draped around a lithe tall body – in fact, I think it can be draped around either – man or woman. The Universe and its wisdom, after all, are androgynous.

Lately I have begun to love clothes. I love being around them looking at them, feeling them, studying them the way one drinks in a poem so as not to let it slip past. And I think I have some fabulous pieces. Most of them were bought or made at the time of marriage – mine, my cousins, my friend’s…or a Durga puja - but a substantial lot of them I have sought and found amidst cool little crevices in a variety of shops.

Especially my 300-500 bux jeans and my bargain-price cocktail dresses.

It would be interesting to catalog them and weave them into my magical world of seek and you shall find.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Paraphernalia of winter

Sad and negative thoughts can be really tiring. They weigh down my spirits, I can’t sleep well, I can’t eat well, and everything seems bleak. (I know that’s exactly how negative thoughts are supposed to be, but still.) The thing is, if I firmly decide to snap out of it, then they become large films of cobweb that can be pierced and torn away. They cease to be huge boulders, too heavy to move. It is not easy to snap out of it though. Because most times, I just enjoy staring at the cobwebs.

Winter time, and I suddenly become aware of the fact that I have skin. Ordinarily, I don’t apply sunscreen or any kind of lotion. But come September (I love that melody), words such as hydrate, nourish, indulge, savor become appealing tasks to undertake when it comes to caring for the cappuccino-colored skin that cloaks my bones. My mom is very much a potions and creams aficionado. She prepares some umpteen little bowls of pastes – honey and curd, grated apples, haldi, and cucumber, besan and milk, squashed papaya and grape peels, almond paste and methi seeds, olive oil and wheatgerm, etc. etc. Her skin, therefore, is radiant. Sometimes, when I look at her, I realize that skin really does reciprocate in kind when you nurture it. Of course, she has the added advantage of having a fabulous first-born. (She doesn’t think so this morning because I argued with her.)

It is my plan to look stunning in the next two months. Not pretty or charming but head-turning sort of stunning. I mean I really do like myself now. If you looked at my face or hands or body, you wouldn’t be able to gauge the extent of my unhealthy lifestyle; but I want more. I want to have the look where happiness dribbles out of every pore – the kind of body that is fit and supple; and the skin that looks cared for – with love and consideration.

There’s a girl in my office who, in my eyes, is a consummate stunner. She has such a healthy bounce. She has beautiful, thick hair and fabulous posture. Her skin looks like she is perpetually standing under a tender moon. I think the first time I saw her, my heart stopped still. She was the message of my scaly hands and rough elbows to my crusty heart. She was the vocabulary of my unbidden tactile aspirations. She was my final beckoning into light.

Anyway, nowadays I slather something light but very enriching from a Nivea bottle. It is royal blue (the bottle, not the lotion) and has avocado oil (the lotion, not the bottle), and whatever else, my skin feels like it’s been seeped in moist rose petals.

Sometimes, it is difficult to go through moment after labored moment when the heart is heavy. And just before I get the full import of the disquiet, there it goes feeling light and larky again. It is such a capricious reed. Perhaps the only thing to remember at such times is that there is more lotion in the bottle.

I am, in essence, a summer girl, but having seen winter splendor in Delhi and the Midwest, I believe that there is more poetry in fog. Gems that rise from poignant missing. Desultory waiting and sliding moments into quiet screams and fitful dreams. And this is called the festive season.

Winters are for musing.

I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me.

- R.B.Hamilton

Summer has the song, though.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Alone in a corner booth

It was a harrowing drive to Mulund this Saturday afternoon. I had to get to Nirmal Lifestyle for a shopping spree with a friend, and disregarding past experiences, I figured I’d zip through the roads at 2:00 p.m.

I was wrong. Not because there were too many cars on the roads. But because they were too many cars and not enough roads. The Ghansoli/ Rabale bridge was a nightmare. I am mortally scared of getting stuck on a slope, and what I experienced that awful afternoon was an episode straight out of Fear Factor.

One part of the road is being excavated (‘dug up’ doesn’t apply)- no doubt for a picture of an undug road from a bygone era; why else would they dig so deep? So streams of vehicles could go to and fro on only one narrow strip. There were almost 4 disjointed, skewed lanes on a strip that could barely handle 1. I was probably the smallest car in that agglomeration of grating metal and wheels, barring the autos. The autos, to their credit and my chagrin, made up with gumption what they lacked in size.

So, there we were - stuck interminably on a dusty, smog-choked path on a slope. I was wedged between a colossal truck with ugly, menacing pipes in front of me and an angry-wheezing bus behind. To my left was a huge Volvo that behaved like a squat lady trying to make place on a crowded seat in a train. Every time, the truck in front of me inched ahead, the Volvo next to me tried to nudge its way in my lane. I couldn’t possibly allow that, more for fear of what the angry bus behind me would do if it witnessed my pusillanimity.

Every 15 minutes, the truck moved ahead an inch. The first time I tried to get the car ahead, I slided down a little bit. Each and every horn on that lane blared and wailed and my teeth actually started rattling. So, quickly the handbrake was pulled. I knew that I couldn’t possibly make that mistake again, because we are bumper-to-bumper on a slope.

So, I just zoned out everything else - the sweat on my forehead that was streaming down despite the AC, the harsh glint of afternoon sun that hurt my eyes despite the glares, my parched throat, my dry tongue, my aching back, my tense neck. I just did the handbreak-accelerator-clutch-break-handbreak routine steadily. One step at a time, and after what seems a damned eternity, we finally reached leveled land. Handling traffic is such a breeze when the million of you are on the same plane.

Anyway, I reached Nirmal Lifestyle and after parking, waltzed in with the gaiety of a pedestrian. Ah! To be on foot and to be free!

I bought a lipgloss – a very pretty hibiscus tint, and some indigo eyeliner. I roamed around here and there, and suddenly the dehydration hit me. So, I stepped into this cheery little outlet of Ruby Tuesday.

Now, I have been to other Ruby Tuesdays before, and while I have enjoyed myself most times, I’ve never really found the place ‘informal’ enough. I mean, I would probably always go there as part of some plan, never on a whim. But I really liked this one.

It has the standard d├ęcor of all Ruby Tuesday restaurants – green booths with gold railings, bright posters, and funky retro installation pieces on the walls.

As soon as I walked in, a cheery waiter greeted me and asked me if I’d like to be seated in the smoking or the non-smoking section. Because the restaurant was sparsely populated then, I took my favorite place in restaurants like this – the corner booth. I just sank in, sort of collapsed in the hold of that comforting upholstery and flipped through the huge, hearty menu.

Now, in most places in Mumbai (possibly elsewhere in India as well), mocktails are usually sweet, creamy, milky concoctions. Very few places get imaginative with clear, fruity flavored mocktails. The farthest they’d go is probably have a peach iced tea in addition to a lemon flavor. (Exceptions are Pop Tates, Noodle Bar, Bombay Blues, TGIF.) Ruby Tuesday, though, had a rather delightful list I could choose from. I got myself a Pineapple Margano-Rita (that’s what they call their Virgin Margerita) and settled down to catch my breath.

People around me were having huge platters of fried chicken wings or shrimps with dollops of sour cream, and gulping down jugs of beer. I nursed my chilled, foggy glass and sipped my way to tranquility. With every drop that condensed on the napkin, with every tease of the sugar and salted rim, with every clink of ice, with every sip of sublime sweetness that went down my throat, I got further and further away from the crowded bridge I’d have to encounter at peak hour later. The harshness, past and impending, just receded like sea from the shore.

It’s a pleasant world that passes by when you’re in a corner booth.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pregnancy in Mumbai

Overheard in office between two women poring over Property Times and making notes of brokers:

Lady asking her friend (looking up suddenly): How long ago did you get pregnant?

Her friend: When the per sq. foot rate of that flat in Goregaon East was 6,500. Now, it is 11,300.

Lady: Tch, tch.