Friday, November 28, 2008


Not in their goals, but in their transitions are people great. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, November 24, 2008

Childhood Treats

A colleague and I were discussing childhood treats over tea. I mentioned how much I love mustard oil. I love its strong smell and robust flavour. In fact, I like rice cooked this way – fry lots of onions and garlic in mustard oil, add salt and a pinch of red chilli powder and finally fold in cooked rice to the mixture. Mix well and serve hot. (And if someone makes you angry, just breathe on their face.)

My colleague mentioned another recipe from her childhood days. My mouth has not stopped watering since. Take boiled eggs, potatoes, chopped onions, chopped green chillies, salt and generous doses of mustard oil. You first mash the boiled eggs and potatoes with mustard oil. Then add salt, chillies and onions and serve hot with steamed rice.

Nothing beats a happy, hearty childhood - laced with sunshine, laughter and mustard oil.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bangkok memories on a plate

This here was pepper prawns. (I ate meat in Thailand.)

My assorted meats fried rice here.

The white balls are octopus and the dish next to that are prawns. I love sea food, in case one didn't notice.

This was a delectable heap of glass noodles with fish, beef, chicken, eggs, prawns, mince.

The pineapple drink alongside my food was my Mai Thai. I also consumed liquor in Bangkok, but unfortunately it didn't do anything for me. I guess if you abstain from anything long enough, your body gets used to doing without it. However, to complete my repertoire of drinks, I did have bhaang last weekend and it. knocked. me. out. Now, I have having it for the first time and I liked it with milk and thandaai and all...but the very best way is to stir in spoonfuls in chilled Coke or Pepsi. I think a dark cola just makes anything taste good...and potent.

That's my shrimp cocktail and lemon grass iced tea. I loved the cocktail. Usually, people smother the shrimps with the dressing, but this dish here had the dressing on the side. In fact, even without the dressing, the shrimps tasted fantastic - sweet, crunchy, and fresh. That iceberg lettuce hit the spot, though.

There's plenty more stuff that I ate but I can't post them here because it breaks my heart to think I will not be eating meat again. Sniff!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mood cries foul!

In keeping with my all too foul mood, I shall now recount tales and thoughts that will make people wince. Wince rhymes with mince. And I don’t eat meat anymore. Sigh.

When J was in Mumbai, we went to Hard Rock CafĂ©. After HRC, we drove to Nariman Point and thought we’d take a walk there. This was opposite NCPA – that spot in Mumbai where wealth never diminishes and dreams never crumble and taxis are always hailed with panache, etc. etc. (I, on the other hand, work in Marol. S-I-I-G-H!.)

So, J and I were generally talking about our trip in December, and how she misses Pune (by which, she only means Koregaon Park – the snob…catch her speaking fondly of Swargate or Kharkee…HA HA HA HA!). A little ahead from where we walked, a man was lying down on his stomach on the parapet. We stopped, wondering if it were safe to continue. After all, it was 3 a.m. and there was no-one else on the road. Our other friends and Cy were on the other end of the walkway.

Then the man pulled himself ahead a little and started retching. J and I grimaced and turned back. On the way, though, we discussed how good vomiting was – as a concept. Sure, it’s yucky when you watch someone do it. And yes, it’s wholly unpleasant when you do it as well. But the notion that your body’s taking a firm stand – of deciding to not accept anything else and forcefully cleansing your system – that’s quite commendable. It’s very heartening that even if one has been a chipmunk at the dinner table and nibbled through everything, at some point your body will take charge. The innards will proclaim ‘Enough is enough!’ and hurl the impostors out. And after that, although your body might feel weak and ravaged, it’s clean and tender. You want to tend to it carefully by sipping and eating all things delicate.

Yes, vomiting is good.

While we are on this nauseous subject, I recollect an incident I had in my first job. A colleague and I sat down for lunch. My colleague opened a tepid lunch-box with some cutlets and soggy fries. (My colleague was waif-thin, by the way.) As we had a microwave in the office, I wondered if she’d like to heat up her food.

Won’t you warm it before eating?”, I asked her, pointing to her tiffin.

WHAT! NO!”, she shouted. “I don’t need to vomit or anything like that! Some people are genetically thin, you know!”

He he. That WAS funny!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weirdo Monday!

I am feeling very weird now. Everything just feels topsy-turvy. Nothing’s making sense anymore, and I don’t think things will ever settle into neat little rows and columns in my head. They are more like little isolated pieces of dots but they are so far apart that they can’t be connected anymore.

It’s only November now, but I have already started thinking in terms of resolutions. The other day I was asking my friends what their resolutions were, and they were generally faffing through something. Because no-one can seriously have a resolution of wearing a banana peel. What’s the resolution in that? Will a generation that does not understand/ endorse the concept of commitment understand the need to resolve? Yes…that is what is irritating me – the need to resolve. Why must we take stock? Why must we commit to making tomorrow better? Why is there an innate, as well as an overt need, to consecrate your efforts and decide.

Earlier I used to believe that decisions set you free. I dislike uncertainty. But now I wonder what is wrong with not doing anything, not deciding anything. It is so much less tiring to let life just dribble whichever way it wants to and not actually make one’s mind up regarding anything at all. I am feeling sick and sleepy and I just want to curl up now and sleep and wake up in 2050.

2009 promises to be a year of some hard decisions. And I am getting a taste of that now already. I hope there was some way in which I could slink out of a whole lot of situations and let someone else do the deciding…maybe someone nice who bakes raisin bread for a living. They seem to be hearty and wholesome. That’s what I need. Moments and experiences that are soft, fuzzy, warm and wholesome. Not brittle, bright, jagged and sharp. Yes, those times have been fun, but now I feel like I have had enough.

I am tired.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


This post is about an unexpectedly delicious combination I came across today. But first about my tooth - not because it's related, but because it makes me look like a martyr and I love that role. A couple of days ago it (the tooth, that is, not the role) was killing me - and I don't mean figuratively. I think there's some nerve that connects a tooth to the 'sanity' portion of the big noodle. And this nerve, in my case, had gone berserk. But yesterday, when I just couldn't see or even breathe anymore, I went to the dentist and I am much, much better.

My tooth is still tender and I can't really chew on anything very hard. So I ordered a butter sada dosa in my canteen. Our canteen guy makes few things really well (the others I think are being used for the Mumbai Metro work) and dosas is one of them. And because he was out of nariyal chutney, he gave me some sweet curd - the kind that is served with sabudana khichdi. Together, they were excellent!

My tooth and I are happy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Endymion weekend

Last weekend I had driven to Murud Janjeera with my roomies and another friend. No biggie, except that I drove all the way there and…get this…all the way back. Alone. By myself. Solely.

Again, no biggie, since it’s only 165 kms or so from here. But only a couple of months ago, I was scared of taking the car out to the market place. So it was a definite challenge for me to drive on highways, through crowded village roads and, at one point, reverse on a slope (I still break out in a sweat when I think of that). Now that the trip is behind me, I feel…umm…strange. There’s a weird, unknown, vague feeling of happiness. I guess, after a long, long time, I’m feeling proud of myself.

I must say, I had great company on the trip. Friday night, they insisted that I go to bed early, shutting off lights, tucking me into bed and making me cheese and chilly sandwiches the next morning.

Our trip to Murud was really cool. We listened to radio at 5:30 in the morning, and from what we heard, I think we had stumbled upon the Nadeem-Shravan-Kumar Sanu channel. They were playing that whole spate of songs from the era when Mahesh Bhatt still made movies. It was pretty nice, but unfortunately, the driver never gets to listen to her choice of music. So, although I would have liked to listen to Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, my roomie started singing a perfectly horrible song from Ashoka. (I don’t remember this song but it is so ridiculous that it could have been part of the movie – it goes, “Aa taiyaar ho ja, aa aa taiyyar ho ja…”. Apparently, this song comes on when Shah Rukh prepares for the Kalinga war…actually, no not Shah Rukh, but King Ashoka…he he! a little humour there, see..)

Anyway, one of my friends was dressed in a cute, teal-colored fringe top and another one was wearing a pretty smouldering safari skirt. Now, such attire had a pretty interesting effect on people who served us in pokey-little eateries. They would clamour around and open long forgotten cupboards to pull out tea cups and saucers…because these madams could not be served in regular chai glasses. That was funny.

We had pretty good brekkers – I liked my crisp vadas and soft idlis, but what I was eyeing very longingly were my friends’ huge platters of masala omlettes. They looked so tasty, all spiced with turmeric, and chopped onions, chillies and tomatoes. I tried very hard to savour my medu vada the way my friends were wolfing down their eggs, but it wasn’t very convincing. I just sighed very loudly every few minutes. Nope…I’m not a very nice dining companion when there’s non-veg food on the table.

Oh, and there was a beautiful detour. Just before Alibaug, we took a wrong turn and drove on a narrow muddy strip. After a bit it was clear that we were headed the wrong way, so we stopped by a little stream to ask for directions. That stream was thickly shadowed by trees and lined with big, brown rocks were speckled with sunlight – that place looked straight out of a storybook. I half expected a badger to come out of somewhere and invite us to tea.

There were some washerwomen and some men hacking coconuts from trees. That moment, right then, with the cold stream water under our feet and a sunny sky over our heads and the smell of a happy balminess all around, that moment – felt green. Leaf green. As if, that little slice of our lives were tightly wrapped in a bit of betel leaf and tucked away for ever.

What’s more – we bought ourselves some coconuts and slurped them sitting on rocks and dipping our feet in the cool stream. It was so idyllic. Us having our coconuts and my cute, blue car winking in the sunlight beyond.

When we reached Alibag, we decided to make a stop at the fort. Now, everyone had different reasons for going there. The more ditzy amongst us just jumped out of the car on seeing horse carts, another one wanted to know the ‘history’ (pffft!)…but me…ever the one with above-average depth wanted to go there because the fort was called ‘Kolaba’ (my most beloved place in the whole world – marginally more than Bandra. In fact, if I had been able to afford a SKODA, I’d have called it Colaba. Because I got a Swift, I named it ‘Bandra’. I think of everything.)

This fort is really pretty. There are places inside the fort that have ‘Jai Bhavani’ temples. Some of them are not more than small clearings with stone statues overgrown with thistles. But they are decorated with marigold and smeared with sandalwood and that seems to lend a certain civility to the whole thing. But the most interesting part of that place were huge brightly coloured walls that were almost crumbling down. They were in bright glossy blue (a blue where indigo, violet, and turquoise got into a fight and lay splayed and splattered), Jaipuri pink and capsicum green. All of these walls formed a backdrop for some outrageous poses that we captured on camera…lending a different meaning to guerrilla tactic.

Finally, after driving through Kashed and wondering why our respective companies couldn’t open an outfit on that beach, we reached Murud. As we didn’t have any reservations, we couldn’t get those charming cottages by the sea. So we settled for one BIG room with one BIG bed for 500 bucks some 5 minutes from the beach. We got our luggage into the room, told each other that we must leave for the beach right away, and promptly sunk into the sleep of death for the next 4 hours.

I can’t explain that sleep – it was so dreamless and soft. And feathery and satisfying. It felt as if the light that shone outside dusted itself off before it came into our room. It was pleasantly cool and dark, yet we knew that we weren’t losing time because it was still bright outside. It was a sleep that filled our bellies and kept away any niggling doubts or unpleasant thoughts or unfinished lists. It was a sleep where portions of us became whole again.

When I woke up, I found that that the people I had travelled with had somehow regressed to a pretty disturbing state of childhood. Two of them were yelling and throwing pillows at each other, and another one was probably scaring away Satan by singing in the bathroom. They were having fun – so I was informed rather curtly when I looked alarmed.

Anyway, we headed to the beach soon after, carrying our purple mat with us. Now, this purple mat has an interesting story. I had got it with me because I thought I’d do some suryanamaskars in the day. But I never got around to that. My roomie then wanted to borrow it so she could do her tarot readings on that. But she found she was more comfortable on the cool marble floor. The other roomie, on the other hand, prudently decided to use it as bedding when guests came over. And that’s how it has been used ever since.

Of course, now the mat seemed to be on the threshold of assuming a new avatar – a happy beach accessory instead of a rebuked spiritual prop. And, maybe I’m imagining things, but it looked happy. Since my body was still a little stiff from all that driving, I’d decided to pass up on the swimming. I’d decided to sit on the shore and watch waves after waves just wash up and recede and not get in there to feel the thrill of being one with the sea. That’s what I’d decided.

And what did I know?

My other friends who were wearing their swimsuits waded in and splashed around and all…and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I just dove in and started swimming. I couldn’t let the small matter of not wearing a swimsuit come in the way of such pure joy!

The sand was clean and soft. It wasn’t as gravely as the strip in Juhu (and perhaps I sound like the regular Bombay hick – but to me, Juhu is a beach). And I felt the waves just come up to me and take me away like the meaning of a poem – something you probably learnt as a child, but understood years later. Like the sense and strength of that line – A thing of beauty is a joy forever…The waves just felt like that. There was a bizarre craving… of wanting to get subsumed by a huge colossal wall of water descending on you…or that brilliant feeling of lightness when you are floating on your back and you get lifted so high that you feel you’ll be able to peep over a palm tree now…that surreal moment when you become a mote in a stream of something large and seamless and…you dare to hope…eternal.

A couple of hours later, the sun began to set. A few hours after that, a wee mole of a moon came out. And even later, the vivid blue-black sky shattered with a few dozen fireworks.

Time stripped the canvas around us to paint something different and phenomenal in the course of an evening. And whilst all this was happening, we sat huddled on our purple mat, shivering the breeze and sipping hot cups of ginger tea.

Some of us just took in the satiety of a perfect trip and sighed. Some clicked the blitzes for posterity. Some wondered how, in this huge world and this mammoth planet, there was a miniscule piece of earth that had four blissfully happy hearts.

Some silently raised a toast to Keats - for reassuring the world that they would never lose sight of their constellation of memories; for writing '...A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'