Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Eating mangoes and thinking hard

April has almost strided across the year. However, I hadn't yet eaten the season's offerings of mangoes yet. I was saving my appetite for some special occasion - like when I'd go to Haji Ali and have mangoes and cream there. It is sublime. So sublime in fact, that it is fitting that this dessert should be served outside a shrine.

Anyhow, one evening as I walked back home, I saw a pile of golden yellow mangoes. They looked all luscious and enticing - like the ones that get illustrated in Amar Chitra Katha. So I took a few. On tasting them, though, it was a whole different story. They were unevenly tart and insipid. Maybe if you quickly gulped water after a piece and squeezed your eyes shut, you'd find them sweet.

I was thinking of chucking the whole lot but mum had other ideas. When I came back from office, I got offered a bowl of chilled diced mangoes in condensed milk. The tartness of the fruit actually helped the cause of the dessert here. It can get really cloying otherwise.

In any case, I had an idea for a cookbook. It will be a sort of a twitter cookbook. From  the listing of ingredients to the preparation to the garnish - everything should fit into a tweet. So, it will basically ensure that dishes are simple and hopefully quick and painless.

I was really pleased with the thought. Not sure if the idea appealed to me so much or it was that lovely dessert. Both brought me joy and that's enough for now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sweet Endings

Last night, my mother, her maid, and I went off for a late night coffee. (Since this is Pune, and in Pune –BANER – late night was ten-thirty.) We’d earlier made a trip to DMart which is never a pleasant experience. I don’t understand those plastic tabs they tie around the zipper of a purse. Some purses, like mum’s, is put inside a dark carry bag and then a plastic tab is tied around the zipper. (Because they know how we are – so ready to steal everything that’s decrepit and nauseous...or, as they call it at DMart – inventory.)

Once inside, you go on a rather inconvenient treasure hunt to find sugar, flour, rice, and salt. These items, which are routinely bought, are tucked away in some corner of the store that even rats have written off as remote. At easy access, though, are sauces and ketchup bottles that were manufactured during the ketchup boom – that golden period when they were used in Mithun’s movies as fake blood. Also to be found as soon as you enter are various kinds of custard powders, other than the plain, simple, regular one, of course.( For any condiment or dessert mix that does not have elaichi, mango, or ‘zaffran’, one needs to write a petition to DMart owners and get it signed by 100 people.) You may also find some refugee-spirit infused vegetables. Although, I’m not sure if they can be called ‘vegetables’ if they are in that state of soft mulch that remind you of an earthworm’s insides (or outsides, for that matter).
DMart keeps things exciting by giving its staff excellent training on the disappearing act. If you cannot find the sugar or milk, you decide to look around. You think you will find a staff member who wears a vest the color of old blood stain. He or she will have a badge saying ‘Can I help you?’ You will sweetly ask, “Where’s the milk?”  You will be told where the milk is. You will go to the specified aisle, get the milk with the happy cow on it, and smile to yourself. That’s what you think would happen. But you are a stupid lout for thinking that way and DMart ensures that such loutism does not go unpunished.

Instead, this is what will really happen.
You will remember that you need milk just as it’s your turn at the till. Your mum will ask you if there is milk at home. (The tone will suggest that there isn’t so you can’t fake an answer.) You tell her to start billing the other items while you pick up a carton of milk instead. You get into the aisle that says ‘Milk Products’. You won’t find it there. You try another aisle that says ‘Dairy’ and wonder why that’s not a part of ‘Milk Products’ or vice versa. Here you will find towels instead. You may take a moment to snicker. You’ve just conjured up, in your mind, an image of Cleopatra bathing in water but toweling herself in a Turkish wrap that secretes asses’ milk. Since you will be giggling to yourself at this point, people around you will move away a little. You still haven’t found the milk. So you decide to ask the staff.

You turn to the left and you turn to the right. You think you see them behind bottles of Coke a few meters away. You dash there but instead find an aunty heaving a watermelon. You swivel around when you think you’ve spotted a blob of red from the corner of your eye. You dash there too. You run like the wind. You are alone and helpless. You are, in fact, Vidya Balan in Kahani.
Alas, no staff.

Your head’s in a tizzy. You get worried for your mother who will be lost and lonely without you (whilst trying to shove aside the reality that she’ll be sipping lemonade at the stall outside, chatting up someone).
By now, you start seeing splotches of that maroon-brown-red everywhere. You run here and there. You even pass the aisle that has…gasp…milk. But you are so feverishly obsessed with locating the staff that what you needed the staff for is not important anymore.

All in all, you lose. You won’t get the milk. You will have to buy it from the nearby dairy.
Anyhoo. Back to the late night coffee.

I was in such a sullen mood after the experience that I even said no to fried potatoes for dinner. Mum got really worried and asked me if I had constipation. (Now, this is a very odd thing with my family – close and extended. The diagnosis for everything boils down to bowel movement. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising since the panacea for everything boils down to food. If ingestion is a big part of mental make-up, can excretion be far behind?)

I said no. She suggested we head out for a drive and maybe get some coffee somewhere. For ideas and plans like this, I love Linger On. I absolutely adore that cafĂ©. It’s small and cute, their coffees are good, their masala chai is excellent, and their food – well, not a lot of places do tofu as well as they do. They have books and board games, helpful staff that help tide over the slow service, and good music.

We went there and mum spotted a Snakes and Ladders game. The three of us played and I won! Also, because we were the last customers, Linger On gave us a slab of Kiwi cheesecake to sample.

We sat there chatting. Mum suggested we try making the cheesecake at home. To do this, we’ll need a lot stuff that we’ll have to get from DMart. (How we can expect to get kiwi in a place where laukis are thrown in the ‘Exotic Vegetables’ section is beyond me.) I pretended not to listen and browsed through ‘Surviving Men’ instead.
The shutters came down and as we left, we saw a thin, silver moon in the sky.

Some days take you through so much crap. But they bid you goodnight in style and you wait to do it all over again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

And that was the day today

There is someone with who there has been some misunderstanding. (I hesitate to use the word 'friend' here and 'acquaintance' seems trite.) I thought it was all under control, we had cleared the air, but then I got an email from him stating that I had made a demeaning comment about him. It was the most outrageous statement - that I had criticized him because of the way he looked. This issue is particularly horrible because looks is something I myself have come to terms with, over the years. I would never call someone ugly and or judge people based on their complexion. Initially, I was extremely upset about this. Mainly because I thought the person was a friend and it's horrifying how little someone can know you. Then, I got furious and concluded that people are usually very possessive about their hang-ups. One cannot compete with their rationalizations about them. And if they have low self-esteem, well, they have worked very hard to earn it. So, good luck to them.

Until that point, I was wondering why those comments were bothering me so much. Yes, they alluded to a shriveled, mean mindset - which I avoid having. Or they point to a completely wayward, sloppy upbringing - which again, I don't have. Then, since I am so fond of lathering myself in guilt, I wondered if I had actually said something that may have pointed to that. I tried putting myself in the person's shoes, going over conversations, and wondering what could have possibly been construed to mean, "You're bad because you're ugly and you're ugly because you're dark." Of course, I came up with a blank. But then I realized why I was so upset. Not because of what the person had accused me of. But because of the way he had behaved after the perceived insult.

If I were in his place, if I had to feel so badly about something a friend said, I'd have spoken with him or her. Fairly. And now, based on the stuff I have actually been through, I know that about myself. I speak fairly. I try and sort things out, and despite a few relationships that have fallen on the wayside, I do try and make things work. I would never just accuse someone and then arrogate myself to the position where I say, "Okay, now defend yourself." (Not anymore at least).

Now, I do realize that it isn't correct to expect people to be like oneself. After all, I am hardly as gracious as many others who have been part of my life. But the one thing I do insist on is a modicum of respect. And when you judge someone so harshly, we can safely assume that respect is in a state of complete atrophy.

Sometimes, I think I make such a big deal out of friendship and love. Maybe I should just cherish whoever I can have an open and honest communication with, and who can have an open and honest communication with me. Whether it's the chick on the bike who showed me her finger, whether it's the guy at Karol Bagh who said I had a nice smile, whether it's my mum, or my ex, or my boss, or my neighbor or my maid...I think I'll just have those people in my inner circle.

I reckon I must collect my own little humanity - no great qualities required. Just a group of people who will talk and listen to me. Even without involving love or friendship.    

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thoughts...or rather, thought

I'm dashing off a quick post this morning, listening to my mother change her plans every minute. It was her birthday day before and we had a big family dinner last night. My niece and nephew were here and we played some word games. Or rather, I played. The kids were really kicked with my typing speed so they just wanted to watch me type.

I wanted to write about some other stuff but I woke up this morning and I realized that I really like him:

So, I woke up this morning with this thought: I really like him.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Musings on being long and lean

I wonder what I will write today. I think my existence is getting really bloated. I need to trim it down. I feel really bloated too. Two days ago, my pair of white jeans didn’t fit me. I felt really sad about that. The fact that they were an expensive pair of Calvin Klein’s had something to do with it, of course. But more than that, it was a reminder of haphazard, undisciplined living. (By the way, wasn’t ‘indisciplined’ a word? I tried to type it out but it’s getting auto-corrected to ‘undisciplined’.) So, I’ve been eating carefully since the last two days. No rice, only chapattis, and a fairly early-ish dinner. Two days later, the jeans fit. Still snug and not really worthy of tucking in shirts. But I believe I will get there if I keep at this.

Someone needs to whip crack and get me into shape. My life into shape. For the longest time, I’ve believed that life, time, all of that good stuff, is like water. It will swell and find its own level. Now I think there has been enough of that ‘finding own level’ nonsense. Now, it’s time to put it into a rigid, tall, lean casket. The water needs to be contained. And a long and lean container appeals to me. In time, I hope to become a long and lean container.

Long and lean, by the way, is my preferred silhouette. I think that’s a great shape to be. Of course, it’s not the most ‘delectable’ shape. Maybe petite and curvy is sex kitten-ish. But who wants to be sexy when you can be exalted? When a woman is tall and slim – reed slim, no hips, no waist, no noticeable breasts – I think she’s descended from some supremely privileged gold-club. In the hollows of her collarbones, in the sharpness of her shoulder-blades, in the sweet imprints of her rib-cage – I see a sense of blurred, shadowy art. If I were a guy, I’d go for a woman like that. She’d make me feel like aspiring for all that is good and worthy. That’s probably why I love, love, LOVE Deepika Padukone. As long as there are people in the world who look like her, I think it’s all going to be okay.

As a woman, though, my favorite body type to aspire for, is sporty. Like I’d love to have Venus William’s body or a swimmer’s body. Where strength and stamina just oozes out of every pore. There’s something about the way she moves on court that is so feral. Like with every swing of her strong arms, with every flex of her sinews, she’d get nature to do her bidding. She’s as graceful as a storm too. And as fascinating as the sea.  Those long, strong legs.

I should put together a sharp regimen and follow it through for 40 days. Here’s what it will possibly look like:

  • 2 hours of yoga every day
  • 1 hour of meditation
  • No salt or sugar in food
  • No tea or coffee
  • Dinner before 7 p.m.
  • Wake up by 4 a.m.
  • 10 hours of sleep (not all at the same time. Maybe with a siesta worked in.)

I’ve realized that sleep plays a really important role in getting and staying in shape. Often, I find, that if my body hasn’t had enough sleep for many days, it slowly gives up on me to provide it rest. So it starts looking for substitutes – like food, jerks to argue with, good people to perceive as jerks and then argue with them, fears and phobias, etc. I feel bad for my body then. It goes around like a wastrel, looking for scraps of solace when a bed, pillow, and blankets will do the trick.

It amazes me how I don’t have a fantastic figure with the amount of wisdom built into my head. So, while I wait for time and tide to behave itself and get streamlined (or for the whip cracker to emerge), I’ll keep my blog posts free-flowing. I’ll write what I feel like, when I feel like. Structure will come to writing when structure comes to life.

I’m so smart. I think I deserve a flat tummy.

Colour blue

It’s strange…how even changing the font style can make you want to write something different. Actually, it’s not all that strange. I remember how, as a child, the color of the ink would determine what I wrote. If the ink was black, I’d write something formal and erudite – a report, maybe. If it was green, then something nasty, like gossip. Red was for stern stuff like warning school friends against their respective boyfriends. (I had dubious motives. More time with those guys meant less time with me.)Pink was for poetry or song lyrics or valentine musings. Blue, though,blue was for everything.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence. If it is, it’s quite a marvelous one. Blue is the color of the sky, the tint of the ocean, the hue of blood that’s refined over years and years. As with nature, so with ink. Blue is for everything.

Websites that don’t want to stand out remarkably are blue. When you want to be formal but not pick black, you pick blue. Blue is soothing. Blue is safe.

When you’ve lived through a sufficient amount of time, when memories get ambitious enough to become hopes, and when aspirations get laidback to become memories – and melancholy swathes over…when you feel low or sad, you feel blue. Because when you feel sad and when you feel blue…you pretty much feel everything.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

And because it happened a second time

Usually, I write about the first rains. Then, I write about the next significant rains. The other ones in between are met with my deepest gratitude but that's it.

Today, it rained a second time here. Plump, cold drops. Thick, mousse-moist winds. Tree-tops that jangled and cavorted in bunches of yellow flowers, orange buds, pink blooms, and scarlet hibiscus. There were trembling, green, lush leaves too. There was a blanket of hopeful grey in the sky. There was the promise of deep, drenched mud on the ground.

And from the terrace I saw it all and wondered, "How do you get so stunning?"

The world stayed quiet. And the rain came down.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sudden, wild, true

Walking past kings
Saluting these knaves
Trying to pull out the sea
From these mighty waves

To capture poetry that crushes and symphony that stains
And other impossibilities of mad April rains

(There was a storm today and it was delicious. We feasted on the skies, got drunk on rain, and burped at the moon.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back under the sun

I am back in Pune after a trip to the United States. It feels very good to be back home. However, New York is the quickest any city felt home to me. A place where I knew nobody but where I felt I knew every space. The people I met were strangers. But the subways I traveled in seemed familiar. I must thank a lifetime in Bombay for that.

Comparisons are odious. But inevitable. Ever since I was little, I’d heard that there was a place in U.S. that was similar to Bombay. And since I loved Bombay, naturally I’d love any city that resembled it.

My first impressions of New York City are, therefore, not objective. They come tainted with overspilled love. It’s a beautiful city, no doubt. But similar to Bombay? I’m not so sure. New York seems far too posh for that. It seems like a city you work to belong to. From my travels to the States, I somehow feel that, vibe-wise, Los Angeles is more like Bombay than New York. New York is too ‘fine’, I think. Too sharp and precise. Neatly turned out, edgy yet poised. Mannered and measured.

Bombay is not at all like that. It’s got chaos and sweaty grinning mayhem all the way. Some portions are eyesores but captivatingly so. In fact, I fell in love with Los Angeles because I found it to be similar – a sweet, candid ‘In your face’ atmosphere. It could very well be the sun. Maybe I find the comparison between Bombay and New York a little farfetched now because I can’t imagine Bombay without sunlight. Whether the sun is searing or soothing, it doesn’t matter. If in Bombay, will sweat. New York, on the other hand – man, that city makes you huddle and sprint for warmth! When I visited Los Angeles, it wasn’t cold. You didn’t have to wear jackets or scarves or mufflers or gloves. In fact, you sweat! You just shoved yourself in whatever thin, cotton clothes you found and went your way. So, of course, you didn’t find the careful style on the streets that the roads of New York have. But you found something else…something that you find on the streets of Bombay. Not just in clothes, but in mannerism as well. Something that I’d like to call the ‘cool uncouth’.

What to do? Maybe the sun makes us this way.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

April, our April

The April wind was wet with tears
The stars had shed the night before
The April sun was pruned of verse
And shone down, instead, with celestial lore

Shivering gods and  petals bright
Danced the April tune that night
And when dawn got peeled back onto the sky
The dances stopped, the gods did sigh.

April being the month of storm
For mortal ones, for those beyond,
Second-guessing immortal times
With brass bells and copper chimes

The month of so much that was wrought
Sometimes we learnt, at times we taught
Yet, strangely, the April month went by
Gods remembered us, yet we forgot.