Friday, November 28, 2008

Good Old Days

I think we were a happier lot when there was just one channel to contend with. Doordarshan. We only got 30 minutes or so of news per day. An hour at most, if you added up the different language bulletins. These last 60 hours or so have been harrowing, to say the very least. But these news channels have been driving me crazy. Why is there no law that censors what these guys show? We can get into lengthy debates over some woman's short skirt and whether it was appropriate or not. But there's nothing to stop these stupid journalists from asking the following:

"Do you think the terrorists are able to view the footage that we are broadcasting?"

There should be no need for the entire nation to know what the NSG plans to do and how. Giving out detailed descriptions is like telling the terrorists, "Be prepared, this is what is going to happen next."

"There's a helicopter over Nariman House and it looks like the commandos are going to enter the building from above."

Or, "The commandos could go up this building or they could use this one. We have no information on what the POA is."

Why? Why do you even need a censor board? I'd assume these people have brains and maybe some common sense. But it appears my assumption is doing exactly what it is meant to: Making an ASS of U and ME.

To top it all, these people are completely insensitive. Our almost world famous (and also heartless) journalist, Ms. Dutt, asking someone whose husband was stuck inside the building, "How are you feeling?" is the sickest thing to do, IMHO. What did you expect for an answer? "I didn't like him that much anyway and I'm happy he's inside."? If you can't sympathize or empathize, maybe you can at least learn to keep your big mouth shut.

Everyone has now forgotten the Arushi Talwar murder case. But the same journalist had the family of the accused Krishna on TV and asked, "क्या आपको लगता है आपके भाई पर ग़लत आरोप लगाया जा रहा है? क्या आप मानते हैं की आपका भाई निर्दोष है?" (Do you feel your brother is being framed? Do you believe your brother is innocent?) What on earth was she expecting for an answer? "Yeah, my brother has been a murderer since his childhood, so this is really no surprise."

Call the whole world into your studio. Fight over who gets the bigger stars. People, who in my opinion, couldn't care less about anything unless they were directly affected. All because you think your TRPs will go up. Then, in the name of direct fearless media, ask stupid questions and keep butting in when someone is trying to talk, be extremely rude to people who may be your grandparents' age, keep pushing your opinions (and make us wonder why you called those "experts" in the first place), get into a shouting match and force us to turn off the television. Because while we've taken many steps forward, and know that the television is a great tool, you're hell-bent on making us realize that it is, after all, an idiot box.

And you do nothing but sensationalize news. Show us gory pictures over and over again. You've been a perfect vehicle for the terrorists. They laid out the bait for you and you're happily eating out of their hands. You forgot to mention, even in passing, that people died in large numbers due to Cyclone Nisha. But you remembered to mention that some cricket matches have been affected thanks to this violence.

Get real guys. Get some common sense. Above all else, get a heart.

The colour of conscience

Apartheid. We read about it in school. Grew up and learnt about it more through books and the media. We stood up for what was wrong. We supported the fight to end it. We even celebrated the end of Apartheid as we knew it.

In 1974, India came very close to wining the Davis Cup. As a nation, we decided to boycott the finals as South Africa was the other finalist. Why? Because that was our way of showing our support to the thousands of people who, in the words of Vijay Amritraj, “struggle of the non-white people of that country for what the rest of the world takes for granted”. They were people in another continent. They were struggling so far away. It could have been a different planet for all we cared. But there were Indians there (regardless of why they landed up there in the first place) and that made some difference. And even if there weren’t any Indians, we may still have supported the cause of people who were being discriminated against. Could it be that we had a collective conscience?

What has changed since? Nothing has changed really. Today, we are happy that Obama has become the president of the United States. We have followed American history quite well. We know the struggle of that nation’s people and share their happiness. We know that "Rosa sat so Martin could walk...Martin walked, so Obama could run...Obama is running so our children can fly!"

We are more concerned about what happens in some corner of the world. And we’re totally indifferent to our immediate surroundings. Is that it? We boycotted the Davis Cup final because we didn’t want to play South Africa. But we play cricket, every other day it seems, with our dear neighbours. Are we so indifferent to our own people? Or is it that cricket rules over all else? I hear people say, ‘I can’t miss an India Pakistan match ever.” So, we can choose not to play against a country that practiced whatever it did within its four walls, so to say, but we cannot choose not to play against a country that has robbed us of our peace of mind, has made our nights sleepless, has left many of us homeless, and has snatched away so many loved ones. Why don't we take a stand?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day in the Life of...

I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked down the Colaba Causeway, or sat outside the Taj looking at the Gateway of India and watching the pigeons, or sipped a fresh lime soda at Café Leopold while waiting for my cousin who worked across the street, or waited at VT for a train back home after a long day at work, or eaten my lunch in 5 minutes flat so I could use the remaining portion of my lunch hour to check out the Oberoi shopping arcade. Not even once did I think that that might be the last. I am sure that no one else did either. They were all caught unawares. I wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time yet again, but someone else was.

In our hearts, we pray for such things to stop, but can we be sure that they will? When we step out for our morning walks, we tell ourselves "It is a beautiful day", but can we be sure that it really will be? All the things that we took for granted until now, can we ever be really sure of those again? I am angry, sad, furious, depressed, and pained, but above all of this, I am trying to be hopeful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple Pleasures: Visiting Friends

When I was growing up, we didn’t have guests who dropped in for tea very often. Somehow, even though we were a rather social family, the “let’s go visit with XYZ as it has been a long time” thing didn’t happen with us. (We just visited friends and relatives from time to time. Neighbours dropped in often and we dropped in at their places too.) To my uncle and aunt in Bangalore, it was really their lifeline. To me, it seemed almost ritualistic. It didn’t seem like they really had much to discuss or talk about. Even the gossip was minimal. But the visits took place on a regular basis. Even at my maternal grandparents’ place in Bombay, there always seems to be a flurry of activity. Somebody or the other always seems to be dropping in at tea time. It is one of those things they took for granted. One of those things that was always so alien to me.

Last week, a dear friend told me that she’d been unwell for over a week. Now this friend lives just across the street from where I stay. I decided to visit her the next day. I spent a good two hours at her place. We talked about a lot of things, and her illness was not really what we were discussing. As I walked back from her house to mine, I couldn’t help but notice how pleasant the evening had been. It reinforced my belief that we live for these simple pleasures. I am certain my friend enjoyed the evening too. We didn’t go to a pub or a disco. We didn’t hit the malls. We didn’t sit down with a cocktail each. We just talked and laughed some. But it was a great evening. A lot of people say very proudly, “I hardly know my neighbours” or "I barely meet my friends" or (the most common) "I have no time". It doesn’t take much to get to know your neighbours or stay in touch with friends.

Is this sense of formality ruling our lives? We wait to be invited and expect folks to come over only when we invite them. Or is it that we treat everything as though it were an invasion of privacy? Do we think we are intruding on their private space? If only we’d care enough to reach out, we’d probably enrich our lives as much as the other person’s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Music Me-Me

My namesake tagged me to do this me-me. She thinks that just because I have another blog called The Singing Chef, music must always be on my mind.

The rules are:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

This is a tough one. Really! I can’t remember the last time I specifically played music to listen. I go to work in a car pool and it is Radio City all the way. They play the latest blockbusters in the morning and the evening is usually a repeat with some old (read 90s) songs thrown in. At the gym, it is a CD of songs from Bachna Ae Haseeno and Jaane Tu that seems to rule. There are times when S and I are in the car and that is probably when I get to listen to music from our collection.

In random order:

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane by John Denver. This is probably the one song S and I can call “ours”. The first time that S visited me in Bangalore and proposed to me, he sang this song when he left at 4 a.m. to catch his flight back to Delhi. Since, we’ve sung this at numerous karaoke evenings, we’ve requested this song endlessly on Radio City (and they’ve obliged), we’ve even sung it on our honeymoon (at the restaurant with the group that was there serenading us!)

I beg your pardon by Lynn Anderson. It is an amazingly catchy number with fantastic, far reaching lyrics. You have to listen to it to know what I mean.

Maa from Taare Zameen Par. I cried when this song came on in the movie. I’m not sure I know anyone who didn’t. I love love love this song.

Mausam Hai Aashiqana from Paakezah. I am probably the biggest Lata Mangeshkar fan alive. I know most of her famous, not so famous and unknown songs by heart. Most of my singing in public is limited to Asha’s numbers, but this Lata number is what I’ve been humming everyday in the monsoons. I’d count this as my all time favourite. The lyrics, the music, and that unforgettable rendition.

Mamma Mia by Abba. This was probably “the” song for me. A song that had so much in it as a lesson for me. A lesson I stubbornly refused to comprehend. In some naïve state, I believed that hoding on was better than letting go.

Aji Roothkar Ab from Aarzoo. I would imagine I love this song for the same reason as Mamma Mia. Plus, it is a Lata number. Could I ever ask for more?

Khulke Muskura Le Tu from Phir Milenge. I love all the songs from this film as much I love the film itself. The first few times I listened to this number, I cried bucket loads. Even now, I think its a great song to pep me up anytime I'm down. I like Bombay Jayashree's style of singing very much, but this song, I simply love. To me, it is much better than Zara Zara.

I can't think of 7 people who'd be willing to do this just because I told them to. Let me leave this open for anyone who's interested.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Life or Death

July 4 2002. I was riding my TVS Super Champ to work in Chennai. Just before the Kotturpuram bridge, I got caught in a jam. I was never one to weave through traffic, so I waited patiently as the July summer sun beat down on me. Suddenly, I heard the siren of a fire engine. People tried to move and make way. I moved completely to the side of the road. Then I noticed something that made me cringe. While a few of us moved to allow the fire engine to reach its destination, others quickly moved and filled the space we'd created. As a result, there was no way the fire engine could move quickly. I think we lost 15-20 minutes right there. When I got to work, I came to know that some hutments in Nandanam had burnt down. I wondered how much additional damage was caused by the insensitive behaviour of the people on the road.

This is not something I noticed after I started driving. It is something that has been irking me for years now. And I see it everyday. Regardless of the city I'm in. Whenever there's an ambulance or a fire engine trying to get to its destination, no one is interested in letting them pass. If some people make way, others fill that space. Or worse, they'll try and get behind that ambulance or fire engine in an attempt to get to their destination sooner. Yet if we're waiting for these services, we are so quick to say, 'Why can't these people get here sooner?'

I wonder about what is going to happen in those 5 minutes? To you, probably nothing. To the family waiting for the ambulance or the fire engine, those very 5 minutes could mean the difference between life and suffering, even death. Have the bulk of us really become so selfish, insensitive and hard hearted? Do we really not care at all?

Friday, October 17, 2008

A new first

For the very first time today, I drove on my own. I had a couple of choices. I could take public transport and after 2-3 changes, reach work. Or I could take the plunge, drop S at work, and take the car. With a little urging and a lot of, "Of course you can do it"s, I ventured out on my own. The high was like nothing I've ever experienced. I didn't think I'd even enjoy driving so much. I breezed through the National Highway 8, even touched 100kmph, reached the toll plaza to be greeted by a very pleasant attendant (it was almost as though he wanted to share my happiness), and reached work by driving through the horrible Outer Ring Road. Fortunately, I didn't stall even once on the 45 km route.

The journey back was quite different. I took the same route as I did in the morning. At one point, I'd already spent 1.5 hours in the car and wasn't even half way home. There was an accident on the road and it had blocked the traffic. It took me almost an hour to cross a 3-4 km stretch. Once I was out of there, it was a breeze again. I reached S' office and landed myself in a spot that I didn't want to be found in. After some manouevres that I would have considered complex even 24 hours before then, I managed to get out. All I wanted to do was celebrate my big first. But by the time we reached home, I'd already spent close to 3 hours driving non stop. While I was fully expecting my legs to ache, it was my head that gave me maximum trouble.

All said and done, I was thrilled. Thrilled to have successfully managed to get to and from work on my own. Thrilled to have not bumped into any car nor have anyone bump into me. (Those of you who've driven in the NCR will know that this IS a BIG deal!) I wasn't so thrilled at the guys who leered at me from passing cars, but it was better than what it may have been when I would have been standing at a bus stop trying to flag down an auto.

After driving around a little within Gurgaon and after never having driven the car with no one else in it, I figured I did know when to depress the clutch. (And to all people who believe the Tatas cannot make passenger cars that women can drive, I have to admit that I drive the Tata Indica Diesel with as much ease as I do a Santro Xing Petrol. Tata cars are not a pain to drive. Period!) After having been so used to riding a two-wheeler (including the big mobikes) for so many years, I finally managed to shift gears, quite literally.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Children of a Lesser God

I write this as I sit in front of the TV, watching the horrifying scenes. I wonder how they can do this again and again. One city after another. The time and place of attack seem to get "better" each time so that more people are shaken up, so that more people killed. Should I feel thankful that I decided not to go to my favourite Morning Stores at GK-I and went to sleep instead? Somehow I am not able to do that. Instead, I feel terrible about the folks that did choose to go and who may not be able to sleep again.

I have never understood how one person can bring himself/herself to take the life of another. When I read The Prisoner of Zenda, this sentence stayed with me: "You won't kill me unarmed?" cried Rupert, in alarmed scandalised expostulation. I altered my thinking a little bit then. Murder in cold blood is what I loathe the most.

Innocent people waiting at bus-stops, traveling in city buses, spending a weekend with their loved ones, going about their lives as normal have been attacked in each of our blasts. Having lived in the NCR for about 3-4 years in all, I know the significance of this weekend. The period of "shraadh" starts from Monday and local people do not make any purchases of any kind during this period. So people must have been out to finish whatever shopping they had pending so that they don't have to wait till Navaratri. What an outing it turned out be!

I wonder how the people who did this sleep at night. I wonder how they can take pride in such acts. I wonder how anyone can make a point in this manner. I wonder how taking lives of innocent people can ever be justified, however crooked one's sense of logic can be. Angry, sad, frustrated... I am not sure exactly how I feel right now. These people must be very ill, nothing else seems probable. I can only pray that these people see the enormity of the crimes they are committing. That they get cured of their illness. People who can take the life of others, especially in cold blood, must, according to my segmentation, be children of a lesser god.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Down the Memory Lane

We’re back. And I’m back here…after a very long hiatus. All my promises to myself and to my readers that I’ll be regular here have been forgotten. And I apologize for that. I’ve just been a little too busy over these past few months. I made a post when I had completed 51 weeks of marriage. As it turns out, we are 51 weeks into our second year of marriage today.

We took a much needed break and traveled to Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. Two weeks of meeting friends and family. There are loads of friends and family members that we weren’t able to meet. Two weeks spread across three cities just isn’t enough. I know there are lots of folks who’ll be upset that I didn’t even call. But I figured I can always call them from here. It is the getting together that matters. The “so much to do so little time” syndrome is something I identify with all too well at this point. On this trip, we met up with folks we hadn’t seen on any trip before this one and so ended up catching up with friends after a gap of two years. There were times when we did nothing and just chilled out at home, but that was also what this vacation was about.

We traveled by the much recommended first class AC compartment of the Rajdhani Express. It was nice that we had a coupe just for the two of us. But apart from that, it wasn’t great. The compartment was probably one of the first ones that rolled out of the ICF. You could tell that it had been painted and repainted many times over. The compartment had a plug point and since we were carrying our laptops, we watched Season Three of Three’s Company to help kill time. But the plug point came off as soon as plugged the power cord in. It worked till the end… so thank heavens. My glass had a dead cockroach stuck to the bottom and I returned it right away. For the remainder of the journey, the glass was not replaced. Not that it mattered. I wouldn’t have used it anyway. The service on the Rajdhani can be a little intrusive and the food is better than most train fare. But the fact that they serve sweetened curds with the meal means that they don’t read the comments on the feedback form one gives them anyway. I had given them a suggestion of serving plain curds with some sugar on the side.

Hyderabad was fun. It is a different thing that I don’t recognize the street I called home for years. Jubilee Hills is so commercialized now that it doesn’t even feel that residential anymore. Road No. 68 was a nondescript road for most part of the stay there. Now it almost seems like a mini Road No. 36. The flyover leading to Banjara Hills from Somajiguda has really helped cut down travel time, but traffic in Hyderabad is the same as before. As unruly and as disorganized as it used to be, with just far more cars on the streets. I didn’t get a chance to do much shopping, but I did pick up a lot of cotton outfits. Delhi seems to be moving away from cottons to synthetics and I have never been able to relate to that. We met some old friends and one new “couple” friend. The highlights of this trip were a family reunion and meeting a fellow blogger for the first time. We really hit it off and we spent an evening together and I got chocolate lessons. We did manage to go to the place where S spent his childhood. We wanted to have authentic biryani, but just didn’t get a chance. The train journey from Hyderabad to Bangalore was nice. We met this family and got talking. The usual, ‘Where are you from?” When I told them, the gentleman asked, “Has Chennai improved or not?” I asked, “Since when?” He said, “We had gone there a few months ago and it was not nice at all.” What fun! One can’t do much to change the weather in Madras, but as a city, it would win hands down and definitely when you’re comparing it to Hyderabad. (I love Hyderabad, but facts are facts.)

Bangalore was a different story. Fun and yet relaxing. The traffic is crazier than before, but the weather makes it all worthwhile. Walking around Sampige Road and 8th Cross a day before the Gowri Ganesha festival is a gentle reminder that some things will never change. And that is probably what I love best about Bangalore. I showed S several places which were linked to many childhood memories. We also met friends and family. Some planned, some totally by chance. I wanted to savour Chhole Bhature at Shiv Sagar (who IMHO makes the best Chhole Bhature… better than any stuff you can get north of the Vindhyas) but I had no time for that either. But we did manage a great meal at Little Italy to celebrate my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary.

Chennai was hot. Hotter than last September for sure. We celebrated Gowri Tritiya and Ganesh Chaturthi in Chennai. All my plans to wear sarees on all 5 days were thwarted by the heat and the fact that I only had silk blouses for the sarees I had left behind in Chennai. So, cotton salwar kameezes on 3 days and sarees on two was the best I could manage. I may be conservative but I somehow cannot understand how people come to these functions in jeans or with their hair left open or without wearing a bindi. I wouldn’t go to a puja dressed inappropriately. But that’s probably just me. Other than that, I gorged on amchi food for 4 days, enjoyed breakfast at Ratna Café and made full use of our time eating sambar vadais, sambar saadam and parotta kurma. I met a childhood friend whose trip to Madras and ours overlapped by a couple of hours. I’d not seen her in 11 years. What I didn’t do was to take S to IIT and show him around. Take him to my school, to Lake View Road where I spent the first 20 years of my life, to all those places that have made me who I am. On my next trip…

I’m happy to be back. I never thought I would be this happy to be back in Gurgaon. Being back at work, I can still understand. With a lot of happy memories and a few regrets, life is back to normal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plain old me(me)

Janani has tagged me for this me-me. She wants me to write about 6 quirks of mine. I don't even know where to start. The fear really is that if I start, will I be able to stop?

I have to think really hard to figure out what is really "quirky" about me. Everything that seems like a quirk to someone else must seem perfectly normal to me. Else, why would I be doing it? Anyway, here goes:

  1. I hate brushing my teeth. I still do it everyday, but I can put it off until the very last minute when I just "have" to. To distract myself, I stand at my window and brush my teeth.
  2. I wear a bindi at all times. Doesn't matter if I am in a saree or jeans. The size of the bindi may vary, but it will always be there.
  3. I can ride a bicycle for any distance without feeling fatigued, but find walking for more than 3 km draining.
  4. If I set my mind on something, I will find a way to do it. It could be jumping off a cliff into the Ganges or just sitting at home and doing nothing at all, all day long. If my heart's set on it, it shall be done.
  5. I am not remotely religious, but I have done the angapradakshanam at Tirupati. (I was just there to help my mother and ended up doing it.) That's how impulsive I can be.
  6. I hate hate hate when my name is misspelt or (worse still) mispronounced. I can be extremely sarcastic when someone calls me Anuriti, Anudati etc and teach them the spelling of my name.

The Meme rules --

Link the person who tagged you.
Mention the rules in your blog.
Describe 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs to inform them of having tagged them.

For this, I tag:
Rajitha, Sig, Kalai, Goutham, Divya, A-Kay.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I’ve noticed that…

  • The seat next to mine in a bus/plane is almost always empty.
  • The window seat is always taken by people who have no interest in looking out the window.
  • Courtesy and chivalry aren’t exactly dead.
  • A smile and some meaningless banter can really make someone’s day.
  • At times a smile is all there is between a complete stranger and a new friend.
  • Despite all the hullaballoo over the new international airports, the Chennai airport rocks.
  • However independent or grown up I might be, it still takes oodles of courage to say bye to my parents without crying.
  • I'd give anything to spend a quiet hour with my parents, my head resting on my mother's lap.
  • People you've never met can become good friends in just a day.
  • Regardless of how long I've been out, it feels great to be back home.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All things bright and beautiful

I never thought that a bottle of Evian could be the cause of so much heartburn. I never thought that a dinner party could leave so many people angry.

People seem to be slowly losing their sense of humour or misplacing it at the very least. I see a growing number that fails to see the humour, the real meaning behind the post, or the lighter side of things. Folks come here, read my posts, criticize, call me a cynic, take anything I say in my defence as proof that I cannot take criticism. Folks, who refuse to reveal who they are lest they should be traced, tell me that they fear meeting me because I may "find fault" with them. These people seem to pick on some one thing and beat it to death. They also say my posts say a lot about me. I'd expect they should, wouldn't you?

I am thankful for some friends I've made through this medium. I'm thankful for those who are able to see the lighter side of life because in my opinion (and that is really what this blog is about) that is the only way one can go through life without going insane. I laugh at situations and not at people. I vent out my frustrations and angst. Yes, I write a lot about people. It is the single most interesting subject to me apart from food. If I were to only write about all things bright and beautiful, my memoirs would be terribly lopsided, not to mention false. Yet, I look on the brighter side of things and am thankful for the readers that I have. You never know when a stranger can become a friend.

I hope that the folks out there who think I am judgmental and cynical would rediscover their sense of humour. I don't expect that everyone will find everything that happens in my life funny. But I do hope they allow themselves a good laugh every once in a while. To folks who take offence at just about everything I write, I can only say, "If the cap fits, wear it". In the words of Bugs Bunny, "Don't take life too seriously, no one gets out alive".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Book Talk

Continuing with the series of writing me-mes and completing tags, here's the second.

A-Kay from Lemon & Chillies tagged me this time. And true to the essence of the tag, I picked up a book (that my English teacher in school highly recommended) that I'd even forgotten I had.

The rules:

  • Pick up the nearest book.
  • Open to page 123.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the next three sentences.
  • Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

This passage is from Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham.

"I don't know what we shall do without you," said Mrs. Driffield. "We shall have to play dummy." I was glad that my going would break up the game.

Thanks A-Kay for making me get this book out of its slumber. I will read it when I'm done with my current read.

I'd like to tag Arundati, Nandita, Wooster, Janani and Pritika. I hope this makes you pick up a forgotten book and read it all over again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Table Talk Me-me

I have been tagged for countless me-mes over the past few months and I didn’t ever get down to looking at them, let alone do anything about them.

I’m going to start clearing the huge pile by taking one baby step at a time. I was tagged by Nandita of Saffron Trail sometime in May and so here goes:

What’s your favourite table?
The two's table! Or is it 5? No, 10. Oh, you mean that table. I think it must be that study table I have had for ages now.

What would you have for your last supper?

My mother’s pizza with all the toppings.

What’s your poison?

Water. I think I can drown in the amount I drink!

Name your three desert island ingredients.

Lots of water
Maggi Noodles with a stove and vessel
Britannia Bourbon (a girl’s got to have her dessert, you know!)

What would you put in Room 101?

Nothing really. It does have its own occasional visitors, but no permanent residents.

Which book gets you cooking?

Of late, it has been a book called “Favorite Vegetarian Dishes”. But any book with great pictures is enough to get me started.

What’s your dream dinner party line-up?

Friends & family.

What was your childhood teatime treat?

Amma’s Rava Vadai

What was your most memorable meal?
Eating rasam rice and potato curry with Sachin at home the day after he proposed to me. My apartment felt like “home” and we truly felt like a couple, sitting at the dining table and eating home cooked tambram food.

What was your biggest food disaster?

Attempting to make fruit buns from a Dalda Cook Book when I was in class 4 and making chikkis from some random cookbook in class 5.

What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

I was to meet a friend at a restaurant for lunch in Hyderabad but she insisted I come to her aunt’s place as the aunt had cooked her favourite dishes. The menu had mor kuzhambu, rasam, beans paruppu usli, potato curry and rice. Each dish was worse than the one that preceded it and what I was able to eat and “enjoy” was the curd rice with Priya pickles and the custard apple that we ended the meal with. (If people can’t cook, they shouldn’t invite others over.)

Who’s your food hero/food villain?

My mom and Tarla Dalal: biggest heroes.

Nigella or Delia?

Haven’t watched/read Delia. Have watched Nigella’s shows and bought her book recently. So, there’s no comparison really. I’ll update this after I’ve watched Delia’s show.

Vegetarians: genius or madness?

Depends on the circumstances.

Fast food or fresh food?

Fresh and fast. That's my mantra.

Who would you most like to cook for?
My family and friends.

What would you cook to impress a date?

Pasta and apple pie.

Make a wish.

May everyone in this world eat well and live well. Life is so short to suffer it through.

Let me tag some girls that went on a virtual marathon with me recently:

1. Srivalli of Cooking 4 all Seasons

2. Bhags of Crazy Curry

3. Ranji of Ranji's Kitchen Corner

4. DK of Culinary Bazaar

5. Lakshmi of The Yum Blog

6. Siri of Siri's Corner

7. Swati of Chat Khor

8. Divya Vikram of Dil Se

9. Arundathi of Arundathi's Food Blog.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Standing in supermarket queues is something my husband and I find very amusing. Last night, we were waiting in line at the local hypermarket and there were two girls standing right in front of us. From the things in their shopping cart and their general demeanour, I could tell that they were single and probably living together. As the billing commenced, one of the girls told the guy at the counter that she was going to open one of the items and that he should bill it nonetheless. She pulled out a bottle of Evian and opened it. I noticed another bottle of Evian and 4 bottles of Bisleri. I looked at my husband and raised my eyebrows. I mean, it was EVIAN. Then the girl took a sip and looked our way. We noticed that were spectacle frame had the words “Giorgio Armani” written on them. S and I began our “gossip” about single people, disposable income and how some people are so brand conscious that they’d pick Evian when they were thirsty.

Then while they were getting ready to make way for us, the other girl looked at the bill and told the guy there was a mistake. She’d bought water and two bottles of water couldn’t cost her Rs. 180, could they? The guy looked at her and said, “This is Evian, it is Rs. 90 per bottle ma’m.” She said, “Then I want to return it.” And the look on her face was almost as thought she’d drunk liquor by mistake or something. Of course, that meant another wait of 10 minutes as their items were rebilled.

The way the girl reached out for the bottle of Evian and gulped it down made me think that these two knew what Evian was (I mean, why else would you even pick a bottle?) and their reaction on knowing the price were so contrasting that I wish I’d been able to take pictures. In their hurry, they left the opened bottle of Evian on the counter. As we got ready to pay, one of them came running back and picked up her bottle. She must have wanted “rejuevianation”.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Idle Minds - Do they really exist?

I was at this potluck party recently. I only knew the hosts and none of the other guests. Since the host is someone who’d always been telling me that I always talk about cooking but that the proof of the pudding was really in the eating, I decided to take some baked goodies. Once there, I wondered how at all we fit in. We were the only working couple. In all the other couples, the men ran businesses of some sort and the women stayed home. I have nothing against women who stay home (or even men who stay home) but I wonder what they do with their time. My cousin was a stay at home mom or a housewife as we called them. But she took great pride in keeping a neat and clean house. She also cooked all meals everyday and dished out one delicacy after another. So, I somehow never wondered about what she did with her time. But these women I met stayed home all day and did nothing. They had maids to do the cleaning and cooks to take care of the cooking. I was the only one there who had bothered to make something by myself. The others either asked their cooks to prepare a dish or brought food from outside. During some conversations, I figured they didn’t even read. Their kids were all grown up and didn't seem to make any demands on the parents. These people didn't talk of any hobbies even when I uthe topic up. It got me wondering: what exactly do these people do all day? They were not doing social work of any sort. I stayed at home for 3 weeks without a job and it killed me. But I managed to do a lot. I cooked, I embroidered, I read (and I job hunted). I was newly married and most women I know even take a year off from work.

I digress. The point of this rant is to understand what these people do all day? I am extremely lazy. Left to myself, I’d do nothing at all. Believe me when I say I can vegetate in front of a TV or computer if I want to. But I doubt I can do it all the time. Actually I know I can’t. So I’m very curious to know what people do with plenty of time on their hands. (I’m not being judgmental here, I’m just being curious.) I'd imagine everyone would have to do something. Our minds can't really be idle, can they?

I found the evening amusing to say the very least. A couple of the ladies asked me if I could start baking classes. Some asked me when I planned to quit working. (I have no idea why!) One lady told me it was high time I had a baby! (She didn’t know me 60 minutes prior to making this statement.) Then there were the usual regionalistic statements.
“You’re a south Indian? But you don’t look so.”
“Your husband is a Punjabi for sure.”
“How come your Hindi is accentless?”
“All south Indians I have met are well baked.”
“Arundhati is a Bengali name.” (I can’t tell you how sick of this I am!)

I digressed again. All in all, the evening left me with just one question. When I would do anything to sneak in an extra hour or two in my day, what do these people do all day? Someone please write a book for me. “A day in the life of…”

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Sometimes you know someone for years and then realize you know nothing about them. At others, you know almost nothing and in one meeting you feel like you’ve known someone for years. How do you feel when someone you’ve met just once touches your life in a way you never thought possible? How do you feel when the lingering memory of that one meeting makes you want to go back and have a second interaction? How do you feel when you realize it is too late now and the second interaction can never happen? A bit cheated perhaps, angry maybe? A mix of both, maybe? I don’t know really.

I can only pray that his soul rest in peace.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Time flies

I started blogging because there was a lot of peer pressure. A lot of my very close friends had blogs and almost everyone thought I'd do a decent job of penning my thoughts. It has been a fantastic journey so far. I wrote about absolutely random stuff. From movies to politics to heartbreak and finally, love. There are still times when I desperately want to blog about something, but when I sit down to type, I forget all that I wanted to share with the world.

Somewhere along the way, I started a food blog. I didn't think it would even be one tenth as successful as it has become. I only meant for it to be a repository of the many recipes I've discovered or invented over the years. Instead it turned out to be so much more.

I still have random thoughts that strike faster than I can imagine. I resolved to keep this blog going this year and I am pretty sure nothing will change that.
And I will continue to sing, cook and share the music in my life with all of you. It feels like it was only yesterday that I began this journey. So much has changed since I set out on this path, yet so much remains as it is.

Happy Birthday OnlineRaga!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

I find that good English is getting more endangered with each passing day. As a recruiter, I feel the pain that this causes. I can't hire someone whose language skills are bad and that person doesn't get a chance to work with a company like ours. But what I see around me pains me more. There are companies that are willing to compromise on quality while hiring.

I tried to order flowers at and their site said that I'd have to place my order before 2 p.m. if I wanted a same day delivery. Although I'd taken care of that, the flowers didn't get delivered on time. (They refunded my money eventually, but that's a different story!) I tried to call their customer service centre to lodge a complaint and went through their IVRS. The usual rubbish: For English, please press 1. हिन्दी के लिए कृपया २ दबाएँ! I pressed 1 and got to this joker at the other end. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I'd like to cancel order no. xxxx. It was supposed to be delivered this evening, but it didn't happen.

He: Sorry ma'm. Your order no. xxxx is placed and will be delivered in 48 hours.

Me: But I wanted same day delivery.

He: The site is no provide guarantee.

Me: It said on the site that if I placed my order before 2 p.m. the delivery would be the same day.

He: We do not gives guarantee. Shipping in 48 hours. I can't able to cancel.

Me (exasperated): I need to speak with someone who can understand English please. Could you please transfer me to someone who knows English?

He (obviously miffed): I speak English Ma'm.

Me (having completely lost it): No, you think you do, but you really don't. I have no time to waste and would like to speak to someone in English.

He: It is not so great language. I speak.

Me: देखिये आप सोचते हैं की आप अंग्रेज़ी जानते हैं। क्या मैं आपके मेनेजर से बात कर सकती हूँ?

He: आपको हिन्दी आती है, हमसे बात कीजिये।

I was so irritated at the end of this. If I'd wanted to have a conversation in Hindi, I'd have dialled 2 to start with. But I doubt if they really care. I sometimes feel I may be the only one who's even bothered about any of this.

On a separate note, there's another advertisement on TV for Virgin mobile where a "Mahalingam" calls in response to an ad in the paper. When will it end?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Stereotypes are here to stay

Stereotypes are here to stay. Or so it seems to me from the ads on radio and TV. These two ads stand out. I am sure there are more.

Stereotype #1:

Ad on TV shows a man coming into the office and trying many things to get his PC on. The man is obviously a “South Indian” shown with vibhuti on his forehead. No details spared. Then a “smart” lady appears, who is noticeably not “South Indian”, and she indicates to the man that the computer is not plugged in.

Product: Some tax saving product from Birla Sun Life.

Stereotype #2:

Ad on radio that talks about how a Mr. So-and-so sent his son abroad for studies and got his daughter married with a lot of pomp and show and yet, and even though he is retired, he relies on no one financially.

Product: IDBI Suvidha fixed deposit.

In 2008, we still resort to portraying the south Indian as dumb. In 2008, we still talk of educating our sons and marrying off our daughters. What can I possibly say?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Star Light Star Bright

Clearly, Indian movies are moving in the right direction: Forward. Taare Zameen Par stands testimony to this fact.

Movies that are takes on Bollywood, that are larger than life, that don't make sense: we've seen them all this year. The best was, indeed, saved for the very last.This was the very first time in all my life that I watched a movie on the very first day of its release. It is probably a regular affair for most people, but I have never been able to do this before. I went in with very high expectations knowing that Aamir Khan wouldn't let me down.

The movie is about how parents and teachers deal with dyslexia. Taare Zameen Par's appeal lies in the "real"ness of it all. There is nothing in the movie that I couldn't relate to. Funny in parts, serious at others, but touching for the entire duration. This is not a funny, feel good movie, but one that makes you think.

Being the daughter of not one, but two, teachers, I have always considered myself very close to the education system in India. My mother taught children who were starting the process (kindergarten) and my father taught those who were completing it (undergrad, grad, doctoral and post doc students). Through my mother, I have known enough and more children who confuse their "b"s and their "d"s, their "p"s and their "q"s. I have seen the parents of these children deal with what was until then unknown to them: dyslexia. I've seen teachers who didn't understand what this was all about and recommending admitting the child to an institute for mentally retarded children. And I've seen parents grapple with the mere thought. All this at a time when information was not widely available as it is today.

Maybe I had some background and so thought this film was great. But then again, maybe not. I think anyone who watches this film can relate to it. In its entirety or in parts. I could dissect this film and talk about the glitches and how it could have been made better. But I think the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts. I cried during many scenes and I also noticed many people wiping away tears.

I have had my share of bad experiences at school despite being, for most part, a topper. And I've seen some students get lousy treatment. And many of the children in my school were first generation literates. I can only imagine how traumatic it could have been for them. This film took me back to those days. To a time when my parents threatened to put me in a boarding school if I didn't behave. (God alone knows how much I misbehaved hoping they'd keep their word.) To a time when I wandered the streets after school to reach home two hours after I should have. To a time when my brother and I thought it was a great idea to catch worms in a bottle and name them "Krishna". To a time that should have been the most carefree, yet, in retrospect, seems like the most stressful.

Everyone in the movie has acted so well that it is difficult to move away from the realness of it all. I wonder if there'll be another one that will strike a chord somewhere anytime soon. Great going Aamir. May your tribe increase.

Monday, January 14, 2008

First and Last

I have never been an avid movie watcher. And Indian movies have never made it big on my already tiny "Must Watch" list. I am picky about the movies I watch. And among Indian films, I'd probably watch selected Tamil and Hindi films. At one point, I was watching some Malayalam films as well, but I don't think DD has that "regional movie with subtitles every Sunday" now.

Last Saturday, I had precious little to do apart from bunches of greens that had to be cleaned and put away. Channel surfing brought me to a song and dance sequence that seemed terrible. I was commenting to my husband that the sequence seemed right out of some third rate Telugu movie. We were debating the A.P. connection and ended up watching the entire movie. We made fun of the predictability of the scenes, expressed irritation at the lewd dialogues and "cheap" humour, but we watched the movie to the end. (That's four bunches of fenugreek and spinach in all!) This movie was, as it turned out, Loafer.

We stepped out for lunch and some shopping and then returned home. I told S that I wanted to watch another "pheku" or "time pass" movie. We started surfing and came to a channel where the screen flashed, "A film by David Dhawan". S said, "This is probably as "pheku" as it gets." This movie turned out to be "Raja Babu". We didn't watch it till the end. It would have been impossible for any self respecting human being to watch that movie without squirming. The script was full of innuendos. The plot was so sick. This was the very first Govinda movie that I watched. I couldn't believe what I was watching. The dances were so horrible that I felt they might as well have shown porn.

What were they thinking? Insulting the sensibilities of the public. Such movies give ideas to people if they didn't have them before. And reinforced stuff like "working in the kitchen is a woman's job" etc. This really makes me a little judgmental. Of people who watch David Dhawan's movies. And of Govinda's fans. I agree that I chose to watch these movies. They were not forced upon me. But I was truly appalled at the quality of the films. People call me a snob because I am picky about the films I watch. If these are examples of "movie for the masses", I think I'm better off this way.

I just saw the list of movies that he has directed so far and found that I'd not watched any of his films... except for... wait... want to guess?... Loafer!!!! That made it two David Dhawan movies in one day. I swore on Saturday never to watch a David Dhawan film again in my life. Nothing will ever change that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Small is Beautiful

I am extremely excited about the Tata Nano. I am unable to contain my excitement. My mother promised to gift me one whenever it is released. But that's not the only reason I am excited.

I have always been worried about the scooter or the motorcycle being the complete family vehicle. This car will change that. OK, the basic model doesn't have an AC... but no motorcycle or scooter that I have seen has one. In the last 24 hours, I have met so many people who feel this car shouldn't be on the roads. That this is the biggest mistake the Tatas are making. That our roads will be congested. That too many people will be able to afford it. Somehow I think the fact that everybody can afford something that would make their lives a little easier and a little safer is a good thing. Not something we should complain about. But maybe people in India think of cars as a luxury. Why, even I did, for a long time. But maybe the people's car will mean that it will cease to be a status symbol. Maybe that's why people are worried.

If you ask me, it is the huge Mercs and BMWs that congest our roads. Not the likes of the Nano. There's no hue and cry about the number of luxury limos that come into the country. Our roads seem to be OK with them. But when there is a small beauty that everyone can afford, it becomes something we are not OK with. I am more convinced that we are either a nation of hypocrites or one of confused souls.

At the end of the day, I feel that most of the criticism for the Nano is because it is a Tata car. When we bought our vehicle last year, there were so many people, including some of our "closest" friends, who asked us if we were planning to start a taxi service. Just because we own an Indica. I have never felt my pride dip even once. I'd much rather drive a Tata Car than any other. I was all set on the Marina as our next car, but now I think I'd love the Nano more.

We plan to go and check the baby out at the Auto Expo. I was least excited until the news of Nano's release came out. Babies take 9 months and mothers and grandmothers do get excited. So, it is normal for my mother and I to feel this way. We shall await our little one.

It is a huge step forward for the car industry, for the Tatas, and for India. It is a bonus that it is as cute as it is. Maybe we can have Nano autos. And maybe more people will make fun of me then for driving around town in it. But I will never be ashamed to be seen in a Tata car a.k.a. a People's car. I hope this car meets with success. I hope for a safer and accident free India. I can only wish Ratan Tata well. What I (and millions like me) dreamt of, he has achieved. I hope that it will replace the two wheeler as India's family vehicle.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Promoting Promiscuity?

A few months ago, I noticed an ad on TV. This was after days of having my mother ask me if I'd seen it. It was for an OTC drug called i-pill. The drug helps terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Since then, I have noticed at least 2 other drugs being advertised. And I am shocked to say the very least. As with cigarette packets, the advertisement for the pill carries a statutory warning:

Important safety aspects: i-pill is neither a regular contraceptive nor an abortion pill. It is not a substitute for condoms and does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

How does this help? While on the one hand, we claim to be promoting sex education and are attempting to create greater awareness, on the other hand, we sell pregnancy termination drugs across the counter without a prescription. Are these the elements that a progressive society is made up of? While we have guys who are shy to pick up a pack of condoms, we expect our girls to pick up a drug such as this without as much as a prescription. No checks and balances in this system. Nothing that says "practice safe sex". Instead we have a product that says, 'Go ahead, have fun. If the girl happens to suffer later, that's fine." We seem to be treating the symptom than the disease.

While the advertisers are targeting married couples who may want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, I think the real and bigger market is elsewhere. It is in our schools and colleges, our hostels and universities. Most married couples I have met have their own ways of preventing unwanted pregnancies. None of them involves swallowing a pill such as this. Of course I understand that my sample for this exercise has its limitations. Somehow I feel that this pill will give more power to molestors. It will give kids a different degree of independence that they, in my humble opinion, are not mature enough to handle. I feel that all this is nothing but promoting promiscuity.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Another New Year

Another new year has sprung itself upon us. I have resolved to keep this blog active and I fully intend to not let this become one of "those" new year resolutions that are broken in the first week. As long as I have things to write about, I think I will.

Most of my resolutions for 2008 are joint ones. The only independent resolutions are about this blog and my other blog: The Singing Chef. The rest pertain to food, fitness and finances.

What are your plans/resolutions for 2008? I'd love to hear from you.

Happy New Year!