Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Of recipes and memories

My mother has a bookshelf in her kitchen that has a number of cookbooks on it. Most of them are bought, but among them is a blue diary**, with yellow pages that are falling apart, holding a number of loose sheets of paper shoved in within its pages.

This diary has my Thamma's handwriting all over it. I'm not sure how my mother, the youngest bahu, ended up with it, but for most of my childhood, I remember that being the go-to book that would be spread open in the kitchen any time my mother was making carrot cake, or baked vegetables, or one of several other recipes.

I don't remember seeing it being used all that often in recent years - partially, I suspect, because I paid less attention, but also I suppose because some of those recipes have probably been used often enough to make referring to the actual recipe unnecessary.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good cook. I like the idea of cooking, and do it from time to time. But it doesn't come instinctively to me, and that frustrates me. When someone rattles off a recipe on the phone to me, it's pointless because I won't remember any of it. And when anyone tells me to add something "andaaze se", it makes me want to tear my hair out. I need to see a recipe to make anything, and I need to be told exactly how much to put in of every single item I'm adding.

I own one cookbook, and I have a number of recipes saved in my email or my browser favorites. But a few weekends ago, I found an unused notebook I had bought impulsively a couple of years ago (hello, cute puppy on cover of diary. come home with me, yes?), and never used more than two pages of. One of those pages was a to-do list, and the other page was a recipe. And just like that, without really thinking it through, I found myself spending the next hour painstakingly writing down the recipes for the ten or fifteen recipes I use on a regular basis, along with a few that I want to try at some point.

This notebook is now sitting in my kitchen, and has been referred to twice or thrice in the past few weeks. I'm hoping it gets used more often, and that it gets added to more often, and that eventually, I won't really need to refer to it that often, but that it will still sit there, waiting to be opened up and looked at.



** Update: The mother has emailed me to point out that I have my diaries all mixed up. Apparently the one with Thamma's cake recipes is a brown leather bound diary, while the blue one is something she herself used to save and scribble recipes in, and was originally given to her by her father-in-law so she could learn to read and write Bengali.

I was a kid, okay. But the point is the same, really.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On Broadchurch

If you haven't watched the show Broadchurch, and intend to at some point (and I highly recommend you do because it is amazing), this post may not be for you (also don't search for the show online - at all). Because I spent about six hours yesterday watching all eight episodes at one go, and I'm trying to decide why and how I figured out who the killer was. So even if I don't name the killer outright in this post, the way I try to analyze this might, as they say, give the game up.

So, here's the thing. I'm the person who turns to the last page of a mystery book to see who the killer is - once I form a suspicion of my own, that is. I can't help it, that's who I've been since I started reading Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark in my early teens, and I do it till today.

So yesterday, when I started watching Broadchurch, I think it was in the third or fourth episode when a very friendly and nice scene made me wonder. And then  I obviously did a search on the show, while watching, without really intending to find out if I was write. And as it turned out, one of the first results that popped up explicitly stated - as a synopsis in the results page itself - that the second season of the show will be about said character's trial. So a, I was right! B, don't do a search for the show if you've got this far in this post and still want to watch the show, 'kay?

So what I'm trying to figure out is why I thought it was this person. Was it simply because this person, by this point in the series, was honestly the least likely person? And reading and groaning over Agatha Christie as a teenager invariably makes me suspect the least likely person? Or was it the fact that one of the lead cops on the case kept showing her trust in the people she knew, the community she lived in, and the other lead cop kept telling her not to be so certain? And the person I suspected was, after all, the person she would have been most certain about?

And then - this is the truly spoilery part - there's the part where she looks at another woman, who has suffered a different tragedy, and judges her for not knowing. "How could you not know?", she asked. That line was bound to come back to haunt her, wasn't it? By the time that scene took place, even I hadn't already decided and found out who the killer was, the scene was set up, my first thought would have been, "well, aren't you going to regret saying those words."

I think. Would it have been? Would I have seen the point of that scene as clearly if I hadn't peeked ahead? I can't decide, and that's what's bothering me.

I really need to stop peeking ahead when I'm reading/watching mysteries.

Also, for those of you have who have watched the show, is there any point to watching Gracepoint? Because I still don't understand why they remade it the way they did. And I'm wondering I should spend another six hours (or longer since I hear they added a couple of episodes) to see the point of the remake. No, right? Tell me I shouldn't spend that kind of time. Please?


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And so another year went by

Duuuuudes. Another year, wot? Where and how do these just flash by? Wasn't it just the other day I was telling you guys how this is going to be annual tradition for myself - these end of the year summary things? Well, here it is...


1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Did a solo travel weekend. Started a group blog.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Does it count as new year's resolutions if you made them sometime in February? I made a public declaration - or as public as this blog is, anyway - that I would blog at least twice a month, and by Jove I did. Gimme a prize, someone. I also kinda, sorta promised myself I would travel at least once a month this year, which I kinda, sorta did - see #5 below.
The plan for 2015 is to stick to these two. There was also a third thing I wanted to resolve to do, but I can't remember what it was, so I'm guessing it was super important.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No one close, no.

5. What places did you visit?
Ooh, I'm going to like answering this one. Let's do it by month, 'kay?
January: Los Angeles.
February: Nada, but a friend visited one weekend, so I'm counting that.
March: Went to India for two weeks, where I was mainly home in Delhi/Gurgaon, but also managed to sneak in two days in Kolkata to see the grandmother.
April: Three back to back weekends of travel happened here - New York, San Francisco, and my one-year school reunion. Eventful month, this was.
May: Nada again, but if you average out my travel in the first four months, no biggie, right?
June: New Jersey, for a friend's wedding.
July: San Francisco again, over the 4th of July weekend.
August: One quick day trip to Austin, and then DC over the Labor Day weekend, which yes, counts as August because I came back on the Sunday.
September: A recruiting trip back to the school.
October: One overnight work trip to Chicago, and then two weekend trips with the mother - New York, and Chicago.
November: I am totally going to count the fact that I left the States on November 29, and spent the 30th in London.
December: Two weeks in Delhi/Gurgaon for my visa stamping nonsense, and managed to finally - finally, I say - make the long-planned weekend trip to Amritsar.
Not bad, wot? 2015 - let's try and build up cities I haven't been to before, 'kay?

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
Again, will power. Specifically, the will power to stop watching TV and get in some, you know, exercise or something.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hmmm, I dunno about this one. Things happened - things I will not forget, and episodes that really are etched in the memory. But I don't think there's a specific date for any of the really important stuff.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I changed roles at the job, and it was all due to my ability to be more social and network and stuff. Go, me!

9. What was your biggest failure?
To get fitter, I think.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Hah. You bet. The trip to school in April was accompanied by ridiculous amount of pain. I stabbed my hand in August while trying to open a box from Amazon, and then just this past weekend, I had the most spectacular and most elegant fall you've ever seen in a taco shop in Texas. Ow.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My Christmas tree. It's so pretty, y'all.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I don't know. It's depressing to realise that this is the question that stumps me the most.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and/or depressed?
Other than almost every politician, you mean?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Paying off my student loan.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Something(s) I'm not allowed to talk about on my blog. Hee.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
I don't think there's any one song, to be honest.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
Pretty much the same, really. It's been a pretty even-keeled year.

18. Thinner or fatter?
Ugh. Way fatter.

19. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Been more active. Cooked. Read.

20. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Hmmm. Spent money, maybe? I suppose I should say watched TV.

21. How will you be spending Christmas?
Spent it cleaning my apartment so that a friend arriving for the weekend the next day wouldn't faint with horror, and then went out for dinner.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
Nope.

23. How many one-night stands?
Too many to count.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
Between January and March, I did a marathon watch of every television show Aaron Sorkin wrote. The man's a sexist and an asshat, but I will say, his shows are good.
The list of current TV shows continues to grow longer - so it's probably a blessing that the comedies I fall in love with every year inevitably get cancelled.
I was very skeptical of John Oliver taking for The Daily Show over the summer, but I am so, so glad he did, because he was brilliant. And ever since Last Week Tonight started, he has slowly but steadily started replacing Jon Stewart as the love of my life as well.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. Well, certain colleagues are a pain in the ass, but otherwise, no.

26. What was the best book you read?
Er... See #19. However, I did thoroughly enjoy both the Robert Galbraith books.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I discovered anyone/anything new this year.

28. What did you want and get?
Professionally, I wanted to change roles, and that worked out. Personally, I got a lot of family and friends-back-home time this year, but it's never really enough, is it?
I wanted to write this year, and I did. I wanted to travel this year, and I did. So yay me.

29. What did you want and not get?
Nothing comes to mind. The thing about 2014 is it was very... even keeled, compared to previous years. No major life changing moments, and so not much to regret.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I loved Finding Fanny. The Captain America movie was awesome, and I loved how much fun Agents of Shield became after the movie came out (because let's face it, it was mind-numbingly boring before that).
I didn't particularly love the final Hobbit movie, but I'm so glad that it released a week early in India and that I was able to see it with the father and brother, rather than friends I have to drag with me who then have no idea what's going on.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was home. Parents brought out cake and gifts at midnight, S came over for lunch, then I met the gal pals for supper, and finally had a late night second dinner with the parents. There was also drama, which made it simultaneously the worst birthday I've ever had, as well as one of the best. And that's all you need to know about it.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
The ability to apparate. Or use a portkey. I'm not fussy.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Do you promise not to laugh? I got more comfortable with using make up this year. That was my big fashion concept in 2014, seriously. Heretofore, all I used was eyeliner. I now own foundation, and primer, and blush, and whatnot. I'm still not sure I use all of them correctly, but I no longer feel I'm looking like a freak, and no one has taken me aside to say I'm looking like a clown, so I'm calling this one a success.

34. What kept you sane?
Loved ones. Who also drove me insane, but whatevs.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
John Oliver.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Elections, man, elections. This has been a crappy, crappy year for me politically.

37. Who did you miss?
Loved ones.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My current friend circle is mostly people I either met/got to know towards the end of 2013, or early 2014. So them, I suppose.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
I have friends. I can ask for help if I need it.
I thought I'd gotten better at this, but when a friend yelled at me for not asking him to take me to Urgent Care when I stabbed my hand, I realised maybe I'm still not that good at it yet.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Kaisee teri khudgarzee, Na dhoop chune na chhaanv
Kaisee teri khudgarzee, Kisi thaur tike na paanv

Ban liyaa apnaa paighambar, Tar liyaa tu saat samandar
Phir bhee sookhaa mann ke andar, Kyoon reh gaya

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deep thoughts

I was talking with my friend D earlier this evening about travel plans in 2015, and we were throwing out ideas for destinations, when of course I started whining about how I would have to apply for multiple visas to visit half of these.

D: See, this is why you need to stay in the US long enough to get American citizenship. Then you won't need to worry about things like visas. 'Murica!
Me: Or, you know, I could get married to someone with American citizenship. Wouldn't that work too?
D: Hmmm. I wonder if they changed the law that same sex marriages now qualify you for these things too.
Me: A, wouldn't help me. B, would depend on the state, no?
D: You should still look into this.
Me: Why, are you offering?
D: Oh phish, no. I'd never be able to pull off a lie like that. I can do tiny white lies, not big ones like this.

Five minutes later:
D: See, now I feel like I'm on vacation. I'm able to come up with deep thoughts like this.
Me: You know this conversation is going on my blog, right?


Monday, December 15, 2014

More woes.

This is the transcript of a call that happened between my father and me on a Monday morning in June 2014, and as is usual with my passport and visa related woes, I'm going to wait a while before I actually publish it.

Father: Hello?
Me: Father!
Father: Ye...ah?
Me: It is official, I am jinxed.
Father: Now what happened?
Me: My I-797 came in, and the I-94 at the bottom says I'm a citizen of Nigeria*. And I waited to talk to the lawyer before calling you and he says to let it be till I get my license renewed and then send it back to him to get it corrected because it'll take several weeks for the correct one to come and I have only a month before my license expires and WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME?
Father: *muffled laughter*
Me: This is NOT funny.
Father: *sniggering* I know it's not funny.
Me: Just once I would like all passport and visa related processes to go through smoothly without giving me a panic attack. JUST ONCE.
Father: Well you have several years ahead to achieve this.
Me: Do I? Do I really? This has happened every time, all my life.
Father: Well that's not true. It's only been happening in this century. Nothing happened in the last century.
Me: Is that supposed to comfort me?
Father: I'm just saying.

I would like to point out that my father continued to snicker through the entirety of this conversation.

Gah.

* For those not in the know, I was born in Nigeria, but I hold Indian citizenship. Makes filling official forms that ask for country of birth followed by country of citizenship a lot of fun.

** I showed this post to the father five minutes before hitting Publish, and he chuckled all through it. At one point he claimed he hadn't said any of this, but when I retorted I had typed this minutes after the call ended so that I wouldn't forget any of it, he went back to saying all of the above is factual. He would also like me to clarify the reason I'm an Indian citizen is that I was born in Nigeria but of Indian parentage. Apparently that wasn't too clear above. Uff.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Of retrievers and their focus

There's a video that's sorta gone viral over the last couple of days that had me cracking up the first time I saw it.



That dog knows what he wants, he does. And he reminds me of another dog, another golden retriever, who was just as single minded and focused about what she wanted.

One of my fondest memories of Kyra is this one evening when we had gone out, and got really late coming back. Kyra hadn't been given her evening meal because we weren't home to take her for her walk, so we had called to say we were five minutes away and that she could be fed. We walked in the door to see my poor ravenous princess furiously gobbling her meal, but at the same time, so thrilled to hear us walk in that her tail was literally (yes, I used it, go away) spinning with joy as she ate. But only when she finished eating did she turn around to come jump at us. She had her priorities, she did.

My princess wasn't quite aware of the fact that she was supposed to be a retriever, you know. When you threw something for her to, well, retrieve, she would run like crazy after it, pick it up, and then sit down to chew on her new treasure. So over the years, we came up with a new game. We used two toys, and when she would pick up one and sit down with it, we'd promptly throw the other. And Kyra would drop her first toy and run and pick up the second, at which point we'd throw the first toy again. Rinse. Repeat. But boy, was she focused on whichever toy she was running after.

The brother will tell you the princess was one of the most emotionally intelligent dogs to ever walk this planet. All I have to say is, there are retrievers, and there was, well, our retriever. The best dog in the world.

Certain members of my family may also point out that my use of the word "we" in this post is somewhat misleading. I will have you know I ventured into the outdoors at least once a year with her, thank you very much. Sometimes even more often. So there.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

No matter how old you get...

Yesterday, a friend asked if I wanted to go out for lunch, and then made fun of me when I said I couldn't because I had brought ma ke haath ka dal chawal from home, and had to eat it.

When I was in college, I took French classes on the weekend, and one of my classmates at the time was a woman at least 15 years older to me. She was divorced, a mother of two, and used to travel every weekend from a city that was at least three hours away by bus, if not more.

And every weekend, when we would go to the cafeteria or to the nearby market for lunch, she would refuse to buy anything because her mother had packed her lunch, and she couldn't return home without finishing whatever had been packed for her.

And we would laugh at how someone her age, who was seemingly so strong and in charge of every other aspect of her life, was so terrified of her mother.

And yet here I am, close to a decade later, sitting at my desk at work, and eating fruit - which I absolutely despise - because my mother is visiting, and has taken to packing me fruit as an evening snack because she's convinced (and partially correct) that my eating habits when she's not around are absolutely horrifying. And I can't return home without finishing whatever has been packed for me.

No matter how old you get, your mommy packs food for you, you eat.

Also, no matter how old you get, being woken up by your mommy with a cup of tea in the morning is the most amazing feeling in the world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Diwali in Amreeka

Or at least, things you hear when trying to celebrate Diwali at the workplace in Amreeka.

On the kurta with jeans look I sported at work on Chhoti Diwali:
Colleague: That's an interesting combination of Indian and Western. Is that, umm, approved of in India?
Me: This is how I dressed pretty much every day in college.
Colleague: Really? Good for you!

On the kaju barfi I took to work, because I'm nice like that:
Whoa! What is that pretty silver thing on top? Isn't that, like, dangerous?

On the damn "omg photo of India from space on Diwali!!!" post that makes the rounds on Facebook every. single. year.:
Colleague 1: I love that photo! Why is it fake?
Colleague 2: Are you sure it's not real? I mean, you do have 1 billion people. It's possible!
Me: I'm pretty sure India doesn't even have enough electricity for that photo to be real.
Colleague 1: But it's always the Indians who post that photo.
Me: Yes, well, some Indians are idiots.

On the gorgeous Fab India dupatta I wore, gifted to me by S:
I'm beginning to realise your claims about your extensive and wonderful dupatta collection are not false.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Momentary rhapsodies

Dear world,

I would like to take a moment to rhapsodize over my new pairs of trousers. Because they're just that amazing.

They're stretchy and comfortable and fit perfectly (and in fact feel a little loose despite being my size so that makes me feel even better) and they were so cheap in the outlet mall I found them in that I bought two pairs - one black, one maroon. And I've owned them less than two days but I feel like I could alternate between the two of them for the rest of my life and be happy because they're just that amazing.

I heart Ann Taylor.

That's all folks.

Toodles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where I swear a lot because I don't know what else to say

A few weeks ago, a friend said he didn't want to go see Mardaani because he was tired of women's issues being rammed at him all the time. He's sure it's a serious problem, but you know, he feels like everyone's talking about it all the time. And he's so tired of hearing about it. Or words to that effect.

And I stared at him speechlessly.

A few days after that conversation, Jon Stewart did a piece on racism and the situation on Ferguson. And in that segment, he said a line which I wish I had said to my friend and which I'm going to appropriate and repeat everytime someone tells me how tired they are of hearing about women's issues.
"You're tired of hearing about it?... Imagine how fucking exhausting it is *living* it."
Let's recap the things that have happened since then, yes?

Last week, Deepika Padukone chose to speak up when the most despicable newspaper in India tweeted a video solely for the reason that her cleavage was visible in it. Said newspaper chose to sink to new depths of despicability and take offense to her speaking up because you know, if you pose for photo shoots that happen to show your cleavage, why the fuck would you object when we post photos that do the same even if those photos were taken without your knowledge or consent and then focus on them rather than anything else. Which is an argument someone on twitter tried with me too, and to which I say fuck that shit. Because no. As several other people** have pointed out, there's a very small jump from that argument to you asked to be raped because you dressed, behaved, spoke, drank, whatever the fuck else, the way you did. And as I very eloquently responded on twitter, just... no.

Then, just a few days ago, Emma Watson made an incredibly brilliant and true speech at the UN headquarters. Which got shared all over Facebook by women proudly proclaiming how they don't consider themselves feminists in the modern sense of the word but they totally agree with this speech. Like, I don't even know what the fuck that means.

But then, the next day, I saw posts on Facebook about threats that were sent the actress' way because of her speech. I haven't read the details, because I don't want to, but really? Really?

And then today, less than an hour back, the straw that broke the camel's back and brought about this post, I saw this article.

What the fuck? No really, tell me. What the fuck kind of world are we living in where anyone - anyone - thinks this is okay, funny, witty, acceptable, true?

Fuck this shit.

_____________________________


**I haven't read too many of those articles, because I can't, anymore, but I did read this piece by Deepanjana Pal, and it might be worth your time.