Sunday, December 27, 2020

Second Helping!

I enjoy cooking and my kitchen is like a sanctuary to me where I can totally immerse myself. But yes, there is a difference between , you "HAVE" to cook and you "WANT" to cook! When I say sanctuary its obviously the latter!

I am trying to recollect my first rendezvous with the kitchen stove! I think the target was the humble South Indian Rasam and getting rice done in the pressure cooker. Get it right and lunch is settled at a Tamil home with may be chips from the neighborhood mart!

I am a foodie too and a Vegetarian one at that! I do get very annoyed at stand up comedy shows and online jokes  depicting vegetarians and vegetarianism in the wrong light and expect us to take it lightly! Vegetarians sometimes get compared to herbivore animals and that we eat only grass !!  If you do not enjoy vegetarian food, it means that you have no clue how to cook vegetarian ! Period.
My grandmother could whip up the tastiest meal sans onion, garlic and a whole lot of other things that are considered a basic ingredient in many kitchens! And I am really tired of seeing jokes about Veg Biriyani not being a biriyani! The right cook can make a curd rice taste more heavenly!

We used to buy some women's magazines regularly before internet and you tube became known to mankind. It would have recipes, kitchen tips and a whole lot of other cooking related info. My mother would religiously cut out clippings and get them bound together at our neighborhood press. 

There would be times when the published recipe would be just a replica of something common in every household with may be a fancy name and probably a new ingredient. Like "Steamed Tamil Rice Delight" for idly (there would be a cashew nut on top to make a difference though!) or "Sautéed potatoes in Rice Lentil Crepes" for the Masala Dosa! 

My mother often proved in words and action that a good cook not only cooks well but can do something about a recipe that went haywire and transform it to something more interesting....Repair talks more about the art! 

When we cook something for the first time we do expect comments, feedback and usually praise. (Remember to appreciate those cooking for you!)

But sometimes the word of appreciation would be from a loved one saying it purely to make you feel good!

The yardstick that I usually rely upon is "Second Helping". Its proof that the food is palatable , tasty and giving pleasure to the soul consuming it or at the very least falls into the "pass mark" category!

"Can I have some more?" says a lot more than "This is quite good!" . The latter can often result in a disappointment when you ask "Would you like some more?" and they politely decline with a "No, I am good. Thanks!" 

If a particular dish gets finished soon , it means its good! At the dinner table Empty vessels at the end of the meal do make a lot of happy  loud noise!

Of course when it comes to being critical ones kids are masters. Plus and minus points they give are spontaneous and accurate too. When they say "Ma, this is so good " or when they utter "I don't want this!" they are being truthful! They are ruthless in criticism and unconditional in showering love!! 

I cannot brag that I am a cook well though I love the art!  That won't be right. If you visit me and ask for a second helping both you and I will know! 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Life , Hand phone and Video Games!

Last week during one of my walks in the park, I switched on the fm radio on my handphone (A cellphone goes by that name in this part of the world!). My choice of music depends on my mood and this time I decided to tune in to the local English pop FM channel.

I am not a very regular listener of English pop though there are a few numbers from my teen years in the 90s that have the capacity to put me on cloud nine for no particular reason.

During such ventures into these radio stations, I simply listen to whatever is being played. Unless its a very catchy song, the lyrics are the ones that grasp my attention more than the tune or the beat. Quite similar to many other songs in the Western pop genre, the lyrics went something like "When life gets tough!" I cannot recollect the song or the singer now. 

"Tough Life!" . Its a phrase used quite often. 

Why do we add this adjective "tough" often to the term "life"?  Life is just life! A series of incidents and experiences between the first cry and the last breath! 

All of us have this fixed set of expectations on how life needs to turn out . The social set up around us has its own pattern to be followed in addition.
When there are hurdles in the way of our expectations, aspirations, dreams we start calling life tough! 

Unattainable career aspirations , family responsibilities,failed relationships, traffic, bad weather, power cuts and the neighborhood mart running out of milk...Life does not go as per plan always....Thats the fun part! 

Many of the things we set about doing are like the apps on this mobile phone!

When playing video games on this hand phone do we fret if we lose a level ? Don't we keep trying till that smiley appears on the screen with a 

"Hurrah! You have cleared level XX"

Just like the video game surprises us with hints and life savers every once in a while, life too throws opportunities and help along the way!

Just like the apps on the mobile phone so many things give us pain can be easily uninstalled! We sometimes only suffer because we choose to cling to it when there are more beautiful things gently floating by! 

Yes like the mobile phone has some critical applications, there are a few things that cannot be compromised like our health for instance. But otherwise its keep trying or uninstall!

A line I thought of during my walk and a picture my son took last year!

With that Zen like thought I will wrap up this post. When I remember that artist or song, I will express a word of gratitude in my mind to her.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Musical Medicine

Everyone loves music.

Individual preferences differ when it comes to the type of music we enjoy or the situations in which we prefer a tune in our ears. But otherwise almost every soul on earth has a rhythm that he finds uplifting.

From the classical music enthusiasts that throng musical halls in December to hear their favorite artists "kacheris"(concerts) to the college youth dancing away to the latest "kuthu pattu" (filmy fast-paced folk songs. Even this one has a page on Wikipedia!) to the little tiny tots gluing their eyes to the television box for the umpteenth rerun of  "Wheels on the bus" we all have a preference.

Some like to listen while exercising, some while they retire for the day, some while travelling and some while doing some physical work . Of course there are those that love to have loud beats blaring from their speakers all the time!

When its physical work, the music relaxes us and helps us work with enthusiasm . Songs from rural folklore that farming women sing while planting the paddy saplings, the beautiful rhythmic songs associated with the traditional boat races of Kerala, the songs and kind of music related to fishermen folk are all examples of this.

Last week my husband had a toothache and so we had to go to a dentist. I am personally terrified of a dentists room. The tools in there look so formidable though they are actually rendering a service to humanity and bringing more smiles!

This particular dentist had Mandarin songs playing in his consulting room. I think it was coming from a tablet and though I could not understand a word I found it pretty comforting. Initially i found it odd but soon realized that it kind of soothed my nerves and it felt a lot less scarier. OK it was not me going under those scary lights (yes the lights are scary too!) but nevertheless my nerves did need some soothing!

My mother says that MRI scans can make one a bit nervous and the noises that one hears while taking it can aggravate one's apprehension. These days apparently they play music instead that helps one to pass time faster and also the noises get subdued.

I remember when I had my Caesarean for my son's delivery the anaesthetist kept humming a Carnatic raaga and I asked him groggily if he was the December music season effect. 

I have seen advertisements for music therapy for pregnant women that targets stimulating the brain cells of the developing foetus! 

If Tansen could bring rain or light lamps through music probably there is a way to get your cut to seal itself or the scar to disappear by just listening to a song! Wow!! If that art is discovered and practised doctors would probably be carrying flutes and guitars instead of stethoscopes!

Next time you visit the dentist, do remember to check if you can turn the radio on!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Some nostalgia!

It was the year 2005. The year I had stepped out of my home country for the first time. 

I had been deputed to work at the client site in the US.

We had rented an apartment - three of us colleagues.It was late October. Director Shankar's Anniyan movie had recently been released. Our client was based in one of the northernmost states and harsh winters were expected. The weather started getting colder day by day. 

One Saturday morning, we woke up blissfully aware that it was the weekend, and when we approached the window, we realized that nature had decided to bless us with more mirth! There was SNOW!!! Icicles had formed on our patio from dripping water!  

When breakfast ensued after an hour of frolic in the heavenly white blanket around, our laptops started playing the latest movie numbers from India . Hot cups of hazelnut coffee with office gossip and the songs in the chill weather .... What a morning it was!

Every time I listen to the song "Kumaari...." from Anniyan, nostalgia engulfs me and  I get transported back to that morning. That song is also picturized with beautiful scenery from Europe and it resonates with my memories. That way music is very powerful in bringing out some of our deepest feelings.There are some songs that have the capacity to directly aim your soul and trigger emotions that you had decided to lock down somewhere in depths impermeable to any other force! To me personally Ilayaraja's music has that power!

The other day I wore a black salwar set that I had purchased more than a decade ago. It was special because I had gotten it for my birthday after I had conceived my son. The boutique owner had been  the first person to look at me and figure out that I was pregnant. Her clothing has delivered a lot more than she promised and to this day it is as good as new. Whenever I wear it I remember the birthday I had celebrated along with my son for the first time! Literally when he was still inside of me. Invariably my husband and I start talking about the two years we had stayed in Malaysia before moving to Singapore and our experiences when parenting came knocking at our doors for the first time! We shared with our child that the dress is older than him! Who does not like listening to stories about himself that he cannot recall!

As per wikipedia nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Nostalgia is beautiful!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

About - The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

This is a post I am attempting to write after ages.

Before I start off I want to express gratitude ...So, To:

That cousin, cousin-in-law or relative, who has always remembered to mention a word of praise for my writing attempts; That friend made through blogging, who always drops in to say a Hi on social media; Some new aspiring bloggers who remember me, when needing someone to read through and give some suggestions; That friend who asked "Have not seen your blog for a while?"; To anyone or anything the Universe has thrust in my direction to remind me that this is an activity i do for pure personal joy more than anything else...

Thank You!

When all of us happily celebrated the dawn of 2020 on December 31st 2019, little would we have expected it to turn out like this.Ironically, we as a family were on a flight back to Singapore from India when 2020 arrived. In a few months we witnessed all air routes being cancelled at a global scale and lock downs being implemented everywhere.

There were major changes in the way we lead our lives and we slowly started adapting to the "New Normal"

But the way we collectively as humans are facing this crisis, and adapting ourselves to the lifestyle changes required, gives me hope and awe at human perseverance. Perhaps this inherent fighting nature is what has helped us over centuries ...To survive and grow!

There was a movie I saw on Netflix which depicts a heart warming story about this human quality .

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

It is  based on the memoir of the same name by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.

The movie is based on a true story of a 13 year old boy William, played by Maxwell Simba who believes that he can use science to find a solution that can help his family during devastating times of famine and hunger.

I have not seen many movies with Africa in the background. The story in set in Malawi and the rustic way of life in countries with a long way to go in terms of economic development and self sustenance is captured beautifully.

In one of the very first scenes in the movie,  the whole family is rejoicing, when the protagonist William tries on his new uniform for the first time. Slowly we are pulled into the harsh realities of their world, where children are asked to discontinue from school as their families cannot afford the fees.

The family reaches a stage where they can have only one meal a day. They sit around and try to logically decide which one it should be - Breakfast, lunch or dinner! A scene that we should etch on our minds to remind us that managing four meals a day with no difficulty its a blessing in itself!

Chiwetel Ejiofor who has directed the movie plays William's father. We travel with him in his relentless fight against the odds, frustration at way things turn out, annoyance at Williams suggestions to sacrifice his only bicycle for his set up and finally taking the leap of faith with his child.

The mother played by Aissa Maiga is a strong willed and level headed woman who fights along and gives a gentle push to her husband at a juncture when he is bound by hesitation!

Overall when the water finally starts pouring out because of his windmill, we feel joy and confidence in the endearing human quality called Perseverence!