Those elusive words

30 Sep

Some days it’s like grabbing at empty snatches of air. Grasping what I can, finding nothing when I unclench my fist. I’m looking, but I can’t find the words. They’re floating along, like shimmery sequins that I can only see when they catch the light. Alternating between blinding me and hiding from me.

Some days it feels like I’m furiously drawing circles in the emptiness in front of me. I persevere and the lines refuse to show. The indentations, disappearing almost as quickly as they appeared.The words, they escape me.

Some days, like today, I contemplate a story I need to write. I consider it long enough, so it unfurls in my minds eye. I open my laptop and begin to tap away. Key words. I string them like jasmine, knotting the stalks of two buds at a time, tangling the thread around, just tight enough to keep them together. But loose enough to let them breathe. To let them bloom. And speak.

Some days, though, I have to sit back, take a deep breath. And the words flow like a smooth exhalation. So smooth, I can almost not keep up. Wispy ringlets of of breath, words escape me, floating away before I can pin them down. Almost there, so near and yet so far. The moment has passed.

And suddenly, unexpectedly, while I’m bumbling along doing something totally unrelated, it comes back to me like a hint of a glistening fish, slithering away downstream. I drop whatever I’m doing. I reach out. A brief struggle ensues. The words, they don’t want to become mine. And I? All I want to do is catch them, slice them, spice them up and serve them up well done.

It rarely goes to plan. The best words, they elude me. Refusing to strike when I need them the most. Like when I’m making a list of deadlines, or I’m planning a story, or at least when I finally sit down to work.

They strike suddenly, at a time unbeknownst to me. And they leave an unmistakeable trail behind them. The white plumes of a jetplane that’s zipped through the sky, when I’m staring up open-mouthed. The hiss of flavours melding in the little kadhai, the remnants of a tadka that I just drizzled all over my dal. The jagged edges of a broken dream, when I shake myself awake. The flecks of stars beginning to rise on an indigo sky. The choicest words, they come to me when I’m not looking for them.

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I’m thankful

29 Sep

For the most part, I am an optimist, a believer-in-good-things-can-happen, a hedonist of sorts. In the last couple of years I have seen my compulsively broody, moody self turn into a more uniformly cheerful, happy person. So much so that I don’t take very wrell to the odd gloomy situation that might blind sight me on an idle day. The last time I had a spell that drove me to a severe meltdown and positively into a hole I was unable to get out of, it was right before I quit my job in 2012.

The point of rambling on about how I haven’t felt sadness or dejection on the personal front is to say, it’s been so long, I didn’t recognise it when it hit me earlier this month, when I suddenly found myself contemplative, upset, a bit confused and slowly sliding into a hole. I’m putting it down to this situation of not having work on my hands, and the husband being busy and largely unavailable. Talking to him usually sorts my head out, sooner than later, but I’ve resorted to having monologues with myself, and if you know me at all, you’ll know that never helps.

To make things worse, all that waiting was not helpful at all. I’m still waiting but have a few things lined up, so at least I’ve moved form waiting for things to materialise, to waiting for them to be finalised. So it’s moving, but very slowly. There’s been a few other minor upheavals (for lack of a better word) on the personal front and I know I’m beginning to say this a lot, but for the first time in a long time, I spent a couple of days brooding and feeling like nothing was going right for me. My optimism has taken a bit of a beating, the ability to believe and hope has been stripped down a little. I may or may not have spent a day or two just staring out the window a little aimlessly.

This weekend, I got to wondering why I’ve let myself feel this way. Not that the feeling was completely unfounded. There is reason for a mild kind of turmoil, but nothing VC and I have not been able to get a grip on and begin figuring out. And sort it out we will, so it was really nothing that warranted said sadness. But I suppose this is the consequence of having it really swimmingly good for as long as I can remember. Since we moved to Goa and set up life from scratch, things have only moved up. Life has been exceedingly good. I cannot think of any difficulties we have faced which have been more severe than the odd sucky bouts of work gloom (which is the only time I can recall facing a dip in happiness levels), a few illnesses and technical glitches that drive us up the wall. This was clearly a loss of perspective that had caused me to feel like shifting gears, changing lanes had made my world come tumbling down.

Coincidentally, S tagged me on the Gratitude/Thankfulness Challenge that’s been doing the rounds on facebook. I’m usually not one for facebook memes. I scoff at verbose status messages, especially the superficial kind that usually present themselves on fb, but I was prompted to take this one up. It was a fairly simple challenge; list 3 things you’re thankful for, for 7 days. And this is what I had.

Day 1:
1. Thankful for the neighbour who bailed me out of having to cook when I in the throes of an allergy attack. Not only did she cook me Khau Suey for dinner (as per my farmaish) but dragged me over to eat leftovers for lunch today.
2. Thankful for VC who puts our seemingly big squabbles behind us quicker than I can say WTF.
3. Thankful for air-conditioning, today more than ever. It feels like the hottest day in a long time.

Day 2:
1. Thankful for the technology in my life. The ipad that lets me read in bed, whatsapp that makes the miles between family/friends and me seem so much shorter, Instagram for the riot of colour and life it is, my blogs for the space to write, unedited.
2. Thankful for Amma who is always just a phone call away, whether I want to quickly go over a recipe, rant about anything from unprofessionalism to power cuts to traffic or maid trouble, crib about the state of the country, have a hearty laugh or even just talk.
3. Thankful for having rediscovered the need for good health, the right kind of fitness, and the endorphins and happiness it adds to my life, N, my trainer turned friend.

Day 3:
Thankful for the many different kinds of friendship I have found, that make my life fuller, so varied and definitely so much more entertaining.
1. My family and friends in Goa, A, N, P, S with whom I share so much more in common than just the city we live in.
2. Friends from afar, like S, J, A and many many more, with whom I don’t always have to relentlessly communicate or feel the pressure to “stay in touch” and yet, when we do talk/meet, the madness picks up from where we left off.
3. My “internet FINDS” R, S, A, S who “get” me even though we may have met just a couple of times at best, and some never at all. Is it weird that I feel closer to them than some of my “real-life” friends?

Day 4:
1. Thankful for the mad thing that is the sister, my sharer of absurd/toilet sense of humor, my partner in crime, my kindred spirit, my anchor. The only one who calls my bluff and never shies away from telling it like it is; whether shes tasting an odd experimental cake, or reminding me how I never give her birthday gifts, or in telling me how much she misses me every time she goes back home from visiting me in Goa. Life just wouldn’t be the same without you!
2. Thankful for the food, drink, books, music, movies and all the other things I can afford to indulge myself in every now and then, without having to think twice.
3. Thankful that its Friday and the end of a largely unproductive week. Hopefully a drink and dinner with VC and a relaxed weekend will reboot my system before Monday strikes again.

Day 5:
1. Thankful for my house help who is cheerful, more energetic than I am on any given day and works tirelessly to keep my home clean, assists me in the kitchen and looks out for me, even when I don’t ask for it.
2. Thankful for the privilege that is being a freelancer who can work from home. It means I always have the option to work in my pajamas, in bed, at midnight or pretty much any way that my heart fancies, or whenever inspiration strikes. It also means I can do it all, while also doing at least 3-4 different, non-work related projects at any given time.
3. Thankful for the unflinching support that I get from VC in making 2 and 1 possible. There’s absolutely no shying away from the fact that I have the privilege and the luxury because I don’t have to work to feed myself. He makes it possible for me to work to scratch the various creative itches I get from time to time.

Day 6:
1. Thankful for the opportunity to live in green, beachy Goa. I curse the heat more often than not, but right now, at this point in life, I don’t know another place I could call home.
2. Thankful for the solitude, peace and being-happy-with-less that this life has forced upon us, and the consequent changes this has ushered into our lives.
3. Thankful for the convenience of living just a short trip away from home, so I can still scoot over whenever I am homesick or miss my folks.

Day 7:
1. Thankful for good health, the awareness, willingness and means to stay healthy, fit and happy.
2. Thankful for access to fresh food — healthy fruit and veggies, lots of local, organic options that are not just good for me, but my environment and eco-system too.
3. Thankful for the obsessive love for food, which makes me care about what I put in my system rather than make every day meals a mindless, unhealthy chore.

Today, my fb is filled with unprecedented NaMo love, some minor mentions of the protests in Hong Kong, even fewer still of the floods in Assam, and it seems like we have moved on from Israel and Syria altogether. Clearly it’s very easy to lose perspective, get our priorities mixed up and find ourselves swept away in a little bit if collective hysteria. As I keyed in the last bits of todays post and wrapped up the 7-day challenge, I mocked myself and the irony of having to undertake a task like this, to realise that I truly have a lot to be thankful for. With most of the basics under control, I have the luxury of being thankful for the extras, the privileges and the fringe benefits.

Mockery-aside, I think I needed to do this and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I realised that despite being a realist, a believer and an optimist, its entirely possible to lose my sense of perspective. And if it takes a silly facebook meme to re-align that once again, put my feet back in the ground and the focus back where it should be, so be it. Because a facebook meme made me realise that at the heart of it, I’m lucky to have all the things that really matter to me — family, health, friends and happiness — in abundance. Pretty much everything else is secondary.

Head vs heart, want vs need

26 Sep

For the first time in two whole years, I’m utterly jobless. And not just in a manner of speaking. I’m out of work, of the professional kind. It’s an odd place I haven’t been in a long, long time.

Can’t say I didn’t bring this upon myself, because it is the result of part-carefully-thought-out-decision, and part-decision-not-going-to-plan. I’m in a strange state of mind I haven’t been in possibly 4 years now.

Limbo, is one way to look at it, because I’m weighing the options I have, pursuing the ones I think will interest me, and help further my skill in the direction I want to take it. And until things really do move ahead, I feel like this in-between is going to gnaw at me for some time still.

For the first time in what feels like forever, I have empty time. My hands itching to do something, and there is no immediate project at hand. There is a lot of waiting happening, and it has made me very restless. This is a new feeling, this kind of quiet restlessness. I’m not used to being vela like this, and the antsy, somethings-bubbling kind of feeling that lurks not far behind, but never really catching up with me fully.

I find myself going over events in my head, over and over, wondering if I should have done something differently.
I find myself endlessly reading online, in search of an elusive opportunity that might pop up at me suddenly.
I find myself jumping at the sound of every incoming email that chimes in.
I find myself asking if its time for a complete change of streams entirely.
I find myself just waiting. Waiting and waiting for something to happen.
For those I have written to, to respond. For those who said they would let me know, to actually do it. For those who promised me more leads to write to, to send in the information. For something, anything worth my time and effort to come my way.

It’s ironic because when I was gainfully employed, I longed for the freedom this life of freelancing promised. After close to two years of freelancing my heart out, in the midst of a bunch of gigs, some part of me began to knock silently, asking for more. A project bubbling on the back burner forever now, demanded more time. And so after much thought, many weeks of hemming and hawing, I took the plunge and pulled back from all my work. Presumably to focus my energies elsewhere. Now, I am in that sweet spot. Of having nothing and nobody to devote my time to. Nothing, except the projects my heart desires. And some how, I’m running round in circles in my head, waiting and hoping for work to come my way again.

Today, the penny dropped. And I realised I need to step back and evaluate just what it is I am truly after. And why. My heart seems to be in one place, patiently waiting. While my head battles it out elsewhere. Pulling me backwards and forwards at the same time. And somehow, I’m stuck in between. Employment is the obvious answer. Something to occupy my hands, my head and my heart. Something to give meaning to what I’m doing. Work is what I want. But I’m not really sure the form in which I’m seeking it, is what I need.

Carbohydrate junkie

25 Sep

What’s the one thing you would never give up eating? someone asked me early this week.

I was stumped. It’s not one of those things answers I have prepped and ready at the top of my mind, just waiting to tumble out if I press play. I serioulsy couldn’t think of a thing. I thought some more, thirty seconds later I still didn’t have an answer.

Absolutely nothing, I eventually said. I love food too much to think of giving any part of it up.

I thought about it later, though. I’ve never needed to give up anything. Haven’t had any weird allergies thankfully, haven’t gone on a diet and never thought about wanting to quit something I love. And then it came to me — I recalled I’ve done some insane things in the past, like given up rice for month, chicken for even longer, sugar for a bit (though this one didn’t last long at all). This was all within the first year that I got married. I’m putting it down to some form of rebellion, and stubbornness to prove I could do things that weren’t done.

But I am just not strong-willed enough about food anymore. I think a lot of it has to do with a sudden increased awareness of what’s good and what’s bad for me. With many inherent bad food habits having weeded themselves out of my life, I’ve willingly turned toward a practice in moderation. I enjoy all kinds of food. I love a well cooked pork-belly as much as a simple meal of daal and rice. My eyes light up when I see a bowl of plain homemade lightly-spiced sabji, as much as it would if I saw an exquisite dessert. I’m adventurous and love to experiment with ingredients, cuisines, meats, style of cooking, as much as I am a curd-rice maami at heart. Both extremes can some times elicit the same levels of satisfaction in me. So for the last few years, I’ve just made my peace with eating what I want, as long as it is in moderation. And even when I trip up on the moderation, which happens more often than I am willing to keep track of, I know it is okay. It is really not the end of the world.

So I thought about it some more. What’s the one thing I would absolutely never give up?

Carbs.

I would die without carbs, I think. I cannot imagine a life without rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and everything else that puts the full into fulfilling meals. A majority of my instagram feed is a carb-fest and the I-must-blog-this mental list I maintain is growing out of control. The Hungry & Excited blog is undergoing an overhaul that’s taking much longer than anticipated. Only because VC and I have slacked off totally in sitting our bums down, putting our heads together and finishing it off. I outsourced the job because I thought it would be faster for a professional to do it, than teach myself CSS. But turns out I didn’t account for our own busy lives and our inability to coordinate simple work meetings between ourselves. But many of the the recent instagram pics have received the much-loved Recipe, please? and Blogging this? responses. I’ve decided I cannot wait any longer, so I’m going to share a few quickie recipes here.

Since I’m tucking away a bowl of veggie pulao, with aloo sabji and salad right now, and I have a sinful orange infused, chocolate chunk-studded bread pudding waiting for dessert, I’m thinking why should I have all the carb fun?

Easy Anda Biryani – I made this for the sister who had a few friends visiting her when she was in Goa last month, and apparently they couldn’t talking about the meal for the rest of the day. I’m definitely going to be making it again.

Anda Biryani1

Anda Biryani2

You need (I cooked this for 5 people)
2 cups cooked rice
6 boiled eggs
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
8-10 small pods of garlic and 1 fat chunk of ginger, minced or grated
2 green chillies, slit
Khada masala: shahi jeera, a couple of cardamom pods, cloves, 1 bay leaf, 2-3 pepper corns
Masala powders: turmeric, red chilli powder, dhaniya powder, jeera powder
Everest Egg Curry masala
1 carton coconut milk (200 ml)
1 large fistful finely chopped coriander and mint leaves

Make
1) Cook the rice separately. I used a rice cooker with 1 tbsp ghee, 2-3 cardamom pods, 1 bay leaf and a stick of cinnamon, with 4 cups water. Basmati works best. But you can cook the rice the way you normally would, just ensure that the grains retain their shape and texture, and the rice isn’t mushy.

2) Set the eggs in a pot of water to boil. Set aside.

3) Warm some oil/ghee (i usually use a 50-50 ratio), throw in the khada masala, toss till it all gets aromatic.
4) Add in the onions, ginger and garlic and keep tossing till they begin to brown evenly, then add in 2 slit green chillies.5) Tip in the tomatoes and add salt and cook the whole thing down to a mush. Add masala powders in quick succession. A little of each goes a long way. Cook, cook cook till everything smells divine and turns to a glossy mush.6) Add chopped coriander leaves mixed with mint leaves, toss some more.

7) Tip in the coconut milk along with a little water till curry reaches the thickness/thinness you desire. Cover and let it bubble.

8) When the curry is cooked through, add a generous sprinkling of Everest Egg Curry Masala (or any other multi-purpose masala of your choice — Meat Masala or Kitchen King or even garam masala). Mix well cook for a couple of minutes and turn off.

9) Halve boiled eggs and place face up, drench them with gravy and sprinkle coriander and let it sit for a while.

10) Once the rice is done, take a large, heavy-bottomed pot, grease it and begin layering the rice and gravy. Start with a generous layer of rice, and alternate with the egg curry, keep going till it all runs out. You could just serve it this way, but I prefer to cook it on the dum for a bit (refer link to see how I’ve done it before).

11) To cook it on the dum, I place my cast iron dosa tava (its really thick) on a low flame, and this thick bottomed pot on top of it, closed with a lid and i let it steam for 15-20 mins.

Done!

Dinner Toasties — made these on a rainy night when I was too lazy to cook and we didn’t want to order in. I had some odds and ends in the fridge, so I just threw it together without thinking too much. It was delicious, filling and a good meeting point between mini pizzas and grilled toasts!

Dinner Toasties
I simply pre-heated the oven, lined a baking tray with aluminion foil and placed the sliced bread on it. Then I began making the topping, for which I sautéed some onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers (which is what I had in my fridge. In the past I’ve used baby corn, cherry tomatoes, basil). Then I added in a spoon of chilli-garlic sauce (I use the Fabindia stuff), added in some chopped spinach and corn kernels. Cooked the whole thing down till the spinach had wilted, and all the water had dried out.
Next, I spooned it equally on the sliced bread, grated cheese over it and popped it into the oven for 12-14 mins till the cheese was melted and the toast was crisp.
Done!
Quickie Shahi Tukda — I made this early on this week because I really wanted a warm dessert to perk my spirits. I was stuck in the middle of an allergy attack, and two days of sneezing my lungs out had left me low on energy and with no will to do anything. I also had a loaf of terrible bread that I couldn’t bear to eat as bread, and less than a 1/4 tin of condensed milk in my fridge. It seemed like Shahi Tukda wanted me to make it, rather than the other way round.

Shahi Tukda

1 used a little under 2 cups of milk with the malai in it. Whisked it all together and set it on the stove, on a low flame. Stirring it at regular intervals I let it simmer for almost 15-20 minutes till it had reduced considerably.

I added the condensed milk (about 4-5 tablespoons) and stirred it together, leaving it to simmer for 10 mins more. At this point, you should taste it and adjust sugar by adding more, if needed. You can also add kesar or elaichi to the milk but I didnt feel like either.

When it had reduced still more (you’re looking for a creamy, slightly thick — not runny — milky mix), I set it to cool.

Meanwhile I chopped about 6-7 slices of bread in half, dabbed them very lightly with ghee and toasted them in the tava till golden and crunchy. I arranged them in a shallow bowl (or deepish pan).

When the milk had cooled slightly, I poured it all over, pressing the slices slightly. I sprinkled it with roasted sliced almonds covered it and let it rest for 2 hours. You can also chill it, but I wanted to consume it soon after, while still warm, so I let it be.

it might seem like a lot of milk, and the bread swimming in it, but the longer it stays, the more the bread soaks in the milk and turns into a delectably creamy mush, so don’t worry. Refrigerate it after a while, though, if you don’t plan to eat it all up like I did.

Done!

Orange-infused, Chocolate-chunk Bread Pudding — Soon after I made the Shahi Tukda, I saw this post and regretted finishing up the bread I had in my fridge. But I quickly remedied it by buying a loaf of bread (and I never buy them in such quick succession) and decided I would wait for it to get slightly stale, in time to make this pudding for a weekend treat. It didn’t work. I couldn’t wait. So I made it this afternoon, as dessert for the husband returning from a work trip. I eyeballed the ingredients and just threw it all in.

Usually bread puddings bake to a complete mush, but the good thing I did was to cut the sliced bread into triangles and point the corners upwards, because while the centre of the pudding has turned warm and wonderfully creamy, the tops have remained crisp (but not crunchy) which gives a nice texture.

Bread Pudding

1) Toast 7-8 slices of bread, and butter them very lightly buttered. Chopped them into triangles and arrange them in a bowl, with the corners pointed up.

2) Zest a whole orange in a mixing bowl, add to it 5-6 tbsp sugar and whisk dry to release the oils. Add in 2 eggs and whisk it up till frothy. Gently pour in 400 ml warm milk, whisking slowly as you go. Add in a splash of orange juice and a generous glug of Rum and mix gently.

3) Pour the mix over the sliced bread. Roughly chop about 1/4 cup of chocolate chunks (I lazily hacked a slab of Morde) and add them on top. I took the trouble to squeeze a few chunksin between the layers of bread.

4) Pop it in the oven for 20-25 mins (170 deg C)till the custard bakes and the pudding jiggles slightly when shaken!

Done!

Bread puddings are incredibly forgiving, and just so easy and quick to put together. They’re also very, very improv-friendly which means you can spike it with just about any special ingredient your heart desires. I am now tempted to make a chai masala-flavoured one!

The husband came home from the airport for barely 5 minutes, before he was whisked again to meet a waiting client. The meeting continues over dinner. I can’t complain, really because it just means more pulao, more dessert, more carbs for me.

On missing my annual dose of Coke

24 Sep

Many a stormy night this past monsoon, I’ve looked out at the rain lashing down like bullets, lightning cracking the sky, sending rivers of light and shaking the black skies back to life, and thought something is missing. Really heavy rain always takes me back to the times we’ve huddled around in a living room, eyes glued to a white wall. With just the stream of light from the projector illuminating the room, quiet with nothing but the music and the rain crashing outside to keep us company. There would be beer and food of course. We’d potluck, everybody would do what they’re good at — ready-to-fry potato wedges, chicken curry and poee, biryani ordered in, and this one time I made a Goan sausage pie, someone would order dessert and we’d lose track of time. When the playlist of 25+ videos would finally end, we’d stretch silently, sigh in amazement — at how we didn’t realise four hours had passed since we began and at how we can do this over and over, every year and not tire of it.

This year, the whole monsoon has passed me by without our customary Coke Studio screening, which has somehow always coincided with one of the stormiest nights of that season. The plan would originally involve a couple of people at best, and we’d nudge each other on telling ourselves we didn’t need a crowd. But organically, it would grow. People would trickle in, odds and ends coming together, all shaking our heads in awe at the same music we’ve come to love. By the end of night, when the lights would come back on, I’d find myself in a room with an incongruous mix of people, the regular bunch, and all the rest who somehow gravitate to where the music is.

I missed the session this year. Mainly because I’m no longer in the company of people that obsess over Coke Studio or any kind of screenings anymore. I have my own private music evenings, hahaha, I pick a list, hit play and soak it up. Cook to it, read to it, stay in the room and let the music linger. But I’ve also missed the session because my interest in recent seasons of Coke Studio has dipped a bit. Last year, they tried a new trick — crowdsourcing of sorts — by producing the music in different parts of the world and melding it together. It didn’t work for me because the tracks were not cohesive, and sounded very haphazard and without a solid soul. I had just one memorable track that was sticky for a bit, but was forgotten sooner than later too.

This year, Rohail Hyatt was been replaced and in just one episode, I’ve felt the quality nosedive, and the spunk get knocked out like a candle flame blown out. Call me harsh and quick to judge, but episode 1 was a revelation in what can happen when the same bunch of talented performers get together, but without the able guidance of someone who can bring out the best in them, and fuse it all together without making it sound cacophonic. The new sound is excessively poppy for my liking, totally devoid of the soul that Coke Studio has had for me. Soul that drips thick and coats a track, making it timeless and never go out of style. Every season I listen to the new, and then find myself going back to the same old classics I love. Like this, and this, and this. Like a stuck record.

I leave you with the only track from episode 1 of season 7 that I seemed to go back to again and again. And I know it has everything to do with the tiny display of Raees Khan’s sitar playing sorcery.

I’ve missed the togetherness that these sessions brought. The excited planning, gathering everybody’s favourites and building up of the playlist, swiping the office projector, planning the food and cooking ahead of time. There was something happy and heartwarming about bonding with people over music. Some of the deepest bonds I share with people, some of my closest friendships are with those I have a kindred spirit of the music kind, and sitting together, listening to your favourite music takes this love to a different high.

It was a short-lived monsoon tradition, while it lasted. I don’t even know if anybody else thought of it as one. I did, because three years in a row counts as tradition, no? That’s a better strike rate than I’ve had for many other traditions in life! The Coke Studio love will last for years to come, the bonds I have over this common love, hopefully longer still. But it’s time to find me a new music tradition, I think.

Recent bookish feelings

23 Sep

I haven’t been reading too much at all. Just snatches here and there and that has never helped too much as far as guzzling and devouring books goes. I like sinking in and letting the book take over temporarily. Totally counter-productive to wanting to actually finish many books, I realise. But its a habit I need to get out of, and learn to make the most of small snatches of time, seeing as how it’s all I am likely to have. But here are some long pending thoughts on books I’ve read over the recent (okay, more like 5 months now) past. I want to note it all down before I forget.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Tom Robbins
This book marked the first book I enjoyed reading on the Kindle. And I’m blaming it all on the sheer awesomeness of the book itself. If I hadn’t gotten distracted by some other shit that was going on in life, I might have not put it down at all. The book is about a zany, eccentric, totally mad adventure undertaken by the protagonist — Sissy Hanshaw, the utterly unabashed, fearless cowgirl — which very quickly turns into a coming of age (but not in the least bit condescending sense that coming of age books can be) journey that brings together mad adventure, a riot of colourful and OTT characters, some brilliant nuggets of wisdom, philosophy and feminism. It’s a trip in rebellion of all kinds, which I thought was nicely portrayed by the wonderfully unusual way in which it is written. It took me a few chapters to get used to the absurdist and almost surreal style of writing, but once you’re in the groove of it, it just flows smoothly and you wont know how many pages you’ve turned. Sissy is not your average protagonist. She is wonderfully innocent, in a way that makes you feel for her. That she embraces an abnormality and runs with it, going on this wild journey that honestly seems like such fun, you’re rooting for her in no time at all! Ultimately, the book is about loving yourself and making it the way you deem fit, despite the seeming disadvantages and “defects”you might possess — which has been the underlying theme for most of the books, films and everything else I’ve loved of late.

High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
If you’ve been a music junkie for as long as you can remember, you will enjoy this book. Ostensibly, High Fidelity is a love story — you get that pretty quick — but it is also a story about the weird ways in which men and women work. The patterns of behaviour, the things that make us tick, the way we end up feeling and making each other feel — you’ve likely been through the whole gamut of emotions. If you’ve ever loved and lost, had a bad end to a relationship, pined over and made sense of those feelings, you will get this book. If your relationships and life in general are closely linked to the music of your generation, you will love the book, like I did. It’s a love story, and yet its not becuase the simple and straightforward love-plot is beautifully strewn with the minutiae of Rob’s (the record-shop-owning, just-been-dumped protagonist) relationship issues. The way he approaches love, with the expected obsession, his inability to commit, his fears and apprehensions, and the impossible to ignore softer side beneath the roughly scraped exterior. And there’s a lot of music, mostly old-school rock, the classics from the 70s and 80s so if you’re into it, like I am, then you’ll love it even more.

A Pleasant Kind of Heavy, Aranyani
A motley collection of short stories in Indian erotica, this book was a surprising discovery. Why? Because, Indian erotica isn’t something I’ve come across before. More so, this kind of everyday erotica, that is so plain, simple and real, was a refreshing change from the titillating angle most erotica aims for. It is supposedly scandalous, scandalous enough for the author to take on a pseudonym, but what it is is just refreshingly simple. In fact, the writing was so normal, the words so plain, that the situations drawn up while far from normal, prompted a reaction of almost-nonchalance on my part. It was nice to be able to breeze through the book without feeling squeamish or being scandalised with wide-eyed wonder. Have to admit though, after the first couple of stories I felt like I had seen it all and had to get myself to pick the book up again and finish it. Its a short and breezy read, with every story set in a distinctly different setting, time, place, country, even. By the end you feel like you’ve been through the whole spectrum of possible sexual liaison between the covers of this quick read. The stories are at times bold, at times languid and easy, at times elegant and beautiful and its a skill to be able to traverse all these different themes in such a short space. If you’re in the mood for something different, something sensuous and see where it takes you, you might want to pick this one up.

The Sood Family Cookbook, Aparna Jain
I’ve eyed this book for so long, but nothing really compelled me to buy it. I’m wary of hoarding cookbooks, unless I can thumb through them and know it will definitely be an impetus to make most, if not all, of the contents within its pages. I borrowed it from A a while ago and have been slowly but surely devouring it. Its an out-and-out cookbook, a super compilation of the Sood Family favourites — giving a wide variety of everything from traditional Pahaadi khana to quick breakfasts, glamorous but easy to whip-up desserts, kitchen staples, continental concoctions and everything in between. The little tidbits that precede every recipe give you a fun insight into where the recipe came about and why its made its way into the family favourites, and some recipes even have extras in the form of substitutes, nuggets of information and kitchen secrets. Its a delightful cookbook that had me bookmarking pretty much 80% of it, before I realised I really must return A’s copy and get me my own! Homely, easy, non-fussy, beautifully illustrated and downright simple to follow — its definitely my kind of cookbook.

On my immediate must-read list (totally random order) are the following:
Korma, Kheer and Kismet, Pamela Timms
Cooked, Michael Pollan
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain (this is a re-read because its been so long, and I recently read his blog and fell in love all over again. Here’s a man who can cook, host many a flamboyant food show, AND write!)
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris (also a re-read because I loved the book, and I feel like I need an upper to get me going again)

So, what have you been reading?

Weekends around here

22 Sep

I’ve started to cling to weekends like children who get all sprightly some Friday, and begin to sulk as Sunday evening draws near. Its not that I don’t like school days, I mean weekdays, for they hold a different kind of pleasure. But the weekends have become the only time VC and I get to spend some time together. And by spend, I mean really spend some time together. Because what do you know, just eating dinner together doesn’t really cut it, in the long run. And that is how life has been for him. And therefore us. He has been woefully overworked in the last few months (and I feel like I’ve been saying this for the larger part of this year!) and even conversation is taxing at the end of the day, and I sense the increasing need for “quiet time” around here. But when the weekend comes around, he turns into this enthusiastic person quite nothing like the person I am used to seeing Monday thru Friday. Funnily, the weekend is when I wind down. I choose not to get online too much, stay away form the computer and don’t cook anything too elaborate. I sleep in, nap sometimes, but mostly spend the weekend relaxing. But he? He always has a plan. Even if it is organised relaxation, which is to say we do nothing, but veg out. Him doing his research on the latest fetish at hand (it used to be cycles, now its film-making) and me reading or pottering about. Weekends are when I usually revel in doing nothing.

We didn’t have cable connected for months on end, but had that fixed recently since a certain annual guilty pleasure, trash fix kind of reality show involving 12 strangers being locked up to cohabit in a house for over 100 days, came on yesterday. So, these days we have the additional option of watching some TV too.

We used to be pretty outdoorsy on the weekends. At a time when we had like-minded friends in town. It was not uncommon to go on long evening drives ending with dinner far far away, or go in search of a secluded beach, watch the sunset/sunrise from one of the islands close by, just take off for the weekend. It was easy and never required too much intensive planning. Just the company of a couple of people was enough, we never waited for a large brood to gather, and we’d be off. But that has diminished for many reasons. The right company has mostly moved out of Goa, and those that remain no longer hold my interest. We’re not as enthusiastic ourselves, because with VC tiring weekday schedules he prefers to unwind indoors. So most often we end up cooking, shooting a foodeo, or he goes cycling, at the most. Making a plan to go far out seems to take more energy than we are willing to expend, just by ourselves.

However, last weekend A and A with their 5 year old N asked us to join them and we took off without thinking about it too much. Quite spontaneously we found ourselves at an old and forgotten spot we once frequented. “The church on top of the hill” as we have gotten used to calling it, used to be the place we’d take visiting friends when they’d ask about Old Goa. Because its the place not too many people know of, its where you wont find thronging tourists, and offers splendid views of the river below and Panjim in the far distance.

Views

I took along this yellow cake (on which I slapped on some makeshift chocolate sauce) I had incidentally baked just that afternoon, and turned out A had baked this yummy gulkand (would you believe?! I’m not even a fan of anything-rose but this was seriously good!) cake too. An unplanned picnic of sorts happened, followed by playing catch-n-cook with an 5-year-old who puts the fun back in running around for no apparent reason.

Picnic

Some tumbling down green slopes ensued, while I watched in amazement. A couple of lovey-dovey couples were intruded upon, in our wild running, and I realised what I thought was a not-so-popular spot was suddenly more filled with people than I had ever seen it.

Tumble

This is what happens when you hang around an inquisitive and mildly fearless child. You go into nooks and crannies your adult self couldn’t be bothered about snooping around, and you’re forced to see things you otherwise wouldn’t really see. Like bugs, termites and grasshoppers, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Bugs

A and I chatted, while the other A enlightened me about geocaching. You gaiizz!! Its a real-life treasure freaking hunt! I am totally enamoured by it, especially after I saw the cache he checked in on. Those in the know exchange notes and little tidbits and the whole thing is too fascinating for me to explain in words. All my childhood fantasies of having Famous Five styled treasure hunts, or randomly stumbling on someone else’s treasure came to life. I’m now plotting a few good spots to go drop a cache of my own.

Sufficiently sweaty from running around, we waited on VC whose sole mission of the trip was to test a new found time-lapse technique. His latest keeda project at hand is to teach himself the ins and outs of as much film-making as he can. So there he sat patiently shooting frame after frame, at 3 minute intervals, while we had tarted getting bitten by mosquitoes.

Stop

After an hour of hitting click, click, clicking later, when the sun had gone down we decided to call it a day. Dropped by at the closest drinking hole where we stuffed our faces on beer and pizza. Good way to end the week, I thought.

When we came home, VC sat and stitched this together. Turns out, while I was busy running around chasing grasshoppers, stuffing my face and yakking away about geocaching, the sky had put up quite a show. Goa can be achingly beautiful, sometimes and it felt so good to be outdoors again.

Immediately, this song came to mind.

Week-end.

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