It’s been so long

This blog has been so dead lately, I feel guilty. So many thoughts swim in my mind but nothing translates to words. Then I saw this on The Girl Next Door’s blog and this seemed the perfect way to awaken my blog from hibernation!

Here it goes..

  1. Tell me something about you that most people don’t know.
    I talk to myself. (Sheesh)
  2. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?
    Eliminate rape.
  3. Do you like to dance?
    Oh yes! Have always loved garba and Bollywood. Lately I have taken a fancy to Zumba.
  4. Would you ever consider living abroad?
    Well, I do live abroad right now.
  5. Does your name make any interesting anagrams?
    Nope. It’s too small and common for that.
  6. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?
    At. Asking me to come and pick him up from work. We are sharing a car right now. So I play the driver most times.
  7. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?
    I downloaded Tera Zikr from Guzaarish. It’s a lovely, mesmerizing song.
  8. Last time you swam in a pool?
    I played with water in my cousin’s pool 3 weeks back. I can’t swim!
  9. Type of music you like most?
    Anything that is melodious, peppy and/or soulful.
  10. Type of music you dislike most?
    Rock music.
  11. Are you listening to music right now?
    Yes! I am ALWAYS listening to music. Right now, its Shikayatien from Lootera. I love this album.
  12. What color is your bedroom carpet?
    The flooring of whole house is covered in brown carpet like all apartments in US.
  13. If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?
    Make every room color themed. Get in co-ordinated furniture. Lot of colourful furnishings. Create a magical garden.
  14. What was the last thing you bought?
    Groceries from Indian store. A rush-rush affair after college.
  15. Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?
    No. Have attempted once. Was a total failure.
  16. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?
    Never! I am too scared for those.
  17. Do you have a garden?
    Oh yes! A small balcony garden created very lovingly by me.
  18. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?
    Err. Not really.
  19. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    I wish I could sleep more!
  20. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?
    Salman Khan. Isn’t that obvious?
  21. Who sent the last text message you received?
    My cousin who lives in the same city. Yeah, the same one with the pool.
  22. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
    Macy’s! Clothes, shoes, kitchen and dining ware, home decor. Everything there is so pretty.
  23. What time is bed time?
    Between 11 pm and 12:30 am. I know. Ridiculous. I blame it on US-India time difference.
  24. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?
    Ha! No way!
  25. How many tattoos do you have?
    None.
  26. If you don’t have any, have you ever thought of getting one?
    No way. It’s too painful.
  27. What did you do for your last birthday?
    Returned from a wonderful vacation to Mexico the night before. Attended classes at college on my birthday and took chocolates for classmates.
  28. Do you carry a donor card?
    No.
  29. What time do you get up?
    8:30 am… after a lot of self struggle. Don’t ask me about weekends.
  30. What inspires you?
    People who give and receive a lot of love. People who have a great healthy attitude. People who make their passions big.

Wow. It’s always fun talking about yourself, no?

What I Am Up To These Days

The thing I really like these days is FM radio I listen to when I drive around. They play such good songs. And new songs always keep coming. I really need them because the driving around can be a lot. Whoa!, you might say. From fear of driving to driving around a lot? I am carried away because of the newfound freedom (which means ability to drive + ownership of a credit card + new friends). I have literally been painting the town red driving here-n-there to shop, window shop, meet friends, pick up medicines or even visit the doctor. It’s an opportunity to dress up, go out, meet people, talk to someone and explore new roads. I am no longer afraid of new freeways, one-way roads or long distances. I tune the radio to a good, latest song and drive on. 15 miles or 25, they turn out to be fun. There are days when I drive as much as 60 miles a day.

Time is flying. It’s been 2 months since my semester at college ended. Where did these 2 months go? Most probably on the road and in stores! After my obsession with home decoration slowed down, the kick of meeting and making new friends seeped in. I started meeting classmates, fellow bloggers and realized I was still social. Why, I thought so many months of solitude and self-centeredness would have made me a complete recluse. But no, I found myself getting along well with several and we met more than once. Because of them, I saw new places, came to know of new stores and restaurants and soon, I start telling At about new stores I discovered and bring good deals home.

Life seems more and more complete and busy each day. Such that I die for some breathing time. Such that I put my hands up one day, flustered, and tell At to just take the car away so that I do not go out at least on one day of the week.

When I am not loitering around, I cook, clean the house, organize stuff, search Pinterest for home decor ideas, laze around, admire my little balcony garden and listen to music. Basically, am turning into a complete homemaker which is bothering At a lot. So you did nothing again today. I haven’t seen you touch your books since your college has ended. Why are you wasting your time and talent like this?

He is right. The shine of shopping on my own (even if it’s plain grocery shopping), meeting new people and looking at a clean, organized house is growing fainter each day. Every day, after the little routine of making breakfast, cleaning up and admiring the balcony garden is done, I feel aimless. I have nothing to do!

In the evenings, after At is back, we take a long walk around the golf course in our neighbourhood, watch Law & Order: Criminal Intent or some hindi movie and have a gala meal (cooked by me of course!).

Weekends are always busy. Eating out, major shopping, social visits and some more shopping.

Today, we have had a great breakfast of Egg Fry & Chicken-Cheese-Spinach sausage, followed by a visit to the flea market that had great music and food and finally, hot simple lunch at home while watching Law & Order.

I wish life was always so easy.

Driving Towards Freedom

One of the biggest pain points for me here has been driving. Back in January, in a bout of frustration of not being able to move around on my own, I compelled At to let me drive his car. Of course, the rules unnerved me but I wanted to give it a try. Handling the car or the city roads wasn’t difficult. I was confident until I went to the freeway (yes, on Day 1). I freaked out. I didn’t know what I was doing. I would press the brake on the fast track freeway in a moment of panic and At would yell – DO NOT BRAKE ON THE FREEWAY. The speed totally unnerved me. I wouldn’t go beyond 40 mph and At would panic again – SPEED! SPEED! Changing lanes was a nightmare. I confused people, I drove between lanes and people honked behind me. Someone must have showed me the finger too.

I gave up.

At pestered me again to start driving. Less confident this time, I tried again. Sometimes I sailed and was happy. Ah. Of course I could do it. I will start driving here in no time. Until some giant sized truck would threaten me from behind or the speeding cars would freak me out again.

I started avoiding driving. One whole month of April went without me sitting behind the wheel.

My cousin came for a week in May and I either took her around in buses or waited for At to take us around. I hated myself for being so scared and unsure of my own abilities. Why, I had heard of girls beginning to drive here within days of arrival!

I was used to be a good driver. Back in India, I was admired for my driving skills. You drive better than a man. And here I was so unconfident.

Then one day, after too much chewing over, I gave it a try again and I was good. I attacked this ‘issue’ with vigour and felt so good about myself.

Such that one day At, tired of being the only driver, asked me to take the car on my own to college. And I agreed. Not that I was totally confident. Nope. I was just tired of being so unsure and doubtful. I was tired of being a burden. I had had enough of friends and classmates dropping me off here and there. I was tired of being so dependant.

I did take the car alone to college. I did well. And I was miraculously good at sewing that day. See how a little confidence boost can do wonders to a person’s entire morale!

Having done well on college-home route, I needed to move on. The whole continent moves on GPS. I had to fall in line too. And thus began my rendezvous with unknown roads. I used GPS to travel to newer places, At suddenly freed of half the responsibilities – grocery store, doctor visits, entertaining guests – I could do it all on my own now.

My whole feeling changed! I felt empowered. Everything looked more beautiful now. I was no longer a stranger; I finally belong here! I hold a space of land and road here; I am something here.

And yet again, I am a good driver.

So confident was I (and At), that I went to my final driving test alone. Despite all the anxiety, I was so sure I would clear. What I did not realize was, I totally missed the window of doubt. Even after a smooth 15 minutes ride in my car, the stone faced examiner said try again next time. He left the evaluation sheet on the passenger seat and left. I was speechless. What just happened? Unsatisfactory, I saw ticked on the sheet. Nooo, is this for real??

They failed me! I wailed over phone to At. That’s okay, its common here, he said.

No! It cannot happen with me! I was (err… am) a good driver!

I brooded. Complained to all my friends. I bit my pride and told them I had failed.

But unlike earlier, this brooding didn’t last long. After a couple of hours, I was back to normal, doing other things. Yet another ‘down’ of the various ‘ups and downs’ here. This will pass too.

Like M very nicely put – the good thing about bad times is that they change.

A Little Bit Of Sunshine

‘You are scared of driving here? Surprising. You didn’t seem to be a person who would be scared.’ A senior classmate commented when I told her how I was totally scared of driving here.

This comment seriously surprised me. How could someone perceive me as fearless when I don’t have any confidence in myself? I have to be the meekest, most unsure and subdued person around.

First there was the no-friends-no-independence-no-money thing. Then, can’t-sew-to-save-my-life thing. Then, this-traffic-scares-the-sh*t-out-of-me thing. And then, my-weight-refuses-to-reduce thing. A companion who practically belongs to US didn’t help much. A combination of all this made me feel worse about myself every single day.

It was like having to start life all over again. It was like leaving the safe, comfortable cocoon of your home for a foreign territory and struggling to get your feet firmly planted there.

I wouldn’t dress up well because I thought others had better clothes than me. My enthusiasm at college slowed down because I felt I could not learn this new field; there were so many others already so far ahead. I stopped attempting to drive because changing lanes on the freeway was so damn intimidating. I was tired of compelling myself to stop being ‘new’ and become ‘one of them’ quickly.

The cold weather depressed me further. I have always been a summer girl. I like the heat, the sun. I spent so many months huddling up, shivering, and fighting the cold. There were no friends to pull me out of isolation, to break my silence and bring out those deepest, suppressed feelings.

Sunshine came eventually. It made me smile and everyone else cringe. ‘Ouch. It is so damn hot outside’ – my classmates would complain every day.

But I was happy. And a bit hopeful.

With summer, came Adi, one of my favourite people, to spend a week with me. She brought more sunshine to my life. She brought with her familiarity, a sense of belongingness and love. An air of security.

I was myself again. I was confident again. I would radiantly walk into my class and smile. My soul friend in class noticed the change.

I even attempted driving again.

Adi and I roamed around using public transport (something I have badly wanted to do here). We ate out, we shopped. It was like those days when I wandered around on my own or with friends carelessly, not bothering about time, worries or money. It reminded me of those days when I was surrounded by friends, by people.

And when she left, she took away sunshine with her. Things became cold and lifeless again. I was left yet again with solitude and struggle.

If she hadn’t come, I would never have tasted that freedom, that happiness again. And I would have happily lived with what I was used to – solitude.

Maybe summer will arrive again. And arise a little flame within me with a tiny spark.

Me, The Kitchen Queen

I am accustomed to the various sounds and smells of kitchen without cooking anything ever. The sound of popping mustard seeds. The eye-watering tempering smoke. The hissing sound of onion slices thrown into a hot oil pan. The forever stuffed refrigerator vegetable tray. The colourful masala box. The fledgling smell of freshly steamed rice. The scary whizz of the blender. And now that am actually cooking, I derive pleasure / joy from these familiar sounds and smells that originated from my mother’s kitchen.

I started cooking to fulfil a need and not because I was enthusiastic to try it out. Yes, I have been visualizing myself as a great cook since college days but after few attempts at complex cooking, I could never go beyond hot chocolate and microwave poached eggs. I was convinced that cooking is tedious and complicated. Its an art that I can never learn.

But then, some day I thought I could never drive, that I could never get a job, that I could never photograph well. And so on.

You usually can do more than you think you can.

So I plunged. I picked up a pan and knife and started off. The first recipe I picked up looked so simple and yet it turned out to be so mediocre. In fact, my first few attempts were disasters and I ended up going from bad to worse.

Luckily, I did not stop there. I couldn’t afford to, really.

My sweet husband kept me going. He very bravely asked me to cook complex dishes like Chole and Biryani when I couldn’t make a basic Aloo-bhindi sabzi decently.

So I kept going. I run the blender for the first time in my life with great caution. (I have always been scared of blenders because i think they can disintegrate while they are running and the blades would fly off). I used the pressure cooker for the first time (hoping it doesn’t blast). I would peer into the pan curiously wondering what the vegetables were up to. I would think a great deal before putting in half a teaspoon of a masala. I took help from friends, elders, cousins, even co-customers at Indian stores. I remember the time I went to get Split Urad Dal and Sooji. There’s were some 5 varieties of each and I was heartbroken. I just did not understand which one to pick up. I asked a Punjabi lady, who had also come to shop, if I had picked to the right Urad Dal and Sooji for Upma. I have also eaten my Chicago cousin’s brain over the difference between green Chana, Kala Chana, Kabuli China and Chole.

Today, I totally enjoy cooking. I keep smelling the food at different stages to search for familiarity. Maybe I enjoy cooking because I am so fond of eating. Maybe I enjoy it because I cook only my favorite dishes. Maybe I enjoy it because At devours everything I make.

On my free days, I cook from morning till evening. I spend all my free time bookmarking recipes. It’s like cooking has replaced my love for travel and eating out. I cook to the extent of ignoring everything else. Ya! It’s turned into an obsession!

I’m sure my mother spends tears of joy when she listens to me brag about my kitchen successes. According to Mom, the success of my marriage depends on my ability to make ghar ka khana. For years, she has tried dragging me into kitchen in vain. I could only use the microwave to make coffee, eggs, ready mix pasta and noodles. And here I am, using pots and pans like they’ve been my toys! I enjoy shopping for pans as much as I enjoy shopping for shoes!

Some day, I am going to cook for my family and friends to let them enjoy this totally unbelievable sight.

Some of my food (and photography) experiments…

collage

* * * *

2 Months Here

valentines candy_effected

Valentine’s Day had a new meaning for me this year. Rather, it had some meaning this time (after being treated as just another day for so many years). Not that I have much confidence in this concept. It’s just about making someone’s day special and feeling good about it yourself. So, pre Valentine evening found me cook up a gala dinner and 14th morning saw me gifting a self-made card to At, surprising him like hell.

Even college instructors tried making the day special, despite all the long classes and tedious work. They generously gave us loads of heart shaped chocolates (which I shamelessly hogged).

14th Feb holds a special meaning for me for another reason too. I completed 2 months in the U S of A on this date! I will proudly say that I got into groove pretty quickly. From being a lost confused girl, who didn’t know how to pass her day, lest her husband took her out, to a confident girl who has her hands full and plans her routine (including dinner menus) in advance.

Joining college has helped me a lot in this. I am meeting new people, making fresh impressions and making my own set of friends (and not just moulding myself in already made friend circles and trying to adjust to already set norms). I made my first friend, my very own, in my class. S is Indian and a very helpful, sweet girl. She is a companion all the time and a saviour in many times.

From being a total newbie in the kitchen, not knowing how to cook anything except coffee, I have come a long way. From coffee to French Toast to Bhindi-aloo sabzi to various Pulaos to Cream Of Spinach soup. I am proud of the progress I have made in the kitchen.

Soon after coming here, I battled with weight increase, hair fall and skin issues. All a part of the change over, probably. I fought them. Doctors helped, so did the internet. And here I am. 2 kgs lost in 2 months, hair fall problem gone, skin issues gone.

My routine is set. I know when to cook, when to do my homework, when to chat with friends and when to exercise. I know what to eat and what not to eat. My will power did not go weak when we went to an Indian mithai outlet yesterday. Of course, the rasmalais and namkeens and nankhatais reminded me of home but they also reminded me of the 5 kgs I put on in the last 3-4 months.

When I am not in college, I am doing assignments at home, organizing my college materials / stationery and cooking up a feast. Those 4 days of free time pass in a daze. I overwork myself at college, working hard and carrying all the heavy books around, and overwork myself at home doing cooking experiments.

After ages, I am actually enjoying a holiday today. I can’t remember the last time I sat down peacefully in the sun enjoying some hot chocolate.

Somehow, I don’t mind being on the busy side of life, either.

Student Again

I opened the only notepad I own currently. My last company’s notepad given to me by a colleague friend. The notepad opened on an already written page. It contained a list. Bread, brinjals, tomato puree, black cumin seeds. Oh. The groceries list.

For a moment I was lost. And confused.

The Fashion Drawing class instructor’s voice interrupted my thoughts. I turned the page till I got a fresh page.

A fresh page. A fresh beginning.

I sat among the odd bunch of younger (very young) students. Being used to be the youngest of the lot, being one of the oldest was…. awkward. But here, no one cares. People from all races, age groups and backgrounds come to study the same courses for different reasons. A cosmetologist leans sewing and patternmaking for hobby. An elderly lady learns the same thing because she is already so good with sewing at home. Some people can barely talk English. Some are peculiar. In fact, each person is peculiar for the other. To be true, no one really cares.

And this encourages me to open up quicker and more easily.

We are told about course contents, grading patterns, assignments (weekly, by the way) and a whole list of hundreds of equipment, material and supplies needed. Whoever led us to think that Fashion Designing is glamorous and fun was joking with us. I cannot imagine myself as a clever prospective designer everyone will envy. I visualize myself running around from sewing machine to sewing machine, trying to put pieces of cloth together, looking at fantastic designs of other students, perspiring, fretting, not having eaten anything since ages because there is no time to save my life, and going totally blank in the end.

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I will learn to make such illustrations in my Fashion Drawing class. Possible?

After years of listening to lectures (rather, staring at the professor blankly), this seems like real hard work. There are scary looking machines, peculiarly shaped instruments, 20 types of pencils, pens and markers, dangerous life-threatening sharp equipments and a confusing array of paper. All of these threaten to kill my dream, my passion. Suddenly my good taste in fashion and excess wardrobe seems so meaningless.

While I spoke to few classmates to gather information and exchange opinions, I spent all my free time wandering about the building (the cold and wind made it all so tough). I looked for a place to have my lunch (a simple home made sandwich), spoke to At and read a book in that 1.5 hours break. I spent some time wandering about the empty corridors. So silent was this building that one could hear each approaching footstep clearly. In the evening, after sunset, the place looked almost eerie.

Despite the intimidating lab and unnerving course outline, the dream in my eyes hasn’t died. Applied Arts and Sciences. I read this heading above all doorways I passed with pride. I am a part of the Arts department, I thought, my heart swelling with pride. Cheer up, I told myself. This is where you always wanted to be.