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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…

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What Blogging Means To Me

When I look at my older posts, I feel seriously embarrassed. I mean, what was I thinking when I wrote them? They seem so childish and immature! And often, forced. Lately, I have been thinking of the way my attitude towards blogging and the kinds of posts I write have evolved. There has been a change. I started off with writing things people wrote. I followed blogs that got lot of votes or comments even though I didn’t like what and how they wrote. I commented on posts I didn’t relate to. I read about how to get more traffic and earn money with blogging.

Soon, the blogs I read got narrowed down. I did not comment just for the heck of it. I wrote as and when I felt like; whenever there were some real thoughts to dispose off.

I found my own blog space.

I shut down my food blog, where I used to write restaurant reviews. I shut down my old fashion blog that was on Blogger and made another one on WordPress (this one has also evolved hugely in the last 1.5 years).

I am the happiest with my travel blog. It has been most active and popular. I developed a proper niche for myself by writing about places, restaurants in and around Baroda, exhibitions and events – something no one else had been / is doing.

As for this personal blog, yes, this one transformed too. I no longer write for popularity. I write for myself. This blog has become my public diary. I do not aspire to be a famous blogger who writes great things about politics, art or the like. I just want to share my thoughts and little things about my life, hoping someone out there is listening. It is wonderful writing about challenges, dilemmas of life and have unknown people drop in concern, good luck and advice.

I can conclude one thing. One cannot seek, aim for popularity. Any amount of networking will not help. The only thing that will is passion. My travel blog is a live example. I wrote about Gujarat because I love that state. It is my home state and I love everything about it. I started showcasing Gujjuland to the rest of the world. I spent energy, time and efforts in learning photography on my own, visiting places and writing about them. The effort, genuineness and passion shows in the blog. My pictures speak.

Passion, my friends, dedication and desire to be better are the only things that pay – in any aspect of life – job, relationship or hobby.

Blogging is more than just a hobby (at least for me). It is a job. An important aspect of life. A great way to learn and make friends. A great way to widen horizons.

During my last week in Baroda, I went to a handicrafts exhibition where I was moving around clicking snaps (with the intention of writing about the event and the organizing body) and one of the organizers asked me who I was. I held my head high and said, I am a Blogger. And what do you think happened then? I was given VIP treatment! I was invited to their workshop, told more about their activities and given lot of attention!

Serious, sincere blogging pays in different ways.

 

Sunday Special–The Nineties

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While the above will come across as out-dated and cheesy to most, I have lot of nostalgia attached to it. This represents the nineties era – the era I grew up in. And since I am so obsessed with movies and music, what reminds me of my childhood better than nineties Bollywood?!

I spent several lazy summers of Nineties crammed in the only air conditioned room of the house – living room – with my mother and baby sister, lying on the carpet watching Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander or 100 Days or the like; movies that the cable guy would play every afternoon. Movies that were full of gaudy maroon lipstick, puffy bold flower print skirts, voluminous coarse hair, shiny eye lids and rebellious love stories actually got me addicted and, worse, inspired. I wanted to be in the movie. I wanted to be like those actresses. I wanted my future life to be that movie.

I know. Childish fascinations.

I adored Madhuri dixit (still do) and after I stopped infatuating over Anil Kapoor, it was Salman Khan. I still adore him.

Nineties songs are peppy and melodious – very hummable and foot tapping. Every time I cannot decide what genre to listen to, I tune in to Nineties. If I start listing down my favourite music from that era, I would be writing for the next 3 months.

A slim Madhuri danced in heavy winds and dreamt of her Prince Charming in Humko aaj kal hai.

A snobbish Pooja Bhatt and sulky Aamir Khan fought over a watermelon and place to sleep while battling their inner desires in Dil hai ki maanta nahi.

A love struck Salman Khan tried to woo a haughty, purple sari-clad Madhuri in Didi tera dewar deewana.

A young SRK came as a knight in shining armour to save his damsel in distress in Tujhe dekha.

Battle of the sexes – Akshay Kumar and Deepak Tijori challenged Ayesha Jhulka and Sabeeha in Khud ko kya samajhti hai.

A goofy looking Ajay Devgan boldly announced (sang from rooftops, literally) his love for Madhoo, fearlessly, in Maine pyar tumhi se (a favourite Antakshari song).

Tu cheez badi hai mast mast was almost a National song for half a year.

There are endless Govinda-Raveena foot tapping numbers and Akshay-Raveena animated ones.

There are also touchy Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi songs & lovable and memorable Dil Toh Pagal Hai ones.

Evergreen pairs: Salman Khan-Madhuri. Sridevi-Anil Kapoor. SRK-Kajol. Aamir Khan-Juhi Chawla. Govinda-Raveena. Akshay-Shilpa. It was never boring to watch them do the same antics again and again.

This era makes me smile. It is quite difficult to watch the movies today; cinema has surely moved on. Moreover, who can stand those gory outfits and make-up? Nevertheless, movies like DTPH, DHKMN, DDLJ and HAHK have the capability of warming our heart. They hold meaning. They are real, deep love stories – tragic or happy. There are real friendships, real family issues.

I am proud to say – I am a Nineties Gal!

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A tribute to my favourite era. Some images that are imprinted on our minds permanently.

Every Day Is A Sunday

If you think you get less time because you work in Corporate and once you are free, you will have lots of time to do all the things you love, you are mistaken. Ever since I left my job, around 5 days ago, I have only been running around, completing pending tasks and basically trying to fit too many things in a day.

This is what happens when you have too much time.

If you really want to make the best use of it, actually.

I have been waiting for this phase – a break in Corporate life. Ever since I knew I would be jobless in some time, I knew I had to do something productive the whole day and not waste it watching movies or browsing internet. This is how I want to utilize this break.

We keep reading life and productivity blogs that say there are better things in life – those little things that need to be enjoyed, how we need to slow down, etc. I knew this was the right time to do all of that.

The day I arrived home, after leaving Baroda, I plunged into a schedule. I nose-dived into unpacking, disposing off things, and clearing up the whole mess along with blogging, reading and music. When I would take rest from dragging around cartons and cleaning cupboards, I think – I wasn’t this tired / busy when I was working!

So, I get up not later than 8:30 am (I know that’s not that early to boast of), start my day with yoga, eat breakfast that is just right for me (and not get carried away by all the love and pampering that my family is showering on me), read some blogs, do some cleaning, chat with Mum, experiment some microwave cooking in evening with Mum, write and fall asleep on time while reading a book.

Even then, I wish I had more time.

It is not difficult to be conquered by laziness. Why, most of our holidays have been spent in lounging on the couch in front of TV or chatting with friends or aimlessly browsing internet. But what do you do when your whole life becomes a ‘holiday’? What do you do when there is no company half-day-deduction rule that prevents you from getting up late? Or, when there are no deadlines and projects to rake your brains? Or, when there is no boss to chase you and you are left to be your own spoilt self?

This is when self-discipline and some bit of will come into picture.

In the past one month, I thought a lot about ways to ensure my brains don’t rust and I don’t start bloating.

And when I am not obsessing over being extra-productive and aspiring about making it big, I try to enjoy those much talked about little, joyful things in life – hitting the right note after experimenting with different kinds of coffee every day, calmly reading blogs and interacting with other bloggers, talking to atleast one friend every day, sharing moments of joy with all friends, loosening up with yoga, the feel and aroma of fruity lotions and perfumes, morning cool and dew, finding childhood relics in unexpected places.

I’m liking that every day is a Sunday for me.

                   

Work Masks Vs The Real You

A few years back, my eyes opened to an interesting theory. That of ‘work masks’. An external agency conducted a Thomas Profile test for our managers and there it was revealed that each person has a social conduct (which is how he behaves naturally in his house or social circle) and a work mask (it is called a mask for a reason). I was surprised to see that the graphs depicting each of them were different for the same individual. That means, a person is different in his natural self and different at work. Isn’t that iffy, a person having two identities? But that’s how it is for most people are work. There were hardly 3 people (including myself) in that group of 16 who had the same social and work graph. Such people are same everywhere; they have no work masks. And that’s why it is called a ‘mask’ because people put it on when they come to work. This is not how they are, rather, only pretend to be.

Most of our seniors interact with us only for work. At those rare times when the invisible, thick wall, separating a person’s office and person life, is broken and a person’s ‘personal’ side comes out, it is often awkward and hard to relate his that side with him. What movies does your Boss watch? How are your Boss’s children like? What does your Boss do on a holiday? Does your sub-ordinate love someone? What kind of upbringing has your subordinate had? Does your subordinate have a serious hobby? More often than not, we never know what our workstation partner is outside work. It is even difficult to imagine them as anything else.

I am lucky to have a kind of private work area. It is an isolated cubicle and one can’t easily spot me sitting there. I have been given a huge soft board area and because no one can see it, I did it up in my way. In fact, I put all these things up there becauseno one can see the board. Had it been visible to everyone, I wouldn’t have personalized my space so much because I obviously am expected to maintain some professionalism and norm.

This is how my work station looks like:

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I have projected in this space things I love: quotes, flowers, craft and personal memoirs. Because I have always loved craft, I used whatever I found artistic at work and recycled it to look pretty.

How do you keep yourself at work? Are you different or do you let people know the real you?

Weekend’s here!

The much awaited weekend’s here, giving solace to us 6-day working poor souls. 5.5, really. Means the same. Because by the time Friday comes, we are drained and looking forward only to the weekend (whatever of it we get, that is).

So what do people do on weekends? Sleep and laze? Cleaning up of their homes? That’s more like me. Complete all pending house work? That’s me, again. Go out with friends? Shopping? Go travelling? Ah. I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, 1.5 days of the weekend is just not enough. Plus, we do not have places nearby where we can go.

I have a long to-do list for this weekend (because I am so ridiculously bent on using all the time at home fruitfully and not watch movies and sleep). Here’s my list:

  • Work on my collage, which is just 10% complete till now. Started it almost a month ago. Gosh, that’s really lazy of me.
  • Make my family’s July Singapore-Cambodia trip itinerary. Now, I’m really excited about it. More than them, actually.
  • Write some stuff. There’s one write-up which I particularly wanted to write only when I visit home.
  • We are going through maid-less days since 2 months (she’s gone off because her daughter is getting married. Or grand-daughter. Someone). We all know how important the maid is in Indian households. And so, I will be washing vessels and clothes. The laundry basket is full. It’s a wonder why I never work when Mum is around and like now, when she isn’t here, I take full charge! Ya, Mum’s gone to Bombay for a week.
  • Watch FRIENDS!
  • Compile my Australia souvenirs. Will be making a scrapbook on my Aus trip.

I’m just devouring the Sewayi Kheer Mum’s made and stocked in the fridge. That’s my Saturday snack. Yummy. And then I begin with my list.

I wonder how much of the list I really will be able to complete, considering that I sleep till 1:00 pm on Sunday!

But then I need to start somewhere. So, here I go!

My green, leafy friends..

My flat has a small balcony, which was barren and dry when we shifted here 3 months ago, except a soul mogra plant. Atleast, it looked like mogra. It wasn’t flowering. It looked dull and drab. I got it removed and started getting small, flowering plants from outside nurseries. I was determined to see the balcony blooming with bright flowers and fresh green leaves.

I am clueless about gardening. I have no idea about plants, their care, soil maintenance, etc. But I was determined to have my own little garden. Out of the 4/5 plants I would get from the nursery, one would die out. And I would feel really defeated.

I made it a point to have a look at them the first thing after getting up in thw morning and on reaching home after work. A single wilting leaf would also dishearten me.

My parental home has a lovely garden. Of course, there is a gardener to take care of it. The garden also doesn’t get strong sunlight throughout the day. Hence, the plants are protected from harsh sunlight and get just adequate sunlight. I brought over some plant cuttings from home and planted them here. But I am afraid! I hope the plants don’t die! With summers rapidly approaching, I am extremely paranoid about the life of my plants. Especially, the new additions to my lovingly made up garden. It would kill me to see them die on being brought to my home, when they were happy and healthy in my parents’ garden.

I remembered what my Aunt had told me some 3 years ago when I was staying alone. She asked me to get a small potted plant and nurture it. I wondered why she wanted me to do that.

Now I know. These plants feel like my own children. I want to see them grow into healthy, sturdy plants, which will not wilt because of harsh sunlight, but will continue to stand strong and spread beauty around them.