Thursday, December 13, 2012

Before the Mayan Apocalypse...

... I thought I should atleast update this blog. Have been so busy with the new role in my life that everything has taken a back seat. But here I am.

So the excitement of 12/12/12 has worn off. I hope all the babies forced to be born on that day are doing well. All the people who made it to history book because of their anniversaries and birthdays, congratulations! And those who had nothing eventful to report, Cheers! I didn't even realize it was THE date, till hubby dear pointed it out. 

Okay, so all this hullabaloo about the end of the Mayan calendar and hence the end of the world, and other such apocalyptic theories and prophecies, make no sense to me. C'mon guys, make a new calendar and move on...don't we do that every year? 

This frenzy about doing everything before it all ends is hilarious to say the least. If anyways, everything was ending, what does it matter what you do and what you don't. You know, there are people who talk about bucket lists of to-do's etc before they die or something like that. Guess what, if I knew I was about to die, I would do what I do best, sit back and relax. Anyways, when you are gone, who's taking stats on what you set out to achieve and what you actually achieved. Nobody is going to build me a memorial if I jump off a plane in the sky. I rather have bucket lists for things to do if I continued to live. 

Oh, and before I sign off, the other mad rush to say I love you to people who matter before 12/21/2012: Please do that anyways because it will come in extremely handy if the world does not end!

So god bless, and see you on the other side of the Mayan calendar. Stay put and hold tight, you might just make it to Christmas, this year!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bracing ourselves for a brave new world...

Yes, I went absconding again, but thankfully I have a mighty reason this time. Folks, it's the start of the mommy times! Vish and I have been blessed with a baby girl. We have named her Manya and she has been keeping us on our toes all this while. 

Have decided to start a new blog in which I plan to exclusively talk about this beautiful new chapter. Tales from the crib... is my effort to ensure I don't ever forget all those big and small moments that are part of growing up. Feel free to follow me there if you wish to keep in touch with the mommy me :). The big bang birth is of course the very first post there...

Meanwhile, I hope to continue to be active on this space as well. This will be very much the blog space for all my individual rantings, musings and observations of this big, big world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I met her on a sunny day;
Her hair had just begun to turn gray.
I asked her what she really wanted;
I was not prepared for what she asked:

"A single whiff of fresh air,
A moment without a care,
A smile that reaches the eyes,
A tear that springs in surprise,
A hand that I can reach out to,
A lap that I can bury into,
A memory of a beautiful time,
A promise of a loving rhyme."

Help - I would if I could;
But I couldn't, so I didn't.
Her needs were naive,
Yet, they managed to baffle life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

WTF Series: Episode 08: Cause of rapes - Chowmein and more!

Our honorable political leaders spread the light of knowledge on the stark reality of rapes in India.

Sube Singh Samain, Spokesperson of the Sarva Khap Panchayat (local village judiciary system):

"Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16, so that they do not stray... this will decrease the incidents of rape. As soon as the children attain puberty, it is natural for them to have sexual desires but when these are not fulfilled, they stray... so there should not be any minimum age limit for marriage”.

Om Prakash Chautala, Former Chief Minister of Haryana:

"We should learn from the past... specially in Mughal era, people used to marry their girls to save them from Mughal atrocities and currently a similar situation is arising in the state. I think that's the reason khap (panchayat/local village judiciary system) has taken such a decision and I support it."

Jitendar Chattar, Khap Panchayat Leader:
"To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts."

Dharamvir Goyat, Congress Leader:
"90% women who are raped willingly accompany the men initially but are trapped in gang rapes later."

Sampat Singh, Former Minister and Congress MLA:
"Lack of intellectual growth is the reason behind rising crime against women. People might have prospered but have not become mature enough to understand their responsibilities towards society and in some cases towards their families even. Generally, families hardly monitor the activities of their children, especially the sons, who are later found to be involved in such acts."

Mamata Bannerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal:
"Rape cases are on a rise in the country because men and women interact with each other more freely now. Earlier if men and women would hold hands, they would get caught by parents and reprimanded but now everything is so open. It`s like an open market with open options.”

So, my fellow women citizens of India, let's marry at 12, not eat 'chowmein' or any fast food, not talk to any member of the opposite sex, not go to school and become "forward"; let's also wear loose clothes that cover us from head to toe so that we don't entice poor men; And if you find all this tough, how about, let's not be born as women!

I really am speechless. Where are we headed and what are we going to do? The future seems as dark and dismal as the present if such be our "leaders".

Seriously, WTF.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Overheard (contd.)

Continuing from my post here...

So, if kiddie conversations seem cute and fun to us, what do adults talk about - loudly enough to be heard by innocent bystanders. Here are some conversations I have overheard...

A college going teen on her phone in a crowded public bus in Delhi ... (obviously to her boyfriend :))
"No, I can't say it. I am in a bus. No. There are so many people around. How can I? Okay, you say it. Why can't you say it? No, please. Try and understand naa......"
(This actually went on for 5 minutes and all the co passengers seemed either amused or irritated - I was both. I felt like telling her, just say it and get it over with - I can't bear more of this on this morning.)
..."Okay, don't get angry. I will say it later twice to make up. Okay, my stop is coming. Okay, you say. Okay, me too...he he he. bye!"
(Seriously, me too! What a relief!)

An Indian couple at the clothes section in Target...
Wife picks up a woolen skirt.
Husband: Yaar, why do you always pick up something that does not suit you. How will you wear this? You are so fat.
(The wife was on the bulkier side, but she couldn't pass off as "fat"!)
Wife: So what, everybody wears!
Husband: Yeah, but they looks good in it. You look horrible - like you are trying to be someone else.
(The poor wife places the skirt back and from what I could read of her expression, she was done with her shopping for the day. There's something very condescending about some infact many Indian husbands. They might have the most unflattering of paunches and double chins, but somehow they feel they have this right to comment on their wives' appearances and belittle her and discourage her from wearing different styles of clothing. I swear to god, if Vish hadn't pulled me away, I would have punched this guy on his face. He was so rude and condescending, I can't tell you!)

In the grocery aisle of Walmart, an American couple discussing what veggies to buy...
Wife: Should I pick up broccoli?
Husband: Naah, you don't make it very well.
Wife: What do you mean? Why don't you take a shot at it then?
Husband: No, what I meant was my mom makes this really amazing dish with broccoli.
Wife: Well, I can't be your mom. Though you are most welcome to go back to her lap!
(Me: :D :D kahaani ghar ghar ki, kahaani har ghar ki... - translated inadequately in English as "the story of every household")

And while, adult conversation in the public on politics, stocks, trade, sports are fairly common (and boring!) and extend to strangers, there are people who manage intimate discussions too...
This is a couple in the Delhi Metro...
Boy: So, is it a yes from you?
Girl: I am not sure.
Boy: What are you not sure about?
Girl: What if you don't love me, it's only infatuation.
Boy: No, I know it. This is love.
Girl: How can you be so sure. Have you been in love before?
Boy: No, And that is why I am so sure.
Girl: So you have felt infatuation before?
Boy: Yes, but it was not love. This is love.
Girl: Maybe this is just a stronger infatuation. And previously, when you were infatuated, didn't you think that was love too.
Boy: Maybe, but I soon realized it wasn't.
Girl: What if, now the realization comes a little later. Then what will you do?
Boy: I am sure this time.
Girl: So, actually what you are saying is I am not your first really?
Boy: You are my first love.
Girl: Or maybe first strong infatuation
Boy: I swear I am serious.
Girl: Even if it is love, you might fall out of love some day, then what?
(And the conversation went on. I had to get off at my stop, though I seriously considered hanging on to see where this ended...)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello October!

There's a cheerful nip in the air,
The sun's rays no longer glare;

The greens are bidding their loving adieus,
And the leaves turning into bright fiesty hues;

There is summer walking away,
And winter approaches the doorway;

Pumpkins or apples, ice creams or lattes, frappes or hot chai,
This is the time you can enjoy everything with a pie.

It's not hot, it's not cold, it's just right,
And that is October's delight!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I am not exactly your compulsive eavesdropper but there are times I just can't help listening in - either the conversation is way too interesting or the people too loud! 
Here are some interesting conversations I have had the "great fortune" of having heard and never have forgotten :D.

Let's start with the most recent one...
A group of 8-10 year olds playing near our patio:
White American boy 1: Girls are difficult to manage. They are rude. We won't play with them.
Black American boy 1: So you guys don't like girls?
All boys in unison: No, no, we like girls! 
White American boy 2: So, have you guys touched a girl.
Black American boy 2 is scandalized and cycles off!
Indian boy: No! I don't want to get girls pregnant!
Chinese girl (looks like I was not the only one eavesdropping): You boys are so dumb. Girls don't become pregnant by touching.
White American boy 2: Yes, and that makes me the only man among you all because I have touched a girl.
(Me: !!!)

Another one involving kids - this time two grade 6 girls...Overheard near my place in India...
Girl 1: What's your problem, why are you behaving like this?
Girl 2: You mind your own business. I don't want to play with you.
Girl 1: I think you have serious issues in life that you need to sort out!
(Me: Ouch!)

The last one with kids...And with that a mental note to myself: Never ever eavesdrop on children's conversations - respect their privacy plus whatever they have to say will scandalize you anyways! This one again in our neighborhood in India...A conversation between 6 year olds!
Girl 1: Do you like Boy 1?
Girl 2: Yes, he is like my boyfriend.
Girl 1: Oh, so will you marry him?
Girl 2: No! You can't marry your boyfriend. I will marry Boy 2. He is also nice.
(Me: And, how come we grown ups don't have such clarity in understanding of relationships :D)

I think I'll stop here. Maybe, I should do another post on the adults; though their conversations will be much less interesting. Let's see...

[Image source: Google Images]

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What does religion mean to you?

I read and watch all this fanaticism, all this murderous outrage, people ready to die and kill - all in the name of religion; and I often wonder who are these people who get so deeply affected by what someone else has to comment about their religion. 

In today's growing cosmopolitan times, where you get to interact with so many people from different ethnic, racial, cultural and religious backgrounds who maybe your colleagues, neighbors, fellow travellers, classmates, how can such a vast majority of people not understand that irrespective of the religious, national, or whatever affiliation you may have there are good people and bad people everywhere. If one representative says or does something that hurts your sentiments, there is no point going out in arms against the entire community, killing so many innocents!

That is the big picture. Specifically, talking about religion, I personally find it very difficult to believe that someone can harbor so much hatred as to lash out at a religion in the most insensitive manner; I also find it equally difficult to believe that someone reacts to that hatred with equal animosity if not more. Who are these people? What does religion mean to them?

Honestly, speaking, I don't know if I am religious or not. Sure, I was born into a hindu family and celebrate the festivals, we have a temple at my parents' home that we used to pray at when we were told to. However,  we were not imparted any formal religious education. We were not told these are the strict confines of religion we must stay within or the rules we must adhere to. God and religion were mostly discussed in the context of being a good human being, being conscious of the right and the wrong, and doing the right. And that was how all the people and children around me were brought up!

In the recent years, religion has receded more in the background as far as my individual identity is concerned.  God is more a matter of personal faith...And I see that with most people in our generation. We all try to be the best we can, do the best we can, and we try to make a decent life; which brings me back to the recurrent question, so who are these violent religious people? What does religion mean to them? What does religion mean to you?

[Image source: Google Images]

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chatty Strangers

I have nearly come to the conclusion that there is something in the way I look (I don't necessarily mean that in a self-complementing manner) that compels complete strangers or people that I meet for the very first time to indulge in really long and really intimate conversations with me. Maybe I have "Come talk to me, I am dying to have a conversation" stuck on my forehead or something, else can there really be so many chat starved people out there!

Oh no, I don't mean the pervs though, not the 'let's do friendship', neither the 'let's meet up for coffee' kind of guys, and absolutely not the fellow 'desis' who approach you in grocery stores and malls to further 'business networking', which is an idiotic euphemism for finding Amway sales scapegoats!

I mean genuinely normal everyday people.

The auto guy in Chennai who constantly spoke about the Tamil Nadu political scene in tamil even though he knew very well I don't understand the language. I could only grab names from the conversation and  few English words thrown here and there, but his enthusiasm was so remarkable that I nodded my head to an hour long (Chennai traffic :() session in gibberish (that was all it was to me) rather than rudely tell him to shut up!

The absolutely annoying 'aunty' at Abu Dhabi airport who insisted on clinging onto me as we were travelling the same route. She kept on divulging horrifying family secrets. By the end of the 3 hour stopover, I knew the salaries of most of her family members. She even asked me to watch over her handbag (including wallet et al.) while she attended the call from nature. Do I look that trustworthy?

And this is not just a cultural thing - in case you thought only we, Indians, were prone to such chatter. The fatherly french co-passenger on the aisle seat next to me, turned around to me and said, "You know what, you can tell me when you want to go to the loo, I'll get up. It has been almost 5 hours and you haven't taken a break. You must, you know. It's not good; plus you'll get to stretch your legs." I was absolutely in shock. He would put my mom, who insists on regular bio breaks so vehemently, to shame. The thing is, I hate moving around in a flight. I love being cooped up to my window seat, snugged in a blanket with the TV on. But, just to humor the old gentleman I did get up twice after that! Phew! And as you can guess, this was not the only conversation we had Notes were exchanged on cultures, movies, family values and what not!

I could list a trillion such incidents, but will stop at the latest one. The trucker we had hired to move our car from AZ to VA ended up having a detailed conversation on the institution of marriage. He had been recently divorced and asked me if I was married and if I was facing any troubles, or so far it was going the "for forever" way. I told him it looked alright for the time being (not a good day to ask when Vish had conveniently offloaded the car and the house movers' responsibility to me :D). He was like, "Next time, I marry, I don't care how the girl is; but it will be for "forever". In a marriage, it's always the guy's fault. Women do so much - they are not appreciated. Come what may, if a marriage is screwed, it is the guy to be blamed." What pearls of wisdom, I felt like telling him to wait till my hubby came home, so that he could further elaborate on his theory :P.

So, do I enjoy such conversations? Mostly not, even though I myself am the chatty kinds. But with absolute strangers, no, not really. My mom tells me that as a kid, I used to call out to random strangers from my balcony where I was perched up in the morning whilst my mom and dad got ready for work, and do a lot of talking. Infact, when I fell sick and was not around for 2-3 days, she had a string of "random" visitors, ringing the doorbell and inquiring after me. Payback time now, huh? 

You know the kind of chatty "meeting for the first time" people I like the most - doctors! I like my doctors to be talkative and have been fortunate enough to have such kind for most of my visits all these years. There has to be an exception though. At my in-laws place at Chennai, there was this 'kind of family' doctor (general physician) who you go to for general stuff - colds, fever, aches etc. He just wouldn't talk. Here's our visit: 
Me: Hello Doctor.
Doc: (Takes out his notepad) Name (Forget greeting, he didn't even smile!)?
Me: Yuvika, full name: Yuvika Chaube
Doc: Age?
Me: 27
Doc: Problem? (The dude wouldn't talk in complete sentences)
Me: I got up with a sore throat, have a lot of pain swallowing. Can hardly talk. I think it started last night. I haven't had anything cold though. I think I am slightly feverish.
Doc: Open your mouth. (He flashes the torch around and starts writing a prescription)
(I thought he'd eventually talk, but no, he hands over the prescription to me.)
Me: (Undeterred) So what's happened, is it an infection?
Doc: Yes, take these medicines
Me: What about any precautions? Why do you think it happened? Do you think it's some water borne infection.
Doc: It can be anything, it will be okay in 3 days.
Me: (Defeated in spirit, completely) Okay, thank you. Do I need to see you again?
Doc: (Very curtly) No.

I swear, I never went to the doc ever again! (Even though Vish insists maybe it was I who had 'intimidated 'the doctor :P)

So, what kind of chatty people do you like?

Friday, September 7, 2012

The last of the glorious 20s!

So this is it. There's no jackpot happening; nor is there a fortune awaiting to be accidentally chanced upon. Noble prize seems like an alternate reality, and being a prime minister/president doesn't figure on the horizon! 

Naah, not that I have really wanted any of the above...I mean I would like to believe if I really really wished for these, I would have tried working on it seriously, rather than make lazy wishes on an unmade bed! 

So, what is it? Well, I turned 29 this week, which basically leaves me with only one year before I hit the deadly, deadly number 30! I don't know if I feel older, but I have begun to wonder how long will the 18 till I die anthem offer consolation. Isn't there a magical optimism and effervescence, however misplaced it may seem, about being closer to 20 than 30! The paranoia starts right about when you turn 26 (read about my panic attack here), and only worsens as the candles on the cake increase. 

Trust me, I have already started reading through lists of things to do before you turn 30, and it's not helping! Most of them seem frivolous. Now, how does it matter if you have jumped off a plane or not?
As for the horror stories, 30s can't be all about expanding waistlines, receding hairlines, and budgets and bank balances, can they? Fortunately, I also hear assuring tales of more confident living and stable relationships. Sigh.
As to how my 30s will turn out, only time will tell (and there's not much left anyways before we find out - buaahhhhaaaa :( :(! I could have waited.

While I take my time to bid adieu to youth, as it were, and brace myself for true, true middle age, I would love to hear your take on the unseemly number, people call age!

[Image source: Google Images]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Towards greener pastures!

And I mean "greener" pastures more literally than anything else.

If you have been following me on my blog, you do not need a recap of all the trillion times I have cribbed about our stay in the desert. Well, here's an important lesson: if you crib hard enough and long enough, looks like god does intervene! 

We have moved across the country - all the way from Arizona to Virginia. And inspite of the obvious downside of a move: the distance, the packing, the organizing, apartment hunting, re-settling down, etc. etc., guess what, I am not complaining. At any given point of the day, the temperatures are atleast 20 degrees lower. There are no blast furnaces burning on your face when you open the door and the sun stays well withing its limits. Not to, ofcourse, mention the pleasant green everywhere. 

We are far from settling down just now, but I thought it is never too early to announce the closure of the desert diaries; greener pages should start soon :D. 

And hence we bid adieu to August on a cool note! 

[Image source: Google Images]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My favorite part of online news articles...

...Is the Comments section! 

However disturbing, grave or poignant the news maybe, there are so many people who find the time, patience and inclination to share their completely subverted and perverted vision with the whole e-world. And that usually makes for a very interesting, and more often that not, very hilarious reading. 

I am not trying to take a high moral stand here saying that only my opinion is right, but that so many people have such shocking views that they feel are right, is what baffles me. Vish and I are often exchange such comments and together wonder at the diversity (and absurdity?) of the human consciousness.

Here are some examples:
  • In articles where a woman has been reportedly harassed, molested or sexually assaulted, there will always be these front running patriarchs who will find fault with the woman. "Why was she alone?" "For the kind of clothes she was wearing, she deserved it" "I am sure she provoked the guy/s". "Women are cause of all trouble."
  • In articles where harassed women in live-in relationships have committed suicide, our moral police step up their act. "This is what happens when you try to ape western culture." "The woman's character  has led to this." "Why wasn't she married; she wouldn't be harassed if she was married to the guy".
  • In articles that report the accused man has been arrested, staunch believers in the supremacy of "man"kind retort: "Why only men are blamed for harassment of women, why not the other way round?" "Maybe she provoked him into raping her." "She should get married to him instead of putting him behind bars." "Men will be men, women should protect themselves." "Why aren't wives/girlfriends arrested when husbands/boyfriends commit suicide?" And this is a genuine gem: "Can you please tell me which company the accused was working in? I am looking for a job and I am sure his position is now vacant."
  • In articles discussing power failure in India, patriots suddenly arise from nowhere. "India is better off than other countries, unlike the developed nations atleast our lives don't come to a full stop when the electricity goes of." One Sri Lankan wrote, "Sri Lanka is better", and to that an Indian responded, "Please keep quiet, else we will invade you. The last time we invaded you, we killed your president". Confused as to when India invaded Sri Lanka? So were Vish and I. Thankfully the Indian guy had posted a wiki link. It pointed to the story of Ramayana and Ram's invasion of Lanka.
  • In articles that talk about sports, especially cricket matches, the range is even better. From abusing each others' countries, to abusing your own players, that too in extreme expletives that I dare not reproduce here!
  • Ditto as above on Hollywood and Bollywood articles. And I am talking about 100-200 word detailed comments. There's marital advice that goes on for lines and lines; genuine love expressed in fancy vocabulary and even extreme hatred for no specific reason.
  • And let me not even get into articles that discuss immigration issues or inter religion/community/sect issues. There is a violence in the very wording that is bone chilling. Merciless words are thrown around so irresponsibly, "Gas so and so; nuke such and such country; throw them out", etc. etc.

So what is your opinion on such commentators? At times, I just laugh the comments off but certain comments get me thinking as to what might be the motivation behind such long winded tirades (most anonymously posted or in disguise) that are so distasteful. Do they not realize it? Or is it just a fun exercise - taking the Internet for granted and unleashing your crap in all the spare time you have? A skewed sense of e-freedom, maybe?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


My 200th post! And soon My Musings will enter its 5th year. Wow! It almost seems like I have "aged" with this blog :). 

And while we are at the number game, some other interesting numbers from Blogger:

75335 page views (I think this number should be more as I installed the page view tracker only a year ago :D)

28978 page views for a single post (Tom and Jerry: Just a cat and mouse game) - personal high!

24457 page views from India

20799 page views from US

11508 page views referred by - referring site with the highest numbers!

1412 comments so far

124 page views directed to My Musings using the key search word "yuvika chaube" (Now, that makes me feel like a celebrity :P)

89 known followers on Blogger (And I am assuming there are others who read the blog directly through Google reader, RSS feeds, FB and Twitter links etc. :)) 

87% traffic from Windows users

44% traffic from Google Chrome

38 comments for a single post (High Five!) - personal high!

1% traffic from iPod users (not bad, huh?)

All these numbers set aside, thank you for being a part of My Musings. LIke I have said before, no joy like writing and no greater joy than writing and being read.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras

Toddlers and american reality show that follows the world of child beauty pageants. 

This is exactly the stuff that makes me sick through and through. I spoke about negative body image and the acute consciousness of "physical beauty" in youngsters these days in my recent post here

What do you feel about this very "popular" show on national television that is now in its fifth successful season? 
Babies as old as 3 participate in beauty pageants and each episode documents the journey of the preparation. The toddlers are taught how to pose (including the pout and the cat walk), wear weird adult like costumes (forget plunging necklines and backless gowns - they go all the way to copy Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman and Beyonce in her negligees), put make up on (complete with false eye lashes and spray tans), do their hair (sprays, gels, wigs) and finally be confident on stage (this is ensured by giving them energy drinks such as Red Bull etc.). 
The end product: Miniatures of the adult modelling world who look plastic, frozen, and, apologies for sounding harsh, plain disgusting. 

Who's to blame: Ofcourse, the parents! One can't help but notice that the parents are the ones dying for the limelight, that fleeting moment of glory; that grandeur and life they could never lead, which they now want to live through their babies. They make outrageous claims such as 'it is the child's heartfelt desire to be here' (yeah right, at 3, she understand the glamour world so well), or even worse still, 'my daughter's favorite toy  is a dilapidated puppet in a wheelchair because she is genuinely empathetic to special children/people' (all this while the poor girl is looking around wide-eyed, understanding nothing and weighed down by the pounds of make up and other paraphernalia on her). 

Seriously, what are the Child Protection services doing? They say you can't hit your child but you can put her through all this trauma and emotional harassment? Isn't this child abuse?

My heart goes out to those miserable little ones who are paying the price of having foolish selfish beings for parents. In an age where kids are potty trained, they are forced to walk the ramp and wave out to the crowds and be their cheerful best even if their diapers are soaking wet! The kids can't even cut their own nails, but have elaborate pedicure and manicure sessions planned before the d day! Before they learn their letters and numbers, they should learn success and failure based on physical aspects! We sexualize them to the degree of fake breasts at the age of four, their lives replete with scandalous media stories and gossip already, and then we hope to bring up confident young women who will be the leaders of the future!

Why are we making barbies out of our babies? Do we really need tiaras on our toddlers to validate their essence, beauty and existence? Do we no longer need children - just miniature adults with hollow insides, who will grow up to be even more shallow copies of some evasive body image?

[Image source: Google images]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New additions to my 'Can Cook' menu!

Like I said  in a post earlier, have a bunch of items to share with you from the culinary department :).

Somebody mentioned to me the other day, "with all the yummy looking food pictures on your blog, you are undoubtedly a good cook". My response? "Hell, no!" All these brag posts and pictures are after long hours of labor. 
So, I thought before beginning, I should clarify that cooking doesn't come naturally to me; I have to put in considerable effort and believe me there are so many fiascoes. The only reason they don't get space on my blog is because, well, they don't make pretty pictures. Imagine me posting the horrible mess of spring rolls the other day, or the dhokla attempt that had to be instantly discarded, or the go at dosas that resulted in rubble on the pan!

With that modest start, here I go.

Venn pongal and tomato gotsu
This is a south indian dish that is fairly easy to make and is now a quick fix dinner solution for both of us. Here are the recipes I followed. On a side note, I am also now a self-proclaimed expert on sambhar and rasam. And what I mean by that is that when I make it Vish is able to recognize it and even throw a compliment my way :D.

Medhu vadai
I followed the standard recipe here. Was not very happy with the results though. The vadais didn't come out fluffy and light like they are supposed; plus shaping the damn things with the hole in the middle was so difficult!
(P.S. The coconut chutney in the picture below is from the local Indian store.)

Masala vadai
One would think I really needed something from hubby dear to suddenly attempt so many south indian dishes :D. I clarify, there was no such intent. This is the recipe I followed. And the dish was a super success. Teamed with tomato ketchup, this is one of the few recipes that came out almost perfect!

Chilli gobhi
I remember learning how to make chilli gobhi during one of our hobby classes in school. This one dish is ideal for a rainy cool summer evening. And I think I did a reasonably good job. Here's the recipe

Foccacia bread on a griddle
Got this recipe from a reference in my sister in law's blog. She made it primarily for her kids, but I seem to consider it a serious adult food. I end up making it every week but only for myself. Vish dismissed this delicious wonder after the very first bite. He called it "a dosa gone awfully wrong, and a wannabe uthhapam" :(. To reiterate, I absolutely love it.

Low fat banana bread
I am often accused of posting high calorie recipes. Well this one is to satisfy those complaints. This is the recipe I followed. Baking is seldom disappointing and I am so happy that I was not disappointed this time again. This makes a nice moist bread and both of us enjoyed it as an evening snack for almost a week!

Happy cooking to you too :)!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Keeping myself occupied during the long summer days...

Have I not complained enough about the heat in the desert? My husband finds my constant cribbing quite irritating given two facts. One, I am almost-24 hours in air conditioning; and two, I am from Delhi (India), which is also notorious for its summer heat. My miserable lamentations are met with cold dismissals or caustic comments like, "I know it must be tough, especially having been born and brought up next to the Queen in London."

Whatever! I refuse to step out between 8 AM and 8 PM. The world may come to an end for all that I care, I ensure that all work such as travelling, grocery, shopping etc. are either early morning or late night. And so, that leaves me with a lot of time on my hands. I decided to try out something new for a change and here it is.

So, we had these boring glasses for drinking water. Over time they had gotten quite dull, and so I thought, why not make them all cool, and colorful, and swanky. With great ambition, I went about ordering glass paints and other paraphernalia from Amazon, only to realize painting curved slippery surfaces is a completely different ball game from sketching and painting on flat surfaces, which I have somewhat dabbled in.

There was paint everywhere by the time I finished and I had to use rubbing alcohol to clean my hands, clothes and what not. It was quite a messy affair, and for the meanwhile, I have given up my even more ambitious plans of sprucing up the wine glasses and the ceramic ware at home.

Here are some pictures.

The original glasses...

This is the pattern I painted on each glass...

And this is how all of them look now....

One thing I did realize was that maybe I should have chosen bolder and bigger designs, maybe even geometrical ones, for a better finish. Lesson learnt! References to easier patterns are most welcome.

I have already cured the glasses by baking them after drying so that now these have been commissioned back for daily use and are dishwasher safe :).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hating the person staring back at you from the mirror...

At some point or the other, some more often, some less, we all have looked at the mirror and exclaimed, "urrghhh, does that have to be me?" It comes to us very naturally. We don't think of us being overtly negative about ourselves - it is more like we hate the "ugly reality". :P

This very human characteristic, I am sure, has been for as long as human beings, and the sense of beauty and desirability, have existed. The social construct of what is the norm of accepted beauty may have been varying between sizes, the current one being set on 0; however across generations, at any given point in time, the majority people do feel they could do with looking better.

It is granted that the homo sapiens is a greedy species, always wanting more than they have. That's the way we are, so why not desire more "physical attractiveness' for one's self! And, very frankly speaking, I have never felt that my life has been severely and adversely affected because I have always hated my skin, loathed my hair, cried buckets because the skinny jeans won't just look good on me, found my fingers and nails too stubby, and even thought of myself as a midget :(. I crib, find consolation in other people's cribbing and move on with life. I think, plastic surgery would not fit my budget and the care and pain involved would be too much for me to bear. :D.

However, over the past few months I have been reading a lot about this whole concept of negative body image and how it is affecting youngsters today. I came across an NGO that works towards helping young girls perceive themselves and their bodies in a more positive way. Though most of the studies and papers I have read focus on America, I understand this seems to be a global phenomenon. Pre-teen girls are developing severe psychological disorders because they simply hate the way they look. The use of make up in kids as young as 5th and 6th graders, the use of push up bras by girls in junior school, the idolization of models and the size zero, the queue of young tots for hair straightening and pedicures and manicures - this whole new generation that is obsessed with the "physical", is , at the very least, frightful and disturbing.

I realize that this is different from the way our generation has grown up (and am not exactly a fossil yet - let's specify the generation as the 80's kids). Only in, say, end of high school or senior school, we realized the power of being slim. We barely could tell the difference between an eyeliner and a kohl pencil. The more "hep" ones among one would dye their hair a coffee color or wear some jazzy nail art. By college, ofcourse we all knew exactly where we were lacking, but somehow life didn't come to a standstill. We moped around and found other distractions. 

It is difficult to draw a line as to how much of worrying is okay. But the kind of exposure the children seem to be getting these days, I wonder who can really help. The social pressure has never been so great. Unless you are a Photoshop expert, there's little you can do about the double chin, the flabby arms and acne marks in your 16th birthday bash photographs on FB. It's interesting how YouTube is teeming with instructional videos on photoshop makeovers. Here's one for you...

I wish our mirrors could come integrated with Photoshop technology so that we only saw our beautiful selves, always.

Apparently, more females are dissatisfied about how they look than their male counterparts, which is understandable, considering that is how the focus has been of our society. A man's beauty is never a cause of global concern. However, it would be interesting to note that over the years the number of boys and men fussing or being paranoid about their appearance has increased dramatically. Kids in school are worried about how their muscles are shaping up. I even came across protein supplements for preteen guys, at a local grocery store. Chubby is no longer cute. Boys in middle school want tucked in tummies and muscles and six packs. So much for the victory of gender equality but in what context!

I feel genuine concern and fear over where we all are headed in the decades to come, meanwhile, I have an important message for you. When you see school girls and boys - at stores, parking lots, beaches, family get-togethers, wherever,  fretting or not - make it  a point to throw a genuine compliment their way - Love your T shirt, Great hair, great skin, lovely eyes. Don't go overboard, though! But, a sincere remark from a stranger or person outside immediate family can do a lot to boost one's self image and confidence. We as a people need to be more consciously appreciative of those around us. That is the only way we can salvage some optimism! What do you think?

[Image source: Google Images]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

1984: "History" brushed under the carpet?

I recently watched this very moving film, Amu, which is based on the 1984 riots in Delhi, India. The movie is available for free on YouTube. Here's the link. I strongly recommend each one of you to find time for this 1 hr 45 minute eye-opener so that we realize the atrocities and the inhumanity that our current generations of people are capable of. It is a very simple tale but the stark reality of the events slaps you so hard in your face that you wish you didn't belong to these times. 

My belief that genocides and pogroms ended with the closing chapters of the history books on World War II was shattered when the Godhra riots happened in Gujarat in 2002. I was too young to make any sense of the Babri Masjid violence in 1992. The incident did come up every now and then on the mainstream media, and hence, I have some knowledge on the issue. 

However, I am ashamed to admit that being a Delhi-ite, in Delhi for so many years, I had absolutely negligible information on the anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of the then prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. All that was ever discussed, told, was that she was assassinated by her own body guards who were Sikhs, and then there was some obvious back lash. The extent of the brutality and political support with which this "obvious" backlash was carried out has escaped history books, and almost all other kinds of media and even journalism. 

After watching the movie, I tried to dig up more information and was astonished to find out that politicians had openly - on the streets and on national TV - instigated and encouraged the genocide. Apparently, no cases were filed in police stations, a few that reached courts were never judged, and those three days of macabre have been blacked out from the consciousness of most Delhi-ites. Nobody talks about it. I read some of the most disturbing accounts where whole families of Sikhs were uprooted. I also went back to history to read about the separatist movements in the Sikh community and the ongoing tension during the time. However, nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify state sponsored violence. 

I spoke to my parents about this. We all were in Delhi at that time. I was all of 1! Mom and dad tell me that there was fear among everyone, not just Sikhs alone. Mob violence is blind - it spares no one. Only a couple of hours later, when they saw truck loads of Sikh families being dropped off at the nearby gurudwaras, did they realize that it was the Sikh community that was being singled out and targeted. They told me how everyone knew it was state sponsored, voters' lists were circulated, kerosene provided from state pumps and how mobs used to come back for Sikh families hiding with the neighbors. This all went on for three long days. Mom tells me how all the neighborhood women used to prepare food to smuggle to the gurudwara without being noticed; and the men in the society guard the gates all through the night to ensure none of the Sikh neighbors were hurt. She said they often used to wonder if neighbors are helping and strangers are feeding, then who are these people who are killing?

This particular movie was never allowed to be released in India - we all know why. For those very reasons, apparently, no reasonable literature exists on 1984. Talk about democracy, freedom of expression, and then brushing "history" under the carpet. Since no such chapter exists in history, we will never learn from it. That is my greatest fear.

[Image source: Google Images]

Friday, July 6, 2012

WTF Series: Episode 07: Nuclear Families Responsible for Rise in HIV/AIDS

Read the news item here: 'Nuclear families lead to rise in HIV/AIDS'. And please do not miss the Comments section.

So, Karnataka's honorable Medical Education Minister raises the following very poignant reasons, which he attributes to the increase in the number of HIV infected people. Please note that he imparted these pearls of wisdom as part of a literacy campaign.

1. "Living in a joint family eradicates the possibility of extra marital affairs."
Ofcourse, AIDS is caused not because of exchange of bodily fluids such as in the case of blood transfusions, use of contaminated needles, sexual intercourse, and breastfeeding. It is caused by extra marital affairs.
Second, only spouses in nuclear families are tempted to "look outside" because they do not have elders watching over them.

2. "Reading of the Ramayana will help in eradicating HIV/AIDS."
The Ramayana teaches us to be loyal, apparently. Take the example of Lord Rama. He had only one wife, Sita, who he abandoned during her pregnancy for fear of public rumor on her chastity. That is the kind of an ideal husband a woman looks for, and a man should strive to be. And then, there will be no extra marital affairs and hence no AIDS.
I am slightly confused, if I read the Ramayana, do I still need to be in a joint family, under the watchful eyes of the elders? Maybe, his honorable minster will condescend to clarify in his next address.

In principle, I am not against the joint family system. It is a matter of convenience. If you get along and the arrangement is convenient for all parties involved; why not? If it causes constant friction and anxiety to any one involved; why?
As for the Ramayana, I do have a lot of issues with the text (which you can read in my post here), but that is also not the issue here.
What concerns me about these remarks is that if the Medical Education Minister does not understand a diseases, it's medical causes, how on earth will he be able to educate or even launch educational and medical campaigns in an effort to spread awareness and promote treatment. With one speech, he has undermined the efforts of all the AIDS campaigns and NGOs who work tirelessly to remove the social stigma attached to the disease.

Seriously, WTF.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

“...character isn’t destiny anymore.”

I finally finished reading Salman Rushdie’s much controversial work, ‘The Satanic Verses’. I must go on record to say that it is one of the densest texts I have read with such rich imagery, a plethora of references relating the present to the history to mythology, and an abundance of subtext. 

Even if you haven’t read the book, I am sure you have heard enough of it, though it was written and published more than 20 years ago. The reason it is banned in many countries, including India, was ofcourse the most compelling motive for me to get my hands on it. 

Having read Midnight’s Children, I was prepared for the characteristic Rushdie, complete with magical realism, frame narrative and the allegories. In terms of sheer literary technique, it cannot be doubted that The Satanic Verses proves Rushdie’s virtuosity and catapults him to the highest league of writers that have been and will ever be.  

There are umpteen references on the WWW, including Wikipedia, as to what the book is about, what are the blasphemous references, and what has been the take of various peoples and countries over the decades. So, I won’t delve into that.

My personal take is that an organized thwarting of any work is not correct in a free, civilized society. Let people write, paint and say what they what, and you decide whether you want to read, see or hear it. Why should you give that power of choice to state machinery?

In the case of The Satanic Verses, from the very title to some key chunk of the text is quite obviously blasphemous. There is no denying that some conservative groups must have found it genuinely offensive but then there is no claim made that this is a religious text. It should be evaluated for its literary worth. Anyways, each one to his and her own but what I feel is that a lot of people are missing on the other larger and very poignant points that Rushdie makes in his novel. In all this hullaballoo, the main text and motive seem to have been lost on the masses. And that is a real tragedy for The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie so evocatively weaves words together to bring out the serious danger the society faces due to closed and absolutist belief systems (call it, religion, if you may); the identity crisis that is brought not only by physical immigration but an alienation from within even though you may be “close” to your roots; how we conform and compromise as we live through the years, and how the reality of all of it strikes at the time of death. 

“…… mingling with the remnants of the plane, equally fragmented, equally absurd, there floated the debris of the soul, broken memories, sloughed-off selves, severed mother-tongues, violated privacies, untranslatable jokes, extinguished futures, lost loves, the forgotten meaning of hollow, booming words, land, belonging home.”

One can’t help feel but awe at the way in which Rushdie begins the book, with an existential question, “How does newness come into the world? How is it born?” And then a sort-of-resolution at the closing, “If the old refused to die, the new could not be born”.

The schizophrenic character of the good, the salvaged being of the bad, and the complete subversion of “essentials” provides, throughout the novel, an interesting interchanging play of good and bad, write and wrong, farishta and shaitan – that surely is the overarching binding (and winning) theme.

Finally, the aspect of the novel that reached out to me most forcefully was how Rushdie brings in the universal angst and skepticism of “today”. There is a famous Greek saying, “Character is destiny”. And we all would like to believe that. And it should be true if we were living in utopia. However, we all have learnt directly and indirectly that life isn’t fair and ideal; and Rushdie beautifully sums it up in this paragraph from The Satanic Verses:

“In this century history stopped paying attention to the old psychological orientation of reality. I mean, these days, character isn’t destiny anymore. Economics is destiny. Ideology is destiny. Bombs are destiny. What does a famine, a gas chamber, a grenade care how you lived your life? Crisis comes, death comes, and your pathetic individual self doesn’t have a thing to do with it, only to suffer the effect”.

[Image Source: Google Images]

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prose from more than a decade ago...

My parents were upto some spying (I guess, err, they call it cleaning) in my room back home and came across two articles that I had written for a newspaper (The Times of India) in senior school. I wondered what all junk must still be buried after so many years in all those cupboards and shelves I guarded as a teenager :D. 

Anyways, dad was quick to scan both the pieces and send them across to me. He thinks it would be a good experience to relive my thoughts from when I was 16 :). Actually it was fun to read what I had written all those years ago. Sharing the pieces here...

This one reads a little sissy in parts. Infact, I don't even remember why I'd even attempted to write this! Mom faintly recalls that maybe there was some writing competition on a given topic and the winning pieces were published. I hope that is the true story...nevertheless, you can have a good laugh at my expense!

The next piece is somewhat better. I don't know if you guys remember but around the turn of the millennium, there was a lot of media coverage on how maybe the coming generations are not as good as the previous in terms of responsibility and maturity. I remember writing quite an elaborate piece, which ofcourse was edited to its following published version. Queen's 'We Will Rock You' was a huge hit during our growing up years!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Math Monster

The subject I most dreaded in school was easily Mathematics. Not that I failed in it miserably or always did pathetic but I ALWAYS felt miserable and pathetic about it. 

Attending a math class, studying for it or giving an exam, I remember having excruciating headaches, numbness and a general aversion. I have not grown out of that hatred (if I can use such a strong word) even now.

What better evidence of that but the fact that I still get nightmares about my preparedness. The one I had last night triggered this post. 
I was on the 20th floor of a glass building with rows of chic white desks and chairs. The invigilator distributed the exam papers and I could barely hear her instructions or decipher the  writing on the paper. I finally got to the point of proving  the simple quadratic formula (a+b)^2 and I was again and again getting 'c' in my solution. 
I got up in a sweat in the middle of the night, and thanked god that I'd never be in a situation like that ever again and promised to myself that I will not crib about any problems in life as long as the mathematical ones did not exist!

I have got maths nightmares - (crisp pages from RS Agarwal, PK Jain and what not staring at me - my fellow CBSE mates will identify with these names!) - before important deliveries at work, meetings etc., even personal dilemmas or milestones, and, believe me, the magnitude of all of them pales in comparison to the nightmare itself. Maybe that's god's way of telling me that I have gotten past worse things in life :D.

I have always tried to analyze this fear of mine and I realize that I do not understand the subject. I find absolutely no logic or action-reaction correlation in almost all aspects of maths - ofcourse when you leave aside the obvious functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Rest to me all is humbug. My apologies. 

Take quadratics and trigonometry - now who is interested in adding alphabets and not numbers. Never in my life after Class XII (discounting the MBA Entrance CAT preparation) have I had to deal with 'a's' and 'b's' and cos 's and tan's. 

Set Theory was a saving grace - It was, well, you know, logical. I loved the Venn diagrams and always got those questions right - sadly it was never in syllabus after Grade VI :(. 

Probability - my math tuition teacher swears he lost half his hair making me understand the logic that if there are 50 students in a class and only one can become the lead, the probability for a student to become a lead is 1/50 and not half, as I would try to convince him (Using the simple principle either I become or I don't - so only two options). 

And then life became totally senseless and arbitrary after Integration and Differentiation entered the picture. That's when I totally gave up on Maths and finding my way around it. Those symbols, derivations - the universe was meaningless after all. I found solace in Shakespeare and Wordsworth instead. 

So, do you have any number peeves?

[Image Source: Google Images]

Monday, June 4, 2012

Flashback: The Dessert Menu Before 100 F

So, long before summer had set in, and much before my self inflicted hiatus, there were days when warmth was romantic, the sun didn't shine down with so much vengeance, and one had a wonderful appetite to eat and be merry! Compare that to now. The only two things I feel like eating are watermelons and ice lollies! 

I chanced upon my neglected point and shoot, and realized that there were quite a few culinary adventures that I had not shared here. Will do it in parts, I guess. 

Here's a toast to the good times (read: winter) that were...

Pinni (Atta/Whole Wheat) Ladoos
This was the third variety of ladoos I tried after the unsuccessful rava ladoos and the very successful besan ladoos. And I was more than happy with the results. Followed the simple recipe here, and the goodies were over before we knew!

I tried the instant recipe by Tarla Dalal, and I'd say the results were partially satisfactory. The jalebis didn't turn out to be as firm as I 'd like them to. Also, shaping them in the kadhai/wok was a herculean task too. I couldn't figure out how to close the loop, so I did end up with quite an endless strings of jalebi that I smartly rolled together after frying to give the required semblance - don't ask me the mess that the sugar syrup created. Not sure if I have given up on this delicacy yet though - practice is what I need - hopefully next winter!

Carrot Cake
I love the simplicity of dry cakes. You can bake them in bulk and then enjoy for weeks together with fresh cream, whipped cream, syrup or just a glass of plain cold milk. Tried this easy recipe and trust me you can never go wrong with dry cakes!

Chocolate Cream Cookies
Yours Truly went out and out adventurous with the herald of the new year. Found this very yummy looking recipe here, and made my first set of cream cookies ever! I did follow the recipe to the T, however, was not very happy with my cream - it was a tad bit runny. I refrigerated it for much longer than specified in the instructions and even kept the cookies in the fridge for storage as I was scared the cream might just "melt" away. Was not a super hit but I had put way too much hard work into it to dismiss it as "okay" :).

Lemon Pie Bars
This is a must try recipe. It looks only slightly complicated with the dough and the crust et al. But in practice, it's really easy and if you like the tangy lemon flavor in tarts, this is just the recipe for you. The one small mistake I made was that I made my crust a little too thick but that was all. Gorged on this for all meals in the day!

Black Forest Cake
This was our anniversary special and boy, the hard work it took. All worth the effort though. Here's the recipe. Followed it word for word. Didn't find the kirschwasser (german cherry brandy) at the local store - I used cherry flavored Vodka and the result was super awesome (and more potent maybe :D). I baked the cake a day before and yet couldn't slice it evenly - the top layer was thicker than the other two. Apart from that, it has to be the most delicious and fancy cake I have ever baked (and successfully, may I add).

And here's a cross section view...(you'll notice the thicker top layer :()

Signing off on that sweet and creamy note!


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